A Month of Sundays: Brunch at Central Standard

Central Standard
1603 S. Congress Ave. at the South Congress Hotel, Austin (map), 512-942-0823, www.centralstandardaustin.com
Brunch hours: 11am-3pm Sat-Sun
Regular hours (updated March 2016): Lunch 11am-3pm Mon-Fri. Happy hour 3-5pm at the bar and patio. Dinner 5-10pm Sun-Wed and 5-11pm Thu-Sat.
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.26.16
From the outside, the new South Congress Hotel looks like a low, Soviet-bloc bank building from the late ‘60s. I can almost hear the Muzak. The interior of Central Standard — the hotel’s Americana restaurant — stands in protest to that drab aesthetic, with broad wood floors, sleek black and white brick tiles, modernist lodge-style chairs and low button-plush leather banquettes. At the center, like a theater proscenium clad in brass, stand the clamorous counter of the kitchen pass and the restaurant’s wood fire that roils smoke over dinner and diner alike. It’s a low campfire smoldering as soul hits from the ‘60s play in the background. Central Standard and its sister restaurant Café No Sé opened late last year, but brunch started just this month at Central Standard. I’ll tell you more about each one as I bounce between this Month of Sundays brunch series and Fed Man Waking’s 100 Burgers.
What you’re eating
 Hangtown Fry: Omelette, bacon, parmesan, fried oysters. In this smoky environment, that sounds like a heavy breakfast. There’s nothing subtle about the crowning trio of oysters in crisp and grainy cornmeal armor. But what lies beneath is a crepe-like omelette folded around tiles of thick, crisp bacon, topped with a light cream sauce and salsa verde as thick and fragrant as an herb pesto. Served with a mixed-green salad tossed in light citrus vinaigrette, it’s a crafty union of style and substance. ($16)
What you’re drinking
 Bloody Mary: Its brand-new brunch (and now lunch) notwithstanding, Central Standard is still primarily a dinner place, and its $13 cocktail menu reflects that scene. In that context, the Bloody Mary is an afterthought, like tomato juice with salt and pepper and vodka, stalked with celery so you know it’s brunch-time. ($10)
Something sweet
 Cheddar Bacon Fat Biscuit: It’s not sweet, I know, but I had to see what a $5 biscuit tastes like (not $5). For the bits that I could hold together for a bite before they crumbled into greasy Southern fairydust, there was little to suggest bacon or Cheddar. A leaden upscale re-imagining of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits, with luscious honey butter on the side like an apology.
 Winter Citrus: I ordered this salad to lighten up the omelette. But the biscuit needed the assist instead. And while I’m still not sold on whether a few slices of grapefruit, orange and blood orange are worth almost $10, I’ll say that each element is fresh and elegantly presented. And the cool, creamy ricotta plays well with the sweet pop of pomegranate seeds and crunch of shaved almonds. ($9)
A Month of Sundays: 31 Austin brunches
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)