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Even after eating at this little Indian food trailer, I still don’t really know what a “dosa” is.

It’s been a while since I’ve tried something new, so I went to the trailer park on South Congress and ordered the Crispy Holy Cow with carrots, lettuce, and cheese.

You get two “sides” too, but in reality they’re pretty much dipping sauces. I went with Cilantro Chutney and Sambar (lentil dipping soup).

The way it works is, you go up to the window, place your order, give ‘em your name, and wait until they call. 

I waited about 10 minutes before the nice lady stuck her head out the window and just said… “Ugh, Crispy Holy Cow… with Water?”

The confused look on her face suggested she must have forgotten my name, but I assumed the order was mine because everyone who ordered before me asked for crazy drinks like “Organic Mango Lassi.”

That sounded good, but the girl in front of me got the last one. ANYWAY…

This is what I got:

This thing is like an Indian potato burrito, but instead of a tortilla, they use like a crepe. It’s light, soft, and foldable, so it’s a fun little thing to eat.

Not crazy Indian spicy, but enough so that if you didn’t order a drink, you’d be pissed off with yourself. The taste was rather bland, so the dipping sauces were a nice addition.

I didn’t taste any carrots, lettuce, or cheese (that I paid a dollar more for), so I assume they either forgot or got my order wrong. I think that would have added for flavor. 

Now I ate this on Labor Day at around 3:15pm, so it was really hot outside and this added to the heat. Maybe I’m wrong, but I always assumed India had a hot climate too. I never understood the combination of hot weather & spicy food, but I did it, therefore it felt pretty authentic. Like I was eating from a street vender in Punjab.  

I don’t plan on returning anytime soon, mostly because I’m a big carnivore. I like my Indian food with thick curry sauce and chunks of lamb, but this place seems right for the vegetarians. 

OVERALL:

Service: B-

Food: C+

Decor: B

Audio Level: Outdoors

Price $

The ARC: “Perfect for vegetarians & health-nutty hippies trying to diversify their fast food selection…”

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Nestled in a tiny strip mall just south of 183 & Anderson Mill Road, Jardin Corona Cantina is a Mexican restaurant that screams “locals.”

When you walk in, you can tell nobody hired an interior designer. The theme is as generic as “mexican restaurant/bar.” 

Those neon beer bar lights hang on the wall, and cheap christmas style lights stretch across the ceiling. 


But you don’t come here for the atmosphere, you come here for the food! (…and because it’s close to you!)

My buddy and I have no problem finding a table, as there’s ample seating. We get chips & salsa and I order the special drink today: Raspberry Margarita.

 

Stir this baby up, and it’s as fresh as you can get.

The chips need a little salt, so sprinkle it on and enjoy the salsa which has just the right spice to flavor ratio.

We both order “El Cowboy,” which is “The Cowboy” to you pinche gringos. 1 Beef fajita taco, a cheese enchilada, a chicken enchilada, and a side of flat chile con queso & guacamole that comes out first…

Oh, it comes it out in literally less than a minute too, so don’t go to the bathroom right after you order.

Cheesy. Yummy. It sits there asking you: “Please pour a little of that sauce on me…”

Eat it quick because less than a minute after this, the main course lands on your table:

By now it’s 5:45 and the place is filling up fast. Only it’s still quiet. Maybe they invested all the money from the interior designer to an acoustic engineer… I don’t know.

You get a lot of food for the money, but the fajita taco was a little disappointing. It’s the kind you bite into and have to pull like a great white shark to separate your bite from the taco.

So yeah, the food comes out in thirty seconds, but the fajitas are probably sitting in a pan waiting for the order. Freshness fail. 

The enchiladas are nice and hot, and exactly what you expect from a cheap local mexican joint. The chicken is good, the cheese is rich, and it’s a filling plate for under $9 bucks.

Finally, ask for some EXTRA napkins when you order because Jardin Corona Cantina is one of those places that hordes napkins like they’re being discontinued next month.

I don’t live around here, so I’m probably not gonna be coming back anytime soon, but if you are around north austin and want a quick, easy, mexican bite… you’ll be satisfied. 

OVERALL:

Service: A

Food: B

Decor: C-

Audio Level: Low

Price $

The ARC: “I’m in the mood for a quick Mexican bite, as long as it’s got GOOD Margaritas…”

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Right off of Oltorf & Burleson is Hai Ky. This hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint is your no frills- no thrills asian eatery. 

The restaurant sits in an old strip mall where you don’t want to find yourself when the sun’s going down… You know what I mean?

There was a tattooed guy smoking a cigarette next door to this place. (Without his shirt on, of course…) 

So as soon as you walk in, you can’t help but think two things: 

Either:

1. This place is going to be super authentic and you get to discover it before anyone else!

or

2. This place is going to be horrible.

…Well it wasn’t #1.

If you enjoy atmosphere, this isn’t the restaurant for you.

If you enjoy food… again… this isn’t the restaurant for you.

I’m probably being too hard, so I’ll just get to the review.

I order Chicken Pad Thai and some spring rolls to start.

The spring rolls arrive and to the naked eye, they look burnt to hell:

 

But when biting in, the exterior is crispy, and the accompanying sauce is thick and tasty. The taste is too powerful with ginger, but so far so good.

Rolls are pretty easy.

Pad Thai on the other hand is tricky. It’s either delicious or terrible… And when the plate arrives, I see this:

I want creamy… penut flavor… and fresh chicken.

This was dry, bland, and flavorless. Did I projectile vomit all over the walls? No.

So it wasn’t poisonous. I mean I ate it, but it was a very, VERY sad meal.

Maybe Hai Ky has some fantastic Vietnamese dishes. Had I been in a more creative mood, perhaps I would have chosen a PHO TAI broth. Unfortunately for them, today I was in the mood for chicken pad thai, and what I ate was far from my expectations.

On a positive note, the waiter was extremely nice, courteous, and prompt! He filled my ice water frequently, and you should know how I love that.

But yeah, don’t eat here.

OVERALL:

Service: A-

Food: D-

Decor: D+

Audio Level: Extremely Low

Price: $ & 1/2

The ARC: “Let’s not go there again, okay?”

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Kenichi is the place to take a date to impress.

The interior is an eclectic upscale fusion of asian design. Looks like a high-class dojo that they happened to convert into a restaurant.

It’s spacious and welcoming, with choices of booths along the windows or tablecloth covered tables in the center.

I started off with some hot sake and warm edamame.

The edamame is served in a bowl, then flipped upside, and tasted light without too much salt.

Right after we ordered, the waitress recommended Kenichi’s grated wasabi. If you’re a fan of wasabi like I am, I recommend you order this.

We ordered 3 rolls.

Eel roll, tempura shrimp roll, and a special roll with strawberry slivers and cream cheese.

 

Delicious and sweet, it was our “dessert” roll.

Eating the sushi rolls, you can tell very quickly that the food is high quality. The problem comes with the price and portion sizes.

That’s all three rolls right there.

Each roll was about ten dollars, with the speciality rolls averaging around 15 or 16. Not too expensive, but the price kicks you when you take two bites and your entire roll’s gone.

For real dessert, I tried the fried ice cream. Who knew this was possible?!?!

Boo-ya!

While more fried shell than actual ice cream, it turned out to be the perfect treat to finish up on.

OVERALL:

Service: B-

Food: A

Decor: A

Audio Level: Low

Price $$$

The ARC: “Fantastic sushi, with tiny portions.”

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What’s the very 1st thing you think of when someone mentions Tex-Mex?

If you naturally think “Elvis,” well have I got the place for YOU!

Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road has been around for quite some time, but I never really appreciated its eclectic decor until last Wednesday.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Chuy’s is a cross between a 1950’s diner, an Elvis Presley museum cafeteria, and a rainforest-themed restaurant. 

Look at this place. What the hell is going on?

Unique, yes, but so is John Waters.

I’m sitting here wondering how all this fits together, and more importantly, why is there no Elvis MUSIC in a place that looks like an Elvis piñata exploded in it?  

I just want some enchiladas! 

Let’s just get to the food…

First off, the waiter quickly brings me chips & salsa. Just the way I like it too. The Tex-Mex way. Salsa should be a bit watery. Although the chips are the kind that break when you put too much salsa on… I do hate that. Get my finger tips all wet…

I order the Chuy’s Special. It claims it’s an authentic new Mexican recipe. Blue corn tortilla with hand-pulled chicken, cheese & tomatillo sauce. Sour cream on top.

Sounds good. And before you can blink, the food arrives! 

Now this plate is hot.

I’m talking, you touch the thing, you’re getting a 3rd degree burn hot.

True to it’s menu, this thing is authentic. It tastes like your bare-foot abuelita made it in your tiny kitchen.

I enjoyed it, but knew it would soon be giving me some massive heartburn. 

What’s interesting is there’s very little cheese in this thing. So if you’re after a cheesy mouthful, ask the waiter for a better recommendation.

It’s definitely worth a stop for some good Tex-Mex as long as you don’t mind eating in a place that makes you feel like you’re at crazy-person’s house.

OVERALL:

Service: B+

Food: B+

Decor: D

Audio Level: Low

Price $ & 1/2

The ARC: “It’s a blue-suede shoe of a… just kidding. It’s good.”  

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First, take a look at this…

That my friends, is the Black Buffalo Burger at the Black Sheep Lodge on South Lamar.

The “BSL” (as my circle of friends call it) boasts that they have “The Best Burger in South Austin.”

Unfortunately they’re mistaken. You need to drop the “south” fellas…

Black Sheep Lodge has the best burger IN Austin.

I’m a fan. A big one. (Well, five foot seven, but you know what I mean)

The black buffalo burger is a sloppy, juicy, disgusting mess of a burger and you’ll love every damn bite of it.  

Is it healthy? No. 

Will it kill you if that’s all you ever eat? Absolutely.

Should any of this change you from running to the BSL and ordering one RIGHT NOW?

No way in hell.

The BSL is a small grill/sports bar that sports a bunch of beers on tap, two handfuls of beautiful plasma HDTVs, AND some pretty hot waitresses. 

I love coming here to watch big games, and that’s precisely what I was here for this Tuesday night.

Bad news is I watched my beloved Sixers get beat down by the Dallas Mavericks. Good news is ate that delicious, buffalo hand moisturizer they call a burger.

Normally I get the tots, but this time around I tried the fries and they were fried to perfection.

BSL has daily specials, and I was there during its MexiCANS. This means $2 Tecates, Modelos, and Imperials…

I drank about 4 or 5 Imperials, and laughed that even though it’s from Costa Rica, the BSL still classifies it as a mexiCAN. Same as the rest of the world… 

Anyway, the four gigantic picnic tables fill up quick, so get there early or get comfortable sitting next to a new friend. 

The audio level can get ferocious, so don’t bring your girlfriend if you just want to “talk.”

Let’s face it Austin, this is the place to get your “MAN” on.

OVERALL:

Service: B+

Food: A

Decor: A-

Audio Level: Medium to High

Price: $

The ARC: “Any day of the week… Meet you at BSL?” 

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I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find the perfect chinese food place here in Austin. It needs to be cheap, fast, and have a variety of delicious plates.

Having lived in New York City for over four years, I know a chinese food restaurant can have all these elements.

Unfortunately, after visiting the Hunan Lion on South Lamar and 290, I’m still searching for my little chinese din din spot.

The Hunan Lion is not bad, mind you. 

The dining room has ample seating.

The decor may not be original, but it isn’t far from pleasant. The most unique aspect of the restaurant has to be the giant goldfish swimming in a completely empty aquarium. 

He looks so lonely, you almost want to eat him to put him out of his misery. 

"I’ll have the Kung Pau Goldfish please."

The staff, albeit minimal, is friendly and attentive. 

I arrive for lunch and I’m a sucker for those typical chinese combination plates. Rice, soup, egg roll, AND my meal all for $7.00?!?!

It’s usually a toss up between the lemon chicken, the sesame chicken, and General Tso chicken. However, when you don’t know the place, avoid the General Tso, because bad GT is downright awful. 

I’m happy when my friend orders the lemon chicken, because I get to order the sesame and chicken and try both!

We start with the hot & sour and the egg drop soup.

Small portions, but both soups are flavorful, warm, and get the job done.

By the way, “the job” is waking up your palate for the main course!

When the food arrives, I’m immediately put off by the lemon chicken.

What the hell is this?

Lemon chicken MUST be little chunks of chicken, not fried chicken strips/triangles with lemon dipping sauce.  

No no no.

The food doesn’t taste bad, but it’s bland. You forget what it tastes like by the time you swallow. 

Good thing that’s my friend’s plate… ;)

Here’s my sesame chicken:

Better than the lemon chicken, but too deep fried, and possibly reheated.

What I did enjoy was the portions. Couldn’t finish my plate and had enough for a to-go box, although I didn’t take ‘em up on the doggie bag.

Not bad, but I won’t be eating here again unless I’m in the area and really craving Chinese.

OVERALL:

Service: B+

Food: C+

Decor: B-

Audio Level: Low

Price: $

The ARC: “Fast and cheap, Hunan Lion works as a quick lunch break spot.”

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In Austin, the closest you’re ever getting to a Hawaiian tourist-themed restaurant is the Hula Hut by Lake Austin. 

When you walk into this place, it looks like the NFL pro bowl marketing department just vomited all over the place. 

Still can’t picture it?

Here, this ought to help:

 

What I like about this place is that every portion is served like you’re some kind of fat samoan. 

You can literally eat for 3 days straight after ordering one pipeline enchilada.

On this particular night, we’re celebrating my good friend Z’s birthday. We’re a party of 7, so we got to get there EARLY.

We get there at 6:25pm and we’re already too late for dinner.

First we wait 13 minutes in line JUST TO PUT OUR NAME DOWN. We’re waiting to wait.

This is the restaurant equivalent of waiting at a long red light, only to an ambulance drive through your intersection when the light turns green. Ambulance gone… your light turns back to red and you sit there waiting like an idiot all over again.

So anyway, right as we get to the podium we are given an E Ola Kawe Nakumaka!

This means “great fortune” in my fake Hawaiian language…

Some guy who has ALREADY been waiting for 40 minutes hands us his vibrating device because he’s tired of waiting. He had a party of 8!

What E Ola Kawe Nakumaka I say!

EVEN with this jump, we don’t get seated until 8:49pm. 

But it didn’t seem that long because when with you’re with great friends and cold beers, life is a Kai Nappi Ku Lama Nut!    (“Breeze”)

They bring you some chips and salsa, but we order some queso to start. 

The queso arrives with pieces of meat, salsa, and guacamole inside, and has a nice spicy kick to it. I eat most of it myself…

For dinner, I’ve ordered the Shiner Bock Grilled Fajitas to share with my man Sano. His woman has ordered a bloody mary so I have to try it.

Despite its limp-ass stick of celery, it tastes delicious with a spicy kick to your throat.

Our food arrives, and we have the usual tiny sides of guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and sour cream… but what gets me is their pathetic portion of rice and beans.

We’re dining at a restaurant where the enchiladas weigh 22 pounds, and we’ve just ordered a Fajita plate FOR TWO.

I’m expecting two five gallon buckets, each filled with rice and beans, but instead we get a tea saucer place with barely enough rice and beans to fit on one big table spoon.

WTF Hula Hut?

Pici eni bon attata lanka!!!!  (“profanity”)

We order another one and grudgingly paid the $3.00 they charged us extra.

The Fajitas arrive and they’re STEAMING! The fajitas are literally boiling on the plate.

I was very lucky to get that picture because we inhaled these things in a matter of minutes. The Fajitas were warm and juicy, and it was a heavy portion even for two.

Being as packed as it was, it was surprisingly not too noisy. I could speak at a reasonable volume and communicate with everyone at our table.

The music was a fun throwback to the late 80s/early 90s. How do you not sing along to such hits as:

HULA HUT MUSIC

Good times indeed.

Happy B-Day Z!

OVERALL:

Service: B-

Food: B

Decor: A

Audio Level: Low

Price: $$

The ARC: “Got a LOT of time to kill? Then head down to the Hula Hut!”

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Sometimes you’re in the mood for a breakfast taco or two.

So when you pass by a place called “Taco Shack” you know you’re gonna get your fix.

This little shack sits on the corner of Guadalupe and 29th Street, right next to a gas station. In fact, it’s practically in the gas station’s parking lot.

It’s not impressive, but then again it’s a damn taco shack so what do you expect?

Most people just pick up and go, but in order to consider this place a restaurant worthy of a review, I have to sit down and eat! After all, it’s a TREMENDOUS honor to be reviewed by THE Austin Restaurant Critic.

Anyway, being hungover, I wasn’t in the mood to read all the jibber jabber of specialty tacos. You get to the front, and they slide open this little drive-thru window and wait for your order. 

I order two chorizo, egg, and cheese.

By the way, that’s not how I ordered them. THIS is how I ordered them:

"Can I get uh… Cheese… uh, chorizo…and egg. Two of ‘em"

Why is “Cheese” the first thing I asked for? When you think of a breakfast taco, you usually think of the meat of it… the egg, (or the “potatoes” if you’re one of those people who don’t like delicious breakfast tacos.)

Anyway, I walk over to the seating area, which is basically a couple of tables under a metal sukka. (I know that word thanks to about 5 terrible years of jewish school)

When your food’s ready, you get it from this window:

 

Another drive-thru window. It’s like you’re doing business with a wall.

They have a fountain drink dispenser out here and it’s swarming with bees. I saw a few people quickly pulling away their cups because the bees would circle around them.

These people don’t mind taking 45 minutes to fill their cup as long as they didn’t get stung. 

The bees didn’t bother me though. I’m like a bee whisper…  Oh yeah, the tacos…

Check it:

 

It tastes pretty good. It wasn’t overstuffed, which I like. I hate when they cram 62 pounds of food in a tiny tortilla. It always ends up on my jeans.

I would have liked the cheese to be melted, but I’m not gonna go open up a taco shack of my own because of that.

Remind me not to write any more reviews when I’m hungover…

OVERALL:

Service: ? C+

Food: B-

Decor: C-

Audio Level: Low

Bee Level: HIGH

Price: -$ (cheap)

The ARC: “If you’re in the mood for breakfast tacos, this place is perfect for that.”

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There are some restaurants that scream “AUSTIN!”  

Chili’s Grill & Bar on Lamar & 45th street does not. 

Let’s face it, Chili’s is practically the McDonalds of all grill/bar dining experiences. I hadn’t been to a Chili’s in God knows how long, but… (and it’s a big BUT) 

I was pleasantly surprised!

You know when you’re throwing your jeans in the wash and you find a crumbled up five dollar bill in the pocket? 

Or when you’re waiting in line at the bank and that cute girl in front of you says she likes your smile? 

This lunch felt something like that.

So I show up at 1:15pm and I’m ready for a quick, cheap, unhealthy lunch. After all, it’s Friday.

Immediately I’m greeted at the door by a friendly host who ushers me to a booth in the bar area.

It’s moderately full at this point. I count about 13 tables worth of customers.

My waitress, let’s call her “Ashley” (because her name is Ashley), is super friendly and has no problem giving me as much time as I need.

And I need the time… On the table, Chili’s has two different menus AND a stand up specials card telling me about the all-day happy hour prices.

There’s about 72 thousand different food options, so I order a tall Shiner Bock, and take me time with the menu(s).

Ashley brings the beer in a CHILLED pilsner glass along with an ice water that I didn’t have to ask for. (I absolutely LOVE the obligatory ice water) 

See the bottom there?

It’s frozen. See for yourself. ENHANCE!

Mmmm. This is how a beer should be served, no matter WHERE you’re dining at.

I finally give my lunch combo order to the patient Ashley.

I’ll be eating the house salad, with the bacon ranch chicken quesadillas. 

While I wait, I glance around the bar and notice that while it’s pretty full, it’s exceptionally quiet. The acoustics in Chili’s is shockingly amazing.

The TVs show sportscenter with no sound, and the music is typical for the Chili’s bar setting: 

Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”

My food is delivered by the busgirl and I’m ready to chow down.

Before I can take a bite, Ashley checks on me and notices my plate is missing my side of fries! 

Less then a minute later, she brings me the 15 fries I was missing.

I had to laugh when this pathetic basket arrived, but they were piping hot! Pretty damn good too.  

My salad with Caesar dressing… crispy and crunchy with every bite.

The chicken quesadillas? Greasy and cheesy, and every bite needs to be dipped in the ranch sauce.

But then again, do you really want a quesadilla that’s NOT greasy and cheesy?

The best part is was when the check arrived.

All this: the large frosty shiner bock, piping hot fries, crispy salad, AND greasy quesadillas totalled under $11 bucks after taxes.

Must be my lucky day. Maybe I should do some laundry…

OVERALL:

Service: A

Food: B+

Decor: B-

Audio Level: Low

Price: $

The ARC: “Cheap eats, cold beer, and a friendly staff makes the austin restaurant critic a happy boy.”

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