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Dec 8, 2004 07:17 AM

Austin Help

  • v

I'm in Austin for the rest of the week. I could use some advice on good places. I am in NW Austin, near Duval, which seems to have nothing but chains.

I reviewed the latest postings and had a hard time really getting a sense of what people liked/thought was worth visiting. My group is NOT willing to travel to Lockhart/Luling, etc. (sob, sob)

When I was in Austin last year, we went to Hoovers, none of us liked it that much.

So, within Austin, or even better near me, any suggestions?

The best I have seen appears to be John Muellers.


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  1. are you talking BBQ? Or anything?

    11 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy
      Vital Information

      BBQ AND anything, but especially things done well in Austin.

      What do you all think about Salt Lick as an alternative to Lockhart? Is it worth the shorter drive?

      La Fonda Miguel (I think that's the name), any thoughts?

      1. re: Vital Information

        are you on an expense account, or do you have a budget?

        1. re: rudeboy
          Vital Information

          Re-imbursable, but not what I would call an expense account if you know what I mean?

          How much is Fonda San Miguel?

          1. re: Vital Information

            Fonda is expensive. Can be $20+ for entrees alone (any of them with meat and seafood are), not including appetizers and drinks (they have a load of tequila's).

            1. re: Mike Krell

              Okay, I can't keep quiet. Fonda...yikes. Why, guys? I don't like this place - they're WAY overpriced and are running strictly on their reputation. I've always been dissapointed there. my opinion. take it or leave it.

              1. re: amysuehere

                I agree they are overpriced, however, I have had some great meals there and i can't get that quality of that type of food anywhere else in town (or in many places in the US). I certainly don't go there often, but for a one time meal in Austin, I think it is unique and high quality. BTW, try just having the tortilla soup in the bar and spend the money tasting different tequila's :)

                1. re: amysuehere

                  I was extremely disappointed the last time I went there. Remember? they wouldn't give me cream for my coffee, only milk, because "they don't do that."

                  If I go back, I may just stick with conchitia pibil and a margarita. I'll make my own beforehand and drink it on the walk over to save $.

                  I just keep hoping that they will return to their former value.

              2. re: Vital Information

                Assuming that you are working during the day, going out at night with co-workers - Fonda San Miquel is as expensive as any place in town, but it may be worth it for you. The menu can be seen here:


                If you lay off the tequila and it is somewhat reimbursable, then you'll be fine. You are from Chicago, so I assume that you have eaten at many Latin restaurants. Others that serve non-traditional items (i.e., not tex-mex) are Polvo's, Curra's, and my new favorite, Sabor (BYOB). Those may not be anything special to you considering Chicago's options. If you are going to do Tex-mex, just go to Chuys on Barton Springs Rd for the atmosphere.

                BBQ in town - Mueller's by far. I'd go for an early lunch if I were you - just go down 183 S to I 35, then exit and left on Manor. E 3 blocks. You can do that in 1.25 hours.

                BBQ at night - again, I like baby back ribs at Artz Rib house. They have bluegrass music and cheap beer. If you get sauced up, go around the corner to the Broken Spoke for a real Texas Honkytonk experience.
                That would be a memorable evening for everyone.

                Salt Lick is a pretty far drive south - might as well go to Lockhart/Luling, I suppose. the BBQ is just okay, but if the weather is nice and they have music and you have a cooler full of beer (it's BYOB), then it can be a damn good time.

                Decent brew pub near your hotel - NXNW (North by Northwest). Manuels is another option nearby. Don't go north exploring, go south. Asian area around 183 and Ohlen (Din Ho Chinese BBQ, Sunflower Viet).

                1. re: Vital Information

                  Try Sambet's Cajun. Excellent food, inexpensive, and close by to where you're staying.

                  From Duval/183, go north on 183 two miles to the Spicewood Springs/McNeil Rd. exit (Spicewood Springs becomes McNeil as it crosses 183) and go left on Spicewood Springs under 183. It's in the strip mall at the southwest corner of Spicewood Springs and 183.

              3. re: Vital Information

                Fonda San Miguel ( is noted as one of the top interior mexican places in the US, and an easy drive from the Duval area. Not a lot of great differentiated choices in the north area. I would recommend Mirabelle at 8127 Mesa Drive for an interesting and eclectic menu. Andiamo is good for italian, but in a strange strip mall right by you at 2521 Rutland Dr #325. Tan Tan at 1601 Ohlen Rd has good Pho. Anything in particular you are looking for?

                1. re: Vital Information

                  Salt Lick is 30-40 minutes each way (at lunch), and 45 minutes-an hour (between 5 and 7pm) from Duval/Research. IMO it is overpriced, touristy, and very average Austin BBQ. You can drive to either Louie Muellar's in Taylor or Southside Market in Elgin in less time and the BBQ and atmosphere is far superior to Salt Lick. Your best bet IN Austin is John Muellar's although his old man's place in Taylor is more consistent.

              4. I assume you're asking for BBQ recs. so I'll help you out. No offense, but if "your group" is not willing to make a little effort (30-45 minutes or so straight down US 183) for the WORLD CLASS BBQ in Lockhart, or the 30 minute trip to Louie Muellar's in Taylor or even just out US 290 east 20 minutes to Southside Market in Elgin, y'all pretty much deserve the chain-food around Duval and Research. But whatever you do, DON'T even think about trying Rudy's. Their slogan tells you all you need to know about them...

                8 Replies
                1. re: Rick Smith

                  If this is the "Vital Information" from Chowhound Chicago (now with his own Chicago food blog linked below), I imagine if he were on his own he'd be willing to hitchhike, walk, or crawl over broken glass to get to Lockhart. Sometimes family, friends, and traveling companions require that we make concessions. In my case last weekend, that meant foregoing Cooper's and Inman's Kitchen in Llano and driving 95 mph back to Austin for a catered (and all that connotes) barbecue lunch. [sigh]

                  Welcome to Texas, VI. If you haven't already done so, give Fonda San Miguel a try. I'd be interested to hear how you think it compares with Chicago's upscale Mexican (e.g., Bayless's and Bahena's places).



                  1. re: Rick Smith
                    Rob Hargrove

                    Why not try Rudy's if Lockhart and Taylor are out of the question? I would suggest that it's all relative. Rudy's is obviously not in the same ballpark as the Lockhart places. Who is? However, compared to the kind of BBQ one could get in Chicago (if that is in fact where the poster is from) or most of the rest of the country, it is adequate. Heck, I go there from time to time since I work in the area. I would say that I like Rudy's brisket as much as the brisket I had at Southside Market.

                    Sometimes people may just need legitimate Texas BBQ (brisket), and not All-World Texas BBQ. If the choice is between Rudy's and Chilis or Appelbees or some such place, then obviously Rudy's is the way to go, even though, again, it certainly does not compare to one of the top-tier places.

                    1. re: Rob Hargrove

                      OK. I'll agree with you on two points. (1) Someone from Chicago probably does not know great Texas brisket and (2) Rudy's is "adequate" Austin BBQ. That being said, recommending on this forum that Rudy's is an acceptable substitute for taking less than an hour out of one's day to locate and enjoy GREAT Texas BBQ is simply irresponsible to the chowhound concept. I just assumed that if someone is travelling 1000 miles or so and wants the BEST local grub, that they would be willing to make some effort to get to it. My bad, enjoy the Sause...

                      1. re: Rick Smith

                        I like the way you think, sir. I can drive for bbq.
                        But being from San Diego, I would appreciate you being a little more detailed about where to go in Lockhart proper. I will be in Austin for about 24 hours and there will be about 6 hours of sleep and about 3 hours of business one day and 3 hours of schmoozing with clients another day so I figger I got about 3 hours my first day to link up to the right place. I would appreciate a little more guidance.


                        1. re: Victor

                          Some will say Blacks although I never really liked it. Kruetz used to be the place but they are a little to touristy now and are not as consistant as they should be. Smitty's would probably be my choice for Lockhart for the great fire pit, building and damn good que. But I really would pass all of them and head 15 minutes down to Luling and eat at luling City Market. Brisket, sausage and ribs all rock.

                          1. re: Victor


                            John Scar is giving you some good advice. If you have to pick one place in that area, it should probably be Smitty's (in Lockhart, pictured below) or City Market (in Luling). Reasonable minds can disagree as to which of the Lockhart/Luling places is the best for various meats. But all of them are stellar, representing the top-tier of Texas barbecue. So that frees you up to decide on other grounds: history and atmosphere. And, in those categories, Kreuz's enormous, modern "barbecue barn" and Black's down-home cafeteria digs can't compete with the other two.

                            But why choose? Kreuz is exactly .4 mile from Smitty's (per MapQuest). And Black's is in between the other two. To go to one and skip the others is like flying to London to see Big Ben, but refusing to walk across the street to see Westminster Abbey. Keep in mind that this is barbecue. You don't have to wait for your meat to be cooked. (The pitmasters were working on that long before you woke up.) And there's no table service. It's slow food goodness in a fast food format. Seriously, you should at least do Kreuz, Smitty's, and Black's. And, if you manage your time wisely (3 hours, you say?), you shouldn't have any trouble hitting City Market in Luling, too.

                            Searching through Chowhound, you can find countless threads debating the big three (or, some say, four) in Lockhart. And for a description (with photos) of a recent trip to Black's, Smitty's, Kreuz, and City Market, see the link below.




                            1. re: Scott
                              Vital Information

                              I think the other REALLY important think to point out generally re: Lockhart is that of the 3 places, only Black's is open for dinner.


                              1. re: Vital Information

                                VI writes, "I think the other REALLY important think to point out generally re: Lockhart is that of the 3 places, only Black's is open for dinner."

                                Good catch. Also, Black's is the only one of the three that (a) takes credit cards, (b) offers utensils, and (c) has barbecue sauce available.


                    2. I live in SF but am from the Austin/Central Texas area. I have a multi-page Rochelle's Top Picks Austin Guide that I add and subtract from every time I visit. Note that its more of a "What an Austinite Misses" list, than a "What's Hot Now" list.

                      If you'd like me to email it to you, I'd be happy to, just send me a note via email. I regularly share it with friends traveling to Austin and many have said it was useful. Although many of the recommendations are more Central Austin-ish.

                      Anyway, here's some of the recs:
                      Opal Divine's, Chuy's, Castle Hill Cafe, Fonda San Miguel, Dan McKluskey's, Eastside Cafe, Jeffrey's, Kerby Lane....and so many more.

                      FYI - In addition to this board, I tend to use the Austin Chronicle food section when I'm missing Texas food (

                      1. v
                        Vital Information

                        Anyone know this bbq place?

                        1. Since you're "over here" so to speak, I need to clue you in on Mueller's on Burnet (same guy as the Manor store).

                          I just went today and I'm impressed. Actually, what I had today was better than what i've had at the Manor location.

                          Brisket was out of this world with a smokey, crunchy crust and moist and flavorful in the middle. It actually stayed moist through the whole meal outside! in the wind!

                          John was there and when I told him the board had been talking about him and he said to tell everyone "i'm here and just as friendly as I was at the other place." Funny boy! He said he's only open from 10 - 2 on the weekends till they get settled, but if today's meal is any indication of not being settled, unsettle away!

                          same super-yummy mustardy potato salad. i love the potato salad.