Food
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best Brunch Crowd

At Chez Zee, you can have your Benedict surfed or turfed, as beef tenderloin and salmon are but two options. Or perhaps a simply elegant Eggs Sardou will do? At Austin Java, the variations are more Tex-Mex, like their Green Chili Tomatillo Eggs Benedict and their Egg in a Hole. Whichever you choose, you needn't be a Benedict Arnold. There are four weekends in every month after all, why not brunch jump? Don't be surprised if you run into the same people at both. Our readers know a good Benedict when one is poached for them.

Chez Zee
5406 Balcones
512/454-2666
www.chez-zee.com

Austin Java
1206 Parkway
512/476-1829
www.austinjava.com

Austin Java Cafe & Bar
1608 Barton Springs Rd.
512/482-9450
www.austinjava.com

Best Catering

Word of Mouth, the "Tiffany's of catering", as the owner says, is truly a well-oiled machine inside and out, and is, yet again, Austin's best catering company. Able to pull off events with such professional grace and consistency, Word of Mouth has put themselves in a league of their own. From weddings to bar mitzvahs, Austin City Limits to the weeklong opening of the Blanton, the nationally recognized company has apparently been getting the word out.

Word of Mouth
2501 N. Lamar
512/472-9500
www.wordofmouthcatering.com

Best Cheap Meal

Not only is this locally owned (part of the Manuels' family) taqueria cheap, but it's good too. Changos uses the freshest ingredients to make your order when you order. We suggest the grilled mahi mahi tacos which are very yummy yummy. Their aguas frescas are known across town for hitting the spot. Cheap and tasty, can't beat that for a quick meal.

Changos Taqueria
3023 Guadalupe
512/480-8226
www.changos.com

Best Coffee/Tea Selection

Step over the signature wonky Lone Star embossed in the pavement and into the home of the Fog Cutter, the best pick-me-up coffee in town. Austin Java Co.’s two buck bottomless cup and a row of differing roasts and blends turns every trip into a tasting session. The only bigger selection is the food menu, with more than a week’s worth of all-day breakfasts and terrific lunch options on board.

Austin Java Cafe & Bar
1608 Barton Springs Rd.
512/482-9450
www.austinjava.com

Austin Java
1206 Parkway
512/476-1829
www.austinjava.com

Best Desserts

Pop into either joint on any given night of the week, and you're likely to find yourself amid a sea of moms, liberated for the night, enjoying adult libations and sharing copious plates of Chez Zee's luscious ginger marscapone cheesecake or Manuel's famous flan. Either one of these award-winners is perfect for a girls' night out or a sweet nightcap on a great date.

Chez Zee
5406 Balcones
512/454-2666
www.chez-zee.com

Manuel's
310 Congress
512/472-7555
www.manuels.com

Best Gourmet/Specialty Grocer

Where most organic and whole-foods grocery stores are small operations, locally founded Whole Foods’ eco-friendly megastore on North Lamar is a behemoth. Bringing economies of scale to environmentalist gastronomy, the national Whole Foods chain proves that quality food from quality produce is not a niche market. Whether you’re stocking up on farm-made cheese and locally produced fresh fruit, or making your own salad concoction from the huge and exotic selection, Whole Foods is helping keep Austin healthy. Even their tender barbecued and sauce-slathered brisket is a healthy, clean-living option.

Best Local Food Company

Where most organic and whole-foods grocery stores are small operations, locally founded Whole Foods’ eco-friendly megastore on North Lamar is a behemoth. Bringing economies of scale to environmentalist gastronomy, the national Whole Foods chain proves that quality food from quality produce is not a niche market. Whether you’re stocking up on farm-made cheese and locally produced fresh fruit, or making your own salad concoction from the huge and exotic selection, Whole Foods is helping keep Austin healthy. Even their tender barbecued and sauce-slathered brisket is a healthy, clean-living option.

Best Locally Produced Food Product

What's your poison? You like the Mint & Honey Green Tea, but your pops prefers the old-school sweet stuff. There's a flavor to suit every palate on offer from the purveyors of Sweet Leaf Teas. Clayton Christopher and David Smith, through their passionate, DIY efforts, have ensured that you, too, can have Mamaw-approved sweet tea hither and yon.

Sweet Leaf Tea
515 S. Congress #700
512/328-7775
www.sweetleaftea.com

Best Outdoor Seating

You might have to wait a little longer to get a table during the prime summer months, but there's no better way to enjoy your Hippie Sandwich than underneath those lovely fairy lights, watching some weird old movie, and slurping a delish margarita. Add a sweet breeze, and you've got a perfect Austin dining experience.

Shady Grove
1624 Barton Springs Rd.
512/474-9991
www.theshadygrove.com

Best Place to Dine Alone
Zen

Allegedly, Zen serves fast food. The only thing speedy about the Zen dining experience is how quickly it’s cooked to order and served. Soft, organic curves of bamboo and the firm’s signature sea-green on the walls are calming to diners seeking peace, letting them serenely relish every flash-fried morsel.

Zen Japanese Food Fast
1303 S. Congress, 512/444-8081
2900 W. Anderson #250, 512/451-4811
3423 Guadalupe, 512/300-2633
5207 Brodie Lane, #115, Sunset Valley, 512/899-2222
www.eatzen.com

Best Place to Meet for Lunch

Step over the signature wonky Lone Star embossed in the pavement and into the home of the Fog Cutter, the best pick-me-up coffee in town. Austin Java Co.’s two-buck bottomless cup and a row of differing roasts and blends turns every trip into a tasting session. The only bigger selection is the food menu, with more than a week’s worth of all-day breakfasts and terrific lunch options on board.

Best Place to Take a First Date

Salsa. Magaritas. Red lights. Oh, just box those fajitas up and take us now, right on top of this ultra-hip table! Hopefully your date will be just as, uh, impressed with your choice of restaurant. Manuel's feels fancy, but the prices are more than reasonable. The sexy vibe and excellent food at this downtown institution make it an ideal get-to-know-you destination.

Manuel's
310 Congress, 512/472-7555
10201 Jollyville Rd., 512/345-1042
www.manuels.com

 
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