I only have 2.5 days and I'm afraid I might just have to eat everything
I'm headed to Austin the first weekend in April with bf. This will be my very first time south of the Washington DC. I can't even tell you how excited I am.
I've lived in and around New York City and Montreal my entire life. I want to learn about your city via my food and to eat something that I will miss back up north. I'm steering away from french, italian, chinese, japanese. Also, traveling on a student budget means I'm trying to keep meals very cheap...lunch around $10, dinners in the 20-25$ range (before alcohol). Also, bf doesn’t eat beef, so anywhere that’s beef and no other options is a no go. (I, on the other hand, plan on eating A LOT of burgers and brisket and beef tacos) So true austinites....will you guide my decision making?
So far, plan on driving out to Salt Lick one afternoon/early evening. Might try to stop at one of the local vineyards on the way there or back. Good idea?
Here's a list I've compiled from yelp/ other chowhound posts/ word of mouth from people living in Austin. I'd love any thoughts you have.
-headed out to Salt Licks
casino el camino (I’ve heard really mixed things…)
Nubian queen lola’s Cajun soul food
Flying Falafel and Po Boys
The Jalopy rotisserie and press
Lucky J’s Chicken and Waffles
Along came a slider
Lucky’s puccias (I know I said I was aiming away from Italian but this truck just looks quite unique!)
Something sweet to get the tourist energy up:
-sugar mamas bake shop
cutie pie wagon
To drink and be merry:
Black sheep lodge
Opa! Coffee and wine bar
Is the food at the Alamo Drafthouse worth it?
Also, any breakfast/brunch recommendations out by Barton Springs on a Sunday?
Casino El Camino
517 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
600 E 3rd St, Austin, TX 78701
Habanero Mexican Cafe
501 W Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
Sao Paulo's Restaurante
2809 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78705
621 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701
Nubian Queen Lola Cajun Soulfood Kitchen
1815 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702
1614 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702
Salt Lick Restaurant
18300 Fm 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX
Of your list, don't miss the Salt Lick SUNDAY for lunch and have their baby back ribs. Its the best thing on the menu and they only have it on sunday (but they sell out and don't have them all day).
Also, for sweets - Mrs.Johnson's donuts on airport - hit them up late evening (after 9pm ish). Get whatever they've just fried.
For drinks I love East Side Showroom and Haddington's. Fino is also good.
Foreign and Domestic is also one of my favorites. Lamberts as well (happy hour is reasonable - 7 days a week)
Unfortunately, I am short of time, but I wanted to comment on one item, the Alamo Drafthouse.
Folks here are pretty critical of Drafthouse food, and I guess I can't blame them. Except for their signature food events, it's not great food. However, I will say that I like it much more than what I have read from others here.
If I get a burger, I don't expect a great burger, I expect a pretty good burger that I am thrilled I get to enjoy with my movie at a price that seems almost free compared to normal movie concessions.
I can spend $40 for my wife and I to see a movie and each have a popcorn and a coke. Or I can spend $40 for my wife and I to see a movie (with much better pre-movie entertainment) while we each have a beer, share a giant bowl of better popcorn, then split a piece of pie or share a chocolate shake.
If we're hungrier we can split a pizza or each have a good salad or sandwich, it's a great place and a must see for the Austin experience imo. I would say it's one of the top 5 best things about living in Austin, TX.
2nd. The Alamo Drafthouse just isn't "a movie theater". Entertainment Weekly named it best in the nation a few years back, and there's a reason Tarantino has an annual film marathon there and not at the local GalaxyLoewsCinamarkplex. The special events are a big part of that but even seeing a regular first run movie is more fun there; I like their themed pre-shows (watching old spiderman or iron man cartoons before those films is far superior to a slideshow advertising local real estate agents and optometrists).
I'm a little puzzled by some of the other selections. Like, some of those trailers are nice, but i wouldn't generally classify them as "something that I will miss back up north". I'd drop about half the trailers and add in Odd Duck and Rosita's Taco's Al Pastor. I dunno how you can get an idea of Austin trailers and not hit one taco truck.
I think OP is smart, given her stated goal, to steer clear of "french, italian, chinese, japanese" (excepting Uchi(ko) which is likely otherwise eliminated by the stated student budget). I'd add Korean to the steer-clears, and question how Koriente got the try list. That place is maybe one step and a half above fast food.
For Barton Springs brunch spots, you might read some Paggi House reviews, it's right down the road.
621 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701
200 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78704
1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
also, chow just did a tour of austin.
the videos will give you some ideas.
you should look at http://austinfoodcarts.com/ for more ideas and to browse the menus.
we have a LOT of happy hour specials here, so that is going to be your best bet to try some fancier or pricier places at a much lower cost.
here are some good sites:
checking this site is a pretty good idea too:
I only have a few minutes, but let me comment on your list as quickly as I can:
The very best pick here is Nubian Queen Lola's. Honestly, none of the others on your sit down list really move me, food-wise (although I have not been to Habanero or Casa Colombia, and it has been ages since I've been to Casino el Camino).
For BBQ, I'd recommend Franklin or Lambert's. That said, I do think Salt Lick is kind of a fun Austin-y/Texas-y experience, so I wouldn't necessarily discourage you from going - just know that the BBQ won't be the best you can get (it won't be *bad*, though).
For burgers, Hopdoddy's is my favorite.
For tacos, I love the divey Tacqueria Arandas on Burnet. Their beef tongue tacos are insanely good, and cost practically nothing. Or La Michoacana on E. 7th. Both very "authentic" experiences.
I think Hoover's beats Moonshine in the "home cooking" category (and it's cheaper).
La Condesa is also worth a visit. Polvo's is another good option for Mexican.
Agree with M3lissa's Foreign & Domestic recommendation.
I think Odd Duck Farm to Trailer is our crowning jewel in this category. Go early, because they sell out and the waits get LONG. I also love Peached Tortilla and East Side Kings (both locations - different menus). Chi'Lantro is good, too.
I like the folks who run Flying Falafel, and think their food is good, but not "I have 2.5 days in Austin" good.
Skip Hey Cupcake. Skip. Skip. Skip. Sugar Mama's is MUCH better.
Big Top Candy Shop on S. Congress is fun, and they have an old fashioned soda fountain in the store.
Woodland has great pies.
Not a bad list, except that you should definitely skip Maggie Mae's, IMO. I also really like the grouping of bars in the Rainey Street district (Icenhauer's, Lustre Pearl, Clive, etc.)
La Condesa serves brunch. Zax has a nice brunch and a build-your-own bloody Mary bar. Taverna has a decent brunch that is elevated significantly by their offer of $1 mimosas or bellinis. I also like South Congress Cafe (for brunch or just a regular meal). Trace in the W also serves a wonderful brunch, and it's pretty reasonably priced compared to other meals there.
Don't know that I'd say the food at Alamo is "worth it," but it's not bad, and I do love the Alamo experience. Option #2, you could go grab a bite somewhere awesome and just hit a movie there later and order a beer and a snack to get part of the experience.
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701
1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Salt Lick is a fun drive and atmosphere-wise a fun place. Plus BYOB.
But you really need to go to Franklin for barbecue. The brisket is consistently some of the best in the state and is awesome. Plus Aaron and the crew are super friendly. Get fatty brisket with bark/crust/burnt ends, and round out with some of the other meat (which is quality as well). Show up before 11 (when they open) as there will be a line. If you show up around 1 they will probably be out of meat.
Regarding the Alamo, hit the South Lamar location for an early show and have a few beers. Then when the movie is over, go across Lamar and hit up Odd Duck for dinner/snacks. OD is in a lot with a couple other trailers, including Gordoughs which serves fancy huge donuts.
1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Driftwood vineyard is really close to Salt Lick..you can buy one of their good bottles of wine for under $10 and take it with you to enjoy with your bbq. Salt Lick may not have the best BBQ but the experience is very Austin and worth the drive to see the Hill Country. Hopefully some of the wildflowers will start to pop out if you're lucky. Maggie Mae's has been a longtime college tradition so it's worth having a drink there, plus you can go upstairs and look down on 6th streeet to people watch.
I'm going to get reamed by a lot of hounds on this one (we are spoiled here by an abundance of Tex-Mex), but you really don't have much Tex-Mex here. Even places that seem to get little respect on this board, Chuy's, Maudies, Guero's, Maria's Taco Express will be much better and cheaper, i'd wager to bet, than what you'd get in DC.
Personally, i like Sazon for more interior like Mex for a lot cheaper than Fonda San miguel. For Basic Tex-Mex i like El Chile. I do hear good things about Habanero, though I've never been.
One more thought:
Remember if you drive out to Salt Lick, you have to bring your own alcohol.
1412 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
1816 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
I can sense that the Salt Lick current is too strong to fight in this case, but I'll do it anyway. Drive to Lockhart and get 'cue at Kreuz, Smitty's, and Black's instead. It's the quintessential TX 'cue experience. The atmosphere at Smitty's alone is worth is. And the food is exponentially better than the Salt Lick. Visiting Austin and skipping Lockhart is like visiting Montreal and avoid Au Pied de Cochon. Unthinkable.
The rest of your list sounds fun. I visit Habanero almost weekly, though I'm not sure it'd make my 2 1/2 days list.
Wow, you folks are amazing. You've given me so much to debate. I'm definitely not trying to skip the Tex Mex so will be sure to work those in there. And I'm glad to hear about some of the other BBQ alternatives to Salt Lick. I'll be sure to report back!
Hmm, a few quick thoughts.
Magnolia Cafe at some point, avoid Hoover's, you can do better than Salt Lick, and austin food carts has a great overview here:
Oh, and given your bar selection, Mohawk is right down the street from Emo's, check their schedule if you are looking for music.
A few random thoughts . . . mostly about the drinking.
I'm fond of Emo's as I've seen hundreds, if not thousands of loud bands there over the years. But it's really more of a live music venue than anything. If you want to go to a grungy live music venue just to drink, you're better off down the road apiece at Beerland, which feels more like a bar. Casino el Camino is listed as a sit-down place, but make no mistake: it's a bar that happens to have notably large burgers. It is also the only place I would consider drinking on Sixth Street. If you want divey drinks downtown, I would suggest getting drinks (and a burger, if you want to try their burgers) at Casino and walk down Red River to Beerland and then to Club DeVille. These places all have a solid, divey vibe.
The Continental Club (south of the river) is also definitely a live music venue, but I've had drinks there during the day and it could be viewed as an antidote to the rest of South Congress.
If you're a beer person, you definitely need to go to the Ginger Man. I was just at the Black Sheep Lodge and it's really turned into a meat market, but it has a cleaner, slicker vibe than the other places I've mentioned.
If you're into proper Texas-y dives, then Ginny's Little Longhorn north of downtown on Burnet is a must.
I have sympathy for the notion that you have to go to Lockhart (though I would say Luling, which is further down the road), but I think the Salt Lick is perfectly adequate and can be very enjoyable for visitors from the coasts. Just know that it's not the best BBQ in the region by some distance.
I'm from the San Antonio area, so I've never really bothered with the Tex-Mex here and haven't taken it upon myself to investigate the places (though I should follow up on some of scrumptious chef's recs). Anyway, I go to Habanero from time to time because it's convenient and good enough, but their use of french fries for potatoes should be frowned upon.
re: The Eater
Thanks The Eater. Yeah, a lot of those nightlife selections were chose for music reasons but it's good to know about the other places. I am a beer person and will be heading out to the Ginger Man. I think Habanero is off the list, no one seems impressed.
Around the New York tri-state area, some AMC theatres are trying to introduce dine in movies. I have a feeling the experience at the Alamo will be much more special and I think that for someone not used to the heat, a midafternoon/ earling evening movie to take a break from all the eating and bat watching and campus touring might just be the thing. Thanks for the recs!
If you do have the time, I would hit up the DraughtHouse for beer (not the movie theatre), located on 42nd and medical. Bar has been around in some shape or another for 42 years. Plus lots of taps, lots of texas beers and some house beers as well. You can sit in the parking lot and drink or chill inside in the bar.