My neighborhood in far South Austin offers some pretty great restaurants, and some pretty lousy ones. And sometimes all about knowing what to order. For example, a Chinese restaurant might offer an excellent spicy stir fry, but the rest of the menu is meh, just average. I love to ask people not just where to eat, but what to order when I eat there. I file the suggestions away in my food-obsessed brain, for when I need one. Here is a baker’s dozen of my favorite things to order at restaurants in and/or near my ‘hood.
1. Barbacoa tacos from Casa Garcia on Manchaca at William Cannon. Flavorful shredded meat, not soaked in grease, and their flour tortillas are made in house. When I give in to my barbacoa craving, I go to Casa Garcia.
2. Bean & cheese tacos from La Posada at Westgate & Wm Cannon. I’m pretty sure they do ’em right, making them with lard. Shredded American cheese gives it the Tex Mex flavor, and the tortillas are, I think, made in house. Life is too short to eat an inferior tortilla. Those packaged flour tortillas with the slightly off taste that you find in most grocery stores (and at Taco Bell) are purely disgusting. You shouldn’t taste a hint of shortening, or oil, or a preservative/chemical undertone. :::shudder:::
3. Power Bowl Lite from Maudie’s on Brodie & Slaughter. This is the best dang “diet food” in the Tex Mex world, a generous bowl of rice, lettuce, shredded monterey jack cheese, sliced avocado, black beans and pico de gallo. It’s under 500 calories! That means I can justify my margarita. I also love that they have wifi, and my son can enjoy his preferred method of relaxation which involves blowing things up in one of his video games. Bonus: kids’ cups with lids.
4. I was very happy when Madam Mam’s opened on Brodie & Slaughter. Try the Guay Teaw Tom Yum Moo – a spicy pork broth soup with your choice of rice stick or bean thread noodles, chili paste, jalapenos, ground/chopped peanuts, ground pork, sliced pork, fish balls, imitation crab and lime. It will cure what ails you!
5. The roasted garlic appetizer at NXNW on Slaughter at Mopac defines my love for the stinking rose. If you revel in the rich, sweet flavor of roasted garlic, this app is for you. It comes with goat cheese, and black pepper crostini. I like it with a cold glass of Okanagon, their malty black ale. It’s also great with their seasonal Splintercat stout. If you’re a fan of stout beer, their bourbon barrel and rum barrel aged Splintercat stouts are divine.
6. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ on Brodie in the Brodie Mart (or Die Mart, if the sign lights are malfunctioning, as they often do. I find it morbidly hilarious to see it lit up Die Mart on a dark, stormy night) parking lot — if you haven’t yet had The Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco, go get one, as soon as possible. It’s a fried egg, refried beans, potato, bacon and either pulled pork or brisket (get the brisket, or heck, one of each) on a homemade flour tortilla with serrano salsa. Serious breakfast food, seriously delicious.
7. Phonatic at Southpark Meadow’s Salt & Pepper Tofu is a bean curd dish that even my meat & potatoes husband will eat. Little crispy cubes of tofu, fried shallots, and jalapenos might sound boring, but they aren’t at all. Surprisingly tasty! #PhonaticFanatic
8. Stuffed Cajun on Brodie near 290/71 has very good fried oyster poboys on bread from Gambino’s bakery in New Orleans. (Poboy bread is important. It should be soft yet dense, with a little chew but not crusty so that it scrapes the roof of your mouth.) I always order remoulade sauce with mine, and it takes me back to the years I spent living in Louisiana. I always buy andouille for my red beans & rice from Stuffed, since their sausages are top notch. Their boudain tastes exactly like it should, and takes me back to my college years when a dollar would buy me a link of the spicy ground pork, rice, and green onion sausage from a gas station on the edge of LSU’s campus. Good times. Geaux Tigers!
9. Kerbey Lane Cafe always has a seasonal menu. One of the stars right now is the Pork Belly Francisco, a take off on eggs benedict, with queso in place of hollandaise. It’s a decadent, savory, satisfying meal. Did you know they’re selling their famous queso (including a vegan version) in Whole Foods now?
10. A little far out, but the hamburgers at Jack Allen’s Kitchen are well worth the drive past the Y and down a bit on 71. My current favorite is the Fat Jack, a thick, juicy meat patty with bacon, cheddar cheese, onion, dill pickle, jalapeno mayo and hickory sauce. I get the sweet potato fries, which comes with aioli to dip into instead of ketchup. All their burgers are outstanding, and they have a Gluten-Free menu (ask for it). We eat earlier rather than later, since we have a 7 year old son, and that means I usually get to enjoy happy hour pricing on a glass of good wine with my meal. I like to pair my burger with a tempranillo, and JAK obliges with Becker Tempranillo by the glass.
11. Via 313 rocks the pizza out! I’m usually a thin crust fan but I’ll devour this crispy edged delicious Detroit-style deep dish any time I can get it. I love The Cadillac, a pie made with gorgonzola, fig preserves, prosciutto, and parmesan cheese, drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Mmmm!
12. Crema Bakery & Cafe on Brodie is a cute little shop with both sweet and savory delights. Order the Chipotle Carnitas Breakfast Quesadilla. It’s a meal that will get you through even a Monday, and you know how I feel about Mondays.
13. Menudo isn’t the soup for everyone, but for those of us who love it, make sure you stop in at Taqueria La Escondida #3, on Ben White between Manchaca and S. 1st Street. If you have a non-menudo fan (cue an instant mental image of Ricky Martin), they’ll be content with the migas plate, or the selection of breakfast taco fillings.
If you’re my neighbor and I left off a favorite, leave me a comment and let me know. Let’s taco ’bout it!