San Diego 'Hound visiting Austin for the first time... fabulous city! This is my first post on this board since I lurked for my trip planning, but I thought I'd share where we went and hope that Austin 'Hounds might throw out ideas for our next visit. We stayed downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was very close to 6th Street. We had a car for part of our visit, but tried to stay on foot whenever we could.
Frank- absolutely loved it and wish I had a chance to revisit it. I had the Jackalope, an antelope and rabbit sausage in a French roll topped with huckleberry compote and sriracha aioli. Great combination between the tart huckleberries, slightly spicy sriracha, and gamey sausage.
Annie's- great place for breakfast, although the service is pleasantly inept. Two visits... stone-cut organic oatmeal at one and breakfast tacos at another. Tasty and well-prepared.
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill- My pecan crusted catfish with crawfish tails was excellent. The rice and beans on the side was a bit meh. Fantastic service, great atmosphere, and very reasonably priced (at least, by San Diego standards).
Koriente- Cheap Korean-influenced vegetarian dishes that were very nicely done. Great place for a quick meal before heading out for music and drinking. I had the japchae and it was quite good. I'm a sucker for a scoop of green tea ice cream and they added crushed pistachios and a drizzle of honey, which were really great touches.
Austin Farmer's Market Downtown- Mr. Geeky had a great sausage/gravy/biscuit from a stand in the middle of the market, while I had coffee from Texas Coffee Traders (free refills!
Whole Foods flagship store- We definitely have these in Southern CA, but nowhere near the scale of the flagship store. Great place to stop for snacks before our roadtrip to Lockhart for BBQ.
Smitty's Market (Lockhart)- Great BBQ... it was really hard to choose a BBQ place because everyone on all of the threads had their favorites. We figured Lockhart was the closest to Austin and randomly picked Smitty's. Great ribs, great brisket (the fat was perfect, meat a smidge dry), and the sausages were pretty good. Had bread, crackers, and slaw with the meat and it was a great lunch.
Casa Colombia- The food was fine... in my Bandeja Paisa, the plantains and rice were perfect, as was the fried yuca that I had them substitute for the beans. Chicharron was over-fried, making it inedibly hard. The steak paillard was fine... tasty but a little dried out. The arepa served with my dinner was rock hard and inedible. My dining companions all had great meals, with the arepas being the weak spot (they're better filled, but still very, very chewy).
The service, however, needs its own paragraph. Our server was really pleasant, but pushy beyond belief. She spent 5 minutes talking up their fruit drinks, cutting people off if they were going to order something else. Then, she started on appetizers when we told her we just wanted to order dinner, which she was visibly displeased about and pushed the appetizers some more. That was annoying, but not as annoying as the fact that we waited one hour for our food to arrive.
Cafe Crepe- I have to say that I don't like savory crepes, so that might taint my overall view of the place. Great sitting spot for coffee and company and very friendly service. I had the Norwegian, which was smoked salmon, Boursin, and tomatoes. However, the tomatoes were the only thing wrapped in the crepe with the salmon and Boursin sitting on top of them. The crepe was too thick and cold... we noticed they were not made to order, but instead pre-made and stacked in preparation for filling. The flavors, however, were great. Also, it was pricey, with most of the savory crepes ranging from $8-10 and the sweet ones above $5 with very little filling.
Nau's Enfield Drug soda fountain- I needed to find a drugstore that was open on Sunday and the Garmin directed us to Nau's. Little did we know that we'd find a soda fountain. The shakes and sundaes were ridiculously cheap and awesome. Amazing, amazing stop.
Chupacabra- Mediocre pulled pork tacos. Mr. Geeky thought they used stale Mission tortillas. They did have a delicious jicama slaw in the tacos, but their habenero sour cream was flavorless and just plain hot. I felt like it ruined the taco.
Austin airport- Amy's Ice Cream and The Salt Lick
For airport food, both places were pretty impressive. Pricey, of course, but Amy's Oreo Speedwagon (coffee ice cream mashed with Oreos, chocolate chunks, and hot fudge) was delightful. The Salt Lick's pulled pork sandwich was flavorful... the sauce probably drowned out the quality of the meat. It was served on fresh, thick egg bread and I chose a nice vinegar slaw on the side. Great way to pass the time to our delayed flight.
We went to a few great bars:
The Side Bar- quirky and fun, mellow enough that you can actually talk to your friends
Casino El Camino- Good bar food for drunken munchies
The Ginger Man- Fabulous beer selection, great atmosphere
The Ghost Bar- Nice setup for live music... those that love it can watch the band and those that aren't can still hang out and play pool
This trip was for a reunion of old college friends, so we might head back next year because of it's central and warm-ish location (not too cold for the San Diegans, warm enough for the kids from Wisconsin, Philly, and Jersey). If you have suggestions, thoughts, criticisms, whatever... I'd love to hear it! Thanks, Austin 'Hounds, for the great threads... made trip planning easy!
Geeky Foodie! Thank you for the fabulous report. You really gave Austin institutions as well as newbies stellar reviews! Thanks for getting it! People think I am crazy when I rave about Whole Foods so much, but until you see it you can't believe it. We feel lucky to have it here. Looking forward to welcoming you back to Austin.
Sounds like you had a lot of fun. Whether you know it or not, you managed to stumble into some pretty inspired choices, like the Nau's soda fountain (I hear the burgers are pretty decent, btw), the Dai Due biscuits and gravy (can't find the right link, but here's the site: http://www.daidueaustin.com/blog.php), and Casino El Camino (some 'hounds call their burgers the best in town). Smitty's is the best 'cue in Lockhart, IMO, but my wife prefers Black's. You might also consider the extra 20 minute drive to Luling to check out the City Market - another regular fave around here. Next time you're in town, consider heading to the east side for your Mexican eats - search the board for taco trucks; there's lots of good ones. Might I also suggest going to the original Salt Lick in Driftwood? It won't be the best bbq you can find around here, but the atmosphere makes it a really fun destination. For nicer sit-downs, I would suggest either Parkside or Paggi House. Or the Driskill, which is also a really beautiful, really old building.
Thanks for the review! It's always so nice when somebody reports back. I think gilintx's suggestions are good ones. Parkside is fantastic - gourmet food in a very Austin casual type setting. We'll look forward to having you back!
We moved to Austin from San Diego two years ago and, leaving aside the obvious and deep differences, we have been very happy with the food scene.
(We will be out this summer to SD; we'll want to hear your thoughts about the latest SD scene on another board!)