Ararat Crumbling

There are only a few restaurants in Austin where voluptuous dancers perform during meals, but most of them feature a gal named “Destiny” grinding her tribal tattoo into your surf & turf special. For those who prefer the spice in their food rather than their lap, the North Loop restaurant Ararat has been bringing belly dancing and mezzes to packed crowds for over a decade. Since Ararat is rumored to be closing at the end of the month, I can only hope the Yellow Rose starts serving baba ghanoush.

I ate at Ararat several times in the 90’s, mostly for the fun of buying beer across the street, sitting on my ass to eat, and always having a really good time. Whether that’s an indictment of their food or my priorities is beside the point: eating at Ararat is definitely an event.

In the ensuing years, Ararat has developed a reputation for sketchy service, occasionally punctuated by vindictive rudeness. Perhaps the gruff shtick that represents “authenticity” in places like Dry Creek Saloon or GM Steakhouse becomes less appealing when your patrons can’t find parking and wait for non-existent tables. Some purists may not care for Ararat’s mish-mash of Mid-Eastern cuisines, but my recent visit tasted every bit as good as what I remember eating in Istanbul, just a touch whiter.

If you haven’t yet sampled Ararat, try it before March 29th. Reservations are always a good idea, but the best way to beat the crowds or service showdowns is to get there at open. Early birds can pick their table, maybe even do their own belly dancing. It’ll be easy and fast, but then you’ll miss out on the cramped energy that is half the charm.

111 E North Loop Blvd

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