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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?

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. 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

Tamales:
- 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?

        Thanks!

        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

                  Nap!

                  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
                  OR
                  * Angie's, split the carnitas taco plate and get a couple margaritas (only do this if you didn't get carnitas already elsewhere)

                  Nap!

                  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!