As a former Texas resident, I was happy to return for a visit in March. First and foremost, I'd like to thank the Austin chowhounds for posting recommendations for Jeffrey's. I lived in Austin for four years and had never heard of it until I read this board!
1. La Hacienda Ranch in Frisco-Decent Tex-Mex (esp. for someone living in Tex-Mex-deprived CO), but of the heavy cheese variety. The tortilla soup was not as good as many others I have had (Tamayo's in Denver is the gold standard). They unfortunately placed giant tortilla chips on top of the bowl instead of including bite-sized pieces. As for the spicy chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce: nice comfort food, but a few disc-shaped slices of jalapenos buried on the plate didn't really classify them as "spicy."
2. Cafe Desi in Celina-A charming, hidden gem in the downtown area of a farming community northeast of Dallas. Creamy corn chowder to start followed by fettuccine with shrimp (both lovely). I was pleasantly surprised to see Bananas Foster on the dessert menu. It's not prepared tableside, but it's much more cost effective than the Flaming Liquor Side Show you get at Ruth's Chris. Three of us gorged on lunch for around $35 (including 20% tip).
3. Spring Creek BBQ in Lewisville-Has the feel of a chain, but the ribs really melt in your mouth. They are juicy and tasty even without sauce. If you do order the sauce, it's not the gloppy, heavy, super-sweet variety that so many places serve up. Of course, keep in mind that I now live in a BBQ-deprived state and may have suffered brain damage as a result.
4. Texadelphia in Austin-I used to eat at the Great Hills location about once a week when I lived in Austin, and I was happy to find that the basic cheese steak with hickory sauce is still as sizzling hot and scrumptious as I remember it. Only thing that's changed is the salsa jars on the tables have been replaced with a health-dept-friendly covered dispenser on ice near the drink station.
5. Jeffrey's in Austin-What can I say? I don't often drop a hundred bucks when dining solo, but I certainly didn't feel cheated. I had the 4-course tasting menu. I was disappointed the courses weren't already paired with wines, but my excellent server recommended a tasty Sancerre and a pinot noir from the by-the-glass menu. Dinner started with the crispy oysters app. I usually shy away from oysters, but these were fantastic. Next was the only disappointing item-a field greens salad that was a little plain and could've used a jazzier dressing. Entrée was a flavorful steak, and I finished with the decadent chocolate intemperance. Sometimes I'm treated rudely when dining solo, but service here was friendly and professional.
6. Louie's 106 in Austin-I used to work at 6th and Congress at a miserable job, and would retreat here for lunch whenever I could. Still serves a superb Caesar salad. Great tapas and pastas.
7. Hoek's in Austin-Best street pizza ever served at 1 a.m. by tattooed metal dudes.
8. Marye's Gourmet Pizza in Austin-I still crave their take-and-bake pizzas. Swung by for a basic pepperoni with red sauce. So simple yet so supremely perfect.
9. Dan McKluskey's at the Arboretum in Austin-I drove around looking for Zoot and couldn't find it, so I ended up here. Was nice to be reminded of how casual Austin is (as evidenced by all the people wearing shorts, t-shirts, and jeans at dinner on a Saturday night). Had a no-frills rib-eye with bearnaise and loaded baked potato, plus a Caesar salad that really wasn't (please don't put anemic tomatoes and olives in my Caesar).
10. Lone Star Bakery in Round Rock-Home to the famous Round Rock donuts-the freakish-yellow discs from Sugar Heaven. Krispy Kreme can only dream of having donuts this sublime. I shamefully admit to inhaling a small box of 6 in my rental car in the parking lot.