America Eating Abroad

Austin, TX

January 27, 2014

We all know that at some point, all good things must come to an end… for us the endless road trip eye candy was replaced by miles and miles of just fields around the time we crossed the border into New Mexico. I can see why the aliens put those crop circles there… something is better than nothing. So we put the music up, set the cruise control and kept driving, but unfortunately a little too fast according to Officer Tyson who pinged us for speeding as we finally made it into Texas! Luckily, after 30 minutes of waiting (me a little nervously, a certain someone not so much), blinding bright lights, and a few questions, we were let off with a warning and sent back on our way. The landscape didn’t change too much after we crossed the border, though there was a lot more going on in those fields… pumps, crops, windmills. One of the only highlights of these two days of driving was a lunch stop in Coleman TX, a small town which is definitely not on the main interstate… cheap and cheerful burgers and tater tots from Owl Drugstore– yes, you read that correctly- it’s a pharmacy slash giftstore slash diner!

Austin_RoswellThen (after a few wrong turns due to me googling the wrong directions) we made it to Austin– an offbeat city with probably the strangest motto I’ve heard for a while- ‘keep Austin weird’. By day we strolled down South Congress with its quirky antiques, boutiques, and cafes, and up through the CBD and State Capitol.

Austin_SouthCongressBy night we had some pretty decent dinners. First up- Kome; after some rather dire dishes (think semi defrosted pasta and lukewarm huevos rancheros) in the random towns on the way, we were craving something that at least felt healthy. So naturally we thought some Japanese goodness would be perfect. This place was just what the nutritionist ordered- from the first sip of the soul-saving miso soup to the last piece of fresh sushi, I could feel my body thanking me.

Austin_Kome1We continued with the asian theme and went to a Vietnamese place the next night- Elizabeth St Cafe. My first impression? Ooh so pretty. Not your average strip mall or mum and dad place, it’s contemporary and apparently, according to some people, with the prices to match. Sure, you’d probably pay a lot more for the pho here, but it was a giant bowl of slurpy comfort I could barely finish. But maybe that’s also because we got the pork belly steamed buns and bean curd rolls to start. A certain someone went outside the box and opted for a banh cuon- a large rice roll stuffed with pork, mushrooms, bean sprouts- kinda like a giant version of the steamed rice rolls you get at yum cha. A bit different but in a good way. I washed this down with one of the strangest cocktails I’ve ever had… the waitress wasn’t kidding when she said it was spicy.

Austin_ElizabethCafe1 Austin_elizabethCafe2Then we were on the road again, heading to Houston but not before a stop at Franklin Barbeque; once a little food truck, now a restaurant with people queueing outside several hours before opening time. We got there around 10am (an hour before opening) on a Wednesday, one of their slowest days and already there was a line down the road- some people even brought their own drinks and deck chairs. It’s been well publicised as the best bbq in America and clearly everything we read about this place was true- the lines were there, the food was amazing, and I’m pretty sure it was going to sell out around 3pm, as per usual.

Austin_FranklinWhilst in line we had a lot of time to ponder our order… we get sandwiches to share- one brisket, one pulled pork? That was the plan until we saw people ordering plates with sides and meat by the pound- time to rethink, and after waiting so long we thought meh, we’ll try a bit of everything. Pulled pork, ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, and a whole pound of brisket, which as it turned out was about 1/4 pound too much, even for these two gluttons. Smokey, tender, rich, fatty in some bits, lean in the others- one of the few times I’ve waited so long for any meal and thought it was worth it.

Austin_Franklin2So with our bellies stuffed, and probably still smelling of brisket we set off for Houston to visit some friends. In the next couple of days we dined and drank a little, and gossiped and giggled a lot (well the girls did anyway). I’ll confess we didn’t see too much of Houston but who cares when you’ve got friends around- thanks for hanging out with us E&N! It was an excellent way to end our time in the state where everything really is bigger, some people do wear cowboy hats, and the drivers seem crazier- ‘cos that’s how they do it in Texas y’all.

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