SXSW 2011 dining recap from a Dallas visitor
Here's my summary from the past few days:
I arrived mid-day Wednesday and the first order of business was to pick up the Fader Fort wristband, and then I grabbed a bite at East Side Drive-In. The place had such a vibrant crowd for the middle of the day! I had the fish and chips at the Bits and Druther's truck. Loved the glowing golden brown batter that was like a tough, crunchy, and minimally greasy shell that housed a heap of flaky and tender cod. The fish paired nicely with the housemade tartar sauce and malt vinegar.
In the afternoon, drove out with some friends (including Lewisvillehounder/donnaaries) for the Jester King/Mikkeller collaboration event, and then did dinner at Black Star Pub & Co-Op. The beers there was a euphoric experience for me as I got to try a wide variety of beers such as the Central Texas brews that don't make their way up here (their house beers, as well as Circle and Thirsty Planet). The way they split the menu between rational/irrational was a clever way of communicating the difference between approchable beers for beer novices and the more complex ones for beer geeks. In other words, there's something for everyone. The guest taps are also impressive and very pleased that I got to try New Belgium's latest sour, Le Terroir and the recently released (512) Black IPA. I also ordered a bowl of their hearty chili, which was not as spicy as the server made it sound, but still had a deep crimson color, nice level of heat, and paired well with their Vulcan rye beer. If I lived in Austin, I know I'd be a regular here.
I spent the daytime eating free food on Thursday at events, so nothing exciting to report until my dinner at Olivia with donnaaries. The weather that night was perfect for dining in the cozy patio. We were hoping to have the lamb tongue fricassee, but they had lamb frites (testicle) on the menu that night. Thinly battered, and the texture/flavor made me think of a gamey, chewy scallop. Each of us ordered an entree. Donna had the bolognese and the pasta had pretty solid firmness for al dente. I had the trout, and I liked the range of flavors between the lightly seasoned fish, tangerines, grene olives, and mushrooms. We shared a duck egg creme brulee for dessert. So rich and savory, with just a tiny wisp of salt, and certainly large enough for two to split.
On friday, the plan was lunch at Franklin BBQ's new location, but I didn't make it there until right at 11, where I was greeted by an 1.5 hour wait in line. I've visited the trailer location before and the pace of this line didn't feel any different. They sold out of meat around 12:45 if I recall correctly, and Aaron was saying they'd been running out of meat around that time due to SXSW. They were out of ribs, but brisket and pulled pork were spot on just like my previous experience there. Really like that they have Dublin Dr. Pepper on the soda fountain too.
Later that day, I planned to go check out Parkside's happy hour, but unfortunately, no happy hour menu at all during SXSW. Walked over to Backspace to munch on some Neapolitan pizza. Had a margherita and was just as good as the pizzas I've had at Cane Rosso in Dallas. Soft and springy crust with a nice char all around, and everything held together. I've got no complaints and thought it was an all around a good Neapolitan pie. Definitely one of the best that you can get around these parts.
Had plans to hit some events nearby the trucks on Rainey on saturday, so took a look at the trucks over there. I'm not surprised that they had special SXSW menus, but it was a disheartening experience in general. Cazamance got slammed with a big group (and their menus were all wraps), and nothing sounded particularly exciting at G'Raj Mahal. I was real excited about trying some of the moles and Oaxacan specialties from El Naranjo, but ended up settling for a few tacos. Tortillas from a plastic bag was a little surprising. The al pastor was pretty good, but not quite $3.25 a taco good. I recall seeing somewhere that they're typically $4.50 for 2, so these prices had to have been jacked up just for SXSW! I do want to come back and try again, so when do they typically have these specialty dishes?
I did spot the Filipino food truck mentioned on this thread at one point in the day:
Quite impressed that they do longanisa from scratch too. Will be a must-stop next time I'm in town, but I was heading to the Grackle and had my heart set on East Side Kings. Enjoyed their play on miso ramen. I recall seeing on Fearless Critic that the miso broth was overseasoned, but certainly wasn't the case when I tried it, and I liked that they were spot-on with the temperature of the broth. All of the other wonderful components like the poached egg, pork belly, and kimchi more than made up for the shortfall of instant noodles.
Austin, Austin, TX