I got to go down to Austin for SXSW with my job at Flipboard. Despite my busy days, I was able to fit in a good amount of time exploring the food.
Pretty much every morning at either The Girl's Lounge food truck or at my hotel, I had a breakfast taco various ways. The commonalities are flour tortillas and fluffy egg. The rest varies! Crispy cubed potato, ground up bacon or just sliced, guac, cheese or salsa. I'm so in love with brekkie tacos that I made myself enough for a week when I got back home to NYC. The odd thing I love about them is that they're wrapped in foil and steamed. The tortillas seal themselves and everything has a chance to meld. I peeled this one open to show you the inside.
At an unmarked red cart on 6th Street between San Jacinto and Brazos had the most interesting Frito Pie. It was topped with brisket and bbq sauce. I love me a Frito Pie, lemme tell you.
A real surprise was the random salad bar in the Austin Convention Center. I was famished after a day of work and I didn't have time to go far. I swear there is salad under this pile of meat and beans. If I had known as a child that salads could be like this, I'd have eaten more salads.
A must visit is the Tears of Joy hot sauce shop on 6th Street. Back in 2007 or 8 at SXSW Music, I had been day drinking a lot. A lot, a lot. I was wandering to my next party when I saw the hot sauce shop. I looked around, trying to stand up straight. I discovered a back table with giant bags of tortilla chips and an open bottle of every sauce. I think I walked out of there hallucinating from the endorphin high and pretending I was a dragon. Maybe I was a dragon for that really sweaty hour until I could feel my face again. To this day, you can still sample the hot sauces (at your own risk).
Side note! If you are the kind of person to go nuts (like me) and buy a ton of hot sauce-- they will ship it home for you. Or you can order online. Because you don't want to open your luggage back in NYC with a broken bottle of Pickapeppa sauce all over your clothes. Damn, that was a really good one!
It wasn't exactly downtown but the Buzzfeed BFF Clubhouse was on Rainey Street. If I may put on my "business hat", I'd say that the 7-11 Slurpee truck was the best damn activation I've ever seen. It was not simply that slurpees were available and free, it was the CUPS. Even as a diehard Beyhive member, it took a minute for me to realize the 7-11 joke. I also had a bit of this cake. It was the most sugar I've consumed in an afternoon.
My good friend Alex lives in Austin and I definitely wanted a local perspective of what is great to eat. He immediately drove me out to Ramen Tatsuya, where his roommate Patrick works. When you think of Texas, you think of bbq and meat, not ramen. But I knew it was going to be awesome because we pulled up to a dimly lit strip mall. Nothing screams "SECRET" more than that.
I ordered the original ramen with a soft egg and added on a spicy bomb paste. When Alex ordered fresh garlic, they brought a press and a bowl of cloves to him. I added a bunch to my bowl, too! Someone else at our table ordered a side of fried brussels sprouts (that I stole). The ramen was rich and salty, shooting up there on my list of top ramens I've eaten.
A couple days later, when my coworkers left Austin, I had booked my flight to leave a day later so I could just hang out. I crashed with Alex and Patrick in South Austin. During SXSW, lot's of friends come to town and when I arrived at their house, our other Brooklyn friend Maxo was asleep. I posted up outside in the sun, until Patrick, half asleep and wearing a puffy track suit asked if I wanted to get coffee. When you say you're going to get coffee, you think it'll be a couple minutes. We got into the car and drove around, pretty much all of Austin. Patrick really wanted to avoid the traffic, but nevertheless, it was inevitable. Luckily we had this playing on the stereo.
After he got his coffee, we got back into the car and headed to the Cherrywood Coffee House so he could get a burger. I was saving my appetite for a big dinner later on, but I thought, "Cheese fries sounds like a good snack." Maybe it was my NYC inflation sensibilities, but I didn't expect the giant hot iron plate of crispy fries, cheese, scallion and sour cream. Barely made it through! What a surprise!
After the french fry attack of 2015, I drank a bunch of water and psyched myself up for the Infatuation #SmokeAndDenim dinner at Foreign and Domestic. First of all, I'm not sure how I got onto such an exclusive (and um, let's be honest, pretty) guest list -- but I was thankful for the invitation. It started with a laser filled shuttle bus ride with a cooler of Montauk Brewing Company cans.
We were taken all the way our to the North Loop at 53rd street. Upon disembarkation, the first thing I saw was a giant smoker in the parking lot. Again, you'd think, "Meat!" of course. But we were in for a surprise. I grabbed a glass of vinho verde and met my new bestie Alexa.
So! There was smoked seafood. God damn smoked oysters, clams, crab legs and shrimp. I'm not a huge fan of shellfish but there I was sucking very loudly on a phalange-like crab claw. Other stand outs were the cornbread and speck with tomato jam. Cubed cornbread, fried a little to yield a little crispness before the softness of the cakey interior. Pig ears! Sliced thin and tossed in a potent hot sauce with shishito and pickles. There was a brown sugar pork rib in there too. My head was swimming, there was a monkfish tail hanging out of my mouth by the end. Someone offered me a berry handpie and I wrapped it to-go in my menu. Ate the handpie when I got to NYC and saved the greasy menu.
I made this terrible (and very adult) decision to take the earliest flight out of Austin so I could get back to work in New York. At 4:30am, I was sitting in the terminal tapping my foot. Waiting there, for the brekkie taco stand to open at 5am.