It’s hard not to notice the lights.
The dining room is dimly lit. Small lamps at each table mimic the glow of candlelight. The dark brick walls, only partially lit by interspersed overhead lights, stand in stark contrast to the brightness of the kitchen, which sits in full view of customers through large glass windows.
A team of waiters and waitresses buzz by, their black clothing blending into their dark surroundings.
There is something romantic about the low lighting at Austin’s Restaurant and Bar. Though there are plenty of families there on any given night, it still feels like the perfect date night restaurant.
Austin’s is part of a small chain of restaurants in southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. The other three – located in Lancaster, Langhorne and Christiana, DE – operate under the J.B. Dawson’s banner.
The menus among the four restaurants are nearly identical. Burgers and sandwiches are popular, but so too are the surprisingly good barbecue selections like baby back ribs and pulled pork. Fresh seafood and pasta dishes, flatbread pizza and six different cuts of steak round out a menu that is so much more than bar food.
No meal at Austin’s is complete without a loaf of their signature honey wheat bread. Though no longer complimentary, the bread is well-worth the nominal charge.
The loaves are fresh-baked, served warm with a dab of honey butter. You can taste the honey, but it’s a subtle sweetness, not overpowering to the bread as a whole. I never would leave a slice of bread at the table at Austin’s like I would at most restaurants.
For your main course, it is hard to go wrong with any of Austin’s options. I enjoy the baby back ribs (all-you-can-eat every Monday night) and pulled pork, though they don’t reach the heights of some other barbecue joints.
Another go-to of mine (and on this occasion, my wife) is the Texas Tenders. The breading is different from any other fried chicken I have tried. It’s very thin, giving the dish a light and airy feel (which is the exact opposite from most fried chicken dishes) while still providing a nice crunch. The tenders blend perfectly with the house barbecue and honey mustard sauces.
Of course if you order chicken tenders, fries have to be the default side. Austin’s French fries are sliced exceptionally thin, which gives them a unique look and feel compared to other local restaurants.
Austin’s menu also includes a handful of pasta options. On our last visit, I ordered the Chicken Florentine Pasta: grilled chicken and penne in a spinach cream sauce, topped with diced tomatoes. The tomatoes were marinated in a balsamic vinegar, which blended well, never overpowering the richness of the cream.
The food was more than enough for two whole meals, so we packed up half of our meals to save room for dessert. We were not disappointed.
We opted for the banana cream delight. Essentially a deconstructed pie, it featured whole sliced bananas, graham cracker crumbs and banana custard topped with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce. The graham cracker helped temper the sweetness of the other ingredients, adding a flavorful crunch that put this on par with a really good banana cream pie.
The ambiance of Austin’s may feel like fine dining, but the prices are much more reasonable. Our dinner for two, complete with dessert was under $40. There is always a long wait during the dinner rush, especially on weekends, but you can always grab a few drinks at the bar to pass the time or plan your trip for off-peak hours.