tom in austin's Profile
I've never had good fast food crinkle fries, with the exception of Mighty Fine's, which are excellent.
Culver's, White Castle, Crystal's, Church's; the fries are all pretty bad. I haven't had Burger King's new ones (nor will I, barring an unforeseen dining mishap).
I'll try Shake Shack's as soon as I get the chance.
I also live in the area and have been In Search Of. I've done China Hill a few times and haven't seen it, but that could be my fault - what should I order?
LA BBQ is your best bet; a bit of a hike (or a very, very short cab ride), but worth it. http://labarbecue.com/
Jack Allen Kitchen's Diana Sanchez, maker of nigh-immortal desserts, has thrown in with the newest scrumptious east austin popup. She isn't alone.
Have you ever had a dessert at Jack Allen Kitchen? Even Phillip Speer gushes over the yumminess. Now that she is joining forces with Scrumptiouschef and Cream Team's Nathan Myhrvold-inspired cheese attack, this is a done deal.
Let's make this a Chow Austin meetup, in the memory of what we once were, and what we could be again.
To begin the process of determining the best burger in Austin, we should start with a decent list of all possible contenders (regardless of whether you prefer fancy burgers, fat burgers, or skinny burgers). An attempt, let me know if I'm missing any legitimate burgers worthy of consideration.
I'm ordering them deliberately into what I deem their conceptual groupings.
How anyone could call Franklin, the most consistent quality BBQ I've ever experienced, a "crapshoot" is completely beyond me. Everything about the place is outrageously certain; here are six things that you're assured to experience if you go to Franklin in the next week or two:
1. You will need to get there around 7 AM if you want to eat around 11:15 AM. This number keeps inching earlier and earlier.
2. It will deliver insanely great brisket. Only a few places can do better, and then, only sometimes. Franklin's average is meaningfully higher than any other place I've ever been to.
3. It will be a giant pain in the arse.
4. Aaron will probably be there; in fact, he'll probably slice your brisket himself. I've been there more than a dozen times, and only once was he not there, and only 2-3 times did he not work behind the counter.
5. It will be absurdly expensive, especially given the emotional costs already paid for having waited so long.
6. It will nearly ruin you on many other barbecue spots that you've long visited. You'll begin to notice that their best efforts are as good as what you had at Franklin, but that your old faves are annoyingly erratic in the quality of their finished product. It'll start to eat at you... It used to be so easy to justify a trip to Lockhart, Luling, Llano; now, just get up early and get in line and your assured an experience as-good-or-better, and without the ding from the rising price of gas.
Dagoose, well done w/ the post-trip report. You got a lot of the "Now" of Austin in on your trip and I'm glad you had a good time.
Dagoose, here are my notes on this thread.
First, Thai Noodle House on Guadalupe used to be absolutely terrible, but I haven't been there in many years, and I had figured it had closed by now. I'm going to cross my fingers that it has recently been rebooted and is now a shining example of Thai for Austin. (Anyone have some info here from recent visits? I'm hopefully just behind the times.)
As for ranking the places listed in this thread for fancyish dining, here we go:
If you take the Cisco's, Tacodeli, and Lambert's recommendations, you're going to get a very distorted idea of what Austin does best. Our town's tacos and BBQ are fantastic. To put up a straw man, it'd be a real shame if you came to town and hit Bill Miller BBQ and Taco Cabana.
Commentary like this, "no one wants to admit after waiting that long the bbq ia just ...well...bbq" reveals that the poster doesn't appreciate BBQ the way some others do, so take her advice in this field with a grain of salt. I definitely admit that Franklin (and the Austin BBQ zeitgeist) is surrounded by irrational exuberance, obnoxious lines/waits, and usurious price hikes. That being said, comparing Franklin to Lambert's brisket and finding them approximately equal is fundamentally absurd. That being said, LA BBQ, John Mueller, and Stiles Switch are all great w/o the wait.
Dagoose, it all depends on what you want from your Austin experience. If you want our best restaurants, period, that is a different experience than asking for the best things that you couldn't get at home. Do you want to optimize towards any personal preferences? Based on your comment: "Mostly looking for things that are either specifically Austin (like breakfast tacos, which I'm pretty excited about, because I love both breakfast AND tacos) and things that we can't get here in the NW--like super solid Mexican food, BBQ, etc.," I would very specifically steer you away from things like Lambert's [upscale, decent brunch, but mediocre BBQ], Cisco's [decent chow, but its fame is more a factor of nostaliga - definitely a genuine Austin landmark though], and Tacodeli [a modern Austin taco chain; decent, but far from what I think you're looking for]. You know my opinion on the matter as to what makes for good BBQ and tacos, as you've read the thread where I provided an itinerary for a 'hound visiting from NY.
That being said, so I can better calibrate: can you tell me what sort of Mexican food you're after? Cheesy plates of enchiladas con carne with beans and rice? Or tacos al pastor, carnitas, barbacoa, etc. on just-made tortillas? Both are legitimate, but they're rarely available at the same venue.
> Canada vs USA taco throwdown
Uhhhh. If the contest is fair, I think I can predict the winner.
For the sort of cachet you're talking about, I'm guessing you want Franklin? Just put the brisket on a tortilla.
Austin's great taco thing is that we have all these great places to get tacos. We don't have a Franklin of tacos; we've kept it much more distributed (and thankfully, with much fewer long waits and much cheaper prices).
You could go to a mini-chain like Torchy's or Tacodeli or Taco Shack or Taqueria Arandas, etc., but you're seriously missing the point if you do this. None of them have the credibility or universal foodie acclaim of (for example) Tacos Rico. http://www.yelp.com/biz/el-taco-rico-...
If you have to pick one of these sorts of places, I'd say flip a coin between Torchy's and Tacodeli. If this is the way you're picking the contestants, there is a good chance Canada could win! ;)
Good news. John Mueller will be open on the 4th.
"Great news, patriots! John Mueller Meat Co will be open on 4th July. Celebrating Independence through BBQ." via https://www.facebook.com/johnmuellerm...
I've got a couple friends who are running trailers, and they say it is tough. Without full facilities you're guessing on product day to day, and extremely erratic business curves mean you can't easily capitalize on the rare surge in business because you can't hedge bets with greater on-hand inventory.
The good news is the overhead is lower, so you can afford to do it at a loss for longer.
I think a large business with central facilities managing a fleet of trailers could destroy these issues, having a true best-of-both-worlds scenario. Called "roach coaches" on the west coast, these traveling feed bags should have low prices and usually do.
But for the bespoke trailer owner with scant resources? That markup keeps them alive while they try their best to make every plate count and hope for something viral to happen. (Figuratively. Literally viral would be bad.)
Indiefoodie, I made an assumption that German, Southern and Soul cuisine would all have strong NYC representation. I cannot say whether this is true. While Austin may surpass NYC in these areas, it is hard to tout since we're so far behind other regions for these cuisines. To some extent, it is like telling a visitor from Tokyo to get Mexican food in Boise. Sure, it is better than Tokyo's Mexican food, but still a considerable distance from San Antonio.
My favorite CFS in Austin was at Tony's Southern Comfort, RIP.
"La Condesa or El Naranjo. Period. Curra's and Fonda San Miguel are both sentimental favorites but their food doesn't even come close to the first two."
La Condesa and El Naranjo are both great restaurants with better food than Fonda San Miguel; all three are in the same price bracket, and are fancy dining destinations. Fonda is absolutely a sentimental favorite, as you say.
However, if you're looking for some sort of optimization between Austin and delicious, why go with La Condesa or El Naranjo? You can have similar experiences in Dallas or Los Angeles or NYC.
(And obviously, Curra's is in a different category altogether, occupied by places like Polvo's, El Chile, etc.: much more affordable, much more laid back. The venerable MPH had some acronym he'd use for this sort of place that I can't quite recall.)
So if we're looking for pure deliciousness, removing Austin as a factor, Uchi/Uchiko, Barley Swine, Parkside, (and, I'd argue, Sway) are clear winners over both La Condesa and El Naranjo.
Certainly a New Yorker should recognize the influence of David Chang a bit in Uchi and a lot in Uchiko and East Side Kings; yet, the OP stated a desire to hit an ESK joint. I could just direct OP to tour every restaurant with "Momofuku" in the name, plus Má Pêche, Milk Bar, etc. and supplant all Paul Qui offerings.
What can you find in Austin that NYC cannot compete with, from a pure deliciousness perspective?
It depends what OP is after. Are they purely chasing deliciousness? Then they better not miss Franklin. Are they chasing Austin and/or Texan experiences? Then both Franklin and Lockhart's trifecta are great options.
And in no case is La Condesa (for example) an Austin experience; it is very good food, and the vibe is Dallas. If you're looking for the spirit of Austin, you won't find it there.
Parkside has TVs in the bar area. You could call and ask if they'll have sound turned on during the game.
(Probably not, but the food is really great.)
Cover 3 is decent, way above average for a sports bar. I'd be worried that it'll be packed to the gills for this game, but who knows, and heck, maybe that'd be fun.
Other options along these lines are the Tavern (Lamar and 12th) and Third Base (West 6th and Mopac), both above average for a sports bar, but not nearly as good as Cover 3.
Pre-order: You're just getting the first off-the-smoker meats. Call the number on their website. I've done it a few times.
The thread, as far as I can tell: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590507
"(W)e ended up at The BackStage Steakhouse"
Backstage Steakhouse was one of my favorite restaurants in/near Austin; you had the good fortune of visiting it just before it shuttered. (Hopefully during that decline it was still excellent.) After it closed, executive chef Ray Tatum (formerly of Jeffrey's) opened a trailer called Three Little Pigs. http://3littlepigsaustin.com/
Other advice in the thread:
"Salt Lick. ... Billys Brew and BBQ ... County Line ... Stubbs and Ironworks down town are great as well. ... Evangeline Cafe on Brody(sic)"
Salt Lick is just OK. It gets more hate and more love then deserved. Some people swear by their slaw, others by their sauce. Clearly more of an Austin institution then a place for great chow. On a good day, their beef ribs (not part of their standard family style) and their pork ribs are their standout items, IMHO. Brisket highly erratic, possibly because it is rushed.
Billy's is worse than Salt Lick, as is County Line (a chain). Stubb's isn't serious barbecue, but definitely an Austin institution that you should catch a show at. Iron Works never had great brisket, but had some of the best beef ribs and sausage inside the city limits before the recent renaissance that has put it at the back of the leader board. Evangeline on Brodie is a spunky, homestyle Cajun joint. I like it, but not because the food is great.
"Polvos on 1st st has awesome authentic menu(little austin secret) Curra's on Oltorf is another authentic choice. El Arroyo on 5th is great. Guerro's on Congress is over rated but nice so instead go to this one down the street: El Sol Y La Luna. Enchiladas Y Mas on Anderson(north austin)"
El Arroyo is completely mediocre at best; calling it great while slamming Guerro's is silly. El Sol Y La Luna was already on its steady decline in 2009 and cannot be considered a good option. (In 2002, it was a very nice place to eat instead of then-nearby Guerro's.) Enchiladas Y Mas is a fantastic place to get classic, gloopy Tex-Mex, as is (for example) Dart Bowl; I don't think it is what the OP is after. (Note: calling Polvo's an Austin secret in 2009 is really quite bizarre.)
"Austin Java, Marias Tacos, Magnolia Cafe has absolutely awesome pancakes and migas."
These are terrible options. People go to Mags (Magnolia) because it is open 24 hours. Magnolia is inferior in almost every way to Kerbey Lane, which is also bad, although superior in almost every way to Star Seeds, another all night spot. (I'd rather find a 24 hour minimart and buy a handful of Slim Jims and a Topo Chico than go to Star Seeds.) Austin Java is solidly mediocre, but it'd be a real shame if you went there on any trip to Austin that was shorter than 3-4 weeks.
"Threadgills is a restaurant on N Lamar or on Barton Springs that has homestyle cooking and is awesome!"
I like the place, for what it is, but per a friend who worked there, they get their copious vegetable sides out of cans, not fresh. Going to the original location is probably a good lunch stop if you're in Austin for more than a three weeks.
"Green Mesquite ... I did a simple search on this board, and while there are critics, the general comments about the place are quite positive..."
I'm torn on this one. I love the place, and have been going since the mid-90s, but their food isn't great. Hitting Green Mesquite for near-frozen beer to recuperate after a run around Town Lake: that is what this place is for! I like their chopped beef, which is considered the most pedestrian BBQ offering, but whatevs. In 1999, I would have told you it was one of the top five barbecue joints in the city limits. That is just not the case anymore. That said, I'd rather eat a BBQ-only plate at Green Mesquite than Lambert's.
"I'd recommend getting the Don Juan taco at Juan in a Million."
Juan in a Million's breakfast tacos are the epitome of the gringo breakfast taco style - big flour tortillas with lots of scrambled egg, bacon, orange-yellow shredded cheese, and copious red salsa. Nothing wrong with it if that is what you're seeking. Not my personal jam, and if I am craving that sort of food, I hit El Meson Burleson and special order it; freshly made flour tortillas. "Made in the light, it must be right."
"Don't miss Uchi. ... The best BBQ in Austin proper is definitely at Sam's, ... And another halfhour south on 183, in Lockhart, are the big three BBQ legends -- Black's, Smitty's, and Kreiz's(sp)."
Best advice in the thread. Uchi is amazing, possibly a top five national sushi contender (in landlocked Austin!). And in 2009, my top five picks for BBQ in Austin city limits would have definitely included Sam's, House Park, Ben's Longbranch, Ruby's, and Iron Works, although not in that order.
"Steakhouse - either Sullivan's of Fleming's... I would suggest County Line... Eddie V's, downtown location... Matt's El Rancho for Tex-Mex... Z'Tejas or Fonda San Miguel for interior-type Mexican food..."
Sullivan's Austin used to be great, and their bar burger was one of the best burgers in town. Last few trips there for steak were downright insulting.
County Line is one of the better BBQ chains, superior to Bill Miller or Dickie's, inferior to Rudy's (not related to Ruby's). Not for serious destination consideration.
Matt's El Rancho is a genuine Austin landmark. Like Dart Bowl referenced earlier, if you're wanting to hit Critical Austin Spots, frankly, Matt's is totally legit. Their food is just OK. I like the Bob Armstrong, which is a bowl of hot velveeta with a bunch of stuff in it, and their brisket tacos. It is made more special by the fact that my parents' generation (and probably your parents' parents' generation) adored the place when they attended UT.
Z Tejas is not interior Mexican in any authentic capacity, but its founder bears the honor of siring and raising Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine fame. Bryce is the heir to Z Tejas?
Fonda is the Grand Old Lady of Austin dining. Still going strong. I love her, but she is showing her age. She has weathered it better than Castle Hill/Corazon, but still, long in the tooth and getting less reliable all the time, with a bigger final ticket. If you're staying in Austin two weeks or more, I'd make it a dinner or brunch spot.
"I live in NY which has pretty decent pizza, I wasn't very keen on it."
Via 313 is probably worse than what a NYer can easily score, although it is important to note that it isn't NY-style pizza; it is "Detroit-style": http://via313.com/style
"The area that you mentioned - what is it like? Bar scene, artsy, something else?"
I'm notoriously vacant about those sorts of atmospheric concerns, being focused on chow & drink yumminess, and to some extent finding all such nightlife obscure (and often, vaguely irritating). Hopefully someone else can chime in here. I think the area has a lot of bars and food trailers along a strip of road and should be pretty fun? Somebody help w/ better descriptors.
"Based on what I read, there seem to be mixed reviews about Curra's... Polvo's... La Condesa."
La Condesa has the best food of those three, and it isn't close, but it is also pretty far from an Austin experience. I wasn't intending to put La Condesa up against Curra's for the final stop on your taco tour, rather up against Barley Swine+Lick. In my opinion, Barley Swine blows La Condesa out of the water, again, not close. Curra's and Polvo's aren't epicurean delights, but they are both unequivocally classic South Austin slacker/hipster hangover joints. Between the two, Polvo's clearly trails Curra's IMHO, YMMV, mostly on the back of Curra's being more consistent, having much better service, and turning in a very good pibil. (El Meson, Fonda San Miguel, Curra's: in what order? On a good day, Curra's is number one.) You also mentioned tamales, which they have. [Protip: Tamale House doesn't have tamales.]
"I'll try to squeeze in Mueller."
If I were you, I'd include JMueller in your July 4th plans for a local BBQ tour and kill the Lockhart trip altogether, as I said earlier. If your heart is set on a road trip, do it, but when you finally do eat at Mueller, LABBQ, or Franklin and say, "WTF!? this is tons better than the Lockhart stuff -- huh!?" don't say I didn't warn you. If you're insisting on a road trip, Louis Mueller, Cooper's, Opie's, and Luling City Market are all preferred over what I'm now getting in Lockhart. (Snow's too, obviously, but that is Saturday AM only.)
"The 2.5+ hour wait for Franklin, in the blazing July sun is scary :("
It is truly a miserable experience. Get there early enough to be first in line, giving you a coveted seat under the thin awning (and thusly, maximum shade). Bring a big cooler full of ice, beer, and bottled water. Consider bringing a battery powered fan. Hit Home Depot nearby and buy some 6 dollar tailgating chairs. Bring laptops or something and catch up on your correspondence. Better yet, drink and share beers with people in line. Talk Austin, barbecue, Texas, food, and so on with the throng. This is a hazing. It will suck, but at least there is the social experience of doing it together with other people. I'm sorry. I wish it wasn't like this, but it is an Austin experience. It won't always be like this (for one reason or another), and having been through it is something you'll share w/ a lot of other aficionados, zealots, and bandwagoners. (I will say this: I'd rather wait 2.5 hours on a July morning to be first at Franklin then wait 30 minutes for a beer at a packed hipster bar.)
You wouldn't be blamed for skipping it, certainly. You do have another option, if what you're seeking is just food. You can call ahead to pre-order. You'll need to order above a certain threshold, and you'll need to fit to their schedule (better call soon), but then you just show up at 10:30, go in early, and leave w/ your to-go order.
"East Side King @ Shangri-La and LibertyBar is open till 1:45. I was thinking that I could go here from the airport on Wed. How does that sound? Also, which location is better? The LibertyBar one has the beet fries (which I think are good) but Shangri-La seems like a more exciting menu to me."
It sounds like you'll miss Via 313 if you go that route. Their hours are Tue/Wed: 5p - 12a, Thu-Sat: 5p - 2a. I also think you're not leaving enough time to hang out in that area. YMMV.
"I was thinking of a sit down Mexican meal @ La Condesa."
It's alright. It isn't Austin. It is to Mexican as Sway is to Thai, and FWIW I think Sway is better. I'd slot in Barley Swine way ahead of either: Bryce Gilmore is an Austin success story, much like Tyson Cole, Paul Qui, and Shawn Cirkeil.
"Tom, thank you very much for your detailed answer."
You're welcome! I should have also mentioned fajitas at Habanero on Oltorf, which is also in the area, for your taco tour. A single mesquite-fired, toothsome fajita taco will do ya. Lots of tacos to consume in your tour. Additionally, you mentioned craving tamales; Curra's has them and they're above decent. They also do a decent mole, all in addition to a cochinita pibil that is top three in town, so there is another reason to end there. People love their avocado margaritas as well (I think they're kind of vile, but seriously you might love them, people do). Additionally, I think Curra's is a quintessential South Austinite joint, whatever that means. [So is Polvo's, but the food there erratic, prone to grossness, and the service abysmal.]
"John Mueller's new place is a must do. Would it be possible to squeeze that in post Franklin?"
Absolutely, assuming it is open. It doesn't have comparable crowds to Franklin. I wouldn't personally skip Franklin, as right now it is the quintessential Austin experience, including the grueling and lame line waiting experience. When telling Austin stories, if you don't have a getting-to-Franklin-at-8:30-AM story, you're kind of missing the resonant figurehead of our current barbecue zeitgeist.
Welcome to my nabe, popvulture! Off the top of my head, here we go:
Mexican is great down here - south and east Austin rule this category. There are more then a dozen options for this down here. If not for my explorations and adventures into this field, I would have completely despaired for our hood's cuisine. Sadly, this is the only category that we win, and I'm throwing a wiiiiide net with who I'm claiming as ours, mostly because I'll drive much further for a taco then other foods.
Indian is good, mostly carried by the strong shoulders of Asiana and Whip In. The Clay Pit fast food place (Tarka) is decent, too.
Chinese is bad - the best I've found is the non-gringo menu at Tien Jin, which still isn't good. Nothing in the same orbit as the northern options. Hao Hao's Chinese menu is alright I guess. Their Vietnamese menu is good. They have a soup I love.
Sap's is great, and if you're near Westgate that means you'll probably eat there twice a month. Subsin's, like Sawadee before it, was poorly seasoned. Haven't been to its most recent incarnation (Tuk Tuk).
For Cajun, Cypress Grill is decent, but Evangeline is a treasure. I don't think the food is masterful, but something about the place is charming beyond the chow alone. I'm supposed to be immune to those sorts of effects. Likewise to Mandola's for Italian near Costco: the food isn't great, but if you have kids, it is a great option w/ affordable kid plates that they're likely to enjoy. It has a bocce court, a rather nice hidden playground behind it, and a toystore a few doors down.
Our pizza down here is terrible. Yaghi's, Double Dave's, Austin's are our best options; all poor replacements for Homeslice, Enoteca, East Side Pies, Cipollina, Salvation, Via 313, Spartan, etc. I'd say Mandola is your best bet for pizza. Yeesh.
Mighty Fine gives you a strong "simple burger" option. I think they're quite yummy. P Terry's, Five Guys, Dan's, Red's, Whataburger, Short Stop, and Culver's round out your other burger options down here, I think. No Hopdoddy/Barlett's/Bar Congress/Parkside/Counter Cafe-class fancyburgers, at least as far as I can recollect.
Barbecue is pretty crap. Best option is probably Vic's or Railroad Bar-B-Que. We also have Bill Miller, Dickey's, etc.
Tony (of Tony's Southern Comfort fame [how I miss thee!]) cooks fried chicken once a week at Hyde Park Bar & Grill; that's a treat. Somehow not the same as his old joint.
No worthy upscale to speak of. Best fancy choice in our territory... It doesn't really count, sort of out of bounds to the west, but Jack Allen's is really good.
Welcome to the land of "COMFY FATTIES"! (See attached map graphic.) Let us know what cool things you find!
Based on your comments, I've planned your itinerary. Have fun.
Wed: "It'll be 12:00 in the night before we get anywhere. ... Any suggestions for an awesome late night dinner place?"
Thu (July 4th): "We're planning to drive down to Lockhart. ... I was hoping to try East Side King and if possible, some other must visit food trucks and then maybe check out some of the bars"
The current pack at Franklin requires that you get there at 8:15AM if you want to score first in line. By 9:30, you may well be too late. This is updated recon after the most recent Texas Monthly tizzy, and is bad news for us Franklin fans, as it used to be that 9:15-30AM was good enough for first. There is free, open wireless: bring a laptop and a few tallboys, get some work done and start with the hair of the dog.
Don't miss this, y'all. For extra insanity, RL is offering this hellacious dare: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2013/6/6/Attention-Austin-Texas-Competitive-Eaters-Take-Our-Mega-Beef-Burger-Pop-Up-Restaurant-Challenge
"Here's the challenge: Our Mega Beef Burger.
If you require crab legs or claws, you're going to seriously cut down on your options. I've collected some menus for you to peruse. Good luck!
Decent Austin seafood places (not including sushi or Chinese, which I doubt is what you're after):
Justine's isn't a seafood place, but fish is the best thing to get there. Actually, a number of other places have solid fish options (Parkside, Wink, Chez Nous, Whole Foods and many more) but they definitely aren't seafood places.
If I had one non-sushi, non-Chinese seafood meal to eat in Austin, it'd be Clark's.
I think the steaks at Vespaio are always very good, sometimes excellent. (The hanger steak next door at Enoteca is decent, but often a little overseasoned.)
Post-Backstage Steakhouse (RIP), El Arbol (RIP) was the answer to this, but now it is Olive & June. I do love Shawn's cooking; it is possible their steak (still oak-fired, per the menu) is the answer.
Went to Sway on what I hope is the busiest they get (2 hour wait). Food was delicious, portions were generous, service was enthusiastic.
Everything hit the table at approximately the same time and we shared everything family style: prawn miange, shu mai, jungle curry, pad thai, son in law, and blue crab fried rice. Shared the banana split for dessert.
I went in having been warned that it was Dallas-esque. This was not true. Everything was great. Absolutely exceeding my expectations. Resplendent dishes. Vibrant, fresh, bright, and citrus flavors trading off with sumptuous, hearty flavors. Exceptional balance to everything. I should probably go into depth on the specific dishes before I forget them. Maybe later.
On top of that, the prices were on the high end of fair, but certainly not fiendish. Approximately $35 per person total.
The only drawback is that this place is absolutely not a secret. We didn't have to wait there (ran the clock out at a friend's house a block away) which would have been obnoxious given the bruising throng. If not for that convenience, I would definitely not have waited.
Reading the other reviews of Sway on Chowhound Austin, I have to think they've worked out some of the kinks reported on this and other threads. The only thing that they're obviously still quite bad at is dealing with the bone crushing demand. Then again, maybe that had something to do with it being graduation weekend for UT.
Better than expected; a pleasant surprise given what I had heard.
Naw. While I don't find their selections remarkable, they certainly make sense.
Wonder how they stack up against this: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/16/t...
This is timely: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/i...
If you like that sort of breakfast taco, try the ones at Counter Cafe. Ridiculously overpriced, but that classic, simple americanized breakfast taco taken to its conclusion.
For me, I want to get away from something that hints of a diner. For me, love in taco form is El Meson Burleson. Migas with potatoes on flour.
The guy crush-dices up some peppers on the griddle and throws on a slab of butter, which starts to melt with a quick sizzle. Cubed, blanched potatoes go on next and they begin to trade water for lipids, infusing the potato with pepper flavor and a surly heat. The potatoes get shuffled around, flipped a bit, and begin to gently crisp when they're pulled out of there and thrust on to a mattress of migas on a fluffy, freshly-made flour tortilla bed.
You can stop there if you want. Or you could have a handful of white, shredded cheese thrown on. Or you could go back in time and have that migas made with chorizo. And this ain't a molina, but even the venerable MPH called their flour tortillas the best in Austin. [Note: they run out and use storeboughts fairly often.]
I like all the other places that give me that greasy meat with fluffy scrambled eggs and cheese on a store-bought. I get what you're saying: diner components on a tortilla. If you love it, awesome, it is definitely the way most places do it. Waterloo Icehouse does it that way. Juan in a Million. Polvo's. Torchy's. Jim's. Austin Java. Whataburger calls them "taquitos". If this is what you prefer, you're in luck, and chasing down the best of this type in Austin is a worthy quest. (Like I said earlier, give Counter Cafe a try, I think for this type of b-fast taco they're near the top.)
But for me, if I'm having an eggy breakfast taco, I do love me some Mexican influence in there. Just my preference, and YMMV. If I'm at Torchy's, I'm going to ask them to do what they do best: give me an upscale, grotesque KFC bowl on a store bought tortilla, smear it with green chiles and queso, and call that fiendish abomination lunch. I wouldn't go there for anything delicate or refined, and I wouldn't go there for diner-style breakfast tacos; then again, maybe I don't understand them! :)
My repeat attempts at Torchy's breakfast tacos have revealed them to be gross. (I'm talking about egg+item tacos.) I wrote about one of those visits on Chowhound years back.
Somebody in that thread advised me to try their non-breakfast tacos, which is a good call. I especially like their more grotesque, creative things, like the one where they put a Whataburger chicken finger on a taco with queso. They had a special a few months back that basically put a Dairy Queen steak finger on a taco, that was crazy. To make it as deliciously blasphemous and vile as I could, I special-ordered a taco with both on them, plus queso, chorizo, and jalapeños. Where else in Austin could you even get this item!? The people behind the counter were into it.
So there you go: I have no problem with Torchy's, I just think in a thread about the best breakfast tacos in Austin, it is a sad thing to see. Perhaps I take the word "best" a bit too seriously.
Next up we'll see Rudy's in a thread about best BBQ.
People! What the hell is happening here? Most of these folk don't even make fresh tortillas. (Not even addressing overcooking eggs, sourcing mediocre chorizo, under and overcooking bacon, etc.)
El Meson on Burleson remains the king of breakfast tacos. They make the tortillas fresh, and you aren't likely to have better migas in your lifetime. If you're opulent and decadent and seeking tricked-out jams, get the chori-migas w/ cheese on flour.
La Flor on South 1st also makes their own tortillas and suburb bfast tacos, although not at El Meson Burleson levels IMHO. Yelp it, everything is great here.
Habanero on Oltorf serves excellent breakfast tacos of all stripes, although I think they are far from perfect.
Mi Ranchito on Wm Cannon & Pleasant Valley is a jam waiting to happen. Their tortillas are often store-bought, but their filling is legit.
Tamale House is gross, w/ leathery, store-bought tacos, but their migas w/ cheese is actually bad-ass. Order it w/ flour tortillas served w/in a 1-2 day window from a molina nearby and you'll get a cheesy, eggy jam.
And there are many more!
Are we really at the terrible place where Maudie's, Torchy's, and Mi Madre's is what we recognize as top-tier breakfast tacos? Holy crap. These are dark times in Austin. I could name five more places, easily, way out in front ahead of these options. [And fwiw I appropriately appreciate Maudie's bfast taco offerings, especially Pete's and Tatiana's, as well as Torchy's luncheon-focused tacos like that whack-ass chicken strip taco w/ queso.]
Dark times on Chowhound Austin.