Kelly the Culinarian: Austin Trip: What We Ate

Monday, July 8, 2013

Austin Trip: What We Ate

I'm back at home and returning to routine the form of mounds of laundry, miles of 70.3 Ironman training and 9-5 working. You may have already read my recap of what we saw when we visited Austin, Texas, for the long holiday weekend. However, that was a very small portion of the trip.

But the eats - let's get serious here. Texas is for food lovers. The sticky, the sweet, the vegan and the meats. The spicy, the savory, the complex and the cheap. In a state big enough to be its own republic, you will find something for every flavor and mood. And I ate them all.

The first thing to get used to in Austin is the food truck culture. There is a wagon dishing every type of delight from desserts to barbecue, kabobs to cakes. This means that the delicacies have to be enjoyed on the somewhat unpredictable schedule of the purveyors. Also, the trucks are not mobile in Austin (at least from what I can see). They usually have their own parking spot, often in food truck trailer parks. Many of these are BYOB, a perk we enjoyed immensely.

The first stop was Torchy's Tacos, a joint in one such trailer park featuring an array of creative tacos. Tim and I purchased drinks across the street and decided to split four tacos: fried avocado, the trailer park (extra trashy = cheesy), the green chili pork and the crossroads. The trailer park was the best, hands down. Worth a stop, in my opinion, if only for the interesting combinations these guys dream up.

Next on our tour de trucks was Capital City Bakery. I tweeted the owners days in advance to ensure I could snag the peanut butter bomb, which is a decadent chocolate brownie topped with a peanut butter cream, heated chocolate sauce and chocolate chips. It was featured on the Cooking Channel's Unique Sweets peanut episode, so I knew that as a diligent peanut butter fan, my trip would not be complete without a stop to this truck.

Additionally, everything off of the truck is vegan. If the brownie is any indication, everything on the truck is also drool worthy. Great people and great food made with love, no doubt. As a connoisseur of all things peanut butter, I must say this was worth the special trip to the food trailer park. I just wish they had more stuff to eat. I went on a Saturday right when they opened and nothing else was ready. But I'll take what I can get with a smile and a full tummy.

Another truck we tried was Heros Gyros. They had a booth at the Fourth of July fireworks we went to see. I won't waste my time here, because it wasn't good. I had a falafel wrap and was unimpressed.

You can't visit Texas without eating barbecue, and eat we did. More like gorge ourselves, but you only live once, so with the battle cry of #YOLO on my lips, I dove into not one, but two smokehouse joints. First up, we stopped at Johnny T's Round Rock Barbecue when we visited my childhood home. And gawd, this was good. Tim got a three-meat plate and I got a two-meat plate. We both opted for the spicy apple slaw and sweet potato fries on the side, along with the bread and sauces that were customary. I had the pork and brisket (lean) and Tim got the sausage, pork and brisket (moist). The sauce here was so deliciously smoky and amazing that I wanted to bathe in it. The pork was moist with a flavor that is only imparted by a fire lovingly tended to for hours. The slaw wasn't spicy, but was still tasty, and the fries were awesome. This was our favorite meal during our stay. Why did my family ever leave Round Rock?

Everyone talks up The Salt Lick, too, so we had to try the original barbecue joint. It's a half hour south of Austin in Driftwood, so we went there the day we rented a car. The wait is loooong, but there's plenty to do in the meantime. We got a pager and wandered over to Salt Lick Cellars for a tasting. It was a nice way to pass the time, but I didn't end up buying anything (drinks will get their own post in this vacation round up). The grounds are BYOB, so we had a few adult beverages while enjoying live music, a hammock farm and some wandering. The grounds are really nice and feature a giant kids playground, so the 1.5-hour wait seemed to go by quickly.

Tim and I both got two-meat plates with potato salad, slaw, bread and jalapenos. Don't eat the jalapenos, they were way too hot to eat and then try to taste anything else. I got the sausage and turkey, Tim got the brisket and pork.

Is it a sacrilege to say I didn't like this as much as Johnny T's?  I'm just throwing it out there that I don't think it was worth the hype. I don't like mustard-based barbecue sauce. The turkey, while delicious, wasn't remarkable. Tim's dish was about the same. It was also expensive, ringing it at more than $30 plus tip. I'm glad we went for the experience, but I think there are better examples of barbecue elsewhere.

On one of our nights in town, we decided to wander out to Sixth Street for a late-night bite. I really wanted pizza, so I picked The Jackalope. What a trip - there are velvet paintings of topless ladies, a statue of Jackie Chan, Kung-fu and cult classics playing on the televisions and a giant jackalope in the entry way. I wish I would have known that you could order by the slice. There's no way Tim and I could have eaten the 18-inch monstrosity they brought out, try as we might.

We ordered the hippy pie, which featured garlic-infused olive oil, artichoke hearts, cheese, green and black olives, spinach, red onions and green peppers atop a beer crust that's baked in an open wood fire oven. I wanted to love it, but it wasn't the best slice I've ever had. The toppings made the middle a bit soggy, and I realized all too late that I like my pizza with red sauce. The crust was the best part, and we had to give 1/3 of it away to the very grateful diners at the next table because it was just so huge.

And just for fun, here are some random Texas treats I encountered on our travels. Giant pecan pralines, anyone? I'm sure this is a single serving.  I saw these at Whittington's Jerky. Ironically, I did not buy jerky there, but I did pick up some Texas coffee and some pecan praline butter.  When in the South ...

Check back for my final Austin-related post that focuses solely on the drinks of this trip, alcoholic and otherwise.


Unknown said...

Oh, wow, looks like you guys had a great time! I love exploring restaurants in new cities. I am totally drooling over that vegan brownie. I would love to visit a city with lots of food trucks--they sound like so much fun and a great way to try lots of new foods.

Losing Lindy said...

wow looks great

Unknown said...

YUM! What a delicious vacation!