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Feb 10, 2005 03:14 PM

Austin Chowhound Challange- NYC CH in Austin for 72 hrs

  • d

A small group of New York City chowhounds are headed out to Austin for a long weekend at the end of the month and look forward to no fewer than 9 meals while we are there.

Question is-- where to go.
We are staying in Downtown Austin- but have car and will definitely travel great distances if the food is deserving.
We are focusing on dinner places- but lunch recs are welcome as well.

We had hoped for
1. a late night place for one night- great fun food at a place open late
2. an upscale place for sat night- great wine list a must
3. the best of the best- anything you guys can dream up
We've done some research and besides definitely needing to drive to a place called Lockhart (where/what is this-- and what is the protocol?) for BBQ.
We've gotten some recs for Jeffrey's and Caste Hill. Thoughts?
Your help is much appreciated!!

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  1. How much barbeque are you willing to eat?

    10 Replies
    1. re: TCUJoe

      Now that I have time, let me amplify my remarks. There are 50+ more elegant rests. in NYC than any rest. in Austin. Do you want to return muttering "I can get that much better at home" or do you want to return wailing "I'll have to travel 1500 miles to get food like that again"? To get good stuff that you cannot get anywhere in the northeast, focus on BBQ, Mexican, and maybe Vietnamese and southern. Due to pollution and health law differences, you guys just are not allowed to eat the kind of BBQ and Texmex that you will be able to eat here.

      1. For BBQ info., follow Scott's threads. He posted something on Valley food just above, and his site has good info on places around Austin. Keep in mind though that BBQ can be a little variable from side to side, day to day, etc. Nevertheless, you will find bliss in any place he recommends highly.
      2. Fonda San Miguel for upscale Mex. Sunday brunch. Try to make a reservation, if possible.
      3. The Taqueria Arrandas ON BURNET (not the other branches) for lowbrow Mex./breakfast.
      4. Sunflower Vietnamese on highway 183 next to Target.
      5. Hoover's on Manor Rd. for Southern/"home cooking".
      6. Polvo's is a popular hangout for Margaritas and Texmex. Try the dark brown salsa at the salsa bar.
      7. The grill in the Driskill Hotel is supposed to be good, though I have not eaten there. New Yorkers should not find it expensive.
      8. Threadgill's is sort of famous for (spotty) southern food and lots of beer and music on the week ends. It might be warm enough for you guys to be on the patio by the end of the month.
      9. There are lots of late night spots on 6th St.
      10. Tamale House #3 at 5003 Airport Blvd. Few seats in a dump, but v. tasty. Only open for breakfast and lunch (until 3pm).

      Hope this helps. Enjoy the local flavors.

      1. re: TCUJoe

        Thanks- this list is amazing. I'll start making calls immediately.

        As to your first question- how much BBQ are we willing to eat-- as much as we can!

        We are all way into eating local cuisine- so we want to focus on food we'd fly back for. After reading all the threads about Austin, anyone who says "I eat better at home" has obviously made some gross miscalculations re where to eat.

        NYC is crazy with health codes now a days-- you can't get decent roast beef anymore. So we are looking forward to having real meat done right.

        Any suggestions on things to buy and bring home-- stuff we can't get at our fancy markets in NYC.

        1. re: Deenyc

          DC, NYC & Chi have much better upscale get more bang out of visit, I would say go for what is unique to area.
          Here are a few more suggestions:

          - Fonda San Miguel - agree. great brunch.
          - Jeffrey's & Castle Hill - agree
          - Starlight Cafe
          - Cafe Caprice - good, quiet
          - Z'Tejas 512) 478-5355 :: 1110 West 6th St.

          Austin Flair:
          - Maudie's::
          - Magnolia Cafe (512) 478-8645 :: 2304 Lake Austin Blvd.
          - Shady Grove
          - Polvo's::
          - Hula Hut/Chuy's

          - Close from downtown compared to Luling, Lockhart, Llano: The Salt Lick - our friends from NYC and DC like the ambiance. Plus, BYOB!
          - Driving to BBQ, my fave: Cooper's BBQ in Llano -- I love the Big Chop!

          Hope this helps.

          1. re: Sass

            This is great! Thanks for all the links.

            1. re: Deenyc

              another way to check links:

              - City Search
              - Austin Chronicle City Guide

          2. re: Deenyc

            When you are downtown, Las Manitas has good food and atmosphere, and it is about a block from Tesoro's on Congress, a store that might provide you with things to fill the overhead bins on the way home. Also, Fiesta supermarkets have a lot of Mexican food plus a moderately sophisticated international aisle with e.g. German black breads for reasonable prices ($2.39/500g here in Fort Worth). There are a lot of good Mexican white cheeses that you may not be familiar to you as well.

            A propos BBQ: having consumed grilled meats around the world, Central Texas sausages are O.K. IMO, but not as good as some Laotian, Thai, and German sausages that I have enjoyed. HOWEVER, grilled beef brisket and pork ribs around Austin are THE BEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Not Nashville, not St. Louis, not noplace can compare. Try Coopers brisket, Blacks, etc. and you may be surprised by how much BBQ you can eat.

            1. re: TCUJoe

              I think that you have some great suggestions so far. Texas culture is a mixture of ranchers, pockets of German and Czeck, mexican immigrants from various times, Vietnamese along the Gulf Coast and inland, and recent immigrants from Central American countries. I'd try to get a handle on at least some of that.

              I'm personally not a big fan of Tex Mex in general, as it is oftern uninteresting, bland, and many restauraunts are the same. Some, however, have dishes which stand out.

              Polvo's - beef fajitas with guajillo peppers: intersting earthy, spicy flavor. Camarones a la plancha (with guajillo) is great as well. And they have a filet of fish in an orange/achiote mixture. Be sure and try ALL 10 of their salsas at a buck a piece. THey have more salsa than anyone. South 1st Street. If it is a weekend, see who is playing at Jovitas across the street.

              Castle Hill Cafe: I wouldn't say that it is the most elegant restaurant in town, nor does it have the best wine list. But it is an accessible restaurant that does a good job of combining local and ethnic flavors and is always interesting. They have a decent wine list (and they used to be known for good prices on wine). West 5th stree and Baylor.

              East Side Cafe is a nice place in an old house that serves local flavor, they have lots of vegetables from their own garden with semi elegant preparation.

              Definitely go to Lockhart/Luling as the others described. Salt Lick has more of a fun Texas ranch atmosphere, but the Q is inferior, as you can see by researching this board. I still like to go there with big groups of non chowhounds for fun.

              If you drive up to Walberg, there is a place called "Walburg Mercantile," which serves decent German Food. On the weekends, they have an oompah band and yodelers. It's fun if you like to Polka. Not a carnival atmosphere. Someone else may be able to rec some other German places S of Austin. A better alternative, and not as far, is the "European Bistro" in Pfleugerville (15 min instead of 40). Hungarian woman serving German, eastern Euro food. Very good preparation, presentation, and the building is realy nice inside.

              I'd definitely do Las Manitas for breakfast one morning. If you can't "stomach" the menudo, then try the posole or migas con hongo. 200 block of Congress (sign says "Avenue Cafe.")

              Brunch at Fonda San Miquel is a great introduction to the original introduction of Interior Mexican cooking to this part of the US. Other cn chime in, there are also holes in the wall that do very good jobs. I loke Sabor, on N. Burnet - absolute dump, but cheap and BYOB. My favorites: Conchinita Pibil, Molcajete de Res
              Parillada Platter. Also El Zunzal is a Salvodorean Restaurant (just to the right of HEB that is on Pleasant Valley and E. 7th). Favorites: mojarra frito - a whole tilapia (head and all) that was scored, roasted, and topped with onions that were sauteed in achiote. Marisco' soup - a seafood soup-shrimp, fish, calamares, scallops, mussels, crab, clams.. spicy and had a seafood and coconut milk base. Someone mentioned that they had something with beets on the menu, which is interesting.

              I'm sure that you are spoiled by Chinese - we only have three "real" chinese rest in Austin. Sunflower is the best Vietnamese, IMHO. More than the typical Pho and ubiquitous Bun. Ohlen and 183. Service sucks and it is in a strip mall but they have some nice preparations that you can't find elsewhere.

              And I'll say it again: We have a world class Thai restaurant right on Guadalupe (2500 block): Madam Mam's. BYOB as well. I've never been to a better thai restuarant. (look of their website for a menu if you are interested)

              Phew. You'd better post after your trip!

              PS - you'll need to see some Honky Tonks. On S. Lamar, go to the Broken Spoke for a interesting evening. All types of Austinites with lots of Hats. Ginny's Little Longhorn on 5500 Burnet Rd. Go on Sunday at around 4 PM, where you will see a live Chicken on a checkerboard. Tats and hats kind of place.

              1. re: rudeboy

                It sounds like Madam Mam's is a hidden gem (the equivalent of Bangkok Cuisine in Haltom City). What are your favorite dishes?

                1. re: TCUJoe

                  I haven't been to the retaurant that you described. I looked on line, and it appears to be near Ft. Worth.

                  Here are my favorites (from their menu):


                  "Som Tum (Papaya Salad
                  Shredded green papaya seasoned with lime juice, thai peppers, palm sugar, fish sauce, tomatoes and garlic, and topped with roasted peanuts and dried shrimp.

                  Tom Khlong (with Chicken or Tofu)

                  (Choice of rice stick, flat rice or bean thread noodles) in a hot and spicy soup made of roasted galanga, shallots, Thai peppers, and garlic mixed with lemongrass, magrood leaves, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Topped with roasted Thai peppers."

                  Of course,

                  "Pad Thai (Chicken or Tofu)

                  Rice stick noodles stir fried with chicken, egg, small fresh tofu, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts in a very tasty, tangy, sweet sauce served with bean sprouts

                  Guay Teaw Kua Gai

                  Flat rice noodle stir fried with chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, and pickled radish in a soy sauce mixture, served with green leaf lettuce.

                  Tom Kha (Chicken or Tofu) - You can also get an artichoke version that is elsewhere on the menu - that is very good.

                  Thai coconut soup with lemongrass, magrood leaves, galanga,Thai peppers, lime juice, mushrooms and cilantro. Tasty, smooth, hot sour and spicy. Served with rice."

                  My overall favorite, with beef:

                  "Kao Soi (Chicken, Stewed Beef, or Tofu)

                  Northern Thai red curry soup with egg noodles, pickled mustard, fried shallots, and Thai roasted peppers. Very tasty, hot and spicy.

                  Tom Kem Salmon

                  A chunk of salmon slowly cooked in a homemade sauce of garlic, ginger, tamarind, sweet soy sauce and sugar cane. Very tasty.

                  Prik Khing Catfish

                  Sugar snap peas with crispy catfish pieces in our homemade curry paste with palm sugar and shredded magrood leaf. Spicy"

                  just a few ;-)

            2. re: Deenyc

              When you go to Lockhart, I very much recommend Smitty's as the place to go. If there are any pork eaters in your group, I also recomend you get a pork chop, but specifically ask for an "outside cut pork chop." An outside chop is cut from the end of the meat slab, meaning one whole side of it will have the salty crust that makes that BBQ so good. You will be glad you asked for it. I also recommend you buy a whole avocado there and add avacado slices to your meat. I have converted many people with this seemingly incongruous combination.

              Also remember that you should go to these BBQ places in Lockhart between 11:00 a.m. at 2:00 p.m. for the best que.

        2. City Market in Luling, another 15 miles down the road past Lockhart, has the best barbecue nowadays. Ask for brisket with some fat on it, and do NOT fail to try the sausage. Raw onion, sour pickle, and soda crackers are all you want to go with it. Beans, potato salad, etc., just take up room that would be better used for meat. Oh, and pass on the sauce. Barbecue that good don't need no sauce.


          1. Here's a second vote for the Sunday brunch at Fonda San Miguel. Great interior Mexican food.

            1. t
              Tha Groovin' Gourmet

              Some excellent suggestions which I can second or third.

              Brunch at Fonda San Miguel is the only absolute must. Go hungry,
              and ask for their chipotle salsa if you like it a little hotter. Magnifico!

              Castle Hill is definitely well worth it for lunch or dinner...eclectic menu, guessing their wine list would match up.

              Didn't see it mentioned, and I know there are naysayers, but I like Threadgill's. Especially worth consideration if you like veggies...the
              sides are kickbutt. Legendary "meat and three" kinda place...Janis Joplin used to sing there, among many other notables.

              And also with naysayers, but not in this chair...I love Chuy's.
              A #4 (Cheese Enchilada with Beef Chili Gravy and a Chile Relleno with Deluxe Tomatillo Sauce) will rock your world. Atmosphere like nowhere else, and love them swirl margaritas.

              Hula Hut and Shady Grove are run by the same guys and are also worth a visit...plenty of atmosphere and good grub. I'd choose Shady Grove, unless I was in a seafood mood.

              Only suggestion I would veto is Salt Lick, specially if you are a first-timer to Texas Q. Head south and get a quarter lb each (per person) brisket and sausage from Black's, Kruez and Smitty's in Lockhart and City Market in Luling and have you a meatfest.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                I would say Blacks in Lockhart. I DID NOT like Kruetz (sp) Market. Lemon pepper does not belong on BBQ. Good Luck and enjoy!

                1. re: Becca Porter

                  Kreuz does not use lemon pepper on anything. Just salt, red pepper and black pepper. And they do get my vote for best 'cue in Texas, and therefore the world.

              2. Number of excellent suggestions already. how 'bout adding these?

                - the ever popular breakfast staple, the taco. suggest Juan in a Million or Taco Xpress. You can start a "religious war" trying to pick the best of these, much like barbeque. after a hard night of eating and drinking sitting outside at Taco Xpress is one of my favorite ways to spend Sunday morning.

                - Have a mexican martini on the deck of the Cedar Door downtown. Great kick-back place to enjoy a nice beverage you probably won't find in NY.

                - if you are real foodies, during the day you may want to check out Central Market (link included). This is Austin's answer to Zabars that has been written up in many food magazines. North and south are different with each having interesting things to look at. you can find many local barbeque and hot sauces, etc. at either location to take back.