78704 meets 78745

Searching for the soul of South Austin requires painting with a broad brush. Between Pluckers, Cherry Creek Catfish and Matt’s El Rancho (classic Bubba) and newcomers Soup Peddler, Full English Breakfast, Strange Brew, hipster, keeping it local enterprises, anything goes. We even have a second generation pseudo Bubba eatery in Red’s Porch. Much of the new growth can be attributed to the pioneering efforts of Central Market . As one of many homeowners in the Cherry Creek area, I can only say thank you, thank you very much, CM.

This weekend I made it to Full English with Bill and to the new Soup Peddler/Juice Box hybrid with Dottie. Full English breakfast was less together than I imagined, but this is a new establishment and I have high hopes for its success. The baked items and homemade chutneys are excellent. We were less impressed by the English breakfast. Bill’s suggestion that they plump up their plate with a more generous portion of mushrooms, a second slice of toast and a larger roasted tomato is a good one. The quality of the ingredients was very high, all local, organic or natural and homemade. They are offering a high tea for the holidays which I look forward to and I will be back to try another breakfast in the next few weeks.

The alliance of the Soup Peddler and Juice Box was born of mutual interest. Soup is popular in the Winter and Juice in summer. Thus, offering them together year round should boost the seasons for each. The New England clam chowder was delicious and the pineapple aguas frescas had little pomegranate seeds floating in it, very fresh. Standing on the border between 78704 and 78745, it represents the best of both. We got the funk, say it loud, keep it proud.

Dog show at Ladybird Lake

One way I stay in touch with Austin is to meet my friend Dottie at Ladybird Lake on Saturday for a stroll. The skyline is changing and there are new xeriscapes popping up here and there but the trees, the people are consistent, like the guy we say hello to who shares our time and space every Saturday but whose name we may never know. Some of the dogs are regulars too, a few are pictured below. People love to gush about their dogs. It’s a growing phenomenon, one that blurs the lines between species. PBS did a series on the plasticity of dog genes. They are so adaptive they can change physical form within a few generations. What we’re doing to the psyche of our dogs is worth considering. It used to be our kids, but now dogs are the new frontier in behavior mod. Take the undercover pug, better know to his fans as Ms. Douglas Bean. While I applaud the style with which Bean flaunts his neutered transexuality, did the pug get to pick the outfits?

And what are our dogs doing to us? Are they underscoring our pack mentality or could we learn a lot about unconditional love from our wards? I think guardian is a better term than owner, particularly given the expense to maintain our little buddies. Now is certainly an opportune time to wait out the great recession by generating a little side income in doggie paraphernalia. I’m hoping Addy will write that advice column I asked her editor about. The imagination is unchained. . . time to rethink the master/pet relationship at the very least.

North Austin Asian

Dinner found me in North Austin at the Peony Restaurant for a quick take out meal. While you may have problems downloading the menu, it’s worth a visit. I’ll wait until dining at the attractive, “casually elegant” restaurant to post a review. The sauce was flavorful and light with generous portions of fresh seafood with the pork fried rice fluffy, not oily. Looking forward to a future dining in experience.

Dim sum at Fortune for a birthday celebration led me deeper into North Austin, this time at Braker in the “China Town” complex of Asian shops and eateries. Dim Sum gives new meaning to the term fast food, whirling past at lightning speed. The conversation kept pace and two lazy susans got quite a workout. Savory bites of many appetizers with fresh, spicy condiments, who can complain? The large dining room filled with light from gilded age chandeliers and silk wall hangings convinced me that I would walk out the door into the streets of Singapore. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit. Even with the multi-national collection of families enjoying rolling carts of tasty delights, there was an insular, old world feeling, which of course dissipated as soon as we walked out into the parking lot. Normally I like smaller, less bright and quaint eateries, but the noisy human busyness complimented the experience. Two thumbs up.

Food Finds in South Austin

I begin to wonder if there is a typical dining day in Austin.  I started out at one of the best Mexican breakfast options in town, El Meson on Burleson Rd in SE Austin. There is something mysterious about this spot, but the food isn’t it. Great tacos, red hot but very flavorful hot sauce (you have to get there early for the really spicy one) and the best nopalitos and egg taco I’ve ever had. Bill swears by the chorizo and potato tacos. It’s self-serve and unvarnished, but home cooked goodness permeates the atmosphere. On a more pedestrian note, Dottie and I ate lunch at Scholtzky’s on South Lamar after walking Addy (the chihuahua with a Napoleon complex) around Lady Bird Lake. I wouldn’t mention it, but mid-way through my salad a magnificent rooster strolled by looking for a lunch snack. The staff said he comes by every day to visit, making out like a bandit I’m sure. I’ve seen some chickens loose in the woods by Lady Bird Lake before, so my guess is he makes the rounds; who knows where he has dinner?

After washing my car on Manchaca Rd., I noticed signs along the street for fresh, organic produce and eggs. I saw that a new cafe had opened with a large 78745 tag. Upon further investigation, I discovered Full English an English breakfast cafe and bakery that also serves high tea during the holidays. Their baked goods are all natural, mostly organic as are their eggs and bangers and their homemade chutney. What a find! I haven’t eaten there yet but did make off with some hearty raisin shortcakes that were delicious. They sell their baked goods at two South Austin Farmer’s markets. I knew about the Sunset Valley Market but the Austin Urban Farmer’s Market is one I will need to visit. The next time I’m out and about I will bring my camera.

Dining Recommendations

The East Side King food trailer at the Liberty Bar lived up to its press. While the menu sports a number of fried items, the brussels sprouts and beets were lightly dusted, not crusted. Cilantro, fresh jalapeno and a smattering of spicy condiments made for a tasty snack. The chicken was tender and fresh 3.25 stars.

The Bombay Bistro Restaurant in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center brings more savory Indian fare to South Austin. Tarka offers great Indian food to go and a slightly noisy, modern ambiance. Bombay Bistro offers decent music to accompany a diverse menu and very attentive service. The lunch buffet, served every day, does not disappoint. The variety of dishes, wonderful sauces, “street food” and delicious desserts make me want to go back again this week. They have a full bar and comfortable, tasteful decor for a pleasant dinner experience.  It’s not hard to ignore the TV when your taste buds have so much to decipher. 3.5 stars.

East Austin Studio Tour 2010

Perused several art complexes in East Austin: on Smith Road, Bolm Rd and Shady Ln then back to the Eastside Showroom for good food but alas,  poor service. Off to the Davis Gallery for an opening, and the Saxon Pub to see a classic performance by Miss Lavelle White.  Be forewarned, at the Saxon the headliner plays at 8:00 (WTF) so we missed seeing Malford Milligan.  Live and learn, even a well-worn path holds surprises.

Seeing life as art finds beauty in odd places.  I include a few random objects in the gallery below.  Makes for fun sauntering.

19th Austin Pow Wow

Austin’s 19th Annual Pow Wow

I’ve been going to the Austin Pow Wows since they began.  The grand entry begins with the color guard (military veterans) who are followed by the gourd dancers, another group of warriors.  First, the eagle staff is carried into the circle, followed by the American, state and tribal flags. Then, chiefs and headmen enter, followed by head dancers and royalty (i.e. honorary Powwow Princesses)

Other invited dignitaries are next to enter followed by the men: traditional dancers first, then grass dancers and fancy dancers.  Women enter next: traditional dancers, fancy shawl dancers and jingle dress dancers. They’re followed by junior boys, traditional and fancy dancers, and the little girls, traditional and fancy shawl dancers. The dancers dance clockwise, around the arbor.  The people coming together, uniting heaven and earth in a sacred spiral.

Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival

Circle the food wagons, are the days of restaurants numbered?

Strolling Ladybird lake anticipating the first annual trailer food festival.  Music, foods from around the world, kids, people of every stripe.  Classic Austin, all ages no holds barred Auditorium Shores – we’re in the dog park don’t you know.  I’m not sure I will go to Pick up Stix any time soon (the only line that was less than 2o minutes long) but I’ll be on the lookout for new and exotic trailer food in South Austin and on Rainy Street.  I do recommend the Fish trailer on South Congress and 2nd.  Fun to sit curbside and watch the zoo pass by or, alternatively, to be exhibit A.

Sauntering around Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead  sauntering around Austin

A classic outing, beginning with breakfast  at Sazon on South Lamar.  Aside from the red bordello patterned wallpaper, the migas tacos were good and the coffee decent.  After a walk at Ladybird Lake, where a rowing regatta took center stage, we headed to the  Mexican American Cultural Center for their day of the dead celebration.  Since we arrived early, we wandered down to Rainy street for a beer and a trailer taco that had more flavor than substance.  Enjoyed the Icenhauer patio, shown above.  I’m sorry for the inconvenience to the denizens of Rainy street but I like the new development there.  It’s fun and somehow reminiscent of old Austin.  There are some who will disagree but playing ping pong over cocktails . . . .

Dia de los Muertos was just beginning at MAAC when we arrived; parking was already at a premium.  The altars, uniquely appointed with memorabilia and  favorite foods of the dearly departed, reminded me of my own loved ones. I would like to make an altar next year. The harvest cycle, death and rebirth, threads through every generation,  Honoring the past, acknowledging death as a part of life is more restoring of sanity than yesterday’s parade I’m guessing.

Sad farewell to Club 21

Club 21 cannot be replaced.  I took these pictures of the Lucky Tomblin Band playing there last October and set them to one of Lucky’s tunes.  A classic dance hall since the late 1800s.  If those walls could talk . . .