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Dining Pick | Mettle

Attention East Siders: Mettle is taking it up a notch.

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This stylish new restaurant is stepping out in the land of dives and trailers—and tossing its hat into the burgeoning upscale ring. Mettle’s panache is no surprise since it’s owned by Bridget Dunlap, the woman who transformed Rainey Street into a nightlife destination with bars like Lustre Pearl, Clive, and Bar 96. Mettle is Dunlap’s first foray out of the Rainey Street bar scene—and into east side dining.

Carved from the corner of an old warehouse, Mettle’s different rooms are subtly divided by low walls and wine racks. There’s a cozy bar in the back anchored by a towering spiral sculpture. Up front, two dining rooms have distinctly different personalities: one bathed in natural light and the other dark and moody. Outside, overlooking the train tracks and parking lot (this is the east side, after all), is a welcoming patio with shaded dining tables and an adjoining lounge with comfy wicker furniture.

Design elements reflect Mettle’s urban theme: Floors are concrete, ceilings are exposed, and rebar provides visual interest. Chandeliers look like jagged, translucent stalactites. Even the bathrooms provide drama, as jet-black fixtures and tile are highlighted by gold-flecked snakeskin wallpaper.

Meals start with complimentary bread that’s worth the carbs. Light, fluffy, and slightly sweet, it’s served with smoked butter (who knew?), shaved dark chocolate, and crunchy sea salt. Watch out: It’s addictive. The unsexy-sounding ‘grain salad’ is anything but. This delicious mix of ancient grains and chopped raw greens is studded with pickled tomatoes, slivered almonds, and apricot ‘leather.’ An ethereal lemon foam pulls it all together. It’s a cavalcade of flavors and textures—savory, sweet, nutty, chewy, crunchy, creamy—and was the unexpected showstopper of our meal.

At lunch, we were tempted by the heaping plate of fish and chips, but instead opted for the fried chicken: three pieces of moist dark meat resting on a pool of buttermilk-mustard sauce. Multi-hued fingerling potatoes and roasted shishito peppers finished the plate. The cheeseburger gilds the lily: A beef patty is topped with both cheese and lardo, a Italian specialty of thinly shaved pork fat. Tasty medium-cut fries are served with yummy miso aioli. For dessert, we sampled one of Mettle’s homemade sorbets made with Campari, grapefruit, and ice wine. Next time, we’ll try the brioche ice cream or the mango ‘soup’ with yogurt and pistachios.

Mettle makes a mean cocktail. Try the Siamese Caipirinha made with basil-infused cachaca, Thai chili, and lime. It’s a deliciously complex concoction that’s smoky, spicy, sweet, and tart. The wine list has lots of tasty selections and our sparkling rosado cava paired well with all our dishes. Service was unsurprisingly exceptional, since much of Mettle’s staff was culled from Austin’s finest restaurants. Our wonderful waiter described each item in tantalizing detail, making every diner feel appreciated and special.

Credits

Photography by Jessica Pages

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