Katy and I got out of Austin for a night over the weekend to do some camping just south of San Antonio. We found an awesome campground that was run by a super nice family who were friendly and helpful and recommended their best site for us. We set up camp right next to the Medina River which had an enchanted feel to it as the afternoon light slipped through the trees.
After a few hours of unsuccessful fishing, more than a few beers, and a couple card games we sparked up a fire and began cooking dinner. It’s amazing what hot coals and a good cast iron skillet can do. Katy’s handmade burgers(beef, salt, pepper, worcestershire) were on the menu, but the bacon had to be cooked first. The bacon cooked down and left a nice puddle of grease that our burgers were more than happy to cook in. They sizzled in the pan and and got a nice hard crust on the outside, but maintained a perfect medium rare inside. The buns were spread with garlic butter and toasted inside aluminum foil while cheddar melted atop the burgers. I’m serious when I say this was a top 5 burger in my life. Juicy burger, crispy bacon, and melted cheese topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion. And I think the real kicker was the garlic butter. OH MAN I want another. It was dark but I still tried my best to get a good pic.
After a good night sleep with an early morning to check out a meteor shower, the fire was back up and running to start breakfast. We had fingerling potatoes that Katy halved and put in foil with onions and more garlic butter. They sat right in the hot coals and cooked and caramelized while we made more bacon, of course. After crisping up the rest of the bacon, I friend and egg in the skillet while toasting an everything bagel with more garlic butter. I promise, garlic butter makes everything better. Piled high on the toasty bagel with a slice of cheddar, this bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich could have been ordered at a restaurant.
G’Raj Mahal seems to encompass everything there is to love about Austin. Amazing food, friendly people, and a one of a kind “Keep Austin Weird” style food truck. Calling it a food truck would be a lie because it doesn’t move, but calling it a restaurant is further from the truth – it doesn’t even have walls. But somehow they turn this parking lot and trailer into one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I have ever had.
It located in the unique Rainey Street neighborhood where a bunch of old houses have been converted into bars and the whole block has a laid back vibe. G’Raj Mahal is only open for dinner, as we found out a few weekends back when we tried to go for a late lunch only to be disappointed. There was a lot of hype about this place because we had seen it on the Food Network show Eat Street and were really excited to see what it was all about.
It’s a bring your own booze joint so we grabbed a 6-pack of Shiner Ruby Reds and strolled over. Ruby Redbird is Shiners summer beer and has ginger and grapefruit and is one of my new favorite beers. It went really well with our dinner and I’d highly recommend it as your booze of choice at G’Raj Mahal.
The decor here is a contrasting mix of scrap metal, flowing white linen, and a few cats laying around the outside of the dining area. We were sat by a host and given a friendly server who helped us pick out our dinner since neither Katy nor myself are Indian food aficionados. It was very cool to be served at a food truck and it really gave it a brick and mortar restaurant feel.
We started with garlic naan and a side of Raita which is homemade yogurt sauce served cold with chopped veggies and is seriously AMAZING. Literally when the naan was gone I ate the rest of the sauce with my spoon. It should be noted that everything is served on styrofoam plates which completely adds to the no worries vibe at this place and I loved it.
For the main course Katy ordered chicken malabar which is a creamy curry made with a coconut milk base. It is thickened with a caramelized onion sauce and mixed with more spices than I knew existed, and had a perfectly creamy texture and sweetness. I was feeling spicy so I ordered the rechaad masala with shrimp, which is a red-chili paste that was pan-fried with huge plump shrimp. It was hot but not over-whelming or uncomfortable. I actually wanted something hotter but this is apparently their hottest sauce. I asked. It all comes with a big bowl of basmati rice and needless to say, there was nothing left when we stood up to leave.
I really, really enjoyed our trip to G’Raj Mahal and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a unique date idea or something other than the food truck parking lots. It has an eclectic vibe in an unusual neighborhood and is very much “Austin”.
91 Red River
Sometimes you just have one of those days where all you want to do is clock out, and crack one open. Yesterday was one of those days. So seeing that life gave us lemons, we turned it into lemonade and tried out a local watering hole that we have been wanting to test out. The place, Easy Tiger. It is fairly new, it opened earlier this year, but they are doing things right. They are a self proclaimed “beer garden & bake shop”, which are two descriptions I enjoy from any establishment.
It has a cool set-up, where you walk in on street level to find a working bakery with loaves and loaves of fresh bread. If you are looking to stay awhile, head
downstairs to a Bavarian style bar and dining area or keep going out onto the outdoor patio. It’s right on the creek, or river, that runs through the city. Red River maybe? Either way its a nice setting to post up for a few drinks and food. Three ping-pong tables and some chill music rounded out the patio and I thought it had a very welcoming vibe.
The beer selection is awesome, with at least 30 beers on top, none of which ending in “ud” or “oors light”. Although they do have $2 PBR and $2.50 Lone Star tall boys which is a steal for that area downtown.
We were hungry so we checked out the menu and struggled, in a good way, to decide our order. The bread is obviously fresh, and they say they prepare all the meats in house as well, which include multiple sausages, roast beef, pork loin, and pastrami to name a few. After much deliberation, we ordered a classic bratwurst($7), half a roast beef sandwich($8), as well as a side of potato salad($2).
The food came out quick and was delicious. The bratwurst was served on a pretzel bun(optional) that was warm, soft, and salty, although I thought it stole attention away from the sausage. It also had fresh sauerkraut and whole grain mustard that gave it a balanced bite.
The roast beef was on the well-done side, I prefer rare, but sliced really thin so it wasn’t too dry. The horseradish sour cream spread also helped in that regard. It was plenty big for a half-sandwich.
And lastly was the potato salad which I thought was the star of the meal. Seasoned perfectly with pickles, onions, celery, and dill, it was an instant reminder of summer. It actually is inspiring me to make some potato salad of my own very soon 🙂
To wrap up, I would highly recommend Easy Tiger to anyone who enjoys fresh food and well crafted beer. The location is great, the ambiance relaxed, and the bill not too steep. Perfect for making lemonade.
709 East 6th St.
Austin, TX 78701
The prices have changed a bit since the late ’50s, but as my family tells me, every other bit of it has remained exactly the same. From its shiny white exterior to the beautiful, old ‘play-at-your-own-risk’ jukebox (my uncle selected some Janis Joplin and Beatles during our recent visit), it feels like you’ve gone back in time — even aside from the food, visiting the joint alone is an experience you won’t forget.
Every summer during our annual family trip to Michigan, at least some of us stopped here for burgers to relive the age-old tradition of juicy, Midwest, never-frozen, griddle-cooked beef burgers. Somehow, at least in my memory, I had never been. I’d heard about it a million times, been shown pictures of the food (thank goodness for being raised in a family of foodies), and seen my Dampy sport his Greene’s T-shirt on several occasions, but in the midst of the craziness and fun-filled days at the lake with the people I love the most, I missed the boat — up until last week.
My first Greene’s experience (with 6 other Thoresens) blew me away. I couldn’t get enough. No, really — I ate 3 cheeseburgers…2 singles and 1 double. With fries. And a chocolate malt. Ehhh. Don’t know where my enormous appetite came from that day, but I do know that it sure as hell came at the right time.
Small balls of ground beef are smashed flat into patties over slices of white onion on the hot, greasy griddle, and then topped with your choice of American cheese, sliced dill pickles, ketchup, and yellow mustard, all on a soft, smushy, white bun. The fries are crinkle cut and served right out of the fryer, piping hot, just as they should be, allowing you to enjoy a salty, crispy exterior with a soft, steaming, fluffy inside. The malts are classic (I dipped fries in mine — I’m a big sweet/salty combo girl) — thick, rich, and not too sweet. The sodas come in one size only, just as they did in the ’50s.
Natually, after my first Greene’s experience, I was transfixed. I wanted these burgers again and again, and most of all, I wanted to share them with Kyle. So I did my very best to recreate a Greene’s burger at home. My Auntie warned me that it was a ballsy move, and she’s absolutely right. They aren’t exact, and no other burger ever will be. But I gave it a shot, and I think I came pretty close. These burgers are simple, classic, and mouth-wateringly all-American. I hope you guys love them!
I started with a pound of 85-15 ground beef. This isn’t the time for super-lean. Greene’s burgers are juicy and a bit greasy, which is the point. Also, there’s no mayo on this burger, so you’re even further encouraged to take advantage of the grease factor, otherwise, you’ll end up with a dry patty.
One other thing — I almost exclusively buy my groceries at the HEB here in Austin (major grocery chain), which is super cheap and awesome. There is a lot to admire about HEB. I remember, back in Boston, I searched 3 grocery stores one day, looking for canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, to no avail. HEB, on the other hand, practically has a whole aisle devoted to them.
For these burgers, however, I bought some fresh ground, organic beef at Whole Foods with the super high animal welfare rating (whatever that means — doesn’t that sort of equate to a jail bragging about excellent accomodations and conditions for the prisoners, and then killing them?). I would never, ever turn my nose up at the standard grocery store stuff, but I wanted the absolute best beef I could get my hands on for these, since the whole point is to highlight that ingredient. Honestly, I think spending a few bucks more did make a difference.
I separated my pound into 12 equal-sized pieces. I did this by forming a thick rectangle shape with the meat and then cutting it into small pieces. You see 9 in the picture, but I decided 9 didn’t make small enough pieces, and recut 12 (and subsequently forgot to take a picture). They will be about the size of small meatballs. Each of these is a “single.” Everyone has a different opinion on their meat-to-bun ratio, and doing it this way, you’ll be able to tailor-make every burger however you like. I loved the single at Greene’s, but the double hit my meat-to-bread ratio spot on, so that’s what I made for Kyle and me.
It’s best to prep your meat first so that it can come up to room temperature while you get your other fixings ready. Roll each piece of meat into a ball and smash it just slightly, so it’s still about an inch thick. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce over both sides of each ball of beef. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let these hang out on the counter top for the next few minutes.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you have everything ready so that as soon as your burger comes off of the heat, you can slap it together and enjoy while it’s good and hot.
Slice a white onion on the thin side. I used my mandolin, but as (another) Auntie (who happens to be a professional chef) taught me recently, a mandolin is not a substitute for great knife skills. A great tip to keep in mind, especially for me, considering how heavily I rely on mine. 🙂 Slice up some pickles, and get your cheese unwrapped. I happen to adore American cheese. I know it’s not the healthiest, but on a burger, it’s 100% my preference.
I can’t count the times my best friends and I have discussed and debated the best cheese on a cheeseburger. We know how to focus on the important things in life, that’s for sure, and I mean that with no sarcasm.
Kyle doesn’t care for American cheese. Since I love him so much, I figured I could alter the original recipe slightly and top his burger with orange cheddar instead (his burger cheese preference). Just slice a few pieces nice and thin if you go this route.
Here’s a quick piece of the email I received from chef Auntie after she read this post, it made me laugh too hard not to share:
p.s. american “cheese” isn’t cheese. they don’t even call it that on the label, they say something like “cheese food product” or some bull shit. i think it’s colored oil slabs. i’m on kyles side! 🙂
Get your ketchup and mustard ready (if you want them). As I mentioned, these are all optional toppings at Greene’s. My preference was just onions and cheese, then pickles on the side and I dipped every few bites of the burger in ketchup. As much as possible, you want to celebrate the beef, but everyone does that differently, so listen to your heart when it comes to toppings.
Now that everything’s prepped, the magic begins. I don’t have a griddle at home, so I used a cast iron skillet — it worked perfectly. If you don’t have cast iron, use your darkest pan — it will get hot quickly and give good color to your onions and beef. You want it at about medium-high heat. Add a little bit of a neutral cooking oil (veggie, canola, peanut, whatever you’ve got) and let that heat up for a minute or two.
Now, throw a small handful of onions on to your hot pan, fitting them into a little pile the size of a burger patty. I underestimated the amount for the first burger, because I wasn’t sure how much they’d cook down in the time it takes for the beef to cook through. Just keep that in mind — they reduce in size pretty quickly. Give the onions a few seconds, then stack your beef on top. As I mentioned, I did all doubles (as you’ll see in the pictures). Next step, use a spatula to smash the beef down into a patty, right on top of the onions. I’ve heard more than once before that this is the wrong way to treat ground beef, and that it will inevitably squeeze out all of the juices. Not so in this case, tried and true, especially if you’re using beef with a higher fat content, as we are.As you mash your beef down, don’t worry too much about shape. Greene’s burgers aren’t perfect circles, but they’re close enough. What’s important is that you’re sort of pressing your onions into the beef patty, and the fat from the beef is coating the onions and helping them to cook and simultaneously adding a TON of flavor.
Flip it after about 3 minutes and immediately top with cheese, and then cover with the top half of the bun. This helps to trap in some steam, which melts the cheese and warms the bun in the perfect amount of time it takes for the burger bottom to brown up.
Here’s one great tip that my Dad told me about these burgers. He always noticed that the top of the bun at Greene’s is a little shiny from the splattering grease on the griddle that hits it. I loved that little quirk. I didn’t have enough burgers going at once to provide adequate grease splatter, but I did just buy a culinary brush! Perfect. I dipped the ends quickly into the oils in the pan and lightly brushed the tops of the buns. I swear, it made a difference. So awesome.
After another 3 minutes or so, scrape it off the pan with a spatula, and place it on the bottom half of your bun. If you opt for mustard, ketchup, or pickles, go ahead and throw them on the bottom bun before you put the burger on. It’s important that the buns are simple and white.
Probably the best way to choose is to go with the cheapest possible bun you can find at your grocery store. I can tell you Whole Foods will NOT have the proper bun for this type of burger, I’ve looked. I got mine at the 7-11 across the street and they were exactly right.
Now, enjoy every last bite! Share these with people you love. It’s okay to have two. Or three. 😉
An immeasurable thank you, for everything, to the North Star of our big, incredible family, my amazing Dampy (also affectionately known by his children, grandchildren, sisters, and countless other family and friends as Grap, Dampster, Big G, Pop, Dada, etc.). We miss you desperately and our world is not the same without you. An excerpt from a beautiful writing by my cousin Rob:
I have a million stories, a million memories, a million small joys all contained in the word ‘Grap’. They are as much a part of me as the Norwegianness that flowed through his blood and into mine. I am Grap. You are Grap. Energy does not disappear. It changes direction, changes forms, changes appearance. It manifests itself differently in different times and different spaces but it is eternal. Grap is energy. Pure, razor sharp, goodness. Decency and virtue, in the shape of a tall, tough, Catholic boy from Detroit. Grap is eternal in every conceivable sense of the word. Eternal energy existing in our minds, in our bodies, on earth as it is in heaven.
Big G came out of the sea to get thee. He got me. He got you. End of story. Beginning of story.
This is probably my fourth or fifth time eating at Little Deli and it has yet to disappoint. A tiny little spot with more seating outside than in, it delivers big time.
Honestly I haven’t even tried a sandwich here yet because I keep going back for the pizza. I did just read a sign on the counter for a half pound hot pastrami though….next time.
The pizza is awesome, at least to my liking. A great thin crust that has a little crunch but doesn’t shred your mouth. Sauce is spiced perfectly and the toppings very fresh.
Each day they have cheese, pepperoni, and a slice of the day. Today is sausage tomato basil and it’s great. Pepperoni is better though. I got a cup of tomato soup as well which is soooo good to dip the crust in.
In a town with limited pizza options, this is my favorite over the over-hyped Homeslice.
7101-A Woodrow Dr.
Austin TX 78757
My job this week and last has had me onsite at the Jefferson Square shopping center off 38th 1/2 street. The posh little center is apparently quite popular as it houses some nick-nack stores, an eye doctor, a hair salon, and Anderson Coffee (good coffee for only $1) among others. But there is also this lunch joint nestled in the corner called Lee’s Meat Market that last week I thought was a butcher shop but have since learned otherwise.
On Monday we were working (I do construction and renovations) outside the shop which happened to be closed for the floating holiday after Easter, but the 50 people who showed up throughout the day did not know that. Literally, from 10am until 5pm people would pull into the parking lot, get to the door, and moan in misery when it was locked. That’s when I knew I had to try it.
We started letting people know it was closed to spare them the extra ten steps from their car to the door. Eventually questions like ‘What’s good?’ came about. Most often the response was the beef tenderloin sandwich. So on Tuesday I by-passed packing a lunch and knew what to order.
It’s a small spot with only about 3 stools at a window bar for eating in, while the rest of the place was packed with people waiting for to-go orders. The line went quick and Lee, the owner who I have found out is very nice and hospitable (discounted iced tea because it was 90 out), took my order. Choose between wheat or sourdough. I went sourdough. Lettuce, tomato, mayo, spicy mustard, and provolone. I also ordered the small side of deviled eggs because I LOVE deviled eggs. Creamy and delicious and heavy on the mustard just like I like them. They were gone before the sandwich came out the window.
This was one of the best beef sandwiches I’ve ever had, better than famous Kelly’s roast beef back in New England. The meat was so tender and juicy and cooked to a nice medium rare. It was full of flavor and being tenderloin it didn’t come with the stringy gristle that is so annoying in most roast beef. Past the beef, the sourdough was fresh, although not as tangy as most sourdough, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. The spicy mustard gave a perfect kick to balance the whole thing out. Oh yea, it comes with a generous handful of potato chips which, if you are like me, you stuff into the sandwich for each individual bite. 🙂
Today I was excited to try it again, but being adventuresome I decided to expand my knowledge of the menu and be bold. I went with the fresh chicken salad sandwich, again on sourdough, with lettuce, tomato, onion, and provolone. It also, was magnificent. Chunks of chicken mixed with celery, red grapes, and chopped pecans mixing together for a salty-sweet-soft-and crunchy experience. To accompany the sandwich, I ordered a pint of tomato basil soup because my eyes are always bigger then my stomach. Although that may be the case, I’m glad I did. It was AWESOME. The soup was thick and creamy and not too salty and had roughly chopped tomatoes floating in the red sea of bliss. To top it off, it came with a side of cheddar toast. Yea, no hint on the menu that it comes with your soup for only $4.50 but boy did my eyes light up when I saw it. Toasty and cheesy and perfect for dunking in the soup. I’m seriously enjoying reliving this meal right now….
In closing, I HIGHLY recommend you try Lee’s Meat Market if you’ve never been. Sandwiches are about $7, and I get the big tea which is a quart of fresh iced tea for $1.50. The menu is huge and as well as food to-go, they do catering and bulk orders of beef, lamb, chicken, etc. So yea, I guess it was a butcher shop after all.
1601 West 38th Street Austin, TX 78731
I’ve fallen in love with many a food truck here in Austin. But my favorite so far has to be Kebabalicious. They serve Turkish-style wraps and operate out of two trucks permanently stationed (for the most part) downtown — one at Congress and 2nd (for lunch during business hours), the other at Trinity and 7th (for the late-night drunk crowd). Fortunately, I fall under both categories and I’ve tried both locations. The product and service is exceptional and consistent at both.
Kebabalicious is family-owned, locally sourced, and run with real passion. The wraps are made for you on the spot and truly have thought put into them. Each bite contains a bit of every ingredient.
I almost always order the same thing — the king-sized (12″) beef/lamb kebab. I go for the regular size (8″) when I’m lunching, but at night after a few beers, even when Kyle responsibly orders the regular size (and the lady serving us mistakenly assumes the larger one is for him), I need as much Kebabalicious as I can get. If I can’t finish it that night, into the fridge it goes until I open my eyes the next morning and crawl to the fridge to finish it at 10 AM. Not even kidding, it is THAT addicting.
The sandwich is wrapped in a perfect, squishy pita bread. It’s just thick enough to hold its contents without overtaking you with breadiness. It doesn’t crack when it bends, it’s warm, soft, and supple. The beef/lamb shawarma appears/tastes to be mixed with falafel or some type of grain. It’s formed into nuggets that are likely heated through on a griddle — amazingly seasoned, savory, and well-textured succulent meat, no icky bits. Each nugget is slightly charred and crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. Tons of flavor and enjoyable on their own, they melt in your mouth.
Next are the veggies…lettuce, locally grown tomato, red onion, and fresh parsley. Unlike other shawarma wraps I’ve had, the veggies are consistently fresh and perfect every time. No haphazardly chopped pieces, no off-tasting onion, just light, crunchy, ripened bites that perfectly complement the heaviness of the bread and meat.
They make these wraps mild, medium, or spicy (adjusted by how much crushed red pepper they shake on). Spicy is best — nowhere near unbearable or even overpowering, just another note to cut the richness. I also have them add feta to mine. Not necessary but a perfect extra indulgence. Amazing.
Last, but not at all least: the sauces. The wraps come with two sauces on them, both of which are incredible and balance each other out perfectly. One is a tzatziki (strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon, dill, often other spices), both creamy and herby, but not too tangy. Each component of the wrap is seasoned very well and this sauce is no exception. The coolness of the sauce also brings the heat level down a notch.
And finally, the spicy red sauce. I would pay serious, serious dough to get just a glimpse of this recipe. It’s also creamy but slightly heavier than the tzatziki, coral red in color, and appears to be almost a spicy or red pepper aioli. Phenomenal and adds the perfect amount of richness and a tad of garlicky flavor.
I remember Bobby Flay saying on TV once that the most common problem he notices in sandwiches is that they aren’t sauced enough and are therefore too dry on the mouth. The Kebabalicious sauces solve that problem all too well and provide the perfect vehicle to marry all of the ingredients together into one phenomenal experience.
The combination of these perfectly orchestrated ingredients create a heavenly, constantly crave-able meal. I really can’t say enough about how much I would recommend this to anyone who ever has the opportunity to try it. I also do not ever want to know how many calories are in one of these things.
Another thing to note is that I love how Kebabalicious brings to the masses what could be intimidating to some in such a great way. What better way to try out a cuisine that isn’t as familiar to Americans as Italian or Chinese than something this incredible?
Other options for the wraps are chicken shawarma, falafel, and the “spoiled brat” (chicken, beef, lamb, falafel, and hummus!) and run at about $7 for a regular, $9 for a king size. The chicken and falafel are exceptional, though I can’t speak for the spoiled brat as I haven’t graduated to that level (yet).
Finally, and this I can’t stress enough: if you have the good fortune to try Kebabalicious, try the loaded french fries. Words simply don’t exist to describe them. The fries alone are hot, fresh out of the fryer, perfectly crispy, and would be amazing all by themselves. But, they’re taken to the next level with tons of parsley, spicy red sauce, and feta. Tasting these fries for the first time was the biggest food-high I’ve had in a long time.
In closing, thanks for reading and please share your Kebabalicious-related experiences here. Kebabalicious has about 200 reviews and has earned itself an average of 4.5 stars on Yelp. That’s very impressive, but my rating is a solid 5 out of 5.
Read more here: http://www.austinkebab.com/.
Takoba is a great brunch spot that we just tried for the first time. A perfect outdoor patio with awesome food and cheap mimosas is a winning combination.
It has a Mexican themed menu that is muy bueno. I had carnitas chilaquiles that were excellent and came with beans and awesome home fried potatoes. Katy had an al pastor torta that was also worthy of ordering again. The only downside was they were out of my first choice of smoked salmon and egg torta but that’s what next weekend is for. Add in $7 mimosa carafes and that equals a return visit.
1411 east 7th st.
Austin, TX 78702
Stopped in for a breakfast burrito this morning and was very pleased. Bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado wrapped in a toasted tortilla. Toasted tortilla really made it great, seems very authentic and worth stopping into.
4516 Burnet rd.
Austin, TX 78756