The restaurant's name comes honestly. The rugged parking lot - half-asphalt, half-gravel - and outdoor patio co-exist amidst a grove of mature pecan trees. In fact, prior to all the condo encroachment, there once was no better parking lot in Austin. Be sure to check out the retro Airstream "hippie trailer" and the dancing shrub/bear/statue thing.
There's seating both inside and out, but the patio dining is worth the wait, weather permitting. [WARNING: NEVER SIT DIRECTLY BENEATH THE LIGHTING WIRES ON THE PATIO! Grackles aren't just noisy - they're also extremely rude.]
The patio is also the location of Thursday nights' popular Unplugged at the Grove free concert series from April thru September. Presented/promoted by local radio station KGSR, the series showcases Austin's depth of musical talent, and has now run for 16 seasons. Check the link above for the current season's schedule (and plan to come much earlier than the 8:00pm scheduled kick off time).
But What About the Food?Unlike other Austin landmark restaurants that get high marks for their views or their laid back atmosphere but unfavorable reviews of their food, Shady Grove does a pretty good job feeding its customers.
The menu itself is a sort of customized Americana and comfort food mix. There are plenty of burgers and sandwiches from which to choose, including the signature and very popular, Hippie Sandwich (grilled eggplant, oven roasted bell peppers, a whole bunch of other vegetables, and mozzarella cheese on "Hippie Bread" with pesto mayonnaise.) Of course there's chicken fried steak (and chicken fried chicken), and even a Cajun meatloaf. The Airstream Chili can be ordered on its own or as part of other menu items - such as chili fries, chili cheeseburger, or Frito Pie.
There's also a full service bar. Drink recommendations: "The Shady Thang" (it's concocted, I believe, from pisco, vodka, triple sec, and lime, and served frozen margarita style) as well as the frozen strawberry margarita.
[Brief margarita editorial: If you're drinking non-standard margaritas, such as a strawberry margarita, commit to sticking with it for the evening. Don't switch back to regular margaritas or get all creative and spontaneous and start asking the server or bartender to surprise you. And whatever you do, don't switch to daiquiris, no matter what the flavor. This is all probably common sense, but it bears mentioning since common sense and alcohol consumption don't always go hand in hand. There's nothing worse than bringing on the effects of a hangover while you're still drinking. Mixing and matching your margaritas may seem like a grand idea at the time, but you're most likely going to make yourself sick while everyone else in your party (excluding your designated driver, of course) is still having a good time.]
Final CommentsI really like Shady Grove. It's a personal and sentimental favorite. It was the site of the most important first date of my life back in 1997, and we've been back many, many times. No doubt about it - that original lunch has been very good to me.
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Courtesy of the R.A.T. Austin Restaurant Guide