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Looking for a birthday experience for a 9 year old foody.

We're going to be visiting Austin from Germany for a week in early November. I'm trying to find a restaurant to celebrate my daughter's 9th birthday. Would prefer S/W Austin, we will be staying in Driftwood and have a car. Dinner participants will be 9 adults and one child. Definitely looking for an experience, but not necessarily fancy. Price doesn't really matter if the atmosphere/service is awesome. I want to go someplace memorable (for her, not for me) which means that food can take a back seat to the atmosphere, but shouldn't be left out of the equation

Daughter has been raised on three continents and loves every kind of food.

Any ideas?

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  1. When I hear "foodie" I think Uchi. The restaurant is beautiful and the food is delicious and challenging (in the right way). It's an experience. Take a look at Uchiko too- same people, north Austin location.

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    Uchi Restaurant
    801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

    1 Reply
    1. re: Musidora

      She does LOVE her some sushi! Tuna nigiri with fresh edamame and ginger is one of her favorite meals. Unfortunately we can't afford fresh tuna in Germany, it's cheaper to buy a BMW! That might be a good option....

    2. Salt Lick is in Driftwood, and it's definitely an experience. The barbeque is good.* The cobbler is amazing.
      But what I like is the atmosphere: people bring their own beer and other beverages, and sit around outside waiting--sometimes for hours--for a table. It doesn't sound fun, but it is. It's a nice area, and people are so friendly. The last time we were there, my daughter ended up in a game of hide-and-seek with a bunch of little girls we'd never met before.
      *Another word on the barbeque: chowhounds might be quick to say that Salt Lick does not have the best barbeque in Central Texas; this is true, but central Texas has the best barbeque in America, FWIW. See: http://www.slate.com/id/2118542/entry...

      2 Replies
      1. re: rusty_s

        Have to second the Salt Lick. Food is ok , atmosphere is pure Texas BBQ .

        1. re: cameronaus

          Since my dad lives in Driftwood we've been to the Salt Lick . . . a lot. We do like it, but we are looking for something a little less familiar!

      2. If I was looking for experience, and not fancy... I have some ideas that maybe don't qualify for the full meal, but may be memorable places to check out. I think a kid would like cake balls which are popular right now... http://www.theholycacao.com/ Holy Cacao does good ones and they are in a trailer... Torchy's Tacos is in the same location and they are prety good... they also do Nookies which are deep fried cookie dough.. I haven't had any, but they sound interesting. http://www.torchystacos.com/

        I think Uchi or Uchiko are great choices for a foodie meal and Salt Lick is in Driftwood and the classic BBQ experience.

        Another trailer combination that would be memorable is Odd Duck to Farm Trailer which has high end food at cheap prices http://oddduckfarmtotrailer.com/ They are in the same place as Gourdoughs which serves decadent donuts that a kid would definitely remember http://www.gourdoughs.com/

        Shady Grove is a good choice for a laid back meal... maybe not a huge birthday experience, but if you want a nice patio with plenty of options for kids, I'd recommend it. The kids of a colleague like to watch them make milkshakes http://www.theshadygrove.com/

        There's a couple of Brazilian steakhouses in town where they will keep bringing meat to your table until you are in a meat coma http://www.estanciachurrascaria.com/ http://www.fogodechao.com/

        Cornucopia sells gourmet popcorn and you can go in and sample to your heart's content. I think they will also deliver if you want a large order. http://www.austincornucopia.com/
        I'm a fan of the Dill Pickle

        As far as other restaurants go, I also like Vespaio http://www.austinvespaio.com/ or the South Congress Cafe http://www.southcongresscafe.com/ which are both on Congress and in South Centralish Austin.

        I know not all these places are restaurants, but I was trying to think of places I would think would be neat here in Austin if I was a kid and wanting to do a bit of a birthday food binge.

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        Uchi Restaurant
        801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

        Vespaio
        1610 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

        Shady Grove
        1624 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704

        Torchy's Tacos
        2809 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

        12 Replies
        1. re: shan

          Shan has good suggestions. I was going to mention Shady Grove because of the fun atmosphere. And Holy Cacao, because who doesn't love some cake balls.

          To add to that, you really should take her to Big Top Candy Shop on South Congress.

          Another fun idea, if you have nice weather (which you probably will), is Flip Happy Crepes (another trailer). There will be kids and dogs and people playing board games while waiting for their food (which can take awhile if they're busy). It's a fun atmosphere. Austin certainly does "laid back" well.

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          Shady Grove
          1624 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704

          1. re: stephanieh

            Why have I never heard of cake balls before? Guess we've been out of the country for too long :D.

            The trailer experience is something my kid would love - run around like mad and then have great food? What kid wouldn't like that? The Germans do that well, tons of Beer Gardens out in the middle of nowhere give a the kids a chance to act like maniacs, but the food is usually only so-so.

            1. re: Jen in Germany

              Over by the Torchy Taco and Holy Cacao Trailer is another trailer area too... I haven't tried them, but I'm pretty sure Izzoz Tacos http://www.izzoztacos.com/ is closeby (about a block) and a crepe truck too. I found this website that have a bunch of the trailers listed.. its a huge thing in the city right now http://austinfoodcarts.com/ I'd recommend calling some of them first to make sure they are there if you are traveling a long way to get there. Many trailers are in fixed locations (I've never seen the Holy Cacao or Torchy's trailers move) but places like MeSo Hungry http://mesohungry.biz/, Bananarchy (frozen bananas- yum! http://bananarchy.net/blog/), Sugarstar Cupcakes do occasionally move around. I've heard good things about East Side Kings, but I haven't been there http://www.eastsidekingaustin.com/

              Cupcakes are a big thing in Austin right now too. My personal favorite is Sugar Mamas http://www.sugarmamasbakeshop.com/ but there are others (Hey Cupcake, Lick It Bite It or Both, Polkadots, etc

              )

              My favorite sushi place in town is Mushashino... http://www.musashinosushi.com It's a bit North for you, but that's where my husband craves the tuna.

              On South Congress is there also a trailer area with Cutie Pies http://www.cutiepiewagon.com/ and about 5-6 other trailers I think. It's right across from Vespaio.

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              Vespaio
              1610 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

              1. re: shan

                JenGermany

                Please take your 9 year old to Hey Cupcake.

                Have her bring a cookbook and an apron so she can teach the folks running the place how to properly bake a cupcake.

                Unbelievable that this place has managed to remain open with all the good bakeshops around Austin these days.

                Alternately, if you want one done right go to Sugar Mama's. Her cupcakes are fine but her bars [with the exception of the pecan pie bar-low grade pecans] are the best in Austin.

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  I agree about Hey Cupcake. They are cupcakes, and they are fun, but usually after you buy one, its enough for a lifetime. I think I compared one to a brick with icing elsewhere. I've become addicted to Sugarmama's Churchill cupcake (its available on Thursdays only) but I normally just get the bars. The S'mores and Chocolate Mint bar are crazy good.

                  I was thinking a bit about other places as we were driving to lunch. Galaxy Cafe is a casual food spot that is kid friendly if you want a meal in far South Austin (their original location is at Brodie and Slaughter) http://www.galaxycafeaustin.com/ I also thought Buffet Palace may be a decent place to keep in mind. Yes, its a chinese buffet place. When I go there, I completely ignore the Americanized Chinese food. They have pretty good bulgogi, surprisingly good Miso soup (its over by the sushi) and I really like the seaweed salad. They have plenty of fresh fruit and a soft serve ice cream machine that pleases the kids. If you want to be somewhat adventurous(for a buffet food) while having lots of other safe alternatives around (i.e. sweet sour chicken) its a good choice.
                  The reason I wanted to reply again here was after posting above about Mushashino, we decided to go there for lunch. They are closed for lunch on weekends, but we went upstairs to Chinatown (they share a building) where they serve Dim Sum on the weekends. It was loud and there were alot of kids around, but the Dim Sum was excellent. The carts came around pretty quickly and it was fun trying lots of small plates served hot and fresh. If I was a kid, I would have thought it was super cool with all these options being brought directly to the table to select from.

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                  Buffet Palace
                  4608 W Gate Blvd, Austin, TX 78745

                  1. re: shan

                    I agree, Chinatown on Mopac for dim sum would provide an "experience". It's kind of a fun decor, in an odd "swanky/kitschy" way. It borders on tacky, but in a fun way.

                    Note: there's another Chinatown in Westlake that's not related. The one Shan described is the one on Mopac.

                    1. re: shan

                      The Galaxy Cafe sounds like it will be a hit all around too. I can't wait to tell dad about a Dim Sum place in Austin - he'll be kicking himself for not finding this sooner!

                  2. re: shan

                    I'm going to assign my dad to visiting all these trailer locations (his kind of fun!) and see if he can work it down to one or two spots to visit. What fun!

              2. re: shan

                Wow! My daughter is going to have a blast in Austin this trip!

                I'm thinking we are going to have to hit all the trailers. Sound like we could hit Torchy's followed by Holy Cacao one day and Odd Duck to Farm Trailer followed by Gourdoughs the next. I'm going to have to be rolled out of the state :D.

                The Brazilian steakhouses are something that we've never had the opportunity to try before. Estancia Churrascaria is far enough south to please all the relatives, is upscale enough to please Grandpa (who will probably be paying, so we want him happy :D), and looks like it has some really good beef (which we can't get here in Germany, the cuts are all wrong). That might just be a winner.

                I'm just glad to have a full list of places to check out!

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                Estancia Churrascaria
                4894 Highway 290 W, Sunset Valley, TX 78735

                1. re: Jen in Germany

                  I'm too lazy to look up the thread, but I believe the consensus here was that Estancia Churrascaria was not as good as Fogo de Chao. Fogo is downtown, so I will leave it to you to do the calculations on the benefit of driving further. It is also more expensive, so you would need to consider that as well.

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                  Estancia Churrascaria
                  4894 Highway 290 W, Sunset Valley, TX 78735

                  1. re: gilintx

                    I'll just chime in that we enjoyed Estancia very much with a 5 year old - they made him a special personally-squeezed limeade, and the salad bar (such a misnomer - this was a pretty darn good cold buffet) was fun to explore - lots of up-and-down, but no running around. Every time we drive by my son says "mom- those cheese balls!" referring to the pan de queijo which were very yummy. I've never been to fogo de chao, but the meat we had at Estancia (with the exception of one dry cut of beer) was very good...the lamb may even have been great.

                    1. re: saticoy

                      Thanks for chiming in. Just the thought of having a variety of beef and lamb is setting me to salivating!

              3. I meant to ask... I know you said she likes all kinds of food, but does she have a favorite food?

                5 Replies
                1. re: stephanieh

                  Well, she's a kid, so it changes every time you ask, but her current top five:

                  - Maultaschen mit Ei (a kind of Swabian ravioli sliced and then pan fried with egg)
                  - Green Chicken Curry (from our local Thai restaurant, she likes the "squeaky" eggplant)
                  - the aforementioned Tuna Nigiri (but we can't really afford that here)
                  - Beef Bulgogi
                  - Gyoza (Japanese style pork dumplings)

                  But for her she enjoys the atmosphere of a restaurant and the presentation of the meal almost as much (or maybe more than) the taste/texture of the food.

                  1. re: Jen in Germany

                    Wow! What an impressive palate. She's eaten things I didn't try until my thirties. And I'm going to have to find a recipe for the Maultaschen mit Ei. That sounds soooooo good!!!

                    I thought of a couple of places that are "special occasion" places that would be an experience (and something I'd do more if my dad were paying). Green Pastures is a Victorian mansion with peacocks roaming the grounds. Brunch is the thing to do there.
                    Another special place is Fonda San Miguel.

                    I did really enjoy Estancia Churrascaria, and we left happy and full and feeling like we got our money's worth. I don't want to talk you out of it, but ambience-wise, I thought it was a little less "special" than I'd built it up to be. Also, the salad bar was a lot smaller than the impression I'd gotten from reviews of it. The sides were pretty un-special and they had run out of those little popover rolls, so we had very little to eat when you need a break from the meat overload. The meat, though, was spectacular. And the servers were right on top of things.

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                    Green Pastures Restaurant
                    901 W Live Oak St, Austin, TX 78704

                    Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                    2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                    Estancia Churrascaria
                    4894 Highway 290 W, Sunset Valley, TX 78735

                    1. re: stephanieh

                      Her palate is the direct result of where we've lived. We moved to Asia when she was only one, so her "first foods" were Okinawan, Japanese, Indian, and Chinese. She got in the habit of not questioning ingredients and having lots of fresh (fresh veggies, fresh fruit, fresh fish). A stint in the states dulled that a little, but we are in Europe now and back to fresh!

                      She's eaten at Green Pastures before - I agree that was an experience!

                      Fonda San Miguel is going onto our short list, if for no other reason than the colors! I think we can work that in to our "UT" day for lunch or dinner.

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                      Green Pastures Restaurant
                      901 W Live Oak St, Austin, TX 78704

                      Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                      2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                      1. re: Jen in Germany

                        Just an FYI about Fonda San Miguel - it's only open for dinner Monday through Saturday and for brunch on Sunday.

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                        Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                        2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                2. This looks like fun, if it coincides with your trip... "gypsy picnic" of food trailers and live music

                  http://www.austin360.com/blogs/conten...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: stephanieh

                    It does coincide, and it looks like a lot of fun! Sounds like most of the trailers that Shan mentioned might be there....

                  2. it may not be sophisticated enough for your 9-year-old but my kids both loved a japanese steakhouse at that age. sitting on cushions, shoes off with a good cooking show with flare and a special birthday drink or dessert was golden.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: appycamper

                      Oh, she's by no means sophisticated :D! My husband would be spitting his coffee on the screen if he read this!

                      She actually loves japanese steakhouses, but she's been to a bunch of them. I hadn't really considered them because of that. Now that you mention it though she hasn't been to one since we've moved to Germany and 18 months in her life is still forever, so I'll have to look for those as well. Any good recommendations?

                    2. I'm going to toss the Hula Hut into this mix. The Mexonesian spot has fun decor and you can order one of the pupu platters, like the huli huli luau that includes papas asadas, bbq chicken tacos, flautas, queso,pork ribs, etc. as meal for at least 3 to share My niece and nephew always loved it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sighmesigh

                        This does look like a great experience, thanks for the plug!

                      2. My 9 year-old foodie's favorite Austin restaurants

                        Uichi for anything (havent' been to Uichiko yet)
                        Habana for mofungo
                        Beluga in Round Rock for Sushi
                        Torchy's Tacos
                        Tacodeli (especially from the Farmer's Market)
                        Flip Happy Crepes - Nutella Crepes
                        The Melting Pot - Cheesy goodness
                        Hey Cupcake
                        Chuy's
                        Fortune Chinese for Dim Sum
                        Korea Garden for Bulgogi

                        He's been to China, Turkey, UK, Mexico, a few other places and is up for lots of stuff.

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                        Flip Happy Crepes
                        400 Jessie St, Austin, TX 78704

                        Korea Garden
                        6519 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78752

                        Tacodeli
                        12001 N Mo Pac Expy, Austin, TX 78758

                        Torchy's Tacos
                        2809 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

                        Melting Pot
                        13343 N Highway 183 Ste 350, Austin, TX 78750

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hnewburn

                          I had to go look up the mofungo - man that sounds good!

                          Funny you should mention Nutella Crepes, we had some today! Germany has crepes the way that the states has cotton candy - at every corner of every fair!

                          The Melting Pot sounds like an experience waiting to happen! Can you get a full meal there? I'm trying to imagine fondue as a meal and failing miserably!

                          -----
                          Melting Pot
                          13343 N Highway 183 Ste 350, Austin, TX 78750

                          1. re: Jen in Germany

                            "I'm trying to imagine fondue as a meal and failing miserably!"

                            At least I'm not the only one...

                            1. re: Jen in Germany

                              Yep, you can get a full meal. Bit pot of cheese or broth, meats and vegetables. The dessert fondue is particularly fun - chocolate fondue with marshmallows and fruit. Not a fantastic meal, but a lot of fun for the kid, he's asked to go back a few times.

                          2. I am a twelve year old, who loves food, so maybe I can offer some perspective. First of all, one of my favorite places in Austin is Texas French Bread. Although in the day, it is just a bakery/cafe kind of place, at dinner, they use local ingredients to create fantastic meals. One of my favorite things there is the squash blossoms, stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried. Yum!!!!! texasfrenchbread.com They are close to campus, so it might work with the UT day you mentioned. I agree with everybody about Sugar Mamas, I get my birthday cake or cupcakes there every year. Although I have never been to Buffet Palace, I have always heard bad things about it. Plus, there health inspections are always terrible. Personally, I like Fogo de Chao better than Estancia Churrascaria, they have a bigger selection of just about everything. I like both torchy's tacos and tacodeli very much. Flip happy is really good, but you have to wait forever, because they were on tv with Bobby Flay. Shady Grove is fun, but you want to sit outside. Their food is pretty good, but certainly not amazing. Gourdoughs is really good, and so is the odd duck. When my family and I went, we got a few things at odd duck first (as they sell mostly small plates) and then got a savory and a sweet doughnut at Gourdoughs. I like Galaxy Cafe, and love the dim sum at chinatown. Everyone always talks about the dim sum at shang hai, but i went and had a terrible meal. For Japanese steakhouses, I like Beni Hanas. The melting pot isn't bad, and it is really fun. If I remember correctly, you start off with cheese fondue as an appetizer, then for a main course, they bring out all kinds of raw meat and veggies and stuff, and a bunch of different types of breading. Then you cook it in a pot of oil or something. Then, for dessert, of course, there is chocolate fondue. Hope I didn't overload you with information!! Oh by the way, when your at home in Germany, please eat a nookie nusse for me (i hope i spelled it right, it is an ice cream cone with nutella, chocolate, and hazelnuts), as it is the best ice cream on Earth.