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NYC Hounds Heading Your Way. Help?

Sometime after Christmas perhaps even over new years my bf and I plan to escape his family in Houston and head to glorious Austin for 3-4 days. If the memory of my last time there serves me well it was a non-stop noshfest. I would like to see that happen again.

The places I remember loving have all blended in a mess but perhaps you'd be kind enough to give some guidance. I'm looking to keep the food good, the bill low, and the tastebuds entertained. Here are some specifics on what we're searching for:

-Chorizo Tacos. ( I think I remember Maria's Taco Express having something delish in this department) Egg and chorizo too!
-Great breakfast ( I know people love Kirby Lane, feedback on that, other recs?)
-Really good bakery for croissants/scones on the go.
-Place for a detox drink/snack aka good "health food" joint (I'll need to have a smoothie and a salad at some point if I plan on eating as much as I suspect we will. Central Market maybe?)
-Restaurant that features local ingredients and sources from nearby purveyors (This one can be on the not as cheap side, cuisine I'd like to try would be american with character, really anything as long as its seasonal and yummy)
-Best Coffee
-Mexican must-try

Any other must-eat, or drink, in Austin that I'm missing please advise! I know there's probably a specialty, or a burger or a dive bar that I should check out and would love your thoughts.

Thanks friends!

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  1. Mexican must try, and they usually have chorizo tacos, btw, is the taco counter inside La Michoacana (Grocery/Butcher) on E. 7th Street, about half a mile east of I-35. If you go there you have to try their Barbacoa, the best I've ever had.
    Great breakfast--definitely don't bother with Kerbey Lane again--for Sunday brunch many people love (including two native NYorkers I know) East Side Cafe--some favor the Driskill Bakery, some Sweetish Hill, others Upper Crust. The latter two are good bakeries.
    Health food joint--probably Whole Foods has it all--some like Mr. Natural--frankly, I usually am not all that particular in this dept. so will usually just get a wheat grass shot and/or carrot juice at a Jamba juice
    Best place for local ingredients/nearby purveyors? Here's two: Uchi and Olivia, both on South Lamar.
    Best Coffee in town BY FAR is at Anderson's Coffee on Kerbey Lane. If there's coffee that good anywhere in the SF Bay Area, I sure didn't find it when I lived there (one of the reasons I had to move back here).

    La Michoacana is a must-do. The other one is BBQ--either you can go for the African American style BBQ of Sam's at 12th and Chicon (the BBQ Mutton is to die for), or the big three in Lockhart (south of Austin, about 30 minute drive on 183) for German-Czech style BBQ at Black's, Kreuz's or Smitty's. World class BBQ. If you go to any of these places, don't even think about ordering sides--its all about the meat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: taliesin15

      For local products on a restaurant menu, you've got to try Eastside Cafe on Manor. One of the owners (Dorsey) is an organic gardening freak who's always in the 1+ acre garden, producing incredible organic veggies. She also sources beef from a nearby grass fed, grass finished ranch. They're really into organice, composting and recycling and I'm sure they're the "greenist" restaurant in town.

    2. Plum there may be some naysayers here, but hudsons on the bend has a fantastic kitchen and such a lovely spot for dinner. it's pricey - yeah, plan on 100 per person with some wine and apps with dinner. But it's along Uchi in my opinion one of the very creme de la creme spots to get a unique austin dining experience. Go for the espresso rubbed smoked elk backstrap topped with gulf crab - a to die for dish. www.hudsonsonthebend.com

      1. I'll chime in on the Breakfast taco's:
        Maria's chorizo/egg taco is hard to beat/
        Torchy's Dirty Sanchez is amazing (monk tacos also great)
        Maudie's - tatiana's tamale & egg taco

        best bet:
        upscale (interior) mexican food in town: Fonda San Miguel, Manuel's
        cheap/dirty (interior) mexican food: La Mexicana bakery (24hrs), Arandas
        Austin-mex: Polvo's, Chuy's
        gringo-mexican tacos: Cabo Bob's, Torchy's, TacoDeli

        1. For a great smoothie or just about anything else in the way of healthy, you should stop by one of the three Daily Juice's in town. There is one at 45th and Duval that also serves raw food as well.

          1. Here are some words about my favorite chorizo source in Austin:

            Mi Ranchito 5200 E.William Cannon Open Daily 7am-11pm

            I just finished a Chorizo and Egg breakfast taco so delicious I feel like riding straight over to El Meson and dropkicking the owner or cook or both into the middle of next week.

            El Ranchito is located inside a quick mart off William Cannon on the southeast side of town.It's a humble brightly lighted cafe with 3 small tables tucked into the corner of the building.Walking in the good smells of frying bacon and onion hit hard.

            I begin to get excited when I see the small salsa bar,6 or so Lexan pans filled with Salsas[both green]Sliced Radishes,Sliced Limes,Pico de Gallo,Sliced White Onions and Home Charred Jalapenos.

            It's breakfast time so I go for two breakfast tacos:one Bacon Egg and Cheese and one Chorizo and Egg.I ask if the tortillas are homemade and get the response I always dread "no".I ask for corn and after a couple minutes here comes the chow.The tortillas are doubled up and lightly oiled and griddled.They are so delicious I go back to the counter and ask the counter man again if they're homemade,he smiles"they are a specialty of the house".I accept the response and get back to attacking these beauties.The Chorizo is insane.Easily the best I've had in Austin.It's not mixed with the eggs but served as a mini omelette on the tortillas with the Chorizo as the stuffing.It's ground fairly fine with larger chunks mixed in...coloration is brick red instead of orange,it's not fatty but intensely flavored of Hog.I'm near delirious at this point but I soldier on tacking hard into the Bacon,Egg and Cheese.Once again the eggs are cooked separate with the Meat and Cheese serving as garnish.The bacon is slab cut,crispy and delicious.These folks have their meat/game face on big time.I slather each taco with the two green salsas.One is a loose,hot tomatillo base and it's very good.The other is of the pureed poblano style..hot and delicious but not terribly complex.

            After the feast I sit agog for a few minutes collecting myself.Finally,slowly arising I step into the clear,warm Winter light of the out of doors and make my way to mi moto.It's terribly late in the year[final day]to make this sort of discovery.It's important.Delicious.Affirming in the way of discovering a favorite new author.I can't wait to get back to Mi Ranchito and try more of this family's take on Mexican home cooking."Pura Tradicion"

            3 Replies
            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              I drive past Mi Ranchito at least once a week, and always thought I needed to stop in, but somehow never did. After reading this review on Friday, I drove over for a late Sunday morning recovery taco (Three holiday parties in three nights had left me beat down). Once I found my way to the cash-only counter, my belly decided I might need 2 recovery tacos. I was definitely the only one of the crowd speaking english-only, but the order was easy to make, and came out perfectly. I had 2 breakfast tacos with chorizo, egg, cheese and potato, and the total was $3.50. (I laughed when I pictured my friends paying $3.50 for a single soggy taco at Torchy's.)
              Everything stated above is right on, and I kept repeating to myself 'this is really, really good!' I used the two green salsas on one of the tacos, and on the other put the amazing pico de gallo- which I wondered if they sold by the pint, it was so good... roasty fresh tomatoes, and spicy but not hot.
              I'm really looking forward to going back for some afternoon tacos soon.

              Also noted there was a brand new donut and kolache place in the strip center. Weekend breakfast close to home is looking up!

              1. re: jacy

                You laugh at $3.50 for a single taco, while I laugh at $3.50 for two. It's because I love the Tamale House on Airport at 51st, where tacos are excellent, generous and an eye-popping 85 cents! Also delicious is the regular dinner with one crispy taco, two enchiladas, beans and rice for an astounding $3.50. Oddly, they call themselves the Tamale House but they don't serve tamales.

                1. re: austinfood

                  nothing against tamale house and it definitely has it's fans, but i'm sure with the added ingredients (jacy mentioned 4), the tacos would come closer to $3.50 for two. i just wish they used strips of bacon there instead of pieces that look like bacon bits.

            2. We're transplanted New Yorkers and have some must eats for you:

              Tacodeli chicken mole tacos--sooooo good! Their egg and chorizo breakfast tacos are great too.

              The Vietnamese food here is better than NYC. Tam's Deli has the best banh mi; Tanh ni has the best spring rolls on earth. Get the pork pate one; it's out of this world.

              The cinnamon and banana empanadas at the Farmer's Market on Saturdays downtown. Oh. My. God. Worth the trip from NYC!

              1 Reply
              1. re: mandmbklyn

                Yeah, you know, we don't really talk about Tacodeli enough. I was kind of skeptical when some fratboy sportsnut friends were raving about that place, but then some of my friends who love Uchi started telling me about it, then my co-workers from Guadalajara were saying "muy authentico", I had to try--only tried once, but it is indeed quite the revelation. Don't be put off by the decor.

                And definitely right on about Tam. I love their baguette roll sandwiches--every variety I've tried is mind-blowing, especially with those thin slivers of raw jalapeno! Vietnamese cuisine is thankfully a growing niche here, and really perfect considering the long sweltering summers.

                However, I will say in my last visit to San Francisco in September, I had the best Vietnamese cuisine I've ever had. Amazing. For like $7.

              2. So we were majorly sidelined on our Journey (a Snowstorm in Utah is mostly responsible though family obligations also took hold) and never made it to Austin!

                That said we have grand plans to come in march, and thanks to all of you I have a to-do list that all but guarantees my arrival.
                Thank you all for your guidance and expect to hear back in a few months.

                x plum

                1 Reply
                1. re: plumtart

                  Be aware that SXSW is a huge event in March in Austin. The festival is a combo interactive, film festival and music conference from March 13-22nd. If you're planning to stay in a hotel you may be hard pressed to find a room.

                  Here are some spots in Austin that I'd hit. I'm giving you my highly opinionated list to add to the mix. :-)

                  You must have the Don Juan breakfast taco at Juan in a Million. Recently featured on Travel Channel's Man vs. Food show, this taco is cheap, huge and downright tasty. One is the size of two to three tacos, so always order extra tortillas on the side.

                  I'm not a Tacodeli fan but do enjoy Maria's Taco Express. If I'm going for a casual Tex Mex meal, I like Maudie's and La Reyna. If I want upscale Interior Mexican, it's Fonda San Miguel. For Jalisco style Mex, I go to Taqueria Arandas on either S. 1st or on Stassney Lane (there are many locations and of those quite a few suck). I also enjoy going to Chuy's, which is more New Mexican with an emphasis on green chiles in dishes, stacked enchiladas with an egg on top, etc. It's a fun restaurant to go to as the decor is entertaining. The Burnet Road one is great. All locations offer up a happy hour of decent rita prices (decent being both the rita and the cost) and a free nacho bar. I'm totally heading for La Michoacana on E. 7th for barbacoa soon; haven't tried it and the rec's are great.

                  For BBQ, this is a hot & sticky topic in Austin. I love the Salt Lick out in Driftwood. In town, I'll also go for Ironwork's ribs and County Line in a pinch. My fav BBQ outside town is Cooper's in Llano.

                  I had an incredible meal at Perry's Steak House last night, an amazing pork chop, carved table-side. I also stole a few bites of what may very well be the best ribeye I've ever tasted. Pricey and elegant restaurant.

                  For a great dive, go get a cold beer and a burger at Casino El Camino on 6th St. The kitchen takes cash but you can run a bar tab with a credit card. Love the Amarillo burger. They also have seriously hot wings there.

                  I'd go with Eastside Cafe for the local products/not cheap meal. They're consistently delicious. And I second Daily Juice for your smoothies. You can also check out Casa De Luz for vegan fare. And a pretty courtyard.

                  I love the coffee from Thunderbird's on Koenig Lane. But I also love the "diner coffee" from La Reyna.

                  Local bakery: Sweetish Hill or The Upper Crust for your usual fare. If you want delicious Mexican pastries I'd go to La Victoria on Burnet Road. They also have kick ass lunch offerings of tacos, etc.

                  Other-than-tacos-breakfast: I like the brunch buffet at Moonshine Grill. Plenty o' food and not terribly expensive. Paggi House is supposed to be resurrecting their brunch in a few weeks (they closed for a while for a remodel). I was a regular every Sunday on the patio there. Brunch at both Fonda San Miguel and the Cafe at the Four Seasons is delicious yet will set you back a pretty penny.

                  Desserts! I'd stop by either Amy's Ice Creams for a cup of ice cream with crush'ns or Sandy's Frozen Custard for a cone. If cold dessert isn't your thing then duck into Vespaio and sit at the bar, order a dessert from their ever changing menu. I've never been disappointed with their sweet treats. There's also Sugar Mama's bakery with all kinds of yummy things. Heck, Tiff's Treats near campus sells freshly baked, still warm cookies that are simple yet satisfying.

                  Hope your trip here is a great one!