Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tonight's Dinner

Had a bunch of leftover ingredients,

so came up with...Greek Pasta.

Yep, it was awesome.

Counter Cafe - Austin, TX

I know, I know, I just did this one.  I won't do it every time I go, and will make this quick, but I wanted to share this mainly because I reiterate that this place is great, and this time I took some pictures.

I went simple with scrambled eggs, sausage, toast and counter potatoes.  The eggs were great, clearly scrambled in a well seasoned (read: used) pan, perfectly cooked.  The sausage was fresh and great as usual, but a little different today.  Rather than the red pepper flakes which gave the last batch I had a subtle kick, these were seasoned very well today with what I'm guessing was sage.  Nice to see that a place with a limited menu like this can switch things up ever so slightly, executing perfectly, to keep diners coming back to see what's next.  Toast was toasted bread, nothing special about it, but was served with a homemade strawberry jam which was very well done.  Counter potatoes, deep fried and then finished in a pan with onion.  Awesome.

MGord had the same thing as last time, a pancake and a side of bacon.  I think I failed to describe the bacon last time, but it is really, really good.  Quality bacon cooked well done to where it's crispy but not crumbly.  Today's pancake was slightly sweeter, almost cakelike, which was exactly what she was looking for this morning and which was wonderful, which I can vouch for.  And I wasn't lying when I said it was big in my last review...


It's been two days, see the last review.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tonight's Dinner

Stayed in and cooked tonight, and not a bad night to do it...

Prosciutto Carbonara with Asparagus

Mediterranean Salad

Pan Roasted Salsify with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Screaming Goat - Austin, TX

First off, full disclosure, this is my go to breakfast taco spot.  It's just a short walk from my house, which makes it the most convenient option, but it also has really great breakfast tacos and a mean tomatillo salsa with a kick.  I've also only been there for breakfast, so my review is purely that.  I'd like to try it for lunch, but honestly probably wouldn't hit it up for happy hour or dinner, as the atmosphere is more conducive to a quick breakfast or lunch.  That said, I LOVE this place for breakfast tacos, there or at home.

Went there again this morning to pick up breakfast tacos for me and MLWMG.  I had my go to combinations.  One chorizo egg...oh wait...

OK, now then.  One chorizo egg and one bacon, bean and egg.  Mandy opted for a bacon and egg and a Clint.

So these things basically run $1.60, but they are packed, and dense.  One and a half is perfect for a normal human being, but two is doable, but you won't need a big lunch.  They do these right, mixing all of the ingredients instead of adding them one at a time to the tortilla.  The chorizo has awesome flavor, the bacon is crumbled and flavorful, and the beans are pinto and smoky.  I'm not going to tell you what to get for breakfast at a place where everything is good, so choose your poison, but make sure to get it with their roasted tomatillo salsa, a homemade green salsa with a tartness and heat that'll smack you in the face and wake you up.  Enjoy.


Atmosphere:  in an old house with tables in each room, good for meeting for breakfast or lunch, but not necessarily a place to make an evening out of.

Food:  tacos, burritos, flautas, and burgers

When to Go:  breakfast

Dog Friendly:  no

Crowd:  students, working stiffs, 20somethings, and people with hangovers

What to Order for the First Timer:  whatever kind of breakfast taco you like, with tomatillo salsa

Maiko Sushi Lounge - Austin, TX

Alright, last night My Lovely Wife Mrs. Gordo and I hit up the Maiko Sushi Lounge, which we've had several times, where we sat at the bar as we usually do.

It seems to me this place gets a bad rap, or at least mixed reviews, particularly by the sushi die hards, but we really like it for what it is, for a few reasons.  They've got great non-sushi items, and the sushi rolls and appetizers that we have had have been great.  Most of all though, this place has a good atmosphere and incredible happy hour specials on both food and drinks, and during the meat of the week, their grilled skewers are a great deal for a snack or really light dinner.

Last night we missed happy hour but sat at the bar and had some shared plates, which included their grilled chicken wings ($8 for eight, $4 during happy hour), their tuna and avacado nachos ($15), and their Heat of the Moment roll ($10).

First off, the chicken wings are great.  Marinated in lime, garlic, teriyaki, and sriracha, they are grilled to perfection resulting in a nice char flavor on the outside, while staying very juicy on the inside.  At $4 during happy hour, these are an essential go to, and are healthier than a fried chicken wing alternative elsewhere.

The tuna and avocado nachos, unfortunately not on the happy hour menu, are one of the more expensive appetizer options, but they don't skimp at all on the tuna, so you feel like you get your money's worth.  This is probably the best item that we've had there, and one of the main reasons that we go back to Maiko. The nachos, four of them, and I apologize I forgot to take a pictures, are served on a crispy wonton, which are mounded with a racquetball sized portion of chunked raw tuna and chunked avacado mixed with cilantro, jalapeno salsa, and a tequila lime sauce.  It's got an incredible fresh taste, with a great citrus and pepper bite.

The roll we had was a good one, one we haven't had before, but which we'll get again.  Basically it's a spicy tuna roll +, made spicier by the samurais in back topping each piece with a slice of fresh jalapeno and a homemade spicy mayo.  What really makes this roll though, is the torching they give it before it comes out

which partially blackened the top most layer of rice, giving it a depth of flavor that a typical roll lacks.

So, as if it's not apparent, we vouch for this place.  This is Maiko, it's a friend of ours.

A few other things worth trying during the happy hour, while you're sipping on sake or chugging bombs (both $2), include the Smoked Pork Udon soup ($4) and the Explosivo roll ($7), which features hamachi, cilantro, and a roasted jalapeno salsa.

As far as the atmosphere goes, it's, um...interesting.  The place is great, particularly the bar, in one of those old Austin buildings with interior brick walls, a nice big bar and plenty of high tops.   The crowd, well, that's where it gets interesting.  I'll tell you who was there at the bar with us and you can draw your own conclusions.  A Dallas-looking douchebag working REALLY hard to woo a Dallas-looking cougar, four gay men, two together and two flying solo, two near-hot college or early 20s chicks, and a bearded midget dressed as a lumberjack eating with a 280 pound black man.  Several others there, but these caught my eye.

Don't let that scare you though, try it out.  Give it a shot at happy hour if you never have.  At the very least you'll get a nice rice wine drunk, and can walk down the street to any number of bars on west sixth, without having broken the bank.


Atmosphere:  trendy, kind of

Food:  sushi and more

Dog Friendly:  would you want dogs around your raw fish?

Crowd:  20somethings, 30somethings, hotchicks, solo diners, lumberjacks, and steelworkers

When to Go:  happy hour

What to Order for the First Timer:  grilled chicken wings, tuna and avacado nachos

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coreanos - Austin, TX

Korean.  Mexican.  Fusion.

Ho.  Lee.  Dung.

That was fantastic.

Took the ladies on a walk today in search of this Mexorean gem that I had heard was pretty good.

Now, let me read you the following and see if you can't figure out why I decided to seek this out:

Kim Cheese Fries - French fries, spicy twice-cooked pork belly, caramelized kimchi, cheese, and el scorcho sauce.

Yeah.  That's right.

Now, let me show you what that looks like:

Yeah.  That's right.

That.  Just.  HAPPENED.

On the walk there I was setting myself up for a huge disappointment, as it sounded too good to be true.  Now a lot of good food comes out of trailers in Austin, which I always find amazing given what they have to work with.  Let me tell you why I was worried.

1.  I thought there was a good chance the fries, loaded down with all this goodness, might just come out a soggy and greasy mess.

2.  Figured there was a good chance that "spicy twice-cooked pork belly" might just be crumbled pepper rubbed bacon.

3.  Maybe the "el scorcho" sauce was nothing more than Sriracha sauce, cleverly named as a creation of their own.

0 for 3.

This thing was incredible, and a meal in itself.

First off, the fries were cooked perfectly.  All of them.  Not undercooked, not overcooked, exhibiting the characteristics of being cooked twice, at two different temperatures, resulting in a perfect crispiness on the outside while maintaining a soft, flaky inside.  Equally as impressive was the way they held up to the toppings.  They were this way throughout the dish, AND the toppings were uniformly distributed throughout, not just sitting on top of the fries.

Second, the twice cooked pork belly was everthing that I could have imagined, quarter to half inch cubes with good proportions of meat and fat.

Third, the el scorcho sauce was not anything close to sriracha.  It was an incredible chipotle crema which covered the dish, touched each bite, and went perfectly with everything.

The kimchi had a crunch and spice that tied this whole thing together, and oh, did they mention there was a sprinkling of chopped onion and cilantro on top?  No.  But oh yes, there was, and it helped to turn this dish into Mexorean perfection.

Man, that was seriously, seriously good stuff, and I can't wait to go back and get this again, and try some of their other fry concoctions, tacos and burritos.  The only problem with this place was the time it took between ordering and receiving the food, between ten and fifteen minutes.  I'm going to chalk this up to a couple of things and let it slide.  First, I got there right when it opened and was behind six or seven people.  I'm sure they were still in prep mode, which I'm sure they'll soon start earlier as time goes on.  Second, they've been open right around five months, and are still probably working out the kinks and efficiencies.  So for the time being, go, wait patiently, because it's worth the wait.  Given that we're dealing with fries, I'd eat when you get it and wouldn't take it to go, as you don't want them to get soggy.


Atmosphere:  food truck, no tables, but parked near steps to sit on and eat

Food:  Korean Mexican BBQ

Dog Friendly:  yes

Crowd:  business lunch crowd and food lovers

When to Go:  lunch and after the bars

What to Order for the First Timer:  Kim Cheese Fries

Oh, and here are the ladies, wishing they had some...

Thundercloud Subs - Austin, TX

After my pan-fried flauta debacle at lunch yesterday, I wasn't that hungry and didn't feel all that well, so decided to pick up something simple to eat at home last night for dinner, which led me to Thundercloud, an Austin institution that I've seen a million times and have never tried.

This place reminds me a bit of the way Subway and Blimpy did before they really started expanding, and I guess today more closely resembles a more local-centric Jersey Mike's, with better quality ingredients.

When it comes to subs, I'm first and foremost an Italian guy so decided to try their NY Italian sub.  After ordering, I was presented with the standard set of questions plus one that I didn't expect but was happy to have.  Four inch or ten inch?  Ten.  White or wheat?  White.  Spicy or sweet peppers?  SPICY!  Lettuce, tomato, onion and Thundersauce?  Yes please.  Mustard or Mayo?  Mayo please.

The sandwich was really good, just a classic Italian cold cut.  The sub roll was soft, but didn't get soggy from any of the ingredients, which can be a common problem, and I think the sandwich benefited from a protective layer of mayo topped with provolone cheese on the bottom bun.  The sandwich was a mix of ham, capicola, and salami, and it was very light on all, which could have been a problem but wasn't because the flavors and the ratios of the sandwich in general worked really well together, and resulted in a good meal that didn't leave me stuffed.  The lettuce was of the shredded iceberg variety, which was very crisp and didn't have the wilted evidence of sitting out all day.  The onion also appeared to be fresh cut, and complemented the sandwich as opposed to overpowering it.  The tomatoes were a bit on the unripe side, but not terrible, and the spicy peppers were a bright red spread of what appeared to be minced cherry peppers in oil which provided good heat and incredible flavor.  I like the combo of mayo and dressing (the Thundersauce appeared to just be some sort of bottled Italian dressing) to provide the right moisture to the sandwich without adding a contrasting flavor like mustard, and this combination was perfect here.

I'll be back for sure, and this is a great place for a quick lunch or to pick up a sandwich quickly to go.  It's not much of a place to hang out, but works for a quick fix when you're craving a fresh sandwich


Atmosphere:  fast food sandwich shop

Food:  submarine sandwiches of Subway variety with better and fresher ingredients and less of a mass produced taste

Dog Friendly:  Depends on which one you hit

When to Go:  lunch, carry out

Crowd:  mix of everyone

What to Get for the First Timer:  NY Italian

Bubba's BBQ - Charlotte, NC

I'll stick with Charlotte for a minute since I ventured that way, and will move on to another bbq place I like to hit while I'm there, Bubba's.

This place is nothing to look at from the outside, it looks like a converted fast food restaurant and very well may be.  That's a good indication of the atmosphere inside too, which is one big room as bland as can be with the feel of a Kiwanis Club dining hall where you're more likely to be playing bingo than eating quality bbq.  Actually, I'd say the best part of the atmosphere is the smell, followed by a urinal that they've got about six feet up on the wall in the men's room.  Can't for the life of me remember why it's up there, but it is.

Anyway, B-7, that's where my knocking of this place ends because I love to go here for a good basic bbq dinner.  Unlike some of the other spots I like to hit where I focus on the meat, this one is about the whole meal, and the sauce.  O-62.  My go to here is a standard barbecue plate, which is pork, hush puppies, and sides, of which I recommend brunswick stew and cole slaw.

The pork here is of the chopped variety, though not so fine as to become mushy or mealy.  Also, given the lack of any visible bark I would guess this pig was smoked as a whole hog, which is traditional of eastern Carolina bbq.  The result is a mild smoke flavor and very, very tender meat, which requires the addition of some eastern Carolina vinegar sauce to truly make it shine.  The sauce here is is a vinegar incorporating what appears to be cayenne, which adds great flavor and punch to the meat.  Very good, simple, barbecue.  G-47.

The sides here are also really good.  Hushpuppies come to the table on the house with whatever you order, and they are perfect, brown and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The sides here are either really good, or really ordinary.  I love the cole slaw, which has a pungent kick provided by a mustard base, and it pairs really well with the pork.  I-22.  The brunswick stew is also very good.

I've tried some other things here, and won't give up on more of the menu items, as I think they do really well on certain things, and really terrible on some others.  I tried the ribs on a recent trip, and wouldn't order them again.  Little flavor and not that tender, was a true disappointment.  That said, N-37, this place is a great stop for classic eastern bbq when you're in Charlotte, and gets my recommendation.



Atmosphere:  bland, dining hall

Food:  classic eastern Carolina bbq

Dog Friendly:  nope

Crowd:  locals, groups

When to Go:  lunch or dinner

What to Order for the First Timer:  barbecue plate with cole slaw and brunswick stew

Bar-B-Q King - Charlotte, NC

Alright here's a spot that I never thought to stop at until someone told me that they had good bbq chicken, which I'm not normally and advocate of when other (read: better) meats are available, but this one was a bit different.  It looks pretty rough, a beat up old drive-in on the road in to downtown from the airport.

It's one of those places that you drive by and say, yeah, that place probably has some good food, but its probably not worth risking my life for.  Risk reward seemingly way out of balance on this one.  I'm happy to report I was wrong, but I still would not recommend going there at night.

So it looks like a drive-in, because it is.  No tables here, and no place to eat inside.  I went there for the first time with a guy I worked with, who was a little skeptical of it when we pulled in and into our spot.  They had a big menu to look at, but I had to try that chicken that I'd heard about.  And it didn't disappoint.  Our meal came to the car in styrofoam boxes and we immediately realized that this was a meal that we'd have to eat ON the car and not IN the car.   The picture below doesn't do justice to the sloppiness of this chicken, which is first deep fried and then dunked in a vat of hot, vinegary, western Carolina style bbq sauce before being brought out to you.  So we're not talking smoked bbq chicken here, we're talking inner city fried chicken dunked in a great sauce which makes your nose and eyes water.  So the western Carolina sauce differs from the sauces out east, and a different way from sauces down here in Texas, almost being a blend of the two.  While eastern Carolina sauces (which I love) are primarily vinegar and some kind of, cayenne, red...and are generally clear and watery, the western Carolina sauces look a bit more like what most people think of as a bbq sauce, reddish brown due to the tomato base.  That said, these sauces go much heavier on the vinegar than the Texas sauces, which creates a really volatile and pungent sauce when it's heated up that hits every sense but the ears when you eat it.  So this chicken is absolutely incredible, and I urge anyone visiting Charlotte to make time to hit it.  While the other bbq and the sides there are good, there is absolutely no reason to talk about them here.  You get the chicken, and you won't remember anything else.


Atmosphere:  beat up drive-in in a rough area

Food:  bbq

Dog Friendly:  only if your car is

Crowd:  mixed, carry out

When to Go:  lunch

What to Order for the First Timer:   BBQ Chicken

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Santa Rita Cantina - Austin, TX

Back to present day after a fond memory of a white trash weekend.  Had lunch today at Santa Rita Cantina, a Tex-Mex joint in north Austin.  This place was not on my hit list, and was a pick primarily of convenience, but that said I'm always excited to try something new.

First off this place had a nice lunchtime crowd, primarily people who work nearby from what I could tell.  The place has a chain-like feel, and a pretty standard Tex-Mex menu.  Not expecting anything out of the ordinary, I decided to try to go healthy, without opting for a salad.  Despite best efforts, I failed.

I'll back up a few minutes though and start with the chips and salsa.  It was very good.  Thin chips and a very fresh salsa, which made you feel like the place was fresh and it wasn't too bad for you.  I opted for the Chicken Flauta Dinner.  These flautas were pan fried and not deep fried, and used corn tortillas, no cheese, and a healthy tomatillo sauce.  I should have known that the technique and wrap would have resulted in a disaster, and it did.  The flavor was good, but they turned out, predictably, greasy.  The tortillas were soggy and translucent, having been cooked in oil not quite up to temperature.  The dish came out greasy, and would have been fine if I would have leaned in a direction either way...get the deep fried ones, which likely would have had a crispy wrap, or just go with chicken enchiladas, in which you get the texture without the grease.  Lesson learned.  The bright spot was the tomatillo sauce.  Spicy as advertised, and a classic green sauce.

I won't recommend this place based on my experience, and I believe there is much better Mexican in town, but if I needed a quick fix or a place to meet someone nearby, I'd give it another shot.


Atmosphere:   chain-like Mexican, bright, open room seating

Food:  average Tex-Mex

Dog Friendly:  probably on the porch, but I won't likely try it out

Crowd:  surrounding businesses

What to Order for the First Timer:  try anything basic and let me know

Dreamland BBQ - Tuscaloosa, AL

Alright, this is going to be my first post in response to a friend of mine getting ready for some business travel, so I'm reaching waaaay back in my bag to get him to the right spot.  He, like me, is a huge fan of BBQ, and also like me, tries to hit a good spot whenever and wherever he's traveling.  So he emailed me two days ago saying he had to go to Birmingham, Alabama, and did I know of a good place to go.

Yes I do.

Now, I haven't been to the one in Birmingham, and I know it isn't the first one, because I've been to the first one, in Tuscaloosa.  Now I've heard rumors that this place has been grandfathered in to current health standards because it's been around forever, and based on my experience I believe it.  The BBQ was good, and the atmosphere was great, so John, I wish you the best of luck with the Birmingham outlet.

Remember back to the fall of 1998.  Three college idiots in Dallas decide to spend their Fall Break by heading to Alabama for the NASCAR race at Talledega, to spend three nights there in a grass field along the interstate to listen to Skynard, drink Busch Light, and root my favorite driver at the time, Dale Jarrett, to a victory.  On the way there we called my dad, noted BBQ nut, and one with a database at that.  Asked him where we might stop along the way and without hesitation he gave us turn by turn directions to this place, on dusty unmarked country road...

I'm remembering back here, but here's what I recall.  The place was black with smoke inside, and the ceiling wasn't much more than a foot or two above my head.  Place was barely lit, but you could see the fire in the back on which were slabs and slabs of ribs, getting a final char before heading to the tables.  It was me, who was skinnier back then, a friend of mine who I'm guessing weighed in right around two bills, and another friend of mine who probably pushed 230 at the time.  We were seated by a nice African-American woman who seemed to lack all cordial skills.  After seating us, here's how it went, and this I remember really well...

Miss Congeniality:  "You look like a slab.  You look like a half slab.  And you look like a half slab."  before turning to walk away.

One of Us:  "Wait, do you have a menu, what else is there besides ribs?"

Miss Congeniality, with a death stare:  "Rib tips.  I'll be right back."

She showed up shortly thereafter with one paper plate stacked high with two slabs of ribs, and a paper plate with a stack of white bread equal height.  Easy math.  I apologize I don't have my pictures from the place anymore, but here is a picture from the web and our ribs looked just like it, though our stack of bread was higher, I guess because we were fatter...

So these are Alabama wet mop ribs, with a tangy/spicy Alabama sauce on them.  I remember they had some teeth to them, like they were somewhat quick smoked, and had a crust on them that suggested that same thing, plus they may have been finished on a grill to give them a good char flavor on the initial bite.  Down and dirty, worth the trip if you're in the area.


Atmosphere:  old, smoky, bar-like

Food:  ribs

Dog Friendly:  seriously, seriously doubt it

Crowd:  locals, bikers, truckers

What to Order as a First Timer:  guess

Firehouse BBQ - Lampasas, TX

My final stop on the Dallas to Austin western drive, Firehouse BBQ in Lampasas.  Wow, was I full by the time I pulled in this place, having stopped and eaten at three different places already on the drive.  I nearly didn't stop, but decided to anyway, thinking I'd just get a bite of each of the big three.

This place had a good country bbq atmosphere, but not quite the charm of the last two stops in Hamilton.  A bit bigger and a bit newer, I knew this place couldn't hold a candle to Lazy T's.  Because of the time of day, I was the only person there, but not the fattest person there.  Once again, I sampled the pork ribs, the brisket, and the sausage.

Upon walking in, you're presented with a counter, behind which are a couple of cutting boards.  I was happy not to see the cafeteria style presentation that Lazy T's had (which was deceiving given the quality of that place), leaving to the imagination the idea that the meat was coming straight from the pit to my plate.  The brisket and ribs both had good flavor, but lacked the crust that I love on both.  Instead the outside of this meat had a jerky like texture, which had good flavor, but in the case of the ribs created a bit of a chewy texture.  The brisket was lean, cut from the flat, and though not dry benefited from a little sauce to help with chewing and to grease the pipes.  Flavor was there, and I'm sure a brisket connoisseur would be very happy with it.  I'm more partial to a fattier cut with a good crust, so while this was good, it wasn't for me.  The sausage was of the good German coarse grind but machine packed variety, with good fat content and good flavor, but nothing above the ordinary good quality sausage you get at other stops.  A great thing to order here along with the brisket, but not worth making a special stop for.

Sauce is self service from three heated buckets with ladles, two spicy sauces and one sweet sauce, both good complements to the meat.  The other nice thing about this place was that they make their own hot sauces, three of which are on the tables.  There's a habanero sauce, a hot pepper sauce, and one other that I can't remember.  In any case, my recommendation would be to bypass all including the bbq sauces, and eat the meat with the habanero sauce, which outshined all the rest.

This place is worth a stop if you're in the area, and it's a good place to stop and have a meal if you're not headed on to Hamilton.


Atmosphere:  country Texas bbq, with outdoor seating

Food:  good, solid bbq

Dog Friendly:  uh huh

Crowd:  no one there but me so can't say

What to Order for First Timers:  Brisket if you're a fan, and sausage

Lazy T's BBQ - Hamilton, TX

Third stop on the 281 BBQ tour was hands down the best.  Lazy T's BBQ just down the road from Smoke Stack south of Hamilton.

I walked in and was greeted by the proprietor, as the only other person in the place, but the place had an old feel and a real atmosphere.  The counter in front of me as I walked in was cafeteria-like, with the meat in water heated holding trays covered by tin lids, which made me a little skeptical, but I remained open.  When the guy asked me how I was doing and what I wanted, his voice cracked like an old country western singer that you think only exists in the movies.  This guy was for real, and my confidence in what he had under those lids rose quite a bit.  I explained this was my third stop in a couple of hours, and that I just wanted a small plate of ribs, brisket and sausage.  He served up all three and when I indicated I didn't want any sides, a look of disbelief passed his face as he sang/squeaked, "you DON'T want NO BEANS?".  Nope.  Next time.

As with the last stop, he offered no sauce, again, a nice sign of things to come.  I asked for some anyway, and also like the last stop, it was average, though with a little more twang like he may have made it with some of the dripping fat from the meat and a little more vinegar than the last place, and wasn't really needed.

The brisket was some of the best brisket I've ever had.  Perfect combination of beef and smoke flavoring, with an incredibly crisp and smokey crust hugging a layer of fat that put this brisket above all of the rest and most I've had, anywhere.  This cut was clearly from the point, and I was more than happy with it.  It had a fat content throughout it that melted with each bite, and brought it just to the point of maybe seeming greasy, but it wasn't.  It was the most tender and moist a piece of meat could be without falling apart or being greasy.  Said another way, it was perfect.  No need to ruin this piece with sauce.  The ribs showed as much talent and care as the brisket, with the same great crust, and the same tenderness and moistness that the brisket had.  Not quite falling off the bone, but perfect in that it was almost there and still took a true bite to separate it from the bone.  The crust didn't create a chewy portion either, it broke away from the rest perfectly with the meat.  Like the brisket, no sauce needed.  Sausage.  Most likely not made there, but certainly smoked there, and I'd be shocked if it didn't come from this guy's own kill and if it wasn't processed down the road at Wenzel's or any of the other meet processing plants along 281.  It was the perfect type of German style sausage that I love, and it didn't disappoint.  While, like most sausage, it didn't need sauce, but sausage makes a good vehicle for a decent sauce, so I used it to eat what I had.  Given the size of the plate the guy gave me, and my past two meals, I didn't think I could finish close to it, but it was all so good I ate every bite, and topped it off with what seemed like an only appropriate can of RC Cola from the cooler.

Bottom line, this place is worth hitting, skipping anything on the way in either direction.  I'd go so far as to say it's worth making a special trip for if you're on the northside of Austin.  I'll visit here a lot.

Alright, if you're with the health department, stop reading here, as I'd like to revisit the atmosphere in a little more detail.

First, while the country western singer was making up my plate, without beans, I decided to use the restroom.  I reviewed the rules and regs while I was in there, and while I appreciate them being posted, presumably by him directed only at him (I can't imagine anyone else works there, but I'll find out in time), I'm not sure I agree with Lazy T's half-assed approach to hygiene...

Second, the place really was a throwback inside, with an old fashioned heating stove in the corner with a pipe leading out the ceiling (this was heating only, the smoking was done outside on the other side of the building in iron smokers) which clearly gets use as evident by the poking stick with one charred end leaning up against it.  As quaint as this was, it appeared he saved the wood for the meat, as the pile of "fuel" for this thing was piled next to it, which, if I was in Scotland I might say was peat, but given the surroundings of this place I'm guessing it was...well, moooooooo.


Atmosphere:  small town Texas BBQ

Food:  excellent, BBQ

Dog Friendly:  yes

Crowd:  can't say, was only me and Country Yodeler, so I can't say

What to Order for the First Timer:  brisket, ribs and sausage, and if you want to appease the owner, beans

Smoke Shack - Hamilton, TX

My second stop on the trip down from Dallas came after three unplanned stops, in both Hico and Hamilton.  The stop in Hico came when I saw a sign for the Billy the Kid Museum, a statue of Billy the Kid, and the quintessential main street of a town in the Old West.  Had to stop and get the story of Hico's claim to Billy the Kid, and made a subsequent stop in Hamilton to visit his grave.  After that I stopped in town at a place called Wenzel's Meat Market, where I sampled a bunch of things, and loaded up on fresh breakfast, Polish and German sausages.  Haven't tried them yet, but will report when I do.

So the next stop was Smoke Stack Pit Bar-B-Que, on the south side of Hamilton.  This place looked like the real deal from the outside, as you can see.

The inside was atmosphere as advertised by the exterior.  I walked in and was immediately greeted by the counter, behind which was a brick pit where the magic happened.  It almost felt like I was in someone's house, and the cautious glare from the elderly woman behind the counter seemed to echo that, like I walked into somewhere I shouldn't be.  To my left was a sink, and to my right, down a hall-like area were some tables half full of locals who were also eying me with some skepticism.  I gave Ma Smoke the standard test order, some pork ribs, some brisket, and some sausage, which I got to go because (a) I think the people in there hated me, and (b) I saw a picnic table in the empty lot next door which looked like a good place to eat while the dog ran around.  No styrofoam here.  She wrapped it in paper and then put it in a insulated bag for me.  One thing I really liked about this place is she gave it to me and never mentioned sauce, a sign of a place that takes pride in their meat as is.  I asked for it though and got a little cup of it, after I was warned that it wasn't free, and would run me a whopping sixty cents.

Let's start with the brisket.  When she pulled it out of the pit, I could see it was for real, but was nervous when she started carving some of that beautiful black crust off of it.  I'll be the first to admit I'm a pork guy, and I like my brisket with the bark, and fatty.  Upon review, she had carved off only the bark which housed excess fat, and left a good amount of it, and I'm glad she did.  This brisket was awesome.  A great smoke flavored crust, and a lean but moist bit of beef with a perfect balance of beef and smoke flavoring.  It didn't need the sauce, which I found to be adequate at best, this brisket held its own.  The ribs shared a similar crust, but I didn't get the impression that people came here for the ribs.  The texture made it seem like they'd been sitting for a while, and while the smoke and pork flavors were good, the texture varied from chewy to mealy, and it seemed to do a bit better with a little moisture from some added sauce.  The sausage was unique.  Served as a whole link about the size of a bratwurst, it was bright red on the outside, and a uniformed color fine grind inside.  The initial bite had a great snap, but didn't taste too much different than a processed 100% beef hot dog, though it did have a little residual burn which would be cayenne powder if I had to guess.  Not terrible, but not great, as I'm a big fan of the coarser grind with visible fat, and even more so the links that you can tell are hand packed.

Yeah, you might be asking where's the brisket.  There's a small piece of a slice between the rib and sausage.  After my first bite I got aggressive and forgot I hadn't taken a picture.  Sorry, next time.

This place is definitely worth stopping at, but stick to the brisket, as it outshines the rest by a lot.  Also, keep in mind that the next stop makes this place worth skipping if you are only going to make one stop.  Hit it up once for sure though, and a few more times if you're in the area often.


Atmosphere:  old school small town bbq joint

Food:  barbecue, stick to the brisket

Dog Friendly:  when you get it to go, yes

Crowd:  locals, leery of outsiders

What to Order for the First Timer:  brisket, and don't worry about paying extra for sauce

Ranch House Barbecue - Glen Rose, TX

Taking a break from Austin for a bit and thought I'd recap my trip from Dallas to Austin last week, on which I took the long way and made it even longer by stopping seven times, four to eat, two for history, and one for shopping (for meat).

After months of traveling back and forth to Austin along the always boring and crappy I-35, I finally decided to take a longer and more scenic way last week, with a goal to find great spots to eat on the way.  I did a little research using my typical tools...Full Custom Gospel BBQ Blog, Texas Monthly, Roadfood, and the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook.  Ready to go.  US67 out of Dallas, connecting to 281 via 220 in Hico, down through Hamilton before veering southeast on US183 in Lampasas, putting us into Austin...on this particular trip seven hours later (normally would take less than four with no stops)...

First stop, by default, was Ranch House Barbecue in Glen Rose, about an hour outside of Dallas.  My intention was to hit up two spots in Glen Rose, which I'd read about and which are supposed to be legit, Hammonds and the Lazy Coyote, both were closed for the day.  Knowing how to spot decent places on the road, I backtracked and pulled into Ranch House, which was surrounded by pick-up trucks, most with brushguards, and had people parking in the grass overflow area.  I had Nicki with me, so was glad to see some tables outside in the grass.  I could give her a break from the back of the car, give her some fresh air and room to stretch her legs, and then just cross my fingers that she didn't sh*t next to the people at adjacent tables.  She didn't.

Left her in the car and walked inside.  Great indoor atmosphere with tables filled, and a bar to sit at.  Typical Texas country barbecue atmosphere, collection of pictures, license plates and business cards on wooden walls, but only a faint wisp of the smell of smoke.  Looked like a mix of locals and travelers.  As I do when trying out new bbq spots, I ordered some pork ribs, beef brisket, and sausage at the bar, and headed outside.  No sides for me this trip, those are just filler and I like to judge on the meat first, starting with just the meat and then sauced.

My food came out in a styrofoam three section to-go box, not my favorite, but hey, it's just a carrier.  The  bbq was good, not great.  The ribs and brisket were both very tender, and had good bark (particuarly the ribs), but really lacked any real smoked flavor.  Good for a fix, but not worth making a special trip or stop for.  The sausage was really good standard Texas German sausage, and I opted for the spicy.  That was alright to eat alone, but I'd recommend some sauce with the beef and ribs for flavor.  They actually did a nice sauce for Texas, standard tomato based with a heavy dose of black pepper, not to different from Rudy's if you ever been to one.

Let's see if I can figure out how to add a picture here:

Yeah, look at SAVVY!

Anyway, glad I stopped, but in the future want to try the other two in Glen Rose, and pending that, will hold on and keep driving to hit some of the spots down the road, which are much better.


Atmosphere:  typical Texas country barbecue, indoor, outdoor and bar seats, good for families, good for a sit down bbq meal, good for the solo traveler, good for a necessary road trip stop

Food:  average barbecue, if you go, stick with ribs and sausage

Dog Friendly: yes

Crowd:  locals, travelers, and bikers

When to Go:  lunch

What to Order for the First Timer:  Sausage and ribs

The Tavern - Austin, TX

Alright, I'm going to bounce to the present, before diving back into the archives.  First, I'm a Purdue fan, having grown up in Indiana.  Quite a bit of the time, I can catch their basketball games on ESPN or CBS, but a lot of them end up on the Big Ten Network, which I don't get.  I needed a spot to watch the game and eat some dinner, and I also wanted a place where I could take the dogs.  Pearl is five months old and we're crate training her, and I didn't want to risk crating her for three hours shortly after eating and risk an accident in the crate or hours of barking to be let out.  Enter, The Tavern...

I'd been there several times before, but this was my first dog experience and it couldn't have been a better spot.  Headed in the side and up the stairs and grabbed a table with a view of five flatscreens.  They're great there too about getting whatever game you want on the tv, so it was no problem getting the Purdue/IU game, and there were enough tvs up there that everyone on the deck could watch what they wanted.

Specials of the night were $1 off IPAs and Blond Ales, so I picked a local IPA they had on tap, Bucketsomethingorother, maybe Buckethead?   Anyway, classic IPA with slightly deeper flavor, was very good.  Available in a pint or stein, I stuck with the pint, but then had several.  The last time I was there watching a game at the bar, I had potato skins to eat, and they were great.  You know, you don't see potato skins all that much any more, and when you do it's normally part of a Friday's Three for All at an airport, and they suck.  I realized that good potato skins are hard to find.  And why, when loaded cheese fries are everywhere...potato, cheese, bacon, green onion...?  Well these are good. They come out hot, the cheddar is perfectly melty, the crumbled bacon not undercooked or overcooked, but with great flavor and just enough chew.  Served with the classic sour cream (which incidentally is my favorite condiment, period), but could have used some chopped green onions to complete the dish.  I also recommend getting jalapenos on the side, as it pairs perfectly with the cheese and sour cream.  They're also really good pickled jalapenos, not meaty and mushy, plenty of heat, and crisp, most likely Trappey's.

Anyway, I wanted to stick with appetizers on this trip, and had noticed the nachos that last time I was there, which are the kind I like.  Half corn tortillas topped with shredded cheese.  Simplicity.  Sign me up.  These came with refried beans between the tortilla and cheese, and they give you the option of adding chicken, beef, or pulled pork.  I stuck with the beans, though my favorite would have been no beans and ground beef instead, asked for extra jalapenos, and got excited.  They came on an oval plate and I think there were six of them, maybe eight (on only my second beer, so no excuses here, just poor attention to detail).  They looked great but they didn't hit the mark I was expecting.  First, I think the beans and the way they were served, overlapped, worked to really soggify the tortillas.  I really couldn't pick a whole one up without it bending and falling apart.  The cheese was great, but the beans were pretty much flavorless, and just added bulk and sogginess.  It was served with sour cream, jalapenos, salsa, and pico de gallo.  The pico, and of course the jalapenos, were very good, and the salsa decent but nothing to write home about.  All I need for nachos is sour cream and jalapenos though, and these two definitely helped out the struggles of the nacho itself.  All in all good flavor, terrible texture.  My recommendation would be to axe the beans and try again, which I'll do.  Happy ending though, I was still hungry so got some skins in the second half, which rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the food here.

I want to come sometime when I'm really hungry and get a burger, because they look and smell awesome, and they've got some really good looking combinations, like green chiles and queso, and cream cheese and jalapenos, and pineapple/pulled pork.  They're supposed to be good too, I'll have to go back soon.

The dogs had a great time, and met a couple of other dogs up there to play around with.  Nobody, including the waitstaff, seemed to mind the mini-zoo that was running up there.


Atmosphere:  sports bar, indoor and outdoor, lots of tvs, good for the solo traveler, good for groups, good place to watch any game you want, good place to meet up with people and meet new people, good place for a smoker to watch a game.

Food:  pub grub, good appetizers, standard+

Dog Friendly:  yes, great place to take one or more and watch whatever game you want

When to Go:  whenever you've got a game to watch, UT or otherwise, day or night

Crowd:  students and alumni, shorts and t-shirt crowd, locals, groups of UT girls, groups of guys, mixed groups, sports fans, hotchicks

What to Order for the First Timer:  though I haven't yet had one, I probably have to say pick a burger

Counter Cafe - Austin, TX

I'd seen this place before, but only really heard about when the Texas Monthly Top 50 Burgers in Texas came out, and I believe had them as the second best burger in the state.  I'll get to the burger shortly, but will say here that I agree it's great.

First off, I'd classify this place as an upscale dive.  The upscale is related to the quality and freshness of the food, while the dive represents the atmosphere, which is very much the old school counter/flat-top/diner model.  It's only open for breakfast and lunch, and is great for both.  Don't get too big of a group together though, as the seating for anymore than two is limited to only a few tables.  It's a great place though to grab a bite if you're by yourself.  Belly up at the counter and watch the short order cooks go to work while you sip on a can of Lone Star.

I've had breakfast there a couple of times.  The first time I went was with a group of friends, five of us, and we were lucky to immediately get one of the two picnic tables in the parking lot out front.   I did as I typically do and asked the waitress what the best thing on the menu was.  She told me to get the benedict, but substitute breakfast sausage for the pastrami.  Yeah, pastrami.  I thought that sounded great, but the sausage was a good call.  You could tell it was fresh, homemade sausage.  If you've ever made your own sausage, without adding a bunch of extra fat, you notice that it's very light colored, almost white, when it's done.  This is what you get here, and it's great.  Good clean sausage, feels healthy, with light seasoning and just enough heat from what looks like red pepper flakes to wake up your tongue and start your morning off right.  The eggs were poached perfectly and the hollandaise was great.  I added a bit of hot sauce to each bite, and it was really awesome.  I'll get this again, and this gets a Fat Artery award for both tasting great while fattening the arteries.

Second time I went for breakfast was with my lovely wife, and we took Nicki and Pearl, the labs, with us and got seats at a picnic table outside alongside two UT students, one who appeared to be, like, sorority, and one who seemed a little grounded.  One hungover, and one fresh for the day.  Both very nice though, I can't knock either.  Anyway, I had to have the sausage again, so got an order of that and one blueberry pancake.  The sausage didn't disappoint, and the pancake was great.  First off, it was the size of a plate and at least a half inch thick, so I did well with an order of one.  Great blueberry content, lots of them, large blueberries, and uniformly throughout.  I wiped it with butter, drenched it in syrup, and ate most of my bites with a piece of sausage.

I've only eaten lunch at the Counter Cafe once, but it certainly won't be my last.  Mid-afternoon I took a seat at the bar, and was surprised from behind by the waitress as opposed to where I expected to see her, behind the counter.  Guess they've got that reserved for the cooks.  Anyway, I had to get the burger, so I did, along with counter fries and a can of Lone Star.  Nothing disappointed, and I agree that the burger is one of the best.  Medium thickness patty grilled over gas on a well-seasoned grill, topped with fresh ingredients and set on a really soft buttered and griddled bun.  It was nice sized but not so big as to stuff you.  Everything on the menu looks really good, but unless I hit this place up more than once a week, I'll be hard pressed to stray from this.


Atmosphere:  old school skinny diner, countercentric, good for breakfast or lunch, good for the solo traveler, good for hangovers, not good for more than four

Food:  breakfast and lunch, upscale diner food with fresh ingredients, excellent

Dog Friendly:  yes, but limited space, just two outdoor tables and probably not dog friendly on a hot day, as one is on the blacktop and one on concrete with very limited shade

When to Go:  after a good night of drinking, late morning on Saturday or Sunday, and grab a beer while you wait for your table

Crowd:  diverse, students, neighborhood people, all age ranges, all socioeconomic levels (yeah, that's right, socioeconomic, ok though, not the homeless)

What to Order for the First Timer:  Breakfast:  Sausage and Blueberry Pancakes.  Lunch:  Counter Burger and Counter Fries.

Tiniest Bar in Texas/Lucky's Puccia - Austin, TX

Alright, this is a great little spot on 5th and West that I love.  While it's still called the Tiniest Bar in Texas, it's spread out over time and now is a great place to go on a nice day to grab a basic drink outside, and with the addition of Lucky's, is also now a great place for a bite to eat.

First off, the bar.  Yes, technically it's tiny, now housed in a quasi-indoor area made of wood and tarps.  Two beers on tap which are the best deals there, at $2 and $3 I believe (it may be $3 and $4, can't remember), Fireman's 4 and Lone Star.  Outside of that, there is the normal array of domestic and standard import bottles, mainly of the EuroBud-types...Stella, Heinekin, Amstel Light, etc, and also the Mexibeers.  Nothing to get excited about, but the essentials, and at decent prices.  Aside from that they've got a full selection of liquor (it would be great if they were tiny bottles, but they're not) for your standard and cokes, and sodas, and and tonics, and some boxed wine.  My only wish is that they had something better on tap for a deal, but a Mexibeer on a hot day isn't a bad way to spend your money.

Another nice little comfy feature is the house cat that lives there, wandering in and out of the place at his leisure.  So yes, it's pet friendly, and the guy who runs it, who is great (he got really excited about How the Grinch Stole Christmas being on tv), doesn't care if you sit outside or inside with them.  So grab a beer and pick your spot and relax.

Lucky's is an awesome addition, and Lucky makes a mean sandwich, cranking it out of a pizza oven which is in his trailer.  He's guided me toward the off-menu pastrami a couple of times, which was indeed the right call as it was awesome.  Perfect mix of hot pastrami, great bread and condiment, and the right size at a decent price for the amount of food.  The other sandwiches I've had there as well including ham and proscuitto were also excellent.  My advice though would be to ask Lucky what you should get, and do what he says.


Atmosphere:  outdoor and laid back, quasi-dive, good for meeting after work, good for groups, good for dogs, not good for solo travelers (no bar bar), one tv basic channels

Food:  great Italian hot sandwiches

Dog-Friendly:  yep

When to Go:  happy hour

Crowd:  shorts and t-shirt crowd, after work crowd, groups of girls, groups of guys, mixed groups, PubCrawler of Austin riders

What to Order for First Timers:  Whatever Lucky recommends

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Random Thought

The only word I can think of in the English language, if it qualifies as a word, that sounds like the word when you spell it fast, is Oreo.

Clive - Austin, TX

No food here that I know of.  This is a really cool indoor/outdoor spot though to go grab a drink down in the Rainey St. district (if you haven't been, go), and has a few good food options right across the street, which I've yet to try but plan to.  This is an awesome spot to hit for happy hour with friends, and maybe end up running across the street to get either some Indian, African, or authentic interior Mexican food.

This place is a nice blend of trendy (which really isn't me) and porchy (which is exactly me) which works really well, particularly on a nice day.  The other bonus here is that if you've got dogs, they're welcome, and you've got the added bonus of being able to walk there via the trails around Town Lake, missing the traffic and busy streets around the downtown area.  Good beers on tap and general hard liquor drinks and wines that you'd expect from a bar.  And a few other cool looking bars around it that you can make an evening of.

I'll be going back here a lot.


Atmosphere - indoor/outdoor, good for the solo traveler, good place to meet after work, good for groups, awesome on a nice day, good place to meet new people, good place to get hammered, no tvs

Food - n/a though good variety is a thirty second walk away to the food trucks, G'Raj Mahal, Cazamance, and El Naranjo, which I'm assuming you can get to go and bring back to Clive

Dog Friendly - check

When to Go - happy hour transitioning into evening and on nice nights

Crowd - groups of girls, groups of guys, mixed groups, 20somethings and 30somethings, hipsters, attractive affluents, cyclists, hotchicks

Haddington's - Austin, TX - Continued

Five, six and seven still pending, but realized I forgot the summary.


Atmosphere - good place for the solo traveler, good place to belly up, good place to go with a group, good place to take a date, good place to meet after work, good place to meet new people, no tvs

Food - Excellent, Upscale English

Time to Go - happy hour, for dinner, or after dinner for drinks

Crowd - primarily 20somethings and 30somethings, groups of dressed up girls, groups of dressed up guys, mixed groups, attractive affluents, hotchicks

What to Order if You're a First Timer - Foie Gras Link, Stew of the Day, Duck Meatloaf

Dog Friendly - most likely not despite outdoor area which you have to go inside first to get to

Haddington's - Austin, TX

Alright, this is one of my favorite new spots in Austin, having just opened up in the West 6th district by the same guys who did Mulberry.  This is a really nice English pub with upscale food that for the most part is really, really good.  This is a good spot to go with friends, or to belly up the bar sololike.  The bartenders are awesome, and love to create stuff even off menu.  Tiffany is particularly good, and can take you through the genesis of the American cocktail, from Old-Fashioned to Sazerac and well beyond.  Great beers on tap and by the bottle, which are switched up pretty regularly.  The beer menu though is somewhat limited and expensive, and you won't find any of your go-to crappy domestic light beers on there (which I view as a positive, but I don't discriminate against those who like them, and I'd like to be able to go there with my friends who drink them almost exclusively).  I subscribe to a motto I came up with a while back, life is too short for light beer.

Alright, so, there are two bars in this place, both good to saddle up to.  Sitting up there with you, or me, or whoever it is who is there, is a mix of people waiting for tables, a few people getting together for some drinks, and solo drinker/diners, most of whom are easy to strike up a conversation with, and who will do so with you, and probably won't take it personally if you're an introvert and don't engage.  That said, I've sampled some good food that I didn't order by sitting next to and talking with some of the patrons.

I should also note that on the weekends you may want to call for a reservation, as it gets booked up and they take them.  I would rather see it first come first serve with list, as it keeps with the pub atmosphere vs. restaurant, but it's not that big of a deal, as you can usually get a spot or two at the bar as people roll off to the four and six tops.

Alright, on to the food.  I've been there several times now, so will try to recap what I've had by my visit.

First trip.  Went with a couple friends and tried several of the appetizers to start, which for the most part were fantastic.  The Scotch eggs will lure anyone, and are right up my alley, but I think there are better picks.  That said, if you've never had a sausage wrapped breaded and deep fried quail egg, give it a shot. I'd opt instead (if not with) for the foie gras link, which is basically a high-quality hot dog made with a mix of foie and pork, topped with some caramelized onions (if I recall correctly) on a homemade bun. Also fantastic are their toast points, which they'll serve with a choice of duck liver mousse (which I recommend), a pork rillette (basically a cold, coarse chopped pate), and a couple of others, which I haven't had but don't contain pig or organs so I bypassed them.  So we did the duck liver on this one, and ordered some more of it afterwards.  On to the meal, I had the duck meatloaf, which appears to be a staple on the periodically changing menu.  It was awesome.  Served with a mashed something or other that was not quite potato and I don't think turnip, but which was better than most mashed food you'll ever get.  The portion was right sized for a normal meal, leaving you wanting a little more, but certainly not uncomfortably full.  I tried their cask ale to drink with dinner, which I thought was great but might not be for everyone.  Think of a thicker, chocolatier, coffeeer Guinness and you've got it.  Started the evening though with a duck fat infused Sazerac, a great mixture of duck, rye and absinthe.  These are a three of my favorite things.

Second trip.  Foggy.  Went there late.  Only had beer.  Then liquor.  Don't really remember leaving all that well.  Must have been fantastic.

Third trip.  Went with a couple of buddies and commandeered some spots at the bar and adjacent high tops.  Started with the foie gras links and then we all had a special sandwich of the day, which was a pulled pork reuben of sorts.   It was good, not great, and lacked a little tang that you expect from kraut (this was slaw instead if I remember right) and could have used a little more spice or seasoning.  Not bad.  They had just gotten a keg of Saison Dupont in, so had a whole lot of that.  I remember leaving on this trip.

Fourth trip.  Solo.  Wanted a quick bite, but wasn't super hungry, so I went in and had a whiskey drink followed by a glass of wine, Rhone I believe, and got the toast points with duck liver and a bowl of their stew of the day, which was veal and sausage stew, which was awesome and which I'd ask for extra toast points to sop it up.   I think this is the most economical way to satisfy thirst and drink here.  $3 for the toast/duck and $10 for the stew.  Gets you almost full but doesn't break the bank.

Fifth trip.  Hold please, I'm tired of recapping the same place.  Will come back to visits five, six and seven another time.

FoodHeads - Austin, TX

Alright, this is a good spot up by campus to grab a sandwich a little out of the norm, but not too fruity of a sandwich.  Went there for the first time today with my labs, Pearl (after the beer) and Nicki, to get them out of the house and to try a new spot.  I'd read good things.

First off, cool little spot in an old house up on 34th.  Picnic tables outside, as well as seating on the covered porch outside, and inside tables.  No bar to sit at, and no tvs, so unless you like to sit alone at a table, this might be a better spot to go with someone, and I'd opt for it for lunch.  Not a place to go eat and talk to strangers.

So they have a bunch of good looking sandwiches, one of which was lamb with roasted eggplant, red onion and cucumber mayonnaise, one of grilled salami with fresh mozzerella, and one with pork tenderloin.  I opted for the lamb, which the girl at the counter said was really good, though she said she preferred the other two mentioned here (which I was happy to see we were on the same page).  The lamb was good, but I probably wouldn't get it again.  If I had a hankering for lamb, I'd seek out a place to get a good gyro.  Not that it was bad, but the lamb was cut about a 1/4 inch thick and was well done (well seasoned too), making it a little chewy with some sinew (not sure if that's the right word, but we'll go with know, the stuff that looks like fat but doesn't act like fat...maybe it's called silverskin, I can't remember) and some really fatty parts.  Had to spit out two unchewable bites.  The eggplant addition wasn't bad, but really just offered bulk, as the taste was masked by the other ingredients and I don't think anyone has ever looked to eggplant as a texture enhancer.  This thing tasted like a gyro, but wasn't a gyro, and the cucumber mayo lacked the crisp punch that a yogurt or sour cream based tziziki sauce provides.

I'll go back, but will get something else next time.


Atmosphere - cool vibe, good for a lunch meeting, good place to grab lunch outside, good place to grab a quick bite with the dog

Food - lots of good sandwiches on the menu, a bit out of the ordinary from your ordinary sub

Dog-Friendly - check

Crowd - mix of college students and thirtysomethings from what I could tell

When to Go - Lunch

What to Order if You've Never Been - TBD

Intro Continued...

And the first bunch will all be today and the next few days until I get a bunch of stuff down, not that I ate at all of them today.


So, I thought I'd start putting my restaurant, bar and food thoughts down on paper...ok e-paper if that's what you call it...customized toward a few things.  First, this'll center mainly around Austin since I'm in the process of moving there and am still in the process finding good spots, but isn't limited to Austin, as I like to travel and food is probably the most important thing of my travels, business or pleasure, so with each post I'll include the type of establishment.  My goal with each is to find places with great food and/or drinks, great atmospheres, great spots to grab a bite alone at the bar, to meet people or just watch a game, and great places to take a dog (I've got two).  When traveling, without walking into a place, I can never figure out if it's a good place to grab a bite alone, nor can I find a clear list of what is dog-friendly, with specifics like a place to watch a game, etc., so I'll start my own.  Here goes...