Magnolia Cafe is where to run to when it's 3am, everyone is having too much fun, and nobody is ready to go home. So don't. Instead, crowd around the tables at Magnolia and stuff your faces with the unique version of Tex-Mex that the reliable 24-hour crew serves up: fish tacos with red cabbage and carrots, black bean & chicken tacos with a vinaigrette dressing, and of course migas. Feeling satisfied and a little sleepier, push back your chairs, and with a satisfied grin you might find yourself saying, "I'd like a mint hibiscus tea to go, please."
With freshly made challa, eclairs, and other pastries, this central Austin mainstay has the feeling of a true neighborhood place: a parking lot that is way too small, a line always snaking out the door, and perhaps the best bread in town. Even their sandwiches and salads at lunch testify to their culinary competence. Upper Crust is a contender and is here to stay.
While the landscape on the drive out to this Driftwood barbecue mainstay may have changed over the years - "progress" has wrought its share of look-alike mega-home developments - the atmosphere has not. Pull into the Lick's lot on any given weekend and a fiesta's going on. The Roberts family have been Q-ing up Central Texas for years, and the friendly feel of the picnic table dining room have folks coming back for more. When it's served "family style" (all you can eat), even folks hitting deep meat stupor will hear themselves uttering the words, "Yes, please!"
Pancakes. Cake for breakfast! Kerbey Lane serves them up a variety of ways, with all sorts of fruit, spices, and yummy goodies. Migas and breakfast tacos also tempt. Sometimes it's just too tough to choose what type of breakfast to have. The waistline conscious might just opt for some delicious fresh fruit and cottage cheese. Hey, who says breakfast has to be eaten in the morning? Open 24 hours, Kerbey can satisfy your pancake (or whatever) craving anytime.
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, Round Rock, 512/879-2827
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/879-2820
Headed by Rebecca Wallace and Leslie Moore for 20 years, Word of Mouth Catering is an Austin institution. From events for presidents and queens, to the opening of the Bob Bullock Museum, to the Junior League's Christmas Affair, and your neighbors next door, they have done it all. As a new part of a larger venture, they will be debuting a new approach called Taste Buds, which could also be called Catering for Dummies. Stephen Shallcross' 2 Dine 4 has made a big splash since starting in 1994. Take Richard Garriott's Titanic Party, for example, for which Shallcross supplied both an authentic First Class and Steerage menu served on White Star china by waiters in period costume on a specially constructed barge in the middle of the lake. At the end of the evening, the barge was sunk, with selected guests scrambling for lifeboats. Definitely a memorable event. Both establishments can cater events for two to 2,000 and up, and offer a mind-boggling array of treats to titilate all your senses.
If the "spiders" at the Spider House had an official mating call it would be, "Hey, weren't you in my philosophy class?" With its near- campus location, it attracts mostly students who pretend to study. The drinks are great, and if the staff got any hipper they would be deported to New York City.
We love the most recent incarnation of this funky, longtime students/hipsters hangout. Who knew composition floor tiles and Formica tabletops turned those colors when they are completely worn out? Seriously, the food's good and portions are sizable. Some of us are just too old and square to go there any time other than during "respectable" hours of the day so we'll have to assume the "House Rules" posted by the door are for the rowdy, post-club crowd. Some favorites: "There is no volume control [on the music]." "Don't stare at the cooks." "Putting your name at the top of the waiting list is your ticket outta here." Amen.
We can't remember the last time we ordered pizza delivered from any place besides Papa John's. The high quality of the pies is bolstered by a surprisingly quick turn-around time; it's early a lot more than it's late. And we're charmed by the pepperocini garnish. Which end of the pizza do you dip in that buttery garlic sauce, anyway?
Even if our readers hadn't named it a favorite lunch place, a snapshot from the S. Lamar location of Schlotzky's would tell the story. This place is popular and busy. And why not? The food is consistent and produced with all due speed (you are, after all, on a lunch hour). It's great for groups (no haggling over the bill or begging for separate checks) and for "those" lunch dates (i.e., not too intimate). Did we mention it's an Austin institution? Enough said.
2545 W. Anderson, 512/419-0031
1915 Guadalupe, 512/457-1129
111 W. William Cannon #202, 512/462-2222
5105 Balcones Woods Dr., 512/338-9494
13201 FM 620, 512/257-2112
500 Canyon Ridge Dr., Bldg. G, 512/873-8700
ABIA: Schlotzsky's, 3600 Presidential, 512/530-2242
6301 W. Parmer, 512/918-2867
A variety of meats, local and organic produce, and gourmet foods are only some of what make Fresh Plus popular. Parking is a snap; there's never a wait. They also have the cutest checkers in town.
Wake up in the garden: From Chinese eggplant to California mache, you'll find them here, as well as every cook in town. With tables groaning under a huge variety of organic foods and some prepped produce as well (where else can you find fresh-squeezed lime juice and peeled garlic cloves?), and informed staffers with ever-ready paring knives for sampling, both locations are a foodie's dream.
When the finest occasions of life require the finest of dining in Austin, there's few that compare to Jeffrey's. Dazzling culinary creativity, plush interiors, and impeccable service repeatedly rank this venerated establishment at the top of the heap.
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