Adventures in Austin

22 Oct

I have been fortunate over the years to travel to many places across the country, but there have always been a few cities I have always wanted to visit. One of them is Austin, Texas, and this past week I traveled there for a meeting for work, and got to try some local favorites along the way.

I knew that Austin was famous for both its barbeque and Tex-Mex cuisine, so I had to make sure to try some of each at least once while I was there. Over the course of only three days, it is safe to say that barbeque may have won out.

Stubb's Chicken PlateOn Monday, for a late lunch I decided to try some barbeque, and noticed on a map at the hotel that the famous Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and music hall was only a few blocks away. I went straight there and was surprised how empty the place was, but then again it was 2:30 in the afternoon.

I was told to order at the counter, and straight ahead of me I saw various options for platters. I was hungry by that point and wasn’t sure what to get, so as a last second choice I opted for the smoked chicken platter with a side salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and cornbread. It seemed like a lot of food, but it looked like the smallest option. Little did I realize till after I got my food and looked over to the right that I completely missed the sign next to the platters that was for sandwiches, which came with one side.

Granted, the chicken I got was extremely moist and delicious, prepared with a blend of mesquite spices and seasonings, but it was not the real type of Texas barbeque I was expecting. I thought it would be pieces of smoked chicken covered in sauce, but it was day one in Austin, so I figured that there would be plenty of time to try the real thing.

Guero's Fish TacosLater that night, we decided to get some Tex-Mex, and with a recommendation from our association’s president (and also an Austin resident), we headed to Guero’s Taco Bar in the South Congress area. It definitely seemed like a dive restaurant, but we were told it was a longtime Austin establishment and had great food and atmosphere, so off we went.

We each started off with a different type of margarita, as well as chips with three kinds of salsa. The menu was fairly large, but given that the restaurant has the word “taco” in its name, I figured I should try one of the tacos. I decided to get the fish tacos, which featured marinated and grilled fish, shredded cabbage and corn, topped with a chipotle tequila mayonnaise and served with black beans and rice. We had a choice of corn, white or wheat tortillas, and I went with the latter.

Some of the other diners had the carne guisada, which was marinated beef tips, and the al pastor, which was pork. Overall I really liked mine and thought the flavors meshed well together and weren’t too heavy. I added some extra salsa, black beans, and guacamole to the tacos, and it was a very satisfying dish. I’m curious how these tacos were compared to the many food trucks there were in the area, and the fact that most places I passed offered various taco dishes. But considering it was my only time having Tex-Mex food in Austin, I was happy overall.

Stubb's BBQ BrisketThe next day, I told my colleague about my meal at Stubb’s, and how delicious it was, but I wish I had ordered the beef brisket sandwich instead. She had no idea that the place was so close to our hotel, and I was happy to make a return visit. Again, the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and you could see they were already setting up outside for that night’s show.

This time, I got the beef brisket sandwich, with a side of Serrano cheese spinach. And what a great sandwich it was. The brisket was perfectly sliced with a layer of sauce on top and a toasted bun. Of course, I added extra sauce from the bottle on the table. The side I chose was really unique, it looked like typical creamed spinach, but the combination of the spinach with the spicy cheese gave it a nice kick.

Sadly, I have no dinner post to write about for that night, because Stubb’s was just that filling.

Last day, after going for a run on the trail by Lady Bird Lake, I decided to get some breakfast at somewhere other than the hotel’s fake Starbucks. Coming back from the run, I noticed a Jo’s, which I knew from the other day had great coffee. They also had a sign for breakfast tacos, so I figured I should have something more local for the last day. They didn’t have many pre-made, but were nice enough to make a taco filled with egg whites and cheese, from scratch! I ate it back in the room with fresh salsa, and it was a perfect breakfast treat with refreshing iced coffee.

Salt Lick BBQ (to go)I thought that would be the end of my Austin culinary adventures, but when I was at the airport, I decided to scope out the food outposts to see if there was anything decent to get for lunch on the plane. Sure enough, with Austin being such a great city, even the airport had local offerings, such as Amy’s Ice Cream, and their famous Salt Lick BBQ.

I had actually seen this restaurant on Yelp when looking up barbeque in Austin, and was amazed this actually existed in the airport terminal. I couldn’t resist, and bought both a beef brisket and a smoked turkey sandwich to go. Since Brett was drooling over my dining experiences this week, I figured bringing him back a sandwich was the least I could do. It was a tough call debating which BBQ was better – Stubb’s or Salt Lick. I guess we’ll have to try to head to Austin next year for ACL to test it out again.

Oh, and I got Brett this…

Everything Goes Better With Bar-B-Q!

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