A recent trip to JMueller’s BBQ on South First proved the long anticipated return of John Mueller to Austin’s BBQ scene was well worth the wait. With my visiting Texan-turned-New Yorker younger brother Jerry in tow, I was given a tall order to provide him with a last taste of real Texas BBQ before he returned to the Big Apple. I took a small gamble on JMueller’s, having never been, but packed lines and solid word of mouth assured me it was a lock.
Mueller’s approach to barbecue is classic and straightforward. His brisket, for example, is seasoned . . . → Read More: JMueller’s BBQ
Since opening in 2006, local favorite hamburger slinger P. Terry’s has served to reinvent the fast food model by proving quick and cheap doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality. P. Terry’s burgers don’t rely on tricked out toppings and fancy ingredients to be special. Their straightforward, simple burgers are made from 100% natural Angus beef, delivered daily produce, and tried and true toppings like French’s mustard. While their burgers are delicious, P. Terry’s exceptional veggie burger is the best in Austin. Most of the time, veggie burgers don’t always get the same TLC as hamburgers. Treated more as an . . . → Read More: Dish of the Day: Veggie Burger @ P. Terry’s
Happy One Year Anniversary to Barley Swine! Although Austin bid a fond farewell to the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer that started it all, there is much for Bryce Gilmore and crew to celebrate. From serving an almost nightly full house to Owner/Chef Bryce Gilmore being named a 2011 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine Magazine, it has been quite a year for the South Lamar eatery.
An initial visit to Barley Swine in its infancy was almost pitch perfect, and subsequent visits throughout the year only reconfirmed this first impression. The long awaited opportunity to sit kitchen side on visit in early December allowed seeing firsthand the precision and technique each dish takes to compose as well as how well run Barley Swine is from top to bottom.
An evening at Barley Swine is not just a dinner out, but an experience. Despite nightly waitlists and small waiting areas, the hyper-organized front of house is always relaxed and hospitable, making small talk and setting a welcoming tone for the evening. Once seated, one is immediately greeted by a friendly server who is as excited about Barley Swine’s food as diners are to try it. Armed with recommendations and explanations, it is clear the kitchen takes time to educate the full staff on the night’s dishes and beer and wine list. Service at Barley Swine is always exceptional, in part because everyone seems to truly enjoy being a member of Chef Gilmore’s team.
As for the food, well, any attempt to describe will fall short, but here’s to striving for an A for effort. If in need of a New Year’s Resolution, add trying Barley Swine to the list and experience it firsthand. A perfect example of the type of dish which defines Barley Swine was Waygu beef over banana grits dish sampled in early fall. Gilmore takes a familiar Southern comfort dish like steak and grits and recomposes it using unusual flavor profiles or elements. The results are an entirely inventive and surprising dish that somehow feels like home. His cooking is creative and pushes the limits, but also restrained and unsuspectingly familiar. It’s foodie food without being overly intimidating to more reserved palates.
From trailer to brick and mortar, Barley Swine epitomizes the new direction of Austin’s dining scene. With its welcome blend of unique and outstanding dishes in a casual, comfortable atmosphere, Barley Swine will surely be celebrating many more anniversaries to come.
For a variety of reasons, it seems follow up visits didn’t receive a Ginny’s Austin shout out, but I will now take an opportunity to sum up a year’s worth of amazing Barley Swine experiences. Please forgive the less than beautiful photos. Between Barley Swine’s lighting and my dinner companions’ lack of patience, you will see one reason for my post hesitations. (Others include ‘what could I really say that publications like Food & Wine hadn’t already said better?’ and ‘this ever changing menu is hard to keep up with!’)
Click the picture for a full Barley Swine Slideshow…
Curried Scallops at Barley Swine Continue reading Barley Swine
Today’s drink of the day is a Poinsettia Champagne cocktail as featured on the Four Season’s holiday drink menu.The Poinsettia cocktail is a blend of champagne, Paula’s Texas orange and cranberry juice. Other special holiday beverages on the menu include German Mulled Wine, the Peppermint Patty, Hot Buttered Rum, the Mistletoe Mojito, and Santa’s Little Helper (full descriptions here). Despite a fairly warm December, it is easy to pretend you’re escaping a winter wonderland while holed up in the Lobby Bar on a thick leather couch next to a warm fire place. Along with a holiday themed cocktail menu, . . . → Read More: Drink of the Day, Holiday Edition: Four Seasons Lobby Bar
I recently stopped by Mandola’s for a long overdue revisit to the classic Austin restaurant. Mandola’s may appear to be an average fast casual restaurant, but appearances can be deceiving. Yes, it is counter service and casual, and there is a cheese and French fry pizza option, but when it comes to the quality of food, Mandola’s is anything but run of the mill. Spend a little time at the Italian market and eatery, and the secret to Mandola’s long running success becomes clear. Service is quick and welcoming, the atmosphere is family-friendly, and the menu is reasonably priced. Most importantly, the generously portioned dishes are both high quality and authentic.
I recently visited Mandola’s during lunch and was quickly reminded why I need to stop by more often. After debating over options like Sicilian tomato salad with fresh ricotta salata and Parma pizza topped with arugula and prosciutto, I opted for a simple order of minestrone soup and salad. While not the most adventurous order, Mandola’s version reminded me exactly why this classic Italian soup is a personal favorite. The broth was flavorful and not overly salty. Seasonal vegetables filled each spoonful. The pasta was still wonderfully al dente, a sign of the soup’s freshness. Paired with the mista house salad, it was an excellent lunch decision. Each meal comes with Mandola’s addictive freshly baked bread which is salty, chewy, and a perfect partner to minestrone soup. After an Americano from the coffee bar to cap off lunch, I left a very happy customer.
As for the market, Mandola’s shelves are adequately stocked enough to please anyone’s Italian grandmother. Mandola’s market is filled with housemade prepared foods and cheeses, charchuterie, and Italian pantry staples. The market’s highlight is a carefully cultivated Italian wine section. The impressive selection showcases a wide range of both varieties and price points with more than a little something for everyone.
Mandola’s Italian Market. The Triangle. 4700 West Guadalupe St # 12. Austin, TX 78751-3778. 512.419.9700.www.mandolasmarket.com/
Bowl of Minestrone - $6
Continue reading Mandola’s Italian Market
Cisco’s Restaurant on East 6th Street has been a Sunday morning staple long before Austin’s East Side became the bustling hipster haven it is today. Before rows of bars, trailer park eateries and upscale restaurants gentrified east Austin, most Austinites living west of 35 limited ventures were for off the beaten path dining destinations rather than nightlife. Cisco’s no frills atmosphere and ridiculously good migas with fajita have made the Mexican eatery a favorite among University of Texas students and longtime Austinites. Recent rumors of impending closure have circled around the institution, but for now, Cisco’s is serving up hangover curing tacos every weekend. The general recommendation when ordering at Cisco’s is to stick to the basic egg dishes like tacos and the aforementioned migas. Having never visited for lunch, I cannot attest to this, but the Mexican rice and refried beans are fairly middle of the road. Service is always friendly, fast and prepared for large groups. As a welcomed cherry on top, a basket of fresh tortillas and warm biscuits and honey comes with each order. Be sure to check out pictures of some original Austin hipster under the table glass for a bit of brunch time humor. Next time the Longhorns’ defeat leads to drowning those sorrows in a pitcher of beer spend Sunday recovering over a plate of migas at Cisco’s.
Cisco’s Restaurant. 1511 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 478-2420.
Biscuits and Tortillas
The Best Wurst was doling out late night eats on 6th street long before trailers and street food were considered Austin haute cuisine. These days the aroma of sauerkraut wafting from longstanding bratwurst cart is as much a part of dirty sixth as drunken frat boys. Touting sauerkraut as a magical hangover cure all, The Best Wurst has garnered a loyal stream of followers over the years. Presumably most customers are more interested in a post beer snack than sauerkraut’s medicinal value, but regardless the reason for a visit there is no question The Best Wurst knows how to . . . → Read More: Dish of the Day: The Best Wurst