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Mar 24, 2011 06:49 PM

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.

Sit down:
-headed out to Salt Licks
casino el camino (I’ve heard really mixed things…)
Moonshine Grill
Habanero Café
Nubian queen lola’s Cajun soul food
sao paulos

Food truck/stand/trailer:
Ugly Banjos
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
hey cupcake
cutie pie wagon

To drink and be merry:
Maggie Mays
Continental club
Saxon pub
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

Koriente Restaurant
621 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701

Nubian Queen Lola Cajun Soulfood Kitchen
1815 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702

Casa Colombia
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

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  1. 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)

    1. 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.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Craenor

        if there is not a special food & film event you are going to, i would say stick with this advice.
        also, the pizzas tend to be a solid choice (they are not huge, more personal size).
        since you mentioned your student budget, they do offer a matinee and pizza special.

        1. re: Craenor

          If you only have 2.5 days, I don't think you'd want to spend it in a movie theater anyway. Too much other stuff to see and do.

          1. re: amykragan

            Admittedly, I'm a big fan of movies, but I actually disagree. I think that if someone only had six hours to spend in Austin, two of those hours should be spent at the Drafthouse. (I don't work there, I swear.).

            1. re: Craenor

              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.

              Koriente Restaurant
              621 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701

              Paggi House
              200 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78704

              Odd Duck
              1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

        2. also, chow just did a tour of austin.
          the videos will give you some ideas.

          you should look at 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:

          1. I only have a few minutes, but let me comment on your list as quickly as I can:

            SIT DOWN:

            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.

            FOOD TRUCKS:
            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.

            DRINK/BE MERRY:
            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.

            La Condesa
            400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

            Odd Duck
            1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

            1 Reply
            1. re: Optimista

              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.

              Odd Duck
              1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

            2. Driftwood vineyard is really close to Salt 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.