F&W Free Preview All You Coastal Living Cooking Light Food and Wine tab Health myRecipes Southern Living Sunset
My F&W
quick save (...)

Food Across America: Austin, TX

Retro Cocktail Lounges & Coffee-Rubbed Brisket

Austin is still the only city I know where, without understanding quite how you got there, you can find yourself drinking cocktails at 2 a.m. with a couple of ex-strippers; a Russian-American financial consultant whose hobby is belly dancing; and a gravel-voiced, chain-smoking, good-old-boy lobbyist named Bill.

On the other hand, food journalism is the only job I know that allows you to impress a gang like that with what you do for money. While we knocked back drinks at the new Belmont—with leather chairs, Brubeck on the sound system and a smoky atmosphere somehow achieved without smoke—I talked about where I’d been in my quest to see how Austin’s food scene had evolved since the days when I lived here, played in a bad band and survived largely on carnitas burritos and beer.

Admittedly, back in those days I hadn’t been eating at places like the Driskill Grill at the Driskill, Austin’s oldest hotel. It has gone through many chef changes over the years but remains an iconic restaurant. I loved the ravioli filled with intense duck confit and tangy Port-Salut cheese. Many other spots now rival the Driskill Grill, including Cibo, where I had superb potato gnocchi with an oxtail ragù from F&W Best New Chef 2001 Will Packwood. At Wink, the disks of caramelized fennel under sautéed sweetbreads seemed just what fennel was put on earth for, while a robust plate of chicken enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce at Zocalo Cafe Taqueria Fresca made the idea of healthy Mexican food actually seem appealing.

For Sunday brunch I hit Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, which opened in late 2006. At only $25 a person for all you can eat, it freed me from having to choose between sticky-sweet, brown-sugar-and-coffee-rubbed brisket and maple-and-coriander-crusted pork ribs. I managed to follow those with decadent green-chile carnitas tacos at the new Torchy’s Tacos truck .

“You ate at all those places in two days?” one of the ex-strippers asked.

“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” I replied.

She said, “Wow. I’m really glad I’m not a man.”

Published July 2008
You Might Also Like

Comments

Add A Comment

    Add a Comment

    See our terms
    You must be logged in to comment. or
    advertisement
    The Dish
    Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
    The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
    F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.
    American Express Publishing ("AEP") may use your email address to send you account updates and offers that may interest you. To learn more about the ways we may use your email address and about your privacy choices, read the AEP Privacy Statement.
    How we use your email address
    advertisement
    Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

    Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.