Fort Worth offers a lot to miss, but Austin offers a lot to love. Leaving Fort Worth, my home for the last 12 years, when I marry Anthony in April will be bittersweet (but mostly sweet). I have enjoyed exploring the hometown of my future. Consider the following my Austin Nominations.
Ramen Tatsu-ya is nothing like the 15 cent package of noodles many people associate with the word “ramen.” With marinated eggs and pork belly, this unassuming restaurant gave me a few surprising firsts. The soup’s pork broth is said to stew for up to 60 hours! No wonder it is currently only open for dinner. Before you go, be sure to check out their website. There are some important “rules” for eating ramen that one should read up on, lest your friends ridicule you for being a ramen rookie!
Chef Shawn Cirkiel owns two of my favorite restaurants: Parkside and Olive & June . Go at happy hour for their half off specials. Parkside offers the best calamari I have ever eaten, so lightly breaded and crisply fried, served with a garlic aioli. Olive & June is an otherworldly experience, with a menu designed for up to five courses, Anthony and I skipped the high dollar entrees and sampled several of the “Piccoli Piatti,” which are two to three bite plates. We also ordered an antipasti offering, and shared a pasta dish and dessert. Everything we tried was amazing: pork meatballs, swordfish spiedini, testaroli, suppli, short rib ravioli, and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta. Did I mention they serve fresh bread with ricotta instead of butter? Go directly to Olive & June, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
If I am craving a sandwich I’ll head to Noble Pig, featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If I am looking for a sandwich downtown, I will head to Royal Blue Grocery for one of their hot sandwiches. My favorite is the Reuben, Anthony’s, the Cuban. If I want a splurge while at Royal Blue, I will savor one of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Macaron Sandwiches. Open until midnight, this Grocer has the added perk of being a great late night spot.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar is the burger joint of Austin. The ordering system is unique in that you order from a counter but must pick out a place to sit before ordering. With choices ranging from your standard cheeseburger to a lamb burger or a Texas Akaushi Beef burger, inventive, delicious and fresh hamburgers define this spot. A location has recently opened in the Dallas area, so be sure to check it out if you’re craving a meaty meal.
Gordough’s Public House is both indulgent and delicious. They serve, wait for it…. doughnut burgers and doughnut sandwiches. They also have a selection of dessert doughnuts. Anthony and I altered the menu a bit and shared their cheesecake stuffed doughnut with salted caramel sauce.
Bangers, a sausage and beer joint, is located on Rainey street, a corridor of old homes that have been converted into businesses. They offer links such as Duck, Bacon and Fig, Chicken, Tequila and Habanero, or classic English Bangers. If craft beer is your thing, Bangers has the largest selection of beer on tap I have seen, claiming 103 different taps.
Texas at its finest, Franklin Barbecue is a place you have to go (at least) once. Since Aaron Franklin solely slices and serves the meat the line is long,but the brisket is the best. The line forms before they open, and they close when they sell out. My advice is to go later in the afternoon around 1 or 1:30, the line will have died down, and they will be sold out of everything except their melt-in-your-mouth brisket.
Doc’s has a Stuffed Avocado I crave. While there is a location on South Congress, Anthony and I frequent the Doc’s further south, with a more laid back atmosphere. This is a good spot for game watching.
South Congress Cafe, otherwise known as SoCo Cafe, more closely resembles an upscale dining experience than a cafe. When Anthony and I went for dinner on one occasion, I ordered and enjoyed the delectable coffee braised short ribs. This South Congress staple is also a hot spot for brunch, though I might consider its Italian neighbor, Vespaio, my go-to for brunch fare.
Home Slice Pizza, also on South Congress, is another Austin favorite. Grab pizza by the slice to go or get a table inside and order a piping hot pie. Anthony and I enjoyed the Sausage and Ricotta white pie. As quirky South Austin goes, we took advantage of a special they were running by impersonating a celebrity, to get 10% off!
Salvation Pizza has the most amazing garlic bread. It is a loaf of sourdough bread sliced across the top with garlic butter and cheese inserted between the hot slices making it brilliantly melted and delicious. The variations of pizzas and pizza toppings also make this an excellent place to enjoy a pie.
Justine’s is on the far east side. If French food is what you’re craving, Justine’s is the place. Ignore their weird website and go try their food.
I learned about Holy Cacao, a food truck on South First, from Tory Burch’s blog. Skip the cake balls and go for the Frozen Hot Chocolate, inspired by both Serendipity III and City Bakery in New York City. The Frozen Hot Chocolate is the perfect hot chocolate for winter Texas style.
Big Top is an old fashioned candy shop and soda fountain. This narrow store is filled with traditional and classic candy and chocolate offerings, as well as some rare and odd candies that you will not find in a grocery aisle.
Overpriced but well curated, uncommon OBJECTS is a fun store to browse. Wandering through its aisles is an alternative to standing around while waiting to dine at any of the South Congress restaurants. A few other shops worth mentioning are JM Dry Goods/Spartan and Aviary.
My movie-loving fiance and I have gone on many dates at the Alamo Drafthouse, a cinema with great shorts before the movies, a local menu, and, in true Austin fashion, non-disposable dishes. But be aware, this is a no-nonsense theatre. Late comers will not be allowed in the theatre. Nor will children under the age of six, unless the movie is a kids’ movie. Talkers and texters WILL be kicked out!
If you are seeking a history lesson, I love the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. I am excited to re-visit after the recent renovations.
Sometimes I think that Anthony and I live like tourists, exploring and adventuring through our own cities as if we had never walked them before.