Beautiful Ocean Experiences Inland at Perla's

If you can imagine yourself having a fresh, invigorating seaside experience all while being about 4 hours inland, then you must be at Perla's.  Tucked away behind a wooden, umbrella clad patio beneath comfortably shady oak trees, Perla's is a not-so-hidden gem located on Austin's popular South Congress Avenue.  Perla's is easily a food connoisseur's mecca, providing the freshest ingredients, pain-staking attention to detail, and deceivingly pretty cocktails.  Every time I stop by the music capitol of the world, it is mandatory for me to make a visit to Perla's.

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My first experience at Perla's was during an impromptu mini-vacation in late 2009.  I decided to treat my better half to some birthday fun in Austin.  We decided to wander down South Congress, to see the funky shops, interesting eateries, and buzzing bars. We were charmed by the soft blue glow of the sign, festive string lights and colorful decor at Perla's.  It was already late at night, so we stopped in for a drink (we previously visited Shady Grove for dinner).  Not having any expectations whatsoever, our sharp waiter was able to bring us up to speed, giving us a lovely introduction to the beautiful flavors we would soon indulge in.  We had a couple of rounds of drinks.  A little on the pricey side, but worth every penny.  Each cocktail was made with the freshest ingredients.  No canned juices here, everything is made fresh.  Fruit purées made in house, fresh cut garnishes to order, and no house bottles here, all top shelf.  If only I could remember the specific drinks I had my first time there.  You can thank an evening on 6th Street for that, haha!

I can tell you a few of the drinks I do remember having during my other experiences at Perla's.  One of which, is cleverly called, "The Pain Killer."  A frothy, deceptive drink made with fresh pineapple purée, orange juice, a dash of nutmeg and some high quality rum.  A few other ingredients go in the mix, but you won't remember them after a while either.  It's not one of the drinks that are regularly available on the menu, but if you ask nicely, you might be in for a treat!  Another off the menu treat is their adult version of the "Icee" featuring frozen cola and a lot of peppy rum:

- Photo by Mike H Smith, featuring Perla's patio and my feet :) -

Perla's does have a regular menu of signature cocktails, but they love to entice you with some exclusive, off the menu, drink specials.  Personally, I always love the surprise.  I've sampled a mimosa style drink with grapefruit juice and prosecco, a "filthy Martinez." which would put the strongest Manhattan to shame, but one drink I did sample for the actual menu was the Ipanema Beach, featuring Mezcal, orange juice, lime juice, cardamom and cinnamon, all served in an unassuming old fashioned with a fresh cut lime wheel floating in it.  It was so cute, I thought, only to find myself getting a rowdy punch in the jaw from the Mezcal.  Delicious, but dangerous ;)

Let's not forget, Perla's is a restaurant too!  I guess I was quite distracted with their deliciously creative drinks, that I almost missed the whole food thing.  How Perla's manages to get seafood that fresh in a city further inland than my own home town, well that just boggles my mind.  They offer several species of fresh oysters, fish, crab, and more, all served simply and deliciously.  Food that fresh doesn't need alot of fluff, Perla's lets the flavors truly sing.  Their shimp po-boy definitely pays homage to the cajun creation.  Fresh shrimp, fried with a delicately crisp breading, with a spicy mayo and greens on fresh baked bread, awesome stuff.  The Ahi Tuna sandwich, seared to perfection with just a few fixins.  My favorite is their soft shell blue crab BLT.  Texas toast, mayo, bacon, lettuce tomato, and the freshest crab I've ever eaten in my life!  Nothing short of phenomenal.  Every time I took a bite from that sandwich, I would close my eyes for a second and instantly found myself eating seaside in Miami.  Of course, the bright yellow, blue and white decor at Perla's are something you would find in that art deco city, so it's not much of a stretch.

Now, you can imagine my reaction when the restaurant so near and dear to my heart gets some media attention.  Nope, not in the over-hyped way either.  Anthony Bourdain and the crew from No Reservations made a trip to Austin recently, and Perla's made their cut!  I watch the show almost religiously, and I was giddy as hell when I saw Tony sitting beneath Perla's signature blue and white striped umbrellas.  Check out what Tony thinks about Perla's and Austin as a whole, and you'll see why I'm so stoked.  I was beginning to wonder when the best palettes in the world would find Perla's, because it's a place actually worth promoting on national television, unlike some other Austin area restaurants that shall remain nameless.  You didn't see Tony at those places!  When a man known for his "no-bull" approach to food, you know he won't put his name next to junk.  When I saw that episode of No Reservations on TV not too long ago, I was overcome by, not only giddiness, but also a sense of recognition knowing that my views would meet the approval of someone so revered. 

I'll admit, I am in awe by this establishment, especially since it's only been open since mid 2009.  They seem to have every detail down to an art, AND a science.  There's a casual elegance I experience every time I go to Perla's - in the food, in the drinks, in the ambiance - and it's just a beautiful feeling.  I think I'm in love!

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