Contigo offers something for everyone in a welcome settingStory by Nicole Carbon, Photos by Knox Photographics
The sign outside reads, “Welcome to Contigo. Please sit anywhere.” Just like at good friends’ and family member’s homes, you are made to feel welcome and comfortable at Contigo. That’s the point. Welcome Contigo to the Mueller development in Austin, where you’ll experience warm, Southern hospitality; good, quality food; and well-thought-out drinks in an atmosphere that just makes you want to kick back, relax and stay awhile.
Contigo was modeled after owner Ben Edgerton’s family ranch of the same name, located in South Texas, where he spent most of his leisure time while growing up. There, his family tended cattle, hunted and did what they do best: entertain family and friends. Edgerton says he couldn’t bring all of Austin down to the ranch, so he brought the ranch to us. At Contigo, it’s all about the hospitality. In fact, “hospitality” is one of Edgerton’s favorite words and he uses it often. He and his employees love what they do and it shows. Contigo is a Spanish word meaning “with you.” It’s a place where everyone is welcome. You’ll find kids, dogs, groups of girlfriends gathering around for happy hours and fellows hanging out in the washer pits, sipping beers. It’s also a place to come solo where you won’t feel alone.
Aesthetics at Contigo have not been overlooked. Natural materials like cedar wood and metal were used to create a simple, rustic ranch style done with a touch of class. Materials borrowed from Edgerton’s family ranch house were added, including tile embellishing the entrance and deer antlers that were repurposed as beer taps. The leather-backed chairs are custom-made, and ladies, the restrooms were designed with us in mind. Mexican Talavera tile adorns the walls, flowers dress the vanity, and the soap and hand towels are of the highest quality.
The restaurant is set up as an open space and is mainly outdoors. It is broken up into five sections that flow into each other. The covered bar area invites guests to either belly up to the bar or have a seat at one of the adjacent cocktail tables. From the bar area, the view overlooks a deck that was designed to feel like an outdoor living room and lounge. In this cozy space, there’s plenty of lounge-style seating and rugs that provide the perfect spot to gather with good friends to do some catching up. Outdoor speakers are strategically placed and provide the ideal background music. The covered patio, which looks out onto a beer garden, offers traditional, restaurant-style seating. Strung lights decorate the expansive beer garden, which begs visitors to be social with communal-style picnic tables. There’s a gaming area with washer pits – a great spot for hanging out and having fun. There’s a place for everyone and that’s just what Edgerton intended to create.
“I love seeing people come to life when they’re in the right atmosphere,” Edgerton said.
Edgerton’s passion for opening a restaurant began building at the age of 16, but his father had other plans for him and that meant going to college to earn a degree. But, as Edgerton well knows, you can’t fight passion.
“I love entertaining. I love hospitality,” he said.
After several years of applying his degree while working in marketing, Edgerton followed his passion and partnered with his longtime chef friend, Andrew Wiseheart, whose resume includes Michelin-recognized restaurants in Napa, CA.
Contigo’s menu is described as good, quality bar food that is familiar and appeals to a wide range of palates. I say the restaurateurs are being humble. While the menu is approachable, this isn’t typical bar fare. The menu includes bar offerings, small plates, charcuterie, plates and desserts. It was designed so guests can enjoy a snack or combine items for a complete meal. Executive Chef Wiseheart draws from his expertise, using high-quality ingredients and adding his twist to classics such as pigs-in-a-blanket. (The Contigo version includes house-made smoked sausage.) I fell in love with the white bean dip that is laced with decadent duck fat. It was so good, I scraped the dish clean. Other standout menu items include ox tongue sliders and the classic burger served on a house-made challah bun with fries. Vegetarians were not overlooked and meat-free options include the pickled beets, Texas okra, crispy green beans, field greens and a classic grilled cheese on house-made brioche. More vegetarian items continue to be added to the menu.
The drink menu was designed in line with the kitchen, in that it delivers a high level of quality while offering a little something unexpected. The focus is on tequila, whiskey, and well-thought-out beer and wine selections. Fresh ingredients are key in concoctions such as the El Pepino, which combines tequila, cucumber water, mint and lime. The El Jefe is a perfect example of the unexpected, made with Bourbon, Laphroaig Scotch, Luxardo Marischino liqueur, lemon and ginger brew. The wine list is simple and offers both New and Old World selections. I was happy to see that also offered are quality house red and white wines at a very reasonable price. The beer selections include draft, bottled and canned. There was much thought put into what comes out of those 12 deer-antlered beer taps. Lone Star and Fireman’s #4 will always be on tap because they appeal to a wide range of people. There are also five more Texas beers, four Belgian-style beers and a tap known as Ben’s tap. Here, Edgerton experiments with different selections. Recently, the tap poured Spaten Dunkel, a dark German lager.
Delicious, quality food and drink served in a comfortable and welcoming setting that offers a little bit of something for everyone – I’ll take it! Thank you, Mr. Edgerton, for bringing the ranch to us.
2027 Anchor Lane
Austin, TX 78723