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Labor Day weekend in Austin

I'll be in Austin September 3 - September 7 for work and a wedding and I'm looking for help with my eating itinerary. I need help with 2 dinners, 2 lunches and anything in between. We're staying at the Sheraton on 11th Street and will have a car.

The only meals that are set other than all wedding related affairs is lunch at Rudy’s BBQ on September 4.

We like everything, but would love some good BBQ, Latin American/Mexican/Tex-Mex, and beer, and anything else we can't get as good in Boston. I know that Rudy's is not the be all and end all of BBQ, but it's a required engagement.

Places I'm considering:
El Zunzal Restaurant
Polvos
El Arroyo
Threadgill's
Sam's
Lambert's
Roadtrip to: Black's, Smitty's, or Kreiz's
Various bars on 6th St

Thoughts? Opinions? Anything is most welcome. Thank you!

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  1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/622527

    The hounds got all heated up on the thread above.

    Read through it and maybe follow up with some questions.

    Maryland hound Kallisti jumped in on the thread and came down and really showed Austin what's up.

    Make sure you read her followup if you want a good barbecue breakdown.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/93088

    We're famous hereabouts for our Chicken Fried Steak,the old thread above will do you some good.

    1 Reply
    1. We love Rudy's!!!! The other popular bar-b-que place everyone frequents is SaltLick on 1826. They also have a SaltLick Steak House on 183N that has excellent steaks. Enchilada Y Mas on Anderson Lane has great margueritas (potent) and wonderful fajitas (beef and chicken)! It is a small place and will only seat when everyone is there. Matt's El Rancho has wonderful Mexican food, great environment, and history. Also, Damion Mandelo has an Italian restaurant on Hwy. 150 South of Austin that is well worth the drive. The restaurant is Trattoria Lisina. It is listed as Mandola Winery and is located in Driftwood. They have wedding functions there so should be able to accomodate your party. It is beautiful and the food is great but a little more costly than mexican! Comfortable or dress clothes are the usual there. They are also very busy on the weekends so you should call well in advance for reservations. Sunday is the least crowded. Everybody (especially men) LOVE their Osu Buko! Don't miss a trip to Lake Travis. The Oasis has been rebuilt and has multiple layers, a beautiful view, outside tables, and great margueritas! Good luck

      1 Reply
      1. re: demichieli

        Trattoria Lisina is okay, but if you're from Boston, as Gini is, it surely will NOT cut it as far as good Italian food. To me, it's one away from Macaroni Grille.
        Yes, definitely go out to the Oasis. The food is so-so, but it's like nothing you'll find in Beantown.

      2. gini (if you see this)

        I hope that you have a good time in Austin. I think that you have a very good list, with the exception of El Arroyo. I would recommend not going there.

        If you have to eat at Rudy's, avoid the brisket. Especially if you are making the trip to Lockhart. You don't want to get meat-overload. One could also just stick with the sides at Rudy's, and save your meat cravings for Lockhart. Or just have one rib, or a few bites of sausage. Rudy's produces pretty consistent barbeque, but try to notice the lack of smoke and depth as compared to some other places. That might be an interesting experiment for you.

        Don't be afraid to order just the portions that you want in Lockhart if you are trying more than one place. Treat it like tapas if you like. It's too easy to get full at the first place.

        For Mexican, you could add Sazon to the list. I had excellent conchinita pibil there last friday. Their redfish mojo de ajo was extremely enjoyable. It's on S Lamar between Barton Springs and Oltorf (closer to oltorf, but not all the way, on the W side of Lamar).

        Threadgills is fine for an Austin experience, but many hounds don't rate it that highly for food. Again, another opportunity to go with vegetables. They actually do a really good job with their sides. I personally don't think that the food is all that bad for what it is. If the central location has a band playing, it's pretty fun.

        For El Zunzal, keep in mind that it is a Salvadorean hole in the wall, but there's quite a few tables now. Don't go at lunch, only go at night. And only order Salvadorean food, not anything that sounds mexican. I've been there when there's no one that speaks english, too.

        At Polvo's - fish or shrimp a la plancha, regular relleno with the red sauce (ask for a combination of whatever meat you want AND cheese), and the fajitas guajillo are all awesome.

        1. Do yourself a favor and skip El Arroyo and Threadgill's. Though they are both Austin institutions, they have long since stopped providing quality chow. Sam's won't be the best barbecue you'll ever eat, but the funky atmosphere will probably make it worthwhile for you. You may also be well served to check out the taco truck scene on the east side. 7th St. east of I-35 is a veritable Eden of excellent street food. Just follow the crowds and you'll probably find something outstanding.
          As for the Lockhart trip, I've been doing a barbecue tour this summer and have hit all of the big 3 in recent months. IMO, the best mix of meat and sides is currently found at Smitty's Market. Black's has great meat, but sides are somewhat confusing (was that vinegar in the beans?). Kreutz Market is a Texas legend, but eating in that giant cavernous building just leaves me feeling a little cold. As with any bbq rec, YMMV.

          1. Thank you for all of your replies!

            We got in too late to hit Smitty's and Kreitz's large warehouse and empty parking lot turned us off, so we settled on Black's for our first dinner. We had:
            Beef rib: gigantic, moist, smokey and rich - this smelled great and tasted better
            Sausage: nice tough skin, fatty, good flavor
            Brisket: dry, but tasty, yet I couldn't finish it cause it was like chewing through rawhide. I suppose I like my brisket a bit moister.

            We also tried some sides: creamed corn (good), sweet potatoes with marshmellows (felt I owed it to myself), mashed potatoes (light) and corn bread (tasty but drier than an arid desert), and blackberry cobbler (too sweet).

            Overall, definitely worth the trip from Austin. That said, our waists are under 30 inches and I don't think we could have tried the tapas style 3 rounds at each place. I'll need to work on getting a bigger stomach.