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Golden Corral

I'll admit that in my quest to understand all steak, chain and non-chain, in Austin, I've attempted Golden Corral.

Not good.

Dec 16, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Sad Day...

Get in there for a Willie Burger before it's too late. A heavenly sandwich. Two crispy, thick slices of bacon and six or seven pickled jalapeno slivers glued to the beef patty with a gently melted piece of swiss cheese.

Lettuce/onion/tomato/pickle for decoration, fries passable. Pairs perfectly with a Jumbo Guinness.

The new location may be completely "reinvented"; better safe than sorry.

Photo attached.

Oct 25, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

You're leaving Austin for good, take one taco with you and tell us why.

I'll assume this challenge comes with a time machine, and I'll pick El Meson Burleson at the height of their powers in the mid-2000s.

I'll also take a breakfast taco. As foodiegal71 said, if I'm leaving Austin, I should take what they do best with me. Other cities understand Mexican food and tacos, but nobody on earth groks the breakfast taco like Austin, Texas.

And at their best, El Meson was the best breakfast taco in town. Second place was closer to tenth place than to El Meson.

You have to understand, see, what was happening here. There was this virtuoso cook running multiple, huge flat tops in a delicate dance of power. Every motion in perfect place, nimbly nuancing the finely-cubed potatoes with a sizzling sea of butter, diced onion & peppers; trading starchy waters for lipid-fused spices, caramelizing natural sugars.

The love that the potatoes received was all-the-more staggering given how perfectly on point the migas was. I've watched this man make migas dozens of times, taking notes, trying to emulate his perfect simplicity at home, even finally being bold enough to ask questions. I had gotten to the point where I was almost brave enough to take a video, but it somehow seemed like a blasphemy to his art.

Ten thousand hours of perfecting migas (or more!) must have gone into what this fellow effortlessly delivered in an environment that is an ADHD nightmare. Everything moving. Tickets stacking up. Customers milling about, filling plastic containers with salsas (one of El Meson's three achilles heels was their only-pretty-good homemade salsas), noisily getting ice and soda from the dispenser, trading quips with his backup band, the lady who freshly made the flour and corn tortillas from scratch for those flat tops to griddle just before you ate them. That migas, made amongst dozens of different orders and distractions, made as if he was some new life form that had been evolved over millenia through natural selection in which survival of the fittest meant making the Best Migas Ever Even Under Duress.

And next to the potatoes cooking on the flat top and the array of beaten, weathered, possibly-carcinogenic pans where the migas and other huevos orders promptly cooked (and never overcooked!), a row of sizzling, thick whole strips of bacon lined up on the sparse remaining griddle space. Their angry hiss a litany of porky promises - what was to come when you first bit through that fresh, just-made flour tortilla into an egg, bacon, potato taco.

Take your Taco Delis and Torchys and Mi Madres. I'd even trade Verecruz, La Flor, and Tacos Rico for that cool autumn morning after daylight's savings time has ended but before Christmas, the sky grey and the omen of breakfast hanging in the air with smoke and grease over the crowded parking lot, the certainty that I'd be eating Austin's best breakfast taco causing me to smile before I'd even closed my car door to go inside. Your only regret with this meal was that you had just the one stomach to fill. And in the spirit of this exercise, what single taco would it be? Bacon-egg-potato-cheese? Migas-chorizo? I'll never tell, and maybe never know.

Oct 20, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

WTF, People! Wink - NOT Hungry by a Looooong Shot

I love Wink, but we've been panning them on CH for their erratic nature for a decade, well before the current Austin food scene zeitgeist (which I'd describe as the post-trailer epoch; witness Qui, brick and mortar Odd Duck, etc). For example, this thread:

Great place. Sometimes they miss.

Jun 29, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Best Food Items at Spec's?

Solid burger at Spec's Brodie, for sure.

Jun 20, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Any Recent Visits to Wink?

Our recent visit was very good. Solid choice.

Jun 20, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Tom Yum soup in Austin (or other delicious cures for the common cold)?

It's on the menu as vietnamese hout & sour chicken soup. I'm not sure why the old Chow location targeting picked a RR location; I frequent the WM (and many years ago, the Dobie).

May 09, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Tamale House to close

RIP Mr. Vasquez. You will be missed.

May 05, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Pleasant Storage Room

Went to a party at PSR tonight (in Saba's former space between Fado and Truluck's). Amazing drinks, and the soft opening menu offered up a sublime cubano. They had food out from the whole soft opening menu, but I only snagged the sandwich. I'd like that again for breakfast tomorrow.

I don't think I've ever seen as much meticulous focus in libation preparation - a friendly intensity. And the results were yummy, although I know very little about rum, which PSR specializes in.

I'll be back to sample the full menu.

Apr 12, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Austin Meetup


"Join the Scrumptious Chef cooking team Saturday, April 5th at 7pm at Tamale House East as they bring their considerable powers to bear on the ancient art of charcuterie.

"Expect an extravaganza of slow cured heritage meats: Benton's Country Ham (served at Momofuku and The French Laundry) Smoked Slab Bacon, 36 Hour Porchetta, Boudin, Anson Mills Jalapeno Cheddar Grits and Poteet Strawberry Cobbler among other dishes."

Mar 27, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Austin Meetup

Via Scrumptious: "Howdy
We're going live again on Sat April 5th at Tamale House East with Masters of Pork: East Austin Charcuterie Project. It's a cured meat joint with Benton's Ham, 36 hour porchetta, BLT and Smoked Shrimp Boudin. 7pm"

Sounds awesome! What do y'all say?

Mar 11, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Austin Meetup

Great plan. I'd only suggest one mild turn: SXSW doesn't wind down until Sunday. Should we kick the can to a later date to make sure things aren't obnoxious? I'm game to punt if y'all are...

As for venue, I'm wide open.

The best possible choice is clearly a Scrumptiouschef-organized popup, usually at Tamale House East. It keeps it "in the family" and guarantees his involvement.

Probably the three most incendiary choices would be Franklin, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, and Hopdoddy; they all have absurd lines/waits that make them fundamentally questionable dining decisions, yet everyone seems to enjoy their product. Luckily we're saved from feuding on these points, as the wait times themselves make them impractical meetup options. More's the pity, especially regarding the ramen, where I'm on the fence. Franklin is hellish-yet-worth-it, and Hopdoddy is (to me!) clearly not, and somehow icky almost to the cusp of ghoulishness. Tatsu-Ya is the dweller on the threshold of a particular catastrophe theorem, and IMHO the jury is still out, maybe way out.

If we're not doing a Scrumptious joint, I'd lean more towards any place with amazing Chinese or Korean, especially the authentic, North, Far North, and NW Austin choices. I'd also consider a trailer like Via 313 @ Violet Crown, or anything else similar (in demesne, not food trope).

Best way to reach me is email or via this site. 'Looking forward to it!

Mar 10, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Austin Meetup

I'm game. Let's pick something great. I'd prefer something with a hotly contested, almost controversial scorecard, and it should be newish as well, or a hidden sleeper newly on the rise.

Also: please invite now-offsite legends like MPH and Scrumptiouschef.

Mar 09, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Favorite Fajitas in Austin?

Habanero's toothsome fajitas come with a tang of mesquite. Totally different from Houston-style (Ninfa's, Papasito's, Lupe Tortilla, Cafe Adobe[RIP]) which focuses on tender succulence, these can be chewy or even a tad bit tough, but the flavor is fantastic. For those who haven't had them, this is an absolute must for Austin Tex-Mex dining. Go for breakfast and get Roberto's Special, which is huevos rancheros and fajitas.

And FWIW I really like Lupe Tortilla (and Houston-style fajitas), although the pricing is usurious.

Mar 04, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Itinerary help (esp. Tex-Mex and Mexican)

I used to live blocks away and hit this place all the time as one of my neighborhood joints. I was mostly offended by the state of their breakfast offerings: extremely miserable tortillas with somewhat less miserable (but still inexcusable!) breakfast taco fillings. Just unacceptable.

W/ regards to the other standard metrics that I use to calibrate awesomeness, Polvo's has not done well. Bad chips. Bad tortillas. And thusly bad enchiladas, tacos (of all stripes), and everything else that has a tortilla as an ingredient. My favorite Polvo's item is the queso, which comes with a plate of fun stuff to throw in as your proclivities recommend.

Even following the recommendations of my fellow hounds, let me be unequivocal: there is nothing good here. Simply some stuff that is alight, and then some stuff that is decent, and then a lot that is mediocre-or-worse.

The absurd issues not related to their food (autogratting on a 4 top, erratic staff, uberslacker clientele, parking shenanigans) are footnotes. I care about food. But in considering Polvo's, it is difficult to pave over the non-food obnoxiousness.

On the positive note: I'm a fan of the gringo queso with tons of stuff thrown in it, so I've always loved their queso. YMMV, but given my warped preferences, this is my favorite item they offer.

Feb 15, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Itinerary help (esp. Tex-Mex and Mexican)

I think it is. (This is me admitting I've been to Polvo's a few times in the last year.)

I've ordered only items that the Chow Austin gang have recommended in my visits. Team, thanks for helping me navigate their menu in my unavoidable meetings there.

Feb 15, 2014
tom in austin in Austin

Breakfast tacos - can you help a guy out?

Hi. Welcome to Austin. I'll be your guide.

Breakfast through Lunch, take a taco tour, all grouped in East & South Austin, to be hit in this order:
* El Primo for a single breakfast taco
* La Flor for a breakfast taco (also has delicious lunch tacos, so if you're craving picadillo, feel free to make an early switch)
* El Meson on Burleson has great tacos; still wanting breakfast tacos? try chori-migas taco on flour or eggs, bacon, potato, cheese on flour; wanting to move towards lunch? try chilorio, pipian, tinga, cochinita pibil, or al pastor on corn. Do not confuse w/ El Meson Lamar
* Mi Ranchito's carnitas is a must; good desebrada as well - either way go heavy on their spicy green sauce
* El Taco Rico's on Montopolis barbacoa + anything else, everything is good [this place is considered by many the crown jewel of Austin tacos]
* Rosita's Al Pastor's tacos al pastor

Getting full? Time to wind this thing down at a sit-down restaurant w/ a bar, either:
* Curra's on Oltorf (Tex-Mex meets Interior Mex) where you can grab a table, relax, and have a couple avocado margaritas (people love them although I think they're vile) or Negra Modelos; split the cochinita pibil (probably the best pibil in town!)
* La Condesa: fancy, upscale interior Mexican downtown, stylish and hip, expensive

Finally, go home and take a nap!

Appendix A: Other good places to get tacos that I left off this itinerary:
- La Moreliana on E. William Cannon
- La Fruta Feliz
- Marcelino Pay y Vino
- El Mana
- Panaderia Chuy
- Taqueria Los Canario
- Taco More
- La Michoacana

Shake Shack coming to Austin!!!

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.

Oct 18, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Desperately in search of guilty pleasure Chinese takeout

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?

Oct 11, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Is CH Austin on life support?


Oct 05, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Damn the luck - only time for one BBQ spot. Which one?!

LA BBQ is your best bet; a bit of a hike (or a very, very short cab ride), but worth it.

Sep 17, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Jack Allen Kitchen's Pastry Chef Throws In With Oaxacan Project Pop-Up!

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.

Sep 10, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Austin American Spaceman top twelve burger list...

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.

Counter Cafe
Swift's Attic
Foreign & Domestic
Jack Allen's Kitchen
Olivia (brunch)
Scrumptious Chef Pop Up Restaurant #11: East Austin Burger Project
Drink. Well.
Bar Congress|Second Bar
Wink Wine Bar
Sullivan's (bar)
Austin Land & Cattle (bar)
Casino el Camino
Black Sheep Lodge
Dog & Duck
Crown & Anchor
Roaring Fork
The Tavern
Red's Porch
Cover 3
B.B. Rover's
Max's Wine Dive
Jo's Coffee
24 Diner
Turf N Surf Po’ Boy
Hat Creek Burger Co.
Phil's Icehouse
Five Guys
Carl's Jr
P. Terry's
Short Stop
Mighty Fine
Z Tejas
Galaxy Cafe
Frisco Shop
Luke’s Inside Out
Wholly Cow
Buda Grocery & Grill

Sep 03, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Damn the luck - only time for one BBQ spot. Which one?!

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.

Labor Day Trip Report (long!)

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.

Sep 03, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

A well researched (I hope) Trip Plan from Seattle

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:
(Uchiko ~= Barley Swine) > Uchi > Foreign & Domestic > Swift's Attic > Lambert's

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.

Aug 11, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Hottest Taco Joint in Austin

> 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.

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! ;)

Jul 08, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Advice for first time visitors from NY (researched!!)

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

Jun 25, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Food Trailers in Austin - General Question

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.)

Jun 25, 2013
tom in austin in Austin

Advice for first time visitors from NY (researched!!)

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.

Jun 20, 2013
tom in austin in Austin