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Dining Pick | Cafe Josie

This Clarksville gem is an oldie but goodie.

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Here’s an idea: Instead of Ubering across town to experience Austin’s Next Big Thing, stick close to home and dine at your favorite neighborhood joint, a gem in your own backyard like Café Josie. Ensconced in a quiet pocket of Clarksville, this West Austin eatery has been satisfying friends and neighbors for almost twenty years.

Reflective of Clarksville’s Craftsman architecture, the restaurant’s century-old bungalow sits under a canopy of shade trees in historic Pecan Square, tucked behind a beauty salon, an oyster bar, and one of the city’s best art galleries. Inside are original brick floors, antique doors, soaring ceilings, and a cozy little four-seat bar. Intimate yet relaxed, its casually chic dining rooms are illuminated by dappled sunshine at lunch and flickering votives at dinner. There’s even a rustic patio outfitted with wooden picnic tables like those in Clarksville’s nearby parks.

The menu is globally inspired with regional, fresh ingredients. We started with beer-battered soft shell crawfish, which are dipped in tempura-light batter and fried until golden brown, served atop creamed corn and confit fingerling potatoes, then drizzled with sweet chili sauce. Next came fried Brussels sprouts, tossed in a Dijon rum glaze and studded with rum soaked cherries and crunchy candied pecans. Chilled gazpacho was the soup du jour and had big, bold flavors while retaining its brightness and zing.

Although seasonally rotating, the menu includes a few mainstays, like the goat ribs —and for good reason. Savory, succulent ribs were braised until tender and falling off the bone, and bathed in a rich, exotic mole sauce. The sea scallops were also a standout. Plump and sweet, they were seared to a golden crust and nestled in medley of zucchini, mushrooms, shishito peppers, and blue corn puree, and topped with a hint of achiote spice. Broiled tilefish with mixed vegetables in an aromatic broth was a refreshingly light nightly special.

Portions at Café Josie are generous, so we barely had room for dessert. Forcing ourselves to share a crème brulee, we quickly regretted not ordering our own. Decadently rich and creamy, infused with ginger and vanilla bean, and topped with poached blackberries, it’s one of Austin’s best.

Serving beer and wine only, Café Josie has a notable wine program. We enjoyed a Brocard Kimmeridgien Chardonnay from Burgundy, a quirky Serjina BaRose Nebbiolo rosé, and with dessert, a silky glass of Italian vin santo. Once a month, visiting winemakers showcase their wares and co-host wine dinners at the restaurant.

Although Café Josie has been a Clarksville institution for almost two decades, it remains fresh and relevant. A new generation recently took over the reigns from founder Charles Mayes, whose daughter is the restaurant’s namesake. Already familiar to Café Josie patrons, new owner Cody Taylor and recently appointed Executive Chef Todd Havers rose up the ranks after being with the restaurant for years. They are slowly putting their own mark on this Clarksville favorite, while still keeping things familiar and neighborly.

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