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Jan 6, 2009 12:26 PM

Chicago hound seeking BBQ, Tex mex and int mexican this week

Hi all I'm a Chicago gal making a last minute trip to Austin this Thurs-Mon. I'm looking for great BBQ, Mexican, and Tex Mex suggestions. Bonus if they re near 6th st/Clarksville and/or open for lunch. Would also love overall great dining recs, but no steakhouses, pizza, Italian, thai, middle eastern, or Indian as I get plenty of that here in my neighborhood. Love nice wine lists too! Any suggestions for a first time visitor?

---oops, I posted this in the wrong place. Monitors please feel free to move this down to regular posts. My mistake!

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  1. For great BBQ that's open for lunch (in fact, they're *only* open for lunch), check out House Park BBQ at 12th and Lamar (I think that qualifies for the Clarksville bonus, too). There's also Lambert's at 2nd and Guadalupe. It's kind of "fancied up" BBQ. There's been plenty of commentary about Lambert's on this board already, so I won't repeat here.

    For a nice wine list with good food, Mulberry has been getting a lot of good buzz. They're at 4th and Nueces. In fact, I may check that out this evening myself.

    Enjoy your stay in Austin!

    1. There's a Maudie's for Tex-Mex breakfast very close to you (on Exposition) but the general agreement is it's not the best for Tex-Mex tho. I love their migas however. Manuel's & Fonda San Miguel would be good for interior-style Mexican but others will have more suggestions I'm sure.

      1. You'll find OK BBQ and TexMex in this area, but for the really good stuff you'll need to at least take a long walk to east Austin to Sam's BBQ (12th & Chicon) or a car to the Big Three in Lockhart: Black's, Kreuz's and Smitty's (half an hour south on 183).

        There's numerous much better TexMex options around, but I think there's still a Torchy's Taco truck on 6th Street (I think its 6th and Nueces, but its definitely attached to Woodrow's)--there are tables galore for sitting.

        If you do get a chance to drive somewhere, the best gourmet Mexican food in town is Fonda San Miguel. They have my favorite Sunday brunch in town. Its pricey but way worth it.

        There's a number of places in the 6th St./Lamar area with good wine lists, but one you might check out is Aquarelle (French cuisine), behind Opal Divine's Freehouse (6th and Rio Grande I believe)--outstanding French food, with a wine list that has some of my wine snob buddies raving about (especially about their white wines; I only drink red).

        There's plenty of other great places to recommend (world class sushi at Uchi on South Lamar; or the emphasis on fresh local ingredients at Olivia, S. Lamar & OItorf), but to visitors or anyone I always recommend the 4 BBQ places and Fonda San Miguel. These were places I dreamed about when lived in California.

        7 Replies
        1. re: taliesin15

          Assuming that you are flying into or out of Austin, you should know that the airport is south of the city, as are the big three BBQ places another half-hour further south in Lockhart. So if you are renting a car, consider making the detour -- well worth it. In or around Austin proper, I have sampled and enjoyed many of the BBQ places, including Salt Lick, Iron Works, Rudy's (or is it Ruby's? The independent, not the chain). My favorite by far is Sam's, which is really a divy shack -- you'll probably want to take out from there.

          Not exactly what you are asking for, but Uchi is a superlative restaurant and a unique dining experience. Well worth a solo stop for an early dinner at the bar where you can take advantage of some of the excellent food and happy hour specials.

          1. re: nosh

            The best time to go to Uchi is right when they open at 5:30 (or is it 5 now?)--the place isn't as crowded, thus you can have your pick of tables (I like the sushi bar) and the happy hour specials really significantly makes it cheaper

            Ruby's is the independent BBQ place--I love it and like the other BBQ places you mention (Ruby's has killer sides) but none are as good or as cheap as Sam's (and nowhere near as good as the Big 3 in Lockhart)

            You know, one cuisine we've hardly mentioned (I suppose Chicago gal is here now) is Southern cuisine--chicken fried steak, fried chicken, grits, cornbread, collard greens, gumbo, red beans and rice, mustard greens--those of us from the South were raised on this food and take it for granted--there's a wealth of good Southern food here, lemme just mention three: Gene's, Evangeline Cafe, Cypress Cafe (? in a strip mall near a Gold's Gym)

            1. re: taliesin15

              Before we send chicagowinediva skipping over to Gene's be aware of the recent downhill slide.Gene is not in the house anymore and I've had two bad experiences in his absence[both food not service related].

              .I hope the new guy gets the back of the house in shape.He seems like an earnest restaurateur,he just needs to hire a cook skilled in the art of southern cooking.

              As for the art of southern country soul food the journey begins at Galloways which could make good money in Oxford,Tuscaloosa or wherever Stephen Galloway decides to fire his pans.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                Thanks guys!!! I've enjoyed Fonda San Miguel, Amy's Ice cream, The Belmont, and Juanita's (red caboose) tacos, Iron Works BBQ, so far as well as the farmers market. I'm headed to brunch at Lamberts tomorrow. (Yeah, i know its fancy pants BBQ weirdness, but I'm just intrigued for some reason.) I don't have a car, so the BBQ mecca spots are not an option.

                Funny you should bring up Southern/Soul food. I've never seen so many places advertise Chicken fried steak in my life! Should I try it?

                1. re: chicagowinediva

                  Not sure if you're still in town, chicagowinediva, but generally speaking, most any place here will have good chicken fried steak. Downtown-wise, Threadgill's on Riverside is particularly dependable. Keep in mind this is a very heavy fried cut of steak best served with fat-and-dairy ladened white gravy. Might be a bit heavy for many people, but it is what it is. If you do get to a place serving authentic southern style chicken fried steak, I'd also recommend corn bread (my favorite variation, thanks to my late grandmother's cooking is Georgia-style fried cornbread, which she started adding jalapenos to once she moved to Texas), mashed potatoes (more starch and gravy fodder, but its a natural with this entree), and some kind of greens, preferably collard, mustard and or turnip greens. If you're not afraid of more fried fare, another "green" you can have is fried okra. If you still have room, and why bother cutting calories now, get yourself a slice of pecan pie. The best recipe calls for using dark local honey which you can't really find at places like whole foods. After this, I would sit outside and have a sip on a premium bourbon and smoke a Henry Clay cigar. You only live once.

                  1. re: taliesin15

                    Wow. In my experience, most places in Austin, including Threadgill's, have bad chicken fried steak. In the downtown area, I would take a cab over to Hoover's for good CFS. My preferred sides are mashed potatoes and green beans.

                2. re: scrumptiouschef

                  I was at Gene's last week and he walked out of the kitchen wearing an apron. Food was great, as expected. So...perhaps the other guy didn't work out.

          2. Enjoy tacos outdoors at Torchy's or El Chilito (Manor Road) for hipster company or at Piedras Negras (NW corner of East Cesar Chavez @ Pleasant Valley) for real taco truck atmosphere.

            Lambert's has great meats and also does some Mexican-flavored things like ceviche and grilled hanger steaks with tortillas and guacamole. (These have both recently been on their bar menu.) I've had wonderful fish there, too.

            Sam's is my favorite in-town BBQ. Don't bother with the sides--the brisket is great.

            I tried Fonda San Miguel last night for the third time since moving from Chicago 4 years ago. Sadly, we concluded the same thing again: the food is just not interesting. I found the flavor combinations boring, the lamb poorly spiced and not high quality, and the moles kind of one-note wonders. Compared to any number of Chicago's fancier Mexican places (Bayless's, Salpicon, the late Ixcapuzalco, etc.)--or food in the actual interior of Mexico--FSM is very disappointing. The restaurant itself, though, is very pretty and has a nice art collection. Good margaritas, too.

            We spend a lot less money and have a lot more fun eating at Curra's on Oltorf in South Austin. Try the Oaxacan margarita if you like mezcal.