Austin food report
Just got back from a trip that included four days in Austin. Thought Id report on some of my food experiences. Breakfast places included Ciscos, which has been discussed on this board before, I think. When you sit down, they bring you a little dish of very bacony pinto beans. Great. I got migas, which seems to be the official breakfast food of Austin. Scrambled eggs with pieces of corn tortilla, peppers, etc. The plate came with sausage and a huge pool of warm salsa. Also had breakfast at Curras Grill, which is not quite as down-home as Ciscos. Had huevos motulenos, which were eggs on refried black beans, topped with chipolte salsa and a fried banana (which I thought would be a plantain, but was a banana.) Very good.
Had the supreme taco experience at Polvos, on S. First Street, which seems to be the hot spot for Mexican food. The best al pastor tacos the meat was very flavorful, with lots of citrus, onion and cilantro. But the salsas stole the show. They have five different kinds, including one thats BLACK. I asked what makes it black, and the waiter said "we take fresh tomatoes and char them. Real bad." Wow.
Went to Sams bbq, which was a nice funky place. Sat on the porch with some old-timers, and ate good ribs and very elemental (in the best possible sense) sausage. At Hoovers, we had great chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, but very odd vegetable sides. Like mustard greens that were so sweet they could have been dessert.
The highlight of the trip was driving out of town for barbecue. We wanted to go to Kruez, but it was closed on Sunday. So we went to Opies, a new place opened by a cook from the venerable Coopers in Llano. I have to say, I think it was even better than Coopers. You pull up to the building, and youre facing the pits. You point to the meat you want, and they dip it in sauce and wrap it up in paper. Take it inside and get your corn and potato salad, plus more sauce, onions, and pickles. We got some of everything: chicken, giant pork chops weighing 1-2 lbs. each, brisket and pork ribs. Everything was good, but the pork ribs were outstanding. I had to pronounce them the best Texas ribs Ive ever had. I really couldnt get over how good they were! The pork chops were pretty special, too. And I loved the sauce tomato-based, but very, very vinegary. We topped it all off with first-rate blackberry cobbler (oh, and peach and cherry, too.)
Have to agree with most of you Austin report (migas are the official breakfast of Austin) except for the piece on Opie's in Spicewood. The owner and cook signed a non-compete agreement with Cooper's in Llano. He then moved 20 miles south and opened a blatant rip-off of what I content is the best BBQ joint in the state (and I've been to all of Texas Monthly's top picks).
The key to good Q is being authentic...no chains, no sit down restaurants (ie County Line), no silverware. Opie's tried to establish their authenticity without earning it. That's why I'll never step foot in their place. Drive the extra 20 miles to Llano, its worth it.
By the way, Louie Miller's in Taylor, Kreuz in Lockhart, and Schoepf's in Belton are all well worth the day trip from Austin for small-town Texas Q
re: Randy Katz
Don't get me wrong. I like Cooper's and everything, although I think hot smoking with mesquite gives the meat an acrid, creosote flavor that I could live without. But if the place is so darned authentic, why is it that every single Llano local (and you could do a poll if you felt like it) goes to Inman's instead? Just wondering.