Tiburón -Shark- Žralok

Tiburón -Shark- Žralok: Writing Cooking Traveling

Friday, March 12, 2010

And We're Back...

Moving from New York to Austin has sort of shut this operation down for a while. But no more excuses, if for no other reason than because Austin is an incredible food town. Sure, it doesn't have the range and scope of New York or its eccentricity, charm, and outlandish pricing, but Austin's food cart-local/sourced/awesome-Tex Mex restaurants have kept me very happy these past two weeks. Below are some highlights of my new home.

- Maria's TacoExpress: I pass this place every single day. The Walgreens next to it feels incredibly out of place. You are beckonded from S. Lamar Blvd. by a giant woman's torso with dark hair and a black tanktop, arms stretched up to the sky. Upon closer inspection you notice that the assembled junk below her is in fact a restaurant, although the only real signs reads "Hippy Church" and "Rooms Avialble." Around the squarish structure are murals and assembled kitch that surround a wooden outdoor patio with two levels, strung up with lights. The inside is like cave, walls plastered with old Mexican ads and from every inch of the ceiling hang random ornaments like kitchen serving spoons, a guitar, a phone, and so on. You order at the counter, their menu is limited but they do have Austin's now famed Breakfast Burritos, Migas, Enchiladas, Chips with -Queso, -Guac, -Salsa, Gorditas, and, of course, drinks- a loaded Margarita prevalent among them. I tried several of the tacos, the least remarkable being a Mexi Taco with overdone scrambled eggs that claimed to have onion, tomatoes and jalapeños, but I didn't taste them; a Verde taco loaded with sauteed vegetables, which was good, though not super satisfying; and a Pollo Guisado taco, the best of them, slightly spicy with juicy chicken, topped with lettuce and tomato. Apparently they do meat best, as tends to be the case with Mexican places. The queso at Maria's-- and I have tied quite a bit of queso-- was the best I've had so far. The consistency wasn't as creamy and heavy as other places tend to make it and I have hope that this was made with better ingredients but the hell if I know. I'm excited to come back, specially on summer nights, its the perfect place to go with friends, knock back beers and eat cheap tacos.

Kerbey Lane: One of two 24-hour diner-type places, the other being Magnolia which I have yet to try out. Its walking distance from my house so I have particular incentive to go. It has sparsely decorated walls in anonymous shades of purple and beige, large windows, muted green booths, wooden tables, and diner-lighting. I like it. It feels like a much calmer version of a diner in New York where all the waiters are either art students who have no business being in the service industry or very friendly middle-aged hippies with tattoos. The menu ranges from standard diner fare like sandwiches, omelets, hamburgers, and pastas to Tex Mex like Queso, Quesadillas, Soft Tacos, Enchiladas, and Breakfast Tacos. (I have yet to encounter a burrito in this town.) Their queso is decent, heavier than Maria's but they have variations on it like the Cowboy Queso which has black beans topped with queso topped with quacamole and with a side of salsa and chips. They have a daily selection of soups, pancakes, desserts, beers, and wine, along with their mainstays. Their Creamy Poblano Soup is a delciscious alternative to a cream-based tomato soup with the smokey flavor of poblano pepper (not spicy). Their burgers are excellent, specially the Hippie Burger, a well-seasoned veggie burger topped with tomato, lettuce, and red onion. You can pick out condiments, among them regular mayo, pesto mayo, or chipotle mayo and I highly recommend the latter for a pleasant kick to your sandwich. Their desserts aren't bad either, specially their light, almost cheesecake-like Buttermilk Pie, with a touch of lemon. I'm going to be visiting there a lot. I still can't vouch for their coffee, though.

Gourdough's- We haven't even left S. Lamar yet and we're still eating really well. This trailer is located next to a coffee stand called Brevitas and a locally-sourced hot spot called Farm to Trailer which opens at 5 and whose smells are demanding I give it a try pronto. But Gourdough's is something you will only get in Austin, drunk food par excellance that you eat on wooden picnic tables with big umbrellas on a rock-covered courtyard overlooking the avenue and a Papa John's--great place to catch the sunset, which is beautifully colorful without buildings to block it out. Gourgough's serves Big. Fat. Donuts. Topped with a colorful array of decadent toppings. So far I've tried the Funky Monkey, grilled bananas, brown sugar, and cream cheese sauce, and the Black Out, Chocolate Chips with Chocolate Fudge and Brownie Bites. Oh my God. The donut itself is incredible, slightly sweet with a crackly exterior and a soft, custardy interior. Its made on the spot, its circumference barely fits the small plate its loaded onto, then the toppings are heaped generously over it. Next on my list to try is the Naughty and Nice which is simply sugar and cinnamon but there are some out there combos like Fried Chicken strip with honey butter, Bacon with maple syrup sauce, Habanero Pepper Jelly with cream cheese sauce, and other combinations to please every level of pregnant.

For now those are my top three, although I've been to a few lackluster Asian places, I have yet to find one I'm crazy about. Amy's Ice Cream  is a scaled-down version of Cold Stone with an ice cream menu that changes every day. Chuy's, a local Tex Mex chain that specialized in enchiladas smothers in sauce with really good table chips and salsa. And the Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater that serves beers, wine, and food during the movie. I can't write too much about it because I've only had their molten chocolate cake, which is very good.

There are still many places to try out, although my cash pile is running out so you may be hearing mostly cooking stories from now on. I joined a CSA immediately and its incredible the variety of vegetables I'm getting, a drastic change in terms of selection from the Northeast. I got an avocado in my share! And oranges and grapefruit! This is incredibly exciting. I also got tender and slightly bitter new broccoli, neon orange carrots, and tough, dark greens and its mid-MARCH. And no, I don't have to wear a jacket when I go outside, the weather is lovely.

Seriously, come to Austin.

1 comment:

  1. Alamo Drafthouse was one of the first places I went when I visited friends in Austin last summer. I thought it was so cool! We went to a lot of great restaurants when we were there. Have you tried the Clay Pit yet? That's another gem (Indian food). I was also a fan of the Drake hotel for drinks.