Five Things I Ate in Austin That You Should Eat Too. Soon.

Categories: Eat This

Austin Uchi Lemon Sorbet.jpg
Uchi's lemon gelato with beets and pistachios
After nearly a year without venturing outside the loop, I finally got out of town for a brief weekend. I toyed with going to Marfa, but I'm not yet Texan enough to drive eight hours for a weekend getaway, so I chose Austin, as much for its culinary diversity as its proximity.

I'm still trying to decide if the very act of taking a vacation heightens the senses and makes every experience seem more Technicolor than it might at home, but for now I'm ready to say that these dishes were more than worth the drive.

While it's really easy to drop some serious coin at Uchi, winner of last year's James Beard award for best chef Southwest, you can get in and out of here modestly if you practice a little caution. Happy hour (5 to 6:30 p.m.) offers a decent selection of plates available during regular dinner service, at a fraction of the cost. Good luck remaining disciplined with plates like this lemon gelato (pictured above) up for grabs on the full-price menu, though. Perched on a pistachio crumble, with extra pistachios thrown in for good measure and a beet puree, this dessert reminded me of a deconstructed lemon pie.

*****

Austin La Condesa Pork Taco.jpg
La Condesa's cochinita pibil taco
This pork was no joke. It had a strong citrus flavor and used so much annatto seed it was a deep, rich, brown color. Cabbage, pickled red onion and pickled jalapeño rounded out a taco I'd give anything to have a little closer to home.

*****

Austin Easy Tiger Pretzel.jpg
Easy Tiger's big ass pretzel
Downtown on East 6th Street, Easy Tiger combines a top-notch bakery with a beer garden. After the second day of eating, this pretzel was the only thing I could fit into my bloated body, but I watched other plates go by that made me salivate. That sauerkraut is made in-house, and they corn their own beef for sandwiches too. It's a crime there is no Reuben on the menu.

*****

Austin Henri Pate.jpg
Henri's Charcuterie plate, chicken pâté
A long wait at Barley Swine had me looking for a place nearby to relax with a drink. Henri, a wine bar next door, fit the bill and plated up a chicken liver pate tinged with lavender and sweetened with honey. Keep your eyes out for Pâté Letelier if you're scanning any Austin menus. Something tells me the boutique's spreadable meats will be featured in more restaurants soon.

*****

Austin Barley Swine Caprese.jpg
Barley Swine's caprese salad
Barley Swine boasts some innovative plates that were more than worth the wait. I came for the chicken fried pig face, a crusty riff on head cheese, that was a bit of a let down, but left smitten with this simple salad accented with a port wine foam.

If you find yourself waiting a long time for a table at Barley Swine, or need a casual drink after eating pig face, head to the The Horseshoe Lounge in the same plaza. Sit at the bar. Order a Budweiser (trust me) and ask Dixie to tell you the story of her hunt for the king of beers in Tibet. You won't be sorry.


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29 comments
Mark
Mark

 I did thirty years in Houston and have now been in Austin for four. I have had more good food and heard more good music in four years than the thirty in Houston. You can have it. Mark

Semberpixy
Semberpixy

They do carry a reuben style sandwich if you get to go back. Best thing on the menu in my opinion! Ask for the pastrami sandwich.

Coddled pigs
Coddled pigs

I have had the lemon dessert at Uchi and many other things and absolutley loved the entire meal. Best octopus I've ever had!

Hrsanchez
Hrsanchez

Actually, Easy Tiger does have a Reuben.  Their Pastrami Sandwich comes with sauerkraut, swiss and Easy Island Dressing (Home made 1000 Island).  You can ask for it with corned beef instead of Pastrami.  It is REALLY good.  Best corned beef in town.

Austinite
Austinite

Uchiko is so much better.  Barley Swine can be dope, La Condessa belongs in uptown.  Easy Tiger could never be in Dallas.  Henri's could succeed anywhere.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

There is nothing to eat in Marfa worth the drive.  I dare say there is nothing in Marfa worth the drive.  If you do head that way, skip Marfa and go to Big Bend.  For food, road trip to the STx barbeque temples, Houston, and San Antonio instead.  BTW, the food in Houston puts Austin's to shame.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

All of this shit looks good, and i mean everything on the City of Ate, thats what sitting in a nursery and eating hoispital food for 3 days with your wife and newborn will do to you.  I crave anything right now.  Someone wanna bring me some pancakes or a rack of ribs, or both so I can wrap a rib in a pancake and top it with syrup?

Mervis
Mervis

These pretzels are making me thirsty!

?!?!?!?
?!?!?!?

CULINARY DIVERSHITTY!

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

You went to Austin and didn't visit The Ditch (El Arroyo)?

Dude.  

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Thanks for the pic of DKR Royal Memorial stadium Scott..when is the write up on West? Can't believe you didn't detour down to Lockhart (only go to Smitty's...fatty brisket.. don't believe anyone but me!) on Saturday or atleast get in line at 7am in front of Franklin's..(That's next on my list of things to eat in Austin proper.) 

Steve
Steve

Foam is gross.   Molecular Gastronomy is soulless.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Love the Horseshoe. Pool table, good jukebox, cold beer, no bullshit. What else do you need?

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 There are rumblings that Houston's food scene may be one of the country's best.

Austinite
Austinite

Where?  Reef?  RDG Bar Annie?  They opened years ago.  Biggest opening last year was Uchi.  Bar Anvil is way better than what we have here (in Austin, but we still win on restaurants and not having a morbidly obese population).  Also, we won the past two James Beard awards for best chef Southwest.  

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

That's because it hasn't been good since 1988

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 I lived in a constant state of full. I ate a lettuce leaf on Monday, and just started to feel hungry again today. You can only eat so much. maybe when I go back I'll let the readers pick more of my meals.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

 Once you have brisket at Franklin BBQ your favorite brisket in Lockhart & Luling become second place selections.  Still good, but Franklin brisket is in a solar system unto itself.  And yes, the hype is well deserved.  And you need to get there by 9:45, not 7:00.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 I had two and a half days, and waiting in line was not how I wanted to spend my time. An Austin brisket tour is high on my list for a second visit. Franklin and Meuller, which I walked by, but was on my way to Barley Swine.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 I enjoyed a foam at Marquee Grill once. Tre Wilcox had used a bubbly balsamic to accent a caprese salad similar to this one. They're more delicate than the core ingredient would have been on its own. Droplets of balsamic vinegar (loud and brash) hit your palate differently than a foam (soft and delicate) does. With this salad, a port wine drizzle might have been overpowering as well.

I agree that foaming shit for the sake of foam is a lame practice. But in this application it worked.

Guest
Guest

Totally. Except for... you know... every single metric besides hipster points.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

 Where Houston excels is the family restaurant.  Maybe not starred in reviews, but serving excellent quality, good tasting food.  Two extreme examples are two of my personal favorites: Laredo Taqueria on Calvacade (sublime at under $10.00) and Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen (any fish--even your own fresh catch--crab meat cocktail and shrimp soup).  The city is full of quality Vietnamese, try Pho Danh.  If you want starsFeast, Hugo's, El Gran Malo, Pondicheri, yes, Reef,Cavouer, and Da Marco.  Plus excellent burger places and Mexican food that rivals San Antonio.  Personally, I think the James Beard awards are as old and in the way as any Houston restaurant.

Austin has very good places--I rate the restaurant at the Four Seasons as good as any--and a bunch of taco and burger places, but very little in the middle.  Not trolling here; I have lived in Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas plus spend a fair time in Austin.  I believe Houston has more and better to offer, which should be no surprise considering its size and location.  What is a nice surprise is that the restaurants are not as much the corporate/chef permutations and combinations that plagues dallas.

Blas Garcia
Blas Garcia

You should try Madam Mam's across from the Communication School at UT. Awesome Thai food!

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

JMeuller may make the best ribs I've ever had. Plus the three Bud Lights he gave me while I was in line were cold and free.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

What is the "metric" for art, again?

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