Plinio Sandalio's Guide to Austin Sweets
Austin may be known for its savory options like BBQ and Tex-Mex, but a number of pastry chefs have begun to put the city's sweets on the map. Plinio Sandalio, pastry chef at The Carillon, located on the University of Texas campus, is one of these dessert masterminds. His modern, seasonally-driven approach has garnered Sandalio praise from both the James Beard Foundation and Star Chefs. The Bolivian-bred chef spent most of his youth in Houston before moving to Austin in 2010 to oversee the pastry kitchen at David Bull's Congress. In 2011 Sandalio headed to The Carillon to work with Chef Josh K. Watkins where he is producing some seriously memorable desserts, like the sweet/savory combo found in the Apple and Bacon Zeppole with cream cheese, apple butter, and salted butter ice cream (Austinites—go eat this now while it's still on the menu!). Sandalio obviously knows a thing or two about sweets, so we asked him for his picks for the best places to get your sugar fix in Texas' capital city.
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Dolce Vita: I like Dolce Vita for gelato. It's a fun little espresso and gelato bar in Hyde Park. They make a nice cup of latte, which gets even better when you add a shot of Campari. When they have their sea salt caramel gelato, be sure to get it by the buckets. I love the flavor of almost burnt sugar. It's hard to get the flavor right, but when you do, it's amazing!
Sway: Rene [Ortiz] and Laura [Sawicki] run a great kitchen cooking modern and authentic Thai cuisine. All the food is delicious, but the dish that stole the night was Laura's jasmine tea panna cotta with red grape, palm sugar, Thai basil, shiso, crunchy amaranth and coconut-lychee sorbet. Her panna cotta is creamy and the jasmine tea flavor is light and not cloying. It's one of the best panna cottas I've had. All the other garnishes help to bring out more of the jasmine tea flavor.
La Patisserie: A cute little bakery amongst all the cute little restaurants on South 1st. They make an array of macarons and some of the best croissants I've had in Austin.
Foreign & Domestic: I have said time and time again, Jodi Elliott is my favorite pastry chef in Austin. I love her approach to dessert: keep it simple, familiar and pack it with lots of flavor. Also, try and catch her bake sales on Saturdays at F&D.
Mozart's Coffee Roaster: Is there a better way to enjoy a cup of coffee, cake, and a book than on the lake on a cool spring morning? This coffee shop roasts their own beans onsite. The smell is intoxicating. But get here before or after the rush, a long line does form; it can be pretty touristy! My go to's are a latte, slices of chocolate fantasy cake, and the little prince.
La Mexicana Bakery: A Mexican bakery that is open 24 hours? What else could you want after chugging your drinks as last call is announced? My go-to Mexican sweets are their pan de huevo, ojos de buey, and empanadas de nuez. And be sure to get their bolillos as soon as they come out of the oven.
Barley Swine: While they are the media darlings, and all the attention is on Bryce Gilmore (much deserved), the unsung hero of Barley Swine is pastry chef Kyle McKinney. Kyle understands and works with flavors better than anyone I have seen in Austin. His desserts are familiar yet new, simple yet complex. They look gorgeous and are an explosion of textures and flavors. Whenever at Barley Swine, I highly recommend to get desserts before savory.