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blackbookali

Hightower – Austin TX

Austin, Burgers By January 7, 2018 Tags: , , , No Comments

The Vitals:
the spot: Hightower 1209 E. 7th St. Austin TX 78702
the eats: “Burger”
the bucks: $9
the full nelson: one messy steal of a burger that is worth the extra napkins

Austin is an unpretentious food town, and Hightower’s dimly lit interior and casual service set you up perfectly to be surprised by a dynamic menu wrangling in Mexican and Asian flavors in a small plates format sized for tipsy appetites. Every time I eat there I like it more and more. If you watch Cheap Eats carefully or read this blog(which I’m guessing you do since you are right now) you know that I flip for flavor forward foods. Mexican and Asian cooking certainly can serve that up, and being an American who is spoiled by food culture choices, it is nice to go to one place that has great whiskey and food I would crave a day after having plenty of whiskey. Before we get to the burger however I do feel we need to get into some other highlights of the menu that might have you picking Hightower for a date night as much as a burger binge.

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Bang for your OMAKASE (sushi tasting menu) Buck

Boston, New England, Sushi By December 12, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

The Vitals:
the spot: Cafe Sushi 1105 Massachusetts ave Cambridge MA 02138
the eats: Omakase (chef’s tasting menu of sushi, cooked items)
the bucks: $110
the full nelson: top shelf sushi meets no frills environment and an overall bargain of an omakase experience

I recently found myself in Boston searching for Cheap Eats (#staytuned) when a local chef put me in the know about Cafe Sushi, a full on Bang for your Sushi Buck place if you like to take your sushi to Omakase overdrive.  For the uninitiated, Omakase is Japanese for “I’ll leave it up to you”; essentially giving the chef carte blanche to design a tasting menu of the very best. The phrase infers respect but it also is saying to the chef – “show me what you got”. If you thought sushi was expensive, well omakase is taking upgrading your Benz to an AMG or at the right places, a full on Maybach. In the case of Cafe Sushi, I would say you are upgrading to a flagship Lexus – a relative bargain amongst the world of high end dining but far from chump change. And what is the MSRP you ask? $110 per person. Yes, this meal breaks triple digits before a single drop of sake or beer. Is it worth it? For the true sushiphile, read on and let the hunger games begin!!

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Contigo – Austin TX

Austin, Burgers, Texas By November 14, 2017 Tags: , , , , No Comments

The Vitals:
the spot: Contigo 2027 Anchor Ln, Austin, TX 78723
the eats: Burger w/ cheese and fries
the bucks: $16
the full nelson: one of the best burgers in Austin

An article came out in Bon Appétit magazine last year describing Contigo as a restaurant “locals bring out of towners in order to convince them to move here”. I would go a step further and say it is a place to bring your friends visiting from Brooklyn, Silver Lake or San Francisco and say “hey Austin has food as good as you do plus we are as laid back as the patio you are eating and drinking in”. Austin of course has food worthy making a trip for, especially if you hail from the latest and greatest corners of gentrification. Contigo isn’t so much a meal you see on an episode of Chef’s Table but they are as timely and relevant as chef driven, farm to table burgers get. It’s among my top two burgers in Austin and proof that the best Bang for your Burger Buck in this town sits in the mid teen range(Odd Duck is right up there too). But wait, did I say the best burger value is in fact closer to an Andrew Jackson then a Abraham Lincoln? Yeah, I really did. As much as P. Terry’s and Hopdoddy will absolutely sate your burger fix for under $10, whats happening around the $15 mark at Contigo and Odd Duck, well that’s good enough to convince your East and West Coast friends that Austin’s food scene is as relevant as LA, SF or NYC. Need more convincing? Well that’s what I’m here to do.

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Bang for your TACO Buck: Pueblo Viejo – Austin, TX

Austin, Taco Spotting, Taco Trucks, Tacos By November 2, 2017 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

The Vitals:
the spot: Pueblo Viejo 502 Brushy st Austin TX 78702 
the eats: lamb barbacoa, taco Nes, taco chicharron
the bucks: $3.75, $3.75 and $3.20 respectively per taco
the full nelson: you can’t eat more than three. but you will want to. 

My people, sometimes I just gotta come at ya and flat out say it: right now Pueblo Viejo is my favorite taco spot in Austin, may the whole damn world. They take the idea of cheap tacos and turned it on its side. Rather than offering a small tasty treat for $2 or less(and I know LA peeps – $2 a taco is $$$), Pueblo charges you somewhere between $3 and $4 for a tortilla stuffed with enough meat to fill a San Francisco Mission style burrito. Two will be enough, yet I dream about eating more than three because they are as flavorful as they are generous. Being a taco spot in Austin you might be tempted to try the breakfast tacos, and while cheaper, the fun lies in lunch . . . oh lordy these tacos are bumpin’ so let’s just my Pueblo pics . . .

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Burlington in Requiem

Burlington, Cheap Eats, east coast, New England, Vermont By October 16, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Boys and Girls, welcome to the Season Finale of Cheap Eats brought to you by the killer food scene and all around good vibes of Burlington, Vermont. Now I had never been to Burlington before, but I spent too many years listening to Phish and watching pals trot off to UVM(University of Vermont) to not have some idea of the potential here. First off, in June, Burlington is a beautiful place and we were lucky to catch a music festival while we were shooting here. Great beer scene, great restaurants and great music; Burlington reminded me a lot of my current home of Austin. And Lake Champlain? Truly gorgeous. I could not have asked for a better close to season 3 so get ready to take one last big bite of Cheap Eats Burlington baby!

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Launderette – Austin TX

Austin, Burgers, Texas By October 10, 2017 Tags: , , , No Comments

The Vitals:
the spot: Launderette 2115 Holly St. Austin TX 78702
the eats: Plancha Burger
the bucks: $9
the full nelson:  A chef driven take on a classic comfort food burger

I have been living in Austin for a little over two years now and while I feel comfortable waxing poetic on some obvious edible essentials like La Barbecue, P. Terry’s or Taco Deli; the fine dining scene eludes me. Part of it is because since having a kid, my wife and I eat out at these types of establishments far less. The other part is that you don’t need to eat at a fine dining establishment to get a taste of the chef driven, farm to table food experience that is the cornerstone of our contemporary fine dining movement. Which brings me to my visit at Launderette for the Plancha burger. First off Launderette is far more than a mere burger spot, their menu is a mix of shared plates and a few entrées, with a heavy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence. The chef behind the savory side of the menu, Rene Ortiz, is an accomplished one, with a resumé that rattles off names like Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse like a teaser for an upcoming episode of Top Chef Masters. And the burger costs $9, so this should be a perfect storm for Bang for your Burger Buck right? That depends on what you expect out of your burgers. The Plancha is a chef driven version of a classic American Diner cheeseburger, a burger genre whose entries make the lists of the best burgers around. And if you need support that a diner cheeseburger can draw the admiration of top tier critics, just ask Jonathan Gold, George Motz or Nick Solares. How does the Plancha stack up? Let’s find out.

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