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Chitown Foodies need a little help please!

  • l

I LOVE Austin. I have been 3-4 times and this time I am going with my mom and sister. My mom has never been. We are staying three nights at the Four Seasons from Fri-Mon.

I have been to Uchi quite a few times, so I think we will have to try Uchiko one night. Maybe Friday?

I think my new number one choice since I was last there in 2010 is Barley Swine. Should we brave the lines on Friday or Sat? Thinking Friday since opens 1 hour later.

So, we have one final dinner. We all love Mexican, Tex-Mex and otherwise (modern, authentic) No Chuy's although fun. No Polvos b/c want mroe ambience. We want places with fun ambience, or Austin-vibe, awesome margs/drinks and food. Any ideas? I was thinking possibly La Condesa? I have never done FSM? Other choices?

Also have three lunches/brunches. My favorites have always been: trucks (ESK (which one?), Torchys, Flip Happy Crepes, the old Odd Duck). Any new trucks that I must try? I want to do Franklins but not up to the wait. Any other great new ones? What about other good lunches? Have liked congress Cafe for brunch and ESC in the past. Just want good cocktails and food again with Austin vibe.

Also fun places for cocktails? Shady Grove was a favorite on nice days. Guerros just to sit out side for a margarita and people watch. Any new haunts that are fun?

Other must-dos? May have to drink to Blacks for BBQ unless there is one close by better. Have done Snows, Louie M, Rudys etc. We love 'cue. and we just want some local favorites. thanks so much for the help. I will report back afterwards as always and would really appreciate the help.

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  1. Hello again ljero! I remember your first trip to Austin. A lot has changed since the first time we shared recommendations in 2006!

    The best barbecue in town now lives in town. Franklin, on the eastside, is amazing. I'm sad to say you missed JMueller (also great), which is now La Barbecue, and is still yummy. Stiles Switch is also great. I'd take any of them over Black's. If you haven't been to Franklin, get there at 9 AM and do it. If there is one Austiny experience that describes the now of Austin BBQ, it is the line at Franklin. To residents it is obnoxious, but to visitors, a required hazing. It will almost certainly be the best brisket you'll have in your life. In over a dozen visits, it has my personal highest average score. (Snow's still takes the all-time best score in my experience, but they've also served up some mediocre fare.)

    Since you haven't been to Uchiko, you should absolutely go. I've really enjoyed every visit. Barley Swine is can't miss as well.

    Great cocktails with great ambiance is Contigo, which also happens to have great food. Eastside Showroom scores here too, but if is is even slightly nice outside, don't miss Contigo.

    Best brunch at a food truck? Make one of them the drive to Tacos El Rico and enjoy the humble truck that both Anthony Bourdain and Chow.com toured and loved. Probably not the ambiance you're looking for, but the place is legendary.

    For Tex-Mex, I always recommend Curra's on Oltorf. Opinions here vary wildly about that. Heck, my experiences there vary wildly too. That being said, it is better than the other places you name (Chuy's, Guero's, Polvo's). La Condesa is not Tex-Mex, but I enjoy the place. Overpriced, but you're paying for that ambiance that you were looking for! ;) I'd skip FSM. More on places to get tacos (even non-Tex-Mex ones): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886261

    Other than the sustained proliferation of food trucks and trailers, the other trend in town right now is ramen. One of the hottest hotspots for this movement is Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Good stuff.

    I try to keep up with the trailers but I can't seem to quite manage it. Hopefully some other hound can chime in on that. I've seen discussions (here on Chowhound and elsewhere) about all sorts of interesting looking new trailers popping up all over the place, so no need to settle on Torchy's. I haven't been to Flip Happy in ages, it might still be OK, and as you mention, ESK is quite good.

    Have fun & good luck!

    3 Replies
    1. re: tom in austin

      Tominaustin, It is great to hear from you! I definitely remember all of your wonderful recommendations from previous trips! Thank you so much for sharing yet again. I think it has been two years since I have been, so I am super excited. Brinign mother and sister, both foodies. I am thinking Barley Swine Fri night, and since small menu and prtions seem a bit small, maybe drag them to ESK for a late night bite and cocktail.

      Of the ESK, which has the best food in your opinion and what are you r favorite things, or am I going to have to sample a must-have at each one? Which bar of the three is the best?

      Saturday night, we are doing La Condesa, and Sunday night Uchiko--do you like Uchiko better than Uchi?

      I can't believe you are going to roust me from bed at 9am to stand in line for two hours for bbq. Can it really be that good? I drove to Snows to be there when it opened and we were extremwely disappointed. I love my food but I sure hope its worth it! I sent my husband to ESK last time, and he sast with owner of Franklins, strangely enough, and talked to him for quite awhile. Sat or Sun know to have *less* of a line?

      Contigo sounds great. If it is in 40s at night, warm enough to sit outside? Any favorite cocktails?

      I will also try to hit Tacos El Rico. Always up for a drive. So any other places that are fun trips to eccentric or great food/bars, please send me on my way!

      1. re: ljero

        Yes, Franklin's IS worth it. I rec getting a cup of coffee and a nibble, buy yourself a cheap folding chair and enjoy the wait. Weather this weekend should be outright amazing!

        If you're coming this weekend, only a light sweater will be needed. Spent the whole day outside in short sleeves! Excellent weather for a porch (Contigo).

        Uchico over Uchi for me 100%. Go early and take advantage of the happy hour (yes, you need to go EARLY - by 5 the bar is almost always full).

        I still don't get the attraction to FSM. Pinos is far better at a fraction of the price (however, a drive - 20 minutes - in Hudson Bend).

        1. re: ljero

          ESK: I'd do Hole In The Wall, since Paul is most likely to be there (as far as I can tell). If you get good recon on where Paul will be, go there! :)

          Uchiko: Yeah, maybe. Uchi was once supreme, but Tyson has been spawning other restaurants, Paul is long gone, and Philip is helping elsewhere, and for whatever reason, Uchi isn't doing it for me quite as much. Uchiko has the edge right now.

          Franklin: It rules. Bourdain flipped his lid, for example. Everyone loves it. But even if it sucks, you're coming to Austin for Austin and this is as Austin as Austin Austins.

          Contigo: Awesome and underrated even though people love it. Weather won't be a problem, regardless of the temperature, unless it rains.

          El Rico: Tacos are great. Lots of other options if that doesn't work out. I only threw it out as the rare place that has gotten legendary hype while totally deserving it. Their tacos are tip top.

      2. Wonderful reply from tom in austin. You might also consider El Naranjo for Mexican—specifically, Oaxacan—dinner. It's a short walk from your hotel and fits the "modern, authentic" description well. Food is elegant and subtle and the dining rooms are more calm than Bayless's. Lots of bars on the same street (Rainey St.) for after-dinner drinks.

        For lunch, a new spot that's good for simple noshing, sipping, and Austin ambiance is Hillside Farmacy. Menu is short and food is very simple but fresh. They have cocktails, a charming vibe, and outdoor tables.

        Have a great trip. We'll look forward to hearing what you find.

        1. ljero my lady and I and about 20,000 other austinites call Uchiko our favorite restaurant in town and Barley Swine is fantastic too. So good calls. And I have to agree with Tom issuing a pass on FSM for dinner (forgettable), but their Sunday brunch we find exceptional. The 40 bucks a head for desert alone is near worth it, the place is just so lovely, and if you get there right around 11 a.m. when it opens, the bar is usually no wait for full brunch access and just as nice as the main area for my tastes. The ceviche is tops too.

          If not that brunch, Foreign and Domestic does a fine menu brunch for 30 - 50% less dough.

          For dinner, I am continually surprised by the lack of Chow love to chef Jeff Blank's Hudson's on the Bend (since 1975). They specialize in and master game dishes, especially the espresso cascabel smoked elk backstrap (46 bucks, maybe that's our 'hounds' problem with the place). I get that dish every time I go and I leave giddy but I've tasted the antelope and venison too, very very good. The elk is simply a melt in your mouth serving of meat and the meal is consistently a luxurious dining / service experience without being too snooty. Solid wine and scotch selection, lovely wall art and outdoor seating area, great view of west Austin hill country on the 25 min. drive. 1/2 price happy hour apps. Their crunchy trout dish is good, but not the justification for a visit.

          you didn't mention, when is the visit, this Friday?? You are in luck weather wise, if so.

          6 Replies
          1. re: slowcoooked

            thank you for the F&D brunch recommendation , but when I looked it up it appears that it only serves dinner unless I have something wrong?

            We arrive this Friday around 4pm and leave Monday at 4:30pm. Re: Barley Swine for Friday, their menu looks tiny. do they have daily specials or is it just those 6-8 small plates listed on dinner menu? What are the best other than anything with egg? My sister can be picky, but I was thinking, what the heck. We can get a little bite, and then head off to Hole in the Wall for some ESK bites thereafter, as that cannot be missed.

            Always loved a Mexican Martini at Trudy's but is there anywhere new that makes a better one?

            Weather report for weekend keeps changing...what are you guyrs hearing? fingers crossed for some very warm sun, as it has been negative 20 around here. BURR! Want to spi some cocktails outside, and my sister and mom both like their drinks, too!

            1. re: ljero

              Latest weather report I saw looks very good for you guys.

              You might want to call F&D as I think the brunch is a fairly new thing and the website may not be up to date.

              Barley Swine has always had chalk board specials the previous times I've been. If your wallet can take it, the 3 of you should be able to order the entire menu and share. I'm usually surprised by which item ends up being my favorite of the night.

              1. re: ssouth

                Thank you. Looks like rain each day now.

              2. re: ljero

                When dining at Barley Swine you have to throw out any preconceived notions of what you do and do not like... Just eat and enjoy, it is almost always amazing. Ask for a mini spatula to lick the plate.

                1. re: ljero

                  The Mexican Martinis at the Cedar Door are very, very good and the outdoor patio at 2nd and Brazos is fun on a warm afternoon. Lots of interesting, Austiny history to this place.

                  1. re: Rene

                    Thank you for reminding me of the name. I do enjoy Cedar Door and their Mexican Martini-we go every trip. We actually always take home their mix and Paula's Texas Orange, too so that we can reminisce at home.

              3. To add to the brunch recs, I'll throw in Second. I went there recently and was very happy with the experience.

                I got the Texas Benedict: poached eggs, pulled pork shoulder, jalapeno corn biscuits, & chorizo gravy. I was worried that it would be too heavy, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually on the lighter side, and the portion size was just right. No food coma.

                Lady friend got the SBK Benedict, which was also good. Black truffle pomme frites (with the added foie gras) were a tasty splurge, but not necessarily something I'd bother ordering again.

                Nice service and great outdoor seating. Like slowcooked said, the weather's probably gonna be great this weekend, so... I'd suggest this as a good option.

                1. I forgot to mention Easy Tiger on 6th just west of HWY 35 whips up some good cocktails and cured meat sandwiches (they do their own curing) and has a nice little back patio. We've enjoyed lunches there.

                  1. We just returned from another diet-busting weekend filled with an excess of food, drinks and fun. On Friday night, we went to Barley Swine. With the wait, we sat outside and indulged in a cheese and charcuterie plate from Henri's. The plate was gorgeous and the chicken liver pate and chorizo both fabulous. We ordered the entire menu minus the redfish mousse at BS. We had clear favorites. The goat as was recommedned on this board was the hands-down favorite of all. The crispy wild rice, kolhrabi and green garlic flavors and textures were amazing. We could not resist Lick for dessert, and enjoyed the goat cheese and coconut/avocado ice creams. While good, I agree they could be creamier and are a bit icy. We had a night cap at the Four Seasons. Their mixologist Travis makes fantastic drinks and we loved his take on a margarita with a cilantro salt rim and cilantro habenero syrup.

                    On Saturday, we headed down Soco. We had a Mighty Cone (chicken/avo), which was actually better than I recall, and two slices from Homeslice, which was not as good as I remember. Too light on the cheese and dry. A margarita at Guero's was also not as good as I recall--both types (diff tequilas) we ordered were very sour--not smooth at all. Still, I always love an afternoon in Allens and strolling this avenue. To make up for that margarita we headed to Cedar door, which did not disappoint. They now make a 'skinny' version made with blue agave, which was actually better and smoother than the original. For dinner, we went to La Condesa, which I found disappointing. Poor service. More focused on the scene. Food average. Best item by far was the atun tostadas. Not worth going in to, but I would not go back.

                    Sunday morning, Tom, I followed your advice and dragged everyone to Franklins at 8:45am. We were eating fatty brisket, sausage, pulled pork, turkey and ribs served by Aaron himself by 11:30am. You were right, that fatty brisket was melt in your mouth good. It had a great smoke ring, deep flavors, good bark, and that espresso sauce paired perfectly with it. I am embarrassed to disclosed how much meat I ate. also indulged in a dark wheat beer to cut the fat although it just filled me even more taking up precious brisket space in my stomach. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I was so full the rest of the day I could barely move. Thankfully after a long walk and rest, I was ready for dinner at Uchiko. Great service. Food was slow to come out, but that was ok. Great wine and sake list. We ordered all cool items and specials, and all shashimi items on the second page of the menu--very clean flavor profiles. Loved the crispy brussels with that fish/caramel sauce. Ordered all desserts. My favorite was the fried milk but all of them really shined.

                    On Monday, we headed to campus, and to Hole in the Wall for lunch. Paul Qui was serving up the food. We tried the beet home fries, brussel sprouts, fried chicken/liberty rice and poor qui's buns. Ambience was perfect--low-key, fun. Loved the food. I wish we had time to try the other food trucks--next time. Really enjoyed that the dishes all had those fresh herbs and jalapenos. No ramen this trip--too full, although they looked great. Walked over to Trudy's for a final Mexican Martini, and shed a tequila tear that they were not open yet. So, we headed back to the hotel lobby bar for a final drink by Travis.

                    All in all, another gluntinous trip with fabulous food and drink. Excited to return and will look for you all next time for more recommendations. Disappointed to miss Midnight Cowboy and Peche for spirits.

                    If anyone is heading to Chicago, please let me know as I have a few great recommendations for you, esp. a sushi place that although it does not get the press Uchi does in a town of 10 million, it is still my overall favorite.

                    Thanks again!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ljero

                      ljero thanks for the great report. next time you must hit the taco joints of high praise here and at other food sites.

                      1. re: ljero

                        Great report! "OP delivered!" Thanks, ljero!

                        1. re: tom in austin

                          Slowcooked, thanks for reminding me. I wanted to let you guys know that we made the poor decision of NOT renting a car. I will never do that again. It really limited us and was hard to give my mom the whole tour of such a great city. She did not even get to see Whole Foods! We took cabs and walked. That being said, I was most upset b/c I could not hit Taces El Rico and the other taco joints I wanted to. I will not miss these next time, believe me as they are what I enjoy the most.