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Advice for first time visitors from NY (researched!!)

Hello everyone,

2 of us will be in Austin for 3 days over the July 4th weekend. We'll then head over to Houston for 1.5 days before going back. So, we're looking for things that are uniquely Austin that we don't have in NY (lot's of BBQ and Mexican food) and won't find in our 1.5 days in Houston. Based on what I've read, I've narrowed down a few places. I'm also looking to fill up a few open spots. Thank you for the help!

Wed: We arrive late at night. It'll be 12:00 in the night before we get anywhere.
- Any suggestions for an awesome late night dinner place?

Thu (July 4th): We're planning to drive down to Lockhart. Have a few questions about that.
- Considering it's July 4th, will the places there be open?
- Would it be possible to add a stop at City Market Luling either on our way to Lockhart or while coming back?
- Not sure how much room/energy will we have after our meat onslaught but I was hoping to try East Side King and if possible, some other must visit food trucks and then maybe check out some of the bars (one or more from Bangers, Black Star Coop, Draught House, ??). We don't want to cab around a lot so any suggestions on which location of East Side King to go to and maybe some more trucks around there?

- We'd like to spend the morning and the afternoon stuffing ourselves with breakfast tacos, tacos and I'm hoping a tamale or two. This is where I'm very confused. Again, ideally, we'd like the places to be close t each other and there seem to be so many excellent Taco places. Can I please get some help narrowing down the places that I found (listed at the end of my post)?
- I was hoping to follow up the Taco eating with a tour of Jester King Brewery. Is that recommended?
- For the evening, I was "thinking" of Barley Swine. But, I was just wondering, the food there - is that something that we won't find in NY? Should we look for something that is more Austin instead? Also, the crazy wait stories are a little bothering.
- I know that the 6th street area is not really where the locals go to but I've heard about it a lot and was thinking of checking out a few bars there. If that is something that is not recommended at all, then any other neighborhood/bars that we should check out?

Sat: We'll be driving to Houston after breakfast.
- Franklin will be closed from June 29th to July 5th so this is the only day when we can go there. Plan to get there early and wait.

There are places like John Mueller, Snow's Lexington and Louis Mueller's that I would have loved to check but I don't think we'll have time.

* Places that I need to narrow down for Fri (the closer they are to each other, the better)

Breakfast Tacos
- Pinos
- Taco Deli
- Juan in a million
- El Meson Burleson
- Taco Joint, Kens Tacos

Traditional Tacos
- La Fruta Feliz
- La Flor
- El Mana
- Taqueria Los Canario
- La Morelina
- El Taco Rico
- El Meson on Burleson
- El Rigo
- Taco More
- Marcelino Pay y Vino
- La Michoacana
- Mi Ranchito
- El Primo
- Rosita's Al Pastor
- Taco Deli

- Mi Ranchito
- Tamale House
- Tamales Rio @ Pablito's Bakery

What do you guys think of the above?? Thanks!

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  1. Wow... nice research!!

    I'm not a night owl, so I can't comment on Wednesday after midnight eats.

    Thursday (7/4): I would call the Lockhart places in a couple of weeks and ask them if they're planning to be open on July 4th. I'd hate to drive all the way there just to find out they're closed. City Market in Luling is just a short drive further, but personally the omnipresent stench of sulfur in that town (due to all the oil & gas wells) is too nauseating for me.

    East Side King is a great place, again, if it's open on 7/4. Austin's craft beer scene is exploding (and the product is legit), so your list of bars is a good one. Draught House is one of the best beer bars in America and open 365 days a year.

    Friday: I personally don't understand all the breakfast taco hype and mania, so I'll let someone else chime in on that. I prefer an excellent plate of machacado or a bowl of posole.

    Absolutely do the Jester King Saturday tour. That is Texas Hill Country and Texas beer at its finest. Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza is on the premises if you need something to soak up those funky, sour, wonderful beers.

    Barley Swine - do it. And order liberally.

    If you've still got any energy left after all that and want to do downtown bars, I'd steer away from 6th street and head to Rainey Street instead.

    On Saturday, beware that even getting in line early at Franklins, you won't finish your food until 12:30 or so. I don't know how soon you needed to get to Houston.

    And speaking of Houston... I've found that it may be one of the most underrated food cities around. My wife and I recently did a foodie trip there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/901930

    Enjoy your stay in Austin! Stay hydrated...it'll be 100+ degrees around that time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jwynne2000

      Thank you for your comments! In your opinion, what are the best places for machacado and posole? Thanks!

      1. re: jwynne2000

        Thank you all! Based on your recommendations, I've tweaked my original plans a little and have some more questions :)

        1. 3rd - I saw that East Side King @ Shangri-La and LibertyBar is open till 1:45. I was thinking that I could go here from the airport on Wed. How does that sound? Also, which location is better? The LibertyBar one has the beet fries (which I think are good) but Shangri-La seems like a more exciting menu to me.

        2. If we do the above, then we have an open night on the 4th. I was thinking of a sit down Mexican meal @ La Condesa. Is that good or should I look for another place? I did consider El Naranjo but that's closed on Junly 4th.

        3. 5th - First of all, Tom, thank you very much for your detailed answer. I've noted down all your Taco recommendations! I also changed my plan from Barley Swine to Uchiko!

        4. 6th - It seems like John Mueller's new place is a must do. Would it be possible to squeeze that in post Franklin? Or, is it worth skipping Franklin?


        1. re: jwynne2000

          I second the recommendation to do Rainey Street instead of 6th. We were in Austin only 3 nights and we hit Rainey the first night, and went back again because we enjoyed it so much. G'Raj Mahal was our first night - I'm still dreaming about their dal - buttery, silky goodness in a bowl. The second night, much to my chagrin, we hit the sausage house , Bangers - place was packed, the food was very good - better than I expected. They have many interesting beers on tap there, and it ended up being a very good time.

          6th street was just kinda dirty and smelled like pee. It may be more fun later at night when the live entertainment is happening. I like a dive bar as much as the next person, but some of these places were beyond dive. Or maybe I'm just getting old :- (

          1. re: jwynne2000

            Lockhart report from today...

            Black's - best overall. Only "great" brisket among the big 3, and the only item making the trip truly worthwhile. Smitty's was good, but no where near Black's. Kreuz was awful by any standard. Embarrassingly dry and boring.

            Hot link at Smitty's and Kreuz (jalepeno cheddar) surprisingly similar. Tastes like smokey hamburger with a lot of fat. the Kreuz jalepeno cheddar sausage tasted of neither, although you could see the bits in there. A few years ago I tried this same sausage at Hill Country in NYC (supposedly imported from Kreuz and it was wonderful.

            I've attached a pic of the brisket at Black's, then Kreuz, then Smitty's. The difference between Black's and the others is night and day.

          2. Wait, I just realized something... Jester King's tours are only on Saturdays. I think you had it on your Friday list. Doesn't look like you'll be able to make it :(

            1 Reply
            1. re: jwynne2000

              Thank you! I guess the Jester King tour is out :( I actually had already looked at your post about visiting Houston, very helpful. I'll call Lockhart and check. Also, would you be able to suggest some places for a Taco crawl (no breakfast Tacos)? I'm trying to narrow down the huge list of places that I listed (and maybe some that I missed) into a list where we can walk around from one place to the next until we're stuffed with Taco goodness! Thank you!

            2. I think you should reconsider not visiting John Mueller's new place. You can be in and out of there relatively fast especially if you go right when it opens (from 10:30-11:00am)

              If you do go, get the Beef Rib. That is his speciality and probably unlike anything you can get in NY.

              I'm going to second the other person who suggested visiting Rainey St over 6th St.

              1. As a NYer who lived in Austin for a few years (and LOVED IT - go LONGHORNS!) - I would highly recommend the Salt Lick - not only for its fabulous food, but for the entire experience! Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes was on the show Best Thing I Ever Ate - and recommended them as well. Have a great trip!

                1. Based on your comments, I've planned your itinerary. Have fun.

                  Wed: "It'll be 12:00 in the night before we get anywhere. ... Any suggestions for an awesome late night dinner place?"
                  Late dinner choice:
                  * Justine's open to 2am Wednesday-Monday - dinner until 1:30am http://www.justines1937.com/
                  * Sam's open until 3am https://plus.google.com/1009008139165...
                  Since you'll be doing so much barbecue later, I recommend Justine's. Their best mains are fish, IMHO.

                  Thu (July 4th): "We're planning to drive down to Lockhart. ... I was hoping to try East Side King and if possible, some other must visit food trucks and then maybe check out some of the bars"
                  I understand this compulsion. I, too, once made this tour through Texas, hitting Smitty's, Kreuz, and/or Black's for brisket and then Luling City Market for sausage. You could also trek to Cooper's in Llano for brisket right when they open and then hit Opie's on the way back into town. Or jaunt over to Snow's on a Saturday morning for breakfast just as they open, gorge yourself on every option there (especially brisket), and then hit Louis Mueller for lunch after a drive. All are good road trips, but no longer necessary as comparable options are within the city limits. I'd only do that if the local options are closed and the out-of-town ones are open.
                  Breakfast through Lunch, in order of preference, but depending on what is open:
                  * JMueller: brisket and dinosaur-bone sized beef rib
                  * LABBQ: brisket, beef rib again
                  * Micklethwait: sausage! like you never dreamed
                  * Stiles Switch: everything is good although the quality can vary a bit
                  The rest have highly variable quality and experiences, places like:
                  * Brown's Bar-B-Que
                  * Blue Ox Barbecue
                  * Live Oak BBQ


                  Dinner & drinks: Instead of ESK, why not call and try to score a seat at Qui (if they're open?
                  ) Barring that, do ESK @ Shangri-La (not my personal fave) so you can also hit the yummy Via 313 pizza as well as the Violet Crown - two bars and two trailers within a hundred yards of each other. Tons of other spots in this part of town, have an adventure.

                  Fri: "We'd like to spend the morning and the afternoon stuffing ourselves with breakfast tacos, tacos and I'm hoping a tamale or two. ... (the closer they are to each other, the better)"
                  Breakfast through Lunch, take a taco tour, all grouped in East & South Austin; note that you should verify that they'll be open in advance. Options include:
                  * El Meson on Burleson's chori-migas taco on flour, eggs, bacon, potato, cheese on flour, and/or pastor on corn
                  * El Taco Rico's barbacoa
                  * Rosita's Al Pastor's guess
                  * Mi Ranchito's carnitas
                  * La Flor's anything really

                  End at a sit-down restaurant w/ a bar, either:
                  * Curra's on Oltorf where you can grab a table, relax, and have a couple margaritas or Negra Modelos; split a bowl of queso and the cochinita pibil
                  * Angie's, split the carnitas taco plate and get a couple margaritas (only do this if you didn't get carnitas already elsewhere)


                  Dinner & drinks: If you're doing Barley Swine, get there like you're going to Franklin - before they open - and get in line. Nowhere near as bad as Franklin, actually: if you're there 30 mins before doors you get sat first and no problems. If there isn't a huge line at Lick, one of you stay in line at BS and the other go get something to split from Lick, yummy ice cream. That being said, I'll bet you can get similar better in NYC.
                  It's Friday night in Austin. If you go to any happening spot, prepare to wait an eternity. Sorry. Like our roads, we underestimated the demand curve for hip dinner spots.
                  I'd recommend Uchiko or Uchi over BS, fwiw, ymmv. I also like Sway, Lenoir, and Parkside, but I bet you can beat all of these places in NY.
                  Avoid "dirty sixth" completely after dinner. Totally not fun. While hipster-infested, the east austin and rainey street zones are much less yucky.
                  To arm you w/ data on what to avoid: http://www.complex.com/city-guide/201...
                  (Kind of hard on the Dogwood, which has [or used to have] really good food, including one of the better burgers in town.
                  Sat: "Franklin will be closed from June 29th to July 5th so this is the only day when we can go there. Plan to get there early and wait."

                  The current pack at Franklin requires that you get there at 8:15AM if you want to score first in line. By 9:30, you may well be too late. This is updated recon after the most recent Texas Monthly tizzy, and is bad news for us Franklin fans, as it used to be that 9:15-30AM was good enough for first. There is free, open wireless: bring a laptop and a few tallboys, get some work done and start with the hair of the dog.

                  Good luck, and remember to verify that places will be open before making concrete plans!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tom in austin

                    Good news. John Mueller will be open on the 4th.

                    "Great news, patriots! John Mueller Meat Co will be open on 4th July. Celebrating Independence through BBQ." via https://www.facebook.com/johnmuellerm...

                    1. re: tom in austin

                      Wow! That's great! City Market, Smittys, LA BBQ are all closed! Thanks Tom!

                  2. Do what Tom says. That list is SOLID. I also agree about Uchiko//Uchi over Barley Swine.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: txgrl99

                      Sams aint what it used to be by al accounts and there is too much good BBQ to deal with the other issues the place has. Stiles would be my pic for in town BBQ, Smitty's for Lockhart BBQ.
                      Via 313 is very good pizza. I'd also suggest Gordough's for dessert.

                    2. *Bump* Just wanted to check if someone had any comments on the updates that I listed. Thanks!

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: indiefoodie

                        "East Side King @ Shangri-La and LibertyBar is open till 1:45. I was thinking that I could go here from the airport on Wed. How does that sound? Also, which location is better? The LibertyBar one has the beet fries (which I think are good) but Shangri-La seems like a more exciting menu to me."

                        It sounds like you'll miss Via 313 if you go that route. Their hours are Tue/Wed: 5p - 12a, Thu-Sat: 5p - 2a. I also think you're not leaving enough time to hang out in that area. YMMV.

                        "I was thinking of a sit down Mexican meal @ La Condesa."

                        It's alright. It isn't Austin. It is to Mexican as Sway is to Thai, and FWIW I think Sway is better. I'd slot in Barley Swine way ahead of either: Bryce Gilmore is an Austin success story, much like Tyson Cole, Paul Qui, and Shawn Cirkeil.

                        "Tom, thank you very much for your detailed answer."

                        You're welcome! I should have also mentioned fajitas at Habanero on Oltorf, which is also in the area, for your taco tour. A single mesquite-fired, toothsome fajita taco will do ya. Lots of tacos to consume in your tour. Additionally, you mentioned craving tamales; Curra's has them and they're above decent. They also do a decent mole, all in addition to a cochinita pibil that is top three in town, so there is another reason to end there. People love their avocado margaritas as well (I think they're kind of vile, but seriously you might love them, people do). Additionally, I think Curra's is a quintessential South Austinite joint, whatever that means. [So is Polvo's, but the food there erratic, prone to grossness, and the service abysmal.]

                        "John Mueller's new place is a must do. Would it be possible to squeeze that in post Franklin?"

                        Absolutely, assuming it is open. It doesn't have comparable crowds to Franklin. I wouldn't personally skip Franklin, as right now it is the quintessential Austin experience, including the grueling and lame line waiting experience. When telling Austin stories, if you don't have a getting-to-Franklin-at-8:30-AM story, you're kind of missing the resonant figurehead of our current barbecue zeitgeist.

                        1. re: tom in austin

                          Thank you!

                          Regarding, Via 313 - I understand that the pizza there is probably stellar but since I live in NY which has pretty decent pizza, I wasn't very keen on it. Please pardon my lack of knowledge, but the area that you mentioned - what is it like? Bar scene, artsy, something else?

                          Based on what I read, there seem to be mixed reviews about Curra's. Some say it's good, others say that Polvo's is better, some other say that La Condesa is the best of the three. That's the reason I was thinking about La Condesa but your comments are making me reconsider.

                          Added Habanero to my list :)

                          I'll try to squeeze in Mueller. The 2.5+ hour wait for Franklin, in the blazing July sun is scary :(

                          1. re: indiefoodie

                            "I live in NY which has pretty decent pizza, I wasn't very keen on it."

                            Via 313 is probably worse than what a NYer can easily score, although it is important to note that it isn't NY-style pizza; it is "Detroit-style": http://via313.com/style
                            Then again, I'm not a pizza expert, so I'll have to let other folks fill in the gaps on what that even means.

                            "The area that you mentioned - what is it like? Bar scene, artsy, something else?"

                            I'm notoriously vacant about those sorts of atmospheric concerns, being focused on chow & drink yumminess, and to some extent finding all such nightlife obscure (and often, vaguely irritating). Hopefully someone else can chime in here. I think the area has a lot of bars and food trailers along a strip of road and should be pretty fun? Somebody help w/ better descriptors.

                            "Based on what I read, there seem to be mixed reviews about Curra's... Polvo's... La Condesa."

                            La Condesa has the best food of those three, and it isn't close, but it is also pretty far from an Austin experience. I wasn't intending to put La Condesa up against Curra's for the final stop on your taco tour, rather up against Barley Swine+Lick. In my opinion, Barley Swine blows La Condesa out of the water, again, not close. Curra's and Polvo's aren't epicurean delights, but they are both unequivocally classic South Austin slacker/hipster hangover joints. Between the two, Polvo's clearly trails Curra's IMHO, YMMV, mostly on the back of Curra's being more consistent, having much better service, and turning in a very good pibil. (El Meson, Fonda San Miguel, Curra's: in what order? On a good day, Curra's is number one.) You also mentioned tamales, which they have. [Protip: Tamale House doesn't have tamales.


                            "I'll try to squeeze in Mueller."

                            If I were you, I'd include JMueller in your July 4th plans for a local BBQ tour and kill the Lockhart trip altogether, as I said earlier. If your heart is set on a road trip, do it, but when you finally do eat at Mueller, LABBQ, or Franklin and say, "WTF!? this is tons better than the Lockhart stuff -- huh!?" don't say I didn't warn you. If you're insisting on a road trip, Louis Mueller, Cooper's, Opie's, and Luling City Market are all preferred over what I'm now getting in Lockhart. (Snow's too, obviously, but that is Saturday AM only.)

                            "The 2.5+ hour wait for Franklin, in the blazing July sun is scary :("

                            It is truly a miserable experience. Get there early enough to be first in line, giving you a coveted seat under the thin awning (and thusly, maximum shade). Bring a big cooler full of ice, beer, and bottled water. Consider bringing a battery powered fan. Hit Home Depot nearby and buy some 6 dollar tailgating chairs. Bring laptops or something and catch up on your correspondence. Better yet, drink and share beers with people in line. Talk Austin, barbecue, Texas, food, and so on with the throng. This is a hazing. It will suck, but at least there is the social experience of doing it together with other people. I'm sorry. I wish it wasn't like this, but it is an Austin experience. It won't always be like this (for one reason or another), and having been through it is something you'll share w/ a lot of other aficionados, zealots, and bandwagoners. (I will say this: I'd rather wait 2.5 hours on a July morning to be first at Franklin then wait 30 minutes for a beer at a packed hipster bar.)

                            You wouldn't be blamed for skipping it, certainly. You do have another option, if what you're seeking is just food. You can call ahead to pre-order. You'll need to order above a certain threshold, and you'll need to fit to their schedule (better call soon), but then you just show up at 10:30, go in early, and leave w/ your to-go order.

                            1. re: tom in austin

                              Thank you!

                              Got what you were trying to say about the area around Via 313.

                              I actually did not replace Barley Swine with La Condesa. I had La Condesa in for dinner on the 4th if we make it to East Side King on the 3rd. However, I did replace Barley Swine with Uchiko.

                              Based on your comments, I'll rethink my Lockhart plans. We'd love to experience Lockhart but the food comes first and if stuff in Austin is better, then we may skip Lockhart.

                              PRE-ORDER at Franklin!! I did not know they had that! How does that work? Anyone has experience with it? How much does one need to order? And, is the quality of the BBQ the same? I mean, it's not cold or anything is it's packed or smth, right? Again, would love the experience but the 2.5 hours wait is just too much IMO.

                              1. re: indiefoodie

                                Pre-order: You're just getting the first off-the-smoker meats. Call the number on their website. I've done it a few times.

                                1. re: indiefoodie

                                  You have to get one of their limited spots and order 5# or a rack of ribs:

                                  Preorders are filling up quickly, please let us know what date you have in mind Pre-ordering information. We accept pre-orders on either whole briskets, whole pork butts, or whole racks of ribs. We also accept orders for meat by the pound, with a minimum of 5 pounds. Sides may be added in pints or quarts. Orders must be placed at least 3 days in advance, and in order to skip the line, may only be picked up between 10:15 am and 10:30. If you are unable to come during this time, you must wait in line. No plates and no sandwiches. Cost- Whole briskets generally weigh 5 pounds, racks of ribs are generally 2.5 pounds, pork butts are generally 4 pounds. Here is the full restaurant menu, which includes current pricing for meats by the lb. -- http://www.franklinbarbecue.com//menu For fastest response, please order by email. Don't know how much to order? We suggest 1/2 pound of meat (total)/person. Stacy Franklin Franklin Barbecue 900 E. 11th St. Austin, Tx 78702

                                  1. re: BTAustin

                                    Thank you! Unfortunately, they're already full with their pre-orders for the 6th :(
                                    Link to track that - https://www.google.com/calendar/embed...
                                    Sigh.... guess it's now down to a 2.5 hour wait or skipping Franklin, both of which suck :)

                                    1. re: indiefoodie

                                      Skipping Franklin and going to Lockhart instead will definitely not suck. In fact, you'll have a lovely couple of hours in the country and see a typical central TX courthouse square. Eat at Smitty's, soak in the smoke, and enjoy the company at their long tables. Do double check hours for July 4.

                                      Franklin is great, people are great, line is exciting and fun (toward opening time), bbq is great. But you have only 3 days in Austin. I wouldn't recommend spending half a day waiting in line in 95-degree weather. (If you do go, bring an umbrella for shade.)

                                      If you have the time and stomach room for it, stop at El Taco Rico on the way to or from Lockhart. Have a great time!

                            2. re: tom in austin

                              "resonant figurehead of our current barbecue zeitgeist."

                              Good line, Tom!

                          2. I went to Austin a few years ago and made a similar request.....I'm sure there are plenty of new places since then, but the information in the thread are from a different cast then from those who have given advice thus far. Maybe you will find some of the information useful...or find it just to be a good read....

                            I would go back to Sam's in a heart beat .....and I'm sorry I did not get to the Draught House for refreshments.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fourunder

                              The thread, as far as I can tell: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590507
                              The thread is from 2009. Also, nobody from the Chow Austin board (save marfaboy) posted in the thread, which is really odd. Was it originally put up in the then-Texas board, and later moved?

                              "(W)e ended up at The BackStage Steakhouse"

                              Backstage Steakhouse was one of my favorite restaurants in/near Austin; you had the good fortune of visiting it just before it shuttered. (Hopefully during that decline it was still excellent.) After it closed, executive chef Ray Tatum (formerly of Jeffrey's) opened a trailer called Three Little Pigs. http://3littlepigsaustin.com/

                              Other advice in the thread:

                              "Salt Lick. ... Billys Brew and BBQ ... County Line ... Stubbs and Ironworks down town are great as well. ... Evangeline Cafe on Brody(sic)"

                              Salt Lick is just OK. It gets more hate and more love then deserved. Some people swear by their slaw, others by their sauce. Clearly more of an Austin institution then a place for great chow. On a good day, their beef ribs (not part of their standard family style) and their pork ribs are their standout items, IMHO. Brisket highly erratic, possibly because it is rushed.

                              Billy's is worse than Salt Lick, as is County Line (a chain). Stubb's isn't serious barbecue, but definitely an Austin institution that you should catch a show at. Iron Works never had great brisket, but had some of the best beef ribs and sausage inside the city limits before the recent renaissance that has put it at the back of the leader board. Evangeline on Brodie is a spunky, homestyle Cajun joint. I like it, but not because the food is great.

                              "Polvos on 1st st has awesome authentic menu(little austin secret) Curra's on Oltorf is another authentic choice. El Arroyo on 5th is great. Guerro's on Congress is over rated but nice so instead go to this one down the street: El Sol Y La Luna. Enchiladas Y Mas on Anderson(north austin)"

                              El Arroyo is completely mediocre at best; calling it great while slamming Guerro's is silly. El Sol Y La Luna was already on its steady decline in 2009 and cannot be considered a good option. (In 2002, it was a very nice place to eat instead of then-nearby Guerro's.) Enchiladas Y Mas is a fantastic place to get classic, gloopy Tex-Mex, as is (for example) Dart Bowl; I don't think it is what the OP is after. (Note: calling Polvo's an Austin secret in 2009 is really quite bizarre.


                              "Austin Java, Marias Tacos, Magnolia Cafe has absolutely awesome pancakes and migas."

                              These are terrible options. People go to Mags (Magnolia) because it is open 24 hours. Magnolia is inferior in almost every way to Kerbey Lane, which is also bad, although superior in almost every way to Star Seeds, another all night spot. (I'd rather find a 24 hour minimart and buy a handful of Slim Jims and a Topo Chico than go to Star Seeds.) Austin Java is solidly mediocre, but it'd be a real shame if you went there on any trip to Austin that was shorter than 3-4 weeks.

                              "Threadgills is a restaurant on N Lamar or on Barton Springs that has homestyle cooking and is awesome!"

                              I like the place, for what it is, but per a friend who worked there, they get their copious vegetable sides out of cans, not fresh. Going to the original location is probably a good lunch stop if you're in Austin for more than a three weeks.

                              "Green Mesquite ... I did a simple search on this board, and while there are critics, the general comments about the place are quite positive..."

                              I'm torn on this one. I love the place, and have been going since the mid-90s, but their food isn't great. Hitting Green Mesquite for near-frozen beer to recuperate after a run around Town Lake: that is what this place is for! I like their chopped beef, which is considered the most pedestrian BBQ offering, but whatevs. In 1999, I would have told you it was one of the top five barbecue joints in the city limits. That is just not the case anymore. That said, I'd rather eat a BBQ-only plate at Green Mesquite than Lambert's.

                              "I'd recommend getting the Don Juan taco at Juan in a Million."

                              Juan in a Million's breakfast tacos are the epitome of the gringo breakfast taco style - big flour tortillas with lots of scrambled egg, bacon, orange-yellow shredded cheese, and copious red salsa. Nothing wrong with it if that is what you're seeking. Not my personal jam, and if I am craving that sort of food, I hit El Meson Burleson and special order it; freshly made flour tortillas. "Made in the light, it must be right."

                              "Don't miss Uchi. ... The best BBQ in Austin proper is definitely at Sam's, ... And another halfhour south on 183, in Lockhart, are the big three BBQ legends -- Black's, Smitty's, and Kreiz's(sp)."

                              Best advice in the thread. Uchi is amazing, possibly a top five national sushi contender (in landlocked Austin!). And in 2009, my top five picks for BBQ in Austin city limits would have definitely included Sam's, House Park, Ben's Longbranch, Ruby's, and Iron Works, although not in that order.

                              "Steakhouse - either Sullivan's of Fleming's... I would suggest County Line... Eddie V's, downtown location... Matt's El Rancho for Tex-Mex... Z'Tejas or Fonda San Miguel for interior-type Mexican food..."

                              Sullivan's Austin used to be great, and their bar burger was one of the best burgers in town. Last few trips there for steak were downright insulting.

                              County Line is one of the better BBQ chains, superior to Bill Miller or Dickie's, inferior to Rudy's (not related to Ruby's). Not for serious destination consideration.

                              Matt's El Rancho is a genuine Austin landmark. Like Dart Bowl referenced earlier, if you're wanting to hit Critical Austin Spots, frankly, Matt's is totally legit. Their food is just OK. I like the Bob Armstrong, which is a bowl of hot velveeta with a bunch of stuff in it, and their brisket tacos. It is made more special by the fact that my parents' generation (and probably your parents' parents' generation) adored the place when they attended UT.

                              Z Tejas is not interior Mexican in any authentic capacity, but its founder bears the honor of siring and raising Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine fame. Bryce is the heir to Z Tejas?

                              Fonda is the Grand Old Lady of Austin dining. Still going strong. I love her, but she is showing her age. She has weathered it better than Castle Hill/Corazon, but still, long in the tooth and getting less reliable all the time, with a bigger final ticket. If you're staying in Austin two weeks or more, I'd make it a dinner or brunch spot.

                            2. Nice thread. Gotta throw my opine in the ring. IF you want good interior Mexican, you have to go to either La Condesa or El Naranjo. Period. Curra's and Fonda San Miguel are both sentimental favorites but their food doesn't even come close to the first two. Take this from a long time foodie who has lived in larger cities than Austin and done a lot of food-related travel.

                              And yes I'm gonna put on my flame retardent suit and say this: Uchi and Uchiko are nice, modern takes on sushi, but they are nowhere near as good as the sushi you can get in NYC.

                              Barley Swine is lovely, for Austin. But I wouldn't put it in the "you can't get this in NYC" category. Now, BBQ, for sure. Lockhart will fill the bill, if you can't get into Franklin's. But heed the warning, they might not be open on July 4, in fact, I'd be willing to bet they won't be.

                              Breakfast tacos, hmm. I like Taco Deli, but the very best bfast tacos I've had were in Bandera, outside of San Antonio in the hill country. Trad tacos: the pastor at Rosita's.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: malarkey

                                Thank you! In your opinion, what would be a sit down restaurant (non BBQ, non Mexican) serving food that I wouldn't be able to get in NY? The good sit down options that have come up so far are Barley Swine, Uchi and Uchiko but since you mentioned that none of those are necessarily doing something that is not available in NY, I was wondering if there are others that I should be considering. Thanks!

                                1. re: malarkey

                                  "La Condesa or El Naranjo. Period. Curra's and Fonda San Miguel are both sentimental favorites but their food doesn't even come close to the first two."

                                  La Condesa and El Naranjo are both great restaurants with better food than Fonda San Miguel; all three are in the same price bracket, and are fancy dining destinations. Fonda is absolutely a sentimental favorite, as you say.

                                  However, if you're looking for some sort of optimization between Austin and delicious, why go with La Condesa or El Naranjo? You can have similar experiences in Dallas or Los Angeles or NYC.

                                  (And obviously, Curra's is in a different category altogether, occupied by places like Polvo's, El Chile, etc.: much more affordable, much more laid back. The venerable MPH had some acronym he'd use for this sort of place that I can't quite recall.)

                                  So if we're looking for pure deliciousness, removing Austin as a factor, Uchi/Uchiko, Barley Swine, Parkside, (and, I'd argue, Sway) are clear winners over both La Condesa and El Naranjo.

                                  Certainly a New Yorker should recognize the influence of David Chang a bit in Uchi and a lot in Uchiko and East Side Kings; yet, the OP stated a desire to hit an ESK joint. I could just direct OP to tour every restaurant with "Momofuku" in the name, plus Má Pêche, Milk Bar, etc. and supplant all Paul Qui offerings.

                                  What can you find in Austin that NYC cannot compete with, from a pure deliciousness perspective?
                                  * Barbecue
                                  * Tacos
                                  * Tex-Mex

                                  It depends what OP is after. Are they purely chasing deliciousness? Then they better not miss Franklin. Are they chasing Austin and/or Texan experiences? Then both Franklin and Lockhart's trifecta are great options.

                                  And in no case is La Condesa (for example) an Austin experience; it is very good food, and the vibe is Dallas. If you're looking for the spirit of Austin, you won't find it there.

                                  1. re: tom in austin

                                    Thank you Tom. One quick question though, in addition to the 3 things that you mentioned, BBQ, Tacos and Tex-Mex, isn't country cooking like CFS, etc.(Pardon me for my lack of knowledge but in addition to CFS, what are some of the staples that make up country cooking?) way better in Austin than in NYC?

                                    1. re: indiefoodie

                                      You asked Tom, but I'll chime in here. Yes, CFS/C(hicken) with gravy is a very central Texas item. The best I have ever had was at Reb's in Nowhere, Texas.

                                      If you're looking for the best (imho) Chicken Fried Chicken with gravy, please make a stop at Cover 3 on Anderson.

                                      1. re: indiefoodie

                                        CFS/CFC and fried catfish comprise the cornerstones of Southern-style home cooking in Texas IMO.

                                        For in-town options, I like the CFC at Hoover's a lot as well as their creamed spinach. I think they represent Southern food pretty well, better than Threadgill's for sure. A lot of people seem to like the catfish at Southern Hospitality, but I've never managed to make it over there for lunch.

                                        (Out of town, I'm a big fan of Dahlia Cafe in Liberty Hill, but they are far NW of Austin and not on any sort of normal tourist route)

                                        1. re: indiefoodie

                                          Country cooking staples include CFS, chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes (these first 3 all with gravy), fried okra, creamed spinach, cream corn, mac-n-cheese and green beans cooked with bacon. These are the ones that come to mind quickly. And some pecan pie for dessert. Enjoy your trip! Can't wait to read about what adventures you find here.

                                          1. re: indiefoodie

                                            Indiefoodie, I made an assumption that German, Southern and Soul cuisine would all have strong NYC representation. I cannot say whether this is true. While Austin may surpass NYC in these areas, it is hard to tout since we're so far behind other regions for these cuisines. To some extent, it is like telling a visitor from Tokyo to get Mexican food in Boise. Sure, it is better than Tokyo's Mexican food, but still a considerable distance from San Antonio.

                                            My favorite CFS in Austin was at Tony's Southern Comfort, RIP.

                                            1. re: indiefoodie

                                              Thank you everyone! Wrt 'country cooking', Tom mentioned that " While Austin may surpass NYC in these areas, it is hard to tout since we're so far behind other regions for these cuisines.
                                              Can someone chime on on how Houston compares to Austin as far as this cuisine is concerned? The only reason that I ask is because I'll be spending a day there as well and if Houston does this better than Austin, then I'll stick to what Austin excels at rather than just go for something that is better than NYC but not necessarily, excellent overall.

                                              1. re: indiefoodie

                                                Check out this thread, "Austin hounds visiting Houston", there may be an answer in here. But, I'd assume in a city the size of Houston that you can find what you want.


                                        2. I think Ciscos on east 6th is the best Austin Breakfast spot( it isnt fancy but is historic and ymmmmy)
                                          I like Guero's for old fashioned tacos it may not be trendy right now but it still yummy
                                          Tamales again very old school.. maudies

                                          there is nothing wrong with doing some "tourist things" like getting your picture taken with the Austin postcard mural on sixth street

                                          Lockhart- has some world famous bbq Kreuz Market is my favourite

                                          1. Hi, I was trying to figure out the times to get to the different BBQ spots. I read on some posts that some of the places (esp. the ones in Lockhart) are not fully up and running even when they are open. Can someone please help me with the best times to get to each of the following places? I've have 2 BBQ days planned,

                                            July 4th

                                            1. John Mueller Meat Co.: 10:30AM
                                            2. Micklethwait Craft Meats: 12:00PM
                                            3. Kreuz Market Inc: 1:30 PM
                                            4. Black's Barbecue: 2:30 PM

                                            July 6th

                                            1. Franklin (Not sure about this given the wait): 8:15 AM
                                            2. LA BBQ: 11:00 AM
                                            3. Smittys: 1:00 PM
                                            4. City Market: 2:30 PM (I read that I should get here by 10-11 but if I do decide to hit the other places before I come here, that will not be possible. Do they run out of good/popular stuff early in the morning or do I risk a crazy wait if I get here around 2:30?)

                                            Thank you!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: indiefoodie

                                              Franklin opens at 11am, so while 8:15 is probably plenty early to be among the first in line, I don't think you'll make your 11am LA BBQ schedule, as you'll likely be just getting in the door at Franklin.
                                              Don't get me wrong; it's well worth it, just trying to set expectations in your schedule.

                                              1. re: willtryanythingonce

                                                Based on my last recent visit to Franklin's, at 8:15, you'll be about 30th in line. First in line is 7:00am. By the time 11:00 rolls around, you'll be about 50th in line, once all the inevitable line-cutting and friends saving spots occurs. That will still be no problem getting your choice of meats though.

                                                If that doesn't sound appealing, I think LA BBQ puts out a very comparable product with a fraction of the wait in line.

                                            2. Hello,

                                              Let me start by thanking everyone for my delicious trip to Austin. My friends and I had a ball. We ate till we could eat no more :)

                                              Here are the places that we hit with some of my thoughts,

                                              DAY 1

                                              1. Dominican Joe Coffee Shop: This was located close to our hotel so we had a cup of coffee here. OK coffee. I would say definitely better than Starbucks.
                                              2. John Mueller Meat Co.: Our first BBQ stop. It was July 4th so they were giving out free beer. We got there early (around 10:30) and waited for about 30 minutes in line. We tried the brisket, the short ribs and the prime rib. We thought that the brisket and the short ribs were very good, the prime rib was meh. Both, the seasoning on the meat and the sauce is a little heavy on pepper but we liked it a lot!
                                              3. Micklethwait Craft Meats: The sausage of the day was Kielbasa. To be honest, we thought this was just OK. I had heard a lot about the sausages here and was a little disappointed. But for July 4th, they had hot dogs and it was some hot dog! Huge, well-seasoned, crispy on the outside, it was definitely the best hot dog we've ever had!
                                              4. Black's Barbecue: The only place in Lockhart that was open on July 4th. As a result, the line was huge. We waited for about an hour. Since it was hot, they gave free drinks to everyone in line. Mr. Black himself was there helping out which I thought was great! The BBQ, very-very good. Great brisket, beef rib, baby-back ribs. The pork ribs were on the dry side. BTW, what do people think of their banana pudding? I loved it!
                                              5. Bouldin Creek Cafe: OK coffee. Nice local vibe to the place. A chilled out place that we liked.
                                              6. La Condesa: This was dinner. I thought this was pretty good. We tried the chipotle & toasted almond guacamole, fish tacos, scallop ceviche and the chicken. Everything was good. I was really impressed by the way they had cooked chicken. It's a meat that I feel very few are able to cook without making it dry but they cooked it to perfection. I don't think I've ever had chicken this tender and that includes the much reputed chicken at NoMad in NYC.
                                              7. Bungalow: We wanted to go to Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden but it was closed for July 4th so we ended up here instead. I thought it had an OK beer selection and a very chilled out backyard. As a friend put it, it was as if we were hanging out in a friend’s backyard. Surprisingly the weather was decent so it was nice to hang out in the outdoors.

                                              DAY 2

                                              8. La Fruta Feliz: From what I read, this received rave reviews but this definitely was my least favourite out of all the Taco places that we hit. The Carne Asada was tough and chewy. Not bod but not as good as the other places.
                                              9. El Taco Rico: Loved the Barbacoa here.
                                              10. El Mesón Taqueria: This was awesome, our favorite out of all the places. We thought that the Tinga, Chilorio and the Cochinita Pibil were phenomenal. We also tried the Chorimigas and although it was good, it did not blow us away like the tacos did.
                                              11. Rosita's Al Pastor Restaurant: Best Al Pastor of the trip.
                                              12. Curra's Grill: Went here for a few drinks after our taco crawl. Decent margaritas with a nice Austiny vibe.
                                              13. Caffe Medici: Good coffee. Better than the 2 places that we visited that first day in a more refined setting.
                                              14. Uchiko: I actually wasn't sure about going here given the quality of Japanese food available in NY but boy am I glad I went. This was an amazing meal. The quality of the fish and the flavors were just phenomenal. We got the omakase and added on some dishes. In addition to the fish, the 72 hour beef dish was one of the best beef dishes I've had. But, I felt the sushi here was disappointing because of the quality of the rice. The temperature, texture, flavors, all seemed to be very off. The sushi does not even come close to the likes of 15 East in NYC. Leaving the sushi aside, all the other dishes were spectacular and one of my friends rated this as the best Japanese meal he's ever had.
                                              15. Some loud obnoxious place on 6th street that was a disaster

                                              DAY 3

                                              16. Smitty's Market: The whole entering through the back and ordering right by the pits is a great experience. The BBQ itself was very good but I thought that Blacks was better. The sausage was better here I think. Oh and I went back to Blacks for some more of that delicious banana pudding after this!

                                              There were 2 more places that we wanted to go to but did not,
                                              - East Side King: We had planned to go here after our flight landed but it got delayed so we weren't able to make it in time.
                                              - City Market: We actually went here after Smitty's but encountered a rather long line. All of us were stuffed from our meal at Smitty's that we had 20 min before this so we decided to skip it. I can't believe we did it but that tells you how full we were the 3 days that we were in Austin :)
                                              - Franklin's: We couldn't bring ourselves to do the 3 hour wait :(
                                              - LA BBQ: Was closed for the week.

                                              Once again, thank you very much for all your help!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: indiefoodie

                                                Great report! Thanks! I live here but haven't been to a lot of the places you did, so this is helpful for locals as well as visitors.

                                                Love your description of #15.

                                                1. re: indiefoodie

                                                  Thanks for reporting back. You guys are champion eaters and adventurers!