Pulled back into the Semitough Love Ranch compound Sunday evening after a four day tour of our lovely state capital. One of the things that I love about being in Austin, especially downtown, is that you’ll be driving around looking for a street or just making your way from one place to the next and all of a sudden you catch a glimpse of the Capitol building like this one taken over the top of the Trinity garage from the parking lot of the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center. It’s a beautiful building that can be breathtaking when it jumps out between a couple of buildings or over the top of something as mundane as a parking garage. It’s one of the magical things about Austin that Texans love to wax poetic about. Thank the Gods I’m not a Poet.
Of all the great things about Austin perhaps one of the greatest is the availability of great food with which to gorge onesownself. For breakfast we stuck with the free thing they served at the Suites, but for lunch and dinner all bets were off. Here’s an overeater’s guide to our trip:
Day One – lunch: We timed our departure from The Greater DFW MegaMetroGinormoPlex to coincide with our arrival in Waco just about lunch time. The famed Waco Circle, home to the Elite Cafe and the Health Camp burger stand, is also home to one of the newer corporate owned locations of Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ. Their tshirts say it all; “I didn’t claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables.” Rudy’s serves their BBQ hill country meat market style, which is to say that you buy the meat by the pound, they provide “plates” of butcher paper and loads of white bread (what Big Mama used to call light bread) and you pretty much do the rest yourself. Oh sure, they have great sides too. Potato salad, cole slaw, creamed corn….but the main attraction is the BBQ which is slow smoked with a spice rub (sauce on the side). The closest Rudy’s to the hacienda is about an hour away, a situation that will soon be remedied when the Frisco franchise store opens. Can’t wait. Rudy’s BBQ is by far superior to anything found north of the Brazos River thanks to the franchisification of North Texas BBQ. I felt the earth tremble as Sonny Bryan turned over in his grave as I typed that.
Day One – dinner: After gorging on Rudy’s for lunch, one would think that we would lay back, have a light supper and hit it hard the next day. Think again oh ye of little faith. The best defense is a good offense, so off to Threadgill’s we went for the absolute best chicken fried steak in this or any other state. We went to the Barton Springs location, Threadgill’s World Headquarters. Located at the old Armadillo World Headquarters site, Threadgill’s is a veritable museum of Austin Music, chic, and history. Live music in the outdoor beer garden and indoors the walls literally covered with old concert posters from the AWHQ days. Performers like Willie, Waylon, Zappa, Freddie King, J.J. Cale, Balcones Fault and dozens of others bring back those days back in the 70’s when if they played live, they played at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. All that and CFS whose awesomeness takes one’s breath away? Add a couple of cold Budweiser beers and much excellence ensued.
Bonus points to Threadgill’s for installing the baddest a**ed hand dryers known to mankind in their restrooms….The Xcelerator. Details from a previous blog here.
Day Two – lunch: Spent a lot of time at the university on day two. Decided to hit something close by for a quick lunch which of course means…Dirty Martin’s over on Guadalupe. Home of the Kumbak burger, Dirty’s has kept them coming back for decades. Esposa availed herself of the Frito pie, Buddy had the traditional Kumbak burger, whilst yours truly had the double chili cheeseburger with tots (please remember that I am a professional, do not attempt).
Day Two – dinner: In conjunction with the athletic endeavours, the Esposa who hails from the greater Austin area, enjoyed her XXth high school reunion at County Line BBQ‘s Bee Cave Rd. location out in Westlake Hills. She enjoyed the reunion while Semitough enjoyed the ribs and another heaping helping of cold Budweiser beers. On the trip out to County Line we avoided the MoPac traffic, taking the back way across the low water crossing on Redbud Trail. First time in a long time I’ve seen water gushing out over the spillways.
Day Three – lunch: What would a trip to Austin be without visiting Chuy’s? Even a late lunch at 3:00ish there was a 30 minute wait. Honestly I think Chuy’s has been reading too many press clippings. Next trip I’m voting for Matt’s El Ranch0 when it comes time to eat Tex-Mex. All in all it was good, but the service was spotty and the hostess was snotty. Any restaurant visit that starts with Esposa and the hostess nose to nose can’t really end well no matter how good the food though. And good it was. A little free Queso Compuesto from the manager soothed the tension caused by the unfortunate hostess incident. The cheese and onion enchiladas were off the charts awesome. Budster went with the Hatch Pepper Beef tacos which were a little spicy to his taste, which is to say they must have been very hot. Esposa had the traditional crispy tacos which she seemed to enjoy immensely.
Day Three – happy hour: Another reunion get together. Many participants showed up after spending the morning on the golf course and the afternoon at Baby Acapulco’s pounding back Margarita’s. The saner ones of the bunch (read: non-golfers like ourownselves) saved it up for a few cool ones at Scholz Garten, an Austin legend. Opened in 1866 it is the oldest continuing business in Texas.
Day Three – dinner: I know what you’re thinking. Three o’clock lunch at Chuy’s, these guys went straight back to the suites, sacked out and didn’t wake till morning. Once again, oh ye of little faith. This night was reserved for the All You Care To Eat catfish at the Catfish Parlor out on Ben White. Situated in the lovely warehouse district east of 35, Catfish Parlor used to be a kind of out of the way place. Now that the airport has moved out to the former Bergstrom AFB and Ben White has been elevated to freeway status it seems to be right in the middle of things. We didn’t have any trouble getting in, and the catfish tasted of an excellenceness heretofore reserved for manna from Heaven or some such otherworldly feed. Served family style the food was great, the atmosphere pure Austin. The only thing missing was Mama Jude to direct traffic and Wild Bill to spear the last piece of fish.
It still seems a little odd to be in Austin without Esposa’s family there, especially eating out which her mother has elevated to an art form. Nobody can walk in to a restaurant with a party of 15 and get seated immediately like the Jude. Could have used her at Chuy’s.
Day four we bid a fond farewell to Austin. This snap of the Energizer Buddy recharging in the backseat of the MegaSUV Carbon Pump sums up the family feeling: