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Austin - seeking recs for local food downtown & nearby

  • m

I've scrolled down four months, I think this question has not been addressed directly.

I will be visiting Austin in a few weeks and staying downtown. Las Manitas seems to be the consensus place to go for a Mexican breakfast.

I'm also looking for good representative examples of

(1) BBQ brisket [Stubb's, Iron Works... is there some place else? Opinion seems to vary]

(2) Mexican -- Tex-Mex moreso than "interior"

(3) chicken-fried steak

(4) a high-end meal that is reflective of the region, if that makes sense. (I live in NYC so I have access to haute cuisine or whatever you want to call it.)

I understand a cab ride is not expensive but all things being equal I would prefer to walk or take a Dillo bus.

Thanks much!

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  1. s
    Steve in Austin

    (1) You will need to rent a car for a day to get really GOOD BBQ. Don't worry, it will be worth every penny. There is NO good BBQ in the city limits of Austin, but the absolute BEST Texas BBQ within 30 minutes drive. (Stubbs and Iron Works are known to us BBQ purists as very below avg. Texas BBQ, sorry).

    Drive southeast on US 183 (near the airport) to Lockhart (The OFFICIAL BBQ Capital of Texas). Stop at Kreuz Market (the big, red barn) when driving into town and sample some of their pork chops and sausage. I am not a fan of Kreuz' brisket so that brings us to Black's BBQ (two blocks northwest of the Courthouse).

    Black's serves the BEST brisket in Texas, period. they also serve excellent sausage. Do not buy any sides except pinto beans. Now, drive toward the Courthouse and about two blocks southeast you will find Smitty's Market. this is the epitome of an old Texas BBQ joint.

    Try some of their prime rib, "fatty" brisket and sausage or pork chop. (They sell the same cuts of meat as Kreuz, but I believe the old brick pits provide a better smoke flavor than Kreuz).

    If your not tired of great BBQ after hitting the Lockhart places, see the Texas BBQ Trail Map for some other good places within 30 minutes of Austin

    I rec. these places:

    Louie Muellar's - Taylor
    City Market - Luling
    Southside Market - Elgin

    And I would skip the others not mentioned in this post. Do yourself a favor and experience REAL Texas BBQ!

    Link: http://www.texasbbqtrail.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: Steve in Austin
      s
      Seamus Mitwurst

      I, of course, must disagree.

      I dislike Las Manitas. I think El Sol y La Luna is good for drinking sangria and listening to music.

      For Mexican breakfast, I think I would suggest a cab ride. Maria's Taco Xpress is great for gorditas, migas and bfast tacos. South Lamar near Bluebonnet.
      For a more Mexican, less Tex-Mex Breakfast, I would suggest Borrego de Oro at the Corner of Congress and Ben White. There's nothing within walking distance for that type of food.

      I would also disagree with the statement that there is no good barbecue in downtown Austin. There is no good "Central Texas Style BBQ" in Downtown. But for a different style (Central Texas African-American BBQ?), try Ben's Longbranch just East of I-35 on 11th Street. I think it'll still be walkable. I like their ribs and pork butt, but the mutton is greasy goodness at it's finest. But I guess you gotta like mutton. I also love their sauce, I swear it has apricots in it. Goes good with pork, but sauce is anathema to some whiners. Others may suggest Sam's instead. But that is a definite cab ride.

      I can't think of any "fine dining" in Austin that is particularly unique to the region (besides the decidedly more casual nature of any venture). I think the Eddie V's suggestion is pretty good for Gulf Seafood. Though I have found (and others have had different experiences) that Wink is one of the best places for excellent use of locally produced meat and produce. Though, be prepared for a fat bill at the end.

      1. re: Seamus Mitwurst

        "Ben's Longbranch just East of I-35 on 11th Street"

        Ben does probably the the best beef ribs in town. His other meats are pretty average. All of Sam's meats are too fatty for my tastes. I would agree with the short roadie to Lockhart. You cannot get any of the barbecue ambience of Smitty's in Austin, that's for sure.

    2. I like "The Shady Grove" for Chicken Fried Steak near downtown. It is on Barton Springs Rd.

      1. For Tex-Mex and Mexican Breakfast, El Sol y La Luna is a short walk down South Congress. There's a lot of construction between the river and Riverside right now, but once you get past that, it's not a bad walk.

        The other poster is right, there's really not any great barbeque, particularly brisket, downtown. Iron Works has a good beef rib, and I've got soft spot for their chopped beef sandwich, but I wouldn't go there if it wasn't close to my office.

        For local upscale, hit Eddie V's and have some gulf coast snapper.

        Welcome to Texas.

        1. Forget Stubb's if you're after 'cue. It's just no good. On 12th Street at Lamar Blvd is House Park Barbecue. It's only open for lunch but the 'cue is reliably good and in my opinion ranks as some of the best in the city limits. I'll follow along with the recommendation that you hit Lockhart for barbecue if you can, but steer clear of Kreuz brisket and sausage. I went last week and the brisket was downright rubbery and the sausage was kind of mushy. Yuck. The pork chops and ribs however, were very good. I'd go to Smitty's where everything was good on my last visit.

          I love Las Manitas (betw 2nd and 3rd on Congress) for breakfast and lunch, especially the shrimp enchiladas on Friday. For pretty good tex-mex almost downtown with above average margaritas, try Guero's on south Congress.

          For excellent chicken fried steak and great sides, take a short cab ride to Hoover's on Manor Road. The fried pork chops there are also excellent. As for the Eddie V's recommendation, I was there on tuesday and had bad oysters (both cooked and raw), passable lobster bisque and a disappointing crab cake, with a sticker shock check.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Greg Spence
            s
            Steve in Austin

            "Las Manitas..especially the shrimp enchiladas on Friday"

            Greg, tell me about this dish. What type of sauce do they use and PLEASE tell me they don't use flour tortillas like El Arroyo does on some of their seafood "enchiladas". Thanks.

            1. re: Steve in Austin

              Shrimp in corn tortillas with a shrimp stock based sauce of spinach and mushrooms. It's excellent.

            2. re: Greg Spence
              b
              Brian Lindauer

              Did you order the fatty brisket? If you get the regular brisket at either Smitty's or Kreuz, you end up with super lean (read: dry) beef shoulder, which is no good. I really like the sausage at both places, since I tend to prefer the coarse-ground, loose packed style. It was too greasy on one visit to Smitty's, but every other time, it's been great.

              Brian

              1. re: Brian Lindauer

                Yep, I always order the fatty brisket. I also favor Kreuz sausage as a rule, but on this visit it was way off. I'm usually a Kreuz fanatic, but next trip I'm going to check out Smitty's again.

            3. (2) Tex-mex...agree with El Sol Y La Luna for breakfast or lunch.

              (3) CFS....DEFINITELY Hoovers on Manor Rd. Don't let anyone talk you into Threadgills. Blah.

              (4) High-end...agree with Wink, and agree with the warning on the price. I do like that they buy their produce from the local Boggy Creek Farms. I would also recommend Cafe Josie on 6th a couple of blocks west of Lamar, and Castle Hill Cafe on 5th and Baylor (1 block west of Lamar). Cafe Josie is also great for lunch (the prices are reduced).

              1. I agree that the better Austin BBQ is just east of I-35. I had some great brisket around New Year's at John Mueller's on Manor Road.

                Tex-Mex is not as good as it could be in Austin (I have many good suggestions for San Antonio--maybe for your next visit to the Lone Star state). I'd second your observation that Las Manitas is one of the best Tex-Mex breakfast options close to your target area.

                A great number of people in Austin love the CFS at Hoover's. It's pretty good. But if you're looking for real down-home cooking (CFS, chicken and waffles, fried catfish--all with Southern-style sides), I'd try Tony's Southern Comfort at 1201 East 6th Street. It's closer to downtown and very, very good.

                I cannot recommend Wink at all. The owners mean well; it's a friendly place; the kitchen uses local and organic ingredients. They aspire to be the kind of restaurant that NYC does so well (Home, Blue Hill). But I haven't found an Austin restaurant yet that can pull this off. Poor execution of the basics has ruined two meals there for me.

                I'd suggest instead dinner at the Driskill Grill, which is right downtown.

                Enjoy your visit!

                2 Replies
                1. re: MPH

                  scuttlebutt on another board is that Muellers on Manor is closing tomorrow.

                  ftf

                  1. re: ftf

                    I'm not that surprised. Even though JM always got pretty good word of mouth pub. bottom line is the place was never run like a real restaurant business.

                    There were too many inconsistencies in the brisket as well as he would "run out" of stuff ALL the time. And John's "attitude" got a little grating also. I mean, EVERY time I would walk in and order some potato salad and cole slaw (the best sides in town), he would ask, "Where are you getting your meat?" No offense dude, but it aint any of your business. Just sell me the $4 pints of cabbage and taters.

                    Three times STRAIGHT over a month or so time frame, I visited his place on a Saturday 2-4pm looking to get some take-out for dinner and twice the doors were shut with the "Run Out of Food" sign, and the other time he had no brisket, no slaw, and no potato salad.

                    Once, he was out of cole slaw at NOON. Are you kidding me, is this a backyard BBQ or a restaurant? Bottom line is the kid got a little full of himself by breaking away from the old man. He should have assisted his dad in Taylor until Bobby retired and took that place over. Louie Mueller's is only going to be more of a gold mine once the new highways are done and population growth is already mushrooming out that way. Best of luck John. Learn from your mistakes.