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Jul 11, 2007 08:08 AM

Soul Food in Austin?

Anyone know of a good soul food place? I haven't had good soul food since I was a kid eating at friends' houses, nobody cooks great food like the old grandmas!

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  1. Try Gene's (E. 11th, Thursday-Smothered Pork Chop), Nubian Queen Lola's (Rosewood, Catfish and greens, expect a wait), or Tony's Southern Comfort (E. 6th, Fried Chicken).

    3 Replies
      1. re: Twill

        Is Tony's still any good? I was going to go there the other day, and I checked their website to find their opening times. I looked at the menu, and it doesn't seem to be as much of a soul food restaurant anymore. I see quesadillas, enchiladas, cheesesteak sandwiches, club sandwiches, and other stuff I wasn't expecting. There are still plenty of pies, cobbler, chicken fried steak, and such, but have they branched out too far? We ended up going somewhere else.

        1. re: James_ATX

          I had the fried chicken there last month, and it seemed pretty "soulful" to me. It's one of Tony's staples, though, so I doubt that an expansion of the menu will affect its quality.

          To note: I was in Gene's last week, and he's got fried chicken dinners on the menu, I believe 8 and 12 piece portions. Wanted to try, but it was Thursday, and I can't resist an inch-thick fried pork chop smothered in gravy.

      2. Gene's is pretty mediocre.

        At Ben's Longbranch BBQ, they have a soul food Wednesdays for lunch. They have chicken and dumplings, oxtails and smothered pork chops.

        I consider Ben's and Lola's to be the top tier.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Mersenne twister

          I love Ben's BBQ, especially the pork loin. I'll have to give the soul food a try.

          While I like Lola's, her pork chop doesn't have near the heft of Gene's, and her breading is a bit rustic for me (spotty and uneven). Still good, I just don't think it measures up to Gene's. Her catfish, however, is another story, and her bacon heavy greens are the best.

          1. re: Twill

            The big difference with Lola's is that everything that is fried is dusted in flour and spices, not really breaded. I prefer this style, but I know it is a matter of taste.

            Haven't had Gene's pork chop, but I think everything else that Gene's makes Lola's does better: fried chicken, po-boys, gumbo.

            How's Gene's jambalaya, btw?

            1. re: Mersenne twister

              Never had the jambalaya, but I'll post back once I give it a try.

              BTW, Gene's only has the pork chops on Thursdays, in case you decide to return.

          2. re: Mersenne twister

            It's been a while since I've made it to Lola's. Does anyone know if she still uses instant tea? I love the food, but I am also big on iced tea with my meals, and instant just doesn't do it for me.

            1. re: Alan Sudo

              Ok, at Gene's the po-boys are great. He is from NO, so he does know cajun food pretty well. At Tony's, you MUST try the fried chicken and waffles... yum!

              As for Ben's. I would definately recommend the mutton. I know, I know what you are thinking... mutton. But, it is surprisingly good. And, I am not a big lamb eater. Just something different to try. Haven't been to Lola's, yet, looks like I will need to check it out! ;)

              1. re: Aggiegirl1998

                Gene's is pretty good, until you've been to Lola's. She makes everything Gene's makes but better, especially on the po-boys.

                Sam's BBQ (also on the East Side) also has barbecued mutton.

                Maybe you can just BYO tea to Lola's?

                1. re: Mersenne twister

                  I feel that I must take exception to your suggestion that only people who have never been to Lola's will like Gene's. I like both Gene's and Lola's, as a lot of discerning 'hounds do. I also like Ben's Longbranch, Tony's, and Reggie's, but that doesn't take anything away from Gene's. Or Lola's. This isn’t a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of deliciousness to go around.

                  What you really seem to be saying is not that Lola's does everything better than Gene's—unless you've actually tried everything on both menus—but that you like Lola's fried chicken, some po-boys (not sure which ones you've tried), and gumbo better than the same items at Gene's. You suggested something about breading vs. batter regarding the fried chicken. Maybe you could share your opinion on what made, on your visits, the other dishes better at Lola's. That way, other chowhounds will know how your subjective taste stacks up with theirs. Sharing this information is especially helpful for the rest of us when new posters are involved, since we can't gauge much about your chow style from your recommendations to date.

                  1. re: MPH

                    Many of the same items they both have are fried, and I do prefer Lola's style more than Gene's.

                    Another item is gumbo. Gene's version is very thin and has a pitiable amount of meat in it. Lola's is thicker and a more generous apportionment of sausage and chicken.

                    Which items do you prefer at Gene's?

                  2. re: Mersenne twister

                    For what it's worth, I find Lola's po' boys (shrimp or oyster) to be way too salty for my tastes, to the point where the salt impedes my enjoyment of the seafood, and thus I prefer Gene's for these items. And I'm not a fan of bland food in general, I just don't like it when you can barely taste anything but salt. On the other hand, I like Lola's for a burger in my 'hood as well as an eggs and grits breakfast, but I need to try more of the soul food options at both places before I comment on those menu selections. I agree with MPH that there is room on Austin's East side, and indeed in all of Austin, for both places. I truly wish more Austin diners would venture due East of Apartheid-35 for noteworthy food. And I am putting Reggie's on my list of places to try per others' recommendations. Am I understanding posters like scrumptious and others correctly that Reggie's is on the NW corner of 12th and Chicon? Is it behind that pool hall place a tad north of said corner?

                    As far as desserts go, I find the peach cobbler at Ben's Longbranch to be delicious, as well as the banana pudding at Gene's. For a point of reference, I do not like the cobblers or much else at Hoover's. The cobblers at the latter place seem to be topped with some variation on a pie dough, not a buttery crumble, and this pseudo-pie dough gets gummy and unpleasant because I think they microwave the cobblers before service. The only plus side about Hoover's cobblers I can think of is that they offer multiple fruit options, like mango and blackberry. To me, this variety in filling options can't compensate for the mediocre crusts.

                    1. re: diva360

                      I agree that this area has not had enough exposure. There are tons of small obscure joints that I have never heard of here that may be good. After all, someone had to be the first to "discover" Lola's, etc.

                      The peach cobbler I had at Gene's is one of the worst I've ever tasted. The filling was oversweet and the crust was like cardboard. The bread pudding, though, pique my interest. Has anyone had that?

                2. re: Alan Sudo

                  Yep. And sweet enough to rot the teeth outta your head. Pretty much the same with the lemonade, too.

                3. re: Mersenne twister

                  Ben's Longbranch has had a "closed for renovations" sign up for a while. Anyone know what's up? I'm afraid it could mean that it's closed for good.

                  Damn, their soul food Wednesdays was incredible.

                4. from a previous post:

                  Rolled down on the 12th and Chicon zone today for lunch.Spotted a nice looking food trailer crouched down behind a big cement slab on the northwest corner of the intersection:Reggies.
                  Signs touting Boudin,Fried Fish,Chicken Gizzards and Dirty Rice magnetized me.I parked in the alley,navigated past a couple pretty decent looking hookers[wearing heels...which helped me determine they weren't Austin girls who apparently all bought stock in some flipflop company a few years back]ordered the Fried Catfish Platter which came with either Fries or Dirty Rice and Hushpuppies.Reggie was working the counter,very cool young cat from soon as I found it he was from Beaumont I knew I was in for something good,those folks over in East Texas really know how to eat.He did not disappoint.My stryofoam box came loaded with 3 big filets,perfectly cooked and sitting on a big bed of nice,hot crispy fries...the hushpuppies were homemade and stand at the top of the hushpuppy pecking order in Austin[best I've had in this town]...service was fast and to see a couple drug deals go down in the alley and across the street...guys rolled by blasting Paul Wall and Fabolous in their shiny Cutlasses and Grand Marquis...the sky was clear,ambience was stellar and the food was top notch...set me back $6.75...he stays open past bartime on Friday and Saturday night but is closed on Sunday and Monday.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Amen to that, scrumptious! I've been craving his catfish. But is Reggie's trailer open for business again? I drove by in search of chow at least a couple of times over the past several weeks, once around 3 P.M. and once around 9 P.M. It was closed.

                    Does anyone have any updates?

                    1. re: MPH

                      Ran into the Eastside King this morning at a quick mart in the hood.He was not looking forward to a hot day in the trailer sooooo,yep,he's open.With his brief hours and being closed two days a week I'm guessing that this brother is a man of means...just a guess.

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Update on hours of operation: Reggie's trailer was open today when I drove by at 1:30 and 3 P.M. If you had given up hope of finding it open (as I almost had), you might want to give it another shot around lunchtime on a weekday.

                    2. re: scrumptiouschef

                      Where was this previously posted from? Is there more information about Reggie's in that thread? I'm having difficulty searching for it.

                      The chicken gizzards have piqued my interest.

                      1. re: Mersenne twister

                        El General gave the link above, in the second reply to the OP [original post].

                        Do a search for Reggie's or Reggie or Chicon or fried catfish on the Austin board, using the "Search this board" link at the top of the page.

                    3. My wife and I had lunch today at Queen Lola's. We ordered the fried chicken wing plate and the gumbo. The five large chicken wings were meaty, lightly breaded, and crisply fried. After frying, a spicy and salty cajun seasoning is sprinkled on top. I enjoyed the strong flavors, but my wife thought the chicken was too salty. As sides, we chose red beans and rice and salad. The red beans were a bit smoky, and featured the flavor of celery surprisingly prominently. The salad consisted of chunks of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced onions, and refrigerated slices of tomato topped with the same seasonings used for the chicken.

                      The gumbo was served to us in a small saucepan, which I thought was a nice touch. The broth is a medium thickness and is packed with shreds of chicken. There were one or two slices of sausage in the pot, which tasted like standard grocery store issue, but did a good job of flavoring the broth. The gumbo was also highly seasoned, and again, I liked that, while my wife thought it was too much. Both dishes were served with a sweet cake-like cornbread, which was good if you like that sort of thing. I do.

                      I've had the fried chicken at Gene's, and was disappointed that for a New Orleans style place, it wasn't spiced up. So for that reason alone, I preferred the fried chicken at Queen Lola's. Are there other versions of spicy fried chicken in town (besides Popeye's) that I should try?

                      I should add that the proprietor was super-friendly and that she closes on Sunday to serve free meals to the homeless.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Brian Lindauer

                        Oh, so you're the one who ate all the chicken wings! ;-) They were out of them, and the fried shrimp, when I stopped in for a late lunch today. Reggie's was closed, so Lola's was my back-up choice. I had the catfish again, since that's what I would have ordered at Reggie's. It was good, but I have friends and colleagues who are also split on the "Cajun spicing" that's liberally sprinkled on the fried items at Lola's. To some palates, and even on some pieces of chicken, pork, or catfish, the spicing can be too much. They use a lot of seasoned salt, which has a very strong flavor. Personally, I don't really think the mixture is truly spicy, especially compared to the flavor of "Cajun fried chicken" I've had elsewhere. However, the pieces of catfish that didn't have much of this spice mixture on them were bland. They just tasted fried. So, the fish was either really zesty, or it noticeably lacked flavor. The pieces of fish were generous and well-fried, but not very crispy. The red beans and rice were all right: Canned beans that were jazzed up a bit. [Another side, the corn, is prepared the same way: canned corn that's seasoned with slightly spicy peppers.] I agree about the corn bread. I don't love the super-sweet kind; I prefer the savory kind that tastes of bacon grease or lard. Lola's was good, though, and also less sweet than many versions made in the same style.

                        I've also had her fried pork chop, which is decent. To me, the one at Gene's is more flavorful. They use a thicker, better cut of meat that marries well with the batter they use. Gene's also makes very good french fries, smothered pork chops, and bread pudding. I like Gene's fried chicken, too. Then again, I don't care if fried chicken is spicy or not, as long as it has some seasoning and is well-fried.

                        To me, this isn't an either-or kind of thing. Lola's is a nice place, with a great proprietress. I like her catfish. The fried seafood po-boys look good. Gene's serves some damn fine food, too. Quite frankly, neither place is off-the-radar these days. The MSM [mainstream media] "discovered" them both years ago. This can be seen in the number of food reviews on both places, not to mention the large numbers of out-of-the-neighborhood middle-class types who eat there. But hey, that's a good business plan. Fortunately for us chowhounds, the food hasn't gone downhill.

                        Still, the definitely off-the-radar food-trailer Reggie's has them all beat on fried catfish. At Lola's the fish can be overdone yet still pale, the result of cooking too long in oil that isn't hot enough. Gene's and Tony's do a fine job with catfish. But Reggie has a special way with that deep fryer, which produces a crisp, delicious final product. And those hush puppies! I really need a fix soon. So I'm going to need you to send out an all-points bulletin, scrumptious, the next time you see the man of means cookin' in his trailer.

                      2. I'm suprised no one has mentioned "Hoover's" yet...

                        great meatloaf, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, ect. HUGE servings too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Johnny Thunders

                          Hoover's is the obvious choice but I think if you try out some of the aforementioned East Side places you'll find that the chow is much better.