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Annual Trip (at the holidays) please vet my list!

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Well, we are holding to our annual trip in Austin, only this year, over Christmas for one week (at Barton Creek Resort) as always. Are there any holiday can't miss spots for a fun festive cocktail or even Xmas dinner (and my dad's birthday)? Places with great xmas decorations? Fabulous food and ambience is a must. Ambience can be any type from hoel in the wall to more formal.

Re: BBQ. We always go to Lockhart. Once we went to Cooper's and were not very impressed. Always go to Salt Lick in Hill COuntry for the ambience. Anything have better brisket than Lockhart for a fun day trip?

Re: Mexican: Are there any really good Mexican places with good ambience? We have done Trudy's (migas), Chuy's (loved the chips and salas and margs), Guerros, Polvos (it was pretty dirty on the last trip there), Curra, Angies on 7th, Vivo, Maria's Taco Xpress(sunday brunch)...all were ok...any with better food or new places? We really liked El Chile but on last visit, was just ok. We are alwyas looking for fun, new, great Mex and BBQ spots. Never can have enough.

Re: food carts: We love Flip Happy. Any others new that we should try?

Re: higher end: We love Uchi. It is our one must dine spots. Any others in this list? Just nothing French or American, as we have great American at home in Chicago and prefer something more unusual. We really liked the casual side of Vespaio. Esp. for Xmas, maybe Trio? Is that the best? Prefer not stuffy, though, and no game.

We also would love some fun festive bar spots with the family for the holiday, fun day trips with good food/wine stops, and great brunch or breakfast spots (liked west end). All recs are greatly appreciated. We love the holidays and cannot wait to hit the town..for everything! thank you, thank you!

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  1. Suggest you:

    * Add Fabi & Rosi to your list. Quite good, especially if you like Swiss cuisine
    * Hit TRIO for their $39 prixe fixe holiday menu
    * Head for Ronnie's (http://www.ronniesrealfood.com), though this requires planning

    1. Fonda San MIguel for an uncommon sunday brunch buffet of Mexican cuisine.
      Hudson's on the Bend for Texas game.
      Actually Hudson's has, or had, a food cart on South Congress. "The MIghty Cone"
      Stopping by the Whole Foods flagship store on Lamar might be a fun adventure.
      Lambert's has a notable Sunday Brunch/buffet.

      1. You said no French but sounds like you just didn't want stuffy. For casual, bistro French (and not expensive, at least less than Vespaio and Uchi by a margin) try Justine's Brasserie on the far East side. Great music spinning, neat bar, very authentic decor (check out the room numbers and bathroom signs) and good food. From your descriptions of places, I think this place will best hit your mark.

        1 Reply
        1. re: shlomoaren

          Thanks...would it be open xmas eve? what is ambience there like and what do you enjjoy eating there?

        2. For Mexican you should try Garrido's. It is new and has great food and ambience. My friends, daughter, husband and I are crazy for it. Another place you may like is FINO. The food is very good and has nice outdoor dining, weather permitting. I always use gift certificates there from restaurant.com. (By the way, they are 80% off for the next couple of days!) In the high-end category you may want to check out Olivia. It has received some national attention lately. (Wall Street Journal weekend edition a few weeks ago.) Brunch there is yummy, too.

          1. You might also consider City Market in Luling or Snow's in Lexingon for BBQ. Snow's is kind of a pain - long drive and very short hours - but I have to say the considerable hype was justified for their brisket.

            1 Reply
            1. re: brentwood

              Thanks for the recommendations. I have always wanted to try Snow's. We drove to Louie Mueller's last time and were unimpressed; I thought Lockhart was better.

              Are there any fun holiday spots or recommendations for a festive christmas Eve or christmas dinner? It is also my father's birthday. Thank you!

            2. Hi again, Ljero. Welcome back to Austin.

              Right now I'm really happy with Parkside. I guess you'd call it "American", so you probably have similar/better places in Chicago, but if I were you I'd give it a shot anyhow -- especially if you're considering Trio. It was on the "Top 50 Burgers In Texas" list printed by Texas Monthly, but that isn't why you should go. I like almost everything they do here and the burger ranks towards the rear of what Parkside can do.

              I'm pretty bored with Austin's Mexican options, especially the Austin-style slacker joints. I can more readily recommend a number of brightly-lit places in strip malls, trailers, and even a few freestanding hole-in-the-walls, but none with an ambiance you'd like, and frankly I'm getting sick of these places myself. However, you didn't list Fonda San Miguel. If somehow you haven't done that yet, definitely book brunch there. This place is an Austin legend, and I'm excited to hear if you think it meets the hype. Forgive me if you've already been and I just forgot.

              If you like Flip Happy-esque food carts, you might be impressed with Mighty Cone. Another Austin legend (Hudson's on the Bend) started this place as a food stand at Austin City Limits Festival with great acclaim. Right in the middle of the South Congress Hipness Vortex and flanked by some other trailers. (I absolutely can't recommend Hey Cupcake. Blech.) There is a decent Chicago-style dog cart down south as well, but I suppose being a Chicagoaen, you'd find it pretty hilarious.

              When I want to watch sports and drink beers, I rarely do it at a sports bar. Last time I dipped my toe in that pool, the Tavern was still vastly superior to the newer, similar choices (Third Base, Lavaca Street, Shoal Creek, Copper Tank, Crown & Anchor and the place right next to it, many chains and semi-chains) (Side note: probably unfair to characterize some of those places as "new"). My favorite bar (Dog & Duck) added a big screen in their back porch area, so I recommend keeping it real and going there. (The Willie Burger is awesome, one of the best burgers in Austin by far, and superior to the aforementioned Parkside burger or the otherwise unmentioned Counter Cafe burger.) Dog & Duck isn't a sports bar by any means. It isn't really anything other than a charming little beer bar near the university with free (and very slow) wifi.

              Lastly, a link to my current take on this question. I've pasted this link into a dozen other threads recently, so fellow hounds forgive me:

              1 Reply
              1. re: tom in austin

                Tom in Austin: I was hoping that you'd reply, as I always appreciate your insight and recommendations. What do you think for xmas eve and xmas? We have tentative 4:30pm brunch reservations at Trio for Christmas...how isthe food? For xmas eve, I was thinking Vespaio, with a walk down SoCoSt/xmas eve walk to Zilker Tree, lights on 37th etc. Better options for either? What about a holiday drink at Lala's for the festive ambience?

                We will definiitely try the Mighty Cone. Which is your favorite cone there? I, too, dislike Hey Cupcake. Others to try? I am so disappointed that Flip Happy is closed the whole week. What about Lula B's?

                We are doing Uchi, of course, and with the holidays, does not leave time for many fun, quirky eats. But, I want my parents to get all the local flair where possible for their first time visit and not all high end restaurants...looking like xmas eve, xmas, night after at Uchi will all be expensive and need a low-key option...food quality not to be sacrificed...

                Re: Fonda, you are right. We have never been, but unsure we want to do another expensive brunch. I was thinking either the Taco Trailer Park or maria's jsut for the gospel brunch. But, we could do fonda Sun and then do something else for xmas than Trio buffet...just do not want too many fancy buffets...thoughts? I am worried amny places will be closed for xmas eve and xmas?

                Also: considering Snows for brisket..is it worth the drive? Weweredisappointed by Louies'and also Opie's....love Lockhart 'cue. Any other fun day trips with good local food stops or wine?

                Thanks, as always for all the information. Happy Holidays!

              2. For great bites between meals or a light supper, I highly recommend Mulberry at 3rd and Nueces. It has amazing dinners, too, [ah, the meatballs!] but it's a great spot to have a glass of wine or a nice beer with a few small plates [eg. choose your own cured meats and cheese from a rotating list] in a really comfortable atmosphere.

                I moved to Boston a while back, but when I'm in Austin for 2 days next month, my two dinners will be Mulberry and Uchi... and probably Polvos for breakfast. I've never found it dirty, just a little run down. [When I was there 6 months ago, a guy was painting a new mural on the wall and I'm curious to see what it turned into.] Polvos makes their own corn tortillas to order & the salsa bar is always fresh... those are my only real requirements.

                My personal pick for BBQ is City Market in Luling, but in town I find Iron Works to be a solid bet.