Restaurants & Bars


11 Days of Austin During SXSW and All the Restaurants, Bars, and Food Trucks I Tried


Restaurants & Bars 7

11 Days of Austin During SXSW and All the Restaurants, Bars, and Food Trucks I Tried

kathryn | Mar 22, 2011 09:13 PM

Lambert's: Stopped by twice during the trip. I'm a big fan of their fancied up queso and ordered it both times. Nice mac and cheese (actually too cheesy for me, but my husband loved it). Brussels sprouts with bacon were excellent. The pulled pork was good but what really pulled it over the edge was the creative apple slaw accompanying it. I liked the peppery pork ribs as well but found the fennel and coriander rub to be a bit much by the end. The chopped brisket sandwich was excellent as well. Dessert was fantastic as well. Loved and fought over each last crumb of the peanut butter/chocolate cup. Lots of fun sitting on the patio, or at the bar. Will definitely come back.

Pueblo Viejo (food truck): The little taco truck at the East Side Drive In became a brunch destination a few days in a row. They served us good breakfast tacos and also had quite friendly service. I really liked the woman working there--the bottled water wasn't cold and they offered to put it into the freezer for a few minutes for us. Their salsa was also quite good as well, both the red and green (tomatillo?). Loved eating breakfast outside in the sun at the East Side Drive In. Unfortunately their hours seemed a bit inconsistent. My husband went on a Wednesday morning around 8:30am and they said they'd be open, but they weren't. I'd come back but am still on a search for great breakfast tacos downtown near the Convention Center.

Haddington's: Very graciously allowed us to add extra people to our large group at the last minute. While it was very loud on a Friday night, and did take a while for us to get our food, we didn't mind because the drinks were excellent and our server was very nice, running around to get extra chairs for us. The Sazerac, infused with duck fat, didn't taste very duck like but was very good regardless. My Paloma Flower (tequila, St-Germain, grapefruit, egg white, Angostura bitters) was only OK but I tried some friends' drinks which were excellent. Our group particularly liked the Waldorf #2 (apple brandy, nocino, celery bitters) and the Devil's Mustache (mescal, cyan, lime, orange bitters). The deep fried veal sweetbread appetizer was delicious, with the sherry and orange aioli. I really enjoyed my stuffed trout and ate nearly the entire thing. The best part was the stuffing: cornbread, fennel, pine nuts & grapes. My husband's roasted poisson with foie, pork & brioche was also very good. Not the best food I had in town but good for a big group dinner with cocktails. Would go back, wish it was closer to the Convention Center!

Bar Congress: Preferred Lies was excellent: earl grey infused bourbon, apple drinking vinegar, Canton ginger foam? Yes, please! My Mestizo (Hacienda Sotol Blanco, Sour Orange and Lime, Scratch Grenadine, Arbol Chile), was good but not nearly as good. Very nice, very comfy, quiet bar. So sad that last call is at midnight (even on a Friday) as we could probably have stayed for hours. Would definitely go back.

Pig Vicious (food truck): Excellent deep-fried, bacon wrapped pickles with a chipotle-esque ranch dressing. One of the best ways to start off your Saturday morning. Talking to the guy working there is a trip, too. I wish I'd had more time to try other items but I kept ending up at the East Side Drive In more around mid-day instead of at night...or very late at night after they had already closed. Great atmosphere, great signs, though. Loved the concept and the name.

Odd Duck (food truck): Wow. I see what the fuss is about now. The pork belly slider with sauerkraut and shaved turnips and aioli -- fatty, crispy heaven between a bun. The creamy, cheesy, perfect goat cheese grits with a poached duck egg, wild mushrooms, and grilled turnip was a punch in the face of sweet umami flavor. Fresh shrimp, perfectly cooked and so sweet, served with arugula, broccoli, texamati rice, sherry vinegar, and gruyere cheese was great but my friends didn't think much of the salad/rice combo. Venison sausage with sweet potato salad, cheddar, aioli, and pecans was great and gamey. Amazing. I think the only thing I didn't care for was the grilled quail with cabbage, ricotta, carrots, and brussels sprouts, which was hard to eat and didn't really seem to come together conceptually. But overall I loved this food truck. And they were out of 1/2 the menu by the time we rolled up around 6:30pm on a Saturday. I'd definitely go back. So great. It's a toss up between Odd Duck and Uchi for the best meal I had while in Austin.

Gourdough's (food truck): Very good doughnuts, but a bit too intense for my liking. My husband and I split the flying pig: maple icing and bacon. Delicious but very intense, especially after dinner at Odd Duck. The doughnut was huge and un-finishable, although I tried. I ended up leaving a single piece of bacon. We loved the ODB cream-filled doughnut holes rolled in coconut shreds and ate them all up. Basically perfect, especially right out of the fryer. My friend took a few bites of her 'banana pudding' inspired doughnut dish but couldn't finish it. Seems like the doughnut holes are the way to go here, shared between a few people. I'd definitely go back but be more careful about the quantity I ordered.

Old School BBQ (food bus): I had a chopped brisket sandwich during the Foodspotting Street Food Festival event. Loved walking up to the school bus and ordering BBQ, as the smoker let out its delicious fumes across the parking lot. Unfortunately, the brisket itself was tender but wasn't as flavorful as I wanted it to be, nor as fatty. It was good but not great. They had a more limited menu for this event, IIRC, and I'd like to go back and try the regular brisket not during SXSW.

Lucky J's (food truck): I loved this chicken waffle "taco" so much I had it three times. Soft pliable taco, sweet maple syrup, hot sauce, and a crispy chicken tender. I think the only thing that was missing was a bit of butter on top. I actually talked some friends into visiting the 6th St/Waller location after drinking one night, and they fell in love as well. I also found it to be the perfect SXSW Music Festival food, that could be eaten while walking.

Chi'lantro (food truck): I had the beef bulgolgi tacos twice and really liked them. The lettuce slaw with sriracha sauce really hit the spot, particularly. Sweet, meaty, and spicy. I could probably eat those beef tacos every day for a week and not get bored of them. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go back a whole lot because they were participating in a 25c taco promotion and the lines were insanely long much of the time.

Parkside: Stopped in twice. I really love Parkside's food but I think the cocktails aren't that great, especially when compared to Haddington's, Bar Congress/Second Bar + Kitchen, and Peche. All the drinks we tried were definitely too sweet, including their riff on the negroni that didn't have any vermouth and subbed in tequila for the gin. The food remains excellent. One night we started with the large raw bar platter of 12 oysters and 4 different ceviches. They had Fanny Bay oysters one night, which I adore. I'm a huge fan of the Parkside classic ceviche with salmon and avocado, also though the hamachi with scallion and pineapple gave it a run for the money. Also tried a wonderful butter lettuce salad with croutons, bacon, and a creamy dressing. Great steak tartare with a quail egg, well seasoned, and wonderfully meaty. We also loved their unusual sweetbreads dish, served artfully with veal tongue and cumin crisps. One of my favorite Austin places, but they tend to get superslammed during SXSW.

Backspace: Ran into friends who were already dining there and stopped in to say hello even though we were absolutely stuffed (and very happy) from a meal at Parkside. The two bites I had of their picante salame pizza were excellent though. Good char on the crust, though a bit crispier than I prefer. Looking forward to trying a whole pie at some point.

Patika (food truck): A nice iced coffee in the sun. Not the best I've ever had (we were told to go to Medici instead) but we were being lazy and wanted to sit outside.

Peche: Stopped in here twice, once just for drinks, and again for a full on dinner with cocktails with friends. Tried the mussels with lemon broth in Tito's vodka was a refreshing change from the usual. Really good fries as well, with aioli. Our table devoured two orders of them. I also liked the charcuterie board and had fun introducing a friend to cornichons and pate, which he instantly fell in love with. I also shared the porchetta sandwich with my husband, which was tasty and fatty, but really difficult to finish. Service was excellent and they were very nice about the two people in our party who bailed at the last minute. We had some quite good cocktails there as well. Manhattan, negroni, martinez. Our favorite was a riff on the Last Word that the bartender made my husband, subbing in rye for the gin. Nice and comfy place, and a good respite from the insane South By Southwest Interactive (nearly 20k this year!!!) crowds.

Ugly Banjos (food truck): Jimmy Crack chicken sandwich and fried Oreos. At first glance it seemed like your typical chicken sandwich with tomato, lettuce, and cheese. Then came the pickled jalapenos and honey truffle butter, which really make the sandwich sing. Every once in a while I'd get a sweet, buttery, crispy, spicy bite. Thumbs up. Molten Oreo goodness, battered, and deep fried? My husband was skeptical and ended up eating 2 1/2 of the cookies himself. So good!

Corazon at Castle Hill: A friend has a yearly SXSW dinner and while I've never loved the food (the dinner is more about the people), I think the food actually seems like it's gotten better as they simplified. Vegetable empanadas and breaded goat cheese were fine. My caesar salad was a bit overdressed but I enjoyed my shrimp pasta in creamy chipotle sauce. I had a solid frozen margarita as well, not too sweet. Decent but not a destination by any means.

Caffe Medici: grabbed a maple bacon scone from here on the go. It was dry at first on the edges but the inside was much nicer and moister. Not bad. Didn't get to try the coffee, alas. Next time.

Peached Tortilla (food truck): I ate an amazing banh mi taco that I had at a party they were catering. I asked what the server's favorite taco was and he got very excited about making me the banh mi taco, and even spent a bit of time finding a huge, nice piece of pork belly in the tray for me. Loved the combination of the fatty, delicious pork belly and daikon, carrot, cilantro, and Sriracha mayo toppings. Great contrasting flavors. I'd definitely go back. One of my friends actually ate here four times in four days!

Zandunga: We went here after a friend wanted to go to Franklin BBQ around 3-4pm and we arrived to find that they were sold out (forgot to call ahead of time, of course, sad trombone). The yucca fries were good but texturally a bit odd, but I loved the dipping serrano-lime aioli and mango hibiscus marmalade that came with them. The guacamole "al gusto" was good, too, but I was a little weirded out by the "do it yourself" nature where all of the citrus, mango, onion, cilantro, tomato, etc. comes on the side so you can customize it. I demolished most of the crispy pork carnitas in sherry which were delicious.

Austin Daily Press: I had an OK black forest ham and cheddar cheese sandwich that was a little dry, but I did have it on the run. But on Red River, you really don't get the good Austin food trucks, right?

Roaring Fork: Stopped in for a quick "big ass" burger at the bar. It's a good burger, cooked medium rare, perhaps too many ingredients with the lettuce, tomato, bacon, onion, etc. But it hit the spot and was worth the price for the fast service.

Cool Haus (food truck): I had a sandwich with chocolate cookie and pecan ice cream inside after getting out of a particularly overcrowded concert. The ice cream was good but a bit too sweet to my taste. The cookie was excellent and very chocolatey. However, when the two were combined, it felt like the ice cream was too soft, and slid out of the sandwich every time I took a bite. I liked but didn't love my ice cream sandwich.

Taqueria Rodriguez (food truck): Very nice ladies who were parked at 5th and Trinity behind the PureVolume house. I walked up about noon one day and asked if they made breakfast tacos since the sign didn't indicate so. The answer was in the affirmation and I had two nice chorizo and potato breakfast tacos. Very conveniently located, only $4, and while not as good as Pueblo Viejo, they were pretty good regardless.

Coreanos (food truck): They were out of the beef short ribs, so I had one chicken taco and one pork taco. Neither impressed me, as I felt that Peached Tortilla had better quality of pork and the chicken seemed a bit dry. Of course, it might be unfair to compare as I didn't get to try the beef tacos but I felt a little disappointed. I'd rather go to Chi'Lantro or Peached Tortilla, though.

Along Came a Slider (food truck): Really great and high quality food truck where you could see them cooking all of the burgers to order and kicking butt. My slider was excellent. I ordered the W Pig: pecan coffee rubbed pork shoulder, Texas pinot noir BBQ sauce, with jalapeno slaw. My first bite I wasn't sure I liked the coffee rub, but by my second bite, I was in love. Yum!

East Side King (food truck): good pork buns but not as good as Momofuku's. The bun itself didn't seem quite as fluffy and while I liked the crispy pork and pickle, the crispiness of the pork make it hard to eat the bun. Same for the pickle, which was cut too large. It was tasty but I wouldn't order it again, I'd probably try something else. I did like the atmosphere a lot.

Second Bar and Kitchen: I was only able to come here once for brunch, and again for a nightcap. Really loved the Texas benedict: two poached eggs with pulled pork and sausage gravy on jalapeno cornbread. One egg was a bit over cooked and I actually thought there was too much pulled pork (which never happens), but the cornbread was perfect. For my nightcap, I had the Mazel's Transformer: tequila, egg white, house made grenadine, lime, cholula hot sauce. Foamy and delicious. Really like the chalkboard they have wrapping around the bar with sayings like "No Mexican Martinis" and "I will not use sour mix" written multiple times in chalk.

Uchi: Great, great meal. Started with the French Kiss oyster with flowering leek, cucumber, and thai vinegar. Sweet, briny, refreshing. We loved the foie gras nigiri with candied quinoa and caramel sauce. Delicious and intense. Our server talked us into her favorite crudo of the moment: white trevally, black sesame, flowering leek, and ginger. Wonderful flavors and some black truffles shaved on top. Next up was an Uchi classic, the yellowtail sashimi with ponzu, thai chili, and orange supremes. Lovely, fresh, spicy, and delicious. We couldn't get enough of the delicious sauce. This was followed by the "sear it yourself" wage beef with ponzu on a Japanese river rock aka the hot rock. Really fun dish to eat and tasty. I loved the experience of cooking it on the rock. The bacon steakie was next: Niman Ranch pork belly with watermelon radish, kumquats, thai basil, and hot chili peppers. A wonderful combination of textures and flavors: the fatty pork, the sweet kumquats, the refreshing thai basil, and the crispy pork belly. The avo bake unfortunately paled in comparison. While I liked the tiger shrimp, the imitation crab and avocado just didn't seem all that impressive, even with the bonito flakes on top. The next dish was great, though. Rabbit with green garlic, english pea puree, and parsley root. Tender, with some crispy bits of fatty rabbit on top. The meat was just a little gamey and wonderfully cooked. The dessert was a bit of a mind-flower. Basil semifreddo, roasted tomato granite, olive oil ice cream, olive oil short bread, pine nuts, and pine nut syrup with kiwi seeds. It was almost a dessert caprese. Unique and delicious. A wonderful meal from start to finish. Bonus: Saw Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon walk in part way through our meal.

East Side Show Room: Post-Uchi, we came in and sat at the bar for a round of drinks. I ordered the Big Six: Siete Leguas reposed, anniversario rum, Angostura bitters, lemon, orange marmalade, fresh sage leaf. It was good but not great. I did like the atmosphere and there was a live piano player and black and white movie being projected as we enjoyed our drinks. I wish the bar had better and more comfortable seating. Those stools are hard to sit on!

All in all, I had a lot of good meals, two great meals, a lot of good cocktails, and a ton of fun. Thanks Austin! Whew! Time to sleep!

Uchi Restaurant
801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Red River Cafe
2912 Medical Arts St, Austin, TX 78705

208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

Caffe Medici
2222 B Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

Odd Duck
1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

East Side Show Room
1100 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

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