A Quicker Picker Upper
But it's even nicer to eat in
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., Aug. 16, 2013
Mon.-Fri., 8am-12mid; Sat.-Sun., 9am-12mid
The venerable Quickie Pickie convenience store on East 11th has been remodeled, reimagined, and repurposed as a sunny beer-and-wine gastropub, with an eclectic collection of grocery items and takeout food. It is a hybrid uniquely suited to the neighborhood, offering speedy meal alternatives when you are in a hurry, as well as a chill neighborhood hangout when you are not.
Its most prominent feature is the small bar with 24 local and craft beer taps (pints to stay, growlers to go). Along with this impressive draft selection, there are three whites, three reds, a sparkling, and a Rosé wine sold by the glass. The Quickie Pickie also has cases and cases of bottled beer and wine that can be either taken home or enjoyed on the premises for a low corkage/cap fee ($8 for wine, $1 per beer). They also boast an espresso machine, so all of the popular coffee drinks are available, as well as several varieties of excellent brewed iced tea.
The chef is Martine Pèlegrin of Whip In fame. Although the overall setup is similar to Whip In, the menu at Quickie Pickie lacks the Indian influence and is far more focused on portability. All of the sandwiches come tightly wrapped in butcher paper, the salads are made in plastic "clamshells," and the takeout rotisserie chicken dinner (roasted with lemon, olive oil, and herbs; served with potato gratin and parsley sauce, $20) is a staple. The exception is the bar menu – a collection of small plates for the happy hour and late-night crowds. These are mostly hot dishes, served on metal trays and intended to be eaten on the premises.
Breakfast lasts from 8 to 11:30am (weekdays) and chiefly consists of breakfast tacos made with fresh corn tortillas, cage-free eggs, house-cured bacon, and chef-made chorizo and salsas. The whole breakfast menu is strong, and the composed tacos are delightful. The bacon, egg, and queso fresco ($3) features the really crispy, house-cured bacon, and the chorizo, egg, and sweet potato taco with tomatillo-jalapeño slaw ($3) is simply amazing. The salsas in particular (both red and green are served with each taco) are absolutely stellar. The menu does not provide the option of composing one's own tacos from the available ingredients, however, and this is a drawback.
The sandwiches are another strong point. The Saltimbocca, a panini made with pork, prosciutto, melted Gruyère and spicy pear chutney ($9), is a standout, and easily dominated the field despite the excellence of the other sandwiches. The items on the bar menu are a bit more uneven, with the potato chips and house onion dip ($3) at the excellent end of the spectrum and the crab cakes with slaw ($12) and hummus plate ($9) over on the forgettable side.
The emphasis on portability does weaken the eating-in experience; the Gulf Coast Niçoise salad ($12) made with poached fish, olives, green beans, grape tomatoes, hard-cooked eggs, and field greens sounded amazing, but served straight from the refrigerator, the rubbery cold fish was a disappointment that the plastic box it came in didn't improve.
Nevertheless, with their focus on high-quality ingredients, skilled preparation, and topflight local suppliers (Cake and Spoon, Baked in Austin, Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, Counter Culture Coffee), Quickie Pickie is on the right track. Culinary competition is very stiff on the Eastside right now, but if Quickie Pickie tightens up its game just a little bit, it will be a contender.