Monday, August 6, 2007

Paradise in a Parking Lot

While they certainly have "paved Paradise and put up a parking lot" in some parts of Austin, I was happy to discover that Manuels on Jollyville Road brought a little bit of Paradise back when they created their outdoor dining room. Walking from the hot parking lot I did not imagine I'd want to eat outdoors. After all, it was 92 degrees that day. But the moment I strolled by their lush courtyard with plants and fountains I felt 15 degrees cooler and infatuated with the place.

Lovely tropical plants were my first hint that this wasn't an average eatery.

After letting the hostess know we preferred an outside table we passed the soothing fountains below. My son watched with glee as a common grackle softened discarded nacho chips by dipping them into the water before flying off with his prize.
The courtyard is covered in a canopy of green wisteria-covered trellis as well as an enormous live oak at its center.

Simple plantings of impatiens and liriope surround the live oak. The wisteria beyond gives the feeling of being pleasantly cocooned in a living breathing sanctuary.

Of course all this beauty would be in vain if the food wasn't great. I'm happy to say Manuels serves one of my favorite dishes, Chile Relleno en Nogada, which tastes like Christmas to me.

You don't have to visit an actual desert oasis to observe first-hand how plants can make a once harsh environment inviting. Just a quick visit to a retreat like this reminds me of the importance of flora to our emotional and physical health. Such experiences certainly inspire me to continue to improve my own little corner of Austin.

"Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts." --John Muir


A wildlife gardener said...

Looks like a wonderful place to eat. And I agree that flowers lift the spirit and the soul.Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed that courtyard before too. The huge live oak and the other plants you mentioned make it pretty, but the hardscaping (fountains, colorful stuccoed walls, and arbor) is what makes it stunning.

Dawn said...

Thanks Wildlife Gardener,
Not sure what I'd do without the beauty of flora & fauna. It's almost as necessary as breathing for me.

Hi Pam!
I'm glad you've experienced Manuels, too. You're right about the hardscaping; it creates the unique atmosphere of the courtyard. I've not visited the Congress location yet, but will probably get there eventually.

Happy Gardening (& Eating)!

Annie in Austin said...

Manuel's is one of our longtime favorite places, Dawn - whenever our Chicago-area son and our daughter-in-law come to Austin they want to immediately head for that patio!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

Manuel's has been my favorite restaurant for over 25 years. I love the water feature and hoped mine would be somewhat similar. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out that way. But the last time we were there, we paid close attention on how they cut an overflow notch into the concrete. We need one of those.

Dawn said...

Hi Annie!
That's a good idea to take visitors to Manuels. I can't wait to introduce my mother to the restaurant. Very good food and a beautiful courtyard.

Hello MSS!
Your garden is so beautiful. Even if your water feature didn't turn out exactly like Manuel's it's lovely and uniquely yours.