Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Alan Parkinson is an artist. But he refuses brushes and pencils. Mr. Parkinson channels his passion through luminaria: he fills mansion size structures with an array of calming lights. The colors blend inside like a stained glass window as visitors enter a different world. But by itself the art is incomplete. It needs you.

This is interactive art. Justine’s of Austin–a French Brasserie–feels more art experiment than restaurant. A living exhibit with superb food and drink as garnish.

Located on the fringe of east Austin, removed from the downtown noise, newcomers begin to suffer doubt as they drive. But have no fear. Justine’s website reveals: “when you think you’ve gone too far, keep going.” And as soon as you are about to quit and turn for take out–A neon sign appears and reassures your sense of direction.

The tent that covers the front patio in winter months has velvet curtains draped as walls, chandeliers float above, mirrors rest behind the bar, and deer mounts eavesdrop on patrons drinking Beaujolais blends. Inside is dark. It’s as if a secret society was meeting in plain site; guided by the flickers of candlelit tables.

Once seated look around. You’ll be able to spot the staff with ease. They are the best dressed there. No uniforms, just elegant cool clothes put together without effort.  When your server greets you go ahead and order escargot–bathed in a parsley butter sauce– and a Sazerac cocktail. Use the time saved to brainstorm your outfit for your next visit.

If Justine’s is your last stop for the night, ( open until 2:00 a.m.) you cannot go wrong with the Côte De Porc. The menu staple is grilled to perfection, never dry, and comes drenched in butter. Time disappears, and at some point, you realize you haven’t reached for your phone all night. You smile proud and continue to enjoy the food, surroundings, and company–as dining was intended.

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