The Interweb was supposed to bring us closer, but let's face it: It killed snail mail and any remaining excuse to interact face to face. On a bright note, it did give us Greenling. Place your order online, and look forward to a nice delivery person coming to your door laden with locally grown organic produce, meats, and other essentials. And – voilà! – you have a basket full of goodies, more time to Facebook, and a reason to scratch "groceries" off your to-do list.
Yeah, yeah, keep Austin weird, we know. Well how 'bout an annual festival in the middle of the sweltering Texas summer centered around hot sauce? That's just plain crazy and, for the past 18 years (way before weird), tremendously popular. The array of colors, textures, and variations in spicy ingredients dares attendants to be their own critics as they battle the many incoming heats with water and beer. And chips. Lots of tortilla chips. The lines are packed but move quickly through the different areas: green salsas, red salsas, weird salsas.
Inviting atmosphere, sophistication, not too formal or stiff: These establishments have just the right ambience for the Austin business crowd. And they’re both centrally located. So the only real question is whether you and your associates prefer the savory flavors of seafood or wood-fired American classics.
There are fast sandwiches that are just okay, the kind you eat when you're hungry and in a rush. And then there are those sandwiches that are so packed with yum that you wait with bated breath, counting the seconds until they arrive. Luckily, this speedy shop has as much of a handle on efficiency as it does on flavor. And its lightning-fast delivery is pedal-powered, leaving so much less of a carbon aftertaste.
Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
601 W. MLK, 512/478-3111
3203 Red River, 512/499-0100
515 Congress, 512/457-4900
6317 Bee Caves Rd., 512/327-6500
2937 W. Anderson, 512/465-9700
10900 Research, 512/340-0050
It should come as no surprise that these two tied – asking a group what it deems the best late-night dining joint is bound to start a shouting match split between Kerbeyians and Magnolians. And rightfully so: Both offer tasty food at all hours of the night, which is a blessing when you're jonesin' for a cheeseburger and a short stack of blueberry pancakes at 4am.
The real reason for that traffic jam at Lamar and Barton Springs Road. Patrick and Kathy Terry’s home of hormone-free beef, real potato fries, daily delivery vegetables, freshly baked buns, and that richly marbled double-chocolate shake is a reminder that the drive-through is a Great American Art.
P. Terry's Burger Stand
404 S. Lamar, 512/473-2217
3303 N. Lamar, 512/371-9975
4228 W. William Cannon, 512/358-0380
515 Congress #130, 512/473-8722
8515 Burnet Rd., 512/420-9242
3311 RR 620 S., 512/263-9433
204 W. Ben White, 512/462-4998
12301 N. Mopac, 512/719-4810
12018 Research, 512/257-0990
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., Building H, 512/306-0779
Uchi's well-earned reputation precedes it, and its menu is so tempting that somewhere between the mesmerizing Uchi Shot (quail egg yolk and sea urchin) and the Tako Pops (octopus on a stick), your date will finally come out of the cuisine-induced haze to realize that the evening will cost more than a car payment. After savoring all that seafood flown in that day from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market, you, however, will be so warmly sated and still be able to make rent.
Grapevines hanging from the roof and a thousand cupids peeking out of corners beckoning in love, sweet love, make this Italian dining place a perfect first-date location. Gorgeous varieties of wine, music tinkling from the piano keys, lovely pastas, and lighting just dim enough to see the twinkle in your sweetie's eyes. Add to that the option of alfresco patio dining and a nonintrusive waitstaff, and you know why Romeo's is synonymous with romance.
Only in Austin can two of the hippest homegrown places to grab a beer and a slice of pie or canoodle during a flick also be the most economical date places. Home Slice, with its delectable pies by the slice and cold brews by the pitcher, holds the title for when you want to see and be seen. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is perfect for when the lights are low and being seen isn't as important as what you're seeing. The potential "cheap date" label incited by such economical lifesavers as beers by the bucket and big bowls of popcorn (to accidentally brush hands in) is lost among the immeasurable coolness factor.
When the Texas weather turns mild for a few months in the spring and fall, nothing feels more like Austin than dining alfresco under the pecan trees along the Barton Springs Road strip. Shady Grove’s combination of good Texas roadhouse food, cold beer, and people-watching makes everybody feel like somebody.
A proud practitioner of the international Slow Food movement – which does not mean that your food will crawl out of the kitchen, but rather that your meal will be derived from as many local sources as possible – Wink wholeheartedly embodies this theory of cooking in its chicly intimate dining and wine bar settings. The ever-evolving daily menus are unique and sentimental, but be careful not to eavesdrop; it's easy to do in this li'l goldmine of a bistro.
Saturday mornings are the time to begin planning your meals for the week by picking the foods that are in season at the market. We all know that buying fruits and vegetables direct from the farmer is the best way to ensure quality and freshness, but the Sunset Valley Farmers Market is so much more. Local vendors provide a wide variety of other goods from breads to candles, massage, and live music. It’s a weekly fair for foodies, and we all like to eat.
What's not to love about our friendly neighborhood co-op? Knowledgeable and enthusiastic employees, tasty treats for full-on vegans and meat-and-dairy lovers alike, an excellent deli for hungry lunchers, a wide variety of organic and natural foods, and more locally produced food products than you can shake a stick at.
A British accent might find its way past your lips after you step into this beautiful store dedicated to the art of teatime. A formidable array of tea sets greets you at the door, along with goodies like stone-ground, South American Taza chocolate (an amazing organic cocoa creation only found here in Austin). Bulk teas are where it's at, and the staff is eager to turn customers on to brews never before imagined.
With more than a hundred varieties of superior loose-leaf tea, carefully selected from producers throughout the Orient, the Steeping Room is an exceptional tea shop, as well as Austin's finest tearoom. Here you will find stellar quality baked goods, innovative salads and sandwiches, and superb teas (both hot and iced) served in just about the most civilized atmosphere imaginable.
Hot, fresh-baked cookies and brownies made to order and delivered all across town. What an ingenious idea! Add-ons like miniature milks (chocolate and regular) and birthday balloons are the special touches that make this Austin favorite a gorgeous, chocolaty mainstay. Tiff's superfriendly staff (now, at two locations!) is standing by the phone and Internet ready to serve up sweet sugar to make your tummy smile.
1806 Nueces, 512/473-2600
11011 Research, 512/349-2200
3201 Bee Caves Rd., 512/519-3300
117 Louis Henna Blvd 130, Round Rock, 512/808-4300
4301 W William Cannon #210, 512/687-6800
1200 Barbara Jordan Blvd. Bldg , Ste. B, 512/813-7100
What made our readers reveal their best-kept secret? Is it the handcrafted sandwiches or homemade cupcakes and cookies? No, it’s that place where they say your name to say hi and shake your hand goodbye. That’s why this tiny eatery with the big heart has enchanted Hyde Park and the North Campus area: It’s just how mama used to make it – with love.
Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin. Support the Chronicle