Where to Eat Right Now
Where to eat in September: Kings, sows, rice vermicelli and Southern cookin'
This month, we're traveling the globe hitting up Vietnam, France, Japan and, of course, Texas. Our tour also takes us all over Austin, with spots in all directions: east, west, south and Round Rock.
East Side King at Hole in the Wall
School is back in session and while the added traffic to the University of Texas campus may deter you from heading towards campus, don't let it keep you from an occasional stop at East Side King at Hole in the Wall. Here the signature fried beets and Poor Qui's (pork belly) buns reign supreme as does the fiery chicken tortilla ramen and crispy fried chicken "kora age" with rice.
But be sure to take note of the new cold ramen dishes recently introduced to the menu. The Hiyashi Thai Chuka Ramen includes chilled noodles with cucumber, tomato, tamago yaki, carrot, bean sprouts, green papaya, lime, cilantro, peanut, and toasted dried shrimp makes for a nice, refreshing dish. If you like the nutty taste of black sesame, try the Black Sesame Ramen, a bowl of cold ramen noodles tossed with black sesame yuzu kosho sauce and topped with sake-steamed chicken, fresh yellow onion, ponzu sauce and a rich Japanese green onion sesame oil. (The optional pan fried egg on top is definite bonus.)
Elizabeth Street Cafe
Sometimes you need more from lunch than just sustenanc; you need a little mid-day rejuvenation. A stop inside this charming little French-Vietnamese bistro is just the antidote. Aside from the fact that the space is quaint and the service is cheerfully pleasant, the food is just as appealing. Broiled escargot in Thai basil curry are deliciously tender and garlicky. Equally enjoyable is the grilled octopus salad with kohlrabi, radish and lemongrass dressing.
For a light, refreshing lunch, order a bowl of bun (rice vermicelli noodles) with grilled pork and adorned with cucumber, carrot, cilantro and a tangy Thai chile nuac cham dressing. Wash it down with a sweet and creamy Vietnamese iced coffee and you're ready to take on the afternoon.
Jack Allen's Kitchen
In a town where new restaurants are perpetually redefining modern cuisine, sometimes you just need a reset on what Texas food is really all about. Jack Allen's is just the place. With both a south Austin and Rock Rock location, make sure to hit up their happy hour which delivers a menu of half-price appetizers with everything from french fries spiked with red chile and topped with lime and green scallions to chicken nachitos piled a mile high with house-made chips, grilled chicken, beans, cheddar cheese and all the fixings. Burgers are big and juicy, the grilled fish tacos offer a slow burn with Jack's spicy slaw and if you need a refresher on just what a classic chicken fried steak should taste like, this is the place—cream gravy, mashed potatoes and all.
On the lighter side, an abundant salad menu includes a varied selection with the "Twisted Cobb" salad of achiote chicken, roasted corn, tomatoes, cotija cheese and spicy house-made corn nuts leading as a crowd favorite. Oh, and the desserts are unrivaled. Try the green chile cheesecake for a decadent balance between sweet and spicy.
While the Salty Sow has a long list of loyal regulars, it’s often overlooked among the flurry of new restaurants that have opened in the past year. But with a solid menu of boldly flavored meat-centric dishes and a philosophy toward nose-to-tail cooking, the Salty Sow is a great spot for a weekend meal. It’s adjoining bar area is an excellent hang out for Happy Hours with a well-selected list of local beers and signature cocktails.The $4 appetizer menu packs a punch with everything from duck-fat fries, goat cheese fritters with tomato jam and a sizable charcuterie plate with meats, cheeses and accoutrements.
But don't miss out on the dinner menu. Tender braised pork shoulder is a masterful homage to the humble pig, but the beef lover in everyone will swoon over the slow-cooked beef shoulder served with mashed potatoes and root vegetables. (Insider tip: save room for bananas foster beignets.)