After a rain soaked David Allan Coe show at Stubbs where the weather and the crowd were both all wild and woolly I awake on Saturday with a deep craving for the open road and some good chow I've never had.I've been documenting the foodways of unincorporated Travis County for the last couple months and I've really only scratched the surface.
There's good eating on the southern fringes of Austin's ex-urbs;numerous taco carts,quick marts with deli counters,the occasional fraternal organization's barbecue or plate lunch sale...the real score would be somebody selling Fried Fish out of their side yard but I haven't stumbled across that one yet.
I'm buzzing down 812 maybe 400 hundred yards south of SH130 when I spy a busted down motorboat with a banner tacked to the side "Mariscos El Delfin" . I have a deep love of Mexican Seafood and this is too good looking of a venture for me to pass up,so inspite of the fact I'm not terribly hungry just yet I pull a u-turn in the middle of the road and motor down the dirt road and into the parking area of this humble little restaurant.
I know I'm eating at my kind of joint when mid feed a young vaquero pulls up on horseback and ties his ride to a nearby tree.Young buck's out for an afternoon of revelry in his Stetson and pressed Wranglers and I'm marvelling over how you can get 15 minutes outside Austin and be flat out country style.
Mariscos El Delfin has shown some real ingenuity in their set-up:They've taken a couple mobile homes and jammed them up together to create a small structure from which to ply their foods.I duck my head in the door to tell the girls I'm here and retire to the patio to survey the scene.It's flat out beautiful,I'm on a knoll with a view that stretches for miles and miles toward what I estimate to be Garfield Texas[it's hard to say but that's the direction I'm looking].The rolling hills are emerald green and a group of men are off in the distance tilling the soil for Spring planting.
In short order I'm brought what's due me;a quart or so of ice water,a handsome bowl of housemade and fried Totopos and a bowl of salsa.The Chips have been fried and then briefly griddled so they have little char marks all over them.
They are delicious.
The Red Salsa is a simple Red Chile puree' with a touch of tomato.It's good and hot but not very complex.I ask for the salsa the staff eats and am brought a thin,orange sauce that flat sets me on fire.It's a Habanero base and is incendiary.Yum.
Surveying the menu it's all seafood all the time.Every iteration of Crab,Shrimp and Fish can be found along with Oysters....they fry it,boil it,grill it and griddle it at El Delfin and I'm getting right at hungry.I spy one of my all time favorite Mariscos specialties:Shrimp wrapped in Bacon,stuffed with Jalapeno and deep fried.A few short minutes after ordering I'm brought a handsome platter with a fat portion of Shrimp[7 pieces]along with a goodly helping of French Fries and a small salad of Iceberg Lettuce,Ripe Tomatoes,Avocado Slices and Slivers of Sweet Onion.
First the good part:The French Fries are blazing hot,commercial but good.The salad,though humble is crisp,cold and fresh.It comes with a bottle of Kraft Ranch dressing which I eschew for a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime.The Bacon part of the dish is great,very porky almost like fatback.It tastes like somebody fed the hog other hogs as a big part of his diet before the slaughter.It's some of the piggiest tasting bacon I've ever eaten...which is good.Unfortunately the Shrimp are very small and overcooked.Never mind,I'm still enjoying my food immensely.La Ley is blasting out over a loudspeaker and the environment is picture perfect.I take the Habanero salsa and combine it with a fat dollop of Mayo to make a rudimentary dip for the Shrimp.The hot fatty flavor really helps to make up for the Shrimp being overcooked.
Motoring on down the highway post-feed I notice a sign "Foolish Pleasure" with an arrow pointing down a dirt driveway.These are some horse folks who've opened up a bar of some sort I reckon...pulling up in front of a big metal prefab building I get real excited when I see a sign: "motorcycle parking only".I park my hog and stroll inside.Buddy Guys on the jukebox and it's ice cold inside the small room.I'm hailed by the bartender and set up with a frosty LoneStar beer.After making my introductions to the regulars I walk up to a jukebox fat with David Allan Coe cds,feed a few bucks in and settle down for my hang.One thing leads to another and the comely bartendress hits the stage for a quick spin around the stripper pole.She's all whipping hair and shaking it to some Guns and Roses,the beer's ice cold and the camaraderie nice and genial.I see a sign for Kolaches and notice salt shakers on the tables and make a mental note to come back hungry next time to try their menu.
Unincorporated Travis County Texas is a little rough and tumble which is how I like it.Good people are running the restaurants and bars,providing good chow and good times to the country folk of the hinterlands.Big changes are afoot with SH-130 bringing modernity to the countryside so I recommend a visit soon before it's all condos and TGI Fridays.