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Visiting Austin next month, please review my choices, thx

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I've read multiple posts on the board and I'm trying to narrow down my choices for our trip out there next month. Living in California, we have lots of great sushi so Uchi is out until the next visit. We're interested in some tasty TexMex, Southern cooking and BBQ, but because our time is limited we won't be able to travel too far out for the BBQ (I noticed the most highly rec'd places are 20-30 mins out of the city). I’m not going to lie; my BBQ experiences are limited to my own backyard so this is probably where I’ll need the most help.

A bit about me, I pretty much live for the chow in New Orleans, which I visit at least twice a year simply to eat my way through the city. I am a big fan of sauces and just about any and all variation of Mexican food, minus the Taco Bell kind. Hubby and I are also big carnivores and cheese lovers (any places with notable cheese plates?) A few random facts that will hopefully help you help me narrow down my choices. I'm also not completely familiar with the geography of Austin, so if you see somewhere that looks completely out of the way with respect to the other choices I've made for that day, speak up!

Friday lunch - Tony's ~ I read a post saying the cake was homemade and fabulous, and that sealed the deal for me

Friday happy hour - Manuel's or Dirty Martins? ~ I noticed it's hit and miss with the chow for Manuel’s, but seems to be a decent place for HH?

Friday dinner ~ El Chile, Fonda San Miguel or...?

Saturday lunch ~ Sam's for BBQ?

Saturday HH ~ The Roaring Fork?

Saturday dinner ~ Wink or Hudsons?

Late night hangover prevention – Magnolia Grill

Sunday brunch – Green Pastures or Fonda San Miguel?

Sunday dinner – would like another BBQ or Tex Mex rec, kid friendly as brother-in-law will be with us and bringing his 4 y.o.

Thank you so much for all of your help. :)

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  1. I like the prime steaks at the Backstage Steakhouse. I believe it's located in Spicewood off the 71. Not too far from Austin.

    Also, I think the BBQ at the Salt Lick is good stuff, especially if you need to stay close to Austin.

    1. Sam's BBQ was the clear winner in our family's mini-taste test of several places in Austin over Labor Day weekend. Do be aware it is very much a dive -- only a couple of tables inside with folding chairs, so most people order their BBQ there to go. Our brisket from there was spectacular, however, crusty on the outside and drippingly moist and tender, with a good smoky flavor.

      We also enjoyed Ruby's, which by comparison is almost upscale. Very good smoky brisket, but a bit too lean for my tastes -- I like the crusty outside fat layer and was informed to order it "moist" or untrimmed. Good ribs and links too, and the owner was quite friendly and gave us a tour of the smokers when he understood our interest.

      I've enjoyed these two over Salt Lick or Iron Horse (House?), actually Iron Works, I think.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        OMG, did I mix up Ruby's with Rudy's?!? I am NOT talking about the chain, but the single BBQ restaurant where you usually order at the high counter and then they deliver the food to your tables.

        Still, go to Sam's.

        1. re: nosh

          I've had both Sam's and Iron Works...and I prefer Iron Works. Darn tasty.

        2. Sunday brunch = Fonda San Miguel, hands down. It's a visually stunning presentation of an almost overwhelming array of dishes. The space is gorgeous and makes for a relaxing repast. Take the time to have Chef Miguel explain the dishes to you as you go around the tables. If you like it spicy, ask for some of their chipotle salsa on the side. SABROSO!

          And I could get severely flamed, but with a toddler in tow, County Line might be your best bet for Q. While I like Salt Lick's brisket, their sauce is just weird. County Line will never be the be-all end-all with Lockhart 45 minutes down the road, but for straightforward Texas Q and a decent value in a family-friendly environment it certainly fills the bill.

          1 Reply
          1. re: GroovinGourmet

            Regarding Salt Lick's sauce, it tastes like the secret ingredient is Thousand Island Dressing. Keep that in mind next time you taste it, it's weird.

          2. Wow -impressed with your research, schedule and choices! Eating through New Orleans you obviously know how to pace yourself, but Texas serves some hefty portions, and this does seem to be an ambitious endeavor!

            My comments:

            Fri: Skip Dirty Martin's (I will start a thread someday on why i think this place is SO VERY UNWORTHY) and save Fonda for Sunday. Manuel's is solid, and centrally located - but you could do better....I'm a Curra's fan...

            Sat: You are going to kill yourselves if you eat properly at Sam's, the Roaring Fork and Hudson's...Don't miss Sam's, it is most certainly a dive, and a great Austin experience. The Roaring Fork is the one you could/should drop here...it is fine, but if you wind up groaning from the great brisket, ribs and MUTTON at Sam's, you could nap or walk it off and then attack Wink or Hudson's with an appetite. Hudson's is a bit of a drive, Wink is close in the Central area, and has a decent cheese plate. Get a mexican martini at the Cedar door with no food for an Austin-y cocktail hour....

            Sun - Fonda San Miguel for all the aforementioned reasons. Gotta dis the County Line...I would take the extra 15 minutes to go to the Salt Lick (probably get flamed myself for that!), and while we are at it...I think Sunday is out for this, but I would find the time and head to Lockhart - this is what Central Texas BBQ is all about, and is a very worthy destination. Not that far, really - closer than, say, Los Feliz to Malibu....Sausalito to the Mission district....

            And Uchi is unlike anything anywhere else.

            And get some breakfast tacos too.

            And let us know what you do!

            1 Reply
            1. re: saticoy

              It is worth the short drive out FM 1826 to the Salt Lick in Driftwood. The BBQ is good and you will get a taste of the Texas Hill Country charm. Do not let the parking lot scare you off. There are always an abundance of cars however it does not take that long to get seated.

            2. Well, I have been to Fonda San Miguel and it is really good but also really expensive. My favorite Mexican place is right down the street from my house - Polvos (South First). They have interior Mexican food and really strong margaritas. This place has lots of character and is a local favorite. I like the Fajitas a Guajillo (sp?) and the Chile Relleno with the Pecan Cream sauce. Service can be "laid back".

              I also live next to Green Pastures and I think it is a good place for brunch. Expensive but you get all you can drink milk punch (like a milk shake but with alcohol).

              A family friendly BBQ place is the Green Mesquite on Barton Springs. I love their Q even though they never make any of the "lists". I think County Line is yucky.

              7 Replies
              1. re: kgahan

                FWIW, I was unimpressed with Green Mesquite. The brisket had decent texture, but very little smoky flavor. I had an appy that was OK, but not so good that I would return.

                And County Line may not be the greatest, but "yucky"? Seems a bit harsh to me...

                1. re: kgahan

                  Do you think Polvos has better margs, food and atmosphere for a dinner than Curra's, Manuels or Chuy's?

                  1. re: ljero

                    You didn't ask me, but I'll throw out that Curra's and Manuel's have better food. Of the four places, Manuel's has the best drinks (by far) and is the hippest downtown spot. Polvo's is classic Austin slacker atmosphere, complete with lazy service. Curra's has the best food. Chuy's has the heartiest food and is the campiest place -- the place is a chain, and it feels like it.

                    1. re: tom in austin

                      thanks...does it make sense to have a cocktail for happy hour at manuels and then go to curra's for dinner? what's best there? or should I do the cedar door for a mex. martini and then go to curra's?

                      1. re: ljero

                        stop over-thinking all this! enjoy the food. but instead of any of these, go to a "real" mexican place, La Michoacana Carneceria and order some of their amazing food. 99¢ tacos, amazing huaraches, gorditas, etc. far more "authentic" than any of the aforementioned joints. maybe more like the good stuff in Chicago which, though austinites can't believe it, has better Mexican chow than most place here. sorry to upset the manzana cart...manuel's food is not great, and way overpriced, polvos is nasty, and curra's used to be good, 15 years ago. just my two centavos.

                        1. re: sambamaster

                          There are many great places to get delicious and more authentic Mexican cuisine in Austin.

                          But if ljero's mission is to get Austin-style Tex Mex (termed by some "gringo mex"), places like Curra's and El Chile are excellent options. While that stuff isn't strictly authentic, it is a genre unto itself that is sometimes prone to deliciousness and perhaps even legitimacy.

                          Finally, the Cedar Door is hardly a required stop, and isn't the only place in town that makes Mexican Martinis (if that is what you're craving).

                        2. re: ljero

                          I vote for cedar door and curra's!