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Chefs' Night Out

Some top local chefs talk about where they go when they eat out

By Mick Vann, Fri., Sept. 16, 2011

Tyson Cole
Tyson Cole
Photo by John Anderson

When you hit a new town, as thousands of you will do for the Austin City Limits Music Fest, you can do a lot of research on restaurants and their ratings, but you never know how discerning a food website or local blogger's culinary tastes are. You can rely on the Chronicle's Food listings and reviews, and you can reinforce those with the preferences of some of Austin's best chefs. I asked a few chefs from some of our top restaurants where they like to eat after a shift or when they get a rare night off.

Tyson Cole, owner-chef of Uchi and Uchiko, loves a plate of grilled artichokes and trout at Bartlett's or paninis, lemon tarts, and anything chocolate at Baguette et Chocolat. Give him a chocolate biscotti with coffee gelato at Mandola's or lemon panna cotta at Enoteca and he grins widely. Thai iced tea and tofu tom yum at Titaya's, guacamole with pumpkin seeds and watermelon at La Condesa, or pork bánh mì at Lulu B's make Cole a happy chef. 

• Paul Qui, Cole's right-hand man at Uchi and the principal at East Side King, has a definite propensity for Asian cuisines, as you'd expect. His choices: the cafe inside the New Oriental Market (Korean), Le Soleil (Vietnamese), Tâm Deli (Vietnam­ese), Titaya's (Thai), Tärka (Indian), plus Deckhand Oyster Bar, Shawn Cirkiel's parkside, and Bryce Gilmore's Barley Swine.

• David Bull, executive chef of Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen, loves the round-the-clock treats at 24 Diner ("Great food all the time") and East Side King at Liberty bar ("Some of the best late-night food and scene in the city").

David Garrido of Garrido's has a short list: Kenichi, Jeffrey's (his alma mater), Uchiko, and Enoteca.

• Elaine Martin and Dorsey Barger from Eastside Cafe have simple tastes. Martin: "I walk across the street to Mi Madre's and get a crispy beef taco." Her guilty burger pleasure: "the drive-through at P. Terry's – I wear a disguise." Barger loves "to sneak off for chicken enchiladas at Los Comales or the al pastor combination plate at Taqueria Arandas. Low-down, divey Mexican food at its best!"

• Jam Sanichat of Thai Fresh and Thrice goes to Sunflower for the satisfying barbecue pork balls wrap and also loves all things fried at T&S Chinese Restaurant.

Alan Lazarus of Vespaio and Enoteca eats ethnic. "Din Ho for barbecue pork, roasted duck, salt and pepper lobster, shrimp dumplings in broth, and those sinfully gross crispy shrimp with honey walnuts. I like Amaya's Taco Village for their old-fashioned tacos. We go to Asia Cafe for their Sichuan seafood hot pot, stuffed eggplant, dry tofu with pork, and pea tendrils. Tâm Deli is another fave for their bánh mì sandwiches."

Aaron Franklin, pit master extraordinaire of Franklin Barbecue, knows what he likes: "espresso at Houndstooth, Otto tacos at Tacodeli, chips and queso at Torchy's, hot dogs at Fricano's, queso fundido at Takoba, snacks and drinks at Contigo, dinner and dessert at Perla's or Uchiko, a burger and a Big Bark at Justine's, East Side King at the Liberty bar."

• Emmett Fox of Asti and Fino has a list he loves: either Pho Van or Tâm Deli for the bánh mì, Din Ho for Peking duck, Home Slice for an Italian cold-cut sandwich, mulberry for the foie gras hamburger, Noble Pig for any sandwich, Barley Swine with friends to order the whole menu, spinach tacos at El Mesón, and Wink "for the best sliders in town."

James Holmes of Olivia has this to offer: "When I'm starving for a guilty pleasure after a shift, I usually head down to Luke's Inside Out trailer, which is outside of the Gibson Bar. He recently did a pork chop on a stick that my line cooks wouldn't stop talking about. People have been known to find me at Quality Seafood on my days off, drinking cold beer and eating raw oysters as well."

• "Sap" Apisaksiri of Madam Mam's has Asian desires: "T&S ... for late-night dim sum and Chinese seafood, Ho Ho Chinese Restaurant for roasted duck and Cantonese dishes, and Sunflower Vietnamese for Viet dishes."

• Ray Tatum of Three Little Pigs needs ethnic eats: "I alternate between Asia Cafe and A+A Sichuan for real-deal Sichuan, East Side King for late night, Fricano's for sandwiches, Uchi or Uchiko for sushi, El Taco Rico for amazing Mexican, Le Soleil for Vietnamese, and I love Madam Mam's when I want to get my spice on Thai-style."

• Ned Elliott of Foreign & Domestic had this to add regarding his faves and guilty pleasures: "After working, I am usually craving bourbon and beef! We as a restaurant love to hit up Contigo or Nomad bar when the taco truck is outside; we usually send someone to scout it out. Also love to grab drinks at Yellow Jacket Social Club, food at Peached Tortilla. For days off, which are once every few months or so, we again love Contigo, FoodHeads, and eating at home."

'Nuff said. These folks all know great food, and now you do, too.

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