Dear Glutton: Dim Sum > Brunch
Where's the best place (without a crazy line) to get brunch in Austin?
– Hung Over
Dear Hung Over,
While we've all been in your shoes, I believe that it is my journalistic duty to begin my response with a disclaimer: I think that brunch is dumb. Yeah, I've said it. Of course, I've been to more brunches than I'd like to admit, eaten frittatas and Benedicts and baroque stacks of French toast with the best of 'em, sipped mimosas at tables full of nice-enough twentysomething girls in florals, everyone Snapchatting everyone else. Pure hell, if you ask me. Trendy brunch spots seem to be where all the things I don't like about Austin gather and pool into a rancid puddle of long lines, faux authentic flea-market design, and gentrification-friendly price points. Besides, if you've ever spent any time working in a restaurant or knowing people who work in restaurants you're probably wise to the fact that brunch is the meal with the widest profit margin, where chefs can take last night's leftover mise en place vegetables and meat scraps and toss them in a cast iron pan with a couple of eggs, then turn around and sell them to you for $24 without anyone batting an eye.
As I see it, the hung over and beleaguered have three respectable options: birria, diner food, and dim sum. If you're on your own, there's no excuse not to go to El Borrego de Oro for their legendary caldo de birria, a sharply acidic and spicy goat stew served with a pile of hot tortillas for dipping and wrapping and dipping again, pure messy heaven on Earth. But dim sum is the most social choice, most likely to get the approval of the gals on the group text; it's non-threateningly exotic, incorporative of small plates, and dumplings always make an excellent Instagram subject. Sadly, Austin is something of a dim sum desert, especially compared to our neighbors in Houston. If you're willing to dig around enough, though, you can find some good spots.
Wu Chow is easily the fanciest dim sum spot in town, and the prettiest, with its burnished concrete floors and conspicuous light fixtures. The soup dumplings, of course, are famously to die for. But if you're like me, when you're in the mood for dim sum you want something a little more chaotic, a little rougher around the edges, the sensory overload of packed carts and shouting diners, of washing down plate after plate of chicken feet and pillowy pork buns with bitter little cups of slightly overbrewed green tea. You want a place like New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant.
The interior of New Fortune is classically decked out with traditional dim sum palace glitz, with enormous crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, plastic-covered white tablecloths, a velvet back to every chair. It's typically packed on weekends, when the large room hums with the happy chatter of tables full of diners from all walks of life, shouting out to flag down an armada of sizzling carts offering turnip cakes and garlic-laden snow pea leaves, and fat-bellied-pork dumplings bursting with juice. If your friends are better off than mine are, they also serve something intriguingly called double lobster, which seems, to me, to be enough to win over even the bougiest of brunchers. Add a pot of smoky pu-erh tea and an order of egg custard tarts, and you've got yourself a meal to rival the buzziest brunch in town.