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What's unique in Austin?

I'm considering traveling to Austin later this year.

What foods are special in Austin & Texas, foods that would be difficult to find (at a high level of quality) in other parts of the country (I live in California)?

Tex-Mex?

Texas BBQ?

Louisiana/Cajun?

Thanks for any recommendations.

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  1. I'd argue the only food that Austin is really known for is barbecue brisket and short ribs. Isn't that the universal answer to half the questions asked here? ;-)

    You can find it at John Muellers Meat Company, Stiles Switch, LA Barbecue, and of course Franklins.

    1 Reply
    1. My friend visited from San Diego and she loved/is dying to come back for the queso from Kerby Lane, breakfast tacos and Hatch chilies.

      21 Replies
      1. re: Carmelapple79

        Hi Carmelapple79,

        By googling, I found that 'queso' at Kerby Lane Cafe refers to a cheese sauce that the Cafe uses in various dishes:

        http://www.kerbeylanecafe.com/sxsw-fa...

        That's what you're referring to, right?

        Thanks.

        1. re: SimSportPlyr

          Its also an appetizer that is quite popular here in Austin.I myself have gotten addicted since moving here.Kerby Lane's best imhp : Kerbey Queso: Guacamole covered with queso and topped with pico de gallo. Its served with tortilla chips for dipping.

              1. re: Carmelapple79

                Carmelapple79, is 'queso' always guacamole covered with queso and pico de gallo (and, potentially, other things), or do other restaurants have different recipes (e.g. lacking quac or pico de gallo)?

                1. re: SimSportPlyr

                  I'm not the one you are asking, but no, queso usually just refers to the cheese dip (sans guacamole and pico). The version Carmelapple refers to is specific to Kerbey Lane. You will find all sorts of queso variations at different restaurants.

                  1. re: MelMM

                    Indeed. Queso fundito can be made with chorizo, mushrooms, or chili rajas.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Queso fundido is not what folks in Austin are referring to when they talk about queso.

                        Our "queso" is short for Chile Con Queso, which is essentially a melty cheese sauce mixed with peppers and eaten with tortilla chips. The most basic recipe is generally processed cheese (like Velveeta or Land O' Lakes Extra Melt) mixed with chopped chiles and tomatoes.

                        1. re: verily

                          I know the standard is inexpensive cheese product and maybe Rotel tomatoes, but there are other tasty variations.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            If you get the white cheese Velveeta and make a good roasted chiles and tomatoes, it can be very good. If you serve it at a party, you will notice that the women will gather round the crock pot.

                            But queso fundido is guuuuud not matter where. The guys will gather round that.

                            1. re: rudeboy

                              So let me get this straight. Women love queso, but men love queso fundido? I thought melted cheese dishes = loved by all. ;-)

                              1. re: kosheri

                                Yes. Queso Fundido is more of a guy thing. I have a suggestion: plan a party and put out a crock pot of white queso. You will have a henhouse in no time...all the women talking about how the guys don't clean up after themselves and can't fold laundry. Then plop down queso fundido. The guys will gather round and pontificate about interior mexican BS and tell stories about how they used to travel a lot.

                                1. re: rudeboy

                                  I guess I don't even know how to respond to that. We clearly have very different friends.

                                  1. re: kosheri

                                    Well, I was just jacking around anyway. On second thought, I retract my statements about queso fundido.

                2. re: Carmelapple79

                  I second Queso. Our friend from San Francisco went nutz over the Bob Armstrong dip at Matt's. Queso with taco meat and guac.

                  1. re: chispa_c

                    chispa_c, by Matt's, you mean Matt's El Rancho, right?

                    1. re: hlk

                      Are you referring to any particular restaurant?

                      1. re: SimSportPlyr

                        Apologies for being vague. They're all over, and I would recommend you just try various different versions and see what you like. Mellizoz, Tacodeli, El Papalote, Joe's Bakery, Tacorrido (drive-through!), Tamale House, random gas stations, etc.

                      2. re: hlk

                        CA has breakfast burritos. Not the same. Options are Torchy's, Taco Deli, Taco Shack, Maria's, etc.

                      3. Drive out to the Salt Lick. Awesome BBQ.
                        http://www.saltlickbbq.com/

                        I also liked Iron Works
                        http://www.ironworksbbq.com/

                        Guero's for Tex-Mex.
                        http://www.guerostacobar.com/

                        Or Chuy's
                        http://www.chuys.com/

                        Fonda San Miguel for genuine high end Mexican food (Not the same as Tex-Mex). Their Sunday brunch is to die for. If you will be there on a Sunday, do definitely try this, you won't be sorry.
                        http://www.fondasanmiguel.com/

                        Kerbey Lane has always been a casual favorite.

                        5 Replies
                          1. re: Phaedrus

                            Phaedrus, thanks for the recommendations.

                            I see that there are several Salt Licks in the area: Driftwood, Round Rock, and at the airport.

                            The link you provided seems to be for the Driftwood location. Is that the one you recommend?

                            1. re: SimSportPlyr

                              That is definitely the one you want to go to, BYOB. Be prepared to wait a little bit if you go at peak hours.

                              1. re: SlickTheCat

                                If you don't BYOB, there is a wine tasting room on the property. They will sell you wine by the bottle or glass and they have bottles of beer for sale too.

                                1. re: suburban_mom

                                  Thanks for that info. I didn't know about the beer. That is good to know, though i doubt i will ever show up there without a cooler

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Have you seen the latest health report from Cisco's? Might want to re-think that one.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                I'd never heard of Migas before, but googling I found:

                                "In Tex-Mex cuisine, migas is a traditional breakfast dish consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with strips of corn tortilla, diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese, plus various spices and condiments (e.g. salsa or pico de gallo). Migas is typically served with refried beans, and corn or flour tortillas are used to enfold all of the ingredients into tacos. In some areas, it may have been traditionally eaten during Lent.[8] One common variation is to add chorizo to the standard ingredients."

                                Is that what you mean?

                                1. re: SimSportPlyr

                                  That's it, on a plate with a fresh biscuit, not tacos. Cisco's is an old Austin institution and tradition for breakfast.
                                  Another institution is the original Threadgills on Lamar, for CFS, fried chicken livers, or the 5 vegetable platter. (They used to offer 9, dealers' choice.)

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      for the uninitiated, CFS = chicken fried steak.
                                      amusingly (to me as an austin transplant) there are a lot of "chicken fried X" stuff, including, but not limited to, mushrooms and bacon.

                                      queso (the appetizer version) and migas are good examples of things you don't really find elsewhere, at least for me having lived in MA and CA.

                                      and yes, breakfast tacos are a bit different from breakfast burritos. when our CA coworkers visit our TX offices, they love to get these.

                                      also: kolaches. never heard of them before moving here. they come in a sweet (poppy seed, cherry, etc. danish-like filling) version and savory versions. my fave are the kinds with various sausages in them.

                                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                                        Thanks, dinaofdoom. That's very helpful!