Friday, November 5, 2010

24 Diner

"Chef-inspired comfort food whenever you want it." Now who's to argue with that concept? That is the tag line on 24 Diner's website, as well as just a darn good plan. A more upscale entry into Austin's 24 hour a day eateries, it's been open in the former spot of Waterloo Icehouse at 6th & Lamar for about a year.

The interior has a modern yet "still a diner" feel; there are booths, some tall tables as if you were at a counter, and then the counter/open kitchen. My back was to the kitchen, so I couldn't really read the boards they have posted above with specials & desserts.  There are also a couple booths in the back, on the way to the restroom, and some tables outside, along the north side of the building.

Scanning the menu, I couldn't decide what I was in the mood for.... breakfast? Dinner? Salad? Okay, we ruled out the salad option pretty quick with all this REAL comfort food to pick from, but they sounded decent. I was leaning towards the chicken & waffles, and then one of my dining companions spotted a half-order of it that's available on their Monday thru Friday only menu. So I got that and a side of their homemade sausage patties. I also like how they state on their menu they are sourcing local products as much as possible.
Definitely glad I had the half order! The waffle was extremely yeasty, in a very fermented way. The chicken was well-fried, no grease whatsoever, but a little on the dry side, so I wonder if it got fried earlier in the day and was sitting in the hot box. Didn't really get a taste of the brown sugar butter (not much on there), but the real maple syrup certainly helped things out. The sausage patties were fat & delicious! A smidge spicy, and all around just very flavorful. 

One friend had the 24 Hash, a concoction of skillet fries, sausage, jalapenos, cheese... I didn't try it, but it sure looks good, and he practically licked the plate clean. My other friend had the Caesar salad with chicken, which she liked, but said the croutons were too spicy.
Side note(s): The silverware was of nice design & weight. My chicken & waffles were a little hard to cut because the plate was sliding around on the slick melamine tabletop. Such is life.  Saw several other diners with burgers, which on a nice big (and shiny) Challah bun, they looked good... and large. Our waitress was attentive & polite, the hostess very friendly. Did comfort food ever really go out of style? I think not.


I stopped for lunch the other day at Papalote, the new taco house with an emphasis on Mexican street foods, from the creators of Azul Tequila. I can't find a website, but here's the menu.  It's a tiny spot, with 5 or 6 small tables; you order at the counter, and you can see the full kitchen right in front of you. (The size & layout of the place reminds me of Chen's Noodle House.) I told the cashier it was my first time in, and asked for some recommendations. He was quick to point out 4 different ones from the "los guisados" menu: the pollo, pescado, puerco en mole & coliflor (cauliflower); I went with the pollo & puerco.
The pollo a la parilla is achiote-rubbed grilled chicken with poblano rajas (roasted pepper strips), cabbage, avocado & queso fresca. Everything was very fresh; I thought the chicken needed a touch of salt, and it was grilled nicely, still moist. The puerco en mole pipian is shredded pork loin, mole pipian (pumpkin seed), avocado & queso fresca. Also fresh & tasty, but I don't know that it was memorable. For $3.25 each, you get a good amount of protein stuffed into a tortilla.

Looking now, a bit more thoroughly at their menu, I certainly will have to try their traditional mole poblano, and I have heard raves about their coliflor/cauliflower tacos. I do wish the menu was a bit more explanatory for those of us who aren't totally familiar with some of the street food terms. But everything was fresh, the service was friendly, helpful & efficient. They are also conveniently located for me, and I am intrigued by the Austinville development they are in on South Lamar. (From the owner's of Amy's Ice Creams....this little strip of businesses are all locally owned -- gotta like that!) Next time, one of their masa cakes and some mole!