The good, the bad and the boozy: 3 meals at Swift’s Attic

When I moved to Austin, Swift’s Attic was buzzing with enough neon-blue hype to electrocute a passing mosquito.

When a stranger learned I was “into food,” it was always, “Have you been to Swift’s Attic? Oh man, you have to go.”

So I did. Three times. Twice for brunch, once for dinner.

My verdict? Meh.

I can’t tell you how much I loved Swift’s on my first visit. The space is so well-designed I could hug the person who bought the light fixtures. When you walk in, it feels like you’re OUT. It feels like this would be a great time to be wearing a great dress with great shoes. It feels like it would be OK if you burned a hole in your wallet by the end, because you’re out and about in this beautiful space and all seems right with the world.

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Brunch #1

My first meal there was pure delight. I was FAMISHED after searching for a downtown parking spot for 40 minutes (never, EVER drive to Swift’s, it’s a nightmare) and went to town with my ordering: bloody mary bar, Swift’s Benny (eggs benedict), “side” of pancakes.

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Not a photo from my first visit. This diner opted out of hollandaise, something I would never, ever do. But you get the gist.

The benedict, served over buttery Potatoes Anna instead of an english muffin, was tiny in portion size but explosive in flavor. I loved and cherished every bite. And the pancakes? Fluffy, perfectly presented, just delightful. The bloody mary bar was equally impressive with just about every accoutrement under the sun: 4 different kinds of olives, pepperoncini, pickled green beans, BACON, citrus, smoky housemade mary mix, 16 kinds of hot sauce. There was more than that, but the show must go on.

Dinner

With such a wonderful experience under my belt, I decided to return to dinner, this time with a hot date on my arm. Dinner at Swift’s is so different than brunch, a fact I wish we would have researched beforehand. What followed was a roller coaster ride of emotions as to whether choosing to dine there (and spend the cash) was a good idea or not.

We started with a beautiful appetizer off of their specials menu: a watermelon salad layered with the thinnest of thin slices of guanciale (pig cheek). It was sweet and savory and textually interesting. I loved the mustard + watermelon combo and the way the coarse mustard seeds kind of popped in my mouth. What I did not love, however, was that the dish pictured below was no larger than a teacup.

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The “small” plates at Swift’s are TINY. So tiny, in fact, that sharing a sesame seed didn’t seem that ludacris as we took miniature bites of our dishes.

Have you ever seen the Micky Mouse cartoon where he’s splitting a bean to feed his family? That’s what eating this felt like. Only probably less filling and far more expensive.

I am not one to complain about “small plates.” I love the movement, I really do, and I’ve seen it done incredibly well. But when our next dish arrived, a crudo of sorts, I started to become a little less patient with the tiny concept, mainly because the dish was not very good.

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It was just OK. It was glorified sushi at best. And a whopping $17.

But then comes our next dish, a piping hot mini-cauldron of pork cheeks served with toast and housemade mustard. Just when I was starting to feel faint from the hunger, this gloriously hearty thing arrives and pauses conversation for a solid five minutes. The pork was so tender and flavorful; the simple presentation with glorified white toast was exactly what we needed.

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In far more ways than one, the phrase “eat clean” does not apply to me.

So we’re happy. So happy, in fact, that we decide to order a little dessert. Since the birthday boy is “not a sweets guy,” we opted for their housemade cornbread. This was, honestly, the biggest ordering mistake we made all night. Should have gone for their famous “popcorn and a movie,” but nooooo.

The cornbread arrives in fried little balls with a unmemorable dipping sauce. They taste like dry, bland, saltless carnival treats, and no one likes those.

So we finished our boozy cocktails, paid the $200 bill, cried quietly about how broke we were and called it a night.

Brunch #2

Not two weeks later, I receive an invitation to a “bitches who brunch” gathering at — guess! — Swift’s Attic. I was happy to return for brunch having had such a delightful experience before.

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The Sunday morning started with one of Swift’s thrifty mimosas: $3 for champagne and just about any juice you can think of. The concoction pictured above had ALL of the juices combined, I’m pretty sure, and it was refreshing and delightfully boozy. I was so pleased with myself for drinking so cheaply.

Next, one of the “brunching bitches” ordered a plate of french toast for the table, a layered monstrosity of peanut butter, bacon and banana.

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The TCB

To be honest with you, it tasted like something you make for either 1) your 7-year-old kid on his birthday or 2) your very, very drunk friend that is shouting orders at you at 2 a.m. Not my favorite, but I was still openminded about what was to come.

The ladies around me ordered a diverse array of dishes, ranging from the Turkey Hash to the Shrimp and Polenta to the bibimbap. Did I try these dishes? No. But I did take some delightful photos!

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Turkey hash
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Forbidden rice bibimbap
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Shrimp and polenta

As for me, I ordered a dish I’d heard so much about: The Dickle Pickle Chicken Wiffle, Swift’s version of chicken and waffles. They were sold out of this dish — and only this dish — during my last brunch visit, so I figured it had to be pretty superb.

And while it looked beautiful and I couldn’t stop taking photos of it, superb it was not.

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I was semi-pleased with the chicken. It was flavorful and salty and just a tad spicy, albeit on the dry side. And I was fine with it. Throw on a truly awesome waffle and I’m sold.

The waffle, on the other hand, was everything a waffle shouldn’t be: dry as a bone, hard as a rock, flavorless as all get-out. The butter on top (made with chalula hot sauce) hardly helped, and neither did the syrup. I ate it because I was hungry and slightly tipsy from the mimosas, not because it was particularly good.

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Maybe I got a bad waffle batch, who knows. Maybe I need one more tie-breaking visit to really make a ruling on Swift’s. But right now, the hyped up restaurant on Congress is, at best, a solid 6 in my book.

The entire post above aside, I still think you should go. You don’t have to order any food, just fork over $14 (or half that during happy hour) for one of their outstanding Old Fashioneds and I promise you’ll want to drunk kiss me on the face for recommending it.

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