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Sep 11, 2013 11:30 AM

First Trip To Austin Help

Going to visit a friend in November and am flying completely blind. My friend just moved there, so has very little exposure at this point and I was hoping to book a hotel sooner rather than later. I want to find a hotel that is close to her house and also near interesting restaurants if possible. She lives near UT, on the NW side. We have two kids under ten, but will force them to eat anything. Traveling Sat-Wed.

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  1. It would be helpful to know what types of food you are interested in and also your price point. Will you have a car?

    1. "She lives near UT, on the NW side."
      You need to narrow it down more than that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TroyTempest

        Between Lamar and UT, ten blocks or so NW of campus. Open to anything good and price point doesn't matter too much. Regional flavors would be at the top of our list, as we've spent very little time in Texas and none in Austin. Also where to find good food trucks. We will have a car

      2. After an inordinate amount of time spent trying to decide where to eat and stay, I need help deciding on two meals. One open dinner is between Parkside, Barley Swine, Salty Sow and Qui. The other opening is for lunch and I wanted to do food truck(s). Staying downtown, but traveling is not a big deal. Torn between tacos, lobster roll, esk. We will have kids for both meals, although they are good diners. Help please

        1. Dinner: Among your choices I rank them Barley Swine, Qui, Parkside, Salty Sow. You didn't specify, but a nice Sunday brunch buffet at Green Pastures is always recommended. We love that place and it's fine for kids. Ask for a window seat and watch peacocks run around the nice grounds.

          Trailers I can't stop spending money on (go to yelp for photos, folks don't tend to post those here)

          The trailer I hit once a week is Melvin's for the best pastrami and corned beef I've ever had. The pastrami is wonderfully smokey. They cure their own meats and even make their own mayo.

          Brown's BBQ (very austin) on S. Lamar. Pork ribs and chicken are among the very best in town with no wait.

          pachamama's peruvian: I've loved everything I've tried here and kid friendly (no wait, cute little seating area). the pork cubes in adobo and the lomo saltido are tops. don't skip the caramel sugar cookies or the fish soup.

          Garbo's lobster truck. Since you have a car - it roams so go to their website and call that day to be sure of the location. Not "austiney" but the best lobster roll in town. I like their maine style but ask for extra mayo and it's a near perfect replica of the best I've had in Maine.

          Via 313 is the best deep dish pizza in town - served up detroit style. get the detroiter.

          El Taco Rico - tacos pastor, barbacoa, quail.
          Rosita's Al Pastor - many believe the best pastor in town. both of these provide an "austiney" experience.

          6 Replies
          1. re: slowcoooked

            Thanks for the heads up on Melvin's. Not on my radar at all, and I have a huge soft spot for pastrami. I think we will squeeze in both Melvin's and El Taco Rico for the inevitable early lunch/late lunch combo.

            My wife had already picked Barley Swine as her choice, although I really want the rabbit extravaganza at Qui. Too many good choices, not enough meals.

            1. re: veganhater

              Hi veganhater - slowcooked has some great recommendations. You also might want to check out Rainey Street for a good Austin vibe. El Naranjo is a restaurant that I haven't been able to try, but I hear good things about it. The best way to get there is by metrorail, but if you are staying downtown, (where?), just walk SE past the convention center and across Cesar Chavez (used to be 1st st). There's a bunch of other trailer/restaurants around there.

              Also, I've been hearing great things on and off board about Mettle, but I'm not sure if that's what you are looking for. I came close to going to Melvin's for the first time on Wednesday, but ate sushi instead. It would be funny for you to travel back home and people will ask "what did you eat in TX?" Pastrami!

              1. re: veganhater

                Okay, when you go to Melvin's consider getting whole sandwiches and splitting them. I also prefer their corned beef or pastrami ruebens (house made awesome kraut too) untoasted, the meat is heavy enough without the greasy grilled bread. We usually get a "heavy" and light sandwich (ham, turkey, etc.) and split them. you'll love it, virtually guaranteed. they are closed mondays, beware.

                1. re: slowcoooked

                  bummer they're closed on Mondays. That was the lunch slot that was open. I'll still find a way to make it there Sunday or Tuesday, as it's an addiction with very little opportunity to satisfy in Eastern North Carolina.

                  1. re: veganhater

                    oh and Sunday's out too. Looks like it's Tuesday for their pastrami.

                2. re: veganhater

                  I don't think you'll be disappointed in Barley Swine.

                  PS Oops, got you confused with the 'coming into town for Christmas' thread. And I guess you were disappointed since you couldn't get in ... I really love it.

              2. if you have kids--- you have to take them to breakfast at Marias Tacos.. because well it is just fun
                You need to take them to the candy store on congress
                I would suggest Uchiko because though they dont have a childrens menu they have somevery kidfriendly dishes such as the "ham and eggs" and the dewbee chicken and hot rock"

                QUi is amazing but the atmosphere is not quite as kid friendly as Barley Swine is also pretty amazing for you.

                16 Replies
                1. re: girloftheworld

                  "You need to take them to the candy store on congress"

                  Big top is the name, and it is a hoot.

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    Thanks for the tips. Firstly, we absolutely love Austin. Completely dig the vibe and the fact that the town is crazy about food. Here's a recap of our trip so far.

                    After an irritating experience trying to book the Austin Vacation House on VRBO, then being told two weeks after trying to book the house numerous times that someone else had booked it (which was not true based on their calendar), we were scrambling a bit to find a room. Austin Motel was booked, so we ended up using points to get a room at the W downtown. Good location and service, average room. Still pretty irritated with the woman from AVH, but at least the view looking over the river is killer.

                    Got in kinda late saturday night and the kids were fried, but the adults were hungry. We selfishly rallied the children and set off for Barley Swine. No reservation and no luck getting a table, we walked back to our car that was parked right in front of Henri's. Hungry and staring at a case of artisinal cheese, we walked in and had great time eating cheese, pate and charcuterie with beer and bubbly. Walked over to Lick for some of the best ice cream I've had after our impromptu dinner. Carrot cake, sea salt-caramel and persimmon-sage. Yum.

                    Woke up Sunday morning and headed straight to Gourdoughs for breakfast. Ordered way too much, including the Diablo (my favorite), Clucker (good, but needed some kind of sauce/glaze), Maple Bacon (good, but not quite up to the level of our beloved Days Bakery version in Honesdale, PA), Cinnabomb (delicious, sugar shock) and a strawberry and cream cheese version (strawberries were surprisingly good for this time of year). While we were waiting for our order, I couldn't resist ordering a breakfast taco from Mellizoz next door. Got a Migas with salsa verde, and it was unexpectedly fantastic. Hate to say it, but it was the highlight of breakfast.

                    Walked off breakfast on South Congress getting a lay of the land and lamenting what could have been in front of the Austin Motel's no vacancy sign. Hit the candy shop, which was an obvious hit with the kids.

                    After picking up a friend, we hit Fonda San Miguel for brunch on the way out of town. Solid food and great server made for a good meal. Highlights included corn casserole, cold cheese stuffed peppers, huitlacoche tamales, guacamole and chicken mole verde with pepitas. Outside of an undrinkable bloody mary and the fact that we are not crazy about buffets, enjoyed the restaurant.

                    Headed out to Hill Country to check out our first Texan winery. Had a way better than expected tasting at Duchman. Crisp, unoaked Italian white varietals were very refreshing. Our favorite was the Bianco (blend). Reds were all above average, with Sangiovese, Aglianico and Tempranillo (easily the fullest bodied) meriting purchase. Spent the rest of the afternoon working up an appetite hiking in the beautiful Pedernales State Park.

                    Although completely skeptical, we had been convinced by many reliable sources to check out Salt Lick. I've never seen an operation quite like this. Thought I was pulling in to the state fair. Outside of being a complete factory, the whole experience was fun. We tried Brisket (very good, would have liked more fatty pieces), pork ribs (delicious), beef ribs (my personal favorite), turkey (moist and flavorful, but would have loved some skin) and sausage (like they took Kielbasa from the grocery and threw it in the smoker for a bit). Decent slaw, decent potato salad, forgettable beans, bread and barbecue sauce rounded out the meal. I would probably do this again.

                    Next up, Monday's recap

                      1. re: veganhater

                        We had a short window for breakfast, so we hit a Torch's close to our friends house for a quick bite. Although I liked the whole operation, the food was mediocre. The best thing we had was chips and queso, which I was thankfully nudged into ordering by the counterman. That was followed by a Midas breakfast taco (ok, but no tortilla crumbs in the mix), breakfast taco with shredded brisket (corn tortillas had a funky flavor) and trailer trash taco (this was our favorite, but still good rather than great). Salsa was pretty bland and had no heat. I'll need an explanation on the Austin love of Torchy's.

                        Took the kids indoor skydiving at Ifly after breakfast, and it was a blast. A little expensive for a short amount of action, but I still recommend checking this out. After taking into account all that goes into it, the price is justified. Tipped the instructor $20, and walked out with four happy people planning to do the real thing. More importantly, bought plenty of time for lunch adventures after satisfying the kids.

                        My original plan was to have a multi food truck lunch, but this plan seemed cursed before we got to Austin as it seems Monday is a popular day to close. After a quick climb of mount Bonnell, I stubbornly stuck to my plan and trekked out to el Taco Rico. Closed. Decided to switch gears, so we picked a random truck on the way back to South Congress for a snack. Stopped by a place next to Dos Hermanos sign on Chavez. Got two barbacoa and two carne guesada, which were the only taco meats he had left. Was a bit skeptical when the guy reached for a bag of tortillas, but the were clearly fresh and delicious. Both meats were super moist and in the case of the guesada, tender. Very nice snack.

                        When you start out expecting to gorge on cheap tacos from a truck for lunch but end up seated on the patio at Perla's, it takes some mental adjustment. So, amazingly, I had my first margarita of the trip to ease the sting of the menu prices. We had perfectly shucked oysters (kushi, umami), fried calamari (my daughter said "the calamari is too small" and she was right. Lots of fried, not enough squid), scallop posole (decent), roasted oysters (tasty, spicy, but lardons were too big for the size of the oyster), grilled octopus (great dish), chick peas and clams (needed salt, but good) and finally redfish on the half shell (great idea. Left the skin and scales on a filet so it formed a protective cup while grilled. Unfortunately, the fish was left on the grill a bit too long. A bit on the dry side). All in all, this was a nice lunch. The prices are clearly printed on the menu, so I have no complaints about what we paid. Sitting on a patio overlooking South Congress on a perfect day, it was worth it.

                        Even though we are not coffee drinkers, no line at Jo's equals a visit. I can't recall the name, but we ordered a sweet iced coffee with cream and it was just what the doctor ordered. Perfect dessert after a big lunch, cocktail and two local beers. Kids went across the street to Amy's and were smitten. Side note - Austin Beer Works rocks.

                        Sometimes things work out even better than you could plan. We had made 9:00 reservations at Uchi a week ago. After posting some pics on fb, my wife gets a message from someone she grew up with, but hasn't seen in a decade. Lives in Austin, loves food, loves uchiko but can't eat late. Long story short, we sit down for dinner at Uchiko at 7, but greedily kept our 9:00 @ Uchi. Great recap to come

                        1. re: veganhater

                          Am loving your recaps! I was just thinking the same thing re:Torchy's. I want to love it, but the food is just boring...except the chips and queso. Can't wait to read the rest of your adventures. Thanks for reporting.

                          1. re: missmitzi

                            Agreed, feels like I'm there with you.

                          2. re: veganhater

                            Same here, great recaps!

                            And, I find Torchy's ok but not great. I've had the Brushfire and it was delicious, had it at a different location and it was so permeated with habanero heat that it became inedible for me about halfway through. Too many of the tacos are too greasy for me. And I'm a lover of heat and fat.

                            1. re: veganhater

                              Your recap is why we should be catering to "tourists" on this board. You guys just come and eat and have great stories to tell. Often, we learn more from you all, or y'all than us!

                              1. re: veganhater

                                I'm so glad y'all liked Salt Lick. I thinks it's great for out of towners.

                                Torchy's is right down the street from where I live and people always ask how do I not go there every day; I always think to myself, 'because it isn't that good'.

                                Your comment about the concern with the non fresh tortillas caught my attention. That always seems to be a big gripe with whether or not a taco should be considered good or great. I'm Mexican and I've been around homemade tortillas all my life but I'll say that I've had plenty of darn good tacos on factory made tortillas. In fact, I think Taco Cabana has some of the best tortillas around. Just goes to show - everyone has their own taste.

                                In any case, I'm glad you had a great time here and thanks for the report.

                                1. re: chispa_c

                                  i am with you on the Taco Cabana point. I like their homemade tortillas, but for a bkfst taco, i'd much rather get it from somewhere else.

                                  1. re: TroyTempest


                                    FYI - There's a "secret" taco menu at Torchy"s.

                                    I'm on board with the Taco Cabana tortillas. However, Chipotle recently re-upped their menu, excluding the chicken enchiladas verdes and the flameado chicken. Seems like they are trying to emulate Chipotle now.

                                2. re: veganhater

                                  My wife loves sushi almost to a fault. Why has she convinced me that we should go to not one, but two Japanese restaurants on a trip to Texas I do not know. I want to eat as much local flavor as possible, yet we have 9:00 reservations at Uchi with no kids. Via facebook, a hometown friend of hers she hasn't seen in over a decade gets in touch and wants to meet for dinner, but can't do 9. He gets us a table at Uchiko at 7 and we consider cancelling our 9, but figure what the hell.

                                  After a typically awkward introduction, we sit down, get some drinks on the table and talk food. I've never met either of them and my wife has never met her friend's wife, but they turn out to be completely in to food and their favorite restaurant is Uchiko. Friend's wife does all the ordering, I add a few things I can't pass up. Firstly, the service was excellent. Friendly, personable and knowledgeable, our server paced the array of courses perfectly. Too many dishes to go over individually, but some highlights were brussels sprouts (just awesome, fried and tossed in sauce), baby yellowtail sashimi (dressed perfectly, with fresh orange segments), raw sea scallop, sea bream sashimi, sayori (don't get this often where we live, nice treat), uni (really fresh), wagyu roll, ham and egg roll, and the rice itself (perfectly seasoned and cooked, you could feel each individual grain separate in your mouth. For me, a huge measuring stick of a sushi joint). The only things I wasn't jazzed about was the duck in a jar. Interesting presentation, but not delicious. Other than that, the meal was freaking awesome. I thought prices were very reasonable for what we were served. Our friend was kind enough to give us a lift to round 2 at Uchi, which I'll recap after work.

                                  1. re: veganhater

                                    sooooo glad you liked uchiko--- sorry your kidos werent with you(they would have loved jarjar and ham and eggs)

                                    uchi--- awww I hope you get the uni potato tower( i wish I could think what it was called...

                                    1. re: veganhater

                                      As good as our early dinner at Uchiko was, round 2 at Uchi was even better. I greatly preferred the setting (free standing building and private grounds vs. storefront), and even though we were seated at a two top down the middle, the feel of the dining room. We ordered a bottle of bubbly from our excellent server (common theme on our trip), and marveled at how busy the place was at 9:15 on a Monday night. A testament to how good this restaurant is and how into food Austin is.

                                      Since we already had a pretty substantial meal, we opted to let our server set up an omakase of mostly raw fish. He did a great job getting us through ten courses of mostly sashimi with out any redundancy. Favorites were the Amberjack and yellowtail from the tsukiji section, striped bass, scallop and wild salmon. The fish was treated perfectly, with enough hand from the kitchen to make it interesting and unique, but not enough to overpower the flavor of the fish itself. Deft touch. I'm always excited when each piece is individually dressed and there's no need for soy dipping cups. Great use of citrus and textural garnishes. Totally impressed with our experience, totally stoked I was convinced to go to a Japanese restaurant (twice) while in Austin.

                                      We were very much looking forward to breakfast the next morning after many recommendations for Juan in a Million. The food was decent, cheap and plentiful, but not as good as I had hoped. I ordered a Don Juan (huge, tasty but not memorable) and a Migas breakfast taco (didn't hold a candle to Mellizoz). At any rate, it fortified me for the long, cold wait at Franklin's.

                                      I'm sure there are other barbecue joints worth a visit where you don't have to wait in line for 3 hrs, but I had to do it. Got dropped off at 10:15 wearing shorts and a t shirt. Froze my ass off (temperature had dropped like thirty degrees) until my wife brought a fleece and some sweat pants. Thirty minutes later, she dropped off a bag of ice and a six pack of Lone Star. By 11, I'm warm and enjoying a somewhat cold can of beer standing in a parking lot waiting for barbecue. Many people would think I'm and idiot for doing this. Many people would be right. Could this brisket (any brisket) be worth a three hour wait in the cold and wind? Your damn right it's worth it. One of the best pieces of meat I've ever put in my mouth. Ordered brisket, turkey, ribs and sausage. The sides are completely average, but it doesn't really matter. All the meats were sublime, but the brisket was just incredible. Moist, smokey, tender and so much better than any I've ever had. Ordered it fatty, ate it until I was sick. Couldn't stop eating.

                                      1. re: veganhater

                                        What time did you get your food at Franklin? I'm surprised you were able to eat there getting in line at 10:15.

                                        1. re: SlickTheCat

                                          1:00, exactly when I was told I'd get it. They hadn't run out of anything yet, but did shortly after we got our food.