Austin Food Adventures

Austin Food Adventures

My husband, Josh and I took a vacation to Austin, Texas at the end of March. In addition to hearing what a great town for music and art Austin is I was, as usual, most excited about the food possibilities! We had lots of good eats while we were down South, from the ever-talked-about food truck experience (we have a few in Ann Arbor now, too!), to tasty BBQ and some higher-end cuisine.

We had a few hit-and-miss experiences so I’ll highlight my favorites, in no particular order:

Gourdough’s

A raved about doughnut trailer just west of hip and artsy South Congress (SoCo) area. I read about this place when doing some pre-vacation foodie research and it was also recommended by boss’s Austin-local cousin.

The folks in this trailer make doughnuts with crazy, nostalgic, childhood-dream toppings. It’s basically a doughnut sundae topped with anything you can come up with, although they already have 23 pre-determined concoctions for the indecisive folks.

These confections are easily split between two people, and thankfully Josh and I chose wisely and did just that. We picked the Funky Money which is a freshly fried doughnut topped with grilled bananas, gobs of cream cheese icing and brown sugar. It was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had, but be warned that it’s extremely rich and not for the faint of heart!

Frank

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a sophisticated connoisseur when it comes to hot dogs and brats you’ll find an amazing selection of top-quality items to please at Frank in Austin.

We hit this place three times while we were in town for the week, it was that good! Plus, the atmosphere is cool and the staff are friendly. It felt like a neighborhood place for both townies and out-of-towners.

The first visit I had a brat on special that had a blackberry gastrique, goat cheese and crispy sage. I had them switch out the venison brat for their Jackalope which is a blend of antelope, rabbit and pork sausage. It was served on a fresh artisan bun and was amazing. The flavors really popped and the bright flavors of the berries, creaminess of the cheese and crisp herby bite of the sage made for great textural contrast and a rich taste.

My husband went the more traditional hot dog route and loved his too. We also split an order of their waffle fries with special house-bbq sauce on the side – delish! The only small disappointment that day was the chocolate chip and bacon cookie which turned out to be a mediocre cookie topped with crumbled bacon (rather than part of the cookie).

We went back the next day for a late lunch and I tried one of the regular menu choices, the Texilina. It’s a pork and beef brat with grilled coleslaw, mustard bbq sauce and white cheddar cheese. Another winner!  A nice middle-ground between traditionalist and a more adventurous palette.

Bonus points! We came back in the evening for to hear a local band play and actually saw Zooey Deschanel hanging out there! I was too busy admiring her adorable dress and shoes to notice who it was until Josh poked me! New Girl is one of our favorite TV shows.

Second Bar & Kitchen

We had dinner here the first night we were in town. Very friendly, but sophisticated vibe with knowledgeable staff. It’s attached to the posh The Austonian hotel.

I bet this place is packed on Friday and Saturday nights. I’m glad we came in on a Sunday when it was almost full, but we didn’t have to wait for a table. There were enough people in the restaurant to know we had found a good place, but quiet enough to be able to enjoy the experience.

I found a new favorite beverage here, Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider. It wasn’t too sweet, but was crisp and refreshing. This reminds me that I need to find a local store that carries it!

For dinner I had the roasted chicken breast with grilled corn “panzanella” consisting of citrus jus and sourdough. The chicken was succulent and cooked perfectly. It was seasoned well and every element of the dish came together. This was one of the best meals we ate Austin.

Malanga Tapas & Bar

There’s a fabulous tapas place in Chicago that we love so we’re always hoping to find the next great small-plate restaurant on our visits out of town. Malanga’s was a pretty good find.

The prices here were more than our favorite in Chicago, Cafe Iberico which is surprising, but the food was still very tasty. We split lamb chops, an antipasto platter and dessert.

The lamb chops were fabulous! The baby chops came medium-rare and were marinated in aged balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil. The side of basil-mint pesto and balsamic reduction was my favorite part!

The meat and cheese were a selection of 15 month old Spanish Serrano Ham, Pamplona Chorizo, Garrotxa with rosemary, and 6 month old Manchego cheeses, also very good.

For dessert we had the Mantecadas. It came out with a beautiful presentation, but the dish itself was underwhelming in flavor. It was described as ‘pastries stuffed with cream cheese and lightly topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry reduction’, but we didn’t find much in the way of pastry and the strawberries weren’t very sweet.

Overall, we ate well in Austin and really enjoyed the trip overall. If you’re looking for some details on non-food places to go I can share those too, just give me a shout!