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Need Ideas for Breakfast on the Go and Driving-Friendly Lunch Take-Out in South Austin

MPH Jul 30, 2007 04:24 PM

Tomorrow morning, I will be really pressed for time as I rush between work gigs in West Lake Hills and South 1st (at Ben White/290). To make matters worse, right after the last late-morning meeting, I'll be heading to I-35 South in order to make a 1:00 P.M. commitment in San Antonio. In short, I'll be eating breakfast and lunch on the go, if not while driving, with zero time for lengthy detours from the most-direct routes. Yet I’d rather not just eat any old thing.

Does anyone have creative ideas about where to grab a delicious breakfast near my Austin meetings? Or where to pick up lunch between South 1st at Ben White/290 and I-35 South? No chains, please. I don't like the breakfast pastries at Sweetish Hill Bakery (or Whole Foods). I'm also leaning against south-Austin breakfast taco joints and panaderías. I don't have the luxury of waiting for grub at Habañero Mexican Cafe; moreover, the remaining south-Austin taco joints and Mexican bakeries seem like a waste of my time, especially when I'll be in S.A. later in the day.

My only thoughts so far are that kolache place on South Congress for breakfast (though it gets faint praise) and maybe some lunch take-out from Phoenicia Bakery? I've tried the nearby Dan's Hamburgers and don't need to return. Spec's and Hog Island are too far in the wrong direction for tomorrow's schedule.

I could also stop somewhere along the I-35 corridor, but I doubt my hunger will hold out past San Marcos.

Thanks,
MPH

  1. Twill Jul 30, 2007 06:29 PM

    Instead of going 360 or Ben White, head across Bee Caves to Zilker and over to Torchy's on S. First. Green Pork Chile, Baja Shrimp and the Ranch Hand (steak and eggs), and check out the salsas; opens at 7 a.m. Don't expect anything resembling your E. Austin experiences-they're not trying to replicate traditional perfection (when they do, they fail), but rather offering some inventive (interesting?) regional takes.

    You can see a picture of the menu here:
    http://austinist.com/2006/12/14/taco_...

    1. Nab Jul 30, 2007 07:05 PM

      MPH, this is my work nabe, and although I rarely grab breakfast, the best option in the area for breakfast tacos, that I've had, are at Tapatia which you know well already.

      I've always meant to stop at Torchy's (esp. since there's never a line in the morning), but haven't gotten around to it yet. Can't say tom in austin's recent report has bumped this up on my priority list either.

      A couple of lights north from Ben White, on S.1st, is a little place which will be on your right hand side that's called "Tacos & Subs" from what I recollect from the sign. I've never been there, but they've got a smoker chained to something near the sidewalk and it makes me curious. It's just before the BP gas station I'm pretty sure.

      If you get to Habanero at 11:00am, you'll be able to get your tacos in about 7 minutes. Although, with all the construction on Oltorf these days, you'd probably have to tack on another 10 mins even though it's spitting distance from S.1st.

      You also got Arandas right there too, but is invariably quite busy at the lunch hour.

      You might consider swinging into Summermoon on S.1st (very close to Ben White). I'm not the person to ask about good coffee, but it seems leagues beyond what's at my office (which ain't saying much). I've only had their banana bread twice, which was fine, but not memorable. I've had their breakfast empanadas about 3-4 times, which are not a great example of empanadas, but pretty decent -- bacon/eggs in a fairly thick & somewhat brittle shell. The fillings are better than the pastry, so I guess the attraction for me is an easy vehicle for delivering some bacon/eggs and a place where I don't have to wait. They nuke em when I'd probably rather toast them in an oven, but on the other hand, I would never have time to wait for that.

      The Tacqueria Los Jaliscienses on Ben White has a drive-thru, and I sometimes swing by there for al pastor tacos when I'm pressed for time (that's the only thing that I've found to be good). Sometimes they're a little slow.

      While I don't plan on returning to Dan's for burger-fare, I've heard (here and elsewhere) that they make some good biscuits. One thing I really miss since leaving the biscuit-belt (NC), where even the chains crank out good biscuits.

      The first 2 times I grabbed lunch from Phoenicia, it was pretty good, but every time after that it's been sadly mediocre. I don't know why I keep returning. The bread has been cold, and the meats (lamb/beef shwarma, gyros) have never been nice and crispy/juicy like on my first visits. You could maybe grab some pastries from there and fare well though -- I've only tried their baklava, but always find myself eyeing the other items in the case. Or maybe first stop over at Dog Almighty across the street and then go grab your sweets from Phoenicia.

      You might also wait until San Marcos for your lunch. =)

      1. f
        foodiegal71 Jul 30, 2007 07:36 PM

        I have to say, for grab and go breakfast, sausage biscuit from Whataburger is pretty darned good. Also the chick-fil-a chicken biscuits is nice and tasty. Yeah it's fast food, but it's pretty darned good. There's a chick-fil-a right near the WalMart at ben white and 35.

        Wow, I can't believe I just typed that paragraph, I just let Chowhound in on my deep, dark secret guilty pleasure.

        2 Replies
        1. re: foodiegal71
          tom in austin Jul 30, 2007 08:59 PM

          S'okay. An irrational love of Chick-fil-a is common. I think they use an abnormally large amount of sugar in their fry batter.

          1. re: tom in austin
            f
            foodiegal71 Aug 3, 2007 09:48 AM

            I concur. And I'm not even a lover of the sweet, which is so perplexing to me. Oh Chick-fil-a, curse you and your sweet, juicy chicken.

        2. tom in austin Jul 30, 2007 08:55 PM

          Curse you, South Austin! So many tempting and delicious delights; so few breakfast options.

          If I were you, and you hadn't already given Torchy's a go, I'd try it. Don't order traditional taco options there. Try their crazy items. Lots of people think Torchy's is amazing. I've only been there once, and I had a subpar experience, but one visit does not sum a taco trailer up.

          If you hate that idea, S. 1st is a breakfast chimera: La Reyna on S. 1st isn't bad for breakfast tacos (best on S. 1st, probably; their traditional options were much better than Torchy's) but I personally wouldn't grab-and-go from there. I've had too many iffy experiences. Despite this, they're superior to La Mexicana, Polvo's, and the other area breakfast joints (not including Habenero).

          If you're hopping on I-35 to head South, are you sure you can't bolt down Burleson for a quickie at El Meson? It rarely disappoints. They have pastor ready to go in the early AM if that is what you're craving.

          I also special-ordered a chopped beef-egg-cheese-salsa breakfast taco at Vic's BBQ recently and was impressed with the fatty, artery-clogging greatness of it.

          Taco Deli is on Mopac (basically), not far from where you'll be in the AM. ALERT! This place can be kind of a time suck.

          Finally, I don't know if Maria's Taco Express on Lamar is open on weekday mornings (I've only ever been on weekends), but if you haven't been here, you should give it a shot. It is basically in the South 1st area you're talking about, just all the way over at Lamar (not far from Matt's El Rancho). I think they have several pretty decent breakfast tacos.

          1. t
            tipsytexan Jul 31, 2007 08:36 AM

            I agree with all of the positive posts about Torchy's. I eat there at least once a week. They do have occasional consistency problems, but if you've had a bad experience it's worth giving the place another shot. And the owner Mike Rypka is also very much open to commentary and criticism. They have recently landscaped the patio so now Torchy's is delicious as well as pleasing to the eye.
            The exotic tacos are the way to go. I love the Trashy Trailer Park--fried chicken and queso on a taco, as well as the fried avocado taco. The beef fajitas are usually great and sometimes superlative.
            Another great feature of Torchy's is that it is BYOB--a nice alternative in the evening to waiting forever at Polvos is taking a six pack or a thermos of margaritas to Torchy's and hanging out on the patio.
            Also, though I doubt they will offer much in the way of grab & go, Gypsy Italian Bistro which is soon to open at Dawson & Barton Springs in the failed Rockhounds spot, plans to serve breakfast. That could be a nice addition to the S. Austin dining scene.

            4 Replies
            1. re: tipsytexan
              e
              El General Aug 1, 2007 09:32 AM

              El Meson would be a good option. I especially like any breakfast taco options with their papas. They are more home fries style, and end up being little chunks of buttery goodness.

              The roast chicken sandwich at Phoenicia has never let me down.

              1. re: El General
                tom in austin Aug 1, 2007 02:08 PM

                PROTIP: The pastor at El Meson is better in the morning! Repeated tests of this theory have provided plenty of evidence. Unsure why this is the case. If you're craving a little extra morning melty goodness, ask them to add cheese. They get a little weirded out, but they do it, and the cheese and onion play tag perfectly in your mouth.

                (Also, their chorizo-egg-cheese continues to be triumphant. Like many residents of Austin, it bleeds orange.)

                PROTIP #2: Do not attempt the breakfast pastor w/o a supply of altoids, minty gum, mouthwash, or a toothbrush. The pastor + fresh onions will make you unbearable to your coworkers.

                1. re: tom in austin
                  e
                  El General Aug 1, 2007 03:43 PM

                  I was there last week in the morning (9:30-10:30 range), and they did not have pastor yet. Then on Sunday (afternoon) I had a very substandard al pastor. It was just bland. The chilorio continues to shine (though I have not had other chilorio's to compare it)

                  1. re: El General
                    tom in austin Aug 1, 2007 05:27 PM

                    Yeah, the afternoon pastor's quality waffles. Sometimes you get some inedible bits in there.

                    I can't speak for weekends, either. I only go on weekdays. But pastor has always been available for me as a breakfast taco option before work, when I'm so inclined.

                    Oh man! Last week I tried their carne guisada (on special), and it was insanely delicious!

            2. MPH Aug 2, 2007 09:20 PM

              Thanks for the tips, everyone. I knew I could count on you chowhounds to help me find something other than fast food, even though I would be very pressed for time.

              In the morning, I got a cup of coffee at Summermoon (thanks, Nab) and also grabbed two tacos at Torchy’s. My favorite that day was the steak and egg, or the “Ranch Hand.” Think teriyaki-marinated steak tips, fairly chewy but not too tough, folded inside griddled, cheap-diner-style “scrambled” eggs. I have to agree with tom in austin on the eggs: They were overcooked, almost fried, and generally flavorless. There’s a great deal of egg in this taco, too, so the texture is hard to ignore. There seemed to be no spices added to the taco (other than the liquid marinade used for the fajitas), and there was no salsa scrambled with the eggs.

              I also tried the green-chile pork taco for the second time. The first time I tried it, I’d taken the taco home and added plenty of that delicious green salsa from El Regio. I enjoyed it as a variation on a pleasant theme: green chiles and pork. This time, when I was working only with Torchy’s salsas, I thought the taco was bland. The pork itself was shredded, with a few chunks of green Hatch chiles thrown in with the meat. The pork hadn’t been stewed slowly with chiles, from the taste of it, or mixed with a complex green salsa. It almost seems like it came from one of those fast-cooked carnitas-style pork roasts. I mention this to let other ‘hounds know that this is nothing like, for example, the puerco en chile verde at Don Luis [pre-downhill-slide]. In addition, the surface of the shredded pork seemed a bit dry that day. The taco was topped with crumbled queso fresco [a tasty white Mexican cheese, but I could have done without it in this case], and generous portions of chopped white onion and cilantro. A small wedge of Mexican lime was thrown in there, too, which I noticed just before biting into the lime rind. I squeezed some juice onto the meat, but most of the flavor still came from the cilantro and onion. The green-chile pork was not awful; I even had the feeling that it could have been good. But eating it made me pine for all the delicious pork in town that I was not consuming at the moment, if you know what I mean. I didn’t finish this taco.

              The tortillas at Torchy’s are store-bought, as scumptiouschef has noted before. The flour ones are rubbery and gross; the corn ones are better, but they are not spectacular. Corn tortillas are doubled up for to-go tacos, though they're not oiled before warming.

              Like the green-chile pork, the salsas are considered among Torchy’s strengths. They both looked great. You can see charred tomato in the red one, and lots of seeds and stems in the green. They’re both quite mild, however, and they faintly recall jarred mainstream salsas in their flavor profiles. Of course, they’re better than jarred. The red one was the more interesting one to me. It had a bit of an after-burn and a strong hint of black pepper as well. The green one must have been made with a lot of cilantro that day; it tasted soapy. For some reason, it vaguely reminded me of a hot-dog condiment I once had in NYC. These were above-average mild salsas, but, to my palate, Torchy’s has nothing on the truly complex, delicious salsas at places like La Regiomontana or El Centenario.

              I found the steak-and-egg taco at Torchy’s to be satisfying, and not just because I was hungry. It was good—for hip-diner-type food. Like a lot like other popular Tex-Mex places in South Austin (excluding Habañero Mexican Cafe), Torchy’s dish conceptions, overall menu, and spicing aren’t Tejano Tex-Mex. They’re geared instead to the tastes of that area’s target demographic: that is to say, white middle- to high-income locals and tourists— plus students (WM2HILT+S). I’m not saying that only certain groups of people like certain dishes; we chowhounds know better than that. I am saying, however, that restaurant owners stay successful by pleasing their regular customers. Torchy's was good for an on-the-go meal in my particular circumstances that day. However, I probably won't become one of their regulars.

              So much for breakfast. For lunch. . . well, I would have gone hungry, since the morning meeting ran so long that I had to fly down I-35 to make my 1:00 appointment in S.A. Fortunately, since I’d found myself with extra time in the morning, I had picked up some baklava and a guava turnover at Phoenicia Market. The turnover was very flaky when I broke it in half, but the pastry itself was tough and flavorless. The guava filling consisted of a jerky-sized piece of what seemed like reconstituted dried-guava, which is fine if you like guava (and you don’t mind its slightly slimy texture). But be warned that there’s a very high bad-pastry-to-filling ratio. I didn’t like this and wouldn’t order it (or anything made with the same dough) again. The baklava was quite decent, however, and really hit the spot, with some warm Summermoon coffee that I still had in my thermos from that morning. Thanks again to Nab on both counts.

              There were several suggestions that I didn’t get a chance to check out, including the “Tacos and Subs” spot by the BP station, just where Nab said it would be, and my old fave Taquería El Mesón. On my way back from San Antonio, I swung by EM and Austin’s Barbecue, both on Burleson Road. I had forgotten that they both close around 2:30 P.M. However, I’ll have another chance to try these and other suggested places soon, since work takes me to San Antonio all too frequently. I also plan to sample the breakfast biscuits at Dan’s Burger’s this weekend, Nab. I’ll report back on what I find.

              Best,
              MPH

              5 Replies
              1. re: MPH
                MPH Aug 4, 2007 01:39 PM

                This is a follow-up post on the biscuits at Dan's Burgers. I stopped by around 10 A.M. today to get a sausage biscuit and a plain biscuit. The place was packed, with about a dozen people waiting to be seated in the dining room. The line for to-go items, however, was clear, so I went with that option. My order came with plastic knives, napkins, and little packets of butter, grape jelly, and strawberry jam.

                The biscuits themselves were on the large size: maybe 2.5" tall and 3 x 3" around. They were soft and tender, with a bread-like crumb that had a tendency to break apart during halving and buttering. This suggested that they don't use much shortening in the dough. The biscuits were also not as rich as ones made with plenty of butter or lard. In fact, their blandness makes me suspect that they weren't made with buttermilk but with milk, if not low-fat milk.

                The sausage biscuit contained a thick, decent sausage patty inside a halved biscuit. The sausage wasn't the spicy kind, but this option did up the biscuit's grease quotient. According to the menu, Dan's offers bacon-and-egg sandwiches, on bread, with lettuce and tomato slices. If you want a bacon-and-egg biscuit, you'll need to order one egg with bacon and a biscuit, which you can then assemble yourself.

                I like buttery, flaky, more pastry-like biscuits made with buttermilk. I also like cream biscuits. Both are quite rich, and they tend not to be very large. In short, the biscuits at Dan's weren't exactly my ideal. While I'm glad I tried them once, I wouldn't make a special trip back for them. I'm sure they won't miss my business, though. Crowds line up for their short-order-type breakfast-cooking.

                If you check Dan's out, Nab, I hope you'll let us know how they compare to your NC biscuit memories.

                1. re: MPH
                  Nab Aug 4, 2007 03:51 PM

                  Well that's no good.

                  This type of biscuit is not my bag, but is unfortunately fairly ubiquitous. I guess if you drown them in a good sausage gravy it's alright, but I personally like a biscuit that can stand on its own, with maybe a drizzle of sorghum molasses butter or some country ham for a salt burn.

                  Thanks for sticking your gullet out MPH. Not sure I'll go having seen your report, but Arkie's Grill (east Cesar Chavez) has also been on my list for some biscuits.

                  1. re: Nab
                    s
                    scrumptiouschef Aug 4, 2007 04:38 PM

                    When at Arkie's make sure you get the handmade country sausage patties.They are tasty once you hit them with some good salt.
                    The breakfast cook has been there about 30 years and he knows how to send a properly cooked fried egg to your table.
                    You'll get honeyed and sugar-pied to death by their classic waitresses[a good thing]but make sure you bring your own butter as they only offer a yellow salve that has no working relationship with a cow.

                    1. re: scrumptiouschef
                      MPH Jun 26, 2008 05:14 PM

                      Well, scrumptious, I finally made it to Arkie's in the past couple of weeks, and their breakfast was just as good as you (and others) have always said it would be. I expected no less. My egg was perfectly scrambled; the country-sausage patties were tasty (and they did need salt); the hash browns were fine. A house-made salsa or Tabasco is offered with eggs. My order was up within five minutes. And the yellow salve was still being served—with Smucker's "jams." Being pre-armed with this knowledge, however, I had smuggled in my own supplies.

                      I did really enjoy that biscuit. In fact, I wish I'd ordered another one. The texture was damn fine (rich and pastry-like, not bready), and the flavor pretty darn good. My biscuit seemed to have a couple of unmixed specks of baking powder, but that's a minor quibble. Next time I'm there, I'll try the biscuits and gravy.

                      Thanks for the tip!

                      1. re: MPH
                        a
                        angusb Jun 27, 2008 08:58 AM

                        FYI: Arkie's is open from 5:30 am to 3 pm Mon-Fri, closed weekends. They generally stop serving breakfast at 11:00, but they are somewhat flexible on that. Most importantly, for anybody who was planning to go over and check them out, they will be closed for vacation the week of July 4th, from June 30th through July 4th, reopening on July 7th.

              2. Alan Sudo Aug 2, 2007 09:56 PM

                OK, I couldn't recomend these places, having never been. But your original post made me immediately think of a couple of places just off 35 going towards San Antonio.
                One is Texas Pie Company on Main st. in Kyle. I've driven by several times, and the facade of the building always facinates me - something about a 15 foot slice of cherry pie, I guess.
                The other is a place called 2 Mommas Cafe in Buda. I've heard whispers about this place.. Is it an undiscovered gem, or just a decent place to eat in a town with limited choices?
                Any Chowhounds been to either place?

                9 Replies
                1. re: Alan Sudo
                  MPH Aug 2, 2007 10:24 PM

                  These places do sound interesting. I’d also like to hear from 'hounds who’ve been to either one of them, or who know of different possibilities on I-35 between Austin and San Antonio.

                  I can never think of the name when I need it, so I finally looked up the old post where achtungpv mentions a burger spot in San Marcos called Centerpoint Station (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39593... ). Has anyone tried this place recently?

                  I’ll also add one bit of information. There's an El Regio drive-through right off of I-35 in San Marcos. I believe they're located at exit 202 (Wonder World Drive). Head to the Red Robin at the northwest corner and drive through their parking lot to get your hands on some delicious pollo. It's a good location for the truckers who pass through the adjacent distribution center—and for the rest of us, too. I’m afraid that their chicken would have been pretty messy to eat while I was driving the other day, but you never know when you’ll need a shot of their chow on the way to or from S.A.

                  1. re: MPH
                    MPH Sep 25, 2007 10:07 PM

                    I'm replying to my own post to correct the address for the Pollo El Regio in San Marcos. The exit is not for Wonder World Drive but for South Guadalupe Street, TX 82, and TX 123. The exit number is 204 from northbound I-35, and I believe it's 204A on the southbound side. If you're driving northbound, turn left at the intersection and then take a right into the Red Robin parking lot, which you'll drive through until you get to the other side. The El Regio is located by a Shell convenience store where a lot of big rigs stop. I originally thought it was a distribution center, but it seems to be just a truck stop.

                    I was a bit concerned when I saw that the "restaurant" was just one side of the gas-station food store. I was afraid that there wouldn't even be an on-site kitchen, which can mean that the food is all pre-cooked, brought to the store, and reheated in the microwave. However, their chicken was more or less just as good as it is at my regular Pollo Regio in Austin (specifically, the branch on East Riverside). The surface was a bit less charred and more steamed than it would be ideally, but it was quite late in the day. And the meat itself was quite tender and flavorful. The corn tortillas seemed more rubbery and the rice, drier and more bland. These textural issues probably were due to the use of a microwave.

                    Interestingly, the green salsa was even hotter than any of the already-darn-spicy versions that I've had at Pollo Regio in Austin. It seemed like they used more green chiles and less crema fresca at the San Marcos location: The consistency was less creamy overall. Their slightly watery red salsa was made with pureed tomatoes and quite a few hot green chiles. This also seemed different from the red salsa served here in Austin.

                    The frijoles a la charra really stood out. They had an almost-clear broth that was very flavorful from the generous amount of bacon and Eckrich-style sausage mixed in with the beans along with soft chunks of onion, celery, and tomato. These needed just a little salt to be a satisfying mini-meal on their own.

                    This El Regio had burgers on the menu. I was tempted to try one, but I was in a hurry. If you frequently drive the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, as I do, you might want to keep this place in mind.

                    1. re: MPH
                      e
                      El General Sep 29, 2007 08:59 AM

                      Since I have driven the I 35 Corridor everyday for the last six weeks, and I am likely to be doing that for the next three months I will add my observations to this thread. In San Marcos, at SH 123 and 35 on the SW corner there are two mexican food places South of the DQ that is actually on the corner. I stopped at one, Taqueria Mazatlan, today.

                      Chorizo y huevo: More chorizo than egg. The Chorizo was cooked in a pan so there were legitimate sausage chunks along with the scrambled egg, instead of small spotted bits among scrambled eggs. The chorizo was good and flavorful. It was neither the best nor worst, and I think it was helped by positive chorizo to egg ratio. This was the best of my three tacos, and I was happy with it, but not ecstatic.

                      Papa y huevo: This is no El Meson papa y huevo. Bland, boiled, dry potatoes with plain scrambled eggs. I mainly order this because it helps to evaluate the salsa. Red, tomato-based salsa, that when added to this taco added only spice. The salsa smelled very good, and may need to be evaluated without a taco.

                      Carne Guisada: This was not the best carne guisada. It reminded me of chunks of roast beef in an enchilada type chili topping. Main flavor was beef and chili powder. It pales in comparison to the San Antonio guisadas that I have been eating for the past couple of weeks.

                      All tortillas were flour and store bought, but they were warm and not awful.

                      To come: Taqueria La Fonda, where my hopes are higher.

                      1. re: El General
                        MPH Sep 29, 2007 02:41 PM

                        We've probably passed one another on the highway, El General. Now I'm going to have to start driving even friendlier, in case you're one of the crazy people who whiz around me, or one of the super-slooooooow folks whom I instead have to pass. ;-)

                        I believe that I've longingly eyed Taquería Mazatlan several times, on mornings when I've had no time to stop for a bite. TM is the restaurant set back from the access road with a large parking lot that's often full of big rigs, right? And there's a big white banner that advertises an all-you-can-eat buffet? That's just a couple of blocks south of the El Regio, if I'm not mistaken. Since they use a lot of chorizo in the chorizo y huevo tacos, I just might stop in for one. Thanks for the tip.

                        I've seen Taquería la Fonda, too, which is on the other (east) side of I-35, but more or less in the same part of San Marcos. There's also a nearby gas station that has a small sign announcing "tacos for sale." I'm curious about both and look forward to your report on LF. Maybe I'll check out the mini-restaurant in the gas-station convenience store. Sometimes those places turn out pretty good chow. I also keep meaning to stop at Centerpoint Station for a burger. It's further south, near McCarty Lane, but on the west side of I-35. Of course, by the time you exit there, you're not too far from the excellent brisket at Southwest Market.

                        1. re: MPH
                          a
                          achtungpv Sep 30, 2007 04:07 AM

                          Lived in San Marcos for 12 years (90-02) and consider myself a breakfast taco expert there. La Fonda has been very good in the past. Granted it's been a year since I've been there but their tacos were very good. Their chorizo they used in the past was drier than most places and spicy. They also knew the "ratio". I always got the potatoe chorizo tacos and they were easily a 50/50 mix. Herberts Taco Hut on Riverside (in SM not Austin) makes huge tacos on homemade tortillas...they try and steer you to certain combos of ingredients and an order of exactly 3 but you can order what you want. In town you've got M&M Tacos on Hopkins which is very good. The best in many peoples' opinion, Chicas, closed a few months ago. Also, there's a drive through taco joint on Aquarena Springs right by the stadium that serves good breakfast tacos.

                          I still say if you are driving I-35, stop on Buda on Main Street at Helen's Casa Alde. The breakfast tacos are 3/4 to 1 lbs each depending on which one you order. All on huge homemade thick SA style tortillas. I recommend the two house special tacos: "The Same" with potatoes, beans, bacon, and cheese and the "Fatty" with potatoes, egg, bacon, sausage, and cheese. neither will run you more than $2.15.

                          If you are in South Austin, Nueva Onda has very good breakfast tacos though they open a bit late (7 or 7:30).

                          Unfortunately for us Southwest Market lovers, they are CLOSED. The owner of the building got jealous of their success and kicked them out. He reopened his former joint that was there (Woody's BBQ) before SW Market but changed the name. The owners of SWM are supposedly looking for a space to reopen.

                          Since 55MPH mentioned burgers, two of the best burgers in the region that both rival Casino El Camino are in San Marcos. Centerpoint Station by the outlet mall has 3/4 lbs handformed patties on homemade bread. The fresh cut fries and onion rings are top notch also. The Tap Room on Hutchison next to the firehouse has great burgers also. The Works burger there is highly recommended.

                          1. re: achtungpv
                            MPH Sep 30, 2007 02:18 PM

                            Thanks for sharing all these tips, achtungpv. You've given me and others a lot of interesting options along I-35. I plan to try Centerpoint Station as soon as possible, maybe this week.

                            I'm extremely bummed to hear about the closure of Southwest Market. A while back, I found the place empty at a time that they should have been open. Now I know why. Please keep us posted on their hunt for a new location.

                            1. re: MPH
                              j
                              jwynne2000 Oct 1, 2007 06:17 AM

                              If you go to Centerpoint Station, save room for one of their milkshakes (unless you have an aversion to Blue Bell ice cream).

                              1. re: jwynne2000
                                MPH Oct 5, 2007 06:42 PM

                                I got the chance to eat at Centerpoint Station a couple of times this week. What a good burger! I'll try to describe the chow while the memory is still fresh. They use a nice, fatty cut of ground beef, which is good, because the meat's otherwise unseasoned. It seemed like they didn't even add salt and pepper to it. They griddle rather than grill their burgers. The hand-formed beef patty that comes with the regular-sized 1/2-lb. burger is about 1/2" thick and maybe 4" in diameter. They also offer a smaller 1/4 lb.-burger of the same diameter that's only about 1/4" thick. What gave this burger an edge, however, was the delicious homemade (white) bun, which is soft and slightly sweet, and of a square shape. They also offer a wheat option, which I didn't try. I believe the buns weren't toasted, though they were warm. As for the burger fixings, the thin tomato slices are standard-issue; the lettuce they use is fresh romaine. They include a generous amount of pickle slices on each burger. Onion slices are also an option. They don't put mayo or mustard on the burgers, but you can add those condiments yourself. They even give you packets for the road. After trying their plain hamburger, I went for a bacon cheeseburger the second time. This was very good, too. I was particularly impressed with the nice, smoky bacon slices that they used. These were just-cooked-through and still flexible. I believe they used a thin slice of cheddar cheese on this burger.

                                Centerpoint Station offers square-cut skin-on fries (maybe 1/3" thick) that are made from real potatoes. As is typical for fries this thick, these were mealy on the inside though fried to a golden-brown on the outside. The texture overall is slightly limp rather than crisp. For this type of fries, these weren't bad at all, but I thought the onion rings were much better. Thin, tender onion slices were dipped in a light batter that wasn't shaken off before frying; thus, a lot of batter clings to the onions. The batter itself was a bit blah—and only a little salty. But the flavor worked, in this case, to showcase the onions' mild flavor. Overall, these slightly sweet, slightly salty onion rings, served piping hot out of the fryer, were a satisfying side dish. Warning: A small order of either fries or onion rings serves 3 people. If you're traveling solo, don't order these unless you're really hungry.

                                I've got nothing against Blue Bell in a shake, though it's not my favorite "eating ice cream," as it were. The consistency of the shakes (chocolate one day; strawberry the other) was medium-thick. I enjoyed both of these flavors. Next time, I might try a malt.

                                The one bad item that I sampled was Centerpoint's version of the popular chocolate sheet-cake with a fudge-brownie-like frosting. The cake itself had an odd, chewy texture and an even more unpleasant salty taste, like it was made with cheap Baker's chocolate—at best. The fudgy-pecan frosting was more sweet than chocolatey. If you only ate the frosting and the topmost stratum of cake that made contact with it, you might think this was okay. I wouldn't order this again, though. The experience has also scared me off their "homemade fudge," which they advertise at the store.

                                The menu at Centerpoint Station includes various fried appetizers, stuffed baked potatoes, sandwiches, salads, and CFS. On my visits, I quite liked the burgers and onion rings, washed down with a shake. I'd order the fries again, too, if I were in the mood. The atmosphere might suggest "tourist trap," given the deliberate staging of the attached "old-time general store." But the chow's the real deal. Lord knows there are few good eats on the I-35 corridor. I'm really pleased to have been led to this spot. Thanks for the tip, achtungpv and jwynne2000.

                          2. re: MPH
                            e
                            El General Oct 1, 2007 10:33 AM

                            That is the place MPH.

                            Update on TM:

                            Carne Asada: Small bits of very dry, bland, reheated beef with a heap of shredded lettuce and two slices of tomato

                            Chorizo y huevo: The first time the taco was 65%-35% chorizo to huevo, but it trended downward to 50-50. This is a dry chorizo.

                            Huevo y tocino: Abundant chewy bacon on the eggs mentioned with huevo y papa. Pretty darn good.

                            All Tacos are individually wrapped in foil.

                            Taqueria La Fonda was not open at 6:00 AM unfortunately

                  2. MPH Jan 10, 2008 05:19 PM

                    I stumbled upon a pretty darn good late-night and early-morning option off of I-35 in New Braunfels. Since this seemed too far afield for the Austin board, I posted it on the Texas one. Here's a link:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/478178

                    1. MPH Mar 30, 2008 12:42 PM

                      I recently tried two more places just off I-35 in San Marcos. The aforementioned Taquería La Fonda, located at 1204 South I-35, did not have great breakfast tacos, but the tacos weren't bad. I sampled tacos of potato and egg, chorizo and egg, and lengua. The best one was the chorizo and egg. It had almost enough chorizo—a different style than I'm used to, but good—with larger chunks of sausage. The egg-chorizo ratio was 60-40. The egg was lightly scrambled and cooked through but still moist. The egg-and-potato taco was also nicely scrambled, with a generous ratio of potato to egg. The problem was that the potatoes were tasteless (and needed salt), which left me felling like I'd eaten a plain, bland egg taco. Unfortunately, bad potato-and-egg tacos are practically the norm, with the delightful exception of El Rico in Austin. The lengua taco consisted of five slices of quarter-inch-thick tongue meat that seemed browned on the edges. Given that they were on the dry side, and the disks of meat were tough and chewy, this was not a good version of unadulterated lengua. On the bright side, the flour tortillas looked uniform, but from the taste, I'd guess that they were either housemade or purchased in bulk at a quality tortillería or panadería. Their red tomato-based salsa was slightly spicy, which perked up the tacos to some extent. Tacos also come with a spicy pico de gallo, which includes minced fresh jalapeño. The surprisingly good coffee was served in mugs from a local insurance company. The tacos come in regular and super-sized, but even the regular are pretty large.

                      TLF has daily "lunch" specials during the week from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M. They open at 5 every morning, except Monday when they're closed. Their menu is pretty extensive and bills itself as "American" and "Mexican," with lots of diner-like choices for both breakfast and dinner. They also have a drive-through, which is very convenient for those of us who regularly make the drive to and from San Antonio. The exit from southbound I-35 is 204A; the exit from northbound I-35 is 204. It's on the southbound access road just south of S. Guadalupe.

                      I also checked out a panadería across South Guadalupe from the Greyhound station at 338 South Guadalupe. I was attracted to the place by the large sign proclaiming "fresh tortillas," but there was no evidence of tortillas or tacos for sale. Having just had a full breakfast at La Fonda, I didn't inquire. Instead I bought a few pastries for later. Their marranitos [soft, spicy gingerbread-like treats shaped like pigs] and empanadas weren't bad. The marranito had strong ginger flavor. Though drier, harder, and less complexly spiced than I prefer, this still may have been the best marranito that I've tasted in the greater Austin area. Of course, I realize that sounds like faint praise, given how bad most Mexican bakeries are in Austin, but I don't mean it that way. Their apple empanadas had a pretty standard sweetened-apple filing but a more pie-crust type dough (as opposed to the soft, sweet kind that sometimes encases empanada filling). It wasn't exactly crisp and turnover-like, but it had some body to it. It was probably homemade, which is something. They probably use Crisco, as the dough tasted more like flour than any flavorful shortening. They make up for that, though, by sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on the dough. The third piece seemed to be a variation on pan de huevo or a tortuga, which are yeast-based sweet breads with sugar or glaze on top. This was really bad—dry, flavorless, and thoroughly unpleasant. I'd suggest avoiding anything that looks like yeast-based bread. I was there around noon, which means that if this bread was made that same morning, their yeasty breads may be pretty horrible.

                      The staff at both places was friendly and bilingual. I'll stop at TLF again to try more of their menu. I like a couple of items at the bakery, but I'll probably avoid any yeast-based pan dulce. It also seems like Honey Bee had asked me a while ago about a good source for "superior" marranitos. I wouldn't go that far with the superlatives, but this bakery produced the best ones that I've tried in the Austin area to date.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: MPH
                        e
                        El General Mar 31, 2008 02:14 PM

                        MPH,

                        For pappa y huevo taco delicousness, try El Meson. The pappas are sauteed in butter. I usually indulge my gringoness in ordering these tacos pappa, huevo y queso, in which case they are best taken to go because the small bit of time in wrapped in foil melts the queso beautifully. I usually only add a squeeze of lime, as I do not favor the salsas of El Meson.

                        I usually accompany my pappa huevo y queso with a taco de migas. I think their simple version of migas compliments their sweet homemade corn tortillas very well. It brings out the best in that tortilla, whereas the pappa huevo y queso, I do not even notice whether it is flour or corn.

                        1. re: El General
                          s
                          scrumptiouschef Nov 25, 2008 01:47 PM

                          I've been thinking a lot about the DeepSouth lately.It's a genteel land where an offhanded remark at a cafe may lead to a 2 hour discussion about the Mississippi Tamale Trail for instance.

                          Since a long weekend in Jackson isn't happening anytime soon I've been contenting myself with eating lots of southern foods.This morning I had a craving for some good southern sausage and the search really starts and ends at Arkies[any other good sources for handpatted,homemade sausage patties?]as far as I know.

                          Arkie's has been around since 1948,a few lifetimes in the modern world of restaurants which seemingly evaporate on a weekly basis.The formula here is simple:provide simple trencherman's fare in a blue collar environment,hire waitresses that'll sugarpie you til the cows come home and keep the same cook on the range for the last 40 or so years.

                          Sounds easy but their longevity really speaks to their success.

                          I get the same breakfast every time.2 fried over medium eggs,2 sausage patties,a biscuit,grits and a side of gravy.My companion opts for hot oats with raisins as she quests onward towards immortality.

                          The eggs are perfectly cooked but not as hot as I like them.I was completely daydreaming so I'm not sure how long they sat in the window[and it's a good thing as I'm a total bloodhound if I see what I think is my food on a waiter tray or in a window...lots of craning my neck,sniffing the air and looking imploringly about the room]but it was too long.

                          The grits are ok,I'm completely spoiled for grits after discovering Anson Mills and these are standard issue.I pull some butter out of my backpack[they only serve yellow colored salve]and doctor them up as much as possible.The biscuit had had a glory day earlier in it's life...I drown half of it in the gravy which has a heavy dose of turmeric[?] and wait a few minutes for it to soften up.It eats.

                          The sausage is a glory.Homely little misshaped patties seasoned perfectly with red and black pepper and little else.They're griddled til crusty and dark outside but with a juicy center.If you have a country grandmother who has access to a good young shoat around the first frost you may have eaten sausage like this.Others will not be as lucky.

                          It's worth a trip to eat the sausage.

                          No report on the hot oats but the bowl was clean as a whistle a few minutes in so I reckon it was alright.

                          Hanging out at Arkie's is always good.The family near us are straight Walker Evans characters with a 105 year old snowy headed granny and long lean 75 year old cowpoke with an impressive schnozz and some nice Ostrich skin boots.You ALWAYS get good service here.I'd like to see Nettie Lee take a few waitresses I can think of around town out back of their joints and show em the old ride the whirlwind.They could use a course in country manners.

                          Arkies has been around forever.All the brake repair,extrusion mill and weld shops in the neighborhood have hungry folks that like to eat the daily blue plates and southern breakfasts.Arkie Sawyer's been passed on since the nineties and a new family's running the restaurant but little else has changed.

                          It doesn't need to.

                          1. re: scrumptiouschef
                            c
                            Carter B. Nov 26, 2008 03:38 AM

                            Hey Scrumptious, are you from Jackson? I grew up outside of Jackson...

                            Anyway, Arkie's has been on my to try list forever. Alas the hours aren't particularly good for us. One day.

                            Have you a source for Anson Mills grits in Austin or do you mail order? Whole Foods downtown carried them for a while when they first opened but I guess they didn't sell and seemed to have been dropped.

                            1. re: Carter B.
                              s
                              scrumptiouschef Nov 28, 2008 06:35 AM

                              Carter B,
                              Not from Mississippi but it's long been one of my favorite states for big helpings of southern hospitality.My last bag of grits came from a friend who'd travelled back from the East Coast but mailorder is an option.

                              Where do you go to get your southern breakfast?Ever been to Galloways?

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