Category Archives: Austin

Meating in Austin

Honestly, I am usually not a super huge fan of food like hot dogs, burgers and barbecued meat. However, there was no way I would pass up the opportunity to try these while I was in Texas. With so many people in the South loving their meat, I just had to find out what was so special about their burgers and what nots over here. Can their food convert a not-so-avid meat eater to a a meat-hungry carnivore?

Bratwurst @ The Best Wurst, Sixth Street 

Bratwurst This bratwurst came from a food truck on Sixth Street, a street lined with bars and clubs. The sausage and the sauerkraut were good but the best part was their curry ketchup. Call me a noob but this was my first time having curry ketchup and I absolutely loved it!

Beef Brisket Sandwich @ Salt Lick, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Beef Brisket Sandwich

 Perhaps I should have lined up for two hours at Franklin’s for what is supposedly the best barbecue or ate at Rudy’s which is a local favorite but I did not. My laziness to go out of my way for good meat has ended up with me stuffing myself with whatever barbecue meat I could find at the airport, half an hour before leaving Austin for good. For airport and barbecue food, Salt Lick is actually pretty good bang for your buck. I have had meat-loving friends who really enjoyed this sandwich but the meat was not quite impressive enough to make a not-so-avid meat lover go crazy.

Everyone, and by that I mean every single Austinite that I have had the chance to talk to about food, raves about Hopdoddy’s. This gourmet burger bar is well known not just for their burgers but their milkshakes too. Thinking a burger alone was sinful enough, I decided to skip the milkshake. Lots of people rave about their Primetime Burger, which had way more meat than I imagined.

Primetime Burger @ Hopdoddy’s Burger Bar, Anderson St

Primetime Burger

Primetime Burger

 Honestly think that was hyped up way too much but hey, I’m not a meat person.

Food Finds in Austin

I love the food truck scene in Austin and luckily enough there was a block not too far from where I was living where food trucks parked every single day. One of the food trucks that I was most eager to try was Julie’s Handmade Noodles. Julie is well known for her beef noodle soup but I was craving some zha jiang mian which I hadn’t had in a while.

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Pretty solid bowl of noodles! Noodles are freshly made and Julie doesn’t allow customers to have her noodles to go because they supposedly only taste good when totally fresh. The only downside to this was that it was pretty salty, but what do you expect from noodles mixed with salty soy bean paste. I would probably frequent this food truck often if I was a student at UT Austin.

Another place that I managed to try my final week in Austin was East Side King @ Hole in the Wall, started by a Top Chef winner Paul Qui. Over here, I had his Thai Chicken Kara-age and boy was it good. Love the juiciness and the herbs that came with it. Some of the other popular items in the menu were the fried beetroots and brussels sprout salad, and there were some interesting ones like beer bacon ramen. However, I only visited this establishment once and wasn’t about to order any more food after that delicious but sinful fried chicken.

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I never go out of my way for doughnuts but after hearing people rave about Gourdough, I thought I’d check this place out. Th wait took about fifteen minutes and while I was standing in line, I stared with both awe and shock at 1) how beautiful the doughnuts were, and 2) how large they were. Each doughnut was probably the size of my extended palm. Anyway, I got the Miss Shortcake which is this baby down here, stolen from Gourdough’s website:

Gourdough's Miss Shortcake

One popular food truck in Austin is Chilantro which features Mexican-Korean fusion food. One day, they were parked outside my office building and I decided to have their bulgogi taco for lunch. What I liked about this was the spicy oil in the taco. However, they could have improved the way the meat was prepared, as it was not as tender and moist as I expected for something so hyped up. The taco was also one of the messiest tacos I had to work with as it was impossible to keep the oil from spilling.

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Other food trucks I tried worth mentioning are Torchy’s Tacos and Little Fattys. At Little Fattys, I had one of their amazing gorditas with great meat and great sauce. I love how I get to try things that I have never had or heard of in NorCal. Torchy’s were also great last tacos to have before leaving Austin. I absolutely love the tacos in Austin and I was right in thinking that I was going to miss Texas tacos so much.

Food trucks aside, I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy some fine dining at Jasper’s, a restaurant by some  Iron Chef contestant. I had seared ahi tuna steak for my entree and it swept me off my feet. The texture was just perfect — not too cooked and not too raw. Hands down the best ahi tuna I have had, not that I have had that much ahi tuna in my life.

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Whole Foods Flagship Store

Welcome to the first Whole Foods market in America.

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It is so amazing that I had to embarrass myself and be a weirdo, taking pictures of groceries not-so-surreptitiously. Honestly never thought I would reach this stage.

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Overwhelmed by all the choices of nuts and grains and spices.

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I thought the idea of grinding your own peanut butter was very cool so I took a picture of this too.

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You have to admit that a bar in a grocery store is pretty unique and worth taking a picture of…

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I have moved on to a whole new level by taking pictures of raw meat. Gotta admit that raw meat has never looked this good before.

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I went nuts in the bakery section of the supermarket. They had a wide selection of hearty looking bread with some samples in small containers too. I was able to sample their sweet potato bread, jalapeno bread and walnut raisin bread. Their sweet potato bread was good and is something I would consider buying. The jalapeno bread, not really, because I am not used to having my bread spicy.

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I am so ashamed for taking a picture of this but I think it is cool that they have oils and vinegar in metal dispensers.

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One of my favorite sections in the store is their cookie bar.

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I love pistachio in desserts and baked goods so I was tempted to get myself some pistachio shortbread and pistachio cannoli.

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Besides their awesome presentation of groceries in the marketplace, I absolutely love their food stands that serve a variety of food, from barbecue to sushi to gelato. Their two-meat combination with two sides ended up being my lunch and dinner for the day. My meat of choice were moist beef brisket and baby back ribs, with mac and cheese as a side. I also had their pistachio and stracciatella gelato at their gelato bar which was kind of ‘rough’ and heavy for gelato. I had a great dining experience at Whole Foods and my body must hate me right now so I think I am going to go vegetarian for the next week or two.

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Austin Food Trucks!

Until two weeks ago, I had failed to realize what phenomenon food trucks are in some cities in the United States. Sure, the Bay Area has its fair share of mobile food trucks but it has got nothing on Austin. Austin has a crazy number of food trucks serving a lot of delectable treats (with quite a lot of fusion food such as Korean tacos). My first food truck experience in Austin was at West Campus — at The Mighty Cone specifically.

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This truck features tortilla  cones filled with a mango-jalapeno coleslaw and chicken / shrimp / avocado crusted in almonds, sesame seeds and chilli flakes, which lends it its crunchiness. The crunch and the mild spiciness and tanginess makes this cone a pretty mighty meal. This is definitely one of my favourite meals in Austin (not that I have had that many to date) and I will be back for sure.

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The Cow Tipping Creamery probably has the most elaborate soft serve in town. Customers get to customize their soft serve and choose from over 20 toppings, or they could go for their signature cones and stackers. They do have a lot of pleasant combinations in some of their signature cones but I simply went for 8 ounces of the good ol’ caramelized banana split, served with caramelized bananas, strawberries, pecans, caramel, whipped cream and Ghirardelli hot fudge. I am a bigger fan of regular ice cream or gelato so I did not go super crazy over this but it is still pretty good for what it is – a soft-serve. Probably the fanciest soft-serve I will ever have.

I had also set my mind to trying out The Halal Guys in Austin, and it is probably safe to say that it is inspired by the famous Halal Guys in New York City. The Halal Guys I went to on West Campus is technically not a food truck but my review is gonna go in this post anyway since it first started out as a food truck or stand.

Combination over Rice

Not wanting to choose between chicken and lamb, I went for both with the Combination over Rice. The meat is covered in an orange spicy sauce which I really like, and a lot of the white yogurt-like sauce. I personally liked the chicken a little more than the lamb although most would probably beg to differ, and I thought there was a little too much of the white sauce which muted — as opposed to accentuate  — the flavours of the meat. I would not mind coming back here for another meal but I would probably request for less generous servings of the white sauce and more of the spicy one. The portion size is quite satisfying but is supposedly pretty small for its price compared to what you get in the big city. Also, I seriously hope this was not 2000 calories as claimed by the internet for the Halal Guys in NYC…

I have started compiling a list of food trucks or stands to check out while in Austin and this is how the list is looking like so far:

  1. ChiLantro BBQ – A Korean-Mexican fusion food truck with food like kimchi fries and spicy pork bulgogi burger.
  2. Via 313 – Detroit-style pizza that has been lauded by many.
  3. Turf N’ Surf Po’ Boy – Mexican and Cajun food stand with po’ boys (which I loved at Brenda’s in San Francisco) and large grilled fish tacos.
  4. Kebabalicious – Pretty self explanatory.
  5. Gourdough’s – Super elaborate doughnuts.
  6. Julie’s Handmade Noodles – Zha jiang mian and beef noodle soup to satisfy my Asian food craving.

Boy, I am going to get fat this summer eating at food trucks, on top of eating stuff like briskets at Rudy’s and tacos and burgers.

Goes to Texas…

EATS VEGAN FOOD

Protein 2000 @ Veggie Heaven, Austin

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Trying out vegan food is always fun because I find it interesting to learn how good (if I am lucky) vegan food can be. Some vegetable proteins imitate the texture of meat pretty well. Protein 2000, which is made of soybeans and drenched in sweet garlicky sauce, is decent for fake meat. It is catered for American taste palates though. I was also intrigued by their brown rice because it came mixed with green peas I presume. Initially I thought it was strange but it started growing on me.

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GOES TO TEXAS … EATS CHINESE BBQ

Roast Duck and Pork BBQ with Rice @ Din Ho Restaurant, Austin
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I have not had cravings for baby back ribs or briskets but I was really in the mood for some Chinese food. Yelp led me to Din Ho restaurant, supposedly one of the most authentic and best Chinese restaurants in Austin. My excitement was built up when I could smell the barbecued meat from across the parking lot after getting of the bus and walking towards the restaurant.  The items on the menu were more affordable than I expected since this restaurant was given a two dollar sign on Yelp (the Roast Duck and BBQ Pork with rice cost me less than $9). I thought the roast duck was okay but the BBQ Pork was good. I do not usually like eating Chinese BBQ Pork because I am quite particular with the odor of Chinese pork but I actually liked this one. The meat was juicy and the texture good. However, I do think that both the pork and the duck could be a little more savory. All in all, the barbecued meat was good and this meal beats a lot of Chinese meals I have had in Berkeley for its price.