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Apr 10, 2007 03:56 PM

Texas road trip (Austin-SA-Galveston), where to eat?

I am on my way to Texas in a few weeks (for the 1st time) and was wondering if I could get a few suggestions on where to eat and maybe go out in the evenings...

Starting out in Austin, driving to San Antonio, then on to Galveston for a night and a quick drive to Houston. So basically what is among the best in those cities and in between?? I am from San Diego and want some "Real Texas" food and even maybe atmosphere: ? Chili, Chicken Fried Steak, BBQ, and Tex-Mex. Any suggestions would be VERY much appreciated.


Online I have seen:
Broken Spoke
Salt Lick
Mi Terra Cafe

Any of those good?


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  1. Hi. Austin now has a board. Plenty of discussion. The Broken Spoke is a C and W dance hall, not too good for eating but a great all ages two stepping spectacle for sure. Nearby Artz ribhouse has lots of fans so you might try that on the way. I'd go to Polvo's for Austin weirdness and good food. Their guajillo fajitas have spicy dried peppers and nuts and all kinds of stuff--kind of seem asian. They are great. Polvos has detractors and can be uneven in food and poor in service (it gets crowded) though. I think Maria's Taco Express' food is lame but definitely it has lots of local color. Chuy's gets slammed but to me they have good Tex Mex in a nice environment and always cool waiters and bartenders. Chicken fried steak is Hoover's. They smoke Threadgills on homestyle. Also on Manor Road El Chile and Vivo both have lots of fans. I like take out from El Chilito. As far as nightlife check the Austin Chronicle's website will birddog musical performances for you. Watch for outdoor shows on the weekends, anything free at Auditorium Shores or Zilker Park will turn out the town--people watching bliss. Chili is Texas Chili Parlour. Mi Tierra is cool. In Galveston Gaido's has been dishing out gulf seafood since like 1920. Expensive and worth it. And I'll add that any Austin food discussion leads out to BBQ Mecca in Lockhart. Southwest market is in that league (it says here) and it's in San Marcos between Austin and San Antonio. Call first though they close early pretty often. Sorry to ramble good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: BTAustin

      In San Antonio...

      Breakfast... there is a great place called Magnolia Pancake House (they have great waffles, pancakes, a German apple pancake that is enough for two people, and applewood smoked bacon). Or there's is Bea's Tacos, where you can get awesome breakfast tacos. If nothing else, you can stop at any number of Taco Cabanas and get a pretty decent breakfast taco.

      BBQ... Salt Lick (not so near San Antonio, but people drive there anyway). Rudy's BBQ (their sauce is different from most others - and quite yummy, so you might want to pick up a bottle to take home with you). Barbecue Station on Loop 410 has great BBQ and my favorite creamed corn. County Line BBQ is good, and they have my favorite sauce (I'm the odd one out in my family - everyone else loves the Rudy's sauce).

      Mexican... La Calesa on Hildebrand has incredible, real Mexican food (versus Tex-Mex); their soups are always good, and their mole sauce is my favorite and they make a mean Sangria. La Paloma Blanca on Broadway also has great, real Mexican food; their salsa is that great smoky kind.

      On the Riverwalk... I can only recomend one place, the rest are all tourist traps. Do NOT eat Mexican food on the Riverwalk, at best it is mediocre. Go to Boudro's. I usually get the guacamole (it is worth the cheese-factor of having it made tableside!), black and white soup (half the bowl is black bean soup the other half is cheese soup), and a prickly pear margarita. The only other thing I would suggest eating on the Riverwalk is County Line BBQ.

    2. There'd be no sense in coming that far and being so close and not hitting one of the bbq meccas in Lockhart, Luling or Taylor. If you're going to have only one bbq meal on your journey, pick one of these (Black's, Kreutz, or Smitty's in Lockhart, City Market in Luling or Louis Mueller's in Taylor). If you going to have 2 bbq meals in TX, pick 2 of these. My own personal choice for all round is City Market in Luling. Get there for lunch; several close by late afternoon and only a couple are open past 6pm.

      Gaido's is problematical; Robb Walsh in the Houston Press wrote them up last year and pointed out what locals have known for along time, it's coasting on it's reputation and can be great one day and very disappointing the next. I'd recommend Floyd's Cajun Boat on I-45 @ Nasa Rd. 1 in Webster, owned by the guy who founded the Landry's chain, or Top Water Grill in San Leon for a better seafood and a more reliable kitchen.

      If you want more bbq by the time you get to Galveston, the one to consider is Leon's World's Finest In and Out bbq on Broadway (I-45) at 55th. Soul food sides.

      CFS - look for Kelley's country cooking -- League City, I think? on I-45, or in Houston, the original one on Park Place @ I-45. Huge portions. See also a hilarious big review in the Press last year.

      BBQ in Houston -- best is Williams' Smokehouse -- comes very close to being on a par with the ones mentioned above in Central TX.

      Chili - stop by Goode Co.'s Armadillo Palace on Kirby for their venison chili, excellent. Soak up the Texas kitsch, enjoy some live music and 2-stepping if you're there in the evening.

      Check out for maps and more reviews by locals in the Hou/Gal area.

      1. Hey- If you're looking for a really great dinner try Cafe Paladar ( It's north of town, but really worth the drive. Interesting twists on Latin cuisine, a fun boutique wine list, and great service. It's small, and can fill up quickly, so I'd recommend reservations. There's also a cool lounge next door called Dolce that does bottle service and has special Guest-DJ nights. Have fun on your road trip!

        1. Start the day at the Magnolia Cafe on Congress in Austin for breakfast and the rest of the trip will be fabulous!

          1. I have lived in SA and Austin, so I may help in those areas. In response to your suggestions:
            In Austin
            Broken Spoke- skip the food and go for a beer at night. It is truly an old-school Country bar. It will reinforce a lot of Texas stereotypes, but fun for the kitsch.

            Salt Lick- BYOB..I like it although it is now in vogue to hate Salt Lick. A good option if you can't get to Lockhart
            Threadgill's- Pass and go to Hoovers on Manor for CFS.
            El Chile on Manor for interior Mexican
            Angie's on East 7th for carnitas or machacado (only open for bfast and lunch)
            Texas Chili Parlor for well, chili.

            In SA
            Mi Terra Cafe- Open 24 hours, great breakfasts. I like to eat dinner at the adjacent La Margarita (get the queso flameado) and go to Mi Tierra for desserts from the panaderia.

            6 Replies
            1. re: adewaal

              Thanks to all, I am very much looking forward to my trip. With your suggestions I have mapped out and added a stop in Lockhart, how can I pass up "Texas' BBQ Capital".

              1. re: kcanton

                Have fun and please report back after your trip!

                1. re: adewaal

                  Thanks again everyone for all the help. Texas was great, lots of eating and lots to see. In Lockhart we went to Black's which was very good and then saw Smitty's on our way out so we had to stop. I did not have them but my friend liked the ribs better at Smitty's than Black's. That little town has such character and man I love sweet tea. We saw about 100 on our drive so we had to pull into a Whataburger (don't have those in CA). It was pretty good for fast food. It was hard to stray too far from the Riverwalk and I think we ended up at Rita's. It was ok, the beans were terrible but the margaritas were good..and big! I am a tough judge of Mexican though having grown up in CA. Gaido's in Galveston was good but as someone mentioned earlier, not great. It did seem like a place to at least try once so I am glad I can say I have been there.

              2. re: adewaal

                If it's "in vogue" to hate Salt Lick, as someone suggested above, then why is it always so crowded? Not that I'm a fan. I prefer House Park and Ben's Longbranch for those times when I need 'cue within the city limits of Austin. Of course, you definitely won’t regret adding a Lockhart excursion to your trip.

                There are many good suggestions here. However, I feel compelled to mention that you can do much better than Austin’s Magnolia Cafe for breakfast. Plus, while Mi Tierra in San Antonio does some things well (menudo, chorizo con huevo, fajitas), there are lots of other delicious options to consider. In my experience, I often find the best chow and a sense of the "real Texas" at lesser-known places.

                If you scroll back through the older posts on the Texas and Austin boards, you’ll find a trove of useful advice from a wide range of chowhounds.

                Enjoy your trip!

                1. re: MPH

                  You illustrate my point exactly. If you do a search on theses boards about Salt Lick you find a lot of negative comments. However, the place is always crowded and I actually like it. Sometimes, I think there is a threshold of popularity a place can withstand before detractors become vocal. But, who am I to say? I just hope everyone finds their own idea of the perfect BBQ place!

                  1. re: adewaal

                    Amen to finding perfect BBQ! While I personally feel that SL’s barbecue is not at all amazing, I realize that some other 'hounds do. Tastes vary.

                    What I meant in my post above, however, is that the Salt Lick's—or other restaurants’—lack of deliciousness often has no effect on its overall popularity with the general public. I wish it would.

                    One reason for the negative comments here about the Salt Lick may be that, overall, Texas ‘hounds have collectively high standards about ‘cue. One poster used to adamantly tell visitors to go to Lockhart. That’s obviously not always possible. When it is, however, travelers never seem to regret doing it.

                    I can’t speak for other ‘hounds, but I often suggest skipping the Salt Lick because, if I were visiting Texas for the first time, I would want to have barbecue that was so profoundly delicious that it changed my conception of smoked meat. I’d want to remember that first bite for the rest of my life and then obsessively search for better versions, no matter where my chow journey took me. In other words, I’d want the deliciousness of brisket enjoyed in Texas to haunt my dreams.

                    In my opinion, that kind of transcendent experience can’t be found at the Salt Lick.