Eating in Austin, TX

Our team is in Austin, TX for our annual training trip. Of course, that means 2 practices a day and lots of hungry bellies, so of course lots of food has been consumed. Most of it has been the mediocre hotel food, but we've managed to try a few Austin favorites:

The menu was limited to only 5 items when we (yes, all 150 of us) visited this taco truck, so we couldn't try everything. On the menu: chicken fajitas, beef fajitas, some sort of shrimp taco, the 'trailer park' and a vegetarian option with avocado.

I tried the trailer park, the beef fajita and the veggie option. The beef fajita was just ok. The sauce was delightfully refreshing and just spicy enough, but the lettuce on it was flavorless, probably free of nutrients and otherwise pretty pointless. The beef was not too far behind the lettuce. It was thoroughly overcooked and just generally not very good.

The avocado taco was good, but pretty boring. I would have appreciated a little bit more pizazz on it--maybe some tomato chunks, or a radish/cabbage slaw for some crunch? Even whole beans instead of refried would have made for a more interesting mouth feel. All the flavors worked, but the textures weren't quite there.
I'd say the same for the trailer park--the flavors were there, but the texture wasn't. Basically a taco filled with a chicken finger, they balanced all the flavors pretty well. There were two sauces--one lighter and fresher, the other heavier and creamier, which tasted delicious. The lighter sauce (I think a pico de gallo type sauce) really balanced the heaviness of the fried chicken well. Still, the taco could have used some crunch.

2. Whole Foods
525 North Lamar Boulevard
After doing some reading on Austin, most people seem to think Whole Foods in Downtown Austin is the place to go for produce, groceries, and pre-prepared food. This isn't just any Whole Foods, though--this is a HUGE Whole Foods. So when I went, I was expecting equally huge produce, grocery and pre-prepared food sections. I got two of three.

There is a ton of pre-prepared food, all of which looks good, healthy and wholesome. I'd definitely give most of it a try, especially if I needed a quick dinner. Mostly, though, I was looking for snack foods, so I spent most of our 20-minute speed visit in the produce and grocery sections.

The grocery section has everything you could want at reasonable, but not phenomenal prices. It was a little bit tricky to navigate (I had a really hard time finding hummus, dairy and microwave popcorn) but there was a huge selection of everything once you found it. Not great for the indecisive shopper, but really fun to browse and wander.

The produce section was what really disappointed me. I understand that it's winter, so fruit and veggie selection is somewhat limited, but it was really sad. The apples were mostly bruised, the grapes were over the hill, and everything was inordinately expensive. To make matters worse, there really just wasn't a great selection. The produce section took up less than an eighth of the store's floor area; however massive the store was, that's not putting a lot of emphasis on whole foods. I love fresh fruits and veggies most than any other food, so I was incredibly disappointed. If that's where Austinite's go for produce, I don't want to be an Austinite.

3. Amy's Ice Cream
Ok, to be fair, I'm from an ice cream haven. Still, I was expecting better! Even my teammates raved about this place, my teammates that are huge fans of frozen yogurt, not ice cream. I walked in and asked what I should try.

First, they gave me a taste of the Mexican vanilla. Although there was an interesting complex vanilla flavor, it was mostly masked by an overwhelming sweetness. Second, I tried the coffee. Again, a coffee flavor, but really nothing special--Haagen Daas is better. Third, I tried the pistachio. Now, pistachio is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Honestly, it didn't really taste anything like pistachio, mostly because it didn't really taste like anything at all.

The biggest offense, though, wasn't the lack of flavor, the incredible sweetness or the uninteresting flavors. No, the biggest offense was the ice cream. It had streaks of ice in it!!! Seriously, guys, you run an ice cream place and my freezer does a better job! I almost walked out without any ice cream, but the guys were just so nice.. I ended up with pistachio. Next time, I wouldn't bother.

4. Smitty's Market
This one is about a 40-minute drive out of Austin, through the middle of no place, but it's supposedly the 5th best barbecue in Texas so we made the drive. As we walked in, we walked through a room with a giant fire pit, into a larger room with lots of big, long tables. The place had a very homestyle, old school feel to it.

We had three options--sausage, ribs and beef brisket--with a side of barbecue sauce, a pickle and cheddar cheese. I also got some baked beans. Next time, I'd skip the pickle and the cheese. The baked beans were really terrible. I love beans and I gave up after about two bites.

The ribs were incredibly well cooked. With just a little bit of tooth, they fell off the bone and dissolved in your mouth. Yum! They had a good, deep, smokey flavor. I liked these a lot.

The beef brisket was good, too, although not quite as good. It had a lot of flavor, and was tender, but it wasn't anything special.

The sausage, on the other hand, was incredible. Loose ground meat was held together by incredibly crispy skin. The flavor in the meat was very intense but really emphasized the meatiness of the sausage. This was particularly good on white bread with the barbecue sauce. This meat was actually the only one that really worked with the sauce.

The barbecue sauce was very acidic--I think it was probably vinegar based--and tasted a lot like ketchup. This worked in small quantities on the smokiest, most flavorful meats, but really overwhelmed the ribs and the brisket. The meat was generally better unadorned, with the sauce as an afterthought.

Overall, it was quite good, but it didn't really blow my mind. It's probably not worth a 40-minute drive each way, but if you're passing that direction anyways, it would be a good stop.

In the end, I was pretty unimpressed with Austin cuisine. Of course, I didn't manage to make it to the Taste of Austin festival which happened across the lake from our hotel this Thursday; I don't think I would have been much more impressed there. (I decided not to buy a ticket when I saw that coca-cola was one of the tables--not my idea of good food.) With a life completely centered around food, I don't think I could bring myself to live in Austin.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment or question below.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...