Ok, one more Austin post, because there was more to Austin than just food trailers. My segway into that other Austin is P. Terry‘s Burger Stand. It is a drive thru. That’s it; no inside seating, no outside seating, just a drive thru. I am going to cut to the chase here. P. Terry’s is better than In N’ Out. I never thought I would speak those words, but it’s true. Skip LA and head to Austin instead. P. Terry’s uses locally grown organic tomatoes on their burgers and are all about quality ingredients. The burger is juicy, well seasoned and has a distinct freshly ground black pepper flavor to it. (I put freshly ground pepper on everything, so I was all about that!). The fries are hand cut, skin on, perfect French fries, not too skinny, not too thick. There is a sign at the pick up window telling you that it is not too late to order a homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. So, of course, I handed over $1.00 and got one.
You know, Austin had a bunch of “best I’ve ever tasted” moments. My friend, Carol, said she had the best BBQ ever at Lamberts. That’s all the recommendation I needed to head over there. We actually went there twice in our four day visit, that’s how good it was. (That NEVER happens on food eating trips, which is actually what all trips are to me!) Country style pork ribs brined in citrus, rubbed in fennel and coriander with a maple glaze, served with an apple & roasted fennel salad. Sounds fancy, but it was just darn good. Tender, perfectly balanced flavors. I never want to ever eat any other ribs, really. They also set out three amazing sauces, as if the food needing any help, but, boy, were they tasty too. If anything could be better than the ribs, it was the cold smoked quail with Mexican rice stuffing, cheese enchilada, ranchero sauce and fried quail eggs. Talk about Tex Mex perfection, this was it. And the best baked mac and cheese I’ve ever had; even better than Kumas, when Kumas mac n’ cheese used to be good. This mac n’ cheese was rich and creamy and saucy, all good things to be for a mac n’ cheese (among other things). We went back for Sunday brunch. $26 deal of the century…all you can eat, with the house smoked brisket, ribs, prime rib at the carving station, along with “the best I have ever had” house smoked gravlox salmon with fried capers and chive crème fraiche. I am a picky salmon eater & this was heaven, lightly smoked to medium, served with fried capers and chive crème fraiche. There was also a sweet table with fried pumpkin pies and….well, I don’t remember past the fried pumpkin pies. They looked like empanadas and were spiced quite boldly and uniquely. I swear I got a taste of Indian spices, maybe garam masala or some other warm spice, not quite familiar in a pumpkin pie, but not at all out of place. Lamberts also cooked eggs to order in small portions, thank goodness, like smoked brisket hash or hanger steak benedict with tobasco hollandaise. Roll me out of there! Oh, but not before I ate mini churros with dipping/drinking chocolate.
Ok, how can you top that? With the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. If anyone knows any good Mexican restaurants in Chicago, please tell me. There is not a one that I am really addicted to. If I lived in Austin I would be eating at Polvos once a week. My husband, Laurent, would be there twice a week. First of all, they had a salsa bar. Laurent practically drank the stuff it was so good. He would definitely be banned if we lived there. The pico de gallo rocked. It was a perfect blend of diced tomatoes and the juice of the tomatoes, not pureed, just juicy. A little heat, some cilantro, onion. How this can be so hard to make perfect, I don’t know. Like I said, if you know a place that kicks out some great salsa, let me in on your secret. If the pico de gallo was great then the salsa ahumada was earth shattering! I’m serious. This salsa was smoky and had layers and layers of nuances and complexity. Not for the timid, but not crazy spicy either, just very flavorful. My notes say that it had pasilla and ancho chilies and chocolate brown/green. Don’t ask me what chocolate brown/green means. Maybe I thought I would remember after a few Negro Modelos! Well, I didn’t. I had entomatadas stuffed with pastor style pork for dinner. I have never seen that on a menu before. They are sort of like enchiladas, but folded instead of rolled, originally from Oaxaca. Laurent had a combo platter with a chicken taco and a steak enchilada with a chipotle sauce, guacamole, refried black beans and rice. The chipotle sauce, ohhh man. They are the king of sauces at Polvos. “Tender slightly salty grilled steak, oh this chipotle sauce is great, get a little refried black beans on the fork, dip it in some amuhada salsa, mmmm” I know that wasn’t very coherent, but that is what he mumbled. Those are the only words I got out of him the whole dinner, besides” una mas cerveza por favor!” Oh wait, that was me. He doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish! Polvos… I love you.
I wish I could say we are “bar people”, but we really aren’t. So when we spotted House Wine, while driving through P.Terry’s, we knew we had to go back later that night. I wish our friends Stacey and Jack were with us, because it was definitely a place to hang out with friends. It was a little house that was so comfortable. It felt like you were at your own house, but cooler…and cleaner. The house was tiny with groupings of comfy but stylish armchairs and couches and built in benches to sit on. The kitchen area is where you ordered. It was counter service, like at a café. I thought this was genius. No cocktail waitress to interrupt you when you’re in the middle of a good story. When you’re ready, you just go to the kitchen and order another glass. The owner told us that you can also bring in your P.Terry’s to enjoy with your wine. Hmm….I’m just about ready to pack up the minivan and move South…..at least for the winter!
If you are heading to Austin in the near future, drop me a line and I’ll email you my Excel Eating Spreadsheet for Austin.