Postcard from Austin

Austin.  WOW.  What a city---it's a constant barrage of breakfast tacos and food trucks (or trailers), and both are things I love.  I want to thank EVERYONE who gave me suggestions both on and off the site for places to go in Austin--first, thanks for even taking the time to respond to my open-ended question.  Second, thanks for leading me in the right direction, as you'll see below.  I couldn't get everywhere, but I hope to go back sometime in the not-so-distant future.

I'm gonna go through the highlights of where we went, throw in the links, etc.  Mostly I'm just trying to make you hungry, possibly early in the morning at work, and then you'll have to go to the vending machine and get something nasty.  Whoops.

First we went to the Saturday 4th & Guadalupe farmer's market. Some vendors had the most adorable names, like Seriously Sourdough.  We got a pumpkin spice mini loaf (bread, not cake, which is what is ounds like) that was chewy and tasty, a-ok to sustain you for 13.1 miles.  We also got some local olive oil and balsamic, and also jams from certified-organic Gundermann Farms.

Juan in a Million: Fresh chips, very creamy guac (not full of onion/tomato/cilantro like some people like it, so beware of your own preferences, ya'll), and DAMN some fine migas.  This meal provided my introduction to migas.  I ordered huevos rancheros, which was fine, but when I tasted my friend's dish I knew I'd messed up.  I made up for it a few days later at Jo's, though, so no worries.  Migas (at least in this case) = scrambled eggs with tortilla chips in them, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese.  Dude. It sounds so simple, maybe even strange, but it's delightful!  Where oh where can I find Austin-style Tex-Mex migas in the DC area??? Anyway, there might be a wait, but JIAM is a great place.  Go for breakfast and go nuts.  We like their queso.
Juan in a Million on Urbanspoon

Saturday night we found ourselves at Annie's for a light meal at the bar.  We wanted some carbohydrates before the morning run but also something relaxed.  The restaurant was empty when we arrived, but the host informed us that we couldn't be seated because they were "all booked up for the night."  I looked around sort of puzzled, and asked if we could eat at the bar.  Several times during this trip we ate at the bar, and the hosts informing us that we a) couldn't be seated or b) had to wait at least an hour never suggested the bar option--both times we asked.  Hi, who wants to wait an hour and 20 mins if they can sit at the bar???  Not this girl!  Our pizzas (tomato, basil & mozzarella; prosciutto, arugula & parm) were yummy and perfectly personal-sized.  Maybe next time we'll actually go into Spaghetti Warehouse, instead of just laughing at the URL (meatballs dot com, ya'll).

Annie's Cafe and Bar on Urbanspoon

On Sunday afternoon we were happy to find some cheap eats at mmmpanadas, conveniently parked alongside other food trucks after the race finish.  By then the sun was warming up the city and lots of sweaty hungry people were walking (or limping) around.  It shouldn't be a surprise to you that the empanada I chose had spinach, mushroom, goat cheese, and pine nuts.  Really.  It's as if I crafted it custom-style and called it the iEatDC-panada.  I'd love to try a sweet one, like Peach Cobbler or Mango Ginger.  MMM.

If I lived in Austin I'd be following them on Twitter for sure.

So I'm not sure about your travel strategies, but we made sure to check in with our favorite Travel Channel and Food Network stars before making any plans. So if Giada loves South Congress Cafe, then by golly, so do we.  And we did.  Ya'll, the mimosas are the bomb.  And have I mentioned that they serve brunch DAILY?  As in, every single day.  I basically licked my plate after I downed the smoked brisket hash--the chipotle adobo marinade gave it a nice kick, the fingerling potatoes were awesome, and I'm all about tortillas coming with every meal.  L loved her super omelet full of fun, but the real star of her plate was the smoked gouda potato pancake.  It was unlike any latke we've had before, with a rich creaminess and a tangy jab of flavor that was truly captivating.  We ate at the bar because of the hour+ wait, and it was plenty roomy, and the service was great. 

 South Congress Cafe on Urbanspoon

Next up was Hey Cupcake!  Like "Yahoo!" with the exclamation there.  With a hilarious menu and super tasty cakes, this truck has it goin' on.  I had the Michael Jackson, a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing.  And as if getting a cupcake to go wasn't enough, we stopped for ice cream at Amy's.  I really wanted to try pretty much every flavor, but I had to limit myself.  I went with dark chocolate and strawberry.  They were both REALLY good. The dark chocolate wasn't as dark as I thought it would be--I was picturing the deep dark super chocolatey sorbet at Boccato.  They had a bunch of toppings and even "crunch in" situations (like blend-ins at Thomas Sweet), but I wanted to taste the flavors for what they were.  If you want a crunch in, be specific, otherwise it seems like your topping will just be...a topping.  

 Dinner time! There was a limited menu at La Condesa because of Valentine's Day, but on regular days the menu is HUGE, and the appetizers look amazing.  Along with our round of margaritas, we started with the pork croquette (crispy browned outside!), red lentil salad (::raises hand guiltily:: Yes, that's so something I'd order).

The salad was a little low on the flavor I expected, but really--salad?  I could do better.  For dinner L enjoyed the seared scallops and I had the grilled Texas quail, topped with a fried quail egg, huitlacoche (remember the diseased corn?) and ancho-spiced fig marmalade.  This dish was super delicious, and had so many things I love--eggs in my food, fruity jamminess...it was an easy pick, considering my last quail experience.  Besides some complimentary homemade marshmallows & cookies (sort of a lovechild of the Oreo and whoopie pie), we also enjoyed the chocolate-orange flan with champagne sorbet. We ordered this without the menu and L's fine palate discerned and named the champagne!  We knew there was something going on in there!

Service was super friendly (our waiter suggested we hit up Pie Slice for migas, but there was no time!), food was delightful, and the location was convenient.  And I know if I go back to La Condesa with eNJoyNJ, I know we'll be getting the huitlacoche again. 

La Condesa on Urbanspoon

Jo's is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or whatever.  We split a migas plate and had endless mugs of coffee while being stared at by adorable babies on a Monday morning.

On to the barbecue.  When close friends make suggestions, they cannot go ignored.  Even if we need their parents to pick us up and physically bring us to the suggested place.  I'm talking about the Salt Lick.  C's fabulous family made sure that we had our fill of delicious barbecued meats and even some cobbler and ice cream.  If you don't want to go for the $14.95 All You Can Eat (at lunch), then settle on the meat plate, which is pretty much All Most Of Us Can/Should Eat.  Brisket, sausage, ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and beans.  We also shared a side of turkey (I know, why?) but to be honest, after all the real meat, turkey just seemed goofy.  I was like, "Oh, hey turkey!  Yeah I usually like you a lot, it's just that everyone else on my plate is 10x more awesome than you. <3xoxo."  The sauce was awesome, and they sell bottles there so you can go home and get all Salt Lick on your kitchen.

Did I mentioned this joint is Bring Your Own?  Oh, we brought it.  And can we discuss the cobbler for a second?  Not the thin crumb top that you may remember from cobblers from the now-distant past, but a thick, bready, cakey, top that would be delicious (and could stand up) on its own, without the fruit!  But with the fruit it's just a double whammy of awesome.  We had half blackberry and half peach.

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

If you're at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, you may as well stop at Driftwood Vineyards for gifts, the view, and of course some wine tasting.  I was doing little comparisons in my head v. the Virginia wineries---the viognier seemed much sweeter at Driftwood, for example.  I'm all about going to wineries in unexpected places.

On our last morning we stopped in the Hideout Theater for a coffee, muffin, and the obligatory breakfast taco (spinach and cheese, stocked by Torchy's).  We decided it would be a great place to sit if you were looking for a super hipster boyf.  They have improv shows every single weekend all year round, according to their web site, but it was 9am, so no improv was found.  But my latte was decorative.

I'd like to also thank L for her food opinions, planning, and patience--she rules.

Happy travels, everybody.  Who's going somewhere tasty for spring break???


  1. mmm. I LOVE austin and am so glad you got to explore. thanks for the twitter shout out from hellocupcake! xo

  2. I'd be content eating all of my food from trucks. I'm officially a week migas-free, and it's sad! newvacationnow!!!

  3. I miss migas too. Once in a blue moon, I'll see see them on a menu somewhere and freak out.

  4. Oh and Austin Grill has them, but they're not quite like back home. Supposedly Don Jaime has them but I believe like most places in DC, they're made by Salvadoreans...

  5. I just found your blog through Urban Spoon....and can I tell you how ecstatic I was? lol. Its just two of us here too and we are new to the Capitol Region - I haven't been living here a year yet. All of the places to go and eat are so many compared to what we had before is just overwhelming. I will be looking forward to your review on Urban Spoon and hope to be able to do some myself!