Eating in Austin, TX

Pretty Boy and I went to Austin, TX two weekend ago to visit the University of Texas, Austin and eat.  Online research and food television lead me to Sweetish Hill and Sugar Mama’s for pie, Gourdoughs and Round Rock for donuts and Uchiko for ‘farmhouse’ Japanese.  The amazing Masa, head sushi chief at Uchiko, pointed us to La Barbecue for, what else, barbecue.

Sweetish Hill Bakery

single slice of apple pie

sweetish hill

This was the only thing on the list that I ate before Pretty Boy arrived.  I walked about a mile to get to Sweetish Hill and was pretty taken by the cleverness of their name.  The pie, not so much.  The apple filling was strongly spiced and acceptable.  The crust was crunchy at the edge which I liked, not flake-y which I didn’t like, well seasoned (read salty) which I liked, but nondescript on the bottom which I didn’t like.  Overall borderline acceptable.  As can be seen in this and all pictures from Austin, the sun was bright down there!

Gourdoughs

son of a peach, baby rattler

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Pretty Boy in front of the shiny Gourdoughs food trailer.  Isn’t he cute!?

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I was pretty excited about trying Gourdoughs after looking at the menu online.  I picked the son of a peach and Pretty Boy picked the baby rattler.  The son of a peach was a bismark style donut (no hole) filled with peach syrup, topped with cream cheese and more peach syrup.  The baby rattler was the traditional torus shape topped with chocolate frosting something, chocolate syrup something, oreos, and a really long (like over 1 foot) gummy rattle snake.

Sadly, we were disappointed and mostly by the fried dough part. The insides were strangely somewhere in between a raised donut and a cake donut.  It was crumble-y but with more leavening than a regular cake donut.  And dense.  And greasy.  Which I don’t think worked well next to all the rich toppings.  They were fresh out of the fryer and has a very interesting crust, crustier than most standard donut offerings but thinner, if that makes sense.  Like a superficial crustier crust.  Normally I am all about the crust, but somehow the slight crispy, thin, greasy, crewy crust on these was not my cup of tea.

The toppings were what made the desserts palatable.  The son of a peach was not quite how it was described on the menu but it was out favorite of the two.  The donut was still warm while the peach stuff was cool and it made a nice balance.  Everything on the baby rattler was warm-ish and the combination made it hard to finish.  I ended up scraping some of the chocolate off the dough and just eating the dough and oreos, and finished only a bite or two of the gummy.

Overall, we mostly enjoyed them but won’t be rushing back.  I don’t think I would put these treats in the donut category.  The donut is not what these things are about, its about the toppings and the crazy, over-the-top combinations.  And that part we enjoyed.

Uchiko

edamame, brussel sprouts, roasted golden beet salad, avocado sushi, tiger cry sushi roll, tori no su (bird’s nest vegetable and sheep’s milk mousse), firecraker squid, sorbert trio (yuzu, ginger, elderberry), fried milk, takara nigori unfiltered sake, Japanese green tea

I don’t even have words.  This place was amazing.  And I attribute a substantial part of the amazing experience we had to Masa, the head sushi chef, whose station we were lucky enough to sit in front of at the sushi bar on a busy Saturday night.

We took our meal really slowly, ordering only one or two things at a time, pouring over the menu weighing our next options and remaining available stomach space.  And talking to Masa.  I liked how simple so much of the menu was but then interspersed with very complex and complicated dishes.  We tried dishes at both extremes and liked them all.  The edamame, brussel sprouts, avocado sushi, firecracker squid, and sorbert were presented simply but executed wonderfully and with great finesse.  The beet salad, tiger cry roll, tori no su, and fried milk were complex and layered, full of different textures and preparation methods and flavors.  We ate everything but I think our favorites were the brussel sprouts, avocado, firecraker squid, tori no su, and fired milk and our least favorites were the beet salad and sorbert.

Masa was particularly amused when we ordered and finished the sorbert trio and then ordered the fried milk.  He gave us a quizzical look and I explained that the sorbert was our first dessert and the fried milk was our second dessert.  He laugh and said he liked us.

I don’t know if I’d be willing to wait an hour again to get in, but with a reservation for a seat at the sushi bar right in front of Masa, I’d definitely go back!

Sugar Mama’s Bakery

mini triple berry pie

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The triple berry mini-pie was the only fruit pie offering at the bakery that day.  The counter staff disturbingly boasted that they had just taken the pies out of the oven and put them in the fridge case.  I can’t shout it enough: don’t refrigerate pastry crust pies!  Don’ do it!  Don’t sacrifice crust like that.  So we rescued one mini-pie from a soggy, refrigerated fate and ate it later that evening.  The filling was really good, and the crust was tasty, though on the crumble-y and biscuit-y side.  I like it enough to be curious how they would do with a whole pie, but not enough to really have much more to say about it.

Round Rock Donuts

raised glazed, raised chocolate with sprinkles, apple fritter, blueberry cake

round rock

blueberry donut

I wish I could convey the strangeness of the glaze on these donuts.  I wish the true florescent orange color of the glaze stood out in the pictures as strikingly as it did in person.  Maybe look at the glaze remnants inside the bag in the first picture and magnify both the color and amount.  The glaze was all over all the donuts and even underneath and around the chocolate glaze.  I still can’t quite get over it.  Not that it tasted bad.  The glaze tasted pretty much like the standard donut glaze I’ve had on a great number of other cheap donut, except maybe greasier, which makes me wonder about the strange color all the more!

The donuts themselves were also rather interesting.  The raised donuts were super chewy and airy.  Almost like a dense popover.  The blueberry cake was pretty good, super blue inside, and Pretty Boy’s favorite.  I honestly can’t remember the fritter it was that nondescript.  I can remember the long lines and fat people and praise Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman gave the place.  Not worth it for me.  Not worth the drive or the lines or the strange atmosphere and company and neon glaze for me.

La Barbecue

chopped brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich

Thank you, Masa!  Thank you for recommending some amazing BBQ which ended our trip on a super high note!  This food trailer had a line that took up half the parking lot when we got there.  But, trusting in Masa, we waited and I’m so glad we did (and so glad I temporarily suspended my vegetarian tendencies!).

We were in a rush to get the rental car back to the airport before 1pm otherwise we would be charged for an extra day.  So we waited anxiously, ordered quickly, packed up, and hit the road.  Pretty Boy was particularly amused by the free beer cooler and the satisfying sound the meat made when it was unceremoniously plopped onto a customer’s awaiting tray.  We ordered sammiches, thinking they would be best to eat on-the-go.  That was until we say them.

The sammiches were huge!  And amazing looking.  And the guy assembling mine called it a mean sandwich to which I replied that I’m a mean eater and he giggled and threw a sausage link in next to my sandwich.  So awesome!  We ended up eating our sammiches on a bench outside the Austin airport.  Pretty Boy’s brisket was the best, super flavorful and fatty and tender.  My pull pork was good too but not as flavorful.  It necessitated dunking in the provided sauce which I like so much I could only make noises while wildly gesturing to the sauce after my first bite.  We liked the sausage link that sneaked in with my sammich too though not on the same level as the other meats.  The sausage seemed tougher and drier and heavier spiced next to the other meats.

So worth breaking vegetarian and risking getting charged and extra day for the car!  It was more animal fat than I’d had in a long time and was worried it might upset my stomach, but I came through like a champ without even a grumble.

It was a fun trip, though I think my opinion of things suffered because I read so much hipe about how amazing Austin is and how great the food is.  We found good food and liked the city, but it never quite lived up to my expectations and that’s all on me.  So now, with the limited sampling of Austin we had, I will soon be faced with the unspeakably hard task of deciding where I want to finish my Ph.D.

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