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….
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
512 West 29th Street
211 Congress Avenue
(Update: Unfortunately Las Manitas is now closed for good.)