Fantastic Fest

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things to do (eat) in Austin


Maria’s Taco Express (2529 S. Lamar Blvd, 512-444-0261). We are crazy for breakfast tacos in Austin and Maria’s is the best. After the addiction sets in, you can pick up her Argentinian-influenced Loco Maria Chimichuri sauce to take home with you. Another breakfast recommendation is Curra’s Grill (614 E Oltorf St, Austin - 512-444-0012). Or you can cruise the east side to explore for taco trucks and authentic Mexican restaurants (east of I-35 between Caesar Chavez and Manor). It’s trendy, but I like El Chilito (2225 Manor Rd 512-382-3797) and I really like the tacos at Michocana Meat Market (1917 E 7th St #1, 512-473-8487). Another great tasty low price breakfast institution is Tamale House (5003 Airport Blvd Austin, TX 78751-2708 Phone: 512-453-9842). A good bakery option is Sweetish Hill (1120 W 6th St, Austin – 512-472-1347).

Whole Foods Flagship (525 N Lamar Blvd, 512-476-1206). Whole Foods started in Austin in 1980. Today, their flagship stands as perhaps the ultimate supermarket in the world. Not just a spot for groceries, Whole Foods features a dozen restaurants scattered throughout the store, and enormous specialty gourmet sections. We recommend trying out the cheese plate, hand selected by the Whole Foods Cheesemonger, or the seafood counter restaurant. Surprisingly, Whole Foods features some of the best in-town barbeque as well.
Quality Seafood Market (5621 Airport Blvd, 512-454-5827). Until two years ago Quality Seafood was nothing more than a fine seafood shop, selling fish to restaurants and the public over their retail counter. Then the owner had the epiphany to build a bar in the center of the shop and start selling delectable fried and grilled seafood as finger food. Now it’s my personal favorite hangout in Austin. The raw oysters are terrific, as are the catfish beignets.
El Regio (multiple locations). They start smoking the chickens at about 7 AM, and by 11, those in the know are lined up for what I consider to be the best bird that has ever passed my lips. There are only two things on the menu: half chicken ($6) or whole chicken ($11). It comes with a stack of fresh corn tortillas, a roasted onion, rice, and the tastiest, creamy green tomatillo salsa on the planet. There are several stands now in Austin, but my favorite location is 6615 Berkman Dr.
Barbeque. The best of the best barbeque joints close down shortly after lunch, so dinner recommendations for this traditional Texas fare are rare like fine prime rib. The undisputed king of the daytime BBQ run is Smitty’s in Lockhart, about 30 minutes south of town on 183 south. The two other day trips for BBQ are the original Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Texas (206 W Second St, 76574, 512-352-6206) and City Market in Luling (633 Davis St, 77027, 830-875-9019). For in-town barbeque, although not necessarily up to speed with the day trip varieties, we recommend Ruby’s (512 West 29th Street, 512477-1651) and House Park (900 W. 12th, 472-9621). I haven’t tried the BBQ yet, but Uncle Billy’s Barbecue (530 Barton Springs, 512-476-0100) is very close to the theater and is now a hangout spot for the Alamo South Lamar Staff.They also brew their own beers, which I have tried and can vouch for. Another BBQ spot that is new on the scene and getting good raves is Mann's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (8624 Research Blvd, 512-459-5077).
• (1209 E 11th St, 512-477-6600): Cajun-inspired soul food and po-boys. As good as you can get without crossing the Louisiana border. It’s also really close to Hoovers, another southern food specialist
• Krispy Kreme (701 E Stassney Ln, 851-8888). Old hat for those who have a shop in their hometown, but most do not. If you’ve never had a hot Krispy Kreme, this is definitely a stepping stone to heroin, so don’t do it unless you are ready for a lifetime of indulgence. When the red “hot” light is on, life-changing doughnuts can be yours.

The devoted will be catching dinner with us at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema while watching the movies, but if you want to get out for some we recommend:
Uchi (801 S Lamar Blvd, 512-916-4808): Within walking distance of the Alamo South Lamar, Uchi is hands down our favorite restaurant in Austin. Executive Chef and co-owner Tyson Cole was named one of the top ten chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine in 2005. Uchi features an ever-changing menu of Japanese and fusion dishes; the fish is flown in daily from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Reservations are a must.
• Hoffbrau Steakhouse (613 W Sixth St, 512-472-0822). It’s not fancy, but the steaks are terrific. Forget Ruth’s Chris and the fancy Sullivan’s…Hoffbrau is an Austin institution, and my favorite place for steaks in town.
• Hoover’s (2002 Manor Rd, 512-479-5006): “Stick to the ribs” soul food and southern home cooking. The atmosphere is not so great, but the food overcompensates. We recommend the fried pork chops.

Late Night:
• My personal choice is La Mexicana Bakery (1924 S First St, 512-443-6369). It’s relatively close to the theater and they serve Mexican sandwiches (tortas) all night long and they have a truly bizarre selection of Mexican pastries. Their Tres Leches dessert will take your sweet tooth to new heights.
• Thai Passion downtown is open late and is a godsend for post-midnight movies. (620 Congress Avenue, 512-472-1244)
• Sam’s BBQ (2000 E 12th St, 512-478-0378) on the east side. It’s not my favorite BBQ, but it’s open until 2 AM, 3AM Friday and Saturday, and the building certainly has a great vibe.
• Traditional cafes that are open all night are Magnolia, Kerby Lane and Star Seeds, and I rank them in that order.

Other Fun Day Time activites:
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 N. Congress Avenue, 866-369-7108) in downtown Austin, Texas, tells the “Story of Texas” with three floors of interactive exhibits, the special effects show, The Star of Destiny, in the Texas Spirit Theater, and Austin's only IMAX Theatre, featuring the signature large-format film, TEXAS: THE BIG PICTURE.
Shopping on South Congress. The South Congress district has become the hippest retail district in the city. There are a multitude of boutiques, antique stores and galleries, but our favorite three are Blackmail (1202 S Congress Ave, 512-326-7670) specializing in cool fashion, gifts and vintage cowboy boots; Yard Dog, (1510 S Congress Ave, 512-912-1613, a gallery specializing in southern primitive and folk art; and Uncommon Objects (1512 S Congress Ave, 512-442-4000) which features just that, a vast array of cool antiques and collectible, uncommon objects.
• Shopping at Hog Wild, Toy Joy and Room Service. Toy Joy (2900 Guadalupe St, 512-320-0090) features a huge selection of wacky new toys and some of your childhood favorites. Hog Wild (100 E North Loop Blvd # A, 512-467-9453) hits the other side with a huge selection of vintage toys, games and clothing. Across the street from Hog Wild is a cool vintage clothing and furniture store Room Service (107 E North Loop Blvd, 512-451-1057), who also stock the Austin Vintage guide that is in the VIP bags. And check out their new location right by the Alamo South Lamar at 1701 S Lamar Blvd, 512-383-9898
• Swimming at McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin TX 78744, 512-243-1643) McKinney Falls, just 15 minutes out of central Austin, is home to two na secluded waterfall-fed swimming holes.
• Hike/Swim at Hamilton Pool (512-264-2740). One of the most beautiful spots in the hill country, Hamilton Pool is a waterfall that flows into a collapsed grotto near the Perdenales River. Call ahead, as the trail is sometimes closed. This and McKinney Falls are both great spots for an afternoon picnic.
I Luv Video: Airport Location (4803 Airport Blvd, 512-450-1966). Behind Seattle’s mighty Scarecrow Video, I Luv Video may be the 2nd best video store in the U.S. It’s worth a serious gander if only to browse their Eurotrash, Blaxploitation and Cult DVD and VHS sections. (note, this is a video rental store, not a retail store).

I hope you enjoy your visit to Austin and are able to sample some of our unique local flavors. If you need other recommendations for restaurants, come and find me or drop me an email (tim(at) I take my chow pretty seriously, and have been to most of the restaurants in town.


  • At 5:33 PM , Blogger Lars Nilsen said...

    I can't stand by while you give Tamale House on Airport Boulevard such a short mention. It's basically heaven. And it's virtually impossible to eat more than like $8.00 worth of food there.

    Tacos are $.85 apiece, and they're incredible!

    Get the migas with cheese for $4.85 and a large orange juice if you want the strength of Hercules.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home