In Texas, the two food staples are Tex-Mex and barbeque. Nowhere is this more evident than in Austin, TX, which has become a foodie haven. Food trucks can be found on nearly every corner or empty lot. Small spaces are transformed into a food oasis. With this much variety, it is hard to choose a favorite; but when you combine the atmosphere with a warm, sunny day in January, Cosmic Cup and Beer Garden rose to the top of our list.
Since we spent a month in Austin and were able to meet up with a lot of local friends, we were able to really enjoy the various options for food and drink. Ironically, though, many of the entries in today’s blog came from just one day in early January. My eldest, who is a bit of a foodie or at least just likes to try new foods especially when mom is paying, came in town and had a long list of places he wanted to visit. Knowing he had less than 48 hours before he returned to Scotland where barbeque and TexMex are lacking, we decided to visit as many as possible in the day, sharing one plate in each spot.
Our first stop was a food truck, Leroy and Lewis, at the Cosmic Cup and Beer Garden. This bbq spot was high on his list and are known for serving “alternative cuts of meat and creative sides using seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms and ranches.” We asked for the most popular dish and were soon trying beef cheeks. Not knowing what to expect or what they were, our bravery was rewarded with an amazingly tender dish of beef in a delicious beet barbeque sauce. For those who are as clueless as me, beef cheeks are the actual cheeks of the cow, thus only two per animal and a strong muscle best cooked slowly. Sadly, they only serve beef cheeks Wednesday to Friday, so were not on the menu when Barry and I returned later in the month. On that trip, we tried their barbacoa and akaushi brisket, both of which I highly recommend.
Our next stop on the whirlwind tour added some TexMex elements to our barbeque. Valentina’s, another food truck, is known for its brisket tacos and queso. While the taco was tasty, it wasn’t “go out of your way” great. And the queso with its red heart was cute but not as tasty as most you can find in Austin. A later trip to Torchy’s Tacos confirmed it as the much better queso destination.
Taking a hard turn in our Texas culinary tour, we went to Ramen Tatsu-Ya on the advice of one of Drew’s good friends, Jared. A very popular restaurant with a line out the door most days to prove it, they are making this soul food of Japan the new trendy food. If you are picturing the square packets of ramen you ate in college because it less than $1, this is definitely not your college ramen. Unfortunately, we were so curious, we dug in and forgot to take a picture. Picture a very large bowl of noodles in a very tasty broth surrounded by vegetables, pork and an egg. We tried the Mi-so-not with the addition of a spicy bomb to control the amount of fire in our ramen. IF you are brave, there is also the Mi-so-hot.
Returning to familiar foods, we headed to Taco Joint, a favorite of Denilson, another college-aged friend of Drew’s. Known for their street tacos, we each enjoyed two small flavorful tacos. Conveniently located near downtown, this spot was an actual restaurant with ample parking and a porch that would be nice on pretty days.
Ending our food tour for the day, we joined Barry and our friends for dinner at the Oasis, a very popular spot in the hills near Lake Travis. Known for the daily show of sunset over the lake, there is often a big crowd here on the weekends. We only caught the last few minutes before heading into the Oasis Brewery for dinner and a local beer. As you might expect, Drew and I were not very hungry so we shared some sweet potato fries and had a local beer.
To finish off Drew’s list, we headed to Terry Black’s BBQ on the way to the airport the next day. While he wanted to try the famous Franklin’s BBQ, you have to get in line at 9 am and stand there until they open which didn’t sound fun on a chilly, damp day. Terry Black’s seemed a fine substitute.
The experience started in the parking lot as the aroma of barbeque filled our senses. Stepping into the restaurant, we entered a true Texas joint filled with wood, pictures of cows, and friendly people. The line moves quickly as you fill your tray with sides, desserts, and finally the meat. A true Texas bbq experience and taste sensation. I am not a connoisseur who can tell great differences, but I do know if it is good and it is very good at Terry Black’s.
With my foodie son out of town, our tour of Austin restaurants slowed but we still enjoyed some of best offered in the city including Home Slice which serves authentic New York pizza according to our Brooklyn born friend, Torchy’s which is well known for its great tacos and queso, and a variety of coffee shops which also served as Barry’s remote office.
Austin, like so many other cities, is also a craft brewery destination so we had to try a few of those as well. Since we recently acquired our Craft Beer Adventure Journal, written by our friends at Living a Stout Life, we were anxious to start filling it in. On our last night in Austin, we headed to Infamous Brewery where we enjoyed live music and a game of Cards Against Humanity, which I am required to report that Barry won. Based on how much fun we had that night, it might be best that we didn’t visit until the end of our trip as it was within a mile of our campground.
Another mainstay of the area near Lake Austin is Lucy’s Chicken. This is a great place to go for the views during warmer weather as they have an amazing patio with live music. After Lucy’s, we decided to head out to a cozy neighborhood bar, Rock House, another food truck location. Luckily for me, it was located near a spot that had been beckoning me numerous times on my drives – Cold Cookie Company. This delicious eatery serves customized ice cream sandwiches. You pick your cookies (and they don’t have to match), the ice cream flavor and they make it on the spot. Adding in the rainbow sprinkle bar, who can’t be happy there!
Of course, half the fun of eating out is the company that you keep and, in Austin, we got to share meals with some great friends. In addition to local friends, two great couples we met on the road last spring were staying in the same campground. Thank you to all of you who met us out for dinner and helped us enjoy Austin food. Austin is certainly worth the visit for foodies, craft beer lovers and all the rest!
Met up with many local friends including our friend from The 500, Inc. Pat Vires; two of my Leadership Texas sisters, Monique Fullbright and Susan Durso at the tasty Siena Restorante; and former Plano friends, Beth and Mike Melton at Foxhole Culinary Tavern, a great farm to market restaurant. Great fun and great food both times!