[Photographs: Meredith Bethune]

With its reclaimed wood, communal picnic tables, and an American flag made out of beer cans, you could say the atmosphere at The Rustic is yuppie-meets-cowboy. At night, live music acts perform outdoors on the backyard stage while those hiding from the aroma of burning oak and pecan wood eat indoors. The menu offers dishes like cactus fritters, chorizo empanadas filled with housemade sausage, and grilled Texas quail. Of course you can order a local draught beer or a cocktail made with Texas spirits to go along with it, and all the restaurant's local suppliers and farmers are highlighted on the menu.

It's fitting that a selection of decadent yet cozy pies would round out the dessert section of the menu. By dessert section, I mean pie section—they're the only sweets option at The Rustic. It was near impossible to choose from their offerings of key lime, banoffee, and chocolate silk, but in the end I trusted a local's recommendation of peanut butter. As the waitress placed the towering piece of quivering pie on our picnic table, I noticed it was loaded with halved peanuts and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

I dunked my spoon into the silky peanut butter layer. It was a perfect cloud of sweet and salty and nutty flavor. But the unsalted peanuts, which had previously looked so alluring, detracted from the smooth texture of the mousse with their bland ways. The bitter chocolate layer, in contrast, was like chilled butter, dense and cool on the tongue. I found myself eating the two layers separately because the chocolate tended to overpower the peanut butter. My only other complaint? The cookie crust didn't do much but act as a cradle for the decadent fillings.

About the author: Meredith Bethune lives in Austin by way of New York and New Orleans but grew up in Rhode Island. She has worked lots of odd jobs along the way including cheesemonger, farmers' market coordinator, and youth gardening instructor. As a writer, her work has appeared in Gastronomica, BUST, The Local Palate, Modern Farmer, Edible Austin, Austin Monthly, and others. She has also been known to smoke a pastrami or stuff a sausage from time to time. For more updates, follow her on Twitter @meredithbethune or check out her website.


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