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Mar 5, 2007 09:33 AM

Downtown eats/what to order at Mekong River

Hi there, NYC hound visiting Austin for SXSW, no car, staying downtown for ten days. It'll be my fourth time in your beautiful city and I'll be eagerly trying to put my tourist dollars to work...

I already know and like these good, inexpensive eats downtown close to the ACC:

Las Manitas
Taco Shack
Habana Calle 6
Chez Nous
Casino El Camino
Angie's, etc.

I'm looking forward to trying Moonshine and Roaring Fork's bar menu at some point, and maybe Silhouette. Did I miss anything?

But I'll be with some friends who will, at some point, want to go to the mediocre Mekong River. I've been a few times before, and don't really like it but they are quite accomodating of large groups (ditto for Stubb's).

However, if I am dragged there (sigh), where should I order that's decent? I know to stay away from the pho and pad thai. (BTW, theirs was the worst pad thai I've ever had in my life -- goopy, overly sweet, no subtlety at all, and I ate about two bites and then moved the noodles around my plate for half an hour.)

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  1. Hey, Kathryn. As far as SX goes...

    Manuel's is a great downtown choice for interior Mexican + drinks. Great mole sauce, and 1/2 price appetizers during happy hour.

    Roaring Fork's bar menu is ace ($6 entrees if you eat @ the bar).

    Kyoto on Congress is a very inexpensive during happy hour but good sushi place (though one should understand that casual Austin sushi does not hold a candle to East Village spots).

    Jo's Coffee on 2nd St has great coffee, burgers, and comfort food. These are the same folks that own Hotel San Jose on Congress Ave.

    Finally, check out the brand new Go Bites on Red River for good upscale bar food to-go during SXSW. They'll have sliders, sandwiches, and the like - it's a new venture that has great word of mouth.

    Hope this helps,
    Tom (from

    PS: Never been to Mekong River so I can't help you there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tthorn

      I actually had a really bad experience service-wise at Manuel's a few years back (got the manager involved, they were quite apologetic), but I have never returned.

      I love Jo's and am so glad to hear they have a downtown spot now.

      Go Bites sounds very cool and sort of NYC-ish. I'm sure they're gonna get slammed during SXSW Music 'cause they're so close to Emo's.

      Thanks Tom!

      1. re: kathryn

        Re: Manuel's, in my opinion, the food is mediocre. I will absolutely credit them with excellent margaritas, mojitos, and other cocktails.

        I'd warn against expecting too much from Moonshine or Roaring Fork. Their food is decent, but far from fantastic.

        1. re: tom in austin

          While tom in austin and I disagree on Manuel's, I do agree w/ him about Moonshine - it's a fun spot, but I'm not sure why everyone is so over the moon about their food. It's good and all, but it's nothing special IMO.

    2. Man, I guess I stand alone as a big fan of Mekong. My absolute favorite is Skirts On Fire... which is a vermicelli bowl with grilled pork and sliced egg rolls. I didn't think their pho was too bad either. Best of luck, either way.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jwynne2000

        i used to eat at mekong river (formerly cong ly) a lot when i worked downtown like 5 years ago. it wasn't too bad from what i remember but i haven't been there in years. i thought the pho was flavorful and always liked the skirts on fire. kat, maybe stick to the dry vermicelli bowls with pork and eggrolls (skirts on fire), grilled tofu (v-3 i believe) or beef and lemongrass which is spicy and flavorful. if it is the same cong ly as the one that was up here on 183 that has now been renamed to pho van, then they might have grilled pork banh mi. and if that is the same people as pho van, then their banh mi are the best in austin, so i'd try it!