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Barbecue, Beer, & Birds: An Austin Trip Report (long)

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Barbecue, Beer, & Birds: An Austin Trip Report (long)

Janer | May 23, 2006 11:45 PM

This Pacific Northwest hound just returned from five delicious days in Austin, a trip of discovery, and friends, and . . . meat.

Day 1: On arrival our gracious hostess--a local--whisked us to the Oasis, where we relaxed with margaritas, queso, and a lovely view of Lake Travis. (Our hostess knowingly advised us against partaking further.)

Day 2: Dinner at Maudie's on Brodie Lane satisfied our immediate Tex-Mex cravings. Those Mexican Martini's are a great invention to be sure. And the shrimp-stuffed avocado "salad" was rich, creamy, and delicious.

Day 3: After a long morning birding at Hornsby Bend, we headed to Lockhart. Our local host reviewed the choices and told the tales (oh my, complex!) and we ended up at Black's. This Seattleite was in love with Texas at that moment..in line studying the meat and side choices, taking in the smokey aroma, puzzling over how to order. I ended up with slices of brisket, a couple of ribs, slaw, pickles, onion, white bread, and a Shiner. And new vocabulary--the "smoke ring." Does vacation get any better?

Dinner that night was, understandably, salad at home; a friend brought a 2005 Becker Vineyards Fume Blanc and a Paulo 2002 cab, along with an amazing pecan pie from Burdoll's Pecans that offered the perfect nut-to-goo ratio. I make pies and am fussy: this was outstanding.

Day 4: Road trip to Pedernales Falls (painted bunting!), Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock (orchard oriole!) and back to Austin. At a gas station in Johnson City, a member of our party purchased a package of Whittington's Turkey Jerky (mesquite smoked). Wow! Moist and peppery, it was so good I think I'll end up checking out their mail order. We lunched at the Herb Farm in Fredericksburg, enjoyed beautiful salads (mine was a dill chicken salad) with a view of the garden and its Carolina wren fledglings. I found it disappointing they used canned pineapple chunks on an othewise elegant salad.

Back in Austin, we dropped by busy Guero's. Terrific people watching, a delicious catfish taco, black bean soup, and cold beer. A fun place in a fun part of the city.

Day 5: Yes, vacation did get even better. It's called 7:00 a.m. at Las Manitas. A pineapple smoothie and an egg & black bean taco was the perfect start to an in-city day. My companion raved about the huevos rancheros - the sauce had "just the right amount of heat...a nice tang."

Later at Book People, I came across the Fonda San Miguel cookbook; sadly we could not get brunch reservations on this trip as our hostess had hoped, due to graduation crowds. Well, there's a good reason to come back, right?

From Book People we headed to nearby Juanita's tacos in the red caboose. Oooh. Those steak fajita tacos were divine. And the carnitas! This place made us very happy indeed; we sat at the tiny table and devoured them. A real treasure for taco-seeking visitors in the downtown area.

Next stop: mid-afternoon cold beer (hot day) on the misted deck at Opal Divine's Freehouse. We were refreshed by the local Live Oak Pilz and the "miracle margarita." The latter sounded too sweet (what with strawberry & mango juices) but went down easy with a squeeze of lime. Fine service here.

Some time later, our hostess pulled us into Artz Rib House (what could we do?) and we shared some country style ribs and cold beer. "You can detox at home," she counseled as we dug in once again to that lovely meat that just is not available to us.

And our final stop was a salad at the Galaxy Cafe at Brodie & Slaughter. Many homemade dressing choices; light, fun atmosphere. Recommended for your trip's end when you've truly reached the limit on beef and pork intake.

Day 6: Okay, okay. A Round Rock doughnut at the airport! Cinnamon twist! It was yellow! Why?

Looking forward already to our return visit to sample even more from your fine city. But now, must rest.

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