Sept. 27, 2016
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The Fork

Austin Eats Etc.

July 7, 2016, 12:00 am

Overall, it’s been a good summer for traveling and eating!

Last weekend, I was in Taos for what turned out to be a cool and rainy Saturday. We decided to embrace the unseasonable weather and drove up to the Ski Valley for lunch at The Bavarian. The jägerschnitzel and sausages are just as delightful on a rainy summer day as they are in January. How strange it feels to walk into the Bavarian not feeling like I just got thrown down a mountain. Woo hoo!

A lunch stop at JoAnn’s Ranch O Casados in Española was … sigh … disappointing. It’s been years (and maybe two locations?) since I ate at JoAnn’s last, and it wasn’t what I remembered. The guacamole was great, but the chips were oversalted, the posole was bland and the chicharron burrito was full of hard chunks of pork and greasy pork skin. Bummer. The chicharron burrito at El Parasol is much better.

Been to Austin lately? Allegiant recently started nonstop flights from Albuquerque to Austin, and I snatched up two roundtrip tickets, which cost $70 each. Of course, Allegiant is one of those budget airlines that charges you for every little thing you used to take for granted – seat assignments, soft drinks, even taking a carry-on bag costs extra.

But we were determined to get our money’s worth, so we packed only messenger bags and didn’t rent a car. Instead we took the city airport shuttle downtown and stopped in to Eureka for some osso buco riblets and a bone marrow burger, topped with glistening butter made with porcini mushrooms and the aforementioned bone marrow. That was pretty amazing, but I’d almost rather have the butter melted over a lean tenderloin steak.

From there, we stopped into the dark, historic Driskill Hotel Bar and met a friend for drinks, while a chanteuse captivated a small crowd. The Batini ($11) is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, hibiscus and ginger simple syrup, and agave sweet and sour. It’s the official cocktail of Austin (according to The Driskill), and it’s delightful. Also: The Driskill serves its martinis in those stemless glasses, which thank the gods for stemless glasses, amirite? I hardly ever order martinis, because I can’t keep the damn things off my face or my dress. But a low center of gravity helps.

We rented an Airbnb downtown, within walking distance from a new Trader Joe’s, so we bought some essentials (beer, wine, fruit, yogurt, chips, salsa) and settled in. The apartment was also close to the flagship Whole Foods, which is absolutely epic (have you heard the term “groceraunt”?) but also a couple blocks farther, and holy face melting, have you been to Austin in June? Take it from me: Do not buy those plane tickets for the summer. Be suuuuper grateful you live in relatively cool, dry Santa Fe.

Another friend drove us out to the hill country for a visit to the Garrison Brothers Distillery, which is a beautiful place where they make delicious (and really expensive) bourbon. If you pay $10 for a tour, you’ll learn a lot about making bourbon and taste just a little. But you can buy full servings at a reasonable price and sit in the shade for a spell.

And you can stop at Ronnie’s Ice House in Johnson City for magnificent barbecued sausage, brisket and ribs on the way back into town.

Did you know Austin has a cream puff bakery? All they sell at Cream Puff Whiskers is cream puffs! And they're huge. Oh, man. We need a cream puff place. I mean, my fat caboose probably doesn't, but maybe you'd appreciate it?

We also had memorable seafood at Quality Seafood Market and really great Latin American seafood, with exceptional sangria, at Alcomar.

Mostly, we just tried to stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible. Renting a kayak and paddling around Lady Bird Lake was our favorite way to cool off. But dang it, I wish we had gotten one of those swan-shaped pedal boats. Next time.

When you come off the lake, head to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken if you like hot and spicy chicken.

Allegiant is kind of terrible, but it is pretty cool if you can take advantage of the cheapest flights. They now fly to Las Vegas and LA. Got restaurant suggestions for those towns? Send them my way.

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