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austin itinerary - any edits/suggestions?

hello fellow CHers. my husband and i are spending 3 days/nights in austin next week and would love some critique of our itinerary if you feel strongly we're missing anything notable.

lakeway - 1 night/day
*rocco's (going with family, can't really change this one)
*breakfast at lakeway resort
*open to lunch suggestions this day - black star co op looks intriguing

downtown - 2 nights/days
we're staying at the radisson across from the congress st bridge, so walking distance spots are ideal as we won't have a car.
*breakfast/brunches: la condesa, + need one more rec
*lunches: franklin BBQ, torchy's tacos
*dinners: parkside -OR- el arbol??? lambert's bar menu

thanks in advance for your help. we've researched this quite a bit and want to be sure we're sampling the best austin has to offer.

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  1. Wish I could suggest Pinos @ lakeway(hudson bend) but it had a fire.

    Sure you know to get to Franklins early.

    Torchys? Meh. Not for one of a few meals. Polvos for fajitas or Reds Porch for the whole Austin package would be a better choice.

    El Arbol's appeal is the cool treehouse patios and right about now that's a negatory, but at least it's shaded, which Reds porch is not.

    If. You're willing to endure the heat my vote is Odd Duck trailer

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    Odd Duck
    1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

    6 Replies
    1. re: amysuehere

      Yes, the heat. The only people who are out walking now are doing it out of necessity. Eat close to where you are, if you're hungry, and be glad you don't have to pay the utility bill.

      1. re: amysuehere

        thanks amysue. question though - i see that austin is in the 70's in the evening, would el arbol's patio not be tolerable for dinner?

        noted on torchy's - red's looks great, but not during the middle of the day. i think we're half nuts to be visiting austin in the dead of summer! is there anywhere near town lake, or that has misters that combines a nice view and decent food?

        1. re: beachbunnySD

          Not Amysue, but here's my .02"
          Not sure where you got your weather information, but you're not going to want to eat outside for dinner, even with misters. If the temperature dips below 95 at 9pm, it's a cool night. Parkside is a great choice since you'll only sweat *a* bucket instead of many and you sit indoors.

          I see that you're interested in views, but really, there's not much to look at. We're in the midst of the second worst drought on record. Stay close to your hotel and stay hydrated.

          1. re: agoodbite

            Agreed. Most places with a view lack any foodie inspiration. Arbol is a nice multi-deck patio, but built so there's no ventalation.

            We walked the dogs last night @ 9:30 and it was still over 100. Stay inside and go for the more inspired food.

            However, if a view is a must, go to the best one and go to Billys @ the Oasis complex; have a beer (or two if you can stand the oppresive heat - remember, we're used to this and it's unreal to us), skip the horrible food, and then pick dinner somplace cool and wonderful.

            1. re: amysuehere

              bummer - i guess accuweather.com isn't so accurate. it's saying upper 70's at night.

              likewise, fantastic views + fantastic food don't really marry very often here in san diego either. for as much coastline as we've got, it seems restaurants rest on their laurels when they have a view to attract customers.

              thanks for all the help. i'll be sure to report back after our stay in your fine city. we're certainly looking forward to checking out austin and lake travis.

              1. re: beachbunnySD

                The night time temperature is really the overnight low temperature, which is usually the temperature just before dawn. This would be true of most weather forecasts.

      2. The downtown portion looks pretty solid. La Condesa is great. Had a memorable meal there last week. Franklin's is really, really great - but you have to be willing to spend the time in line. And it's pretty hot right now. But, man, it's good. It's a cab ride but you might also enjoy Uchiko. Or Foreign & Domestic, too.

        http://www.uchiaustin.com/
        http://fndaustin.com/new/

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

        Uchiko
        4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

        Foreign & Domestic
        306 E 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751

        10 Replies
        1. re: paternite

          La Condessa has been mediocre in my past three visits (and before, really). The pato con mole is most often MR (and not MR+, which I would argue is the only temp at which duck breast should be served), the service is slow, but friendly, and cool tastings, or ceviches, are uninspired and heavy-handed.

          That said, what did you enjoy,and what and am I missing? Do I not get it?

          Also, Uchiko and Franklin are awesome, but why would anyone support Ned Elliott? Just sayin'.

          1. re: bubbleboy79

            Hmmm. What's the beef with Ned Elliot? He seems like a good guy. Treated us very well when we ate at the chef counter. We also shared some time in Cincinnati.

            As for La Condessa. This was my one and only time there but the food was excellent.
            We had a special halibut ceviche, a venison taquito, a crazy good rabbit salad with a quail egg and a bunch of other things I can't recall. Overall, quite delicious.

            1. re: paternite

              Fair enough about La Condessa. I have friends who like the place, but I don't get it. For the dollar, there are probably ten places I like better. But everyone's different, and I don't think it's a bad restaurant, just not my favorite.

              Too many stories about Ned Elliott, too many friends who have worked for him, not to mention the Eater interview. Like the restaurant (been a few times), and understand where he's coming from, but still. And I suppose that this is almost another topic, but at what point are the chef and the restaurant the same?

              1. re: bubbleboy79

                Bubbleboy, my first two visits to La Condesa left me cold, too. For some reason, the third time was the charm, and now it's one of my favorite spots. I think their menu is just a little hit or miss, or they're inconsistent. But I've been probably a total of 10-15 times, now, and have been enthusiastic every time save the first two.

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

                1. re: Optimista

                  I'll be there again soon, no doubt, any recs?

                  1. re: bubbleboy79

                    The huarache with the huitlacoche. The guacamole with chipotle and toasted almond. The ceviche made with the trout. The tostadas with the lump crab meat. On the lunch menu, the pollo or pescado tacos (you can mix and match). Skip the cochinita pibil - the one time I had it, it was dripping with grease. On the brunch menu, the huevas condesa. That should get you started...

                      1. re: bubbleboy79

                        Bubbleboy, I was there again recently and had the hamachi ceviche, and thought it every bit as resplendent as a similar dish I'd had at Uchi recently (also probably every bit as pricey). Also had tostadas with a wagyu on them which were fantastic - but again, on the pricey side - around $15 for three tortilla-chip-sized tostadas. We tried the beet cake for dessert, and although I don't like beets, I thought it one of the best desserts I've had in recent memory.

                        -----
                        Uchi Restaurant
                        801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

                2. re: bubbleboy79

                  yeah please elaborate on Elliott-I didn't see anything in that interview that rubbed me the wrong way. I like F&D-it swings for the fences a lot, but I appreciate that.

                  1. re: NWLarry

                    It's not really worth elaborating upon, but an open-secret among the Austin industry. I'd never work there, and most people I know never would. His NYC background is also interesting, and I'd love to hear the full story of what transpired at UN.

          2. thanks for the recs everyone. would you replace parkside or el arbol with uchiko? i'm 6.5 month prego and therefore can't experience all of the wonderful offerings they have. although it does look like they have some cooked items.

            also - any suggestions for a lunch or brunch resto with a view near town lake, and good food?

            3 Replies
            1. re: beachbunnySD

              My lunch suggestion would be Shoreline Grill.

              Near Lady Bird Lake (AKA Town Lake)?... check - it's footsteps away, between the Radisson and the Four Seasons.
              Good Food?... Check - Great Food, with regional influences and locally sourced produce.
              View?... Check - It's on the shoreline of the lake, just east of the Congress Ave bridge. Also a nice location to watch the bats emerge just before twilight.

              -----
              Shoreline Grill
              98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

              1. re: beachbunnySD

                I love El Arbol's steak. If you're craving it, I feel that they have the best in town. That being said, Uchiko and Parkside are a cut above El Arbol, IMHO.

                Uchiko is probably torture for pregnant ladies avoiding raw or gentlycooked foods, and hyper-expensive. I also had one of the best meals of my life there. Quandary.

                Parkside has a diverse menu including raw items. Plenty of cooked items too! Currently my favorite "go-to" spot in all Austin for a pricey-but-not-holy-crap-pricey meal. Tom Colicchio's well-advertised recent visit has made the place more of a s*** show than normal, though, so maybe call ahead.

                1. re: beachbunnySD

                  Parkside's great, especially on Wednesday when oysters and bubbles are half price.

                2. Yep, as previously mentioned and as unfortunate it is, it'd be a shame to go to Uchi or Uchiko and not be able to eat the raw stuff; that's pretty much the whole shebang in my opinion. Whenever I go there with someone, we usually end up eating one cooked dish to four or five raw.

                  I had a braised pork jowel with polenta and grilled peaches at Parkside a couple nights ago that was fantastic. Their sweetbreads are always tasty... there are certainly some dishes I've liked better than others there, but in all honesty I don't think I can say I've ever really had a bad dish.

                  I'll also agree with some people's opinion that La Condesa is totally overrated, as is Torchy's (used to be good, but I think now has fallen from grace due to over-saturating the market)... I'd go to El Naranjo if you want a Taco Fix. As for El Arbol, I think it's great... the grilled octopus appetizer is fantastic, and I'd highly recommend the grilled escolar entree if they're still serving it.

                  1. I really like Black Star Co-op, but it's nowhere near Lakeway. I haven't been, but a friend whose taste I trust thinks Plates by Dzintra out there is one of the best restaurants in the Austin area. I also had a nice meal at Apatite in Lakeway, recently (but aforementioned friend thinks Plates is better).

                    What about Paggi House for brunch? The food is good, and there's kinda-sorta a view from their patio, but as others have mentioned, you really do not want to be sitting outside right now. Alan's Shoreline Grill suggestion is a good one, as well.

                    Agreed with others about skipping Torchy's. If you want something of that genre (non-traditional tacos), I'd definitely choose TacoDeli, instead.

                    My husband doesn't much like raw fish, and he's a big Uchiko fan. They have quite a few great cooked options; best edamame I've ever had, gyutan (beef tongue) nigiri; nasu (eggplant) nigiri; great pork belly; etc., etc., etc. I'd for sure choose Uchiko over El Arbol, although I like the latter well enough.

                    -----
                    Shoreline Grill
                    98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

                    Paggi House
                    200 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78704

                    Uchiko
                    4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Optimista

                      We took a pregnant friend to Uchiko a couple of months ago & asked the waiter to request the chef feed us with the requirement of nothing raw. We had several dishes & all were incredible! Some were not on the menu. So, I would not shy away from Uchiko!

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                      Uchiko
                      4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

                    2. I'm obviously in the minority that still likes Torchy's. I think they are great, I love the Mr. Pink Tacos and the Brushfires, but hey, I'm all for backlash. Having said that-I don't think Torchy's world domination has really invaded downtown yet. And y'all don't have a car.

                      But if you are looking for an awesome trailer experience, you are pretty close to G'Raj Mahal, which is open late, has a great patio, and food that is so consistently good. If MMMpanadas, Chi Lantro or Coolhaus show up, those are all great too.

                      Based on walking distance restaurants, here is how I would rank them: Lambert's, Parkside, Chez Nous, and La Condesa. Lambert's is my personal favorite restaurant in Austin. Chez Nous is a tiny, yummy French place right off 6th. I haven't been to Congress, but the reviews are all stellar.

                      I kind of like splitting the differenc and hitting La Condesa for brunch. It's kind of an 'it' place, and the service suffers on a weekend night. You might think about South Congress Cafe for brunch as well, especially if you can combine it with some general hanging out on Congress, which you should.

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                      Chez Nous
                      510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

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

                      1. If you are in Lakeway, it would be a shame to miss Buster's BBQ. I have not eaten in their new digs, but back when they were at the legion hall, I enjoyed a garlic H-Bomb regularly. That is one unique IMPOSSIBLY good sandwich. Not for the timid, tho. Your belly will feel like the Enewetak atoll circa 1952--but in an awesome, mind-melting, "What hath God wrought??" kinda way.

                        http://www.busterslakeway.com/

                        [Edit: I just re-read the list and saw that you are great with child...better not risk the H-Bomb. A tamer option is likely appropriate here. If you have the Bomb, your baby will be disappointed with every other food for the rest of his or her life. The bar will just be too high, and that's not fair. --DW]