Austin's Strangest Food
Austinites like being weird just as much as we love eating and drinking. In order to please your weird palate, we've uncovered some of the strangest things to eat and drink in Austin, found everywhere from food trucks to dive bars to fine dining rooms.
Scallion panquesadilla with pork cotton candy
Anyone who lives in Texas is no stranger to Tex-Mex and has, most likely, made many a late night quesadilla at home. Substitute tortillas for scallion pancakes, add melted cheese, sriracha, green onion and cilantro — maybe even an egg — and you’ll have what the Dumpling Happiness truck outside Whisler’s calls a “scallion panquesadilla.” But theirs is also topped with dried, shredded pork they call “pork cotton candy,” also known as “pork floss” or rousong in Chinese. While it’s not the kind of cotton candy you’ll find on a stick at the circus, it’s mighty tasty on this savory pancake.
Available seasonally, this dish features chapulines — also known as crickets. The toasted chapulines are served with crispy kale and epazote on house-made corn tortillas. Note: This is an off-the-menu specialty.
The brisket cider made by Austin Eastciders is much more than a gimmick. While most wine and cider fermentations are fed powdered yeast nutrients nowadays, they used to be fed with beef back in the day. The east side cidery partnered with Micklethwait Craft Meats, who provided some whole smoked briskets as well as some burnt ends, for the process. “We steamed off the fat, made the one vegetarian on the team cut up the brisket, then wrapped it in cheesecloth and added it to the apple juice at the beginning of the ferment. The yeast loved it,” explains Austin Eastciders owner Ed Gibson. The resulting still cider is smoky with a savory finish that is anything but overwhelmingly meaty. Sample the creation at the new cidery and look for another small batch release next year.
Hay Elotes features a menu full of colorful, spicy snacks, most based around a chip product of some sort (think a bag of Cheetos dressed up with chamoy, lime and “Ingredient X”). Their Tostitolocos starts with a Tostitos chip bag, which is then topped with Japanese peanuts, jicama, cucumber, sweet chiles, lime juice, Hay Elotes’ special red sauce, pork skins, vinegar and powdered chile. You can’t call yourself an Austinite until you try it.
Frap’s Bloody Mary
Casino El Camino
This monster of a Bloody Mary can only be obtained when the bartender known as “Frap” is working. Get there early Saturday for the freshest selection of toppings, including (but not limited to) sliders, sausage, corn dogs, meatballs, taquitos, grilled cheese, bacon, pickled, olives, cucumbers and celery. This concoction must have been invented to soothe a real Texas-sized hangover.
Drunken Hunk Donut
Gourdough’s has been pushing the envelope on what defines a donut since opening its first trailer. At the brick-and-mortar, creations have only gotten bigger, featuring donut sandwiches, burgers and entrees. The Drunken Hunk is just one decadent example. A hot donut stands in as the base for bacon-wrapped meatloaf, a potato pancake, fried egg, candied jalapenos and house-made bourbon barbecue sauce.
Vince Young Steakhouse
When invited to cook at the James Beard House a few years ago, Vince Young Steakhouse co-owner Laura Brown and her husband, executive chef Phillip Brown, were brainstorming a play on cookies and milk. They experimented by blending their house wine, Eleven Ten Cabernet Sauvignon, with homemade vanilla ice cream and the Wine Shake was born. You won’t find this secret menu item listed at Vince Young Steakhouse, but order it anyway like a boss.
Croque Madame with pesto and dulce de leche
Burro Cheese Kitchen
If you crave the marriage of sweet and savory, you may find nothing weird about this sandwich at all. In this take on a Croque Madame, Burro Cheese Kitchen begins with Easy Tiger bread, smoked ham and gouda cheese, which is then dressed with pesto aioli, dulce de leche sauce and a fried egg. And with a convenient location on South Congress, there’s no better place for indulging in a cheesy delight (with a sweet surprise) after a day of shopping and people-watching.
Smoked rattlesnake sausage
Hudson’s on the Bend
You can still get your fix of rattlesnake sausage from Hudson’s on the Bend, where they’ve been specializing in high-end game meats since 1984. The smoked rattlesnake sausage comes with jalapeno sauerkraut and horseradish honey mustard, and the protein appears in other specials like rattlesnake cakes. You might say there’s no better place to take visiting relatives for a real Texas experience.
While there’s nothing inherently “weird” about takoyaki (in fact, these balls of octopus are a fairly popular snack item in Osaka), you won’t normally find them peddled out of a bright orange Love Balls bus. The octopus variety is only sold Thursday through Saturday, but there’s a whole menu of weekday dishes that come with grilled rice balls, keeping up the tradition.
Green eggs and ham
Searsucker, Salty Sow
There are not one, but two, places to find green eggs and ham in town. Salty Sow serves chopped ham hocks and slow-cooked egg in a jar with grits and basil-parmesan sauce. Searsucker’s version features an egg nestled in pork belly, balanced on a cube of brioche and topped with a bright green herb sauce.
We’ve all heard of bacon-infused vodka, but TRACE at the W Hotel honors the Lone Star State by infusing Dickel rye whiskey with their house-smoked brisket. Taking a shot of it will certainly put some hair on your chest. It also appears in TRACE's Brisket Bloody Mary, topped with pickles and an Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap floater.