Posts Tagged ‘Teji’s Foods’

The best of Austin’s cheap eats


2012
02.28

While most of the tastiest and cheapest eats in Austin are undoubtedly found right in my own kitchen, once in a while even the most dedicated of shoestring budgeteers has to venture forth in search of sustenance slung by a stranger. Whether you’re looking for tacos, treats or the truly bizarre, Austin has a variety of inexpensive restaurants and food trucks that cater to the budget lifestyle.

Here are just a few of my favorites from around town, along with links to our more detailed write-ups.

  • Ice cream at Amy’s Ice Cream – Celebrity Intern and I will argue about this one all day, because he loves his Häagen-Dazs (and I can’t lie, so do I), but Amy’s definitely gives our supermarket fave a run for its money, especially when someone says “Vanilla is vanilla, what’s so special about—MMMMMM!” after tasting their Mexican Vanilla; their seasonal specials and rotating daily offerings will keep you coming back for more
  • Beanitos chips and Texas-Texas salsa (available at H-E-B, Whole Foods and Central Market) – a tasty, healthy alternative to corn chips, all made locally!
  • Iced mocha at Epoch Coffee – the best iced mocha in Austin really hits the spot on a 105-degree day
  • Fresh Plus Grocery – this place is so mom-and-pop that they don’t yet have a website, but their prices on upscale food items like gourmet cheeses, wines and beer plus amazingly fresh and beautiful fruits and veggies make stopping at any of their three locations (Hyde Park, Clarksville and a brand-new Allandale store) a delicious adventure for the home chef on a budget
  • Hot chocolate at Caffé Medici – it’s on the pricy side, but it’s well worth it for the smoothest, creamiest hot chocolate in town (the secret is a homemade chocolate sauce, which the barista is on pain of death never to reveal to nosey food bloggers like me)
  • Salgadinhos at Rio’s Brazilian – I still don’t know how to properly pronounce these dealios, but they’re savory stuffed pastries kind of like a Hot Pocket but about a billion times tastier
  • Pho at Saigon Kitchen – choose from fatty or lean meat, or get a crazy mixture of both and build your own soup sensation
  • Breakfast tacos at Taco Cabana – because they’re cheap, I love their green salsa, and you can get $1 off pretty much every time you go if you fill out the survey at the bottom of your reciept, plus they’re near my house and convenience is sometimes king
  • Tacos at La Tapatia – the trip up north is worth it, as these tacos are always tender and delicious (and while you’re in the neighborhood, there’s a Half Price Books across the street worth hitting for some inexpensive reading materials)

Additional cheap eats to seek out, via Erin McReynolds, editor of Fearless Critic Austin:

Recommendations for $5 or less treats via Crystal Esquivel, author of The Food Lover’s Guide to Austin:

And Twitter recommendations from some of our followers!

  • Hill Country Pierogis (@ATXPierogiTruck)
  • Bits & Druthers – “best fish and chips in town” (@bitsanddruthers)
  • Tom’s Tabooley Thai Salad (via @aneelee)
  • Pho Saigon “large bowl of pho” (via @bearpatrol)
  • Torchy’s Tacos (via @mikegalante)
  • “Soy milk and fried dough at Asia Café only on Saturday mornings, pork bone ramen at Komé for lunch only” (via @pwang)
  • Hopfields – “French-style street food” (via @jen_stamps)

So tell us, what’s YOUR favorite cheap eatery in town?

Best restaurants in Austin, at any price


2011
04.26

With us this week with an excellent guest post is Austin Fearless Critic editor Erin McReynolds. Fearless Critic reviews are known for their brutal honesty, as they’re written by both “food nerds” and undercover chefs, wait-staff and the like. They’ve also got the added bonus of being unaffiliated with any particular sponsors, so their reviews are about as close as one can get to “unbiased” resto reviewing, in this world of amateurs, dilettantes and straight-up sellouts.

Check out Erin’s picks for some of Austin’s best dining destinations, from big budget blowouts to your average Shoestring Austin cheap-eats specials.

The following is a list of my top dining choices, arranged by upmarket/downmarket, and a few foods you should just hone in on like a truffle-hunting piglet.

Upmarket

Uchi – Any attempts to replace Uchi’s well-deserved #1 spot strike me as coming from a trite place of novelty-worship. After all these years, Uchi enjoys a consistent goodness, improving even while it does crazy numbers; its experimental specials have rarely flopped. Go in a group of less than four, and don’t treat this place like it sucks: that is, ask for recommendations, don’t order crab-mayo baked avocados and $12 spider rolls, and don’t make some gross grey dip out of wasabi and soy sauce. You do that when the fish is bad, not when you’re paying $100 a head to sample the best in the world.

"Uchi goodness: pickled ramps, lemon, pistachio, scallop" (photo via Tyson Cole's Uchiko blog)

Congress – If anyone’s going to rival Uchi’s food for consistent greatness, it’s the David Bull revival act. You can choose from a 3 or 4-course tasting menu or a 7-course, with or without wine pairings. These, and the service, will be unflaggingly professional and impressive, on par with the average upmarket New York experience (which is like saying I have average superhero powers). Order an “enhancement” dish; it’s often been the stand-out of the meal.

Uchiko – At just a year or so in, it’s already as good as Uchi was three or four years in. That said, it’s still experimenting so it can be hit or miss (even the misses are still some of the best dishes in the city, though). Aside from sashimi dishes, get the beef tongue nigiri and grilled mackerel. Impressive décor if you have design freaks with you.

Haddington’s – Bring a group, hunker down in either the back bar or one of the side rooms, and try everything on the small plates—especially sweetbreads and truffled egg custard. The soups and stews of the day have always been great. Share meatballs, pot pie, whole roasted branzino on the bone. And drink! Wonderful cask-conditioned ales and carefully chosen draft beers; spectacular small-production, terroir-driven wines; exquisitely crafted and imaginative cocktail combinations. At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about: eat well, drink well, and be merry.

Downmarket

Taco More – ends all arguments about what’s authentic Mexican in this state, which I find a frustrating discussion anyway; nothing’s “authentic,” and everything is. If you’re sick, depressed, hungover, or just broke, order the $2 goat soup and everything will be fine. The staff’s really nice, even to the rare gringos in the place; they speak English, so don’t panic. If you’ve never had lengua or chicharrones and feel curious but nervous, try it here. Hit the salsa bar for one of everything.

Teji’s Foods – in the back of an Indian grocery in Round Rock, where any good so-called “ethnic” restaurant will be. Lunchtime fills up with cabbies, and the smattering of Dell employees who’ve discovered it. Go on Fridays for Hyderabad-style goat biryani, in which the rice, spices, veggies, and goat are all cooked together for hours, instead of just thrown together before service. Each grain of rice is infused with goaty goodness; flavors in general here are brighter, more vivid than elsewhere.

Franklin BBQ – caveat: there’s a line around the block half an hour before opening, and for no apparent reason whatsoever, it takes 45 minutes for the 6th person in that line to get to the ordering window. By about the 20th person in line, they’re sold out of brisket. That said, it’s the best brisket in the city limits, the fat rendered into the meat and a lovely seasoned bark on the outside. Ribs are outstanding; sausage is just okay. BYOB. Or take a nice drive to Kreuz in Lockhart in the same amount of time and be guaranteed a ridiculously good brisket.

Franklin BBQ (photo via Flickr user Austin Kleon)

A+A Sichuan Cuisine – Asia Café was the only place to get good Szechuan in Austin until half the staff defected for A+A, just down 183. BYOB, and order mapo tofu; pan-fried tofu with crispy, fresh vegetables and cilantro; pork with flowering chive; and black and white mushrooms with baby bok choy. There’s enough Szechuan peppercorn in these dishes to make you drool with joy, but the heat comes from red chili flakes and can be somewhat mild. If you want it really hot, ask for it really hot, and sound sure.

G’raj Mahal – a lovely evening under the violet-lit, billowing tents (it’s all outdoor), but you will wait interminably for your food. It’s all worth it—flavors are far more bright and layered than at Clay Pit. Get fruit-and-nut-stuffed naan to pair with everything. BYOB, and ride the light-up snake bicycle, courtesy of Austin Bike Zoo.

Noble Pig – a sandwich shop that makes its own amazing bread, sausage, and pickles. It’s all “sole”-food (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) meat, like duck pastrami and pulled pork and it kicks the ass of not just sandwiches, but most meals in town. It’s way in the boonies off 183 past Lakeline. On certain Saturdays, they have a prix fixe dinner that’s all farm-tastic and adorable.

Cheap dishes worth rooting out

Al pastor sopes at La Canaria – this tiny yellow trailer in a convenience mart parking lot on Airport Blvd. is open ‘til 11pm. It’s cash only and the ladies don’t speak much English; no worries, just order a $3.50 al pastor sope. The masa’s hand-formed and griddled softly to order – it’s heaven with savory-charred al pastor (none of that chunky pineapple business—it’s just used for marinating).

The burger at Casino El Camino – this burger’s as unapologetic as the metal jukebox and two levels of black paint, freaky art, and posturing attitude. The beer and liquor selection is average—mixers from a can and such. But get a Lone Star on draft and eat this sloppy, intoxicating beast and see if you really care. Besides, there’s always something hilarious on the TV, and the Sixth Street twits don’t come in here.

Casino El Camino (photo via Flickr user Jeffrey L. Cohen)

Rice cake and dumpling soup at New Oriental Market – in the back of a (surprise) Korean market. The orally fixated will find a friend in dduk, those chewy rice-flour cakes, and the flavorful homemade dumplings. Any soup on this menu is good; it’s cash-only at the counter, but they’ll let you pay by card at the grocery register.

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