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Oct 12, 2007 11:39 AM

weirdest foods in Austin?

What are your picks for the strangest foods that you can find in restaurants, shops, farms, markets and grocery stores around Austin? Are there some odd cottage industries in the area? Anyone out there flipping rattlesnake burgers?

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  1. This is a pretty well known one, but the Avocado Margaritas at Curra's. Not that strange, but not exactly normal. It's actually pretty good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lonna

      Someone once called this Austin's best breakfast food. I'd agree it's a darn fine drink.

    2. Fried chicken gizzards at Reggie's.

      Does anyone else do gizzards? I haven't see any Asian places with it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Mersenne twister

        Charlie's in Plugerville has livers and gizzards.

        1. I agree. I'm originally from Louisville, and many people think our local foods there are strange out of region. Speaking of weird foods (or at least what I think is weird), does any restaurant in town serve scrapple? It has strong German roots (i think) so I was wondering if anyone here serves it.

          1. re: shan

            My mom (of German descent) made scrapple out of leftover turkey and pork roast. I loved that stuff! I've never looked for it in a restaurant but I have seen it in the frozen food case at Randall's.

          2. re: Mersenne twister

            The "Chicken Wing Store" @ nw corner of manor+loyola [inside a convenience store] has livers & gizzards & hot sauce & they HOOK YOU UP for 3 dollars. I dont really do gizzards but livers are a guilty pleasure...

          3. As far as markets, the most varied selection I have encountered is at MT Market in Chinatown Center on N. Lamar. While the variety of seemingly odd flavors, textures and concoctions teems in all the aisles, the protein section is especially exciting. It is the only place in town I have found pig spleen, and can not wait to attempt a rolled pig spleen recipe. Beyond that, all types of offal, including duck gizzards, chicken feet, pig's blood, hearts, livers, kidneys, etc. While I am a bit leery of their live fish, I just cooked up a bag of their live periwinkles yesterday and they were quite good. I am still on the lookout for cocks' combs and sheep's pluck, though.

            If offal is your thing, most HEB stores tend to carry at least a limited selection, like tripe, beef heart, beef sweetbreads, beef kidneys, trotters, and the like. I am certain there are others on the board who can speak more vividly of the tacos de lengua y chicharrones, but both are quite commonplace, in my opinion. Musashino's sake-steamed monkfish liver is quite pleasant, and their fried sawagani (Japanese river crabs) have long been a favorite of mine. Last but not least, you can find frozen rattlesnake (at a whopping $30/lb.) in the freezers of Central Market.

            2 Replies
            1. re: amexarhos

              La Michoacana does a lengua de res en salsa verde that is delicious.


              1. re: amexarhos

                You forgot the beef pizzle and pork uterus, both available at MT. And the bull fries at Fiesta North (haven't seen the at the south store). These are not calf fries. They weigh about 1.5lbs each.

              2. The Arandas chain of taquerias offers tacos and burritos with beef tongue and brains.

                Aster's Ethiopian at I-35 and Dean Keeton has a raw beef dish (Kitfo) from Ethiopia.

                10 Replies
                1. re: brattpowered

                  Tongue is served all over town. Just search the board for "lengua" to pull up some of the many sources. Sesos [brains] are relatively more rare, but I know that they're on the menu at Taquería Arandinas—a local mini-chain that's unrelated to the Arandas one—and a couple of taco trucks (like Taquería Rodriguez). Barbacoa made from cow's head is available around town, too, as are tripas [tripe].

                  I didn't reply to this thread previously in part because I don't consider these foods "weird." I'll re-make Twill's argument, which seems to have been removed: "Weird' is a relative term, with perhaps a judgmental quality to it. After all, plenty of people around the globe eat lengua, sesos, chicharrones, cabeza—not to mention "stinky tofu," chicken and duck feet, gizzards, grasshoppers, grub worms, blood sausage, donkey, etc. In this context, I understand that the OP [original poster] just meant something like "foods that are unusual to me."

                  To see how ho-hum many of the items mentioned in this thread would be to some pretty adventurous and well-traveled chowhounds, take a look at this:


                  By the way, if you're looking for intentionally "unusual" dishes that involve rattlesnake, check out Hudson's on the Bend.

                  1. re: MPH

                    Approaching the original post from the standpoint unusual preparations is probably a more useful tack. Along those lines, I would offer the monkfish liver at Musashino (Ankimo Kobachi–steeped in a soy and rice wine vinagrette and served in a large martinini) and the crispy fish at Asia Market (a large whole fish battered and fried and placed in a pool of tangy sauce–certainly strange to behold as proven by the attention I've gotten from fellow diners when returning it to my table).

                    Part of the reason my posts have become less ubiquitous at CH is because I'm frankly getting a little tired of my energies being expended for naught when posts I feel are germane to the discussion are removed. But I expect the same for this one, which I guess will simply prove my point.

                    1. re: Twill

                      Your post contains a specific chow tip, so maybe not. I understand your frustration, though. Having posts removed has happened to many of us. Since I enjoy reading your chow reports, I will selfishly hope that you—and the majority of what you write here—will stick around. =)

                      Speaking of dishes that garner surprised or even disgusted reactions from fellow diners, how about the taleggio and funghi pizza at Vespaio? It's delicious, but you have to really like strong, washed-rind cheeses to enjoy even being near it. The lardo [cured pork fat] pizza also seems off-putting to those accustomed to standard chain-pizza-like toppings (sausage, pepperoni, and the like).

                      1. re: MPH

                        The taleggio and funghi pizza at Vespaio is great. I feel self-conscious when I order it though -- tables around me complain about a funky smell.

                        While y'all are right, and weird food certainly is in the eye of the beholder, I think there are some foods that are just so strange that they qualify as weird regardless of the preparation.

                        I say this based on overall scarcity, throughout all cultures, and on the food having a trait that is generally considered by the majority of cultures to be nasty. The fact that one particular region of folk eat the weird food is nothing short of a miracle.

                        By that measure, brains wouldn't count as weird: lots of people from lots of cultures eat brains. A ranch-hand's breakfast in West Texas might be brain-n-eggs. (I know you weren't saying brains were weird, just rare in Austin.)

                        What foods would I consider universally weird? I sort them into three categories, organized by my desire to try them. First, and most debatable as weird in the first place, are things that smell extremely bad. Durian is a good example. If your fruit is so stinky that subways and busses sport signs saying things like "No Guns, Knives, or Durians", it is a little weird that you're eating it. I don't know if any restaurant in Austin serves durians, but I'm game to try 'em. Often things that stink can taste pretty awesome, especially when prepared skillfully or used sparingly.

                        I also think eating food that is rotten and/or dangerous is universally weird. Peoples that do this are working against the forces of natural selection on a societal level, and we see them only because we're lucky enough to live in the same temporal period. Folks that eat eggs that are months rotten as a delicacy, for example. Things that are naturally poisonous and require considerable skill to prepare safely, like some puffer fish or jungle frogs. I'm not big on a lot of these options, but under the right conditions, I'll give them a shot.

                        Finally, I think that eating living mammals (especially primates) is universally weird due to the bad feelings one should probably possess during the procedure. If you can watch living monkey get its head screwed into the center of a table, get its skull broken open, and then have folks around the table dig in w/ sharpened spoons, you're weird. Most cultures don't do this -- we have enough affinity for these manlike creatures that it bothers us. If they are killed, cooked, and eaten, the whole deal is a little different. I have no interest in trying these sorts of foods; while I have no problem with eating animals, I'm not interested in being cruel to them.

                        So! Where can we go in Austin to jam some durians?

                        1. re: tom in austin

                          Java Garden in the Albertson's center on Pleasant Valley at Riverside had a durian soup one weekend on the buffet. No rank smell whatsoever, it was sweet and delicious. That's the only thing, though, that I would return for.

                          1. re: Twill

                            Java Garden has recently closed. Spoke to the owner yesterday. A "straight Chinese" joint will take it's place. Booo !!!

                          2. re: tom in austin

                            You can get durian at the MT Market in Chinatown Center. I believe that the whole fruits there are actually frozen, but that's not unusual. I've actually had raw durian. I'll never have it again. I'm a very adventurous eater. I'll try anything without prejudice, but there were qualities to this fruit which just seemed blasphemous. The smell is, in the words of Richard Sterling, "best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock." I can't disagree with his assesment. But that's only the initial thing that is offputting. The texture is a strange, soft and custardy, which just seems wrong for a fruit. It oozes over your tongue and fills your mouth as if it's trying to swallow your tongue.

                            If you can get past all of that, the initial taste is actually not terrible. Kind of cheesy and nutty. But the aftertaste lingers until it resembles only what I can describe as synthetic vomit. With each bite, the aftertaste gets stronger and stronger until the initial pleasantness is totally absent. It's a really difficult experience to describe but I can actually understand why some cultures hold it in such high esteem. I suppose it can be a little bit like smoking cigarettes. When you first start they taste horrible, leave your mouth feeling disgusting and make you terribly sick. But, after a while it becomes a habit you enjoy. I hope to never reach that point.

                            In case you're concerned, I actually ate half of the entire fruit, which is quite large. I did more than just put a small bite in my mouth. I'd be really interested to know what other peoples' experiences have been with durian. I'd suggest trying it despite my poor review. Tom in austin, if you ever decide to go for it, make sure to tell me all about it. I haven't tried it in a soup or prepared in any manner, but I'd be willing to give it a shot. Maybe I'll head down to Java Garden.

                            1. re: jonesy4000

                              I've had durian in the form of frozen popsicles and they are delicious and creamy. I guess it's weird to love the green bean popsicles there too, but I do. You can get them at many chinese markets. I've also eaten squirrel, dove, turtle, etc. Those things may be weird to some locals (but I'm from south Louisiana, where nothing's weird to eat).

                              1. re: tokyomonamour

                                I'm from Orange - right on the border, but all my Mom's family is from S LA. My dad was from kentucky - so we had all that you mentioned, plus brains and eggs, pigsfeet and sauerkraut. Ever have nutria?

                                Speaking of chicken feet - they are very "normal" if you are chinese and go to dim sum alot. I see them practically on every table. Eating them reminds me of pigs feet, in a way - you are just knawing your way through fat and bone with very little meat. The best ones here are out by highland mall at that new place that does Dim Sum. On Middle Fiskville, I think.

                              2. re: jonesy4000

                                Tasted some @ Java Garden, uggh, oooooh,..Recently tried durian ice cream @ "Short & Sweet" (I think that's what the shop is called) in the MT Market Shopping Center. All day & into the night, I revisited that nasty flavor every damn time I burped. It IS a great thing to watch friends sqirm after their first taste, though.

                    2. Uchi will sometimes feature so-called "weird" foods on their special menus. They have sawagani quite often (small river crabs served deep fried....taste like very crunchy potato chips). I have also had monkfish liver, gooey duck/geoduck, skate, and some small white fish (about a centimeter or two long, largely transparent, served raw bones and all) that I think might have been razor fish at some time in the past there.