Hello! It has been a while. Last Christmas, I visited Houston and Austin, Texas, for a holiday. I know, an unusual and uncommon place to go for a holiday. Initially it was to attend an event but that was cancelled last minute so my friend and I turned the trip into a holiday. We took the Singapore-Taipei-Houston flight on EVA Air and flew into George Bush International Airport. From there, we took an Uber into cold Downtown, Houston. Uber was really big in Houston and Austin, and value-for-money. Given how expensive car rentals in Texas were, I highly recommend just sticking to Uber to get around in the two cities. Between Houston and Austin, take the cheap MegaBus. Downtown Houston was dead quiet and cold. Thankfully, we had already planned a side trip to Austin the very next day which turned out to be a good choice. We liked the vibes and happening of Austin so much that we extended our stay and spent a total of 5 days in the city.
We had a lot to eat during the trip and there were some good food I have to share here. In this post, I am going to share about my long list of Austin eats and in a separate post, Houston eats.
- Gus’s Fried Chicken – world famous for a good reason
Our first meal in Austin turned out to be our favourite eat of the entire trip so much so that we returned again as we simply could not get enough of the fried chicken. Located in Downtown Austin, the menu at Gus’s was straightforward. Choose your chicken parts and sides. That’s it. There was only one type of fried chicken so it solves any problems of original or crispy. All chicken were crispy.
Gus’s fried chicken was thinly crisped and so darn juicy! The chicken skin was slightly on the spicy side too. For me, it was love at first bite.
The fries at Gus’s were also the best we ever had in our lives! No kidding. It was thick, potato-y and crunchy. On our return visit, we did not hesitate to each order a portion of fries with our chicken. So good. A word of advice: do go before 7pm unless you are into queuing.
117 San Jacinto Blvd., 512/474-4877, www.gusfriedchicken.com
Sun.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-10pm
2. Turf N’ Surf Po Boy
Turf N’ Surf specialises in traditional Southern classics with a seafood-centered menu. The portions here were huge and they share a space with a bar so I reckoned this place was more appropriate to visit in the evening with friends when one could drink and share the food. I had a Fried Catfish Tacos which came in 2s and shared a delicious Chicken with Sausage Gumbo. The Gumbo was lovely, the catfish was perfectly deep fried but overall this place was just ok. Not outstanding and we most certainly did not return.
3. Ramen Tatsu-ya
Unlike other major cities in America, the South of Austin is where you want to be. If I ever return to Austin, I will stay at a boutique hotel on South Congress Avenue and just uber into Downtown for Gus’s but other than that, South of Austin is where you want to be.
After a couple of days of Western food, I was seriously craving Asian food. Austin and Houston are modern cities and Asian food was plentiful. Ramen Tatsu-ya, located in Zilker, south of Downtown Austin, served up modern ramen. Sure, it did not resemble any of the ones I had in Singapore and Japan but it was downright delicious nonetheless. It was even once voted the best ramen in America which I did not find out until I returned home.
I went all out at Ramen Tatsu-ya – got myself a big bowl of Mi So Not Spicy (pork bone broth, miso blend, goma pork, ajitama, scallion, napa cabbage, bean sprout, corn) with a side of Grilled Chasiu and FLASH-FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS. O.M.G. this ramen was the bomb, guys! The broth was seriously thick and “gao”, the goma minced pork felt like I was eating a comforting bowl of Bak Chor Mee and those brussels sprouts were caramelised-smoky. It was one very rich and satisfying bowl of noodles.
This place is definitely not for those who prefer subtle food. My friend got the basic bowl of ramen and deemed it was too rich for her.
Ramen Tatsu-ya: Visit Website
4. Elizabeth Street Cafe
This neighborhood Vietnamese cafe and French bakery was located in a house and the was also prettiest cafe I ever visited in my life. Every aspect of the cafe was Instagram-worthy. Its’ grub was also well-known too and they have a cookbook.
Elizabeth Street Cafe specialised in Vietnamese cuisine for their mains and French desserts. Very unusual combination. I got myself a bowl of beef Pho containing McAllen Ranch Flank Steak & Grilled Minced Beef Skewer. It wasn’t a cheap bowl for US$17 but beef in Texas was DELICIOUS and the grilled minced beef skewer had me thinking about it long after I finished this bowl.
I couldn’t resist a dessert as I was on a holiday. I picked this Bourbon Chocolate Eclair off the display shelf. It was o.k. Wasn’t memorable. The grilled beef skewer was still high on my thoughts.
1501 S. First St., South Congress
5. Torchy’s Tacos
You cannot come to Austin and not have tacos from either a food truck or eatery. In Austin, and again but not surprisingly located in South Congress, Torchy’s Tacos was an institution. You HAVE to visit this tacos joint if you are ever in Austin. Have to! Their branding was so fun and the widest array of tacos filled with interesting components that I have ever come across.
My first tacos at Torchy’s was their Baja Shrimp tacos on a corn tortilla. In it contained hand-battered FRIED SHRIMP with COOKED CABBAGE SLAW topped with PICKLED ONIONS & JALAPEÑOS, COTIJA CHEESE, CILANTRO & LIME WEDGE WITH CHIPOTLE SAUCE. My friend got the Chicken Fajita – tender MARINATED & GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST with GRILLED ONIONS & PEPPERS, PICO DE GALLO & Freshly grated cheddar jack cheese.
This Baja Shrimp tacos was orgasmic. It was abundant with flavours, crunchy, savoury and refreshing all at the same time. Seriously. I am not kidding about how good something seemingly small could be.
The next evening, I went back with a group of girlfriends for more. I got the South Pole tacos that was a lamb tacos with fried onions and whole load of elements that made the tacos perfection. I will spend a large amount of my time figuring out how to make tacos so good and do my best to replicate Torchy’s.
The branch on South Congress was an architectural delight too.
1822 S. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704. Tel: (512) 916-9025 Website
One of the most famous food truck in Austin was Paperboy’s and they only served breakfast food. It was located in East Austin and I visited on the most beautiful day for a late breakfast.
I had the Texas hash: roasted sweet potato hash, with chunks of spiced pork shoulder and a poached egg. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this. It was too heavy and there wasn’t much flavour although the sweet potatoes were delicious. Overall it was meh to me. Still eating from an Austin food truck was an experience one needed to have before leaving the city.
Wed.-Fri., 7am-2pm; Sat. – Sun., 8am-3pm
We got a ton of Southern food like their famous fried chicken, pearl beer battered onion rings and corn bread. Couldn’t get more Southern than this. Oh, and their frozen margarita was sooo strong. Thank goodness us 4 girls shared a glass.
Honestly I did not think the fried chicken at Lucy’s was good. After Gus’s, Lucy’s fried chicken really could not be compared. The batter was too thick and plain for my liking.
But… this Corn Bread served with tequila butter was A DREAM. It was light, fluffy and tender. It tasted like one of those steamed Chinese cake. I have had a lot of corn bread in my life but we all agreed this was by far the best we ever had. Slathered with that tequila butter, we finished this basket in no time.
These Pearl Beer Battered Onion Rings were so good too. Thick but still crisp. A very sinful basket but delightful nonetheless.
2218 College Ave.; 297-2423
So there. 5 days’ worth of memorable eats in Austin. Austin, you were fun! I wouldn’t mind returning to you one day if the flight from Singapore wasn’t so damn long.