Monday, October 15, 2012

Food in Austin

The Austin food scene has changed lot in the past 4-5 years. Before I left Austin for the Bay Area, there were great food options but there were not that many choices. However I felt that the city has really upped their food scene and have since added a lot of new food trailers and new restaurants that are quite unique, and some I actually haven't found in the Bay Area. During this visit we mixed a couple of "old" favorites with a couple of new places that opened up in the last few years.


Chuy's is a pretty good Tex-Mex option and was one of my favorite places in Austin. I haven't been able to find any good Mexican food options in the Bay Area, so we really wanted to hit Chuy's during this visit. Chuy's has such a low key atmosphere and is usually very crowded during peak hours.

We came straight from the airport around 2 PM and were seated immediately. There's a couple Chuy's locations around Austin. We went to the one in Lamar Blvd since it's closest to our hotel.

I LOVE their free chips since they are so light and crispy. Most chips are usually too thick for my liking. Chuy's chips are so thin, and they typically serve it warm so it made it that good!

I always ask for the creamy jalapeño dipping sauce (you have to ask for it), which tastes to me like a ranch sauce but for some reason really works with the chips.

My favorite foods at Chuy's (besides their chips) are their beef fajita, their chuychanga (chimichanga), and their chilli relleno. This time around I ordered the beef fajita, and Dan got the chili relleno. We were inhaling the chips and even after the refills we munched on them again:), so by the time the food actually came out, Dan and I were almost full! The beef fajita came sizzling on top of grilled onions. It also came with condiments including sour cream, guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo, as well as their freshly made tortillas.

For some reason the fajitas were a bit saltier than usual, but the tortilla was still as good as I remembered. Dan's relleno was also great. The cheese was oozing out and the crust was crispy. It also had a slight kick. Overall food was good, although actually not as awesome as I remembered it. The chips though, are still the best chips I can find anywhere. :)


I enjoy reading Calvin and Lydia's food and travel blog, and when I found out that they were actually now living in Austin, we set up a time to meet up and talk about miles and points. :) Calvin suggested Lambert's. I actually had never been before but the rating was pretty good so we decided to give it a try.

Lambert's was located in downtown Austin, in the "hip" part of town. A lot of the downtown area was very new, including the W hotel which was not that far from Lambert's. There were lots of bars and restaurants around the area as well. It was quite happening. We could not find street parking so decided to randomly enter this parking garage which I wasn't familiar with and turned out to be for a downtown movie cinema that charged $15. Ouch.

We had dinner reservations at 6:30, and the restaurant was already quite crowded when we arrived. The restaurant served fancy BBQ and prices were quite more expensive than regular BBQ places. Calvin and Lydia were already seated, along with Lydia's brother who was visiting. It was good to finally meet them in person! We were both still quite full from Chuy's which was only a couple hours ago, so I decided to go light and ordered the fried green tomatoes salad as my entree. Dan said he was full but still ordered the brisket plate. :) We also ordered the broccoli and waffle fries on the side to share for the table since the main BBQ entrees didn't come with side dishes.

My fried green tomatoes salad came with lumps of crab meat and was quite good. It definitely was enough for me and I'm glad I didn't order anything else. Dan's brisket was good as well - moist and tasty, although I still prefer Rudy's. :) We didn't order dessert since we were so full already, although I did try a bite of Lydia's chocolate peanut butter pot de creme and it was yummy! We had a great night filled with good food and conversations. It's not every day we meet couples who share our same passion in maximizing points and miles to travel!


I heard about Gordough a while back when I saw pictures on Facebook from one of my Austin friends. Another friend who recently went to Austin also recommended it, so it was definitely on my list! We met up with my friend and his new wife at Gordough after our dinner at Lambert's. Even though I was quite full, I wanted to save room for this.

Gordough was located south of downtown, and as we drove down Congress Street, there were all these new trailers with picnic/seating areas. It looked like the trailer food scene was quite happening and south of Congress was definitely one of the hubs. Gordough serves freshly fried doughnut with interesting toppings. One of their more famous dishes is actually called the mother plucker, which is doughnut topped with fried chicken!

We got the funky monkey and the heavenly hash. Our friend got the miss shortcake flavor. The doughnuts took around 10 minutes or so, since every order is made fresh. We sat down, and even though it was at night, it was still HOT!!! I couldn't imagine eating outside like this during the day!

The funky monkey was topped with cream cheese and bananas. I took the first bite and really enjoyed it! The dough was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and it was very fresh.The topping was a bit too sweet but worked well with the banana.

The heavenly hash on the other hand was a bit too heavy for my liking. The topping was marshmallow with chocolate fudge icing and brownie bites.

I tried my friends' miss shortcake and it was delicious. I think the fruit toppings were probably better than the chocolate one. The doughnut itself was quite heavy so the fruit helped made it lighter. We would definitely come back, and next time we will order the mother plucker and try another of the fruit topping ones.


Uchiko came highly recommended from a friend who recently visited Austin. Apparently the executive chef, Paul Qui, won Top Chef Masters. We made reservations on Opentable a couple weeks in advance and got an early dinner reservation at 5:45 pm. The restaurant had valet parking which we took advantage of since we couldn't find any self parking. It looked like the valet area took the majority of the parking lot.

We checked in and were seated immediately in the main dining area. Our server was polite and helped explain the different areas of the menu. There's a green/salad area, cold appetizer, hot/fried appetizers, grilled food, and other cooked food. Another option was to do the omakase 5 or 10 course.

I inquired about the 5 course price and it was $69, which included dessert. We were not super hungry so decided to just order a la carte.

Here's what we ordered:
  • Salmon belly sushi
  • Gyu tan sushi
  • Yokai Berry salmon
  • Pork jowl
  • Jar jar duck
  • Ham and egg roll
  • Fried milk

The yokai berry salmon appetizer was pieces of salmon drizzled in some acidic olive oil sauce with berries and fried seaweed. The flavors worked well together although some bites were a little bit too acidic for me.

The salmon belly sushi was really good, very buttery and fresh, although the size was a bit smaller than what we were used too, he he.

The Gyu tan sushi was a very thick cut of Gyu tan. We're used to thinner pieces with the meat being very tender, but this particular serving was way too thick so it was very chewy. We both did not enjoy this dish as much.

The pork jowl came next and it's basically grilled small pieces of pork (which was super tasty and tender), served with pear, creme fraiche, and Brussels sprout kim chi. We took a little bit of everything and the flavor combination was amazing. This was definitely our favorite dishes of the night!

The jar jar duck came next, which was duck cooked 4 different ways served in a jar. The presentation was unique, and the duck pieces were cooked perfectly, but we both much preferred the pork jowl.

I ordered the ham and egg roll last minute after still being a tad bit hungry. The ham and egg roll was pork katsu sushi, served with 3 different dipping sauces - with one of them being an egg yolk sauce - hence the name of the dish. It was such a simple dish but worked so well. The rice was moist and cooked perfectly with slight stickiness, and the pork meat was moist with crispy katsu served warm, which made the dish work so well. If the pork katsu had been served cold, it wouldn't have tasted as great. I had fun trying the different sauces and they all tasted good. Dan commented how simple the dish was and how it was such a good idea yet we hadn't seen other restaurants offer this.

For dessert, we ordered the fried milk! I had seen lots of pictures on Yelp, so I was really looking forward to trying this. The "fried" milk part was from the deep fried cream, served with powdered chocolate milk, chocolate mousse, ice cream, and cereal bits. I took a bite of a little bit everything at once, and it was quite heavenly. The fried cream was just amazing and the flavor combination really worked fantastically. I loved the cereal bits as well which reminded me of Momofuku's cereal milk ice cream bits.

Thoughts: Our total bill with tip and tax was around $130. Not cheap for Austin, but it was definitely worth trying. The dishes were very innovative, and even though we have some really good restaurants in Bay Area, Uchiko held its own and we had a really enjoyable meal.


Our friend recommended Tacodeli for a quick taco fix. We wanted to go for lunch but already had plans for Rudy's BBQ, so decided to check this place out for breakfast.

The location was very low key, and prices were quite reasonable.

We ordered the jess special which was eggs scrambled with migas mix, topped with cheese and avocado. We chose the whole wheat tortilla.  They have different kinds of salsa sauces that you can grab, and we had fun trying the different sauces.

The sirloin egg and cheese was really good. I loved the sirloin meat. It was very tender and just the right size.

Overall we liked this place for a quick taco fix.


My favorite BBQ joint in Austin hands down is Rudy's. Granted, I haven't tried the new Franklin BBQ that apparently commands a 2 hour wait. I really didn't feel like waiting 2 hours outside in the heat though. :)

Rudy's is a fast food BBQ joint at a gas station, and the restaurant is very, very low key. Food is served on an old coke crate with paper liner. There's no plates here. You order your food on the counter, tell them how many pounds of meat you want, and they also give you included white bread to eat with your meal.

My two favorite items on the menu are the extra moist brisket and the creamed corn side. Please don't get any other brisket cut; the best one is the extra moist.

A lot of people also enjoy their jalapeño sausage as well as the baby back ribs. Dan and I ordered 1/2 lb of the extra moist, 1/2 lb of the St Louis ribs, 1 small creamed corn, and 1 small potato salad. As I mentioned previously, each order comes with slices of white bread.

The creamed corn was heavenly. You MUST get this at Rudy's.

There's also a condiment bar where you can load up on onions, jalapeños, etc. and the BBQ sauce was available on each picnic table.

Rudy's was as good as I remembered, and still is my favorite BBQ place in Austin.


When I was in college, I had a bubble tea addiction. Almost everyday you can probably find me buying bubble tea at Momoko. :) Even after I moved to California, Momoko is still my most favorite bubble tea place of all time. It's conveniently located within walking distance from the UT campus. :)

Their tea is usually freshly brewed (depending on which kind you get) and can take up to 10-15 minutes to make. Price-wise it is a bit more expensive (around $4 per drink). My favorites are the kokepan milk tea (barley) and the taro milk tea. The taro milk tea here for some reason doesn't taste like regular taro, but taste more like a cookies & cream milkshake.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside, so I'm just posting the picture of the store from outside. :)

Amy's Ice Cream

Amy's is one of Austin's local business that flourished. I do like their ice cream and we got one to share at the airport. Their ice cream was very thick and creamy, but very good. I like their Mexican Vanilla flavor.

What a great way to end our food trip to Austin! We got the Mexican Vanilla with chocolate and pecan butterscotch topping. Yum!

Summary: We were not disappointed with the food scene in Austin. We got to try new local spots, as well as some of my favorite restaurants from when I lived in Austin. We can't wait to go back and eat our way in Austin again. :)

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good eats at Austin, I see! The setting at Chuy’s has a good Mexican-American feel to it. I would love to try their chips and dips, and their fajitas. I like Rudy’s rustic ambiance. Looks as if it’s the official cowboy meeting place.

    Javier Oniel