Saturday, May 2, 2015

Four Fun Days in Austin, Texas


We visited Austin over Easter for a friend’s wedding and I was really excited to visit this Texan city famed for ‘Keeping it Weird’.  Austin is known for its music scene, its quirky laid-back charm and its food! Once we bought our plane tickets, I proceeded to geek out and read up all the reviews and blog posts I could find, pestered friends for recommendations and finally made a massive spreadsheet of every restaurant and bar I could find. I wanted to focus more on BBQ , Tex-Mex and Street food trailers – food that especially unique to Austin.

Texas State Capitol

The ‘Spreadsheet’ wasn’t perfect but it certainly delivered. Where ever we were, I could always find somewhere good close by to eat and drink. So while I certainly had some great food experiences in Austin that I can blog about – I have no photographic evidence. I had good intentions and did take some pictures of the places we went to but then got distracted once the food came! So be prepared, you’re going to see a lot of random pictures I took of Austin with not much food in sight.

(I’ve grouped the places I visited into my personal favourite categories)

Category 1: TEX - MEX

Torchy’s Tacos

Our AirBnB rental on
South 1st Street was just 2 blocks from the South Austin Trailer Park that had a Torchy's Tacos trailer so we ended up going there twice. I really enjoyed their tacos – simple clean flavours that just come together so beautifully. I had the Mr. Orange Taco – grilled salmon with corn and black bean relish and topped with fresh cilantro and avocado salsa on a corn tortilla and the Baja Shrimp Taco – fried shrimp with cabbage slaw, jalapenos, onions, cilantro and chipotle sauce – DELISH !



Be warned, everything is quite fiery though they did spice it down a bit for me. What I really enjoyed was their Breakfast Tacos – amazing creations of eggs, potatoes and cheese on a soft corn tortilla - perfect when you’re hungover!

And special mention to their Fried Avocado taco! This why I love America: take the most lovable health food, fry it and make it even better. It was fantastic and you have try it.

The trailer park has outdoor and indoor seating and a couple of other street food vans. Torchy’s Tacos are super cheap (about $3 to $5 each) and all you need is two tacos to fill yourself up.  I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Austin. They have other vans located around Austin as well.

Torchy's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Chupacabra

The first night we stayed at the Inter-Continental in Downtown Austin before we checked into the AirBnB. We visited  Texas State Capitol  building and got a dose of some Lone Star Texan history and then we headed to East 6th Street (hipster central) to check out the bars and live music. We ended up at Chupacabra and had some tacos which to be honest, were pretty unremarkable (especially compared to Torchys). So unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend it.

Chupacabra on Urbanspoon

Polvos:

One evening, when we were back from the wedding festivities, everyone was at a loss of where to get dinner. It was close to 10 o’clock and we were a large, hungry  and hung-over group and my spreadsheet came to the rescue and I found Polvos on South 1st Street (much to the bemusement of other people in the group who were puzzled as to why I walking around with a colourful printed spreadsheet in my purse.)

Polvos was also recommended by our Mexican taxi driver – who said the food was good and that it was the least Tex Mexish of all the Tex-Mex joints – which was high praise from him given that he said none of the Mexican food in Austin is authentic or close to real Mexican food. So we landed on their doorstep and they managed to pull together a table for us where we ordered pitchers of Margaritas and filled us ourselves with quesadillas and fajitas and all was good with the world.  

Polvo's Mexican on Urbanspoon


























Category 2: BRUNCH & COFFE SHOPS

South Congress Cafe


13


Jo’s

What did live to the hype was Jo’s. A small chilled out spot on SoCo where you can grab some coffee and some sandwiches. They are known for special iced coffee called the Iced Turbo which is amazing and totally addictive. Perfect place to hang out and watch the world go by.

Jo's on Urbanspoon



Tom’s Roasting Company

So this is actually a store which sells TOMS shoes and sunglasses but they have a coffee shop in front that makes great coffee. It’s a got a very laid back
Austin vibe and a patio to hang out on while you’re drinking your coffee.

Toms Roasting Co. on Urbanspoon

Seventh Flag Coffee Company

This coffee shop is about 1 block from Torchy’s Tacos on South 1st Street and they are super serious about their coffee. It takes about 10 minutes for them to make a coffee – honestly you can see them watch the espresso drips drop by drop in meditative silence. It felt like we were at Apple headquarters– there were so many solitary souls just drinking their coffee and typing away at their Apple laptops. 

Seventh Flag Coffee Company on Urbanspoon


Category 3: MEAT – BBQ & BURGERS

Freedmans BBQ:

We lucked out as the bride and groom had organized a lunch at Freedman’s BBQ. It was AMAZING. Before going I scoped out the menu to see what I should order – I needn’t have worried, as they had it all organized and there were massive sharing platters so I actually got to try out everything! Highlights were the sliced beef brisket, the baked beans that were pimped with chopped pork and brown sugar and the house-made sausage. I loved EVERYTHING. I always knew I was BBQ girl at heart!

Freedmen's Bar on Urbanspoon

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

We walked past the Hopdoddy burger bar joint on SoCo quite a few time and there was always a massive queue in front of it. So one day, when we noticed there was no rush, we decided to check it out.  Best idea – the burgers were amazing. They are very into making sure they have the best ingredients possible and source their meat from farms with no growth hormones or antibiotics – they even make the bread for the bun in house and it gets baked right in front of you.

It’s a bit of an odd system of ordering. You just walk right in and go straight to the queue to pay. While you’re in the queue to pay, the server comes up to and takes your order and puts it in an Ipad tablet and then when you go the counter you just pay straight up and then they give you your table number. It’s slightly confusing at first but quite effective. I got the Primetime Burger: Texas Akaushi Beef with brie cheese, truffle aioli, arugula, caramelized onions and steak sauce. The meat was amazing – tender, juicey and so flavourful – it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar on Urbanspoon


Category 4: DESSERT

Gourdough’s

Another street food joint that impressed me was Gourdough’s on South 1st street, just a block away from Torchy’s Tacos. They make big fat doughnuts with all kinds of crazy toppings, like the MotherClucker - Fried chicken on a donut anyone? I wish I was a bit more adventurous but I had a sweet craving and played safe with the Dirty Berry: Fudge icing with grilled strawberries. Totally recommend a visit!

Gourdough's on Urbanspoon




Amy’s Ice-Cream

Amy’s is a popular local chain that was pretty decent but nothing compared to Izzy’s in Minneapolis!

Amy's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


In four days, I think we just scratched the surface of what Austin has to offer. It’s a lovely city with great weather, friendly people who love good music and food. If you’re planning a trip and you’d like to have a look at my crazy spreadsheet, leave a comment.

Inside the Capitol Building

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