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Austin - Hoover's and Threadgill's - still good?

I read write-ups about these two Austin restaurants and they sound great. Are they still good? Have they become tourist traps? Any better choices for Texas cooking in Austin?
Leaving arriving in Austin Tuesday 10/17 so I need advice fast!Thanks!

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  1. Hoover's is still pretty good. Certainly the best Southern cuisine restaurant in the city.

    Threadgill's does not serve good food. It has a lot of music history though.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Kent Wang

      I'll disagree with these sweeping, all-or-nothing "pronouncements" that unfortunately are stated as though they were facts, and not simply one person's opinion.

      First, Hoover's is indeed "still pretty good," but it's not indisputably "Certainly the best Southern cuisine restaurant in the city." There are several others that also are "still pretty good" and, some people think, better than Hoover's, including the Stallion, and Tony's Southern Comfort Cafe. And when Dot is cooking, she beats them all, I think.

      Threadgill's DOES "serve good food." I, and others, will tell you that it's not as good, and certainly not as consistent, as it has been in the past. You cannot count on everything being good. The CFS, for example, is mediocre. And Threadgill's definitely is something of a tourist trap, but the atmosphere is still fun, and some of the food still plenty tasty. I enjoy the vegetable platters, and the fried chicken livers with gravy. And Threadgill's does a lively business, so somebody besides me must think that the food is edible.

      Hoover's probably never will be a "tourist trap" as there's no real reason for tourists to seek it out, like there is for Threadgill's.

      If I'm taking out-of-town guests out for a bit of Austin history, I'll take them to Threadgill's and try to guide their menu choices.

      If I'm taking out-of-town guests somewhere strictly for a tasty plate of southern comfort, I'll take them to Tony's.

      If they're going to be around for more than a week, we'll work in Hoover's and the Stallion, too.

      Although if I can find somewhere where Dot is serving food, we'll just go there three times.

      I mean, you know...it's all subjective. You'll be making a serious mistake if you read any post and think that's the definitive word, and that there's any agreed-upon consensus of opinion when it comes to restaurants.

      Because there isn't.

        1. re: ChrissieH

          Funny that I thought what I was stating was actually the consensus. Maybe I am too presumptious and am projecting my own opinion on to what I think the consensus opinion is.

          Let's have a go again.

          I think Tony's is much much worse than what you and the consensus gives it credit for. There are maybe 5 items on the entire Tony's menu that I would order that are actually Southern cuisine. Hoover's on the other hand has nearly over a dozen terrific Southern cuisine choices. Hell, the sides menu at Hoover's alone is better than the entire menu at Tony's.

          As for Dot's, there was the whole fire, and rebuilding. I don't think it can compare with Hoover's in its current state. Before the fire? Sure, maybe.

          1. re: Kent Wang

            It feels like the last time I posted a couple of months ago a very similar discussion was in progress. ( http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            )

            If we are going to rehash, though, I'd take Tony's top 5 dishes over Hoover's top 12 any day. There's something about hand-cooked food and delicious custom seasoning that impresses me more than the mass-produced feel at Hoover's. Have you tried the the fried chicken and waffles or the macaroni and cheese at Tony's?

            As for Dot's, how does the chow in the new location compare to what you had there before the fire? I have not made it there yet, but I'm hoping for the best, especially with johnm's comment below. If you have any recent experiences, they could be useful.

            1. re: Knoblauch

              I feel lonely being the only Tony's detractor.

              Yes, I have had their mac and cheese and it was pretty bunk. Even bunker than Hoover's so-so version.

              I will try the waffles, but I dunno, I'm more of a Belgian waffle kinda guy.

          2. re: ChrissieH

            Dot IS cooking again, and good as ever, at her new place in Windemere Plaza in Pflugerville.

            1. re: johnm

              Dot is the best. This is good news.

          3. re: Kent Wang

            I ate at Threadgill's a few months ago, and my CFS, squash casserole, and fried okra were delicious. Nothing mediocre about any of them.

            1. re: Kent Wang

              Hoovers is good, sure, but also dramatically over-rated by many people. It is probably slightly better than Threadgills. The difference is not nearly as pronounced as some folks maintain.

              1. re: tom in austin

                Tony’s is an independent, family-run, black-owned business, just across I-35 on the East Side. The ambience is simple—like a casual diner or country cafe—and the service can be less than polished. But the pay-off for your patience is the good home cooking. Like a lot of soul-food restaurants, they serve very good fried chicken. There’s an appetizer of fried chicken drumettes and a plate that comes with a Belgian waffle and either fried chicken wings or a boneless fried-chicken breast (the same cut that’s used with “chicken-fried chicken”). Some people like to slather honey or syrup over both their chicken and waffle. However you flavor them, at Tony’s they’re done right. The restaurant also offers a few Texas home-cooking classics like chicken-fried steak, etc., and they have daily specials, including very good meatloaf and smothered pork chops. They make a pleasantly sweet lemonade and a good sweet tea, too.

                I went there today in a group of four, and we had some great fried chicken drumettes to start. The batter was thick, crunchy, and well seasoned with a bit of pepper and a good dash of salt; the chicken was juicy and flavorful. The drumettes are served with a really spicy emulsified sauce—I tasted cayenne and paprika—that most of us loved, but one diner avoided because it was so hot. I had the fried chicken wings and waffle plate, which was sinfully good. Rich and satisfying; this waffle was definitely not made from a mix, as too many waffles at restaurants are. The waffle at Tony’s was crisp on the outside and cooked through. (I overheard one woman send her waffle back to be re-cooked; it was a little underdone on the inside.) One person in our party had the brisket special. It was oven-cooked, not smoked, but he thought it was very good. Today, these were the stand-out main dishes.

                As for the sides, the macaroni and cheese was a decent version of the standard side. It’s not a “gourmet” version with truffles and Fontina cheese, but it’s also not the gloppy kind, or worse, the kind that comes in a box. Just straightforward comfort food. The greens were cooked to just the right consistency—not mushy, not tough. They have a strong taste, though, since they use collard greens. No one at the table thought the greens were too salty, but they were salty (which Brian Lindauer also notes below). The corn was just corn. The mashed potatoes were made with skin-on potatoes and seasoned with the cooking water, salt, and pepper. It didn’t taste like they had cream in them, but they were pronounced good and simple by the person who ordered them.

                If you have room for dessert, try one of their phenomenal three-layer cakes. Usually layer cakes are dry and artificial-tasting (from store-bought cake mixes), so restaurants top them with tons of super-sugary frosting to cover up the lack of flavor. At Tony’s the cakes are made from scratch, frosting and all, and they’re light-textured, moist, and not overly sweet. The frosting also strikes just the right note. The person who ordered the German-chocolate cake loved it. This kind of cake is everywhere, and it is mediocre, if not downright bad, almost without exception. Tony’s version was excellent. I ordered the strawberry cake—a rich white cake, with white frosting and a thin smear of strawberry preserves between the layers. After giving out tastes, I had a hard time keeping everyone else’s forks away from my plate. Another diner tried the chess pie, which he liked (the custard filling was the best part), though he said the cake was better.

                I tasted the CFS today, too, which someone else had ordered. Sadly, it was not the same as it was the first time I had it. At that time Tony’s had just started opening on Saturdays [they’ve since stopped], and we were the only party in the restaurant. Tasting their CFS then was a magical, life-transforming experience. Someone else that day had ordered fried chicken wings with a waffle, so I sampled both. While equally good, the CFS had a different batter. In fact, it wasn’t really batter at all, but a kind of peppery breading that didn’t quite have the same crunch as the chicken did. (It wasn't soggy, though.) In addition, the gravy on my first visit shared some of the seasonings I noted today in the emulsified sauce that came with the chicken drumettes: It was spicy, with a touch of cayenne, and good enough to stand on its own. Since that first visit, I’ve tried the meatloaf plate and the fried chicken and waffles, both of which I’ve enjoyed.

                Today’s CFS was battered with the same mixture used on the fried chicken. On the flat, larger pieces of CFS and CFC, however, it seemed saltier. I don’t know why this would be, since they're made with the same batter. Maybe it has to do with surface area, or maybe the cook salted the CFS and CFC again while they were in the skillet. Although the CFS I tasted today wasn’t tough or gristly at all, the batter did significantly balloon away from the meat. With the fried-chicken breast, the batter cohered much better. The gravy wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as unique as it was the first time.

                I don’t know if Tony’s has changed CFS recipes, or if there’s been turnover in the kitchen. The same-batter-for-both issue may be a function of making choices to save preparation-time. My theory is that they pre-batter a lot of fried chicken pieces, since they sell a lot of them on Sundays. Thus, the chicken gets to rest long enough for the batter to stick. Whereas, if they sell less of the CFS and the kitchen is busy, they might just throw a piece of meat into the fried-chicken batter, instead of separately breading it. If the battered meat doesn’t rest but is tossed immediately into a hot skillet, the batter is less likely to cohere.

                I hope this review helps you order delicious chow when you try Tony’s.

                MPH

                1. re: MPH

                  Two things:

                  1. MPH for president. This review ruled. If you write a book, I'll buy it.

                  2. I'm going to Tony's ASAP. Sounds like my kind of place!

                  1. re: MPH

                    This explains the discrepancy between the reviews on Tony's CFS.

              2. In my opinion, Threadgill's has been coasting on its reputation for several years. We gave them one last try earlier this year and have permanently given up on them.

                Hoover's can be hit or miss, but I would certainly go there before I'd go back to Threadgill's.

                2 Replies
                1. re: addlepated

                  There's a new champ in the Meat and 3 category in Austin and it's name is THE STALLION,just north of 51st St.on the east side of Airport. The vegetables are seasoned,a concept lost on their would be competitors.The kitchen has a southern food vision like the kind felt in places like Tuscaloosa and Oxford.Can anyone can point me toward a place with a similar attitude in these parts?

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Haven't heard much about The Stallion before this thread. Can you elaborate? Any recommended dishes?

                2. I think that Hoover's and Threadgill's are both pretty lame these days. It's been a long time since I've had a meal at either of those places that just blew my hair back.

                  I've been meaning to check out Tony's, especially since I keep hearing so many good things about it.

                  1. What about Moonshine Grill? I've heard good things about it, but have never been. Basically a home cooking place with some slight twists. I think.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cstrombe

                      The attitude is quite different. Much more upscale than Hoover's, Dot's, Tony's, etc. It is a hybrid between traditional Southern cuisine and the more upscale and modern "American bistro" or "New American" cuisine.

                      I don't like Moonshine very much. I'd rather go to Hoover's if I want home cooking or to Castle Hill/Mirabelle if I want real New American.

                      Or if you're really into this hybrid high/low style, go to Mesa Ranch. That is way better than Moonshine.

                      1. re: cstrombe

                        I like the food at Moonshine, but I wouldn't call it home cooking, per se. And the staff is insufferably snooty, which is enough to keep me away.

                      2. If I have to reach for the salt and pepper shakers after sampling the offering from the kitchen they just struck out.Properly seasoned is the way I would describe the Stallion's food.Try the Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich[they bake the rolls the sandwiches come on] w/House made Onion Rings....their Beef Tips over Rice is tender and flavorful as well. They handcut the French Fries and will make them crispy upon request.The parking lot is a zoo at lunchtime.YES,always a good sign.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                          scrumptiouschef,

                          Thanks for the tip on The Stallion. I tried to check it out after reading your review, but I went by too late. I hope to be chowing down there later in the week.

                          FYI for anyone else who wants to check out The Stallion: They're open for breakfast until 10, then closed from 10 to 11, then open again for lunch from 11 to 3. No dinner service.

                          MPH