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 Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts

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kaszeta

Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/13/11 3:29 PM (permalink)
Last year around this time, several of my friends from another online community (Tivocommunity.com) decided to go on a "Central Texas BBQ Run", visiting several well-respected BBQ joints in and around Austin.  They had such a good time of it that this year they decided to repeat it, also hitting several of the food carts (Austin has a very vibrant food-cart scene), and inviting me along as well.
 
So I figured it's worth a brief writeup.
 
First up, BBQ...
 
I flew down to Austin, TX on April 1st, rendezvousing with two other friends flying in for the event, and we headed down to Lockhart, TX to meet up with the rest of our party (who, meanwhile, had driven in from the Dallas area, hitting Louie Mueller's in Taylor, TX and City Market and Luling BBQ in Luling, TX on their somewhat out-of-the-way route to Lockhart.
 
In any case, my first stop was Kreuz Market in Lockhart.   Lockhart, TX claims to be “The Barbecue Capital of Texas,” and it’s not an idle boast (indeed, it was declared such by the Texas state legislature…). Lockhart sports several venerable BBQ joints, with some of them being around for quite some time. The grandaddy of them is Kreuz Market (pronounced “Krites”, by the way), founded in 1900 as a meat market and grocery store by Charles Kreuz. In what’s actually a pretty familiar pattern, Kreuz was primarily running a butcher shop for the prime cuts of meat, and would make sausages from the least desirable cuts, and smoke it and the brisket. That turned into a major business, as well as establishing what are really the two hallmarks of Texas BBQ: smoked brisket and sausage.
 
At pretty much every BBQ joint, our approach was pretty much the same: order a few lbs of brisket, a link or so of sausage for everyone, and a handful of ribs.  And maybe one other meat.  Watch them slice it up, pile it on the butcher paper, and you're ready to go.
 
So how did Kreuz do? It wasn’t a bad place for me to start this BBQ adventure, since everything they had was a few notches above what you can easily find in the Northeast. The prime rib was excellent, what would be called fork-tender (if you had forks), and with just enough smoke to flavor it. The brisket was actually a little hit and miss: the fatty end of it had a nice bark (the crust from the meat caramelizing with the rub, for you BBQ newbies reading this), a decent smoke layer (the dark layer from the smoke directly penetrating the meat), and good flavor, but the lean end was definitely on the tough side (in their defense, we came at ~3pm, which isn’t the greatest time to show up, stuff might have been sitting in the smoker too long). Good, but we did a lot better during the weekend.
 


 
Day two of the Central TX BBQ Run started with a trip to Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX. Snow’s is a modest little BBQ joint, but got catapulted to fame back in 2008 when Texas Monthly gave it a Best BBQ in Texas award. It’s been popular ever since, and their 300 pounds a day BBQ soon found itself surprisingly popular, and increasing their production four-fold. So it was only natural that a group such as ours would go seek out Snow’s.  However, going to Snow’s is a bit of a logistical issue, since they only serve from 8 until noon on Saturday (they are closed the rest of the week), and they frequently run out of food, sometimes as early as 9:30. That means that if you aren’t taking it home, that means barbecue for breakfast! Also, the line forms well before they open, so if you want to make sure you get a good spot in line, that means getting up early. So we got up at 6am in Austin so we could get there before opening, and found ourselves arriving to a non-insubstantial line at 7:42am.
 
Luckily, once Snow’s opened they were pretty efficient with their serving line. Quickly our group found itself in the door. Our lead party bought our typical pile of pile of meat: Brisket, sausage, and ribs. The brisket was all it was made out to be. Perfect smoke line. A great rub resulting in a nice bark. Tender meat with the fat just starting to render. In short, this was excellent brisket, and one of the high points of our trip. They’ve got that dialed in pretty well.  It was so good I opted to get even more meat in the form of a brisket platter, served up with some good beans, some even better cole slaw, and some damn fine potato salad.   Eating all this before nine in the morning made this a true breakfast of champions.
As far as the rest of the meats? The sausage was good but not stellar (they don’t make it there, it comes from City Meat Market down in Giddings, our next stop), with a slightly tough casing and a rather loose filling. And the pork? Disappointing, in actuality.  But the brisket was good enough that I'd recommend the place, even with the logistical challenges (although continue reading, we found better, more accessible places later).
 


 
After Snow's, we decided that it was worth doing a repeat trip to City Market for the folks like me that joined the tour already in progress.  But the drive from Lexington to Luling goes through Giddings, so it would be irresponsible not to stop at City Meat Market in Giddings.  City Meat Market is distinct from most of the other barbecue joints this trip, since it’s actually a meat market as well a barbecue place. Walking in through the front door on Hwy 290 (instead of the well-weathered side door), the first thing you see is a classic butcher shop and a meat case (which is filled up with all sorts of meat that was insanely cheap by my Northeast-non-cattle-country-calibrated expectations). Sauntering through to the back of the store, you first come across a seating area that has “dive” written all over it. Slightly rickety tabled covered with cheap, slightly sticky and slightly discolored tablecloths, and surrounded by slightly rickety chairs. Each table is adorned with a single bottle of what was once Gallo Sweet Vermouth, but now has been transformed into a fairly delicious, and very spicy, hot sauce mix. 
 
As far as the meat itself? This wasn’t as good as Snow’s, but it was respectable in it’s own right. It sported a decent, clear, smoke line, and had a bark that was fairly substantial, but a little less tough than most places. The fat was rendered well on both ends, and both lean and fatty cuts were fairly flavorful, and a little moister than most places. The ribs were similar, with a nice texture, the not-quite-falling-off-the-bone texture I like, good smoke lines, and a nice rub flavoring everything. Nothing earth shattering, but certainly some good, well-executed barbecue where they haven’t cut any corners.
 


 
After that was City Market in Luling, TX (which apparently bills itself as the “watermelon capital of Texas”, home of the annual “Thump Queen” pageant), but like so many of the venerable central Texas barbecue shrines, the name comes from a history of being a meat market well before it was a barbecue stand. Sitting on the main corner in Luling, TX, it’s one of the central attractions in downtown, taking up two modest store fronts on the main drag in town. It’s also rather popular, and we were lucky to arrive when we did. While we had almost no wait, by the time we left, the lunch crowd had arrived and the the line was at least 75 people deep stretching through the dining rooms.
 
Despite being my fourth stop for barbecue this trip (the seventh for most of my friends), and the third this day (and only barely turning noon!), I quickly found myself hungering for the tasty meat arranged before me. Why? Because the meat here was excellent. Starting with the brisket, it had a near-perfect bark, very nicely seasons with salt and a lot more pepper than most joints, all caramelized into a nice covering for the meat. Inside the bark, there was a nice, bold smoke line and the smoke perfused throughout the entirety of the meat. Both lean and fatty cuts were well nicely cooked, with fat just starting to soften and liquify. The meat was tender, and fully flavorful.  The pork ribs were also near-perfect in execution. The meat was tender and fully-smoked, with a nice bark with the same peppered rub as the brisket. They weren’t too shabby with the sausage, either, having a grind that was coarse, but a consistency that held up a lot better than most of the other sausages on this trip.
 


 
The final stop was our last day, and was Franklin BBQ in Austin.  Franklin has only been around on the Austin BBQ scene for a few years, and until just this last March, was serving his well-respect BBQ out of blue and white trailer. But in March, he moved into a small, former BBQ joint on 11th St in Austin, and has thus established a permanent barbecue destination. Having grown up around BBQ (I believe he said his parents owned a BBQ place in Bryan?), he’s been trying to make some of the best barbecue out there, which for TX is quite the challenge. 
 
He opened just a few minutes before 11, and we filed into the fairly pleasant and clean interior of the building. Arriving at a still-clean serving counter, we got to watch Aaron unwrap the first several briskets, pork, and sausage. Upon our group’s order of two lbs of brisket, four large pork ribs and a decent amount of sausage, he first sectioned the brisket and proudly held up the resulting cross-section, allowing us to see the nice, heavy bark, thick (sometimes up to 1/2″ thick) smoke ring, and the the very moist interior of the brisket. We opted for 1.5 lbs of the lean end, and half a pound of the fatty. Assembling the meat, we then moved off to our table to feast in front of the less fortunate souls still waiting in line.  So now, we come down to the most important issue: How good was it? Well, quite frankly, it blew the other places out of the water. The brisket was head and shoulders above that sold by Snow’s and City Market, and indeed, head and shoulders above every other smoked brisket I had. Everything was spot-on perfect: the meat was moist and the fat rendered, the smoke perfusing throughout the meat with a solid 1/2″ smoke layer in most places.
 


 
That's it for now.  Will post on food carts later.
 
#1
    Play27

    • Total Posts: 113
    • Joined: 4/21/2009
    • Location: Greensboro, NC
    Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/13/11 4:16 PM (permalink)
    Dream trip! Awesome and very well written. Thanks.
     
    #2
      Sundancer7

      Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/13/11 4:26 PM (permalink)
      That is my kind of trip.  I have been to Lockhart twice and enjoyed the brisket at Kreuz and sausage at Smitty's  I have been to several other places in Texas with Roadfood friends.  All are good but definately some are better than others.
       
      Paul E. Smith
      Knoxville,TN
       
      #3
        scrumptiouschef

        • Total Posts: 639
        • Joined: 10/5/2005
        • Location: austin, TX
        Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 2:58 PM (permalink)
        Did you note upon entering Kreuz that the aircraft hangar sized restaurant can seat nigh onto 700 people?
         
        I did the only time I ate at the new location. It's a sad approximation of Texas barbecue with little attention to anything other than the bottom line of the owners P & L statement.
         
        World class barbecue is difficult enough to prepare properly for small to medium crowds. When you open a mammoth barbecue restaurant like Kreuz any pretense of attention to quality goes out the window.
         
        You're simply there to feed as many pocketbooks as you can squeeze  in the door on any given day.
         
        The same is not true at Black's, the better barbecue joint located  a couple blocks away. Black's review: http://chowpapi.com/?p=106
         
        #4
          kaszeta

          Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 3:22 PM (permalink)
          scrumptiouschef

          Did you note upon entering Kreuz that the aircraft hangar sized restaurant can seat nigh onto 700 people?

           
          Yeah, and at times it can fill that place up.  I had been to Kreuz long ago, back when it was downtown, and I'm not sure it ever made the transition.  I haven't actually been to Smitty's, but I've heard the same about it.  
          As it was, Kreuz was probably my least favorite place overall of the places we did this trip.
           
          I wanted to do Black's, but with all the other BBQ and food (I'll try to start the food cart writeups tonight), I just didn't have the stomach space (when I had a decent opportunity to go there, I had already been eating BBQ since 8:30 am!)
           
          #5
            buffetbuster

            Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 3:51 PM (permalink)
            kaszeta-
            Barbecue for breakfast?  Sorry, I'm just not seeing a downside to this at all! 
             
            Thanks for the excellent report!  The photographs are gorgeous!  I have been curious about Snow's BBQ for a while and have it at the top of the to do list the next time in the area.  Are you saying it is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Austin to Lexington?
             
            After reading your descriptions, Franklin BBQ will have to go on the list, too.  Have you been to Smitty's and Louie Mueller's?   If you have, how does Franklin BBQ compare to those great places?
             
            Very much looking forward to the food carts report.
             
            #6
              kaszeta

              Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 4:36 PM (permalink)
              Yes, it's about 90 minutes to Snow's from downtown Austin.
               
              I haven't been to Louie's Mueller's in years, and haven't been to Smitty's.  Although 5 of the other people that went to Franklin's with me have been to both, and all of them thought it was much, much better.
               
              Seriously, Franklin's was several notches better than anything else on the trip except for Snow's Brisket (and it was a notch above that).
              <message edited by kaszeta on Thu, 04/14/11 4:39 PM>
               
              #7
                kaszeta

                Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 7:08 PM (permalink)
                Well, in addition to the copious amounts of BBQ consumed by our group, we also had another culinary goal in mind.  Over the last 3-4 years, the Austin food scene has been transformed by the food cart.  The mobile food trailer.  The taco truck.  Basically, all sorts of somewhat transportable mini-restaurants on wheels, they've been exponentially growing in Austin.  500 in 2009.  1500 in 2010.  And supposedly over 2000 this year.  All sort of chefs, amateur and pro, new and seasoned, are either starting up new food carts, or making food cart versions of their established restaurants.
                 
                And, in some part thanks to SXSW, they are also pretty organized.  There's a nice Online map.  They are pretty much everywhere in central Austin now, it seems that a large fraction of vacant lots, parking lots, sidewalks, and curbsides now host food carts. Heck, most of them now feature groups of carts. Pretty much every fare that can be sold from a truck is sold from a truck, from burgers, to organic meat, to vegan wraps, to chicken n’ waffles, to tacos (where the whole food cart craze really took hold), to, well, just about anything. There’s even an iPhone app for tracking them (along with facebook and twitter).
                 
                So we decided that on our evenings (most of the more celebrated BBQ joints close when they run out of meat, some of them as early as 10:30 am), we'd go explore the food cart scene.  After consulting various food cart lists, we settled on 1219 South Lamar, a modest court hosting Trey’s Cuisine, Gourdough’s Donuts, and Odd Duck Farm-to-Trailer.
                 
                 
                Odd Duck Farm-to-Trailer is a food cart run by local chef Bryce Gilmore, and focuses on bringing food from local farms to the masses via this little trailer. The menu is almost entirely locally-sourced food, ranging from locally-raised quail with sweet potato salad, to turnip and rutebaga salad, to grilled veggies, to pork belly sliders. You get the drift.  I settled on two items: parmesan grits with a soft boiled duck egg, mushrooms, parmesan, and brussel sprouts, followed by a pork belly slider served up with aioli and homemade kraut.  Both were excellent.  The grits creamy and smooth, the egg perfectly cooked.  The slider with perfectly seasoned pork belly and a pleasant homemade kraut:
                First up was the parmesan grits. First of all, Odd Duck got the foundation of the dish perfect, the grits were creamy and smooth, but with just enough large grainy bits to make it clear that it’s grits you are eating, and enough cheese to give it some extra substance, without being too salty. The duck egg perfectly cooked: the whites just barely set, and the yolk perfectly creamy. Add in a few fried mushrooms and brussel sprout, and it was a perfect little dish (and I don’t usually like brussel sprouts).
                 
                The pork-belly slider was also quite excellent. Served up as a perfectly-seared and marinated slab of pork belly from Richardson Farm, you can barely call this thing a slider, since it was a very substantial piece of bell. Topped with a pleasant aoili and a subtle kraut, the resulting flavor combinations were pleasant. The pork was sweet and tangy, with hints of cumin and pepper. The kraut gave some crunch and sweetness without overwhelming the pork, adding just a slight sour note. And the aioli gave it a bit of moisture and a bit of garlic tang. Overall, this was a very well assembled little sandwich, with perfectly balanced spices. The slider showed that this place had earned their good reviews.
                 



                 
                Next up was “Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts”, a shiny Streamline trailer, serving up some deliciously crispy and fresh donuts with some very intriguing toppings and fillings.
                 
                There are two things that Gourdough’s has going for them. The first is the donuts themselves. They’ve obviously got the basics of donut making down, since the donut itself is pretty much a perfect example of a crispy donut. Everything about the donut was perfectly done: the texture the perfect blend of “doughy”, “fluffy”, and “crispy”. It’s like having a fresh Krispy Kreme right out of the oil, except, well, better.


                After perusing the very complete menu of inventive toppings (including the “Mother Clucker”, a donut with a chicken tender and honey butter, but they’ll make up just about anything that you can think up with, if they have the ingredients), I settled on the “Sailor Jerry”. Basically a very crispy and doughy (like KK, but even better), drenched with some rum sugar glaze and toasted sugared walnuts. Basically, think “Donut” meets “Rum Cake”, and you’ve got the idea.  Really crispy. The glaze spot-on, with more than a little rum. And the nuts were so delicious everyone else at the table was nabbing them.
                But I wasn’t the only one to indulge. My friend Brad bought a second round of donuts, buying a Mama’s Cake and Bring the Heath (I didn’t actually try the latter, due to lack of stomach space). The former is a donut filled with yellow cake batter with chocolate fudge glazing. Remember in the last paragraph I said that my Sailor Jerry was the second best donut ever? This one beats it, by a slight margin. The filling had that perfect “yellow cake batter” texture. The glaze was delectable. The crispy donut tied it all together.  While probably the most unhealthy items of the entire trip, these were seriously good:



                 
                (more later....)
                 
                 
                 
                #8
                  Sundancer7

                  Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 7:22 PM (permalink)
                  It would be interesting to hear Bushie's thoughts.  He is a expert regarding Austin's food.  I am certain that there are many outstanding carts, restaurants and other establishments.  I would just be interested in his remarks.
                   
                  Paul E. smith
                  Knoxville, TN
                   
                  #9
                    scrumptiouschef

                    • Total Posts: 639
                    • Joined: 10/5/2005
                    • Location: austin, TX
                    Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Thu, 04/14/11 11:27 PM (permalink)
                    A few thoughts on Austin Food Carts
                    The current hot trend in Austin [and lots of other cities] is food cart dining. My top 5 carts, in no particular order, follow:
                     
                    La Canaria: I’ve been eating from taquera Maria’s tiny kitchen for years. Homemade tortillas, best gorditas in town, great posole and long operating hours make this a good option for  visitors.
                    E 51st St & Airport Blvd
                    Austin, TX 78751
                    Three Little Pigs: One of the old lions of Austin’s fine dining scene is now in his own cart as chef/operator. Chef Raymond Tatum’s ethos is to honor the entire pig from the nose to the tail by eating it. My favorite items on his menu are the Pork Belly, Meatloaf with Collards and Grits and his Thai Green Curry Noodle with Roasted Pork Butt. Meats are sourced from Niman Ranch. As an added bonus Chef Tatum is in the parking lot of a very well stocked wine store: East End Wines
                    1209 Rosewood Ave
                    Austin, TX 78702
                    Odd Duck Farm To Trailer: Chef Bryce Gilmore has handed the reigns over to his brother so that he may concentrate on his brick and mortar operation; Barley Swine. I haven’t been to Odd Duck since Chef Gilmore left but reports confirm that there has been no drop in quality. All Texas based sourcing with amazing pork dishes, grits, cheeses, eggs and greens. Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Austin have come from Odd Duck.
                    1219 S Lamar Blvd
                    Austin, TX 78704
                    512-695-6922
                    La Flor: Best hand patted [a vanishing art] corn tortillas in Austin, best desebrada in Austin, top flight salsa and a careful rendering of the classics put Chef Angela’s kitchen near the top of Austin’s food cart scene.
                    4901 S 1st St
                    Austin, TX 78745
                    El Taco Rico: Some may find it odd that the best Mexican restaurant in Austin is a cart in a laundry mat parking lot. I don’t. Chef Yolanda Sanchez-Cornejo’s pressed corn tortillas are the finest in town, her barbacoa is San Antonio quality, which is to say world class. She also puts out the best tostada in the city and her breakfast tacos are the best I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. Austin has a world class Mexican restaurant…and it’s in a cart…in a laundry mat parking lot. Deep Fried Quail Enchiladas anyone?
                    810 Vargas Rd
                    Austin, TX 78741
                    There are well over  a thousand food carts in Austin currently. This is just a tiny, scratching of the surface of this vast scene. Countless other trailers race about town with quality  varying  from dismal to truly great.
                     
                    #10
                      Lost Nation

                      • Total Posts: 104
                      • Joined: 3/3/2011
                      • Location: Essex Junction, VT
                      Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Sun, 04/17/11 1:32 PM (permalink)
                      great trip, I loves me some BBQ...
                       
                      #11
                        EdSails

                        • Total Posts: 3548
                        • Joined: 5/9/2003
                        • Location: Mission Viejo, CA
                        Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Sun, 04/17/11 1:44 PM (permalink)
                        Sounds like a great trip, kaszeta. Good report and pics too!
                        One of my biggest disappointments ever was driving, pedal to the metal across CA, AZ, NM and TX with barely a stop for gas and to-go coffees with one goal in mind-----to make it to City Market In Luling. Imagine my heartbreak when we pulled up 5 minutes after they closed-----you could still see them sweeping inside. Thanks for at least letting me enjoy them vicariously in your report. They are one of the places on my Bucket List!
                         
                        #12
                          kaszeta

                          Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 9:09 AM (permalink)
                          More pics from the food carts....
                           
                          Next up was The Peached Tortilla.  After getting our fill on South Lamar, we moved downtown to West Sixth Street to search out some more food carts. Our primary stop was The Peached Tortilla (which labels itself “Austin’s Fusion Taco Truck”), which sports a very expansive menu of tacos, primarily using Asian-inspired dishes and ingredients. Highlights include pad thai, banh mi, chicken satay, catfish, szechuan veggies, and more, as well as a healthy assortment of sliders (including crab cakes!).   After looking over the menu, I settled on the chicken satay tacos, served up on corn tortillas. This was a seriously good taco. The chicken was nicely spiced, tender, and had a good sear on it. The veggies were marinated but still crisp, and the peanut sauce was spicy and flavorful. The others in my group loved their tacos as well, particularly the pad thai taco. Overall, Peached Tortilla was a very good example of taco fusion food done very well.
                           


                           
                          Next, we headed  east of I-35, eventually finding what’s known as the “Eastside Drive-In” court of food carts, with eight or nine trailers all clustered around a central courtyard of tables, most of them makeshift affairs made from wire spools and packing crates. But this court had several intriguing food carts, one of which was Love Balls.  Love Balls is actually a pretty minimalistic food cart, having essentially three different menu items: Takoyaki (little octopus fritters fried up on the little Robata grill in the cart), Veggie Love Balls (which were essentially the same item made with mushrooms instead of octopus, and omitting the katsuo flakes from the topping, and garlic rice balls (the last of which were sold out).  I opted for the last of these.   Despite taking a bit longer than I would have liked (they apparently had propane issues and had to switch tanks), it wasn’t that long before I had a nice assortment of little veggie fritters in front of me. These were nice little pancake-style fritters: a nice core of marinated mushrooms, surrounded by a layer of nicely fried rice-flour batter, topped with grated ginger, a savory brown sauce, and some of the famous-but-slightly-disturbing Kewpie Mayo. The result was rather pleasant, with a nice crispy fritter, a good combination of savory and spicy sauces, and a little pocket of explosion as you hit the inside of the fritter.
                           


                          My second course from the “Eastside Drivein” collection of food carts was from Bits and Druthers, a Union-Jack-painted trailer sporting a menu that was essentially fish and chips, and permutations thereof. I’m always a little bit skeptical of fish and chips joints, since my many travels (especially in England, which is pretty much the birthplace of fish and chips) have shown me that there’s generally a sort of “Fish and Chips Exclusion Principle” at work: Places that have good fish generally have lousy chips, and places that have good chips generally have lousy fish. Places that can do both well at the same time are actually quite rare.   Bits and Druthers, however, could do both.  The chips came out with the perfect texture, a nice fluffy and creamy interior, blanketed in a thoroughly crispy, thick, slightly-darker-than-golden brown crunchy exterior that’s I’ve grown to crave from my fries ever since those trips to Belgium and the Netherlands. These were spot-on perfect, and nicely complemented with a mild curry gravy.  The fish? A nice, substantial slab of haddock (I’m always thankful when my fish and chips joints actually identify the fish they are frying, doubly so when they use a good fish like haddock instead of some bland cod), that was probably the most perfectly deep-fried piece of fish I’ve ever had. Cooked through with a nice, soft white texture and no translucency, the fish was still thoroughly juicy, not over- or under-cooked, tender, and had just enough salt to season it properly.
                           


                           
                          Last up was the well-regard Chi-Lanto Korean BBQ Taco Truck on 5th St (that night, Chi-Lantro is one of the actually mobile food carts that moves about).    While the many tacos being served out of Chi-Lantro were definitely looking delicious, I was seeking out Chi-Lantro for another reason altogether: Kimchi fries. Anyone that knows me knows that I love Kimchi, and am known for downing copious amounts of it with every trip to our local Korean joint. And I love french fries as well. Well, Chi-Lantro combines these into a masterful dish: nicely cooked French fries, topped with your choice of bulgogi (I opted for pork, but beef and tofu were available as well), kimchi, cheddar sauce, some weird “magic orange sauce” of their own make, sriracha, sesame seeds, and a healthy handful of cilantro. It’s quite a mess to behold, but it’s quite the flavor and texture explosion. Everything works with this combinations. The flavors are bold, but combine well. The fries have the perfect texture to serve as a substrate, and the sauces give it some good body and moisture. The kimchi and bulgogi give it a good spicy and savory note, and the cilantro gives it just a bit of green and some crunch. While probably impossibly unhealthy, this was a seriously good street food late-night snack.
                           


                           
                          #13
                            kaszeta

                            Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 9:10 AM (permalink)
                            By the way, you can read my full reviews at my blog, Offbeat Eats, or check out the full set of pictures from flickr.
                             
                             
                             
                            #14
                              kaszeta

                              Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 9:12 AM (permalink)
                              scrumptiouschef

                              A few thoughts on Austin Food Carts
                              The current hot trend in Austin [and lots of other cities] is food cart dining. My top 5 carts, in no particular order, follow:

                              Thanks for the list.  Three Little Pigs was on my hit list this time, but I ran out of time and stomach space.  I'm also interested in the taco joint you mentioned.
                               
                              I'm expecting this Austin BBQ run to be an annual thing for a couple years as well, since we enjoyed it so much.  I've also got a friend moving to the Austin area from Rhode Island, and she was scared about losing all of her favorite dining options.  She's now excited about Austin after seeing my pictures...
                               
                              #15
                                ann peeples

                                • Total Posts: 8317
                                • Joined: 5/21/2006
                                • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
                                Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 9:19 AM (permalink)
                                Great report!! And the pictures are worth a thousand MORE words...
                                 
                                #16
                                  Twinwillow

                                  • Total Posts: 4895
                                  • Joined: 4/15/2006
                                  • Location: "Big D"
                                  Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 12:18 PM (permalink)
                                  As a Dallasite with a son living in Austin, I feel your pleasure (often)! My personal experience's with Krueuz Market are totally negative. I plain, don't like the place. My personal faves in Lockhart are Smitty's and Black's.
                                  Two weeks ago I spent a long weekend with son my for the sole purpose of trying a lot of the new places he's been raving about, Notably, FRANKLIN BBQ, CHINATOWN (RESTAURANT) FOR DIM SUM, QUALITY SEAFOOD and HOME SLICE PIZZA. I won't go into details about these three fabulous places in this thread. However, as I was going to drive back to Dallas on Monday morning, I thought we'd go to FRANKLIN BBQ for their incredible brisket. Franklin BBQ is the ONLY BBQ joint in Texas rated ★★★★★★ by the highly respected Texas BBQ blog, "FULL CUSTOM GOSPEL BBQ". 
                                  http://www.fullcustomgospelbbq.com Well, I can't begin to tell how crushed we were when we discovered they decided to close Mondays. Beginning with that Monday! DOUBLE BUMMER! After I stopped bitching I decided to "turn lemons into lemonade" by driving back to Dallas via Taylor and stop at Louie Mueller BBQ. I filled up on their luscious, fatty brisket, smoked sausage and a 2" thick smoked beef rib.
                                  Plus, I filled my portable cooler with a $50.00 assortment of the above.
                                  I was a very happy camper for a week. But, on my next visit to Austin, 
                                  FRANKLIN BBQ will be one of my first stops.
                                  <message edited by Twinwillow on Mon, 04/18/11 8:01 PM>
                                   
                                  #17
                                    kaszeta

                                    Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Mon, 04/18/11 1:25 PM (permalink)
                                    Sorry you missed Franklin.  I hope you find it as good as we did.
                                     
                                    #18
                                      Nancypalooza

                                      • Total Posts: 3778
                                      • Joined: 6/17/2004
                                      • Location: Columbia, SC
                                      Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/20/11 10:13 AM (permalink)
                                      Rich, I actually have been reading this thread for like three days now, and keep getting interrupted and having to come back to it.  Wow what a trip!  That's some gorgeous meat at the top; I've never done the Texas barbecue circuit and now I feel better informed about what to do and what to skip.  I don't think I could do what you guys did. 
                                       
                                      Do you (or anyone else reading) think that the appeal of trucks is that they bring fine dining type food to people who might be unlikely to venture into a fine dining type establishment?  Or people just see a crowd at a truck and know it's food and get excited?  Thanks to scrumptiouschef too for your rundown.
                                       
                                      #19
                                        kaszeta

                                        Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/20/11 12:59 PM (permalink)
                                        I think much of the attraction of food trucks comes from two factors:
                                        1. The accessiblity.  There's no reservations or anything like that.  You wait in line, and get your food.  Much simpler.
                                        2. The inventiveness.  There's not much capital required to start a food truck, so it's relatively cheap to start up a truck serving up that odd fusion concept you had (I had about five different fusion tacos on this trip, for example), or that single-food concept that might not make it in a real restaurant (like serving nothing but waffles or doughnuts)
                                         
                                        #20
                                          chewingthefat

                                          • Total Posts: 6093
                                          • Joined: 11/22/2007
                                          • Location: Emmitsburg, Md.
                                          Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/20/11 5:52 PM (permalink)
                                          Kaszeta, that was one hell of a great report, Congrats!!
                                           
                                          #21
                                            Twinwillow

                                            • Total Posts: 4895
                                            • Joined: 4/15/2006
                                            • Location: "Big D"
                                            Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/20/11 6:42 PM (permalink)
                                            kaszeta


                                            I think much of the attraction of food trucks comes from two factors:
                                            1. The accessiblity.  There's no reservations or anything like that.  You wait in line, and get your food.  Much simpler.
                                            2. The inventiveness.  There's not much capital required to start a food truck, so it's relatively cheap to start up a truck serving up that odd fusion concept you had (I had about five different fusion tacos on this trip, for example), or that single-food concept that might not make it in a real restaurant (like serving nothing but waffles or doughnuts)

                                             
                                            I concur.
                                             
                                            #22
                                              Brianne

                                              • Total Posts: 8
                                              • Joined: 4/27/2011
                                              • Location: Bloomington, MN
                                              Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Wed, 04/27/11 7:44 PM (permalink)
                                              I'm so jealous! I haven't seen brisket on very many menus in Minnesota. Someday... someday the husband and I will road trip down to Texas to hit up the Renaissance Festival and eat a whole lot of brisket along the way!
                                               
                                              #23
                                                mayor al

                                                • Total Posts: 15058
                                                • Joined: 8/20/2002
                                                • Location: Louisville area, Southern Indiana
                                                • Roadfood Insider
                                                Re:Austin, TX: Three days of BBQ and Food Carts Fri, 05/27/11 12:54 AM (permalink)
                                                Our hog-hunting trip next week has time built into the schedule to allow me to introduce my Grandson and his other Grandpa to some of the foodie treats in the area described in this thread.
                                                 
                                                We will stop at Green's Sausage House just east of Temple, Texas (Rt 53) They have a bakery and cafe combined with the meat-market/butchering service.  For us it will be KOLACHE both Fruit-filled and Jalopena Sausage-filled !! Plus we'll get a bunch of Sausage Links and meat sticks for snack food on the hunt.
                                                Then depending on timing and how hungry or not we are we will visit-
                                                The Salt Lick BBQ (Driftwood)
                                                Louis Muellers, Taylor
                                                Blacks  Lockhart
                                                City market Luling
                                                Kreuz Lockhart
                                                Countryside Cafe Schulenburg
                                                S H I N E R
                                                and let's not forget to get the boy a Texas Sized Round Rock Do-Nut while sharing some time with our RF Buddy, BUSHIE !!!
                                                  I want to have the Grandson locate the two business cards I have posted on "The WALL" at Louis Muellers. One was put up in 1996 and the second in 2006. The older one was really dark with smoke the last time I saw it !!!  Lots of good memories to be passed down a generation as a result of the trip.
                                                 
                                                #24
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