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Bang for your BRISKET Buck: 5 Austin BBQ Picks

Austin, Barbecue, BBQ, Brisket, Cheap Eats, Texas By May 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

It often starts in a backyard where a Dad dumps lighter fluid over a pyramid of charcoal briquettes. Hotdogs stand at the ready to be charred. You inevitably eat outside. For a moment, the modern suburban American is somehow a little more connected to nature and the primal beginnings of human civilization. Eating around the fire is both ancient ritual and modern day American food tradition. In either case, while the scenario is fun, eating well from fire is often an art best left to the experts. Enter American Barbecue, the Central Texas smoked meat tradition, and our current food renaissance’s obsession with the pit master obsessed with brisket.  There is just nothing quite like it. Sure, Memphis fanatics will talk up the supremacy of sugar rubbed ribs and Carolina pulled pork enthusiasts will mock anything that isn’t porcine focused but man who doesn’t love beef in America? Further, who doesn’t love the pure satisfaction of beef kissed with smoke, salt and pepper? There is plenty of room on my table for all kinds of Barbecue and not just our domestic fare either, but I happily now count myself among the ranks of the brisket obsessed and I can thank living in Austin for that. There has been a renaissance, wait I used that word already, well F*** it, it is what it is, there has been a Renaissance in Central Texas Barbecue that has stretched out as far west as Compton CA and as far east as the Big Apple. But today we will focus on Central Texas Brisket found right here in Central Texas. So here we go – 5 Austin picks where you will find some Bang for your Brisket Buck.

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Bang for your TACO buck: 4 Austin taco spots

Taco Spotting, Taco Trucks, Tacos, Texas By April 6, 2017 No Comments

Ask someone about Texas BBQ and they will respond with something to the effect of “it’s all about the beef“. True, but also true is the Bovine Supremacy of the Tejano Taquero. The best beef tacos I have ever had, have been in Texas, and as of now that means Austin, Texas. And I ain’t just talking fajita platters and skirt steak tacos either. My time in Austin has been a revelation in what can be accomplished with a $2+ taco in the categories of fajita(skirt steak), lengua(beef tongue) and barbacoa(beef cheeks braised slowly, referred to as cabeza outside of Texas). But beef isn’t the only pick in this list. Tejanos love goat as much as folks down in Guadalajara and I threw in one elusive goat barbacoa joint that you will have to set your alarm clocks for, because she runs out usually before noon. As always the bucks are accounted, for so feel free to hit up more than on, grab some napkins and let’s get our taco on.

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Hopdoddy Burger Bar Edition

Arizona, Austin, Burgers, California, Chain, Colorado, Gourmet, Los Angeles, Texas, West Coast By August 6, 2016 No Comments

I’m really scratching my head on this one. As I struggle to tickle the keys on my beat to hell 2007 Macbook, I face the stark truth that I am about to give props to the one burger joint in Austin that seems like it came out of the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix trilogy: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The customers don’t wear nearly the same amount of leather as Carrie Anne Moss, and I’m pretty sure open carry in Austin’s City Limits doesn’t include Matrix level hardware, but the almost too perfect polished feel of the place seems jarring enough for me to take the red pill. In this case, the “red pill” meant taking on three(actually 4) burgers to see how deep Bang for your Burger Buck can go here. And how deep does the rabbit hole go at Hopdoddy? Let’s just say by the end I was waxing poetic on these burgers with the Mad Hatter and Alice.

On paper, places like Hopdoddy are why I began the search for Bang for your Burger Buck. The $10 and up burger trend was shifting burger discourse away from beautifully imperfect burger stands to chef driven concepts dripping with start up cash from dudes in Teslas who just started saying the word “dude” again after a 5 year hiatus post college/grad school. With a full bar, boozy milkshakes and several well positioned monitors blasting ESPN, the temptation to stay awhile and get loose at Hopdoddy is great. $50 later you may find yourself asking how a burger and beer experience bordered on a light sushi dinner. Well, it’s not really a conspiracy on the part of joints like Hopdoddy. They figured out awhile back that people will spend money in all kinds of settings, whether they be quiet white table cloth lined dining rooms or a burger joint with kobe on the menu and kobe highlight reels on the TV. So why should you spend your hard earned buck here? Because in this instance, the crowds indeed gather for good reason: their burgers rock. Their burgers are also all over the map. In fact, it kind of irks me when a burger joint can’t pick one burger version and run with it. In Hopdoddy’s case, they have 12 burgers that showcase extreme topping creations versus that one single interpretation of what they believe a great burger truly is. After an initial dud, I honed in on three burgers that struck me as compelling on their own and fine to compare and contrast. Like shopping for a car or a Mac(hint hint), budget will drive your journey. So here are three great Hopdoddy burgers, in ascending order of Bang for your Burger Buck, that are indeed worthy of your hard earned buck. And I freaking enjoyed eating every one of ’em too.

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Taco Spotting: N. Lamar Corridor ~ Austin, TX

Austin, Mexican, Taco Spotting, Taco Trucks, Tacos, Texas By July 2, 2016 No Comments

Late Night Tacos.

It’s a beautiful sight to come across. A random carwash that has been closed for hours, taken over by a string of work lights, and a crowd of people happily staring at large piles of sizzling meats. You dream of your impending taco order while being mesmerized by a spatula that is oh so carefully herding those sizzling morsels, ensuring that each one has a perfectly crisped edge, a juicy interior, and is worthy of a salsa that could launch a thousand ships. Also, did I mention this meal is about as cheap as it get?

Unlike some of you fortunate souls, I didn’t grow up on Authentic Mexican food. I do like to think that I made up for my 18 years of Taco Bell and Naugles with my 20 years roaming the streets of LA after dark, in search of a master taquero. With that being said, I’m new to the Austin taco scene and there has been an adjustment period. Tacos are more expensive. And where is all that Al Pastor that seems to be omnipresent in LA? Oh, and where can I get my Late Night Taco fix? Which brings me to this piece of taco spotting I’m sharing today. Starting just north of Anderson Lane running through Rundberg Lane and beyond, lies a glorious stretch of Lamar Boulevard that looks plain jane in the daylight hours, but come night fall, I see the familiar markings of Late Night Taco spots. And there be Al Pastor out there too.

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Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

Austin, Burgers, Chain, Texas By June 16, 2016 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger:The Classic” 1/2 lb Meyer Ranch Angus hormone/antibiotic free natural chuck, shredded Iceberg lettuce, off the vine tomatoes, sliced white onions, crinkle cut pickles, “white”(mayonnaise) and “red”(ketchup) on a standard issue hamburger bun
the bucks: $6.29

In the year 2016 . . .

For those of us old enough to marvel at hearing those words being said out loud, we know that our present is in many ways the very exciting future of our past imaginations. Just watch an episode of the original Star Trek, on your smartphone, and have a trippy existential kind of moment when Captain Kirk flips open his tricorder as you think to yourself “there’s an app for that ” .  .  . which brings me to the latest find for Bang for your Burger Buck: Mighty Fine Burgers, and a growing realization that burger chains are being reinvented in very very good ways in the 21st century. You best believe this is one burger that even Spock and Bones would agree is a solid deal. 

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Hut’s Hamburgers – Austin, TX

Austin, Burgers, Texas By March 28, 2016 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: The Fats Domino 1/3lb custom burger blend from local butcher(Johnny Gs), standard issue bun, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, pickles, mayo, mustard, jalapeños, onions, grated cheddar cheese and a spicy New Orleans seasoning
the bucks: $7.75
the coordinates: Austin, TX

Imagine Austin, Texas in 1939. A time when skinny jeans were reserved for skinny cowboys. When food trucks were just for shipping food. When a hamburger joint was just a . . . well in the case of Hut’s Hamburgers, somethings do the stay the same, or in this case, have clearly not forgotten where they came from. You know this place is special the moment you walk in. The sign that bears the year of its founding is about as necessary as the last line on a McDonald’s sign that says Billions and Billions served. History is heaped onto the walls and boasts that type of hoarder chic that has become the trademark style of casual dining empires such as TGI Fridays and Applebee’s, but of course Hut’s feels infinitely more authentic with the predictable but thoroughly enjoyable Texas Roadside feel. Faded baseball pennants with that font that literally takes you back to your childhood bedroom help ease the notion that a midday beer is just what the doctor ordered. Or if you are committed to a course of Bang for your Burger Buck, rest assured that signs like this mean the place you are sitting in is serious about burgers.

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