I think it is safe to say that I was eating my way through Austin. If you were to look at the map Melissa and I were working on of all the places to go and things to see, there are an awful lot of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops on there. Far to many to get through in one week, let alone one weekend. We decided that we should stick to places that were more specific to Texas, that would be difficult to get something similar as good in New York. We also decided that we should trust our local host for the best places. I stuck to this plan myself and have to say that I ate some pretty good food and if I were to live there, would need to up my biking and running to keep up with all the eating I would do. It’s almost scary. Please enjoy this little rundown of the places I went in Austin, check them out yourself if you get down there, or if I move there I will take you when you come visit.
Chuy’s is a Tex-Mex restaurant that started in Austin and now has locations all over Texas, we were at the original location. The place from the outside looks like a hodgepodge of random buildings, umbrellas, and, of course, neon. The interiors are also an interesting collection of colorful decorations and brightly painted walls. There is an Elvis room and a Hubcap room, in this room the entire ceiling is hubcaps. My cousin, Rachael, and her parents picked me up at the airport and we came straight here. I was ready for a drink and we had some time to kill while we waited for her brother and couple friends to show up for dinner, so we started with Texas Martinis at the front bar area. If you hadn’t guessed, these are not your ordinary martinis, these things are huge, and made with tequila and tasty. An excellent choice after travel.
Once the whole party was there, (don’t think you’ll get seated before they show up, even if they are 5 minutes away), we were seated back in the hubcap room and started with some deliciously chips, salsa, and queso. So delicious and they don’t mess around with spicy. They actually mean it when they say it’s going to be hot. This makes me very happy. For dinner I ordered the special, Spicy Chicken Avocado Enchiladas with a pear margarita. Amazing. It was the perfect kind of spice that sneaks up on you and by the end of it, your mouth is on fire. I tried a couple other dishes of those who sat near me, I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember they were good. My aunt got some dessert for the road, a piece of Tres Leche. She passed it around for everyone to try before taking it home. It was so good. If I had any room left in my stomach, I would have got a piece for myself, as it was, they practically had to roll me out the door and I had no idea how I was going to be hungry for breakfast the next day.
The next morning I headed out with Rachael on bike. I followed her to work and headed off on my own to South Congress for Jo’s coffee. The line was kind of long but moved fast and who didn’t want to be out in the warm sunshine anyway? It was just an outdoor coffee stand with outdoor seating on the side that reminded me of Habana Outpost in Brooklyn. I thought about trying their Iced Turbo, but the wind made it a bit chilly for me to want to have something that cold, so I went with my usual latte and a potato breakfast burrito. The latte was excellent, smooth and creamy, one of the best I’ve had in a long time. The burrito was also delicious. I expected the potatoes to be fried or baked, but they were creamy mashed potatoes blended with gooey cheese. YUMMY. Rachael had explained how these guys are everywhere in Austin when she made them for 731 one morning during her stay in New York. She wasn’t kidding, and I’m pretty sure no matter where you went, you wouldn’t have a bad one. I could easily start eating these on a regular basis.
The Oasis was not on my radar as far as to go to places for Austin, but my aunt and uncle live near-by and wanted to take me to lunch there. My cousin, Ryan, and his girlfriend, picked me up from the downtown area and we headed out to Lake Travis. The Oasis is definitely an interesting venue and I’ll tell you more about the place itself in a later post, right now I’ll focus on the restaurant itself. The restaurant is situated on multiple exterior balconies and at least one interior seating area perched on a cliff overlooking the lake. It was a sunny day but the wind was chilly so we elected to sit inside next the windows.
We started lunch with chips and queso again as an appetizer and added chicken piratas, basically a quesadilla, to the mix. I’ve always liked queso, but it’s not normally something you can order with chips up here, it’s normally just salsa or guacamole. Like the breakfast burrito, it seems to be a staple down there and one I could easily get used to. Golden margaritas, tequila and orange juice, were the drink of choice for lunch and I stuck to the Tex-Mex side of the menu opting for shrimp tacos. They were delicious and messy. The shrimp was fried but not breaded and there was more than a piece per taco. Everyone else had some variation of a burger and fries, which also looked tasty, but I can get them anywhere.
Oh my goodness gracious. This might be reason enough to move to Austin. Seriously. The brains behind this deserve multiple standing ovations for their brilliant idea to make everything doughnut based and cursings for what the size of my butt would be if I lived within a 60 mile radius. Maybe a 100 miles. I would need to bike there and back. So basically, I’m saying it’s good, really good. Rachael and I met another cousin of ours (somehow I seem to have more family than I thought there) for Sunday brunch. We split two dessert doughnuts, the Free Bird and the XYZ. A little cast iron pot of chocolate drizzled, coconut sprinkled, whipped cream topped doughnut holes and a whip cream and graham cracker topped doughnut with fresh berries? Yes please, I will admit that the berry one was my favorite. My cousin got the daily special that sounded pretty amazing. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it involved bacon, fried eggs, and gravy. See image below.
Gourdough’s started in an airstream on South Lamar and just recently opened the public house we ventured to. I love the style of the place, I failed to take more pictures, I’m sorry. And I love the graphics and logos, really well done. We started sitting out side in a covered area, but it was still a bit too chilly so we moved inside to a high top. They have a huge outdoor seating area on one side, but I don’t think it had table service since no one was out there and that was where it was sunny… but what do I know. I’m also guessing that the menu here is more extensive than the airstream, but again what do I know? I definitely want to check out the South Lamar location when I am back in Austin. In fact, I will probably demand to be taken to it upon landing.
Yes, that’s correct, it says Whole Foods. How can you go to Austin without visiting the original one though? You can’t. One of the things I was missing from my trip was BBQ. By the time we were hungry again after Gourdough’s, it was late afternoon. We wanted to go someplace on route to a few sites Rachael wanted to show me and we were on bike. Her friends through out a couple not to enthusiastic ideas and then someone mentioned that Whole Foods had some pretty good BBQ. I still hadn’t stopped in so it seemed like the perfect fit. I have not seen Whole Foods like this one or maybe I’m not paying attention. Instead of heading to a buffet like area where you grab a container and fill it with whatever you want and then pay by the pound, you go to the various counters and they prep the food for you. There was seafood, pasta, paninis, sushi, BBQ, a bakery, it was a giant food court with normal groceries isles in the middle. I also have to admit that I like the design of this place. It’s fun, it has neon signs in some areas, it makes me want to go grocery shopping just to walk around.
Since we were on a mission, we found the the BBQ area in the back, debated for awhile and ended up deciding to split beef brisket on a potato with sides of mac and cheese and spicy potato salad. We needed some starches apparently. Then we made our way to the bakery, picked out a little cake and finally grabbed some local beer from the walk in cooler before headed out to the roof deck. It was a perfect late afternoon, nice and warm and great views and picnic tables. Oh, and all the food was really good.
I had been admiring Haddingtons from the exterior every time I went past on West 6th Street. The one story brick building with the white neon sign and white-paint-that-looked-like-chalk lettering and art, and steel warehouse style windows fit together so well. When Rachael suggested we go there for Sunday dinner, my last meal in Austin, I completely agreed. The interiors are exactly what you would expect them to be, exposed brick walls, dark woods and globe lights. Simple and elegant. You walk into a restaurant with a long bar on one side and open kitchen in the back. Opposite the bar are smaller dining rooms that can be used during rush hours or rented for private parties. All of these spaces are perfect.
Sunday turned into a day of stuffing ourselves, so we decided to split a few appetizers instead of getting full meals and sat at the bar. At the bartenders recommendation we got the deviled eggs, root vegetable chips, and duck pb & j. The deviled eggs were divine and by far my favorite dish. The chips had rosemary and vinegar on them that I wasn’t expecting. The flavors blended really well. The duck pb & j was good, but not my favorite. I’m not sure what it was, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. The fig jam with it was excellent. The cocktails were amazing too. They change them seasonally and they reminded me of something I would find at Quarter Bar in my neighborhood.
Flipnotics was my last stop in Austin. We stopped in on the way to the airport for some coffee. It’s perched up on a hill and has a large outdoor seating area. I would have loved to lounge in the sun for an hour instead of a 8:30AM flight. The coffee was delicious too. Austin has it coffee down. New York should take note.
You might be asking yourself, what else could there possibly be? Well a lot actually. Rachael had some special local treats for me and I picked up a few things at a farmers market and there was a crawfish boil. All important things to share. Let’s start with the coffee. Rachael had this awesome regular brew pecan roasted coffee from Spec’s. It was so good that instead of dumping my regular spoonfuls of sugar in, I just needed my milk. Very yummy. I might buy a coffee pot in New York if I can find this coffee.
Next we move to the crawfish boil. My Louisianan native roommate has been wanting to have one of these in Brooklyn for awhile. I haven’t been too interested since seafood is not really a favorite of mine. I’ve tried crawfish jambalaya before, it was okay, but I wasn’t going to turn down a party. For those who don’t know, when you boil crawfish, they go in alive and come out dead. I learned that you do not eat a crawfish unless his tail is curled under, this means he was alive when he went in. If his tail is straight, he want it dead and who knows how long he was dead for. Gross. To eat them, you first twist the head off of the body, you then suck the juices from the head and peal the meat out of the tail. Its a lot of messy work for a bit of something that is okay. I only ate two, crawfish are just not my thing. The corn on the cob and potatoes boiled with the crawfish were excellent. The corn soaked up so much more of the spices that your lips were burning. It was so good though. I don’t know what all our host used but it was amazing.
Next we will discuss the yummy treats I found at the farmers market. Ill talk more about the market in a future post. Let’s focus first on the Austin Cream Pie doughnut. Chocolate filling on the inside and vanilla frosting on the outside, nothing you couldn’t find anywhere else but I like the name and it was delicious. The greatest thing I picked up at the market was some large gingersnap cookies I was going to give to my aunt and uncle for picking me up from the airport. I forgot them, so Rachael and I ate them. They were the softest gingersnaps I have ever had. So good. So good.
Last, but not least, we have Blue Bell ice cream. Rachael had mint chocolate chip and cookies ‘n cream waiting for us in the freezer. After running around all day Sunday, we biked back home from Haddingtons, some couch time was needed. Rachael also picked up a selection of movies filmed in Austin from the library and we threw in Hope Floats while passing the pints back and forth. How we didn’t finish them is a mystery. I guess we just ate and drank too much earlier in the day.
Whew! That was long enough for one weekend, but like I said, I think all I did was eat and move between places to eat. Stay tuned for more fun in Austin!