Saturday, November 19, 2011

Phil's Ice House

The fine folks of Amy's Ice Cream created the "Austinville 78704" retail triangle at South Lamar and Manchaca. All locally-owned businesses, including their own: a second installment of Phil's Ice House, this one an actual hybrid of Phil's and Amy's under one roof. A treat for big kids and little kids alike!
I think this location has been open for almost a year. Usually when I drive past in the evenings, the place is overflowing with cars, literally, as they park on the South Lamar shoulder. I have figured that lunch would be my best time to take a stab at Phil's. But, taking a chance on Friday night around 7:45, we were pleasantly surprised to find a few open parking spots in the lot, and there were a couple open tables inside, and plenty available outside. The noise level was a little high, as it is a kid-friendly establishment, but it soon quieted down some, and the noise from the kids playing outside didn't affect us.

The burgers mostly have neighborhood names, very catchy for Austin. They've also got dogs, frito pie, chicken sandwiches, and some vegetarian options. Cleverly, they have a sampler basket with three sliders, mini versions of their grown-up neighborhood namesakes. And that became my choice for dinner, cooked medium rare, along with onion rings. My dining companion chose what I believe was the Travis Heights burger, with Swiss, grilled onions and mushrooms; I don't see it on the online menu. The chatty high school order taker said it was her favorite, and suggested adding blue cheese, which he happily did.
Both the regular burger and my sliders were good sized portions. My slider basket consisted of (from top to bottom in the picture) the Crestview, with chili and cheese; the Rosedale with mesquite bbq sauce; and the Violet Crown, with blue cheese and grilled onions. The Crestview burger was cooked to more of a medium/medium well, and while there was enough chili to make it messy, there wasn't a ton of chili on it. The mesquite on the Rosedale was very sweet, and probably my favorite was the Violet Crown. Sort of surprisingly given the strength of blue cheese, it was the one where I could best taste the grilled flavor of the burger. All three were served on kolache-style rolls, as in, a sweeter bread, rather than just a traditional roll. (The large versions each come on specialty breads, like jalapeno cheese buns.) The onion rings were a nice thin cut, with a light batter, and were really good! Likewise the sweet potato fries. And there was no complaining about the Travis Heights burger, and the eater definitely liked the blue cheese addition.

So after burgers and beer, these big kids could happily take home a pint of Amy's Mexican Vanilla so we didn't have to overdo it at Phil's! Solid food, friendly, fun service. They've got a good thing going!

El Tacorrido

They don't call the stretch of South First street from Gibson to Oltorf "the Mexican Mile" for nothing. There's El Mercado, Torchy's & Izzo's trailers, Jovita's, La Mexicana Bakery, La Reyna, Polvo's, Little Mexico, and Habanero, though it's squarely on Oltorf. (Did I forget any?) And now, adding to the list, we have El Tacorrido, which took over the former Baby Greens drive thru spot at the northwest corner of South First and Oltorf. Did we REALLY need another Tex Mex spot?
I'd say the jury is still out.

I ordered a gordita with carnitas and a salad, which I don't see listed on their online menu. The very friendly young woman who was working the window asked if I wanted any salsa with the gordita; I asked for her recommendation, and she picked the verde -- avocado, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. Really nice and creamy, with a bit of a bite, but not overpowering. The salsa was the best part of the gordita! The carnitas meat was not all pulled apart/shredded. There were some chunks in there, and I hate to say it, I passed over a few of them, because they looked like they were a little past their prime, with a bit of that shimmery look to them. I sort of thought to myself "am I taking a chance here?", but I was fine, no illnesses to report. The gordita was fairly greasy, and the bottom portion of it was thick and soggy. Not the best gordita by a long shot.
The salad I saved til dinnertime. For $6, you get a bowl of spinach with tomatoes and avocados, topped with tortilla strips; you can add your choice of meat for $2 more, and I opted for the habanero-marinated chicken breast. Hate to say it again, but the honey chipotle vinaigrette might have been the best thing about it. Some of the greens were past their prime, and I didn't really get any habanero heat from the chicken.

For a Mexican/Tex Mex spot, I find their dessert choices to be a bit odd: ice cream sandwich (vanilla on chocolate chip cookies) or banana bread.

This location of El Tacorrido is the third installment around town, and it seemed like the site sat idle for months, with an "opening soon" banner on it. I have no idea who's behind these joints, and there's no additional info on their website. This was only their second day open, so I will give it a little time to shake down, and go back and try some of their al pastor and breakfast tacos. Their prices are reasonable ($2 for a breakfast taco with 3 ingredients, additional ones 25 cents each) and their hours are great (7 am - 10 pm, let's see if that lasts...). They also seem to be catering to both the traditional Mexican population as well as the gringos; there are some diverse meat options (cuerito, buche) on the board, as well as menudo on the weekends, and meat can also be bought by the pound.
 Let's wait and see if the Mexican Mile can sustain another place....