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A well researched (I hope) Trip Plan from Seattle

Hi! I'm heading your way over Labor Day weekend in the hopes of delicious food and not melting in the heat (I'm a fragile flower from the cool Pacific Northwest).

Mostly looking for things that are either specifically Austin (like breakfast tacos, which I'm pretty excited about, because I love both breakfast AND tacos) and things that we can't get here in the NW--like super solid Mexican food, BBQ, etc.

So, our whole purpose is coming to eat, so I tend to over stuff the itinerary a little like I plan to my belly, but it's easier to drop stuff last minute than add it. Suggestions, edits, compliments on my excellent research skills, etc. all welcome. And thanks for being a receptive bunch--read lots of good advice in other threads!

Fri eve--land around 5:30pm, rent car, go to hotel.
-1st dinner: Sway, because it's quite close to our hotel, though not for sure because there might be more Austin-y places to do that
-2nd dinner: La Condesa. Need good Mexican. I actually met and really liked the chef from El Naranjo, but the menu at La Condesa seems a little more appealing?
-Drinks: Swift's Attic, Peche (will it be over-run in those parts with insane UT fans? I'm all for football but crowds scare me)

-AM: Franklin. I've been convinced this is a must despite my feeling about lines being pretty similar to my feelings on crowds. Also hoping someone can suggest a breakfast taco in the region for me to console myself with while I wait in line. And good coffee?
-Sat after Franklin: Okay, everything I want to do is on Sat, since the Farmer's market also seems to line up with the times, and then we were hoping to hit the Jester King Brewery tour, but that seems hard, since there's a 1 and a 3pm and we're trying for....
-5pm Sake social hour at Uchi
-Between Uchi and Uchiko go to Central Market, because I work for a grocery store and want to check it out
-8pm Reservations at Uchiko
-Drinks? Maybe... Not sure where. Anything on S. Congress near the hotel?

-Morning taco crawl, copped from other thread:
* 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)

Sun afternoon: maybe just relax at barton springs, maybe drink at Shady Grove after
-Dinner maybe Barley Swine?
-2nd dinner, since that will be early, maybe Eastside King at Liberty?

Monday morning/lunch: still up for grabs
Monday afternoon: thinking of hitting Tamale house, other tamale joints for one for right then, a few to bring on the plane. Maybe Draughthouse for some beers before we leave?

What's missing? Where do you keep your best beer and your best coffee?

Thanks! Can wait for suggestions!

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  1. fyi, there are no Tamales at the Tamale house (assuming you are talking about Tamale house on Airport Blvd. BTW, there's no airport on Airport either).

    3 Replies
    1. re: TroyTempest

      Ha! I love it. I will find other locations for my tamale fix and eat whatever else they serve me at Tamale house.

      1. re: dagoose

        unless you are a hungover college student seeking cheap breakfast tacos (or if you are looking for these types), there's not much reason to hit Tamale House.

        1. re: dagoose

          get some Gardner's Feast tamales as the farmer's market!

      2. Yes, you have done your homework.

        A few Beer suggestions, not all are close to where you're staying. All will have local Beers on Tap. Some brew their own.
        The above mentioned Draught House
        Black Star Coop
        Uncle Billy's Brew n Cue - Great brew when Brian Peters was there, (i hear it is still good) but only passable que (he's now now at abgb, see below)
        The Austin Beer Garden will be open by then http://theabgb.com
        Chicago House on Trinity looks to have a good selection on tap (never been, this is a fairly new place
        Dog and Duck Pub (pub grub has gone downhill over the years, IMO)

        2 Replies
        1. re: TroyTempest

          Excellent. I am a beer liker, but Mr. Dagoose requires copious amounts of beer to be kept cheerful while being dragged around towns to eat all the things. This list will ensure I get to eat all the tacos. Thank you.

          1. re: dagoose

            I'd also suggest Bangers (I think 100 beers on tap) or Easy Tiger for beers.

        2. Do you know about the awesome Whole Foods at corner of Lamar and 6th downtown? I call it the Disney World of supermarkets. Ton's of kiosks of soup, salads, ethnic dishes, breads, pastries, chocolate bar, gelato, fantastic BBQ counter with all the trimmings and usual groceries/produce.




          2 Replies
          1. re: redhatcharm

            Agreed, even if you have a local Whole Foods you should visit the mother ship.

            1. re: Ashforth

              Oh, good point! I'll definitely stop by there.

          2. You must drop in on a Torchy's Tacos. There are several; all good!

            1. Trailer fix go to Gordough's for a donut

              1. not sure if you're going to the south or north Central Market. south is close to uchi, north is practically across the street from uchiko.

                the south CM just got a makeover, so that might be the one to see.

                21 Replies
                1. re: topodrinko

                  Well, armed with this info, I'd say I'm going to south. Had been thinking north, by Uchiko, but would rather see the most updated version of what they're doing.

                  1. re: dagoose

                    I would do Uchiko rather than Uchi
                    I would hit Ciscos for real mexican breakfast
                    I would do Lamberts over Franklins
                    I would try to hit Forigne and Domestic ( their pastry chef has been named one of the top top five)
                    Barley Swine
                    East SIde King
                    Swifts Attic
                    Tacodeli( not "real" tacos but kind of yummy"
                    Sugar Mamas
                    I like Thai Noodle House
                    for non UT crowds ( I dont know from experince just from wher the guys at work hang out Violet Social Club, The Grackle)

                    1. re: girloftheworld

                      Agree on Uchiko over Uchi. Sitting by their kitchen at the "bar" is a great show; same for Barley Swine. The only real exception I must take to your otherwise stellar list is Lambert's. For me, it's just meh..

                      1. re: GreigC

                        Buttttt waiting in line at Franklins too me is sooo over rated...I think it is kind of a emperor has no clothes thing.... no one wants to admit after waiting that long the bbq ia just ...well...bbq

                        1. re: girloftheworld

                          No dispute there--I did not mean to suggest that Franklin's is better than Lambert's. As between the two, I would definitely pick Lambert's. My objection to Lamberts is that I think it is a complete stretch to categorize it as a barbecue place. It has some decent offerings, but I ordered some brisket there, and got some thinly cut stuff that I could've mistaken for Rudy's.

                          1. re: GreigC

                            well see there.. If Rudy's was down town I would tell people to hit Rudy's
                            Things worth waiting in line for....bbq is at the bottom of my list..

                          2. re: girloftheworld

                            I always advise people that Stiles Switch, Mueller Meat Co. and LA BBQ are all close enough in execution to Franklin's to skip it and go there. Lines aren't crazy and much better chance of actually getting food. Stiles has the added benefit of actually having a few decent sides.

                            1. re: Rptrane

                              Can I hug you all? I have little to no interest in waiting in line for Franklin (to be honest, I'm not sure I know enough about BBQ to tell the difference between really good and the best) but all I heard from everyone is that no, this was a MUST DO. So I think maybe I'm headed to one of these other ones...

                          3. re: GreigC

                            I am going to Uchiko! That's the one real reservation I've got. Uchi is just for sake social hour.

                          4. re: girloftheworld

                            Franklin's vs. Lambert's is Apples vs. Oranges. Totally different kinds of places.

                            1. re: girloftheworld

                              I'll disagree on Uchiko over Uchi, Uchi has more of my favorites and the much better Sake Social hour. Machi Cure, Hamachi Nabe, Foie Nigiri (best bite in Austin), Zero Sen.

                              Uchiko is awesome as well, you can't go wrong.

                              1. re: SlickTheCat

                                for social hour--- I would say uchi
                                for dinner I would say uchiko
                                for bbq if you must- Muller or stiles (i like lamberts because i am not a bbq person)
                                for breakfast tacos _ CIscos
                                for hispter new food tacos Tacodeli
                                for upscale mexican-La Condesa
                                for cool new american- Swifts Attic or Qui
                                Barley Swine,
                                Hit Forgnine and Domestic bakesale ( their pastry chef was just name one of the top ten to watch in the US)
                                For food trucks
                                Eastside kings, Mrs Ps electric cock, Gonzos, Gourdoughs
                                the cuban sandwich shop if you can
                                I am not good with night spots because my info comes second hand:

                              2. re: girloftheworld

                                IMHO there is no disputing the Franklin's is leagues better than Lambert's. Lamberts is where you send out of town guests who want to sample Texas BBQ in a more refined environment. It's where I'd take my mom when she visits from Ohio.

                                For someone who is purposely making the trip to Austin to sample our food, I would make sure they hit up something approximating a real Texas BBQ joint rather than a classed up version with mediocre BBQ.

                                So, if you don't feel like waiting in line at Franklin's (which I totally get and agree with), I suggest you visit John Mueller's or LA BBQ instead or even make the trip to Lockhart.

                                If you were my guest, I'd skip the line at Franklin's and take you to John Mueller's. Make sure you get a beef rib.

                                As far as Uchi vs Uchiko, both are excellent, but I'd say neither are a must for someone visiting from the Pacific NW.

                                And I know you have nice Whole Foods out there, but you may want to visit their flagship store downtown if you are interested in nice grocery stores.

                                1. re: Mike B

                                  "As far as Uchi vs Uchiko, both are excellent, but I'd say neither are a must for someone visiting from the Pacific NW"

                                  considering both have been been named to the Top Ten restrauant lists of Food and Wine and have James Beard awards I would think they were worth visiting for those interested in food in general.

                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                    Sure, they are both excellent. I was just basing my recommendation on the fact that she said she was looking for things she can't find in the Pacific NW that are specifically Austin.

                                    1. re: Mike B

                                      i am not meaning to be obstinatate.. but help me understand here... there is one Uchiko in the whole world it is here in Austin it is amazing and has won prasie throught the cullinary community it is on the list of foodies wish list all over... how is it not "specifically Austin"? Because it isn't steotypically bbq or tacos? isnt thatwhat Austin really is about the amazing aray of choices and quality that is found here? Should I only recomend bbq and taco places as "specifically Austin?" Again I am just trying to to learn so I dont disapoint guest to our city... I am being sincere.

                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                        Be as obstinate as you want to be, it's just a message board. I was using this part of her post to base my suggestion:

                                        "Mostly looking for things that are either specifically Austin (like breakfast tacos, which I'm pretty excited about, because I love both breakfast AND tacos) and things that we can't get here in the NW--like super solid Mexican food, BBQ, etc."

                                        Uchi/Uchiko, while great, both have food that's similar to what's available to her in many restaurants in the NW.

                                        If I told Chowhound Seattle that I was visiting from Texas and looking for things that were uniquely Seattle that I couldn't get in Texas. I wouldn't expect them to direct me to a BBQ joint even if it was nationally well-regarded.

                                        1. re: Mike B

                                          well then you may miss out on an experince of a life time..

                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                            See, this is my thinking. I'm visiting from California and thus never thought to "waste" a meal on Japanese/sushi given I can get that out here, except it might just very well be better than anything I've had in that genre. So I'm going. It's located in Austin, thus it's specifically Austin.

                                            1. re: mikeh

                                              That's basically my feeling. If they were doing the exact same sushi, or something very basic, I wouldn't be intrigued, but I understand that what they're doing is something special, so I'm planning to go to both Uchi and Uchiko.

                          5. Dagoose, here are my notes on this thread.

                            First, Thai Noodle House on Guadalupe used to be absolutely terrible, but I haven't been there in many years, and I had figured it had closed by now. I'm going to cross my fingers that it has recently been rebooted and is now a shining example of Thai for Austin. (Anyone have some info here from recent visits? I'm hopefully just behind the times.)

                            As for ranking the places listed in this thread for fancyish dining, here we go:
                            (Uchiko ~= Barley Swine) > Uchi > Foreign & Domestic > Swift's Attic > Lambert's

                            If you take the Cisco's, Tacodeli, and Lambert's recommendations, you're going to get a very distorted idea of what Austin does best. Our town's tacos and BBQ are fantastic. To put up a straw man, it'd be a real shame if you came to town and hit Bill Miller BBQ and Taco Cabana.

                            Commentary like this, "no one wants to admit after waiting that long the bbq ia just ...well...bbq" reveals that the poster doesn't appreciate BBQ the way some others do, so take her advice in this field with a grain of salt. I definitely admit that Franklin (and the Austin BBQ zeitgeist) is surrounded by irrational exuberance, obnoxious lines/waits, and usurious price hikes. That being said, comparing Franklin to Lambert's brisket and finding them approximately equal is fundamentally absurd. That being said, LA BBQ, John Mueller, and Stiles Switch are all great w/o the wait.

                            Dagoose, it all depends on what you want from your Austin experience. If you want our best restaurants, period, that is a different experience than asking for the best things that you couldn't get at home. Do you want to optimize towards any personal preferences? Based on your comment: "Mostly looking for things that are either specifically Austin (like breakfast tacos, which I'm pretty excited about, because I love both breakfast AND tacos) and things that we can't get here in the NW--like super solid Mexican food, BBQ, etc.," I would very specifically steer you away from things like Lambert's [upscale, decent brunch, but mediocre BBQ], Cisco's [decent chow, but its fame is more a factor of nostaliga - definitely a genuine Austin landmark though], and Tacodeli [a modern Austin taco chain; decent, but far from what I think you're looking for]. You know my opinion on the matter as to what makes for good BBQ and tacos, as you've read the thread where I provided an itinerary for a 'hound visiting from NY.

                            That being said, so I can better calibrate: can you tell me what sort of Mexican food you're after? Cheesy plates of enchiladas con carne with beans and rice? Or tacos al pastor, carnitas, barbacoa, etc. on just-made tortillas? Both are legitimate, but they're rarely available at the same venue.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tom in austin

                              Thank you Tom, for such in depth and sage advice!

                              In terms of Mexican, I do not descriminate tex-mex vs real mex, as long as it is delicious, and am happy to go to both. I'm definitely more familiar with authentic Mex, as I've spent a fair amount of time in Mexico, but would love to try great tex mex as well.

                            2. Go to Franklin. Get there early. Bring some beer in a cooler. Bring a lawn chair. Make friends with your fellow line-mates. It's really quite fun. Then enjoy the best brisket you've ever had.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: paternite

                                So you're suggesting that someone visiting from out of town (Seattle) bring or buy a lawn chair and cooler just for this endeavor? That's pretty involved.

                                  1. re: mikeh

                                    Hey that gives me a money making idea!...oh wait the money grab the city would do on my little rent a chair cart would negate any profit...

                                  2. re: paternite

                                    Skip Franklin & go to John Mueller Meat Co. instead. (corner of 6th & Pedernales, behind Kellee's Bar) The food & the atmosphere are much better! If you go on a weekend there is live music. Sundays you can make your own Bloody Mary. It's outside with covered seating...bring beer or enjoy a sweet tea with your food. The food is AMAZING...even the sides & if you're lucky, you'll get there on a day when they have Sugar Mama's banana pudding.

                                    1. re: jcattles

                                      John Mueller offers sweet tea to drink? Just trying to confirm because some notable other places in the area (Louie Mueller in Taylor; City Market in Luling) actually don't. Is it fresh-brewed or bottled? This is actually an important component for those of us visiting from places where sweet tea isn't served anywhere.

                                      1. re: mikeh

                                        sweet tea is the house wine of the south..I cant remember for sure about Muellers but I think he hands out free beer if the line is too long.
                                        my favourite sweet tea places are
                                        Bill Millers
                                        Shady Grove

                                        and there is a AUstin "product" called Moonshine tea that is a concentrate that is good stuff.

                                        1. re: mikeh

                                          The sweet tea is actually in cans. He has a few different types...unsweetened, sweetened, & flavored. I don't drink it, but my daughter said it's pretty good - almost as good as what she makes :) She's actually been trying to find it where we live but so far no luck.

                                          Yes, John hands out Lone Star to people who are waiting in line.

                                        2. re: jcattles

                                          I don't know that the meat at JMMC is "much better," but it's certainly the real deal, right up there with Franklin. And if you've never had a Texas-style beef rib, that alone is worth the trip (and the money - the things are huge and sold by weight, so they can run ~$20). You'll still want to get to Mueller earlier rather than later, as popular items can sell out quickly. But not too early, cause John may run you off if you try to line up before 10:30.

                                          Franklin does have beef ribs once a week; lucky for you, that day is Saturday if you decide to go. And you would then be able to say you've had the Franklin experience, so there's that. When I do food tourism, I want what I want, so I wouldn't try to talk you out of going if you've got your heart set on it.

                                      2. The Burleson location of El Meson is closed on Sunday. The Lamar locale is good as well (and open on Sunday) but the Burleson location is tried and true and has been around a lot longer. You can swing by on your way out of town since it is on the way to the airport. Get the al pastor on corn!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Here's the wrap up from this, thanks again for all of the help! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/915510