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Aug 2, 2012 08:43 PM

Most Legit Soul Food in Austin

I've heard everything from Hoover's to Threadgill's. Which places in Austin have the BEST soul food?

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  1. I haven't really been anywhere in town that remotely compares to my home state of Mississippi (or anywhere else in the deep south), but then again... I'd much rather live here than there, haha.

    I think Threadgill's kinda sucks. I was very excited to see that they had liver & onions on their menu, but it was disappointing. The other stuff I've had there wasn't very tasty, either.

    All of my experiences at Hoover's have been decent, but a bunch of people on here have had worse experiences. Like I said earlier, doesn't even remotely compare to home. Do I eat there sometimes when I'm really craving something sorta close to what I grew up with? Yes. Am I ever really satisfied afterwards? No.

    Hill's Cafe has some good stuff; their chicken fried steak is great and their sides are tasty. It's definitely upper tier as far as Austin goes. I don't think of it as soul food though, nor do I really think of any place in town as such... it's more what I'd just call "home cooking." That's not a criticism, though!

    Two places I haven't been that are supposed to be great: Maxine's in Bastrop (great reviews), and Nubian Queen Lola's, which sounds like actual soul food to me, and is also apparently really good. I think these two were either no.1 and no.2 in The Fearless Critic. I need to go.

    One thing that always bums me out is that there doesn't seem to be anywhere with a meat+3 on the menu. It's always meat+2, which is total BS. I don't really feel like paying 3 bucks for another side. This combined with a daily blue plate special kind of thing is sadly missing around here.

    13 Replies
    1. re: popvulture

      Just heard the the 3 Little Pigs trailer is going to have a Soul Food pop-up night this Sunday 8/5 at the East End Wine shop. His food is so fabulous I'l recommend giging it a try!

      Don't know all the details (google the east end wines website for info?) but the email i got said:

      We'll be cooking Adrian Miller's menu of chicken,wilted greens, black eyed peas with rice, corn bread and banana pudding as well as some Texas favorites like brisket,pork ribs,grits and sausage.

      You won't leave hungry.

      1. re: popvulture

        any good liver & onions elsewhere?

        i did like the fried chicken liver basket at threadgill's, but i haven't been in years.

        1. re: dinaofdoom

          The only other place I've seen it is on Maxine's menu, but like I said, I haven't been there yet.

          Also, if you're into cooking, L&O are really easy to make at home, and CHEAP (seriously- a pint container of liver costs about 1 DOLLAR at HEB!!!). I can write down my recipe if you want, even though it's a bit ad-libbed every time.

          1. re: popvulture

            sometimes you just don't feel like cooking liver & onions in the house, you know?

            recipe? yes, please.

            1. re: popvulture

              Arkie's Grill used to have liver and onions as one of their daily specials. I say "used to" as it is currently shut down. The sign says "for remodeling" so I'm hoping they reopen soon.

              Las Cazuelas, the taqueria at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Chalmers, has a unique take on liver and onions. A touch of chili and Mexican spice add flavor to the dish served on an iron skillet. Rice, beans and tortillas accompany on a separate plate. I've enjoyed this several times and can recommend it.

              As far as fried chicken livers, you can find them at Bush's Chicken and at Terry's seafood on Airport as well as the already mentioned Threadgill's app. I've gotten mixed baskets of chicken liver and gizzards from both Bush's and Terry's (I prefer the version at Bush's) and they will satisfy a craving but are not really worth a special trip. Besides a tendency to be a little too salty and greasy, both places serve them with a weak "cream gravy" that can't compare to the real deal. I also find that none of the three (Threadgill's, Bush's and Terry's) have figured out how to properly cook gizzards so that they are not so tough and chewy.

              1. re: Alan Sudo

                the las cazuelas version sounds similar to the brazilian dish i used to love when i lived in boston.
                there was a lime marinade first, and then it was served on one of those searing hot fajita-style skillets, with the most amazing fried bacon topping it.
                onions and peppers on the skillet, with black beans, rice, farofa, and cassava on the side (gotta order the last 2 as extras).
                nom nom nom

            2. re: dinaofdoom

              I've had great liver & onions at the Monument Cafe in Georgetown. Yum.

            3. re: popvulture

              Alabama guy here. I haven't been to Threadgill's, but oddly enough another Mississippian told me to avoid at all costs. Hoover's is a kind of litmus test to me-if someone suggests it, I know they have NO idea what they are talking about.

              Lola's is the real deal however. It reminds me of the soul food dives that are all over the southeast. Galloway's is definitely top of my list to try.

              1. re: NWLarry

                Is Galloway's still open? I read on yelp that their phone was disconnected (dated 6/19).

                1. re: NWLarry

                  @NWLarry I'm afraid I would flunk your litmus test - hard.
                  First, there is a big difference between anyone's experiences at Hoover's old 183 location and Hoover's on Manor Rd. 183 was weird with that not really remodeled Denny’s vibe and major food consistency issues.

                  Hoover's menu has a lot of offerings that are just fine, but also real treasures. Let’s pretend we’re on Antiques Road Show and I’ll give you my opinion on what’s priceless civil war memorabilia and what’s just an old silly hat that looks like a duck.

                  Realize that Hoover grew up in East Austin and he tries to give back. That means he often hires from eastside neighborhoods where unemployment is orders of magnitude higher than Austin in general. This can occasionally lower the bar for service but it's a good thing to do. Set your expectations accordingly.

                  Avoid the barbeque. It's not central Texas style and you're likely to be disappointed. Skip the bread that comes with your meal - dry cornbread and sweet potato biscuits that taste more like gingerbread.

                  In the some like it, some don’t category, the chicken and dumplings has its fans. Hoover’s serves it like a sage heavy chicken soup with actual dumplings floating in the bowl. It’s just too different from my momma’s version for me. The meatloaf is good. Maybe not worth a special trip, but a fine enough version that I wouldn't hesitate to order it if I was craving meatloaf. I also don’t get the jalapeno creamed spinach so many recommend. Pass-ola.

                  But there are treasures on the menu. If you love extremely spicy foods, get the Aus-Tex wings. I don't know how many times people have asked to share this appetizer with me, only to back out after a bite or two – they’re hotter than a Chick-Fil-A CEO at a lesbian tattoo festival.

                  Hoover's also does an excellent chicken fried chicken. Hand breaded, lightly seasoned, fried to a golden brown and topped with real deal cream gravy, this dish is one of the best versions in Austin and it alone is well worth a visit. There is a spicy chicken and sausage gumbo that rotates thru as a daily special that is wonderful - a thin dark gumbo with a bit of a kick.

                  The fried pork chops would be juicier if they were thicker, but the taste is there. And if you see any "smothered" specials (smothered pork chops, smothered chicken), go for it.

                  As far as the vegetable sides, Hoover's mustard greens and their butter beans are both near perfect. So many in town attempt mustard or collard greens and fail. Hoover's has just enough bacon to give them flavor and substance while letting the greens themselves carry the flavor, and just a touch of sugar to cut the bitterness, but not so much that the dish is sweet. The okra ‘n tomatoes side also stands out and is worth trying, as are the candied yams (if you like that sort of thing, too sweet for me personally).

                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    Also worth noting, those jerk ribs have been winners every time I've eaten them. The smokey jerk flavor really comes through and brings a nice but not overwhelming amount of heat.

                2. re: popvulture

                  I'll second the Nubian Queen Lola's suggestion. I've been three times and it's been absolutely fantastic every time. The only drawback (and this can be a huge drawback) is that she basically does everything herself (takes your order, cooks your food, takes your money), so the waits can be very long and if she is out of town or sick, the restaurant can be unexpectedly closed.

                3. Southern Hospitality (haven't been to new location)

                  Galloways (haven't been in a while).

                  1. Second for Southern Hospitality. It's been a long time since Threadgill's has been any good, and Hoover's surely started out promising, but my last experience there left a lot to be desired. I was a huge fan of Tony's Southern Comfort for the short time it was around, but they've gone away now. Southern Hospitality isn't amazing or anything, but it's at least passable, and the fried chicken is actually pretty damn good.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: gilintx

                      this place didn't make the transition all that well. i wanted to love it. but really, it's just bland buffet food. The last couple times i had the fried chicken there it bummed me out.

                      1. re: ieathereforeiam

                        i think the unbeatable catfish when in good light golden batches, black eyed peas, mashers and white gravy, steamed cabbage, house made corn bread and lemon cake, chicken / dumplings, cheddar mac / cheese, and pretty darn good fried chicken are solid but the savory items do at times need salt / pepper tweaks. but for sub 10 bucks, hot fresh food of love.

                      2. re: gilintx

                        Tried this place for the first time this week. The catfish was great, but everything else was OK to not that great. I don't have a salty palate but had to add salt to almost everything. It's the kind of place that I want to succeed, so I'll give it another try in a month or so.

                        No place in town has replaced the old Dot's.

                      3. The Mess Hall at Brazos and 11th.