Wink Restaurant and Wine Bar encourages slowing down, enjoying the experience Wink co-owners Stewart Scruggs (left) and Mark Paul met in Austin in1999.[/caption]

When Mark Paul and Stewart Scruggs opened Wink Restaurant and Wine Bar’s doors on North Lamar Boulevard in June 2001, temperatures were in the 90s.

The wait for a meal at the 50-seat restaurant was long, and the heat was unbearable, the owners said.

So guests waited in their cars, air conditioning blasting.

To ease waiting customers’ concerns, servers made their way around the small parking lot offering bottles of wine and glasses, the owners said. When a table was ready, customers would get a knock on their car window.

Eventually, the hair salon next door vacated, and Paul and Scruggs said they saw an opportunity: Why not turn it into a wine bar where guests could cool off, have a glass of merlot and wait for their table?

That was back in 2003, when lifelong Austinites Paul and Scruggs said they successfully fended off the naysayers who took issue with the constantly changing menu, the relaxed pace of servers and the small portions.

Those attributes were exactly what made the Wink concept so great, the owners said. And although they said they have had to work to remain relevant among Austin’s highly competitive restaurant scene, they are doing well enough to keep any negative Yelp reviewers at bay, they said.

Hanger steak is a staple item at Wink. This dish is made with Yukon gold potatoes, trumpet mushrooms and sauteed Swiss chard. Hanger steak is a staple item at Wink. This dish is made with Yukon gold potatoes, trumpet mushrooms and sauteed Swiss chard.[/caption]

Wink was conceived from what Paul called the “slow-food” movement—marked by Provencal-influenced dishes that take time to prepare; a five- or seven-course tasting menu complete with wine pairings; and a small, intimate place to share it all.

“In the end, we really turned the whole [traditional American restaurant] model on its head,” Scruggs said.

Although the menu features staples such as fish, foie gras and beef, dishes are prepared somewhat differently each day, so the only constant is the use of the freshest produce and meats, Scruggs and Paul said.

“I can’t do the same dish day-in and day-out for years on end,” Scruggs said.

Wink offers “philosophical clarity,” Paul said. It is a place to put away one’s cell phone and have a conversation over good food and good wine, he said.

“We’re throwing a dinner party every night,” he said.