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5. La Barbecue
LeAnn Mueller, granddaughter of barbecue legend Louie Mueller and a professional photographer, runs the second most legendary barbecue restaurant in Austin, La Barbecue, with partner Ali Clem. Their trailer compound debuted in 2012 on 6th Street and relocated to Cesar Chavez Street, sharing a lot with a northern Thai street food stand, a gelateria, and a juice stall. They use local post oak and three smokers, two for brisket, one for other meats. Francisco Saucedo handles the early shift, and pitmaster Dylan Taylor handles the day shift. Picnic tables reside under pop-up tents past cages of wood, and coolers of free beer cans are available to waiting customers. Torrential rains and two hours of waiting were worth it to score a barbecue feast. I enjoyed juicy grass-fed Hartley Ranch brisket, spicy pork and beef sausages – hot guts – seasoned with cayenne and red pepper flakes, a “Flintstones” sized beef short rib, and pork ribs rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic and secrets.
MUST ORDER: Sausage, Brisket, Pork Ribs, Beef Rib
Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki debuted this charming East Austin restaurant in a primarily residential Holly neighborhood in 2016. A big patio with curved wooden banquettes and low-slung patio furniture gives way to a dining room with art-lined walls and prominent bar. My group of eight managed to try more than a dozen menu items, drawing from categories like Snacky Bits, Wood Grill, Vegetables, Specialties, and Dessert. Launderette has a deft touch with vegetables. I particularly enjoyed roasted cauliflower with pickled pear, Fresno chilies, sunchokes and mustard vinaigrette; and blackened okra with purple hull peas, ras el hanout, and mint serrano oil. Seafood also gets loving care. Fried oysters join jalapeño, lemon, and coriander dressing. Wood-grilled tandoori prawns accompany cardamom, yogurt, and coconut mint chutney. Tangy, piquant balance extends to wood-grilled branzino with sliced almonds, preserved lemon, and herbs. Chicken is also cluckworthy, whether it’s chicken thighs cacciatore with punchy Scotch bonnet onion aioli or crispy brick chicken with sauce aligot and braised greens. The standout dessert involves an indulgent plate of salted macadamia profiteroles with banana caramel, Kahlua, chocolate, and salted macadamia ice cream.
MUST ORDER: Labneh, Fried Oysters, Tandoori Prawns, Blackened Okra, Roasted Cauliflower, Chicken Thighs, Whole Branzino, Brick Chicken, Salted Macadamia Profiteroles
7. Lick Honest Ice Creams
Lick partners Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier opened their second Austin location at the base of the Lamar Union mixed-use development. The space features an industrial shell, powder blue, white, and concrete walls, a black counter, and red benches out front. I was impressed with their silky ice cream flavored with veg-fueled combos like roasted beets & fresh mint and carrots & tarragon. Yes, Lick also offers sweet and more traditional flavors. No matter your selections, I’d suggest investing in a vanilla waffle cone with thin but reliable walls.
MUST ORDER: Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint Ice Cream, Carrots & Tarragon Ice Cream, Vanilla Waffle Cone
8. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
San Antonio native Miguel Vidal runs an elaborate food truck in a Conoco parking lot on the south side of town. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ smokes meat with mesquite in one trailer and take orders in an adjacent trailer. Sandwiches, tacos, and per-pound plates include options like brisket, pulled pork or chicken, pork or beef ribs, and sausage. Arrive between 8am – 11am to score deluxe breakfast tacos. Their potato, egg & cheese taco is relatively basic, topped with tomato Serrano salsa, and if you’re smart, bacon. The Real Deal Holyfield pays tribute to boxing legend Evander Holyfield by piling luscious brisket (or pulled pork), fried egg, potatoes, refried pinto beans, bacon, and tomato Serrano salsa on a supple flour tortilla.
MUST ORDER: Potato, Egg & Cheese Taco, The Real Deal Holyfield Taco
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