A week in Austin...
- wyf4lyf Jul 6, 2007 07:46 PM
I'm coming to a conference in Austin...staying at the Northcross Suites which is to the east of MoPac Expressway and west of US-183. The conference is at Riverbend Church which seems a bit far from anything...it's on N. Capital of Texas Highway near the Austin Country Club.
I love all food, all ethnicities...willing to try anything. Looking for inexpensive to moderate for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is provided at the conference...if it turns out to be awful, then I'm going to want a big breakfast to tide me over. :)
Will have 2 hours for dinner, so I can probably drive a bit...but not too far to be sure to make it back in time for the evening session.
I've never been to this city, so I know nothing. Help?? !!
Thanks so much in advance!
Try Maudie's Milagro on N. Capital of Texas for Breakfast or Dinner Tex-Mex. Or Salt Lick for BBQ...both in the same shopping center at 3801 N. Cap of TX Hwy.
If you're looking for an "Austin Experience" try Z Tejas next to the Arboretum, which is just west of where you're staying. Great Southwestern food and a wonderful covered outdoor patio with a view. If you go there, try the Ruby Trout Salad with goat cheese or the voodoo tuna. If you're looking for something more upscale, try Eddie V's right next door...elegant atmosphere with great steaks and seafood. My favorite is the steamed sea bass.
A really cool little quirky place that's lots of fun is Mesa Ranch at Mesa and Steck, easy to get to from where you are. Great steaks and some seafood, and they have a few exotic meats on the menu, such as wild boar, venison, and quail. Live guitar picker on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
(I've been meaning to post this for a while, gawain44, but I didn't want to start a separate thread. Yours is the most recent, non-bachelor-party-related post on Z'Tejas.)
I realize that Z’Tejas has its fans, but my experiences rank it right down there with “good for a chain,” which is a backhanded compliment at best. Since I wanted to try a recommended ancho-chocolate pie at Z’Tejas, I recently preceded dessert with their much-touted brunch. The chow wasn’t good.
Catfish beignets—Catfish beignets should be like deliciously doughy New-England clam cakes. You make a batter with eggs, baking powder, and hot sauce, gradually adding flour to it, and then you fold in the catfish. When you fry the “beignets,” you’re really frying spoonfuls of batter that have fish in them. The fish beignets are ready when they float to the surface. At Z’Tejas, “catfish beignets” apparently just means fried, breaded, and boneless catfish strips that have the texture of processed chicken-tenders. On my visit, I found the breading on the beignets to be faintly spicy, lacking in salt, and not truly flavorful. The catfish itself was very soft, but the fish was not of particularly good quality. (But hey, "soft" might be important if you’re teething.) Their jalapeño tartar sauce tasted like slightly acrid, garlicky mayo with some green herbs in it. It may have been made with jarred minced garlic. Our group didn’t finish this appetizer.
Chile pork verde—This popular dish at Z’Tejas consists of pork in a sauce made with garlic, serranos, green chiles and tomatillos, according to the menu. In reality, the sauce is very watery and tastes mostly of canned tomatillos. It’s not very spicy or complex, though it’s not totally bland. Eating some fresh chile with every bite might add enough flavor for you. This was better than the catfish, but not good compared to other (cheaper) versions in town—like at Don Luis or Torchy’s. And what’s with all the Monterrey jack cheese on top? It doesn’t disguise anything. Black beans topped with more cheese came on the side. They were well-cooked at least, making them the winning appetizer, by default.
The French bread served at the start of the meal seems to come from Sweetish Hill. If you like their bread, then you'll love this touch. To me, the bread has too soft a crumb, despite the fairly hard crust. Typical of the “ethnic Wonder Bread” that abounds in this region.
Z Burger—This half-pound burger comes with jalapeño mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and red onions. To these were added unripe avocado and slightly-sweet bacon, which contributed nothing but texture to the ensemble. The meat itself was unseasoned and undercooked, and on the lean side. Some flavor came from the jalapeño mayo; despite the name, it wasn’t spicy. The burger was served on a sweet bun. It’s odd when the overall impression that you get from a hamburger is sweet, but there you have it. The fries were of the 1/2” thick square-cut variety. They had a crisp exterior and an undercooked interior, and they needed salt. You have the option of a tomato-avocado chopped salad instead of fries, but I feel I should warn you that none of their tomatoes and avocadoes were good.
Grilled cilantro-pesto ruby trout—This option was better than the burger, but the lackluster pesto and the overcooked fish rendered it mediocre compared to other ruby-trout dishes in town. Their trout was topped with a lot of bad guacamole made with tomato, white onion, Bermuda onion, and cilantro. The strong white onion was overpowering, since the avocadoes themselves were not ripe or flavorful. Sides included fresh green beans that looked beautiful but were hard and had no seasoning, and very undercooked, dry Mexican rice made with corn kernels and tomato.
I covered these already here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40719...
To me, it seems wrong to badmouth the name of Texas by attaching “Tejas“ to this now mostly-out-of-state chain’s adventurous-sounding and –looking but really quite bland food that long ago lost whatever soul it might have had. This was my third visit; the previous two were work-related, of the type when underwhelming chow is not a deterrent to the parties involved. At this point, I have to conclude that while Z’Tejas may be good for a chain (though, arguably, it's not even one of the best chains), Austin has much better options for those who want truly delicious chow.
Hi wyf4lyf - I recognized your handle from the home cooking board - welcome to Austin! You are one true chowhound. The previous recommendations are good - some are situated out on 360 where your conference is being held. However, you are going to have to travel to and from Northcross every day, then that opens up lots more options for you innorth central austin.
If you are like me, having enough time to get a good breakfast in could be problematic. However, you dont' get breakfast at northcross suites, and there's no kitchentte. If you get on Burnet and go south, past "2222" aka Koenig/Allandale, on the right, there is a place called "Austin Diner." Roughly five minute from where you are staying. Although this is a place that can get overlooked, they have an awesome green mole sauce that they put on an omelette or eggs. On the weekends (the only time I go), there is a speacial with that, pancakes, and a side. If it isn't on the special board, you have to ask for the mole, as they always have it for the lunch enchiladas. It isn't a chocolate type mole, though, more of an Amarillo...you can really taste the roasted almonds in it. The decor is understated and a bit "rustic," but that's what it is - nothing fancy, so don't expect something quaint. I don't have any other breakfast ideas in the vicinity.
Dinner - there are actually lots of options, as you are staying north central-ish. You can get downtown in ten minutes, but with parking and all, that might be problematic. There are lots of places in between. Will you be dining alone? What are you looking for? Lowbrow/highbrow?
Thanks for all the info! I'll be dining along at breakfast, and probably for dinner, too, unless I meet some new friends at the conference. As for what I'm looking for...good food. :) I don't want expensive, but not necessarily dirt cheap, either. I'm thinking about Rachel Ray's $40 a day deal, but since lunch is provided, it's more like $30. So...If I can manage $20 or less for dinner, that would be great.
I imagine the conference will have a printout of all the restaurants in the area, but I wanted to hear from fellow chowhounds about what's actually good. I so appreciate all of the help!
I'd have to say that, if you are a *true* chowhound, nothing that has been recommended so far is going to satisfy. Salt Lick BBQ is questionable at best, Z Tejas has been commented on by MPH (who is a true hound), Eddie V's is owned by the Z Tejas guys and serves more expensive versions of terrible food, Mesa Ranch is ok, but not a 'hound destination by any means, Maudies? Like the Velvetta thing? Go for it.... Austin Diner is nothing special--I've been a few times, but mostly drive right on by....
Do a few other searches on this board and you can find much better chow, especially with wheels...
Use your search function...!!!!
This post isn't very helpful. There's really no suggestions. The original question was pretty specific:
1) Potentially a quick breakfast somewhere near Anderson/Burnet as the origin and 360/Lake Austin as the destination.
2) A 2 hour dinner, trip included, between events during. That would be a 30 minute trip from 360 and the river, tops, and potentially during rush hour. I wasn't sure if dinner after the second event was an option.
No amount of searching is going to answer that question, really. The options are limited somewhat. I would steer her to Sunflower, Asia Cafe, Eddie V's happy hour (no, Eddie V's is not terrible), Manuel's happy hour, etc. Things that are achievable.
I agree that Austin Diner is nothing special. The green mole is something special, to me, and it is a place to get breakfast near Burnet and Anderson, then driving out 2222 to the conference. In the immediate vicinity, there is also the Omlettry, which I don't like as much, and the Upper Crust bakery at 45th and Burnet. I'll let the hounds chime in with specific suggestions.