Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Opie's Barbecue

It's been a minute since I have sung the praises of Opie's Barbecue out in Spicewood, about 40 minutes southwest of Austin. Why go stand in line at a well-known place in town for 4+ hours when you can take a nice drive instead? 

Opie's Barbecue
The meat "coffin" is right inside the door; the meats are smoked adjacent to the main building. In addition to your Texas standards (brisket, beef + pork ribs, sausage), they have turkey, chicken, pork chops, and sometimes specials like prime rib.
Opie's Barbecue
The massive beef rib was my friend's, and the rest is mine (pork ribs, jalapeno sausage and brisket)!
 I always get food for at least 3 meals!
Opie's Barbecue butterbeans
If you are into butterbeans, you will die for Opie's! Friday, Saturday + Sundays only.
Do not miss out on these! 
Opie's Barbecue sides
Not only are the butterbeans killer, the tater tot casserole and zesty corn are delicious too!

And they are super-nice people too! Opie's is on Hwy 71, right by the turn to Krause Springs in the Texas Hill Country.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Lucky Robot

Last week, I caught up with a friend at Lucky Robot on South Congress; for a weeknight at the end of June, the area was buzzing (Netflix was filming something next door at the Continental Club) and the restaurant was full! We were fortunate to snag a table without a reservation. 

Lucky Robot Brussels
Brussels tossed in a lemongrass soy marinade



Lucky Robot sashimi
Tako (octopus) and pork belly "sashimi" bites

Lucky Robot Summer Cebiche
Summer cebiche with white fish, baby corn, watermelon, jalapeno with a watermelon
leche de tigre broth. Gorgeous plating, delicious and super refreshing!

Lucky Robot Hira hira maki roll
Hira hira (yellowtail tuna) maki roll 
Lucky Robot QR code
A lovely glass of Gruner Veltliner. And see the wooden bud vase?
That's an elegantly designed QR code!
Lucky Robot interior
The interior of Lucky Robot is certainly what you would call Instagrammable. (Or sensory overload, lol.) As June represents Pride/LGBTQ+ rights/visibility/equality, this bench seating is loud and proud and I loved it! (The photo also belies the crowded restaurant! This was taken right after the table next to us left.)

Side note, a friend and I had gotten carry out from Lucky Robot last summer that was also delicious!

Lucky Robot Chirashi bowl
Stunning carryout chirashi bowl from last year; a version of this is now on their brunch menu.

Lucky Robot pork belly bun
Also delicious were these pork belly buns

All in all, a successful venture out into the real world! What are your current summertime faves?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Aba: The Greatest Hits

Aba: passion fruit gin and tonic
Passion fruit gin + tonic. Yes, please! 

In the past month, I have been fortunate to go to Aba twice for lunch. The first visit was quite good, and the second trip even better! Aba is a Mediterranean spot on South Congress in the new Music Lane (read: upscale) development; the original restaurant is in Chicago and this is now their second location. Here's a rundown of our foods with a little commentary. 😀 

Aba: whipped feta
Whipped feta with pistachios and pita bread. If you only order one thing at Aba, make it this. OMG. So creamy, not overly salty, and a basket of  warm pita which is doughier + fluffier than your standard pita.

Aba: hummus + short rib
Hummus with short ribs was quite tasty.
Aba: farro salad
I believe this was the farro salad with sunchokes; gorgeous presentation but to me it didn't have all the flavors the menu promised. (I actually don't see this version on the current menu.)
Aba: chicken kebab
Grilled chicken kebabs with wonderfully juicy chicken. The zhoug sauce (like a cilantro pesto) was a bit flat and needed more acidity to really shine.
Aba: frozen Greek yogurt
Frozen Greek yogurt with strawberry sauce was a refreshing palate cleanse at the end of our meal.

On to my second visit:

Aba: Ahi tuna tabouli
This ahi tuna tabouli was outstanding, and I am not one that gravitates to raw dishes. The tuna was like velvet, the pomegranate seeds offered the perfect texture and acidity along with a light bit of yuzu, and I like the mouthfeel of pearled couscous rather than cracked barley for a tabouli.
Aba: crispy potatoes
Very crispy potatoes, which I loved, served with a scallion crema.


Aba: Brussels sprouts
Big Brussels sprouts, with almond dukkah (a sumac-based seasoning) and honey harissa for a touch of sweetness. Great flavors.

Aba: eggplant + lamb
Aba: eggplant + lamb
Slow braised leg of lamb wrapped in eggplant. I love lamb and would eat this again in a heartbeat! It was very tender, the tomato sauce full of cinnamon, which may sound strange (though very typical of Mediterranean food), but so good!

Plan your visit ahead as getting a reservation can be challenging. Both times, we went for an early weekday lunch and were able to get seated in the outdoor breezeway with no problem. The design of the place is beauitful with a huge deck with lounge areas, tables, and a full bar; the majority of the seating is outdoors, nestled between old trees and new buildings. My photos of the exterior don't do it justice and hence not posted, but take my word for it. They also have a gluten free menu, and to-go parking in the below-ground lot.  The scope of South Congress is changing, loosing its once funky vibe, but Aba is a welcome and VERY delicious addition to the scene. 

Have you been? What foods did you enjoy?

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Best New Restaurants in South Austin: The 2021 Edition

Check out the entire City Guide here!

There have been a lot of ADJUSTMENTS in the restaurant world this past year. Many places unfortunately have closed, most places have pivoted, and a new generation of spots to stuff our faces with have opened. And KUDOS to all of those who have survived, thrived, and opened during a global clusterfluffage! 

If you blinked, or in many cases, didn't really eat out much in the past year, here's the link to my 2020 best new South Austin spots guide; please give them some love too!  The link in the above logo will take you to the entire City Guide with over 70 posts for top Austin eating. And if you're looking for places in far South Austin, check out Phat Phoodie's guide!

In alphabetical order, here are my picks for best new South Austin restaurants.

Aba, 1011 South Congress Ave.
Open in the Music Lane development on South Congress + Academy, Aba is beautifully designed with lots of outdoor space, and the Mediterranean foods were great, especially this whipped feta. *swoon*
Aba whipped feta
Aba's whipped feta + incredibly soft pita bread

Easy Tiger, 3508 South Lamar Blvd.
While not new to Austin, this is the first one south! Big outdoor beer garden. (The former Red's Porch location.)

Jjims, 1100 South Lamar Blvd. (in Lamar Union)
Specializing in Korean braised meats, for the most part, they don't have your traditional Korean menu items. The ribeye bulgogi was incredibly tender.
Jjim bulgogi
Jjim's tender ribeye bulgogi

La Tunita 512, 2400 Burleson Road
This trailer is where I first learned about the birria-style taco trend.

Mumtaz Market, 1816 South First Street
From the Garaj Mahal people, Mumtaz opened in the former Alcomar space in the fall of 2020. Modern Indian foods, along with some traditional curries. Their lamb burger is one of the top things I have eaten all year. 
Mumtaz Market lamb burger
Lamb burger from Mumtaz Market

Nala's, 4894 Hwy 290 West
I was clued into Nala's by an Instagram acquaintance who is originally from South India, which is the type of food they do. Extensive menu, and many dishes that were unfamiliar to me, but their lamb biryani (they call it mutton) was extremely tender and flavorful. Large portions.
Nala's lamb biryani
Lamb biryani from Nala's

Phantasma Kitchen, 3403 South Lamar Blvd.
Cracker-thin crust pizza coming from this ghost kitchen.
Phantasma Kitchen pizza
Phantasma Kitchen pizza

Spicy Boys, 440 East St. Elmo Road (at St. Elmo Brewing)
A pivot from the original Soursop trailer, these are  delicious spicy fried chicken sandwiches with an Asian twist! And as much as I loved the sandwich, I REALLY loved the roti chicken curry!
Spicy Boys chicken sandwich
Spicy Boys chicken sandwich


1618 Asian Fusion, 1618 East Riverside Drive
Big Asian menu in a booming area (Riverside + IH-35/Lakeshore Drive), primarily Thai and Vietnamese focused.

24Pho7, 601 West Live Oak St.
OMG. This French dip sandwich with Vietnamese flavors on the most perfect bread -- it's killer!


Places on my radar but I haven't yet been to: 

Pho MPH, 3715 South First Street

Tiny Market, 1718 South Congress Avenue (new grocery in the former Farm to Market space)

Word of Mouth Bakery, 1506 South First Street

What are your favorite new spots in South Austin? Where else should I check out? Drop me a note!


Monday, March 29, 2021

The Top Sweet Shops in South Austin

I rarely met a dessert I didn't like!  Here are my picks for best dessert shops in South Central Austin.

Dolce Neve, 1713 South First Street (also on E. 5th Street)

A crazy-good Italian gelateria run by Italians! They've embraced South Austin culture, and "do it" in

front of everyone. Lots of traditional (chocolate, salted caramel) and unique flavors (roasted pistachio,

lemon creme).

Dolce Neve gelato

La Patisserie, 602 West Annie Street (also on Burnet Road)

French pastries like croissants, eclairs and a rainbow array of macarons. The morning bun is a favorite, especially slightly warmed in the toaster oven so the sugar caramelizes.

La Patisserie


Sugar Mama's
Bakeshop
, 1905 South First Street

Not just cupcakes, but cakes, pies, muffins, bars... sugar heaven! Also, owned by good, socially

conscious people.

Sugar Mama's Bakeshop

Thoroughbread, 1709 Bluebonnet

Probably best known for their sourdough bread (which is delicious), but I love their giant cookies!

Thoroughbread

Confituras, 2129 Goodrich
Comfort food: fresh, warm biscuits and house made jams.

Confituras

Haleycakes and Cookies, 1700 South Lamar, #316

The most adorable decorated cookies in a ton of designs. They ship anywhere too!

Hayleycakes

Vivian’s Boulangerie, online 

Killer almond + chocolate croissants, tiger paws, and more. All online, order delivery or pick up with is a South Austin secret location.

Vivian's Boulangerie


This should hold your sweet tooth for a minute!

Click HERE to go to the current City Guide and see other #atxbesteats posts!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Deep Freeze: Frigid Temps, Frozen Foods, Felines and Friends

Kind of like the entire state of Texas, it's time to thaw out this blog a bit! Almost two months since my last post and four days since our last sub-freezing temperatures. (And like true Texas weather, as I write this post, it's 82 degrees out!)

Icicle on my gutter, about 18 inches long
In case you missed it or are reading this weeks after the fact, an unprecedented Arctic cold front dropped all the way down to Texas, sending our temperatures WAY below freezing, plus about 6" inches of snow in Austin followed by freezing rain/sleet/grapple to make it even more icy. This lead to power outages and burst pipes.  According to the local meteorologists, Austin was below freezing for 144 hours, which broke a 38 year old record. They've called this storm historic, once-in-a-generation, and life-threatening. Yeah, not something I wish to repeat again.

I was without power for about 46 straight hours, but fortunately I never lost running water, though hot water was not real prevalent. But grateful my 1930s bungalow home has survived. The external temperature Monday night/Tuesday morning was 8 degrees. I don't know what the temp inside the house was but I am guessing it was in the 40s. Had covered the exterior water spigots, put a bit of pipe insulation on the interior kitchen + bathroom pipes, and let the taps drip in preparation. It hadn't really occurred to me that the power would go out, and we'll save the power supply issue and complete lack of response by local + state officials for another time, like once we've all had a margarita in Cancun.... 

Frozen nandina bush + berries
Was able to find a few granola/protein bars in the house, but I didn't eat a whole lot on Monday. During the daylight, I mostly sat huddled in bed with the cats and re-read Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone (she's one of my food and literary heroes). Fortunately I found my lipstick phone charger and was able to fully charge my cell phone. When darkness hit, I took a pre-bedtime nap, feeling like a mummy under the weight of layers of bedding and clothes I was then wearing.
Molly, me (under the blankets) and Charlie
I slept fairly reasonably, and by Tuesday late morning I had to face the outside world, and go check on my neighbor's cat. But it also gave me a little time to charge my phone in the car and clear the front walkway a bit with a push broom. The movement + activity kept me warmish, and the heater in the car was definitely welcome.  I also put the contents of my freezers (one regular side-by-side fridge/freezer and a small 3.0 cubic foot freezer) in bags on my back porch, as it was decidedly colder outside than in the powerless house. Back inside, ate another granola bar, more reading. Worried about my older cat Charlie, who at 17.5 years isn't the pinnacle of health he used to be, and didn't want to be covered by blankets for very long. Molly on the other hand, loved to snuggle under the layers and served as my personal heating device.
I found a much bigger limb in the back yard. My poor trees, but it could have been worse.
My next door neighbor came over and had her brother check my water heater and kitchen pipes; I think the hot water pipe had frozen a little since nothing was coming out when the handle was set to the hot side, but it has healed on its own. Late Tuesday afternoon, my other neighbors who were able to get their gas stove working, brought me a huge Thermos of delicious homemade soup! That totally nourished and sustained me through the evening, as tears from earlier in the day from cold and isolation turned into those of gratitude. Bundling back up and adding more layers of blankets to the bed, I hunkered back down in my nest. With facemask on (yes, one of the cloth ones I normally wear for Covid!), ear warmers, hoodie over my head, and eye pillow for warmth I went to sleep, probably around 9:30 pm. I woke up at 12:25 and through all the layers, it took a moment to register a familiar noise. The furnace was running and the power was on!!
Hot soup! The photo does not do it justice at all. This bowl of deliciousness had hearty
amounts of sausage, carrots, and kale which definitely warmed me up.
The blinking clocks around the house let me know power had been on for about 25 minutes, so it came on right around midnight. I plugged in my phone and Kindle to charge and stayed up until around 1:30 am before going back to bed. I was then hit with what I guess was a rolling blackout from about 8 am - noon on Wednesday morning. But once the power came back on Wednesday midday, knock on wood or icicles, I've been good ever since. 

Meanwhile friends and family from near and far continued to check in on me, and likewise I kept in contact with some a few local friends who were more or less on their own as well. I had been in regular contact with friends who live on the other side of South Lamar, no too far from my house in Bouldin. Their power was out too, but on Wednesday morning their pipe burst; they were freezing and have a 10 month old baby. I told them to come on over, and yes, bring the cat too! We decided to forgo facemasks as we've all been extremely cautious thus far with Covid.  Libby the cat stayed in the front bedroom; Charlie didn't mind her, Molly was a little less thrilled, but they all did just fine thank goodness.

Peter + MJ also brought the contents of their freezer, so between us, we had a decent amount of food. I think the first night we did Korean pancakes and dumplings they had along with sugar snap peas from my fridge. For lunch on Thursday, we threw together tater crowns (rounds, as opposed to tots, new to me and I liked them a lot; plus they get good and crispy in the air fryer) they brought with brisket chili (mine) topped with shredded cheese and sour cream. Dinner was strip steak from their haul, along with French fries. I have some survivor's guilt that we were able to eat so well, when so many others have been struggling to get food.

Chili cheese tater rounds was quite delicious!
Frozen Detroit-style pizza from HEB was quite good (sorry Via 313!), and I felt like a kid again eating spaghetti and meatballs! We added squash, and Easy Tiger cranberry walnut bread from our local Buy Nothing group which MJ relentlessly stalks😄. Temps warmed back up and with power on, freezers could be filled again. Streets thawed and the sun came out. Given the proximity to their place, Peter could easily get to their house from mine to check on power and meet with a plumber. At 10 months, Esme is appropriately active and almost walking on her own; she's a very good, happy baby with minimal crying. We had a happy little commune for four days.  Peter's a tech guy and was able to get my printer back online and streamline a couple of my television remotes. He also showed me a solar charger he just got from Amazon, and it was my first post-apocalypse purchase.
Spaghetti, meatballs, squash + bread
After the frigid desolation of Monday and Tuesday, it was comforting to have company. People to talk to, eat with, laugh with, boil water with. (Oh yeah, we were on a boil water notice for several days.) Grateful to also know I can count on my neighbors (and vice versa). The common greeting with other friends and co-workers has been "Hi, how are you? Power? Water?" Things are pretty much back to normal now, and I think we are all stronger for the experience of the past week, though not at all eager to have to be without power like that again. My head has been a bit discombobulated, but I think I am mostly on track now. I know it's been a very long haul for some, especially with so many water heaters breaking. I know I was fortunate. If you need to come shower, let me know.
Much cuteness

This list is mostly for my own entertainment purposes as a bit of recorded history of my layers.

Wearing:
  • two pairs socks, plus thick hiking boot socks
  • long johns, with two pairs of leggings on top
  • thermal long sleeve shirt, 2 more long sleeve shirts, hoodie sweatshirt, medium weight oversized hoodie, lightweight wool scarf (long johns and thermal shirt I believe are from my teen years growing up in Washington, DC.... over 30 years old, I am guessing)
  • fleece headband to cover ears, facemask, lightweight gloves with occasionally white cotton gloves on top 
On the bed: 
  • regular bed linens: sheets, light weight cotton blanket, light weight feather comforter inside duvet cover
  • added: lap quilt, acrylic blanket at times doubled, quilt, another cotton blanket also doubled