Ate pretty well during my long weekend in Austin with girlfriends – I am humbled to say that my better meals were all at restaurants that I had no part in choosing. The two that I had the greatest hopes for – Franklin BBQ and Threadgills – disappointed, while the more chi-chi places chosen by my friend exceeded expectations.
La Condesa – my favorite dishes here were the tinga nachos, the chipotle and almond guacamole, and the seafood fideo, which had enormous, sweet prawns, and an addictive, creamy sauce. We fared less well with the hongos huaraches, which were too hard for my liking, and tasted mostly of truffle oil, and the camarones taquitos, which didn’t taste very fresh.
Sol Y Luna – this was recommended to me as the closest place to my hotel with decent breakfast tacos – I had a potato and chorizo, and a machacado con huevo – I thought they were ok, but the flour tortillas were a bit too flimsy to hold up to the hearty filling. I had plans to try El Chilito later in the weekend but never made it.
Franklin BBQ – this was the one place I had really looked forward to, and it was a big disappointment. When I was in San Antonio earlier this year, I had brisket that redefined what I thought BBQ could be, and I was looking forward to recreating that experience here. The brisket was good, but not wait in the blazing sun for 1+ hours good – it didn’t have the depth of flavor or the luxurious texture I’d been dreaming of. I will say that the pulled pork was the best I’ve ever had, and potato salad was excellent. Alas, I didn’t get on line until 11:30, and by the time it was my turn, they were out of ribs. I did manage to get one link, which was good.
Lambert’s – this was my favorite meal of the weekend. Fantastic shrimp and grits, with giant prawns, sweet and charred from the grill (this was a great weekend for me and prawns), the grits spiked with jalapeno butter. My table swooned over the ranch-style beans with brisket ends, the deviled eggs, and the green chili queso (a much better use of Velveeta than the so-so mac and cheese).
Trio had a very good AYCE $50 pp brunch. Standouts for me were the high-quality carving station, the perfect, light little pancakes (I’m very sensitive to alum, and these tasted alum-free), excellent opera cake and passion fruit mousse. The seafood display looked impressive (crab claws, seared tuna, mussels with aioli) but didn’t taste as fresh as I’d hoped. The fresh fruit was of much higher quality than pretty much every other buffet I’ve been to.
We also went to Trio for dinner - I was disappointed that they were out of dry-aged NY strip (31d), couldn’t convince anyone to split a dry-aged porterhouse with me, and had to settle for a wet-aged strip loin (28d). It was perfectly cooked, but wet-aged just doesn’t have the flavor I was looking for. Overall, though it was a good meal.
Threadgills – we have a few CFS-obsessed hounds on the Bay Area Board, and I was looking forward to calibrating my CFS scale in Texas. I did a quick search and Threadgills came up a number of times, so I made it my last meal in Austin before leaving for the airport. The cream gravy was good, but the CFS was thicker than I expected, and the breading fell off (I like my CFS pounded schnitzel-thin. Don’t know what’s considered “authentic”, but having had CFS in both styles, I definitely prefer the super-thin ones).
So, overall, a good trip – I didn’t have the chance to really explore the food truck culture Austin’s known for, but I don’t think I would have been able to really appreciate it in the blazing heat. If I ever get the chance to come back during a more temperate season, I’ll make trucks a priority (and Lockhart too – I couldn’t get anyone to make the pilgrimage with me this time).
Lamberts Downtown Barbeque
401 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701
98 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701
301 W Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78704
El Sol Y La Luna
600 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701