trip report: austin, tx
Because Mike and I are both gluttons for punishment as well as regular-type gluttons, we decided that even though we'd already been gone for EIGHT weekends of Summer 2014, we had to scoot out of Manhattan for Labor Day Weekend.
"Breakfast tacos," I said.
"Barbecue," Mike said.
And so, it was decided. We arrived in Austin just in time for dinner (obviously) on Friday and hit up La Condesa, a modern Mexican spot downtown that got great reviews.
[Side note: as I've probably mentioned before, meal reservations are the first thing I check off of my to-do list when we're traveling. I generally use Chowhound and Bon Appetit to research and then whittle my list down based on availability and amount of melted cheese on the menu]
After gorging on some of the best chile rellenos on the planet (Taleggio mornay sauce, anyone?) we found ourselves too tired to do much in the way of nightlife and headed back to our hotel, The Driskill. I'll be totally honest: the location of this place was great but the rooms smelled kind of funny. Not sure if it would be my first pick the next time we're in town.
After a queso-induced sleep, I woke up on Saturday morning nearly bouncing off the walls with anticipation: BREAKFAST TACOS. (Please note that I almost just wrote munching on my first taco and then thought better of it. Obviously not enough to prevent me from still writing it here. ANYWAY.) Breakfast tacos are to Austin what pizza is to New York: they are legion, everyone has a favorite and locals can spend hours debating the merits of corn versus flour tortillas. Ultimately we decided on Veracruz All-Natural, since it was on our way to Lockhart, where we were headed for barbecue later that day.
Do you see that melty goodness? I went with a corn tortilla because I'm gluten-free (LOL, no, because it tastes better) with chorizo, cheese, and the requisite egg. I'm pretty sure if I started every morning with this I would be as round and happy as the Buddha.
Our mini-Taste of Austin continued with a stop at Gourdough's, an Airstream trailer that is loved for their freshly-fried doughnuts.
The above is the Funky Monkey, which is grilled bananas, cream cheese icing and brown sugar. I'm not sure if I'd ever had a doughnut fresh out of the fryer before this (and there is a bit of a wait because of it), but holy smokes, was it worth it. The doughnut itself was airy on the inside, crisp on the outside and the combination of the rich cream cheese, the gooey banana and the crackly brown sugar was just brilliant. For some serious food porn, I recommend reading their entire menu.
Sufficiently stuffed, we hit the highway (where you can go like 300 miles an hour) and made our way to Lockhart. As Mike and I learned doing our meat research (this was entirely separate from the normal restaurant research that I do), Lockhart is ground zero for good Texas BBQ. We decided on Black's because I love sausages (BIG SAUSAGES).
Any of the major spots in Lockhart will have a line, but luckily Black's provided ice water and it went by pretty quickly.
That is a thing of beauty, no? A good Texas sausage will be crisp on the outside and just bursting with juices when you
massage it cut it open. I had a very happy husband. I mean because of the sausage, not because of -- fuck it.
After exploring South Congress and downtown (we did do activities other than eating, I just seem to have neglected to photograph them), dinner was at qui, Paul Qui's Filipino (!!!) inspired fine-dining joint. We opted for the vegetarian tasting menu, since I ate about two cows at lunch.
I won't bore with you with a ton of pictures of the tasting menu (it was dark in there), but it should suffice to say that that man can do wonderful things to flora.
Sunday brunch we hopped in the car to Fonda San Miguel, which is legendary for their enormous Mexican spread. Now, before going to Texas, I heard many a derogatory statement on how Mexican or Tex-Mex food in New York was just plain hideous. That we wouldn't know a good enchilada if it slapped us in the face.
Well. They were right.
Sometimes Mike and I talk about the best iteration of something that we ever WILL have, meaning that it's more or less the platonic ideal of a dish. The cheese enchiladas at Fonda were certainly such a specimen. Also, there was white chocolate mole.
Sunday afternoon was spent wandering East Cesar Chavez, where there are a ton of tiny galleries dotting the road.
Our final dinner was at Odd Duck, a small-plates spot that had some of the friendliest service I've encountered, even in the South. They brought free appetizers just because it was our first time in Austin! Also, I got to wear my new (to me) cowboy boots that we picked up at an antique store in Lockhart. Do you know how rare it is for me to find vintage shoes in my tiny Asian size?!
Because we're not always old people, we capped off the night with Little Dragon at ACL Live, which must be one of the better laid-out concert venues I've been to. And if you're not familiar with the band, check 'em out because they're fabulous and their lead singer is also half-Asian.
On Monday, we said goodbye to Austin the only way we knew how: with breakfast tacos. This time we took my friend Alex's suggestion and headed to Juan in a Million. The tacos here used (what I think) is melted American cheese, which gives them a much more gooey consistency, but still just as tasty.
Until next time, Texas. Where do you like to go in Austin, friends?