Food: A day of dining in Austin
A couple of my cousins attend UT's McCombs School of Business, so we've made a few trips to Austin over the years. Of course, the city is widely known for being one of the food capitals of Texas, but the sheer number of choices for eating out can be overwhelming. If you're interested, here's a recap of some of the places we've been...
Breakfast - Blue Dahlia Bistro (2/4 stars)
Austin can be fairly sleepy in the morning, and we found that the shady back patio of the Blue Dahlia Bistro was a relaxing place to pass the time:
The Blue Dahlia is a European-style cafe that serves breakfast all day, including pretty good crêpes and blintzes:
I had the meat board, which was loaded up with meats, cheeses, nuts, and cornichons. It was good, but pricey.
Lunch - Hopdoddy Burger Bar (3/4 stars)
One of our favorite places in Austin was Hopdoddy, a small chain of burger joints that has a perennially crowded location on South Congress. It's sort of like Five Guys on steroids - Hopdoddy offers a full selection of craft beers, custom milkshakes, and some of the best burgers I've ever had in a restaurant.
The experience is casual and loud, though, with counter service only and people milling everywhere. This is not the place to take someone on a first date.
Dinner - Iron Works Barbecue (2/4 stars)
Austin is renowned for its barbecue, but most of the boutique places (Franklin Barbecue, etc.) sell out of their stock early. If you're craving some 'cue for dinner, what's left are chains like Rudy's and big establishments like the Iron Works Barbecue, near the heart of the city:
The beef brisket and ribs are the highlights here, and they seemed tasty, if a bit dry (it's probably the North Florida boy in me, but I feel like good old pork ribs are the best for barbecue). Still, the portions are mammoth, and how bad can a place be if Keanu Reeves endorsed it? Party on dudes...
Dessert and Coffee
Mozart's Coffee Roasters (2/4 stars) - A large coffeehouse located on the shore of Lake Austin, with lots of indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the lake. You'll see plenty of college kids studying here on weeknights thanks to the bottomless coffee cups. In truth, the coffee and cheesecakes here are just okay; the place gets by on its (admittedly excellent) location.
Lick Honest Ice Creams (3/4 stars) - I am a sucker for independent ice cream shops, and this local chain is about as fancy as you can get - the ingredients are invariably locally sourced, sustainably raised, GMO-free, organic, etc., etc. That would all be for naught if the ice cream wasn't good, but Lick does things right. My "Too Hot Chocolate" was served in a homemade waffle cone, and it was about as good a Mayan-style chocolate ice cream as I've ever had.
Two Hands Coffee (2/4 stars) - Parts of Austin are polished to a yuppie sheen, like "The Domain" - essentially a big outdoor mall that's Austin's version of CityPlace. Two Hands is a cafe inside this mall, and it's actually pretty good - the various lattes and cappuccinos we ordered all came out fine. It turns out you don't need indie cred to make a great cup of coffee.