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Ranking/Recommending Austin-Area Farmer's Markets

I agree. A lot of the vendors sell at both the downtown and sunset valley locations, but the sunset valley location has a stronger emphasis on actual food and produce and is therefore home to a few other notable stands. As far as prepared food goes, no one can beat Auntie Nita's Homestyle foods. For her quiche, she grows her own tomatoes, dries them, prepares a crust from scratch and uses eggs from her own chicken coop. She cares about her food and makes just about everything from scratch, almost unnecessarily (she even grinds her own sesame seeds for tahini paste in her hummus!). Also try Sgt. Pepper's sauces and Texas Quail Farms for some really amazing pestos and deals on local quail.

Sep 20, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Pizza in Austin

Giovanni's is one of my favorites in town. It's casual and always good. The owner (named Juan, not Giovanni for some reason) is a terrific guy who is always ready to strike up a easy conversation with his patrons while they wait for their meals. The pastas are surprisingly good seeing as they come out of a trailer for $8 or less. I've tried the shrimp linguine which was cooked perfectly (shrimp moist and tender, pasta al dente) and contained ample pieces of fresh spinach, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and shrimp.

I wouldn't say their pizza is the best in town (the crust has a few faults and the mozzarella could be fresh), but it's definitely one of my favorite new places in town. I live about a 30 minutes away, but I still try to make the pilgrimage to giovanni's whenever I can find the time.

Sep 18, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Cafe inside Han Yang market on Lamar

The bulgogi is alright considering the amount of meat that they give you, but it's definitely not top of the line. It's a bit sinewy and over cooked for my taste, but I'm Korean and a native of Houston where authentic Korean food is pretty easy to find. I must say, though, their kim chee jigae is very good for $5. The broth is deliciously savory/spicy (ask for it extra spicy!) with lots of tofu and stewed kimchi. Some of the soups are passable, as you were saying. I'd guess that the mul naeng myun (cold noodle soup) has some origins in the packaged foods isle and I'd completely stear away from the ramen soups. You did well not to order the Haedupbap (sashimi rice bowl)... I made that mistake once and had to throw the whole inedible mess away. The fish was definitely prefrozen and seemed as though it had not been properly thawed which irked me. It tasted of metal and no amount of gochujang (the spicy red sauce) could fix it. I would give my vote to the bibimbap, sam gye tang (available only on Fridays and Saturdays - don't forget to add the salt to it though!) and kim chee jigae. Give the kalbi ($10?) a try - it is basically bulgogi made with shortribs - the meat is thicker and juicier imo.

Oh god, I once drank some of the "Bacchus" energy drink and was absolutely wired for a solid 8 hours. It made me wonder what the hell was in it, but was too afraid to check.

Also, Their produce is pretty good... if you see some of the small light green bulbous looking zucchini on sale (my mom always said it was a special "Korean" zucchini, but who knows) pick up a few and slice them into 1/4" rounds. Pan fry the rounds in a bit of oil and dip in a sauce made with a a little rice wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, soy sauce and sesame seeds. It was a childhood favorite of mine and I'm always on the lookout for those delicious "korean" zucchinis.

Sep 18, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

enoteca: not very good...

Perhaps they were having an off night, but the pizza was incredibly salty and oily. I could feel the grease drip down my chin with every bite and the salt dehydrated me for days. The ingredients seemed to be of a good quality, but the execution was horribly flawed. The chef somehow found the need to add an extra layer of salt to a cured meat pizza. The margarita was somewhat edible, but honestly the $14 quail egg/proscuitto pizza was the worst pizza I've ever eaten.

Aug 26, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

mediterranean on oltorf?

Eek, I'm not sure about this one, but I had a meal there a few months back that was only memorable because it was bad. Some sort of salad... perhaps their other options are better and I just chose poorly. Let me know!

Aug 13, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

enoteca: not very good...

Ugh, thank you! I was so excited to go to Enoteca after the marvelous review in the fearless critic, but I guess the writer was having a momentary lapse of judgment while critiquing them. Rarely has food been served to me that was that inedible. The pizza was atrocious (Margherita and quail egg/arugula/proscuitto) and the pasta worse. I will say the suppli are good and most of the appetizers seem mildly passable, but that might be giving them too much credit. Shame on Vespaio for tarnishing their name with such a travesty.

Aug 13, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Chowhound Assignment:Your Top 5 Food Carts/Trailers

Has anyone tried Giovanni's Pizza on Barton Skwy and S. Lamar? Everytime I try to go (fighting rushour traffic, no less) I am greeted with a closed door. The first day I found out they open after 5 and yesterday was their "monthy day off". Boo. Anyways, I'm going to try yet again today or tomorrow and report back. Any suggestions on what I should order?

Aug 13, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Bacon

I disagree... I am usually a dark chocoholic, but the saltiness of the bacon would be too savory against a bitter chocolate backdrop. I think the alder smoked salts also balance the smoothness of the milk chocolate with slight crunches of crystals. You should really give it at a try. It's called Mo's Bacon Bar by Vosges and I think they're available at Whole foods and Grapevine market.

Aug 09, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Nice dinner for Veggies and Omnivores

I've actually tried their vegan option, which the chef prepared without any prior notice, and it was definitely one of the best meals I've had in Austin. In fact, it was better than the meat laced prie fixe option.

Aug 09, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Can I get a roti?

Curry in Hurry on Parmer has roti, although I don't have much experience with roti so I don't know how good it is comparitively.

Aug 09, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Pho & Great Steak

Ruth chris is probably one of the worst corporate steak houses imo. I've never had a steak properly cooked there (i've ordered both medium rare and rare, both times it arrived decidedly medium well to well - an irreversable mistake) and the lobster was a) over priced and b) flavorless. If you don't mind the corporate vibe and financial pain of chain steakhouses, try Flemings. They have a supurb mixed grill item with Lamb, Filet and Tiger shrimp (had it in Houston, may be different in Austin). Also, don't miss the fries which are doused in plenty of salt and course cracked pepper.

Jul 17, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Alamo Drafthouse

Midnight espresso milk shake with the candied sunflower seeds is divine... a meal in itself. The hummus should be avoided at all costs... I nearly gagged trying to eat it. The pita was dry, stale and mildly warm. The hummus was oily, flavorless and liquidy. Horrible all around. The fried chicken basket and salads are okay, though.

Jul 05, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Best Restaraunts in Austin

Although wink has disappointed me every time I visit in terms of their pricing, portions and cohesiveness of their dishes, their sister restaurant, Zoot, always wows me. Give Zoot a go, especially their vegetarian tasting menu. I'm actually a big meat eater, but the vegetarian/vegan tasting was not only less expensive ($45 vs. $65), but better in both execution and flavor imo. That's not to say the meaty version was bad (the lamb with fresh beans and fennel custard is to die for), but give the vegetarian option a whirl - you won't regret it.

Jul 05, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Coffee.

What's the best place to get a good cup o' joe/espresso/coffee beverage? I'm a reformed caffeine addict who would like to indulge in a delicious coffee drink on occasion, but only the best since I am limiting my intake. recommendations? I'd prefer to stay within a 15 minute drive of Hyde Park.

Jul 02, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Mandola's Italian Market (Austin)

The gelato is okay, but the ice crystal formation is a bit rigid and the temperature is never right. Also, because there is a lot of ice, it's not as flavorful as their competitors. I would recommend Teo or even the paciugo counter in Central market. Mandola's does have freshness and unique flavors on their side, but the flavors often lack depth and richness. Try Teo (on 38th btw mopac and Lamar). I promise, you'll be floored.

Jul 02, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Mandola's Italian Market (Austin)

Be sure to order a pizza or antipasto platter... other than those items, Mandola's usually flops. At their grand opening, the food was decent, I would even go as far as to say it was good... but i've been so disappointed since that I refuse to order anything other than the aforementioned items which have been consistently tasty.

The bakery at mandola's is the best in town, as far as bread goes. Sometimes the loaves can be way too dense (although the olive bread and sundried tomato with cheese are very good), but the baguette is spot on.

The pastries are usually pretty good... the tarts, cakes and cannolis are, at least. The cookies don't pass muster, though, and at almost a dollar a pop for a tiny cookie, they were disgraceful. I know most of the cookies contain expensive items like pine nuts and almond paste, but $0.75 for a wee little lemon iced cookie? No sir.

Jul 02, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Grape Vine Market.

The chicken pesto was perfectly crisp and delicious. Thanks for the rec. I also tried the joy pepper pizza, also excellent, and their carpaccio is pretty good.

Jun 24, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

[AUS] Quick & Healthy

Koriente... I thought they went a bit too healthy with some of their interpretations of Korean dishes, but if healthy is what you're going for, it's right up your ally. It's easy to call in and take food out, but I dont know how fast it would be otherwise.

Jun 18, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Grape Vine Market.

I love grape vine market's selection of gourmet foods and such, but have yet to try their prepared foods. Does anyone know what's best here? You can find the menu at: http://www.grapevinemarket.com/catego...

Jun 18, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

K is for Korean and Koriente

ban/pan-chan are the little dishes served alongside Korean meals. They are the mark of a good Korean restaurant and should be closely evaluated. The Halmoni (grandmother) makes the different dishes which are very difficult to master. I do like Korea house, but have become spoiled by the great food along Longview in Houston so I'm a hard critic to impress. I have yet to find a Korean restaurant that stands up to the restaurants that have resulted from Houston's dense Korean population (although, Korean food is one of the strongest Asian food offerings in Austin). Does anyone have any suggestions? I frequent most of the places along airport and lamar regularly but have yet to explore beyond there.

Jun 13, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Bagels.

I love a good bagel. For me, bagels must be chewy on the outside with a dense, yeasty and well balanced interior. I have yet to find a bagel shop in Austin other than Einstein's and was hoping to branch out from their corporate carbohydrates. Any suggestions for bagel shops somewhere in the vicinity of central austin?

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Where is the best fried catfish within 25 miles of Austin?

Definitely the best catfish plate I've found thus far in Austin. I went there this past Saturday around dinner time hoping to get a basket of their crisp, perfect soul food, but alas they were closed! I thought it was unusual time to be closed, but I guess you can't ask for too much consistency from a trailer.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Ceviche...to go?

Please, never eat the ceviche at whole foods. I purchased some yesterday thinking it would be great to have as an appetizer for dinner and just about vomited when I put it in my mouth. I couldnt get it down... the flesh exploded with flavor, too bad the flavor was aweful. I think Changos has some form of cerviche to go though.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Mandolas Italian Market-Austin

I've had some good and really really terrible meals at enoteca. What do you get there? the only thing that has been consistently good there has been the suppli. the arugula, procuitto, and quail egg pizza was a monstrosity of salt and oil. The crust was okay, but the gush of lipids and sodium that oozed into my mouth with every bite was just too much to handle. The linguine misto mare and conchiglie ripieno ran into the same problems of being too oily with the latter resembling alpo. I REALLy wanted to like it, but i didn't. Did we just order the wrong thing?

Also, their margherita pizza does not have basil... it has dried oregano. that's not okay. The overuse of arrabiata was evident as well.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Mandolas Italian Market-Austin

The bread is great, although the quality of the loaves has gone down recently. The sourdough, rosemary, whole wheat... they all used to be fluffier and more yeast-y on the interior. They have become very dense and I haven't bothered buying them anymore for the past month. The baguettes are perfect though. No competition in Austin.

The prepared food is mediocre. It was pretty good at opening, but now it's like spaghetti warehouse. The pizzas are still excellent, though. I really like the procuitto arugula.

For gelato, Teo is tops (38th a few blocks west of Lamar). Mandola's can be good, but the flavors are a bit grainy and not strong enough. Go to Teo, you wont be disappointed.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

K is for Korean and Koriente

I'm very on the fence about Koriente. I like their concept, but sometimes I just cannot eat the food. The ingredients are fresh and beautifully presented (they have a good eye for design, evident by the small space), but TOO raw. There is a difference between healthy and overkill raw food movement-esque cuisine. The Veggie tacos were atrocious when I went. It was completely lacking in flavor and the pickled raddish shell just didn't do it for me. Also, why don't they serve kimchi?! It's a "korean" restaurant. Kimchi is essential. No korean kitchen would be caught dead without that staple.

The kalbi pot roast was great though. The kalbi jigae of my youth was much thicker and heavy... this was light but still satisfying. I think this kind of subtle nutritious upgrade was what they were going for with all their dishes, but many missed the mark. The japchei, kare and bibimbap is good too... although the bibimbap is terrible with the noodles and authentic bibimbap MUST have an egg on it. The egg is essential to creating the sauce.

The tea selection is pretty good. They have the typical jasmine pearls and silver needles, but they advertise the teas as if they have the rarest teas in the world. These are not THAT rare, but are still better than most Austin establishments. Go to the Tea Embassy for really rare stuff.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Great Burger

I had a similar experience. I raved to all my friends about Casino El Camino and was horrified the next time I visited and was met with an overcooked patty. They were my shining example of the perfect burger... I hope someone is just taking a vacation from the kitchen and will be back very soon.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin

Foodheads-- Why bother

Don't go for the pastrami... go for the Lamb and grilled eggplant with cucumber dill mayo or the gypsygrove (pork tenderloin - although, admittedly it is oftentimes overcooked - tabasco, a fried egg, their amazing slaw... try to get it on cibatta). In other words, go for a specialty sandwich. They're not famous for a reuben, pastrami on rye or ham and cheese. They're famous for their flair for fresh, seasonal ingredients, making absolutely everything from scratch, and their love of playful sandwiches. Try one of the two mentioned above or the chicken special and you cannot go wrong (avoid the lami though - the salami slams you with salt and is a hard bite to recover from in terms of hydration).

The soups can be a bit hit or miss since most are made only a few times and are not well practiced regulars on the menu, but sometimes they are exquisite. Also, give their salads a try; the cobb and spring green are my favorite.

Jun 12, 2007
foodiefound in Austin