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Gems in and around Austin? Help?

We were in Austin last September and will be back for our (now) annual trip next month. Last time we found restaurants like Magnolia Cafe (I wasn't really impressed), Roaring Fork (steak was pretty tasty), Katz (biggest freakin' sandwiches I've ever seen!), Stubb's (Gospel brunch) ,Guero's (is that right? - S. Congress), also this great little tiny place at the end of S. Congress that had a big sign saying 'Best Migas in Ausin'. I'm guessing that all of these places are pretty standard. We're looking for the out-of-the-way, interesting, local gems. Someone posted some info about Flip Happy - that sort of thing. Any type of food. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. Quality Seafood is the best damn non-upscale seafood joint in Texas that's not on the Gulf Coast.

    1. Well, nothing that you've mentioned merit "gem" status - just normal fare.

      Some of the best in-town options with very Austin atmosphere:

      - Sam's, Ruby's (not Rudy's), The Pit (Burnet), and Artz for BBQ
      - Dirty's for burgers
      - Amy's for ice cream
      - EZ's for lunchy stuff
      - Schlotsky's Headquarters place (South Lamar) for a Schlotsky
      - Aquarelle for a fine-dining Frenchy place
      - Vespaio for modern Italian
      - Zoot for an expensive night out (New American)
      - Cafe Josie for light seafood (lunch)
      - Hyde Park Grill for grill-fare and great fries
      - Cisco's for breakfast
      - Joe's Bakery for empanadas
      - Arrandas for real border Mexican fare
      - El Patio and Tres Amigos for gringo Mexican
      - any place around Research and N. Lamar for Vietnamese
      - Z'Tejas for Margaritas (origional on 6th)
      - Hoffbrau for a cheap steak

      5 Replies
      1. re: BigboyDan

        Hey BigboyDan - I appreciate the list! I figured the places we found last trip weren't the great spots - you never find those without help! One question - what is the difference between 'real border Mexican fare' and 'gringo Mexican'?

        1. re: Ed Edamame

          The difference between 'real border Mexican fare' and 'gringo Mexican' is that the former is what the Mexicans eat and the latter "Tex-Mex" is what was invented here in Texas that the white-folk eat. Both are good, but the menu sellections are different. And, I'm drawing the normal native Texas distiction; many gringos do eat the real Mexican stuff, as do I.

          1. re: Ed Edamame

            Actually, several of the places you named were ones I would definitely recommend for out-of-towners-- especially Las Manitas (the migas place) and possibly Guerro's (I haven't been in a longwhile, but it definitely is an Austin institution). I also hope you got to try the jerky at the Roaring Fork-- it is stellar!

            If you like the nightlife, I would highly recommend the burgers at Casino El Camino on 6th street. If you want really good Interior Mexican without spending a lot, go to Curras on Oltorf. They make awesome mole and the most amazing avacado margaritas.

            1. re: colander

              I concur with every place that you mentioned... that beef jerkey at Roaring Fork is so great. I've never had anything like it. Unfortunately they run out frequently. If they do have it, however, they will sell it by the half pound. It is wonderful! I love the Fork!

          2. re: BigboyDan

            Artz is okay for ribs but the rest of their 'cue sucks.

          3. Does anyone from Austin know of the place on South Lamar, near or South of Wm Cannon? It's a Mexican (authentic) storefront in a small stripmall. There's a stained glass place next door. Very good food, you get serenaded by a guy from Jalisco. They bring this tiered condiment server out to your table that has about 6 little bowls of different salsas and relishes, along with some tortillas. The food was fantastic, and I think pretty cheap. Friends took me there, so I don't remember the name or the prices....this was about 2 years ago.

            If anyone knows of this place, I'd love to know the name, and it makes a great place for lunch.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bribeck

              bribeck: Are you sure it's on South Lamar? Lamar ends at Ben White, several miles north of William Cannon. Maybe it was Manchaca or Brodie Lane? Or could it be in the Brodie Oaks shopping center at Lamar and Ben White (where the Toys R Us, Olive Garden, Fuddruckers, etc. are)?

              1. re: redqueen

                Hey - this sounds like Evita's Botanita's on South First, south of Stassney, north of Wm Cannon. I love this place - the salsa sampler (with escabeche) is delicious and festive, and I LOVE how they rim their frosty glass mugs with salt when you order a Corona with lime. Never had anything bad there, but my husband's shrimp diablo reverberates in the memories of all who tasted it on his birthday!

                On the "gem" front, I have had a ball thinking about this...I think some of the higher quality restaurants may not be "gems" in that you can get similar/better fare in other cities. I think Fonda San Miguel is a gem, as is Flip Happy (gotta post about our dinner there), and definitely Maria's Taco Express, although the whole Walgreen's construction is changing the funky landscape. Hut's, Sam's, Hoffbrau - highly recommended as gems. And, Uchi. It is unique, in my experience, and superlative....a real gem for fine dining.

            2. For breakfast tacos and lunch, try Tacodeli. It's great fresh Mexican food. One location is at Burnet & Duval (north) and one down south on Spyglass.
              Vespaio is always a great treat -- imaginative food, great service.
              For interior Mexican food try Fonda San Miguel.
              Fino (24th & San Gabriel) has good Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine.
              Castle Hill near 5th & Lamar has inspired cuisine; go with their beef and/or lamb selections.

              Bigboydan's recommendations are dead on. I'd add Hut's for hamburgers, though. Their onion rings are the best on the planet.

              1. Fonda San Miguel is fantastic! I like Katz deli on 6th also.

                1. This is FANTASTIC people! I can't thank you enough! Any other ideas - please throw them in! I can rest assured I will gain 10 pounds in the 10 days we will be there!

                  We will be staying in Austin most of the time, but will spend a weekend at Lake Travis - any suggestion for that area?

                  Thanks again!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ed Edamame

                    Where on Lake Travis? It's a big lake.

                    If you're going to be in the Lago Vista area, I'd suggest Cocina de Michoacana in Cedar Park. And although the food is nothing special, Shades in Pt. Venture is a lot of fun for drinks.

                    Around Bee Caves, I like Rosie's Tamale House.

                    And there are others, but just to say Lake Travis doesn't really narrow it down enough. It could take you a couple of hours to get from one location on the lake to another on the other side.

                    1. re: ChrissieH

                      Hi Chrissie - first time there so I wasn't sure where we ere going either! It's the South Shore area - Lost Parrot guest cabins. Here's what their web site says...do you agree?

                      "There are plenty of fun things to do right here in the neighborhood – Lake Travis South Shores. Just minutes away from good eats and live Austin music at The Oasis, Carlos'N Charlie's, Johnny Fin's, Hudson's on the Bend, Aunt Tilly's and Iguana Grill. Lost Parrot guests raves go to Aunt Tilly's and Hudson's. The Backyard – Austin's premiere music venue
                      is five miles away in Bee Cave, Texas. The Glenn is The Backyard's new venue."

                      It looks like we're only 5 miles from Bee Cave - so we can check out Rosie's!

                    2. re: Ed Edamame

                      If you're near Hudson's on the Bend, go there. Wild game. One of my Top 3 favorite restaurants in the Austin area.

                      1. re: Ed Edamame

                        A couple of other gems: Kerbey Lane Cafe (the original) and Eastside Cafe. However, Kerbey Lane tends to have long waits on weekend mornings. For steak, I like Austin Land and Cattle and for Chinese BBQ, Din Ho on 183.

                      2. If you're coming from a place like Chicago or NY, it might not impress, but Home Slice Pizza on South Congress has the best pizza in town, imo. The atmosphere is very industrial-hip-trendy, which sometimes I'm not in the mood for, but the food is consistently good.

                        I also love El Chilito on Manor, just east of I-35. It's a taco stand, an offshoot of the restaurant El Chile up the street, and has a great pork pibil taco. Their fish taco is excellent too, as are all of their aguas frescas, including horchata, which is my personal favorite. I think they're open until 11:00 p.m., so it would be a fun place to stop by if you're hungry after a movie or going to hear music.

                        Something else I've been addicted to lately is the avocado gelato at the new Whole Foods flagship store at 5th and Lamar. The ice creams vary on a daily basis, so it might not be there on the particular day you visit, but if they have it, order it! It's so good.