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Itinerary help (esp. Tex-Mex and Mexican)

  • g
  • ggom1 Feb 7, 2014 11:12 PM

Hi Austin CHers!

My friend and I are going to be visiting at the end of the week and I need a bit of help. We're visiting from Toronto and will be in both Austin and San Antonio over 6 days. We'll be staying by I-35 and 6th St in Austin and will have a car for part of the time.

Thurs: We may not get into the city until around 9pm or 10pm so maybe ESK at The Grackle? Someplace walkable from where we're staying would be ideal.

Fri: Franklin barbecue and I want my friend to bring me a breakfast taco while waiting in line. Maybe dinner at Uchi or Uchiko.

Sat: We're day tripping to Lockhart so breakfast has to be pretty small (breakfast taco? machacado?). Smitty's + Black's in Lockhart for lunch. Dinner may be a combo of snacking at the Alamo Drafthouse/Hey You Gonna Eat or What/Polvos (this dinner might be swapped with Friday's).

Sun: I want Tex-Mex or Mexican brunch but don't know where? Takoba? My guess is we'll eat brunch in Austin then drive to San Antonio.

Main questions -
1) Franklin bbq: 9am should be early enough for the line right? And where am I getting a breakfast taco from; is Cisco's the best option?
2) Tex-Mex/Mexican: I googled a bunch of the places I saw mentioned here and most of them seem a bit far from where we'll likely be (downtown/East Austin/South Congress). Apart from the places I mentioned above, are there other Tex-Mex/Mexican places which are recommended?

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Tex Mex Brunch = Fonda San Miguel.

    Breakfast taco en route to lockhart = migas tacos at Mi Madres with added avocado. keep going down manor road east to airport blvd, then take it to 183 and on to Lockhart. about 30 minutes.

    meat taco = la fruta feliz or el taco rico. barbacoa, pastor, carnitas. house made tortillas.

    Franklin by 9 a.m.? Should be okay, but that's the latest I'd go on a weekend.

    Best Tex Mex / Mexican by you? No one place is perfect. I love the guajillo fajitas and salsa bar at Polvo's. I love the tortilla soup and atmosphere but not much else at Guero's. I love the Puerco con cascabel dish at Sazon. The last time I ate at La Condesa I was disappointed.

    Coffeeshop / Atmosphere Recommendation: Go to Mozart's on Lake Austin and if it's nice sit outside on the water with the caffeine of choice. I always take out of town folks there and then drive along the lake west to see the folks with double boat garages attached to their homes. reeeediculous. it's a beautiful area of town.

    Best Place for a Snack and best non alcoholic beverage I've ever had: A dreamcicle (OJ, vanilla, cream, topo chico) and sundried tomato and cheddar croissant at Quack's Bakery and Coffee.

    1 Reply
    1. re: slowcoooked

      Thank you!

    2. El Sol y La Luna may work for your Sunday breakfast or early lunch. I love their mole enchiladas. They have live music starting at noon on Sundays.

      1. thursday sounds good, given your late arrival.
        friday: just be prepared to be there early, and waiiiiiit.

        saturday: instead of another breakfast taco, what about a kolache? i had never heard of/eaten one before moving here. polvo's is pretty polarizing on this board, but i like it, and you will also wait a pretty long time on a saturday night. my dining companion and i always get the same thing: Chili Relleno al Nogal (creamy pecan sauce, sooo good) and shrimp a la plancha.

        sunday: if you want a tex-mex/mexican brunch, do fonda san miguel for a splurge (kinda pricey by austin standards). south congress cafe has great contemporized food and good people watching, especially if you get a table by the windows.

        have fun!

        22 Replies
        1. re: dinaofdoom

          Just my opinion here, of course. But i think the kolache is the most overrated food in Texas.

          1. re: TroyTempest

            some of them are good (in my opinion), especially the kind from non chain places. and they are definitely unique to TX.

            but, hey, nothing wrong with eating breakfast tacos several days in a row! nom nom nom

            1. re: dinaofdoom

              The ones from Hruska's in Ellinger (if yo are heading to Houston, its about halfway) aren't bad, but just too much bread overall, for me.

            2. re: TroyTempest

              these always reminded me of something lunch ladies invented to use up extra rolls and canned fruit

              1. re: TroyTempest

                My favorite is the sausage kolache at Daylight Doughnuts on Burnet Road. There a bit different than most. The breading is really good, with a crispy exterior.

                1. re: rudeboy

                  yeah, i only like savory kolaches, preferably sausage. i think if done right, the slightly sweet dough is a bit like brioche without the egg wash, and has a nice contrast with the savoriness of the sausage.

                  1. re: dinaofdoom

                    Yeah, me too. My sentiments exactly.

                  2. re: rudeboy

                    Yelp is implying this place is closed?

                    1. re: Carter B.

                      Damn. I had kinda gotten chummy with the owners, but haven't been in a while. Looks like they have been closed for a while. I've had no other kolaches like that in Austin.

                2. re: dinaofdoom

                  Polvo's - we like the regular relleno with chicken and cheese, and we love the fish or shrimp a la plancha, too. Don't get the chips and salsa, though, but order some of their other salsas on the side.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    the one with the creamy pecan sauce? because that sauce is addictive!

                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                      No, the other one with the tomato-based sauce. I actually have not had the pecan creamy sauce there, perhaps because I had a poor version long ago at a different restaurant. Maybe I should try it. I just can't stop ordering the a la plancha. My wife orders the relleno.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        ha, the la plancha is one of my faves, and my dining companion usually orders the relleno. and then i get a little of that, and we're both happy.

                    2. re: rudeboy

                      I can't seem to ever be able to not get the guajillo fajitas. also has pecans.

                      1. re: slowcoooked

                        Have you noticed that sometimes it has nuts, raisins, pineapple. Then there are days when none are in there.

                        If you wanna try a killer relleno (remember my quest a few years ago), I think Los Pinos has the very best to offer. Waaaaay better than Manuels and a quarter of the price - and the chips and salsa are crave-worthy.

                        1. re: amysuehere

                          Yeah, I seem to catch it when they're all three there, at least the nuts and pineapple. I will try the Pinos relleno - last one I tasted, speaking of raisins, was a version at Sazon that wasn't bad. I can never seem to go there and get anything but the pozole and maybe a taco or two if I'm feeling gluttonous.

                          1. re: slowcoooked

                            I personally like the El Paso version of relleno - light batter, fried with cheese/chicken filling and smokey red chile sauce on top. Not much for the crema sauce.

                            btw, you can ask for the relleno a la carte and put whatever filling and sauce you want. Most wild combo (but was still very excellent) I tried was al pastor with the tomatillo - flavor bomb.

                        2. re: slowcoooked

                          Yeah, love those. I'm wondering if the guajillos are steeped in light soy sauce. Way off?

                          1. re: rudeboy

                            I think it is. (This is me admitting I've been to Polvo's a few times in the last year.)

                            I've ordered only items that the Chow Austin gang have recommended in my visits. Team, thanks for helping me navigate their menu in my unavoidable meetings there.

                            1. re: tom in austin

                              Is it the food, or the hipsters that turn you off? I've thought of bringing my own chips......they have pissed me off a few times - they just put the chips on the table and charge for them. One has to say "no, I don't want the chips." The basic salsas there are not that good to me anyhow. They also autograt for a four top. Never seen that anywhere before.

                              Not sure if these policies are still in place. However, I feel like some of their dishes are sublime.

                              Glad to help in some small way. I used to get dragged to Chuy's all the time for gruel and glop.

                              1. re: rudeboy

                                I used to live blocks away and hit this place all the time as one of my neighborhood joints. I was mostly offended by the state of their breakfast offerings: extremely miserable tortillas with somewhat less miserable (but still inexcusable!) breakfast taco fillings. Just unacceptable.

                                W/ regards to the other standard metrics that I use to calibrate awesomeness, Polvo's has not done well. Bad chips. Bad tortillas. And thusly bad enchiladas, tacos (of all stripes), and everything else that has a tortilla as an ingredient. My favorite Polvo's item is the queso, which comes with a plate of fun stuff to throw in as your proclivities recommend.

                                Even following the recommendations of my fellow hounds, let me be unequivocal: there is nothing good here. Simply some stuff that is alight, and then some stuff that is decent, and then a lot that is mediocre-or-worse.

                                The absurd issues not related to their food (autogratting on a 4 top, erratic staff, uberslacker clientele, parking shenanigans) are footnotes. I care about food. But in considering Polvo's, it is difficult to pave over the non-food obnoxiousness.

                                On the positive note: I'm a fan of the gringo queso with tons of stuff thrown in it, so I've always loved their queso. YMMV, but given my warped preferences, this is my favorite item they offer.

                                1. re: tom in austin

                                  That's a good, thoughtful reply. But, on another not, I wish I owned the place. It is always full of people!

                    3. AlmoDraft house is fun..but not exactlly a food place soooooo do your heavy snacking before you get there

                      I would do Uchiko rather than Uchi

                      I would do Pizza and Drinks at Violet Crown over ESK and Grackle( which breaks my heat because I loooooove ESK but they have let me down at that location the last few times)

                      You may look at Qui--

                      I love Fonda San Miguel for lovely brunch
                      I love Maria's Tacos for a wild weird Austin experince

                      If you are going to Lockheart you can skip Franklins IMO unless you just want to have the experince of having been there done that....

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: girloftheworld

                        "If you are going to Lockheart you can skip Franklins IMO unless you just want to have the experince of having been there done that...."

                        I have never been to Franklin's, but i bet that most BBQ geeks (and i mean that with the utmost respect) would disagree

                        1. re: TroyTempest

                          I love the vibe at Black's and Smitty's as something you just cannot get in Austin Metropolitan for BBQ. Maybe it's partly because the bearded computer dude to good ol' boy farmer ratio is much lower (not that I have anything against beards as long as they're not in my friggin' food). But having been served brisket by Aaron consistently from way back in '04 when he was cutting up Mueller's on manor, then to his trailer on his own and ever since, nothing beats his brisket for me, anywhere. and it's worth the wait. A big HOWEVER, La BBQ and John Mueller Meat Company are as good as anything in Lockhart apart from that small country town texas BBQ vibe, but all are at least a finite notch below Franklin's.

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            "but i bet that most BBQ geeks"
                            true
                            that is my piont
                            you go for the experince of having been there done that
                            or
                            because you are realllllllllly into got to have it BBQ
                            if you are just are an average take it or leave bbq person Lockheart will be enough

                            1. re: girloftheworld

                              aren't you supposed to be in school ;-)

                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                Yes..I am home sick..feeling sorry myself..and wallowing...I have not been this sick in years...this not want to eat sick..

                                1. re: girloftheworld

                                  Sorry. Hope you are better soon.

                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                    confession: i also wondered why you were posting during the school day :-) love how we all "know" you. feel better soon!

                                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                                      :) you all are watching out for me! warm fuzzyies or cold chills .. it is kind of har to tell right now

                            2. re: girloftheworld

                              ESK at the crackle is closed or closing per Eater.

                              1. re: Rptrane

                                I wonder if this is a good sign or a bad sign for the other locations. I'd like to think they're thinning the herd a bit so they can concentrate on quality control more.

                                1. re: Rptrane

                                  AHHH---- sad...

                                  SOooooo OP! go with my Violet Crown and Pizza on THursday rather than The Grackel

                                  1. re: Rptrane

                                    I went to ESK on the drag and had the beets and buns of some type and wondered what the living hell everyone was on about. so did all my dining companions. Maybe the wrong location, a bad day, but I was neither impressed nor satisfied with my lunch.

                                2. Thanks for all the input!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ggom1

                                    hope you have lotsa fun! let us know how it all worked out for you.

                                  2. I'd say definitely forget Takoba, because it's, well, very forgettable. The place has a good vibe and is well designed (and a nice staff in my experience), but the food is just very mediocre compared to some of the other options you've got in town.

                                    Just to throw out a few, I love Polvos for good food and excellent neighborhood hangout vibe, so good choice there. Curra's falls in the same boat – I prefer the former, but both are great. For more authentic Mexican food, Taco More is one of my favorites. They also have one on Riverside now, so it's an easier trip if you don't want to go too far north. The vibe is much more bare bones, and it helps if you know a little Spanish (but not necessary). Finally, I'd recommend La Gloria as a good option in San Antonio. It's a little fancified, but everything I've had there has been delicious and the prices are great. I'd recommend the pork molcajete, any of their ceviches, and the Potosinos. It's basically what Takoba is trying to be, but infinitely more successful in the food department.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: popvulture

                                      I second La Gloria in S.A. I wish it were in Austin.

                                      1. re: popvulture

                                        one thing curra's has, which i LOVE: the avocado margarita. it's got avo and some cilantro whirled into it. definitely a more unusual take, and since you're coming from canada, probably not something you would experience back home.

                                        http://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2...

                                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                                          I second that. When I first heard of them, my first thought was "what? gross," but I was proven very wrong. Excellent drink.

                                          1. re: popvulture

                                            yeah, i was skeptical, but now i'm a believer.

                                        2. re: popvulture

                                          pop, have you been to both locations of Taco More? I ask for a 2nd opinion as my only experience at the Riverside location was much inferior to previous ones at the north location. Wonder if others have had the same experience.

                                          When I'm on Riverside, I just love the Taquerias Arandinas location there - homemade tortillas, great food and maybe the best borracho beans in the city.

                                        3. Hi all! Reporting back from the trip - bottom line, I'm extremely jealous of Austin ;)

                                          Veracruz tacos: Al pastor taco. I really liked the sauces here! Tortillas were so good too; throughout the trip we were basically jealous of how good tortillas were compared to what we can get.

                                          ESK at Liberty: Beet fries and Thai chicken karaage. Not bad. I liked the beet fries just b/c I like beets :)

                                          Mexitas: My introduction to migas. I quite like them!

                                          Franklin bbq: The wait was actually quite fun; perfect weather, beer, and my migas. Such ridiculously moist brisket! Pork ribs were great; we regretted not ordering more. Turkey was good too - I actually liked it better cold the day after (if I lived in Austin, I would use this to make club sandwiches all the time!). Bourbon banana pie was good too.

                                          Amy's ice cream: I like that they mix the topping into your ice cream!

                                          Uchi: Got lucky wandering in on Valentine's Day with no reservation. Yokai berry, hama chili, a scallop special, and the foie gras sushi. The foie gras sushi was awesome! Everything else was just ok for me - it was good but didn't seem special enough that I'd go out of my way for it.

                                          Easy Tiger: Beer cheese and pretzel were ok. I just wanted to know what beer cheese was lol.

                                          Bar 96: I had Live Oak Hefeweizen and now I think this is the greatest beer ever <3

                                          Black's bbq: Brisket flavour was nice but one bite and I was like "urg, so dry compared to Franklin's". Beef rib was fun to order but we were kind of overwhelmed by the fattiness. And jalapeno-cheddar sausage was just ok.

                                          Alamo drafthouse: Alcoholic milkshake and a giant bowl of popcorn are never a bad thing.

                                          Bomb tacos: Campechana taco was pretty good; I liked the pineapple but the tortilla wasn't as fluffy as other tortillas. By this point we hoped to stuff ourselves as full of fluffy tortillas as possible before going home.

                                          And that was it for Austin!

                                          FYI we did make it to La Gloria in San Antonio but I thought it was just ok. It seemed a bit similar to places up here; I liked Rosario's and Tito's better. I tried a machacado taco at Tito's and liked it! I also tried a ham-cheese-jalapeno kolache at Buc-ees (lol) and they remind me of Chinese buns :) I also really enjoyed Buc-ees beaver nuggets haha.