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Places that are Popular to Hate

I got a gift cert to Magnolia Cafe....went this morning. This place, along with Kerbey Lane, doesn't get a lot of love on this board.

However, for a real good price, I got:

Steamed broccoli with a queso for my daughter ($2)
Bowl of roasted red pepper corn chowder soup ($3.75)
Economical breakfast - two sunny up eggs, black beans, 1/2 grapefruit ($4.75)
Side of bacon ($1.75)
Flamingo Sandwich ($?)
Paper and crayons for my child
Great service

Anyhow, it brings to mind the question - what do you like about places that (on this board) that are popular to hate? Like if there's more than six patrons, they've sold out.

Suggestions:

Kerbey Lane
Katz's
Magnolia
Hut's (I don't like the burgers either, but I like the catfish and onion rings)
Chuy's
Salt Lick
Polvo's
Others?

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  1. I've always loved Hut's. Mostly because I was taught that it was a Texas institution as a child visiting from Baton Rouge before we moved here. Gotta love a greasy burger with cream of mushroom soup and tons of cheddar cheese. I spent hours checking out the football posters and memorabilia. There is something to be said for tradition and Hut's is a big one in my family. The onion rings are the ultimate greasy indlugence.

    1. Polvo's has some krunk fajitas for a great price. I'm a big fan of the pastor fajitas and their black salsa is delicious. Only hating on Polvo's I can understand is the lack of parking and the high hipster traffic.

      10 Replies
      1. re: uarent

        I really like Polvo's, but wish it hadn't become popular with all the transplants. Back when Spanish was only spoken, the food seemed to be more loviningly prepared. It's still a favorite for fajitas (guajillo for me) and the enchiladas de la casa are always nice on spring mornings.

        1. re: uarent

          black salsa? do tell.

          i like a few dishes at povo's (the fish a la plancha and the chile relleno w/ the crack-like creamy pecan sauce).
          however, i rarely go because:
          1. it's down south, and i am in NW austin
          2. parking suuuuuuuuuucks
          3. the wait for a table is always interminable
          4. i hate hipsters

          1. re: dinaofdoom

            Funny, I've never had to wait. Always seems I just beat the crowd. Agreed, I live in NW Austin too. 4-yup.

            1. re: amysuehere

              clearly, i need to make sure our times coincide so i don't have to wait!
              i usually go on the weekends (but now very rarely) so that is probably a big part of it.

              also, for those of you who are driving back home to places like NW austin?
              do not order a pitcher of margaritas for two, because you think it will be more economical.
              they will knock you on your ass and then you will need to eat lots and lots and lots of food in order to feel like you can drive all the way back home.

              /psa

          2. re: uarent

            There is this fallacy. Termed "The Fallacy of the Small Sample Size", it is the plague to Chowhounders everwhere. Heck, most the places I think are amazing I have only eaten at between one and ten times.

            Polvo's is not a victim of this fallacy. I have been eating there for a while, and for a couple years lived just a few blocks away. Because I had a couple nice work lunches and date dinners there, it was an esteemed joint. I made it my go-to place, and was baffled by the beatings I received. Why is this place just so bad at brunch? Why did they accidentally add $20 to my tab? Wtf with the abysmal service? Stale chips? Cold fish? What in Thor's name is happening?

            I'm grateful. Fortune forced me to explore East. When I lived near South 1st, I plied Polvo's first as my primary choice. Good gringo queso with a compuesto-bomb of diced side goodies and a few good trips had convinced me that this place was not just hip. Rather it was the real deal, the sought-after and crucial Tex-Mexican meal. This was the panacea! Perhaps people ponder precipitously: Polvo's? From experiences numbering in the dozens ('though sub-hundred), let me tell you: "I am dissappoint." (sp)

            Bad service, erratic billing, mediocre mains, this place remains the only Tex-Mexiplace (while hipsters are chilling) cranking out Tex-Mex for $40 per head average with drinks included that isn't a chain. I can replicate this feat at Chuy's, Trudy's, and Curra's. (Actually, I think all Curra's outlets have died other than South Austin -- can someone confirm?)

            It isn't that Polvo's sucks. So "Hate" as the thread title suggests is unjustified. And the fajitas at Polvo's are often pretty tasty. And I do owe them a debt for forcing me, after numerous crappy-but-expensive-experiences, into exploring the South Austin milieu, and driving me further East, South, and East. Oh, and South.

            It instead is that Polvo's is overrated. You, the nameless, faceless defender of Polvo's, must understand: this place is only mediocre. Many, many folks in white belts and/or rumpled concert t's will attest to Polvo's dominance as their preferred place for Tex-Mex. Again I say thee "Whatevs!" -- while not terrible, Polvo's is not even as good as Curra's, and isn't fit to carry the luggage of El Meson.

            (And sitting outside being attacked by wasps during the summer doesn't help either, while having nothing to do with the food.)

            1. re: tom in austin

              Not sure if I am the "nameless, faceless defender" that you are talking about, but in a town that has surprisingly few suitable Tex-Mex places for its size and location, Polvo's has rarely disappointed. Never been to El Meson, but I've hit up many Mexican food places in this town, from Bejucos to Trudys near 183, and I've got to say that if Polvo's is the median than my sample must be way off.

              1. re: uarent

                Wasn't directed to any 'hound. For example: You're uarent, and thusly not nameless.

                If you're in the nabe, try El Meson for a late weekday breakfast or an early weekday lunch.

              2. re: tom in austin

                Hmm...sample size. Of course, for my own subjective opinion, a sample size of 1 is statistically significant :)

                And that opinion is this: I loathe Polvo's. Unfortunately I have been there more than once as it's a kind of go-to celebration place. The service is wretched, the food mediocre, and frankly the place is just dirty. And not in a hole in the wall, part of the charm Texas Chili Parlor way.

                1. re: NWLarry

                  Part of the reason I roll my eyes when my husband suggests Polvo's is because every time we go there, the staff is sitting around in the booths, eating breakfast, reading the paper, gossiping. Meanwhile, we need coffee refills, the check, and other basics of service. It's infuriating.

                  1. re: bookgrrl72

                    My turn to pile on. This is the only place i've ever been to, excepting a tourist trap on Bourbon Street, that adds gratuity for parties of 4 or more.

            2. County Line seems to get no love on CH, but I like it.....

                1. re: SlickTheCat

                  Torchy's barbacoa taco topped with the diablo habanero orange cream condiment they make is very difficult to beat as barbacoa goes. And I believe those are homemade corn tortillas.

                  1. re: slowcoooked

                    I enjoy both places, they are simply places that many of the chowhounds on this board love to hate.

                    1. re: slowcoooked

                      I was waiting for my taco at the Spicewood location and saw the tortilla truck roll up. Wish I could remember the name, but I hadn't totally been awake yet.

                      1. re: amysuehere

                        I've seen the tortilla truck too. El Milagro. Which is pretty good as far as a commercial tortilleria goes.

                        1. re: exlnghrn

                          That's it! It was an El Milagro. Thanks for the jog, exlnghrn.

                          1. re: exlnghrn

                            We had some chips & queso with our tacos this weekend, and I mentioned that their chips reminded me of El Milagro's. On the strength of this detection, I will now bill myself far and wide as a tortilla chip savant.

                    2. I like Kerbey Lane as long as I order from the main menu and never ask for anything from the seasonal list. At the 183 location, I've found the service to be fast and attentive, and my food always arrives to me hot. I'm pretty fond of the gingerbread pancakes and the migas with queso.

                      Re: the seasonal list, I've found the cooks are really great at making the items on the menu that are requested a zillion times a week. However, if you deviate from the menu by picking something that's "of the month" or "of the season", they have a meltdown of epic proportions. I've ordered from it a few times and the result has never ever been good.

                      1. Chuy's is one of those places that if you don't get the right thing, it's uneventful at best.

                        I personally think they have the best salad in town (I know; huh?). I always get the Mexi-cobb, sub beef fajita meat, hold the alvacado and add an extra stripe of green chile. Yum. Whoever works at the 183 location, loves salads and knows how to make them. Seriously.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: amysuehere

                          Chuy's is also my personal favorite in town for crispy tacos, although I do prefer the grilled tacos at Jorge's. Other than those 2 places I have yet to find what I consider a good crispy taco in Austin.

                          1. re: amysuehere

                            I do enjoy my chicka chicka boom boom...

                            1. re: amysuehere

                              chuy's changed hands and the ingredient quality has gone downhill.
                              i usually go to the north/183 location and the last time we went, boy was the change noticeable.
                              this was confirmed by someone who left due to the buy-out; the new owners are using a lower grade of meat and cheese.

                              it has never been my favorite, but it serves a purpose: ultra-casual, basic tex-mex for a reasonable price.
                              my office often take visitors here because pretty much anyone can get something here.
                              not my personal favorite, but i guess it's just one of those places that many can agree on.

                              i usually order something w/ the boom boom sauce.

                              1. re: dinaofdoom

                                Which location you go to makes a very definite difference. I have always preferred the North Lamar location myself; I have never been too excited about the 183/Duval location though.

                            2. Virtually any chain.... because if it's popular with the masses, it's no longer good -- or it's become "bland."

                              And anyplace that serves Tex-Mex. Apparently, chili gravy and yellow cheese are not chow-worthy.

                              Great topic, by the way.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: exlnghrn

                                Fie! Long live Jorge's and Enchiladas Y Mas and Tamale House. Those who hold them in callous disdain are not the true Chowsaints.

                                1. re: tom in austin

                                  no offense, but tamale house is pretty wretched. as a rule, if there are more white people than mexicans, chances are the foods not gonna be that great (obviously, if the white people are construction workers/foremen then they dont count). maybe tamale house was good like ten years ago, i dunno.

                                  1. re: glorpisgod

                                    Glorp, the "race as an indicator of good food" hypothesis has been soundly and thoroughly defeated. That fallacy is the crutch of the uninspired 'hound. Aren't we supposed to talk about deliciousness, not the color of skin? Nevermind that your assertion of an unbalanced white demographic re: Tamale House is demonstrably false in the first place. Moreover, in some parts of town I can drive you past (in less than five minutes) twenty carts, trailers, hole-in-the-walls, and restaurants owned, operated, and almost exclusively patronized by Mexicans that are positively and unequivocally mediocre-or-worse.

                                    Read more on the subject (referencing Enchiladas Y Mas, not Tamale House) here:
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374868

                                    1. re: tom in austin

                                      im just saying dog, you go to tamale house and its always packed with mothers ushering their children, hipsters with perfectly-tousled hair and too-tight jeans, etc etc. most of whom are, how shall we say, melanin-challenged.

                                      now at the same time, you go to a jalisco diner, or you go to a low-key taco cart, you usually find nothing but mexicans, oftentimes who no speka the english too well. what does this have to do with food? nothing, but it does have to do with socio-economic boundaries and the ease of making money once your name is established. are these people really going to stop going to tamale house when theyve been going for an extremely long time even if the food is lower quality? no, because they have an emotional attachment to the place. that said, i really just hate tamale house cuz its always packed to the gills with white people while its far superior next door neighbor, el rincon michoacan closed down cause nobody ever went there. i have no problem with tex-mex places as long as theyre at least somewhat decent (ie enchiladas y mas, which i have been to and have no beef with (lol)).

                                      also lol at brattpowered, i agree. i got their migas because they were highly recommended. no thanks bro! i think part of the problem is the sheer mass of people they must serve on a daily basis. when youre on a small scale and you have to rush all day, corners will and must be cut. thats just a fact of business.

                                    2. re: glorpisgod

                                      If Tamale house was ever good, I don't know when that was. No offense to your name, but "glorp" sounds like a good way to describe their migas-- there was more unidentifiable gloppy soupy base there than there was eggs! Maybe this is a good go-to place for hungover UT hipsters from Plano but if you're really into good chow I don't know how you can like this place.

                                      1. re: brattpowered

                                        Uh oh, invoking North Texas references to incite the Austin Bohemian's visceral response to Dallas/Houston. I'm surprised no disdainful mention of SUVs?

                                        Nothing wrong with that $3.50 migas plate at Tamale House in my book!

                                        1. re: brattpowered

                                          I'm a long-time lover of the Tamale House. I know it's not very good, but darnit, it's comforting. I actually love the soupy migas (get 'em with cheese) and the gut-bomb short plate (not so much now that I'm older). They seem to have had the same six employees for about twenty years now. I also think that some of those hipsters are just regular poor people - it's cheap as hell to eat there.

                                  2. Salt Lick....Love their sweet potato fries, but their brisket, I kid you not, is chewy and their port ribs have virtually no flavor!!! Talk about over-rated...

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: TaseT

                                      Since when does the Salt Lick have sweet potato fries?

                                      1. re: bookgrrl72

                                        It most assuredly doesn't. Their only sides are potato salad, cole slaw, and beans. maybe they're talking about the ill-fated concept restaurant Salt Lick 360 that closed a coupla years back. They had salads and steaks and stuff, so maybe sweet potato fries also?

                                        1. re: willtryanythingonce

                                          They did. I only admit that I know this as I live in the immediate area and options are very scarce.

                                          1. re: willtryanythingonce

                                            willtry...the RR location has been serving sweet potato fries for a while. I sat there and ate them a week ago.

                                      2. There's not much I like about Magnolia -- their coffee is swill, the service is terrible, and the ambience is for crap. Their queso is amazing, though.

                                        Kerbey Lane: pass.

                                        I really like Chuy's. I think it's a good value for the money, and really, when I go there it's a social occasion and it becomes about dining (the pleasurable act of spending time with others and eating is not the focus) rather than eating. And I just have a soft spot in my heart for those big-ass burritos filled with refried beans and shredded chicken. LOVE.

                                        Same thing with the Salt Lick: I've had better bbq almost everywhere else, but the ritual of driving out there, drinking a few beers or a bottle of wine while waiting for a table, then getting those sectioned plastic plates with globs of potato salad and coleslaw is just comforting. Plus I love their blackberry cobbler.

                                        The food at Polvo's is unremarkable, except for that black salsa -- YUM. My husband LOVES the potatoes and their sauce that come on the breakfast plates. He always asks them to substitute the ranchero sauce with that red sauce the potatoes come in for his eggs. We always leave there smelling gross, though.

                                        And I have a soft spot in my heart for the veggie flaquities at Trudy's, even though going there is a nightmare and every other damn thing on the menu is crap.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: bookgrrl72

                                          I don't like the bbq at Salt Lick, but I do like their sides. Their not-quite-german potato salad is pretty tasty in my opinion, but I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.

                                          It is a tourist trap, but it is fun to take a group of visitors out there and have them experience the beautiful drive, the relaxed country atmosphere, and the BYOB fun. Most of the time they don't even know the barbeque is pretty mediocre with nothing to compare it against. If they come back to town again, then I take them to my favorite scruffy bbq joint next for some better food.

                                          1. re: verily

                                            Verily
                                            More info on your favorite scruffy barbecue joint?

                                            1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                              Not to respond for verily, but Smitty's in Lockhart is heads and tails above Salt Lick. I agree the Salt Lick has become a tourist haven. I know quite a bit about bbq and smoke a lot of different meats myself. I too liked the potato salad at the Salt Lick, but was quite disappointed with their brisket and ribs. I mean, how can one of the big names in central TX bbq mess up a brisket?

                                              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                Johnny T's in Round Rock. I love their moist brisket, pulled pork, and sides (sweet potato fries, apple slaw, tamale potato casserole, baked beans...). Nothing pretentious about the place, just order up at the counter and then find a seat at one of the oilcloth covered tables filling the single room.

                                                I also like Ruby's when I've got a vegetarian or two with me.

                                                I think Smitty's and Kreuz are excellent as well, but I generally don't get down to Lockhart that often and never think to take guests there.

                                          2. Love Matt's El Rancho. It's popular to bash here.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: cstrombe

                                              Agreed. Love Matt's queso and their red sauce that's not quite chili gravy.

                                            2. How about Guero's on Congress? The food is okay, but...just too many posers. Anybody?

                                              1. I love Sonic. Chains are almost universally reviled, and fast food is a step below that in chowhound world.

                                                But when I'm out there trying burgers, the platonic ideal I'm comparing it to in my head is the Supersonic Doublecheesburger, a feat of fat and cheese. The fact that I can get blue coconut slushes there too seals the deal, and I find the creampie milshakes sublime.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: NWLarry

                                                  Don't forget the tots. Hard to find tots these days. Bravo to Sonic for keeping the tot alive.

                                                  1. re: NWLarry

                                                    Sonic definitely has some tasty drive-in offerings, but I just can't handle the fact that they use MSG liberally in their food.

                                                  2. I still have a spot in my heart for Threadgill's. One too many tough chicken fried steaks to go back to that well, but the fried catfish and the ham steak are always reliable. I love the yeast rolls and there are enough tasty sides (broccoli rice casserole, garlic cheese grits, corn off the cob, butter beans, etc.) that I always consider chucking it all for the veggie plate. It's not what it once was, but I still like it.

                                                    And yes, I eat at Thundercloud. Keeping Austin's drummers employed and off the streets for over 20 years, their tuna salad is reliably gloopy (but somehow tasty), and the American Classic with bologna, ham, salami, american cheese, mayo, and yellow mustard always pleases my inner 8 year old.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: brentwood

                                                      Good reply, Brentwood - Threadgill's should have made my initial list of places that are popular to hate. I like the catfish as well....and, thirty or so choices for a 3 or 5 veggie plate.

                                                      Thundercloud: I actually like that Chicken Nada sandwich....

                                                      1. re: brentwood

                                                        i love their fried chicken livers, perhaps because they are hard to find elsewhere?
                                                        but yeah, their sides are great.
                                                        i have no problem with threadgill's.

                                                        i always kind of forget about thundercloud.
                                                        the few times i've eaten there, it's to grab something on the way to swimming at hippie hollow, or something similar.
                                                        that being said, the specials they have are wicked cheap and it's always nice to support local businesses rather than plunk your money down at one of 5 gajillion subways.

                                                        1. re: brentwood

                                                          I like Thundercloud's egg salad sandwich. Cheap and delicious. Office Special is good too, but after seeing the fat/calorie count on it, I wisely stay away from it now.