ChowHound Assignment:Go A Place Never Reviewed On This Board.
I'm branching out.
Other than one or two posters who can throw me a curve once in a blue moon,I've been to every single place regularly discussed on the Austin board.It's not necessarily a bad thing but I'm dying to try something new.So,I've given myself the above task.
Being magnanimous I would like to share this task with others.There's a good 4 or 5 'hounds who I expect great things from operating under this onus.
Use the wonderful new search feature to make sure you're breaking some Chow news of import.Then get out there and hound it down.
I found a place in the hinterlands of South Austin.It has apparently never been mentioned and I'll be doing some recon soon and reporting back.
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First responder here.A few hours after the above post and in dire need of sustenance after a fiery iBROWNOUT! show at Mohawk I wandered afield across the highway and began a methodical roll down the alleys of East Austin.
The taco cart with no name at 6th and Comal has been one of my staunchest options for the past couple years but I really wanted to go a place I'd never been.
I hit major paydirt in the parking lot of Primos at 1700 E.6th St. Another taco cart with no name and [disturbingly]no que at a very prime hour.
Undaunted I strolled up to the window and perused the hand written board of offerings. A big hot steel contraption right inside the booth was piled high with sizzling meat,bubbling gravy and sweet onions.The meat was unrecognizable so I just pointed "I'd like some of that please".I inquired as to whether the corn or flour were homemade and she responded"Yep,they're homemade at the tortilla factory over there"gesturing in the general direction of the railroad tracks.The young lady then made me a couple tacos that were so juicy and delicious if I had MPH on my speed dial I would have rousted the hound and demanded an immediate audience.
Mid gorge I asked what I was eating"Hog testicles and brisket" she replied with a smile[was there a hint of challenge in the smile?...I'm not sure.] "Great,I love Hog testicles"I gamely responded.
Both tacos were simply garnished with grilled sweet onion,lime juice and a cold preparation of Habanero,Limon and more onion.The red and green salsas were both good but honestly I'd tacked so hard into the tacos she could've squirted anything on em and I would have been happy.
Although there is no sign the name of this new and major player in the 2007 Taco Cart Wars is Sauls'[I asked].They're open in the evening and conveniently located a few feet from Primos which is a classic icehouse with a gigantic tv and walls made of cattle fencing.
It's too early to tell if we have a contender in the vein of El Rico or El Rinconsito but Sauls' has this hound's nose opened nice and wide.
You *should* have me on your speed dial! It would be like a deliciousness hotline.
Thanks for this new tip on Saul's. It sounds quite intriguing. And, this was a great idea for a thread. I'm not ready to review my never-before-mentioned spot yet, but I already have a contender. After I get a chance to revisit on Tuesday, I'll post a report.
In the meantime, maybe our fellow chowhounds will share some of their new discoveries.
Apparently you now live in Austin. Mrs. Joypirate and I are flirting with the idea of running the Austin Marathon. I would prefer to remain in the top physical shape of my life for no more than 6 hours maximum. Ideally, post run (when the EMT's have given me the all-clear), I intend to insert some sort Carnitas/Pozole/Chili/Ribs mainline directly into my body.
I'm just doing some preliminary research as the only way I'd agree to this madness was if I was allowed to choose where we ate every meal.
That said, if you know of a place that would let me strip down to a speedo, dive into a vat of menudo and eat my way out, hook a fellow-former-Boston-hound up.
Driving down North Lamar, feeling pretty hungry, and with this assignment in mind, my eye was caught by a sign sporting the proven marketing colors of red and gold (on the west side of the street between Parmer and Braker). I was relieved to find that it was not a chain fast-food restaurant, but a place called Rufi's Patio and Grill. I pulled in, and found the place nestled in a group of former houses turned commercial around a shared parking lot.
There was a row of tables outside on the south side of the place, which would be nice in the evening or later in the fall. On a 90+ degree day, I opted to head inside. Plenty of Longhorn regalia was in evidence, and a friendly young lady with purple-tinted hair was there to take my order. The menu is primarily of the gloppy-cheese-covered Tex-Mex variety, with enchiladas, beef tacos, beef chalupas, carne guisada, and puerco guisado on the regular menu. I should have taken notes on the daily specials, but Monday was cheese enchiladas, Friday was spicy picadillo with papas, and there was a soft beef taco somewhere in the middle.
I started with a glass of sweet tea and some chips and salsa while they made up my plate. The tomato-based salsa was thin but had a building heat, and it looked to have bits of chopped cilantro in it. The chips were industrial and the tea was pretty standard.
To get enough to talk about in a single visit, I mostly had a carne guisada plate, but I also tried a chicken tinga chalupa, which was part of the lunch super special. In the plate, the carne guisada was bland, with meat that reminded me of a Campbell's Chunky soup. The refried beans had a good texture, but needed either bacon grease or more spice in the beans to give them more flavor. The tortillas were store-bought, and somewhat rubbery. The most flavorful parts were where they got a little toasty in heating. Oddly, the part of the plate that stood out as above average in quality was the rice. It was moist and fluffy with a hint of chile.
The chalupa was a flat, thin crispy corn tortilla, piled with spicy chicken tinga, lettuce, tomato, and a bunch of melted shredded cheese. It was not outstanding, but the spiciness was welcome after the blander plate.
All in all, it may not be the kind of place I'd have written about after trying it, were it not for the assignment, but it would probably be a good place to sit on the patio, drink a few beers, and munch on inoffensive food. Unless someone finds a hidden gem among the specials, though, I wouldn't call it a destination for 'hounds.
Thanks for taking one for the team Knoblauch.You could have just as easily wended your way a bit further south and had a plate of greatness from Tam and been well rewarded....you knew that and decided to go for something new instead.At least Rufi's has sweet tea ,that glorious Deep South elixer that is so very rare on Austin menus.A good report on [unfortunately] a joint bereft of intense deliciousness.
At the rec of someone else on the board, I checked out Hoa My this weekend, very good Vietnamese fare with a varied menu.
Veggies were fresh and sauce was well balanced on my tofu noodle bowl and the well grilled pork my brother had garnered 2 thumbs up.
I'd grade it above average.
Good to know there is a decent Viet place if I'm ever in that area.
Earlier this week I checked out El Ranchito, located on Pleasant Valley between East 4th and 5th Streets. This restaurant is a bit hard to see, as it's set back from the road. It has a drive-through, however, which exits onto the next street parallel to Pleasant Valley. The entrance to the dining room is located just past the drive-through. I'd characterize the interior as homey (not unlike the exterior, which looks more like someone's house than a restaurant.) The concrete floor is painted, and there’s a new mural on one wall. They also have a jukebox, and there are assorted tables and chairs around the room.
The menu is handwritten on big pieces of poster board. While their hours are supposed to be 5:30 A.M. to 11 P.M., I've seen them closed at 6 P.M. In addition, the drive-through is not always manned. I imagine the best chance of finding it open for business would be during the morning rush.
Both the corn and flour tortillas used for tacos are store-bought, with the corn ones marginally better than the flour. Corn tortillas are doubled up but not oiled before taco fillings are added. A thin, watery red salsa that was more hot than good also comes with every order.
Dishes sampled (as taco fillings, unless otherwise noted):
Chorizo and egg—This was darkly speckled, with more chorizo than egg, and nicely greasy, but it was not the best-quality chorizo. Hence, it was just “not bad,” at best. In retrospect, this was the most-flavorful taco that I tried, but I still didn’t like it.
Beef fajita—To be avoided. This tasted like boiled meat. It looked gray, too, though some bits were browned. One lonely piece of green bell pepper was mixed in with the meat. This taco could have been even worse, but it was still not good. The cut of beef itself was just flavorless.
Chicken fajita—This version of "fajita" meat had much more salt-and-pepper flavor than the beef, along with a lime-like component. The chicken was moist, but on the bland side. Even so, this was probably their second-best taco filling.
Potato and egg—This tasted awful compared to the delicious one I had at El Rico a few days earlier. I had to spit out the first bite. With salt and salsa, it was palatable but not delicious. I'd say this taco was more filling than it was enjoyable.
Carne guisada—With fairly tender chunks of beef but no “gravy,” this was a so-so version of this stew-like beef dish. In other words, this was another mediocre-to-below-average version of carne guisada. The beef tasted like the flavorless cut used in the “beef fajitas” taco.
Barbacoa—This was suffused with a spicy pico de gallo [that was not requested], which made it hard to analyze the barbacoa itself. Stewed tomato and bay leaves were visible in the meat. This was greasy, but not truly flavorful on its own. It was also not cow’s head.
Gordita with beef fajitas—A nicely-oiled, decent-tasting, but not-fried gordita [like a fat, thick corn tortilla made from masa] was split in half and filled with beef. Because there were no beans, cheese, or anything besides the beef inside the gordita, it seemed dry and dull on its own. There was, however, a large mound of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato chunks, and grated white cheese (like a Monterrey jack) on top of the gordita. The fajita meat from the gordita tasted better than the version served in the taco, perhaps because it was freshly griddled and contained more green pepper. Still, this dish was not exciting. The gordita can also be filled with any of the other taco fillings, any of which would probably be a better option.
Other menu items included lengua (which they were out of on my visits), a huevos rancheros plate, a hamburger, and a two-piece chicken plate.
I have to say that El Ranchito’s food was just not good enough to warrant a return trip, especially since there are so many excellent options in the same part of town. I haven't had such a bad meal on the east side since La Terraza. I imagine that ER’s customer base consists of employees of Capital Metro Transportation Authority who want a nearby drive-through option for lunch and breakfast tacos. Still, there's only one way to find out if a place is good, and that's to try it. Though El Ranchito was a bust, I'm happy to have chowhounded for the larger cause of more deliciousness for us all.