Monday, February 27, 2012

South Austin Food Trailers

Welcome to the South Austin Food Trailer Guide, part of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance 2012 City Guide! Whether you're an Austinite or in town visiting, surely by now you've heard of Austin's incredible food trailer culture. I've tried to make this as comprehensive as possible, but surely I have missed some trailers that are south of the river/Town Lake, and for that I apologize. Please feel free to comment below if you know of ones I've missed. (I've used Town Lake as my northern boundary, IH-35 to the east, Lamar Blvd. to the west, and Ben White to the south.)

The thing about trailers, is they do move! Something that was there last week, might have moved to a new location this week. Some trailers are REALLY REALLY good about using social media to update their status, and hence their whereabouts -- thus it makes them easy to find. There are also a couple local resources that you might find handy: Austin Food Carts, Food Trailers Austin, and Trailer Food Diaries, but still, I think the best way to determine if a trailer is still open is to find them on social media, and see how recent their posts are. If you are visitor to Austin without your own transportation, here's a link to Capital Metro, our public transit system.

Buen provecho! 

801 Barton Springs Road, across from the Long Center/Palmer Auditorium parking garage, map
-- This used to be a booming spot for trailers, but presently, there are just two: MamboBerry (frozen yogurt, sandwiches) and Sno Beach snow cones (closed November thru February).

Just west of Lamar, by Zach Scott Theatre, map
-- Flip Happy Crepes, one of the original trailers in town, and they survived a Bobby Flay smack down! My post on them.
-- A trailer park at the other end of the block from Flip Happy, Jessie Street Eats, currently has mostly sweet/dessert places --  Ice Cream Social has some fabulous flavors including peanut butter mole which has some heat to it, ChocoSutra, and Mister Fruit Cup, and the current savory member is Fatback Boucherie.

Cruising south on South Lamar (from Barton Springs Road to Panther Lane), map
-- Trey's Cuisine at 600 S. Lamar
-- Luke's Inside Out at 1109 S. Lamar (my previous post here) which serves yummy sandwiches, such as The Pig, which I've eaten. Plus, they're next to Gibson Bar, so they're open late.
-- La Boite (The MOST AMAZING sweet goods! Love their sausage brioche, almond croissants and macaroon. Plus, their building is an old shipping container!) and Texas Cuban at 1700 S. Lamar (previous post from a food trailer tour).
 -- LuLu B's at 2113 S. Lamar, under the oak tree, next to Office Depot, daytime hours only. Great bahn mi, and other Vietnamese items. Not as dirt cheap as if you were at a Vietnamese place, but their BBQ pork is killer. One of my very first blog posts!
-- Bella Cucina at 3600 S. Lamar, in the lot south of Red's Porch. I just went for the first time (post here)! Great sandwiches, Niman Ranch meats, and a super nice owner, named Dominic.

Along South First Street, map
-- Bouldin Creek Food Park at 1209 S. 1st, which currently houses:
              -- Wasota, a west African spot. Amazing hospitality. You pay at the end of your meal, and they make sure you are satisfied with everything! We tried the jollof rice, black eye peas, and fried plantains with a spicy tomato sauce and the black eyed pea fritters, which were dense (and delicious), like hush puppies.
              -- SoCo to Go, a southern comfort foods place that also delivers. There was some nice black pepper in the fried chicken batter, and that's a hash brown casserole on the side, gravy too.
                -- Little Thai Food (previous post).

-- Torchy's Trailer Park at 1311 S. 1st
             -- Torchy's, the one trailer in the chain of taco houses (there's brick and mortar restaurants all over town now), previous post. They are damn fine tacos, but they are not the only taco place in town!
             -- Holy Cacao, darn good cake balls, previous post
             -- Conscious Cravings,  a vegetarian spot

--  Monroe Street Trailers at 1503 S. 1st (next to Elizabeth Street Cafe)
             -- Izzoz, in many ways, I think Izzoz's surpasses Torchy's, though it doesn't have nearly the recognition; previous post. Go try Izzoz!!!
             -- Gourdough's, the mother of all hedonistic donuts! They've recently moved to South First, and seem quite at home. The names of their donuts alone will make you laugh. Flying Pig? Funky Monkey? Yes, there's a donut somewhere under that PB and J pictured below! Previous post.
             -- Dock and Roll, the newest member at this corner, featuring lobster rolls. It was good, but not as great as we wanted it to be. Very unique to ATX, and very nice people working there. According to Trailer Food Diaries, they use a combo of fresh caught lobster, and some purchased at Quality Seafood.
             -- Directly across the street, is the finery that is J Mueller BBQ. Back after a hiatus from their previous restaurant on Manor Road, Mueller's has quite the following. Get there early if you want to be assured of some awesome peppery brisket and other melt in your mouth meats; previous post. 
-- SoFi Food Court, South 1st @ Live Oak
             -- Osaka Soul. Do you know what okonomiyake are? I'll tell you what they are: tasty and delicious! And unusual! It's a savory Japanese pancake with your choice of fillings on the underside. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the bacon and kimchi which it was loaded with, but it was great. And how can you not love something with bonito fish flakes on top? 

              -- Grill Haven, Middle Eastern inspired sandwiches.
              -- Blue Dog Pizza, for people, not dogs.
              -- Buffalo Bob's Chalupa Wagon, offering healthier chalupas, vegetarian ones too.
              -- Verts Kebap, the smallest food truck you'll find, as it's a tiny smart car with a
              pop-up tent attached to the back. They've just taken up residence here (like last
             week!), and I am dying to try!
             -- El Primo, catty-corner across the street. Tacos, and rumored to be quite good. (I
             can't locate a web or Facebook page, so the link is to their Yelp reviews.)

Along South Congress, map
-- Ms P's Electric Cock, at 1101 S. Congress. Well the name alone stands out, right?! Fried chickeny goodness. I got the 2 piece and a side of slaw, which they rotate the slaw varieties. If you have any food allergies, ask (duh); this turned out to be a blue cheese dressing on it, which I liked, but I have a friend who's allergic to blues. The chicken had a nice crust, and was super-juicy!

-- SoCo @ Gibson Street, 1318 S. Congress, currently houses:
               -- Hey You Gonna Eat or What,  serving up tasty looking sandwiches with a side of snarkiness.
              -- Fat Cactus, specializing in southwestern fry breads
                -- Crepes Mille, with, YES, crepes!

--  SoCo @ Monroe/Milton -- the granddaddy of them all, a WHOLE block of trailers!
             -- The Original New Orleans Po-Boy Gumbo Shop, I think the name says it all!
             -- The Mighty Cone, in part known for their fried avocado....previous post.
            -- Wurst Tex, is it the best wurst?
             -- Chipotle..... yeah, THAT Chipotle.... kinda weird...
             -- Coat and Thai, catchy name!
             -- Short Bus, IS everything better baked? (That's what the side of the bus says!)
             -- Pitalicious, is surely delicious.
             -- Cutie Pie Wagon, the iconic pink trailer with feather boas is back in SoCo after a hiatus. The owner opened a storefront up north on Burnet Road, but I am not sure if it's still open. Glad to have some representation back south!
             -- Star Company Coffee, an off-shoot of a Round Rock coffee shop.
             -- Fry Baby, I'd say it's safe to assume nothing here is baked.
             -- Austin Frigid Frog Shaved Ice (closed November thru March...I'd imagine they'll be open soon)
             -- Hey Cupcake, the original of their now several locations!

This is sorta a typical shot (below) of life in South Austin -- gorgeous February day (it hit 92 degrees on Feb 23, the day I took this shot.... cold front blew in that night, and the next day's high was only in mid 60s...that's "winter" in ATX for you!), musician playing, people standing in line at a food trailer...
And hey, no one really wants to talk about trailer trash! Please help keep Austin beautiful!
Along the fringes
-- All City Subs, 3808 S. Congress by Krebs Lane, two blocks before 290/Ben White Blvd.
-- Ah La Carte, 4418 Packsaddle Pass, at 290/Ben White
-- Double Trouble BBQ, 5300 S. Congress at Ramble Lane, three blocks before Stassney Lane

In Memoriam (I know there are many more who have gone to the great trailer park in the sky, but I miss these two, from the SoFi food court, RIP.)
-- Arancini -- living up to their name, their arancini balls were some of the best ever.
-- Fried Green Tomato -- pimento and fried green tomato sandwich? Yes, please! 

-- The Flying Carpet -- A unique Moroccan trailer, owners Maria and Abdu have transitioned to a brick and mortar place! Visit them at 504 W. Oltorf, about 2 blocks east of South 1st Street. I haven't been to the new spot yet, but they are some of my favorite people, and make amazing Moroccan burgers! My original post, and another I wrote as a guest post for a Moroccan blogger.
-- Odd Duck --  This trailer from Bryce Gilmore was a hands-down favorite of local food bloggers in an annual restaurant/trailer poll. Fortunately, the foods live on at Barley Swine, where Gilmore has been nationally recognized for his works.

So there you have it! Go forth, and conquer some trailer food -- there's LOTS of eating to be done!

PS -- The Downtown Trailer guide is here, and the East Austin one, here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bella Cucina

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I just found an AMAZING new trailer -- Bella Cucina, on South Lamar, just south of Red's Porch, doing Italian street foods.  My need to *research* some South ATX food trailers for an upcoming post led me to this gem.
I pulled into the lot around noon, and I was the only one there. I went up to the window, and was immediately greeted by the owner Dominic. I said this was my first time here, what did he recommend? He asked if I was more in a meat or chicken kind of mood. I said I leaned toward meat, as I was eyeing the three meat panini (salami, soppressata, and prosciutto, I believe he said). He nodded his approval, and got it started.
While he's prepping food, I asked him about the now-closed trailer parked next to his. He said that Red's Porch (who is also his landlord) recently bought it, and they have plans to do breakfasts and lunches out of it. There's also a Mexican foods trailer that's supposed to be joining the lot too. As we're chatting, he offers me two meatballs that have been simmering in sauce.  Soooo incredibly tender, they fell apart as soon as you stuck a fork in them, and tasted so good. Another trinity of meats: veal, pork and beef, and I sing the meatball's praise to Dominic. We keep chatting, and I ask him how he got started here. His background was actually as a contractor, installing pizza ovens in restaurants. He's from New York originally (you can hear it in his voice!) and of Italian descent (of course!), and his family just moved to Austin about a year ago for his wife's job, plus her extended family were in the area.
He then says, oh I am going to throw in a small salad that someone ordered, but never came and picked up. At this point, I "reveal" my identity as a food blogger, something I don't regularly do when dining out, as I want to write about the food as it is presented to any customer. Dominic then insists on giving me two half-sandwiches to take with me. As we had been chatting, his mother-in-law and a friend have pulled up, and ordered some food. He gives me half of his MIL's chicken and pesto sandwich, because he says he knows she won't eat the whole thing! He also wraps up a porchetta and broccoli rabe sandwich (more on these in a minute), and hands me a bag with all this food! Incredibly generous.

I went to the picnic table to eat my panini. It was still screaming hot off the panini press, and there was nice bits of crusty cheese oozing out. The bread was crispy, some basil pesto and giardineria (pickled veg) inside too; dense, filling, and delicious. I posted this pic on Facebook, and one of the comments left was "I want that in my mouth NOW!" Yeah, you do!
Here's the food that he sent me off with. I think my only criticism of everything that I tried was the salad dressing -- not homemade. Other that, it was fantastic. I offered some of the porchetta to some food friends today, and they loved it, so tender, moist. And who would have thought to put broccoli rabe on a sandwich, but it really worked. The chicken and pesto re-warmed very nicely in the toaster oven for dinner, and the chicken was still in great condition.
Dominic has visions for the lot -- he'd like to beautify it a bit more, and maybe close off one of the driveways as to make it safer for kids, since it's right on Lamar. He's thought about grab and go dinner service, as the evening traffic is thick going down Lamar. Further down the proverbial road, he's got some thoughts about opening a New York style deli, with cold cuts and sandwiches. I told him he absolutely should! Austin needs something like that! I've also encouraged him to use Facebook a bit more to promote the place, and list the menu, specials, etc, as like many trailers, he's having troubles attracting diners. And I told him I'd give him a shout out! ;) So "like" Bella Cucina's page on Facebook, and get yourself over there and try his food! (I believe current hours are Mon thru Sat, 10:30 am - 3:30 pm.) Super nice, genuine guy with great food. What's not to love? Buon appetito!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bits and Bites

Open/New Partnerships
-- Reopening, under new management from the owners of the Tavern is the Belmont at 305 W. 6th.
-- The national chain The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will be pairing with local baked goods purveyor Luxe Sweets for pastries and sweet goods, and Dish a licious for meals on the go; seven locations around town.

-- Romeo's, the iconic spot on Barton Springs. Boarded up..... 

-- Learn about Italian wines at Aviary Lounge, February 28th at 7pm, $35/person. Six wines will be paired with gourmet pizzas from the newly opened Mercury Pizza.
-- Five course beer pairing dinner at Jack Allen's Kitchen, with Thirsty Planet beers, Tuesday, March 6th, $45/person.
-- Third Annual Bacon Takedown contest, March 11th, 2pm, at Shangri-la. Do you have an ingenious recipe that uses copious amounts of bacon? See their site for entering.
-- The Austin Taco Experiment will be held at Studio 501 also on March 11th, 12 - 3pm. 
-- Lucy's Fried Chicken will be hosting the South by South Austin Fried Chicken Revival, with live music, beer, and of course, chicken; March 14 - 18 at Lucy's, 12 - 6pm daily. 
-- And speaking of Jack Allen's, owner Jack Gilmore and son Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine, have been invited to cook at the James Beard House in NYC, April 9th. They will recreate their five course dinner here in Austin, at JAK's, April 3rd, $125/person, with wine pairings. Bryce is also a James Beard semi finalist for Rising Star Chef, well deserved indeed.

Quality Seafood

You've probably passed it hundreds of times. In a fairly non-descript building on Airport Blvd., next to a furniture store (I think), just a stone's throw from IH-35 lies Quality Seafood. It's both a market and a restaurant, which has been operating in Austin since 1938, and from it's current location at 5621 Airport Blvd. since 1970 (there's a comprehensive write up on their history on their website).

I had been a number of years ago to buy tubes and tentacles to make fried calamari, but I had never eaten there, though I had always heard it was good. I was on the phone mid-week a friend, making plans for Saturday dinner. She wanted to eat some seafood, and neither of us wanted to spend a huge amount of money. We decided upon QS, and then invited some other friends to join us. They were already seated when I arrived around 6:15 pm. The place was pretty hoppin', as it was Saturday, and there were also a lot of families with kids.

When you enter the building, the fresh seafood counter and register to order food is to your left; a bar is in the middle of the room, and restaurant seating to the right. You go to the left and order, get your number, have a seat, and they bring out your food.

My friends had the raw oysters as a starter, which they sucked down quickly with no complaints. Look at the oyster in the 7 o'clock position -- it's huge! Raw oysters aren't really my thing, but they looked good. (And there were no follow up reports of either of them getting sick, always a good thing when raw is involved.)
Another friend started with a bowl of crawfish etouffee, which I tried. It had a nice flavor to it, and what appeared to be good amounts of crawdads in it. She was originally going to get the gumbo until I cautioned her against it: a blogger friend, Farmstress Maggie of From Maggie's Farm had been to QS the week prior to me, and had posted on Facebook how she thought they were using Krab (faux-crab) in their gumbo, given it's stringy texture. Seems odd that a place like that would use it, but Maggie is a true Louisiana girl who knows her gumbo! No regrets with the etouffee though.

I had a blackened catfish po-boy, and since I opted for the dinner plate, I got two sides for just $2 additional dollars ($10.99 for the whole plate), so I had the dinner salad and hush puppies. The puppies were delish! Dense and corny, without a trace of grease. I will say this about the fried stuff -- the friends who got the raw oysters also got fried oysters, fried shrimp, and fried okra, none of which was greasy. (I had a bite of the okra, which was really good.) The dinner salad wasn't much to speak of besides fresh lettuce. The catfish was really good, a nice thick piece, good spiciness from the blackening seasoning. The bread though, was weak. A bit too soft for the heft of the sandwich, and it fell apart easily. Tasted very good, but a firmer hoagie roll would have been more to my liking.
Again, as it was a Saturday night, there were lots of families with kids, a large group gathering for a birthday, and people just hanging at the bar. I sat facing the wall, so the whole time I got to enjoy the very colorful, cartoonish murals of ocean life that makes up the primary decor. I really got a kick of the murals, and now regret not taking a picture. The restrooms are down a long hallway, and half the corridor is adorned in the vibrant art. 

Definitely a fun and tasty place. But they have a *serious* side too -- their motto (and seen around town on bumper stickers): "Selling our sole, six days a week." It's fresh sole, and that's what matters. Quality Seafood lives up to it's name.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Unfortunately, Research Boulevard has pretty much become one strip mall after another. Fortunately, the strip mall between Ohlen and Payton Gin has a Target as an anchor and easily recognizable landmark. It is in that locale you’ll find Sunflower, one of several Asian business in the center; other food establishments include Din Ho Chinese BBQ and Coco’s  -- a bubble tea spot. It’s probably been five years since I’ve been to Sunflower (I should mention it’s a Vietnamese place), and this past Saturday night was a prime opportunity to revisit it.

Three of us arrived around 7 pm, and the place was seven-eighths full, so lucky for us, there was one table to accommodate us. We got water and a pot of hot tea, and studied the menu. After being slightly overwhelmed by it, we decided on three things, and at the end, we all agreed we had no regrets on any of it. 

We started with the appetizer combo plate, which comes with shrimp, pork meatballs, and pork egg rolls; it’s accompanied by a plate of lettuce, shredded carrots, fresh mint, and a sweet and tangy fish sauce. The meatballs were fairly dense, almost like sausage patties, but tasty. The egg rolls are meant to be placed in the lettuce leaves with carrots and mint. Kind of messy with the sauce, but so what!
The lemongrass tofu is a great vegetarian dish.  Really a great dish period, vegetarian or not.  I wish the lemongrass flavor was more pronounced – I could really hardly taste it – but the garlic and chiles totally make up for it. It’s pieces of silken tofu, which are probably lightly dredged in rice flour or cornstarch and given a quick sauté with the lovely aromatics. Incredibly flavorful.
Last, the tamarind halibut. At $16, we were first a little hesitant, but after discovering that we all loved the flavor of tamarind, we decided to go for it. Chunks of halibut are very lightly battered and fried, and a really lovely tamarind glaze is poured all over. The fish was fresh, not greasy, and ever so crisp, and the twang from the sauce just exploded in your mouth.
Sunflower’s décor is hardly anything to speak about… then again, it IS in a strip mall. We had no problems with their service, though you sort of have to know that you just go to the counter (which is in the back of the restaurant) when you are ready to pay, as they don’t bring you a check to the table.  Some of their reviews on Yelp make mention of less than stellar service, and while it IS all about the food, we know that service plays a part too. They could also be faulted for horribly under ripe tomatoes, which apparently is *de rigueur* there, according to my dining companions. But otherwise, it was a solid, tasty meal.

So why has it taken me so long to go back there?

(No website that I can find.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bits and BItes

-- Sort of open.... while Get Sum Dim Sum's spot at 44th and Lamar closed, Satay (it's sister restaurant) is currently serving dim sum on weekends.
-- Kebabalicious is moving from trailer to brick-and-mortar at 1311 E. 7th, opening later this month.
-- New trailer from the Peached Tortilla peeps, Yume Burger. Grand opening this weekend at Hops and Grain.

Trailers on the Move
-- Dock and Roll has left the Westlake area for the South First street spot, next to Izzoz and Gourdough's; 1503 S. 1st. Lobstah rolls.
-- Kate's Southern Comfort has gone east to 1604 E. 6th at Comal.

-- Red Door Pizza is on hiatus, and will apparently look for a new location; property bought by the Eddie V's/Moonshine/Hopdoddy people.

-- A weekend of love with a $55/person three course dinner at Urban Grill, February 10 - 14. 
-- Contigo having a non-Valentine's Day family style dinner, on V-day, $35/person.
-- SugarMama's Bakeshop will deliver on Valentine's day -- make your order/reservation now.
-- Celebrate Texas Independence in style at Jack Allen's, on March 7th with drink specials from Republic Tequila, a pig roast, and live music. Mmmm, pig!
-- Sagra is starting a Sunday Supper series, the third Sunday of the month. For $50/person, you get six courses, plus wine pairings; contact them to make a reservation. The menu looks delicious!

I am hearing GREAT things about Easy Tiger, especially the pain au chocolat! Need to go....

Sunday, February 5, 2012


My area of Bouldin Creek is becoming quite hip, and I am over the moon with the explosion of new eateries in the area. Now adding to the mix is Lenoir, in the old home of Somnio, on South 1st between Annie and Mary Streets. The prix-fixe restaurant is the work of Todd Duplechan, formerly of Trio at the Four Seasons Hotel, and his wife, Jessica Maher, a pastry chef and recent member of the Dai Due team. 

Like La Patisserie and Elizabeth Street Cafe, Lenoir has taken one of the neighborhood's cottage houses and transformed it. As I had seen previously written, the interior is a combination of dark masculine wood when you enter, surrounded by the more feminine feel of off-white gauzy/lacy curtains. The tables and chairs are wooden, painted in a light coat of white, so the grain of the wood is visible. The taller, cocktail-style tables have leather and brass stud accents on the corners, while the ten-seat community table in the middle of the room sits under a bank of lights, giving it a modern chandelier look. I believe I counted a total of 33 seats -- 9 at the bar, 10 at the community table, and 14 at the 2 and 4-top cocktail tables. It's not very big at all. Our waiter and his witticisms was always present, but not hovering.

Lenoir's menu is divided into four areas: field, sea, land, dream (dessert); you can pick any three dishes for $30, and additional ones are $10. The menu changes with what's available seasonally and locally.

My first course was the upma polenta with Brussels sprouts and carrots. It's actually a semolina (wheat) polenta, as opposed to the traditional corn. (May be a problem for gluten-free eaters, as it's not listed as wheat on the menu.) It had a nice late-hitting spiciness to it, from mustard seed and I am not sure what else. The baby Brussels were seared, and the carrots tender.
The second dish I had was axis venison in a spiced broth with haikurei turnips, sunflower sprouts, daikon radish (they were cut very thin, like angel hair pasta), and rawa noodles, made from toasted wheat. I would call this their take on a pho bowl. The venison was cooked beautifully, and the broth really had a nice flavor to it, and the two together were wonderful. While the waiter named cinnamon and star anise as being in the broth, the lingering flavor was the heat from the Balinese long peppers (they look like miniature, long pine cones), a  relation to black peppercorns.
For my third course, I had the chaubier cheese with almond nougatine, and grapefruit preserves from the local maker Confituras. And I apparently forgot to take a picture! Chaubier is a wash-rind, semi-firm goat and cow's milk cheese from France; I'd say a medium-strong cheese. It's creaminess was nice with the candied almonds and tart jam.

Other dishes my friend's had.... gulf shrimp with kabocha squash, kale and xo sauce. I was not familiar with xo before; it's made from dried fish, shrimp, scallops, along with chile peppers, garlic and other spices, and is often used in Cantonese foods. Lenoir is making their own, and it was fantastic. It really elevated this dish, giving it a great depth of flavor. (This dish was about to come off the menu, as kabocha is about out of season now.)
The chickpea panisse (like a polenta), oyster mushrooms, wilted winter greens, and a poached egg.
Red curry short ribs with scarlet runner beans

Chicken, shitake mushrooms, lettuce, carrots, and peanuts. While you wouldn't know it from it's description, this was a take on lettuce wraps.
Leftovers were packaged in a swan boat! (Maybe we'll call it a grackle instead...) On the table behind the swan was a black holder for a small vase of flowers, and also a salt cellar, with a flaky sea salt with lavender and herbs in it. It looked more like decoration until I looked more closely at it, and then tried it.
It's sort of hard to pin down the specific type of food that Lenoir is serving, and maybe that's their point. They have described themselves as making "hot weather food" -- spicy and acidic, and the Asian influences from the dishes I tried can attest to that. The name Lenoir refers to a varietal of French black grape, brought by the Spanish to Central America, and well-rooted in Texas, a parallel to the owners' own culinary journey. Glad their journey has brought them to our little neck of the woods.