I’ve written about the food in Austin, TX before and I will probably write about it again in the future. My brother moved down to Austin from Chicago in 2012, so I’ve gone to visit him the last 2 years. And now that my wife has made it down there and experienced it for herself, I imagine we’ll definitely be going back.
With that being said, lets jump into the food!
After being picked up the airport, my brother had to get back to work, so Celeste, Nick and I were dropped off on South Congress to walk around and find somewhere to eat. Michael recommended a taco bar called Guero’s so we decided to check it out.
Guero’s Taco Bar
Since it actually felt like summer outside, and we haven’t been used to that up in Chicago much the past few months, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the heat (with the help of the misters). The outside seating is on the sidewalk outside so it was great for people watching and enjoying the fresh air. The best part is, it was under a covered canopy, so my pasty-white, sun-deprived Chicago skin didn’t get burnt while we ate. On a slight side note, as we were sitting outside I did hear a girl walk by and tell a friend that Guero’s was a chain restaurant, but according to the website, it’s definitely not…
What better way to start the vacation than with some drinks. Nick and I got “The Don” margaritas which consisted of Don Julio Silver tequila, Cointreau, and fresh squeezed lime juice. I don’t drink much tequila, but this margarita was pretty damn tasty, especially on a hot day; we definitely had more than one. Celeste got the Sangria and then it was time for our food.
Chips and salsa came out before the food, and to compliment them we ordered a small side of guacamole. I’m not a huge fan of guac, so I won’t comment on it, but Nick and Celeste ate it all, so I have to imagine it was at least decent.
As for our main entrees, we all went with tacos. I had steak tacos with lettuce and cheese, because I’m super boring. Nick, I believe, had one steak taco and two al pastor tacos, and Celeste had the fish tacos. Everything was delicious, even the boring old steak tacos with just lettuce and cheese. I probably should have rocked at least one al pastor taco, since I did enjoy them at Big Star, but I was leaving the adventurousness for later that evening.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at Doc’s Bar and Grill sitting on the patio enjoying the weather and a few cold beverages, but before we settled in for drinks, Celeste needed to stop and get some ice cream at Amy’s Ice Creams.
After drinks at Doc’s we finally met up with my brother before our dinner reservation at Qui for some drinks in the backyard of The Liberty.
Qui is a new restaurant run by Paul Qui of the East Side King food truck fame. He was also the winner of Top Chef Season 9. The food at Qui is a sort of Filipino-fusion, and since Celeste is Filipino, we decided it would be a cool spot to try.
Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first, and it really has nothing to do with the food itself. First of all, the website is absolutely terrible. I know it’s trying to be unique and trendy, but it’s a huge mess. Second of all, it’s a brand new restaurant and it’s super popular, so we had to email for a reservation a month in advance… no problem there. We had a party of 6, emailed them at the beginning of July, got a table… no problem. Fast forward to the day before we are supposed to leave (July 31st). Celeste gets an email confirming the reservation, but there’s a note at the bottom informing us that very recently (after we made our reservation) they switched to a fixed chef’s menu and no longer offer the a la carte menu in the dining room (which is where our reservation was). And since some of us are pretty picky eaters, mainly my brother and I, Celeste didn’t think it was worth it at $65 per person to do the new chef’s tasting menu, so she called to see what our options were.
They said that the patio offered a more relaxed menu and they may be able to move our party out there, but they’d have to check. Celeste told my brother what the host had said and he decided to give them a call just to make sure that our reservation would be honored on the patio and we wouldn’t have to wait, because usually the patio seating is first come first serve, and not reservations. We just wanted assurance that the table we reserved a month ago would be there for us… the guy hung up on my brother.
I know how my brother can be, so I’m not sure what went down during the phone conversation, but that’s extremely rude and they already gave me a negative first impression, but could the service and the food at the actual restaurant dig them out of that hole? Sure…
We ordered almost one of everything off the Pulutan menu and most of it was pretty good. The portions are small, so definitely meant for sharing, but overall it wasn’t bad. I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the pork bbq, but it could have been the beef tapa, I’m not entirely sure. A lot of Filipino food looks the same, ugly, so I’m not entirely sure what I was eating most of the time.
I’d say our service was decent… our server herself was extremely nice and friendly, but our dessert of Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream, seemed to take an awfully long time to come out; and yes, Michael complained. But aside from that, everything else was fine.
Would I go back here next time we visit Austin? I can confidently say, No. Not that it was bad food, but the way they treated us to even get a table and the fact that it’s not really a type of food I would choose to eat, just lead me to believe that I would probably never go back to Qui Austin. You have to do more for me than have a famous chef in the kitchen; that means absolutely nothing to me.
We capped the night off with a drink on 6th street just so Celeste could see it…
Day 2 started off pretty hungover, but I guess that’s what you get for starting to drink at noon and not stopping until midnight (and not eating a whole lot of the Filipino-fusion food).
We decided to grab some breakfast tacos and breakfast burritos at Cenote. I really liked the feel of the place. You walk in, order your food at the counter, then head outside to a picnic table with a number, and wait for your food. Everyone got a Grande Grilled Breakfast Burrito which comes with potato, egg, cheese and your choice of either bacon, chorizo or avocado. Celeste go chorizo and avocado, Nick got bacon and Michael ended up with Chorizo and Avocado after like 45 minutes of waiting, even though he ordered bacon. I, on the other hand, was the only one who got breakfast tacos, which came with bacon, egg and cheese.
All of the food at Cenote was delicious, but it’s hard to mess up bacon, egg and cheese on a corn tortilla. They did, however, have absolutely terrible service. The girl at the counter that took our order kept sneaking to her side to eat some sort of soup or something in between orders, which is pretty unprofessional. Then, as I mentioned above, our food took forever to come out, and when it did, it was wrong. I think part of the problem was that there were 3 different bills all on the same table number. And it confused the kitchen staff. They brought out Celeste’s food and Nick’s food together, which wasn’t on the same bill, then they brought out mine, then after Michael went in to see what was going on, they brought him Celeste’s food… which he ate anyways because we weren’t about to sit around and wait.
The food itself was good, so I’d definitely check it out again. Just be sure to make your order as easy as possible so there’s no way they can screw it up.
After Cenote we hung out at the pool in Michael’s building for awhile before walking back to our hotel to grab some dinner before heading out to a concert. We barely made it a block from his condo building before stopping off at Container Bar for a drink.
Container Bar doesn’t really fit in with the rest of Rainey Street, but it’s definitely unique and cool. Most of Rainey Street is old houses that have been converted into bars. So basically you walk into a house, grab a drink at the bar inside, then walk out into the backyard to hang out. Celeste said it felt like you were at a house party where you didn’t know anyone; I’d say that’s a solid comparison.
Container Bar, however, is not a house, but rather it’s made up of shipping containers stacked on top of each other. There’s also a huge open area in the middle, similar to the other bars’ backyards. If you go inside of the shipping containers you can sit in the air conditioning. We only stuck around for one drink here, but I’m glad we got to check it out, it’s definitely a cool place.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Before the concert we just wanted to grab something quick and close to our hotel, so we ended up at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Gus’s has a few different locations around the south, so it’s not something unique to Austin, but it was still pretty solid. The fried chicken was a bit on the spicy side, but nothing that a normal person can’t handle. The mac and cheese was pretty good, as well as the corn bread. It’s not the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, and definitely doesn’t compare to Chicken Shack in Evanston, but it hit the spot after a long day at the pool.
After the concert Saturday night, we hit up Rainey Street again and hung out in the back yard at Lucille. Rainey Street is starting to get a bit more popular, so it’s losing that quiet feel it had even last year when we were there. Some of the bars are being ripped down to put up condos, the street is flooded with people, it almost felt more crowded than Dirty 6th. I just hope it doesn’t lose the intimate feeling it used to have…
The Picnic – Food Trailer Park
On our last full day in Austin, we decided to check out Barton Springs Pool during the day since it was over 90-degrees outside. Before heading to the natural spring pool, we stopped off at “The Picnic”, which is a new Food Trailer Park. The Picnic consists of 7-8 food trucks surrounding an area with a bunch of picnic tables. The food trucks ranged from po-boy’s to tapas, to chicken to burgers, there was something for everyone.
I got a burger from Mighty Cone, which features all sorts of different food, served in a paper cone. Nick got the Purple Pig pulled pork, slaw and honey mustard, and Michael got the Hot & Crunchy Chicken cone. All of the food was pretty good and it was the perfect portion to eat just before heading over to the pool. Celeste ended up getting some sort of seafood Po’ Boy from Turf N’ Surf Po-Boy, which she seemed to enjoy.
And finally, for our last dinner in Austin, we had to try some Texas BBQ. Nick and I had been to Salt Lick the last time we were in town and weren’t too impressed. And we really didn’t feel like standing in line for 3 hours at Franklin’s, so we decided to give this new joint a try. Freedmen’s is definitely a nicer, sit-down, BBQ place, than most of what you find in the area. And it’s weird that it’s location is right in the middle of the University campus; it just doesn’t seem to fit.
We made a reservation, just in case, and were greeted to a nearly empty restaurant. We opted to sit outside on the front porch, only because we didn’t realize there was a back patio, where pretty much everyone else was sitting. It was fine though, we were just there to eat and talk amongst ourselves.
We were seated by our hostess and told a server would be right with us. A nice girl came out shortly after and gave us menus and informed us that they were currently out of Ribs and Sausage… That sucked, as the main reason I wanted to go there was to get some ribs. We decided to stick it out since they still had pulled pork and brisket available.
About 5 minutes later a different server came out and again informed us that they were out of Ribs and Sausage, but asked if we wanted anything to drink. Celeste and Nick ordered off the cocktail menu, they didn’t have Captain Morgan (which was a trend that weekend), so I just opted for Coke, and Michael just had a Coke… but wait, their co2 wasn’t working, so the only Coke they had was just Coke in a can… ok fine, no big deal. At this point it’s super obvious that this place is new and is still trying to work out the kinks, it happens.
We ordered the Jalapeno Cheese appetizer which turned out to be a jalapeno cheese spread with bread. It wasn’t too bad, not something I’d order again, but not terrible. We did have to ask for extra bread as there definitely wasn’t enough on the plate to use up all the cheese, but little did we know that we would be charged extra for it. And at the same time, we had no clue that our actual meals would come with bread on the side, so the extra bread was just a big waste of money.
When our entrees finally came, they had my pulled pork sandwich on a plate with Michael’s pulled pork and brisket, which seemed odd. I had to pick up the sandwich and move it to my own plate… interesting, but whatever.
The food itself wasn’t terrible, however be prepared, if you don’t like pepper, you’re not going to like the rub they use on the pulled pork. The meat itself was actually pretty amazing, but the amount of pepper used in the rub absolutely killed the whole thing for me. I almost couldn’t finish the sandwich because it was so overpowering, but I was the only one that thought that, so take it as you will. The BBQ sauce was pretty good, not as sweet as I usually like it, but definitely on the better end of the spectrum.
Freedmen’s is definitely still working out the kinks and we probably should have gone somewhere else for a better experience, but I think once they figure things out, they will do quite well.
And finally, to cap the night off we headed over to Gourdough’s to get one of their world famous donuts.
I don’t even know if you can call these things donuts; they are as big as your head and are topped with an insane amount of sugary toppings. If diabetes came in a physical form, this is exactly what you would picture. Nick and Celeste were the only ones that opted in to the sugar coma inducing treats, but I had a little of Celeste’s and it was pretty damn good.
Celeste got the Heavenly Hash which consists of Marshmallow with Chocolate Fudge Icing Topped with Fudge Brownie Candy on a donut… ON A DONUT! Nick got the BLACK OUT which consists of Brownie Batter, Chocolate Fudge Icing, Chocolate Covered Brownie Bites and Topped with Chocolate Syrup… all on top of a donut! That’s absolutely insane. I could only eat a few bites of it before I felt sick to my stomach, but it was damn tasty.
And that was the end of the trip. It was great to see Michael and hang out with everyone down there. Thanks again to Lyndsey and Laurie for showing us around. We’ll definitely be back soon to eat some more food and drink some more.