Austin, Texas

Before I high-tail it outta Austin, I thought I’d share a few things I ate while here. The tour of ice cream shops around town will have to wait until I’m back home, but there were plenty of other things to sample….

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Austin is the hip town…or city, in Texas. I say ‘town’ because it feels more like a big town than the capital of the state. There’s lot of quirky people here; tattoos, piercings, and general goofiness seems to be the norm and celebrated by all. No complaints from me either! Of course, there’s also some mighty fine Tex-Mex food, including unending bowls of chips and salsa, which are dangerous when heaped in front of me. I can’t resist polishing off the entire basket. And if there’s a margarita (or two) involved, all bets are off on how many I’ll pound down.

(That’s baskets of the chips, not the margaritas. Those I need to limit myself to one or two of. Unless they’re really, really good. Then I can perhaps manage an extra one, just to be polite.)

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Migas, a lively scramble of eggs and crispy corn tortillas is my breakfast of choice (hmmm…crisp corn tortillas…anyone else see a trend?) I like mine sitting at the counter at Las Manitas, one of the last diner-style restaurants left in town. It seems almost all of Austin converges here for their hearty breakfasts, accompanied by endless amounts of the all-American bottomless mug of coffee, a habit I quickly reverted back to.

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Because man, including David, cannot live by corn masa and hot sauce alone, there’s plenty of beautiful plates of cooling fresh fruit, which reminded me of lounging on the beach in Mexico all day, then being rewarded for all that hard work with a big ol’ plate of icy-cold watermelon and tangy pineapple chunks.

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And who doesn’t love barbecue more than David? It’s one of the things I crave when I come to Texas and although I try to hit every good barbecue in each city I go to, this trip I only managed one place: Ruby’s. Although I’m sometime skeptical of recommendations given by hotel desk clerks (they often send guests to white-linen napkin kind of places and who wants that?), in Texas, someone sending you to a bad barbecue…well, them’s fightin’ words.

Ruby’s was great.
Although I was pushing the season by ordering corn on the cob, if it bothers you, too bad ’cause I loved every buttery, tooth gap-filling, corny bite. Some of the food served at Ruby’s is locally-sourced, including the huge chickens and spicy rope sausages. I went for beef brisket and wasn’t disappointed. Tender strips of long-smoked meat, meltingly tender, and dipped in sweet-spicy, rich, lip-smackin’ barbecue sauce.
What’s not to like?

And, of course, the desk clerks back at the hotel were rewarded with a big box of deep-dark Chocolate Wafer Cookies and a stack of gooey brownies, which quickly disappeared to the back, along with the desk clerks.

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I was also honored to be hosted at a special tasting of Texas’ famed Blue Bell Ice Cream. Celebrating their 100 anniversary, after a few bites and I understood why this ice cream held a special taste in the hearts (and tummies) of Texans. I spooned up their ten most popular flavors. Yes, all ten of them. Their most popular of all time? Homemade Vanilla…by a longshot. My preference was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which was loaded with big chunks of cookie dough, although the Mint Chip had a certain appeal, in spite of the iridescent green hue.

There was also a Scoop-Off I did for the local newspaper where I tested the newest ice cream scoops available, alongside some of the more traditional utensils. There were a few surprises…and a few duds. (I put some of my favorites here, including the Oxo dude that made the perfect scoop.)

I must be the luckiest dude in Texas as well, since I stayed at the scoop-endous Driskill Hotel, a real old-time place with a meticulously-restored lobby and a lively bar scene in the evening. I didn’t know the place was haunted until I’d spent a night there. So the following evening, I got little sleep as I kept wondering when, and if, I’d have a too-close encounter of the ghostly kind. Fortunately the spirits left me alone while I was in town.

But just in case, it’s nice to know that down at the bar, there’s plenty of ammo to make sure one gets a good night’s sleep. Including a might decent margarita. Or two.

Ruby’s Barbecue
512 West 29th Street

Las Manitas
211 Congress Avenue

(Update: Unfortunately Las Manitas is now closed for good.)

Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos

15 comments

  • Just thought of crispy tortillas makes my mouth water!! Mmmmm.

  • I miss Las Manitas! I love their aguas frescas, by the way. When I make them at home, they are just not the same…. I will have to try the Driskill next time — we love the Hotel San Jose and try to make a point to stay there whenever possible.

  • David, If you’re still in Austin, try Freebird’s (www.freebirds.com) burritos!! Made to order and filled with grilled steak or chicken, 3 types of beans, different sauces…yum. I am having university flashbacks. See if you can eat the Super Monster – it’s as long as your forearm.

  • “There’s lot of quirky people here; tattoos, piercings, and general goofiness seems to be the norm”

    Thank you for that. You just made me feel normal and explained why I am the way I am. But I’m not so sure about the goofy part, as I’m pure class and mostly known for my serious nature.

    I’m glad you got to sample Blue Bell Ice Cream. It’s what we grew up eating before the Bens and Jerrys and Häagen-Dazs of the world suddenly appeared in the 80s. Of course my memory tells me it was fantastic, but honestly I haven’t compared it to the new ice creams out there since it’s been years. So were you saying it was good because you were being gentlemanly and not offending Texans or was it really good? C’mon, you can tell me.

    And I must say how happy I am you went to Ruby’s. It’s one of the better places for barbeque in town. And Las Manitas? My heart be still. Migas migas migas, I grew up on them. It makes me happy to know you’re eating the food of my people (cue warrior sound effects now.)

    So glad you had a good time!

  • Just watch out for “Mexican Restaurant Syndrome” where the sufferer stuffs themselves with all manner of delicious Tex-Mex food, and then while enjoying after dinner conversation, unconsciously continues to eat chips and salsa to the point of painful stupor. Very common. ;-)

  • Just watch out for “Mexican Restaurant Syndrome” where the sufferer stuffs themselves with all manner of delicious Tex-Mex food, and then while enjoying after dinner conversation, unconsciously continues to eat chips and salsa to the point of painful stupor. Very common. ;-)

  • awe man, you’re making me hungry! There’s no better than Ruby’s. Amy’s ice cream is the best unless you’re going to take it home and then Bluebell is number one. If you missed Louis 106, you missed some good pasta. Put them on your list for next time. Austin is the best place in the country for good eats, music and friendly people.

  • Tex-Mex is fine; but have you tried the authentic Mexican taquerias here? Shredded steamed beef, or slow-roasted pulled pork, or Al Pastore– in homemade flour tortillas, with fresh salsas like tomatillo or creamy chipotle…

    Cheap, fresh and delicious. To me, that’s Texas.

  • David, when you come back to Austin, you need to build in a little time for a food tour! You did hit some good places once you left the comfiness of the Spa, but we ARE a food town. A couple to keep in mind that are very representative of Austin — Artz Rib House (www.artzribhouse.com)for the best baby back ribs, and Fonda San Miguel (www.fondasanmiguel.com)for divine interior Mexican food and margaritas to die for.

    Thank you for the class at Central Market last night (I was the one who bought a book for me and one for my friend in Boston). It was a hoot and I look forward to making some of your creations!

  • What is this beige much spread on the side of the Omelette?
    Do please enlighten me. Thank you
    Have fun
    Simona

  • Ah chucks Simona– where u from gurl? Ain’t that Frijoles Refritos?

  • True that!
    as they say in Mexico, Simon! Simona!

  • Damn, you did not meet the ghost of Bill Hicks at the bar! Did you at least get to meet the living legend of Austin: Alex Jones?

  • Las Manitas is still open?!? What’s the word on whether they get to stay or have to leave their digs on South Congress? I was there last year at this time and already people were mourning its impending closure.

  • Oh Las Manitas – my friend’s now-husband took me there last year while I was staying with them for a week in Austin – it was an unforgettable experience. that place is totally old school and SO SO tasty!