7 days in Austin...
I'm going to be spending a week in Austin at the end of October. I'm interested in finding the following things:
- The best places to buy fresh seafood, and to get an idea of the types of seafood available there.
- I'd love to visit a farmer's market while there also, and I think I remember hearing about one that is near downtown...? But I'm curious about which ones you think are the best.
- Any good asian grocery stores?
I've been to the Whole Foods and Central Market, so am familiar with those.
I will also hopefully get a few restaurant meals in. If I can have only one high end meal in town, where should I go? If I want interesting creative comfort food where should I go?
Thanks for your help!
Here is my only suggestion for a seafood lover, go to 5th and Lamar and partake of the splendor and decadence that is the flagship WholeFoods Market. They have a seafood section there that makes Quality Seafood look like a 7/11! And they have a sit down restaurant right in the middle of the seafood section, that is about as fresh as it gets here in Austin. Other than that its like sort of like me asking you where in Seattle can I get the best smoked pork chop with a Shiner? It just isn't the same.
October is a great time to visit central Texas!
-the best places to buy fresh seafood are 150-200 miles east of here. I'm not being sarcastic, Austin does not have good fresh seafood.
-I've never been but have heard great things about the Sunset Valley farmer's market (http://www.sunsetvalleyfarmersmarket.org). I go to the north Austin farmer's market (at 6701 Burnet Road, open Saturdays) but it's small and better for stopping by to get tomatoes rather than for having a shopping experience.
-creative comfort Austin restaurants do well. I recommend Hyde Park Bar & Grill in Hyde Park (Duval Street location). They have basic American food, but done well--imagine if Applebees tasted good. Atmosphere is very Austin-ish.
-for high-end, I recommend the Driskill Grill. You can get an amazing meal anywhere you're willing to pay for it, but if you eat at the Driskill you feel like you've been to Texas. I haven't been since Chef David Bull left, though, although I've had 2 of the best meals in my life there.
-edited to add that I also recommend Hoover's for comfort food. It's the sort of place where you load up on veggies and the chicken fried steak would have been healther.
I can't add anything about markets and seafood. But as for places where you do a single high end meal, I'd say flip a coin between Hudson's on the Bend and the Cafe at the Four Seasons. Both of them can do things that are nothing short of magnificent, and both are kind of unique. They're not part of a chain where you wind up thinking, "is this as good as the one is Dubuque?"
As for creative comfort food, go to the Hyde Park Bar and Grill - the one north in Hyde Park, not the one down south. Get some fries and mac and cheese, then go next door to Dolce Vita, which has the best selection of liquers in town, and get a shot of krupnik.
If you are interested in BBQ, by all means go to Lockhart and go to Black's (my favorite) or Smitty's. Kruez Market is good but in my opinion it's a little bit overrated.
I agree with you and Bat Guano about the local seafood markets, amysuehere. However, the chef at the Backstage Steakhouse in Spicewood does an excellent job with seafood courses, including the popular local appetizer of crispy-fried oysters. Perhaps that would be a good option. Another possibility might be the crispy fish or the spicy fish fillet at Asia Market Cafe. If you like pork belly, you might appreciate their take on twice-cooked pork. This is absolutely one of Austin's best spots for Szechwan cuisine, in my opinion. Of course, I imagine that you have very good Chinese options in your area of the country.
As for what Austin does best, I'd recommend the Backstage Steakhouse for your "high-end" meal, though it's not all that high end. Regarding "creative comfort food," do you mean "creative" as in gourmet/upscale takes on basics like mac and cheese? Or do you just mean what's good? Are there particular dishes that you're craving? How do you feel about untouristy holes-in-the-wall and off-the-beaten-track parts of town? This information will help us help you with specific suggestions. Barbecue and Southern-style comfort food are usually good bets for out-of-state visitors who can't find these things at home. We have a trove of helpful general discussions from the past couple of years, such as the one that ashes linked to above. A search of the board ought to pull up several more.
thanks 55! I'm game for anything, really. Hole in the wall or what-ever.
I did bbq last time there, went out to Lockhart. Didn't do Luling or Llano though. Not sure Q is gonna be on my radar while there, but possibly at least one meal will be bbq ;-) how can it NOT be?!
This is great, thanks for the suggestions!
Being game for anything is great. It also covers a lot of territory, so I'll throw out some different ideas. I've had very good Mexican breakfasts lately at Habeñero Mexican Cafe on East Oltorf, especially Roberto's Special, which is a plate of huevos rancheros with a side of fajitas (one of their specialties). Their corn tortillas are better than the flour, in my opinion. They have good sweet-lemonade, too. Here are links to two threads about their chow:
I've also really been enjoying a taco truck called El Rico, on the very untouristy Vargas Road. This would probably be mainly a take-out option for you, if you're passing by the area (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/439939 ). Their potato-and-egg tacos are delicious.
The thread ashes links to above (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/420043 ) covers many good choices for Southern-comfort food, including Nubian Queen Lola's, Tony's Southern Comfort, Gene's, Ben's Longbranch (which serves barbecue, plus soul food on Wednesdays), and Galloway's. You can search each restaurant's name to pull up more opinions on their atmosphere and what dishes they do best.
A more "upscale" option might be Lambert's, which has received a lot of good buzz on this board, particularly for brunch. A search should pull up recent reviews. Disclaimer: I haven't yet been there personally, but it's on my list. So is the more down-home diner Arkie's Grill, which trusted 'hound scrumptiouschef recently recommended for the biscuits and other breakfast fare:
I hope this information helps you find delicious chow while you're visiting Austin.
Lambert's in on my list, too, and from the sound of other reviews (just search this board) it may be what you're looking for: creative spin on comfort food, with a Texas touch (being barbecue). I can't wait to try it.
Check their website and menu [ http://www.lambertsaustin.com/ ], it seems like it might not be upscale in the big expensive sense of the word. Not cheap, but certainly not a major splurge by coastal standards.
Aside from Boggy Creek, which is great although at times limited, you might try one of the three larger Farmer's Markets. On Wednesdays, go to the Triangle (a large condo development with a central "square area") near 45th btw. Guadalupe and Lamar. On weekends you can try the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market (in a large h.s. footbal stadium parking lot....so it lacks shade and ambiance but the largest in town by far) out on Hwy. 71 near Westgate OR the Downtown Farmer's Market in Republic Square Park at Guadalupe btw. 5th and 4th.
There are several small Asian markets that I am unfamiliar with, but I do stop in the large M.T. Supermarket in the newer Chinatown center (http://www.chinatownaustin.com/) just north of the intersection of Braker and Lamar. I'm always mesmerized by the live (and huge) tilapia and catfish swimming in tanks and sold live at their fish case. Although, I've never purchased from their meat/fish dept. just picked up sauces and spices.
As for restaurant suggestions, I'll put my hat in for Uchi as one of my favorite high end spots in town.. Tyson does some amazing and creative things with sushi and sashimi and the hot food is excellent as well. THere are many reviews of this place on the board as well as elsewhere. It is very trendy and you might have to wait a while for a table, but I think the awards and hype are deserved in terms of the food. My other two higher end favs are Starlite (which some love...and others not so much) and Vespaio.
Comfort food has me a little stymied. Here I would divide that into two categories, Mexican/Tex Mex and Southern/Soul Food. You might try flipping though this thread for southern recs: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/420043. Mexican is a different story as there are so many great places, but a recommendation requires a little more information in terms of what dishes you are looking for and what type of ambience you might want. For other comfort you might drive out for the BBQ experience in Lockhart. The higher end places that "attempt" comfort food in my opinion just aren't as good. I've had a few good dishes at some of them (I'm thinking Moonshine) but nothing to write home about. So, I'd suggets looking outside the tablecloth realm for this and try a hole in the wall or trailer for good food of this ilk.
Hope this helps!
I see from your profile that you're from Seattle; well, you won't find any seafood markets here that are anywhere near as good as the Seattle ones. Probably the best is Quality Seafood, on Airport near 290. But don't get your hopes up too high...
My favorite farmer's market is actually a farmstand, at Boggy Creek farms, open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Most of their produce is from the farm right there, so you can walk around and see the plants, and also the chickens from which they get their eggs. They also have cheese and meat from local producers.
The larger farmer's market downtown, at 4th and Lavaca, open Saturdays, has a much larger representation of growers and products, but the blocked-off street/parking lot lacks the ambiance of Boggy Creek.
re: Bat Guano
Rest assured, I'm not looking for a carbon copy of Seattle seafood, I'm curious about what is considered the best available in Austin.
The best farmer's markets in Seattle are set up in parking lots/blocked off streets (University District, Columbia City, and Ballard) Sure, it lacks the charm of Pike Place, but you can find things at the FM you can't find at Pike Place!