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Labor Day weekend in Austin

  • gini Sep 1, 2009 09:04 AM
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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. re: scrumptiouschef

      I think you meant here for the follow up thread:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/629315

    2. 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.

            1. Rudy's:
              Brisket, moist - dry and flavorless - no smokiness at all.
              Sausage - not bad, but more like a kielbasa than anything.
              Chopped Beef - absolutely delicious!

              So, not a total failure.

              Uchi had a 90 minute wait for dinner on Friday night, and we needed a quick turn around for an airport pickup, so we ended up at Zax for two salads that were perfectly serviceable.

              For beer we headed to Ginger Man: great beer list, cute outdoor garden, really great local brews on tap.

              Breakfast tacos were in order at Jaun in a Million. While the napolitas, chorizo, guacamole and migas tacos were all perfectly nice (especially the chorizo and the napolitas), the Don Juan taco was just foul. A pound of eggs, potatoes, bacon and cheese does not a good breakfast taco make.

              We needed to check out the score of the UT game, so we grabbed some friend mushrooms (fine) and frito pie (delicious!) at Doc's on South Congress. I wish we had frito pie in Boston.

              The rehearsal dinner was at the Iron Cactus - it had food and margaritas that were edible, but I don't think I'd go back anytime soon.

              1. We needed a break from Tex-Mex, so we headed to Austin Java for breakfast. I can say that their Vietnamese Iced Coffee was delicious, but their regular coffee was definitely not nearly as good as Dominican Joe's. By the way, where does Dominican Joe's get their cupcakes from? I saw them in several coffee shops this weekend and the black & tan was especially tasty. Anyway, he was not impressed by his spinach omelet, nor the black beans and potatoes, but my toad in the hole was pretty fine. At least the bread was good.

                We couldn't stay away from the guacamole for that long and had to stop into Polvos. The pescado torta was absolutely divine, though I think I'd like the bread to be just a bit more bready. Steak fajitas, while overcooked, were definitely flavorful and enchiladas and flautas were also well received. Plus, their horchata was tasty.

                The wedding was at Nature's Point on Lake Travis, and I can say that whoever did the catering (Nature's Point?) makes excellent green beans and ranch dressing.

                We also hit up the flagship Whole Foods while we were in town - wow! It definitely sets the standard.

                So! We did not hit nearly as many places as we could have, but at some point, we were just too stuffed to eat. Thanks for all your recommendations!

                1 Reply
                1. re: gini

                  I just got back from an Awesome food filled labor day weekend as well. We went to Polvos and had the most amazing fish and shrimp fajitas. Loved all the fresh veggies, but weren't so into their guacamole. The pickled jalapenos at the salsa bar were addictive. We also hit up Sam's for some BBQ and what an experience. Pork ribs most meat I've ever had on the bone and brisket was just so good and tender. Hit up Fonda San Miguel for sunday brunch, tasty tasty, don't forget the dessert bar. The banana bread pudding was unreal. We ended the trip with Magnolia Cafe, well worth the wait. The labor day special: omelette filled with gaucamole, thick bacon chunks, jack cheese, smothered in queso and chipotle , need I say more. Oh yes and Jo's coffee, the less sweet version of the turbo which i believe is called the bavarian bomber was divine. Wasn't so into Amy's Ice cream, kinda disappointed by that one, ice chunks not cool, but all the other great food and margaritas in Austin made up for it.