Austin Eats

About two weeks ago Andrew and I went to Austin, Texas. The reason was to visit friends, the catalyst for going was to escape the craziness of Super Bowl 50, which was hosted in San Francisco this year. I went with the intention of eating lots of barbecue. I did not. Andrew and I quickly learned that you do little walking in the greater Austin area, and after one giant meal of basically all meat followed by hours of sitting in the car, we realized our dreams of days of barbecue were unrealistic. We were craving vegetables by the evening of day one of our trip.

Despite my inability to eat as much smoked and charred meat as I intended to, we still had incredible barbecue and great food. So if you’re ever in Austin and the surrounding area (and y’all who are going to SXSW), here’s a list of the stand-out places we went to, listed in order of when we visited, not in order of preference. It’s a bit of a long list so I’ll do my best to keep this short and sweet.

Franklin Barbecue Yes, the first thing Andrew and I did in Austin was wait three hours for barbecue. I have a hard time waiting in line three hours for any restaurant, but this place is famous and we were on vacation so we said, let’s do it. It was definitely delicious (look at those gorgeous ribs) but honestly, I wouldn’t wait in that line again for it. You can get great barbecue elsewhere without that kind of a wait. But I am fully aware that I am not from a state (or city) in which barbecue is a culinary tradition, so I can’t say I’m a connoisseur of barbecue. As long as it’s tender and the rib meat falls off the bone, I’m good to go. However, if you’re a foodie and don’t mind that kind of a wait, you won’t be disappointed with Franklin’s.

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LaunderetteThis is a cute small plates restaurant with good cocktails. I don’t know if their menu is seasonal, but I highly recommend the zucchini and the toasts.

Barley SwineThis place was incredible, and probably was my favorite restaurant we went to. It can be difficult to get in without a reservation, but our friend had the hook-up and we were able to get a reservation for a late dinner. It’s another small plates restaurant that uses local, seasonal ingredients. They also have a wall of pickled things in jars which I couldn’t help but love.

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We ordered at least half of the menu. Everything was amazing. You can’t go wrong.

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Spanish mackerel

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Best octopus I’ve had to date.

TacodeliA great place for breakfast tacos, especially if you’re hungover. 😉

White HorseWe made it to a honky tonk! This place is a divey-lookin’ bar that gives dancing lessons earlier in the evening for when the live band comes one later. The crowd was a surprising mix of ages and styles. We even saw this poor guy lose his date to a tall cowboy, white Stetson and all, who literally swept this woman off her feet. That’s what happens when you can’t dance, fellas.

East Side KingThis is an Asian-fusion food truck that I guess has a permanent location at The Liberty, a bar in east Austin. It was something like 1 am by the time Andrew and I with our friends rolled into this place, and again, we ordered half the menu. The fried chicken sammy was excellent, especially after a number of drinks, and they had deep fried cucumber kimchi. Absolutely brilliant. Now I’m thinking of making my own cucumber kimchi just so I can fry it. Come to think of it, I wonder why it’s never crossed my mind to fry my own homemade pickles. I’m going to have to try that one day and blog about it.

C&J Barbeque. Our friends Mandy and Larry took us here the day we all went to College Station. This is one of their favorite BBQ joints and for good reason. Everything they had was excellent (ribs fallin’ off the bone and everything), plus they had the best barbecue sauce. It reminded me of the BBQ sauce my late grandfather would make. Even though they don’t bottle and sell their sauce, I got half a quart of it, put it in a big mason jar and took it home with me. I’m going to have to see if my mom has the recipe somewhere because that I have to make and blog about. This stuff needs to be shared. Unfortunately, there isn’t a location in Austin, but it’s a must-go-to place if you’re in College Station.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Last, but not least. This was the last place we ate on our way to the airport coming home. Our friend Bobby described it as a hidden gem, and he was right. It’s a cute place on Travis Lake, with tons of outdoor seating, a small stage where I assume they have live music, and a gorgeous view. It was sunny and warm when we went and it reminded me of The Marshall Store, one of our favorite places to go for oysters. Lucy’s has oysters, too, but they’re from the Gulf of Mexico and not as good as the ones we get on the Pacific Coast. I recommend sticking with the fried chicken.

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Our lunchtime view at Lucy’s.

Overall, it was a successful trip full of good food and great friends. We only scratched the surface of all that Austin has to offer and we will definitely make our way back there someday.  I’ll leave you with a few pictures from Hamilton Pool just because it’s so pretty.

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The best ramen in San Francisco

It’s December 28 (29th by the time you read this), Christmas is over and 2016 is almost here. Andrew and I were very busy this holiday season and with New Year’s Eve still to come, we are not quite done with our social engagements. I’ll be in my kitchen on New Year’s Day preparing not one, but two, dinner parties we’re hosting this weekend. So in these few quiet days in between, we won’t be cooking much.

Andrew and I have our usual quick and easy restaurants when we don’t feel like cooking. Recently, we added a new one to our list: Coco’s Ramen. It’s in Bernal Heights, on Mission Street, not far from our apartment, and it’s my favorite ramen place. I will even go so far as to say that it is the best ramen in San Francisco. I usually can’t eat an entire bowl of ramen in one sitting. The portions are always too big and often too rich or too salty, depending on what kind of broth I choose. Coco’s Ramen has struck what seemed to be an impossible balance, at least for my palate. Now, whenever it’s cold and we want something warm and comforting, we go to Coco’s. And I eat it all.

Andrew always gets the shoyu ramen, the chicken and pork stock having an aged soy sauce base. It comes with the usual toppings, pork (of which you can choose between two different cuts), nori, egg, and some sprouts, green onions, and bamboo:

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shoyu ramen

I tend to get the miso ramen, which, as the name tells you, has a chicken and pork stock with a miso base. Not that the miso ramen looks much different than the shoyu, but here’s a photo of it anyway:
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miso ramen

I’ve also tried the veggie ramen when I wanted something a little lighter. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as the miso (because how can veggie stock beat pork?), but it was just as good, if not better, than the miso. The broth is very flavorful and you get to choose which kinds of veggies you want, so you can customize it to your liking. I am partial to bamboo, cabbage, and bean sprouts, but you can also get tofu and corn.
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veggie ramen

After eating, our bowls look like this:
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empty ramen

And then we feel like one of these:
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I ate so much I feel like a cow but I’m so happy ramen

Andrew says I should learn to make ramen. But ramen is all about the broth, and I do not have the time or patience to perfect ramen broth, so I will gladly leave it to the professionals at Coco’s. And for my fellow San Franciscans, I know Bernal Heights is out of the way for most of you, but it’s worth the trip. If you need extra incentive, I will gladly be your dinner date!