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Jun 20, 2011 06:40 PM

Hello Northerners! I guess Northwest to be specific.....

I have been working in Round Rock (McNeil between 183 and Mopac) for the last two weeks - two weeks to go. It has been fun reading posts by CH who live in/frequent that area...and cataloging suggestions, such as Asia Cafe, Maharaja Cafe, what's coming into the old Kahunas...etc.

So, I was thrilled to discover pani puri. Never had it before. Read the thread on best chaat in Austin, and I am a rabid fan. My first was at Hot Breads - and I have to say, I love it. I love that I got to punch my own puri, and I thought the pani was AMAZING (I googled pani puri for a better idea of what luckyfatima and others were saying). I had it again at Maharaja Cafe, and although I loved it, it lacked a certain je ne sais quois. BUT - I am headed back to MC for some other intriguing menu items... excited to learn more about Goan cuisine.

Hot Breads has a bunch of items I am unfamiliar with, and some I am. Not a big fan of idli or vada, but their goat khorma was AMAZING. Creamy, voluptuous, spicy sauce, nice tender chunks of meat - not too gamy, but stood up to the spices. Tandoori chicken was phenomenal - spicy, moist, incredible. I am a HUGE fan of Hot Breads, and will return. Maybe tomorrow, unless I get some suggestions I can't miss!

I'm going to do my research on the copious Asia Cafe posts (gotta unclick the 1 year limitation to get into the heart of this one) and figure out how to proceed. I went here twice after Sambamaster's robust reviews, and loved the top-level menu items. Spicy fish, twice cooked pork, etc. Seems like I should pay attention to a slip in quality....any current recs on what is amazing there these days?

I had made the pilgrimage to Chen's noodles once, and was unimpressed, so unless I hear otherwise, that and Sambets will go unrevisited.

Looking to try Deckhand (is that right?) for oysters soon.

SO - the question is - since I am there for lunches for two more weeks - where should I be swinging by at lunchtime? What should I be ordering? I think this area must hold many gems, most of which are out of the search engine of CH. Any and all suggestions welcome...this is a flavor wonderland compared to Mopac and William Cannon!

Thanks for any and all guidance...

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  1. On Parmer at Silver Creek Rd (very close to MoPac), there's a small shopping center with a few restaurants:

    Thai Cuisine has a pretty good lunch deal. Buy an entree and get a soup/salad/appetizer bar for free. I like their pad thai and pad kee mao. I haven't tried the curries yet.

    Tomodachi serves really fresh sushi. Service can be a little slow even at lunch time though.

    Then there's Hoovers at Anderson Mill & 183.

    12 Replies
    1. re: verily

      thai cuisine is a great value for lunch.
      there is also a bbq and burger place there, silver grill, but it's not that great.

      if you are at anderson mill & 183, there is a hole in the wall mexican place, la tapatia.
      if you like spicy, make sure you ask for the green sauce.
      it's like an emulsion of chiles and oil; it's creamy but i don't think it has cream in it.

      1. re: dinaofdoom

        Hi dinaofdoom! I was hoping you would chime in. I saw the sign for Silver Grill, and I am glad that you steered me away.

        I will check out La Tapatia...I wonder if it is any relation to the Tapatias that used to exist at Ben White and S1st (ish) or Ben White and Burleson...if so, I'm there like a bear. I remember a discussion of that kind of green sauce - it is like the one at El Pollo Regio IIRC.

        I'm at Thai Cuisine tomorrow....any other recs?

        El Pollo Regio
        704 W Stassney Ln, Austin, TX 78745

        Thai Cuisine
        4101 W Parmer Ln Ste F, Austin, TX 78727

        1. re: reinadetostones

          yeah, silver grill is not that great.
          it was j&j bbq and grill beforehand.
          they basically changed the name but kept the menu.

          i dunno if the la tapatia is any relation, but their sauce is totally addictive.
          usually i get the combo plate with chicken and pork (either pork option).
          it's a lot of food-- good for leftovers.
          also, the three, two ingredient breakfast tacos before 11 am are CHEAP and good.
          $2.25 i think? it used to be $1.99 but went up recently.

          my only kvetch with thai cuisine is something a lot of asian restaurants do in the US--
          they do not really add that many veggies to their entrees.
          if i get a noodle dish, i usually upgrade to "extra veggies" for a surcharge.
          and, i don't like a lot of onions and peppers so i ask they omit them.
          that way i'm not getting "veggie filler", as i consider it.
          the appetizer bar is usually: two soups, spring rolls, fried spring rolls, crab rangoon type thingies, salad fixings, various sauces, and some kind of dessert.

          i keep meaning to check out capital bbq on pond springs.
          they used to be catering but apparently now do eat in and take out.

          another on my list is some taco place that looks like a shed on wheels.
          it's parked where el pollotron used to be, in the gas station lot at the corner of pond springs and anderson mill.
          from what little i could read while driving by, the menu seems more varied.
          i am hoping it's some joint that does home made tortillas and really good meats.

          the new amigo's on parmer is seriously gringo-ized, with bland, overpriced food.
          in the buns on 183 and lake creek parkway is pretty good for burgers.

      2. re: verily

        Hi verily! Thanks for the suggestions. I went to Tomodachi today and as you reported - really fresh sushi, spotty service. You know what? This is the kind of quality, small scale sushi place I have only found in Sushi Niichi, and without the college students. I had the Chef's Combo C, which was amazing fresh and delicious sashimi array of salmon, lightly seared tuna, and scallop (you NEVER see that on a combo!) with a tekka maki roll and three pieces of some kind of crunchy roll I don't enjoy, so didn't eat. FABULOUS - fresh, delicious...and they offer tempura by the item, so I got a little side of tempura asparagus (only seen this at Uchi before !) and it was nice. I will be back! Thanks - Thai Cuisine tomorrow...and keep the recs coming!

        Uchi Restaurant
        801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

        Thai Cuisine
        4101 W Parmer Ln Ste F, Austin, TX 78727

        1. re: reinadetostones

          tomodachi is on my f list, even though the food is great.

          the last time i was there, the owner was telling x-rated ex-girlfriend stories very loudly.
          it was completely inappropriate and made me very uncomfortable.
          he and the other sushi chef ignored me even though i was literally right in front of them.
          since they couldn't be bothered to stop and take my order, i left.

          it's a shame, because the fish is very fresh and the items are different from what other neighborhood places like midori, momiji and osaka mansun offer.

          1. re: dinaofdoom

            Osaka Mansun is a FAR better dining experience than Tomo. Great Korean offerings and really consistently quality sushi, served by people who actually appreciate your business.

            Give it a try - corner of 183 and Anderson Mill

            Mansun Restaurant
            13492 N Highway 183, Austin, TX 78750

            1. re: jwynne2000

              Second Osaka Mansun.

              It's a hidden gem with talented personable chefs behind the sushi bar, and delicious and interesting preps.

              Mansun Restaurant
              13492 N Highway 183, Austin, TX 78750

              1. re: jwynne2000

                i do really like osaka and pretty much only go there, or momiji for their cheapo deals.
                osaka's bibimbap with banchan is a delicious bargain at $8.95.

            2. re: reinadetostones

              Tomo is my favorite sushi spot in Austin bar none. The quality and selection of fish there, especially on Thursday night is matched only by Uchi. Certain items such as the ankimo (monkfish liver), uni (excellent quality santa barbara variety sea urchin) are the best versions I've had in Austin. The preparation is excellent, with the owner having previously worked at Nobu in Las vegas.

              The service is standoffish and stern until you get to know the chefs there. The atmosphere also has a clubby/frat party like vibe that might turn some off. But the fish brings me back every time.

              Osaka Mansun is also good but a different kind of place. Its more of a value sushi lunch place. So if you don't want anything exotic or just want a nice lunch, Osaka Mansun is a great option.

              Uchi Restaurant
              801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

              Mansun Restaurant
              13492 N Highway 183, Austin, TX 78750

              1. re: lixlix

                agreed-- tomo definitely has more traditional japanese sushi items like the ankimo.
                the other sushi places in the area are a bit more americanized.

                as much as i like the items tomo offers, i just can't get over the ghastly service.
                oh well...

                1. re: lixlix

                  What makes Thursday night stand out at Tomodachi? (guessing that's when they take delivery of fresh fish?)

                  1. re: air

                    well they get shipment of fish on multiple days but thursdays are when they have the most exotic types come in.

            3. Here's a few places to add to your list:

              1) Sunflower - Vietnamese place near Ohlen and 183.

              2) Teji's - Indian place near Round Rock high school on 620. Part store and part restaurant. The owner is a real nice guy and I think the food is very reasonable and tasty.

              3) The Noble Pig - sandwiches shop near 620 and Anderson Mill road. I'm fond of the duck pastrami.

              4) Shandeez Grill - Persian restaurant on Anderson Mill between 183 and parmer. I have only been once but thought it was good enough to try again.

              Shandeez Grill
              8863 Anderson Mill Rd, Austin, TX 78729

              1205 Round Rock Ave, Round Rock, TX 78681

              Noble Pig
              11815 Ranch Road 620 N #4, Austin, TX 78750

              1 Reply
              1. re: ssouth

                sunflower and noble pig may be a little too far for the OP's lunch travel needs, but are great.
                noble pig makes their own bread, condiments and charcuterie-- so delish!

                reina, i'm not sure exactly where on mcneil you are, but here are some directions to teji's:
                head on mcneil from 183 towards mopac, to the high school.
                turn left on old mcneil and go past the creepy rock factory place.
                you will go through a few lights, and under the toll road.
                there will be an intersection with a 7-11 on the left; take this left.
                go a mile or so down this road and pass sysco, a small pond, etc.
                the street will end in an all-way stop; take a right.
                there will be another high school on the left and a shopping plaza on the right.
                you are now at 620, and have arrived!

              2. In the Riata area is the eponymous Riata Bar & Grill. Most of the food is pretty average, but the veggie burger stands out.

                Al Forno (next to Little Woodrows on Parmer) has pretty good wings and panini sandwiches.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jwynne2000

                  although i haven't been to riata bar & grill in a while, their beef burgers used to be really good.
                  the fries are pre-frozen curly variety, though.

                2. Hey! That's my 'hood! Noble Pig probably should be at the top of your list, I'm a believer.

                  I have actually been to the Taco Stand at Pond Springs a few times, and it ranges from good to awesome. Not sure why the inconsistency, but I have had some great tacos there.

                  On the sushi front, Midori is kind of my favorite. It's not the best, but the bang for your buck is pretty high, and the service has always been exceptional. Finally, I'm a big fan of Moonie's Burgers at 183/Anderson Mill. They have this kind of grilled sweet bun that I think is great, and they also have insanely good Blue Bell milkshakes.

                  Noble Pig
                  11815 Ranch Road 620 N #4, Austin, TX 78750

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: NWLarry

                    nwlarry, have you been to the taco stand very recently?
                    if so, do you recall what they offer?
                    before, it was an el pollotron trailer and therefore a lotta chicken.
                    i think the new trailer is reyes tacoria or something...

                    reina, la tapatia is in the same plaza as moonie's.
                    there is also reale's (pretty good pizza for the area) and el greco, which is greek and awful imho.

                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                      I haven't been very recently-maybe 6 months or so. Troy talked about it here before though: I have had some good tacos there!

                      Do you mean Tino's at that center? Which I personally like.

                      1. re: NWLarry

                        oh! yes, tino's, sorry.
                        i think i am spoiled on greek, coming from boston w/ such a large greek community.

                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                          The El Greco I went to down near campus was terrible. Tino's is what it is, as the kids say. The falafel is forgettable and the tabbouleh inconsistent, but I like their hummus. And the insane amount of food you get.

                          El Greco
                          3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                          1. re: NWLarry

                            the falafel is so bizarre! more like a latke.

                  2. WOW - this is great - I'm working my way through the recs (during an extremely busy time at work) and will report back....tomorrow is Teji's!

                    I just don't know what to do about Tomo - I agree that the sushi was the best I've had in Austin next to Uchi. I was salivating for the natto roll and ankimo on my next visit. But, the sushi chefs ignored me (actually made eye contact and looked away...never experienced this, especially not in Japan) and dod's story is pretty disturbing. Oh, the quandaries we 'hounds experience. Maybe a to go order is the best option? On a Thursday?

                    Uchi Restaurant
                    801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

                    1205 Round Rock Ave, Round Rock, TX 78681

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: reinadetostones

                      you seem to like your indian food. :) you Shouldn't be disappointed with Teji's, it's one of the better indian restaurants in "austin". i've had some average stuff there before, but it's usually pretty good. it might be a bit far from your location, not sure. but you could always order in advance.

                      if you're not indian-ed out, i'd recommend Spicy Monsoon JUST to try the parathas there. if you have them there, then you'll understand why someone would order them instead of naan. though the naan is really good there too. the rest of the food is just above average though. if you're adventurous, try the brain masala... haha (no, haven't tried that one yet, but have had it growing up). the restaurant is off of Mopac and Howard Ln/Wells Branch Pkwy (which is what McNeil turns into).

                      as for your concern with Chen's Nooodle House... yeah, i agree. i think the soups are fairly bland, but i Really like the knife cut noodles. they've got a stirfried noodle dish, which is better than the soup. the best thing there though is the green onion pancakes, which taste similar to the parathas at Spicy Monsoon (except there are green onions in them). not sure you can make a meal out of just that though...

                      Tomo is so good. and the ankimo IS really good... my favorites there though are the Screaming Orgasm and the live octopus (if they have it on the daily menu). i typically just ask for whatever is fresh. i've always had great service whenever i sit at a table. but at the sushi bar, it's fair game... you're better off grabbing the attention of a waitress than ordering from the sushi chefs.

                      It's too far for lunch from your location i'm sure, but one thing i'd recommend since you're already this far north is going to Taste of Ethiopia. this place is over on Grand Avenue parkway in Pflugerville... :| but it's the best Ethiopian food in "austin", imo. plus the owners are SUPER friendly.

                      otherwise, i'd prolly just compare/contrast Asia Cafe and A+A Sichuan China menu items if you run out of places to try...

                      haven't tried Noble Pig yet, but it's on my to-do list....

                      1. re: abidonfood

                        i think chen's is misunderstood sometimes.
                        the soups are simple and meant to be more like peasant food, rather than something filled with huge flavors the way say, thai soups can be.

                        in addition to the green onion pancake, the other pancake with the glass noodles and greens is really tasty.
                        the lamb skewers are also good-- he does well with lamb in general.

                        i never get to pville and so haven't tried taste of ethiopia.
                        but, i do love me some ethiopian and eritrean food.
                        addis red sea in boston was my first and favorite.
                        they didn't have dulet when i lived there, so maybe i will have to find a local version:

                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                          yup, i totally agree with you on Chen's. i actually do still order the soups to go and adjust with lemon juice and thai peppers at home, to my liking...

                          oh, and i agree with you on Tino's also. that place is awful...

                          1. re: abidonfood

                            tino's is just not "greek" to me, really.
                            i guess i have a certain idea in my mind, like skordalia and taramosalata etc.