1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks
Best All You Can Eat

You want what? Thai, Szechuan, Korean, Chinese, a sneeze-guarded wonderland of oriental edibles and plenty of them? The Buffet Palace, retaining its position as Reader's Poll winner, is stocked and steaming with more mouthwatering far-Eastern dishes than you can shake a chopstick at. The really cool Sushi bar has closed, however, as has their Brodie Lane location.

Buffet Palace
4608 West Gate Blvd., 512/892-1800

Best Bakery

These two heavyweight (yet decidedly light & flaky) contenders have been duking it out for years, only to tie in this year's poll. Whether you're looking for simple yet satisfying breakfast munchies or grandiose eventide desserts adrip with flavor and health, we're sure you'll be able to fill your plate at both of these local favorites. Which side is your bread buttered on?

Upper Crust Bakery
4508 Burnet Rd.

John Anderson

Best Barbecue

This top-notch & convenient north campus joint, a veritable Classics library of barbeque-ery where the word "vegetarian" is no slur, usurps perennial best Salt Lick as our readers' Chaucer of Chickens and Brontë of Brisket. Indoors, outdoors, take-it-home, Ruby's is a place you can always make book on.

Best Breakfast

This is the one where the emcee introduces someone "who needs no introduction." Kerbey Lane's popular mix of good and good-for-you creates a paradoxical mystery: "How can I like these apple whole-wheat pancakes better than I like either apples or whole-wheat pancakes separately?" And it's precisely this kind of synergistic combination of excellent early-morning victuals and service and atmosphere that has Kerbey Lane triumphant in this category year after year.

Kerbey Lane Cafe
3704 Kerbey, 512/451-1436
13435 Hwy. 183 N. #415, 512/258-7757
2606 Guadalupe, 512/477-5717
4301 W. William Cannon, 512/899-1500
3003 S. Lamar, 512/445-4451
2120 N. Mays St., Round Rock, 512/879-2827
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/879-2820
2200 Aldrich #100, 512/879-2818

Best Caterer

Two fine catering companies, ready to handle all your on-site culinary needs - from sorority soirees to corporate confabs - with food so good it seems out-of-this-world instead of out-of-their-ovens. Can you imagine both of these businesses having company parties on the same night? Who would they call? Having shown up often in this category, Word of Mouth's Rebecca Wallace and Leslie Moon and Prairie Rock chef Deborah DeWitt obviously have many loyal fans among our readership.

Prarie Rock Catering
815-A Brazos #332

Word of Mouth
2501 N. Lamar

Best Coffee House

Second-time Best choice Flipnotics, fueled not only by a wide variety of tasty caffeinated beverages but by the smorgasbord of live music featured on many nights, ties with cool & campusy/arty upstart Spider House this year as leader of the laidback java pack. You can't go wrong either place, whether you're looking to slam liquid wakefulness or angst-ridden poetry or both.

2908 Fruth

Best Custom Cakes

Picasso's dead, Michelangelo's even more dead, Claes Oldenburg would probably need to create a cake the size of Moby Dick, and Julie Doucet's off in Canada somewhere. And besides, we're talkin' cakes here. Best to call Lucy's, Austin's Old Master in the art of confection decoration and the readers' fave again this year - for a frosted treat modeled after your pet, a spaceship, or the UT Tower - and let its artists handle this sweetest of mediums.

Best Diner

Once again, the virtually uncontested champ in this category. To change the ranking, we'd have to change the label: Star Seeds seems custom-ordered from central casting, as if a set designer had bellowed "Yo, Murray! We need a diner, totally laidback & low-rent, thick with an ambience of grunge & funk, college kids & townies, really great food and 24/7 right next to the highway!" (You want to order the breakfast tacos: yes, you do.)

Star Seeds Cafe
3101 Interstate 35 Frontage Rd

Best Grocery Store

This is the place, definitely. If good shoppers want to get a preview of what grocery-store heaven will be like, in whatever afterlife they may imagine, they need to come here. Central Market is a food store, cooking school, restaurant, live music venue, and local tourist attraction, all in one. That's an Austin take on heaven, if there ever was one.

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar

Best Lunch Under $5

If you're trying to save for a rainy day but are reluctant to ingest less than bodacious noontime provender, this local chain is the silver lining between the cloudhorns of your fiduciary/culinary dilemma. These are submarine sandwiches that'll help raise you from the depths of debt and hunger, especially in the middle of the workweek grind.

ThunderCloud Subs
ThunderCloud Subs #10, 903 W. 12th, 512/322-0154
ThunderCloud Subs #3, 3200 Guadalupe, 512/452-5010
ThunderCloud Subs #2, 201 E. Riverside, 512/441-5331
ThunderCloud Subs #11, 2521 Rutland, 512/835-6458
ThunderCloud Subs #14, 3201 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-2114
ThunderCloud Subs #15, 2300 Lohmans Spur #108, Lakeway, 512/263-1620
ThunderCloud Subs #17, 5401 Burnet Rd., 512/467-9438
ThunderCloud Subs #18, 13776 Hwy. 183 N. #152, 512/258-9145
ThunderCloud Subs #19, 1807 W. Slaughter #500, 512/282-2255
ThunderCloud Subs #5, 7930 Burnet Rd., 512/451-0027
ThunderCloud Subs #6, 2308 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/479-6504
ThunderCloud Subs #8, 2801 S. Lamar, 512/443-0960
ThunderCloud Subs #9, 2021 E. Riverside, 512/445-4163
ThunderCloud Subs #20, 1110 N. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-2468
ThunderCloud Subs #28, 6920 RR 620 N., 512/335-3663
ThunderCloud Subs #31, 2500 W. Parmer #160, 512/255-2013
6105 Hwy. 290 E., 512/451-5830

photograph by John Anderson   John Anderson

Best Open-air Market

Here's where you'll find a vegetable cornucopia ready to spill off the trucks of local growers and into your thankful pantry & fridge every Saturday from 10am - 2pm. A perfect weekend combo of great outdoors & grocery shopping, with a wide variety of produce fresh from the earth. There are often as many as 30 vendors selling fresh, local organic produce and flowers, tamales, natural beef and chicken, salsas, goat cheese, gelato, breads, pastries, and other assorted culinary treats like gourmet tamales and award-winning farrmstead cheeses. This year, they'll be open every Saturday night through the winter.

Barton Creek Farmers Market
2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/280-1976
2323 S Lamar, 512/280-1976

Best Street Vendor

Jim-Jim's Water Ice is a golden cone of frozen fruity heaven, and nothing tastes better on a hot day. Jim Moy was a systems analyst in Philly until that fateful afternoon when he took a friend from Austin out for an Italian ice. The Austinite ranted and raved and wished he had this rare Yankee treat back home. That's all Jim needed to hear. He packed up, headed south, and now he's cranking out a dozen gourmet real-fruit flavors of smooth 'n' tasty Philly style Italian ice, including mango, black raspberry, passionfruit, and guava, from his shop on Old Pecan Street. Welcome, Yankee!

Jim-Jim's Water-Ice
615-A E. Sixth

photograph by John Anderson   John Anderson

Best Waitstaff, Fastest

When you get the kind of frequently-packed-to-the-gills patronage that Chuy's gets, you need a fast waitstaff. And the efficient men and women dealing from the arm in this 'way popular Tex-Mex restaurant & Elvis shrine are even faster than the speed of Lite.

1728 Barton Springs Rd., 512/474-4452
10520 N. Lamar, 512/836-3218
11680 Research, 512/342-0011
2320 N. I-35, Round Rock, 512/255-2211
4301 W. William Cannon, 512/899-2489

Best Waitstaff, Nicest

Loyal patrons of Austin's Texas Star and her satellite locations all know how far a kind word and a friendly smile go - especially on a Friday night, when the lime-strawberry swirls are swirling out of the waitstaff's hands at the speed of sound, or on Sunday morning, as crowds swell for a swell plate of Trudy's popular migas. Just about anytime, readers can count on the genial staff at Trudy's to make sure there's an extra place at the table.

Trudy's North Star, 8820 Burnet Rd., 512/454-1474
Trudy's South Star, 901-C Little Texas Ln., 512/326-9899

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