When we returned from Austin we were left asking ourselves a question: What is it about Austin that everyone loves? After thinking about this question for some time we finally stumbled upon the obvious one word answer….Austin is FUN!
Whether you are a hipster peddling through town on a fixed gear bike, a triathlete training for the Ironman or a beer guzzling college kid looking for a memorable Saturday night, Austin is just the spot you are looking for. So, if you haven’t been, check it out (but you may want to wait until the Fall, it was already starting to get pretty hot down there). We checked out a lot of new places that we had yet to try on this trip. Here’s our take on what we saw, drank and ate. Check out the Austin City Page to see which places made the cut.
Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub – new East Austin pub in an old Tejano night club featuring “Fat Sandwiches” and plenty of beers on tap – including a great variety of the many new Austin microbrews that have popped up in the last few years. The Second Deadly Sin with smoked turkey, bacon, swiss and fried avocado was tasty and enough sandwich to feed the hungriest Austinite.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken – perhaps our favorite new stop on our trip, this restaurant grew from the popularity of chef/owner James Holmes’ Sunday Brunch fried chicken served at his upscale restaurant, Olivia. This restaurant hits the right notes – cool, laid back vibe with predominantly patio seating (both covered and uncovered), good selection of beer and cocktails, nice side dishes and most of all – delicious fried chicken! The Bucket O’ Chicken easily serves 4-5 and we found the chicken tender and moist and the skin was light golden crisp and loved by children and adults alike. Their Corn on the Cob had a great jalapeno kick and left our mouths on fire. Don’t leave without the Lime Pie – a heavenly treat with lime custard and coriander-wafer crust topped with whipped cream.
El Primo – small taco truck on S. 1st Street with tasty breakfast tacos. Right next to Once Over Coffee Bar – a Latte and Migas Breakfast Taco is a great Austin way to start the day.
Once Over Coffee Bar – nice little coffee shop on S. 1st with one of the better Americanos and Lattes we had all week. Brews with locally roasted Cuvee Coffeebeans.
Izzoz Tacos – creative and tasty breakfast and lunch taco truck on S. 1st.
Elizabeth Street Cafe – highly anticipated casual French-Vietnamese restaurant on S. 1st from restauranteer Larry Maguire and his team (Perla’s, Lambert’s). As usual for Maguire’s team – they nailed the decor – the spot is small but beautiful with indoor and outdoor seating featuring pink and light blue hues reminiscent of the Miami Vice logo. We stopped in both for breakfast and for lunch. We loved the breakfast pastries from La Boite and were thrilled to have a Vietnamese coffee featuring Stumptown Coffee Roasters beans. Unfortunately, we were lukewarm about the banh mi, unimpressed by the Vietnamese Fried Rice and highly disappointed by our Bun (Vermicelli bowl). The prices are high for sure and would not be unreasonable if the food delivered, especially given the great decor. It seems to violate The twentyfive:thirtyfive Rule #16: If a restaurant is going to serve an “elevated” form of a cuisine it needs to be sure to elevate it to a level that warrants its elevated prices.
Hillside Farmacy – new East Austin eatery and artisan grocery. They have done a tremendous job in converting an old drugstore while creating a retro chic vibe. They feature breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. They were definitely still working out some kinks when we were there and the sandwiches were a bit on the small side for the price but we’d like to return when they get the place fully up and running smoothly.
La Boite Cafe – we loved both the sweet and savory patries from this eco friendly pastry shop. Two locations, one on S. Lamar and one on Congress downtown, both inside of repurposed shipping crates. Give the Ham and Cheese Croissant and the Almond Croissant a taste.
Patika Coffee – delicious little coffee trailer on Congress and 2nd. Friendly baristas serve up espresso drinks from Cuvee Coffee beans. Would be one of our go to coffee stops if we still lived in town, especially after cooling down from a run on Town Lake.
Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden – another one of our favorite spots from the weekend. Though it is located in the not-so-nice part of East 6th right by 35, the actual place is fantastic. Upstairs, breads and soft pretzels are made and you can stop in and grab one to go. Downstairs a low roofed interior with wood tables resembles a European pub. But, the best part is through the back side downstairs – a large beer garden with long wooden tables, faux rock walls and ping pong tables. The soft pretzels with salted whipped butter were excellent (though not quite up to our high standards ofBrave Horse Tavern in Seattle) as was the beer selection and smoked turkey breast sandwich. We plan to return to check out the house made sausage sandwiches and pastries.
Lenoir – new creative small plate 3 course prix fixe restaurant with a cute tiny dining room. Choose any 3 dishes from their field, land, sea, and dessert menu for $35. We enjoyed our meal and found it to be a great value to get such high quality and unique ingredients creatively prepared.
Asti Trattoria – although this Hyde Park restaurant has been around for 10 years, we had not been there until this trip. We are pleased to say we enjoyed our entire meal. The Frisee & Fontina salad with poached farm egg and truffle was absolutely delicious. We also loved our Duck Confit Ravioli, Braised Lamb Sugo with papardelle, and wood oven pizza with house made sausage. Topping the meal off were two fantastic desserts – ricotta creme brulee and affogato with beignets. Despite the number of new restaurants in Austin, Asti is tried and true and remains at the top of their game.
A few microbrews sampled this trip:
Thirsty Planet Brewing – Thirsty Goat Amber (hoppy but not overly caramel-y)
Austin Beerworks – Pearl Snap Pilsner (clean crisp, hint of citrus)
South Austin Brewing Company – Golden Ale (belgian ale, rich, smooth)
Now, 10 random thoughts about Austin and our trip:
1. Topo Chico mineral water with a lime is delicious and refreshing on a hot day.
2. There are literally 300 places to get a breakfast taco in Austin.
3. The infiltration of Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee in Austin (Juan Pelota, Hillside Farmacy, Elizabeth St. Cafe) is not good for local roasters but it is great for coffee lovers. Stumptown, please make your next destination Nashville.
4. Austin restauranteurs have done an amazing job in the aesthetic and design of many of the new restaurants. Places like Easy Tiger, Elizabeth St. Cafe, Hillside Farmacy, and Haddingtons look and feel fantastic.
5. Maybe it is our weakness for great donuts, but Gourdough’s is officially our favorite food truck in Austin. The Miss Shortcake with strawberries and whipped cream is always so good and the Flying Pig with bacon and maple syrup glaze tasted like a great brunch meal with every sweet/savory bite.
6. Next time back we’re staying at Hotel St. Cecilia. The grounds and pool were gorgeous and remarkably there was a wonderful laid back quiet vibe despite it’s location just off of South Congress.
7. Although you may be tempted to try, do NOT eat barbecue or Mexican food at every meal in Austin. Trust us.
8. Running on Town Lake Trail (Lady Bird Lake) is one of the truly great things aboutAustin.
9. That being said, we can’t guarantee that your seasonal allergies won’t flare if you do choose to run on Town Lake.
10. When in Austin, do what the Austinites do – get your workout in early then go get yourself a drink outside somewhere.