Rio’s Brazilian Cafe

This past Saturday I was planning to take Katy to Arkie’s Grill, a hole in the wall diner on East Cesar Chavez, when we rolled up to an empty building with papered up windows. Needless to say it was closed, and we were both very bummed. We both love a good dive.  So with our plans foiled, we changed directions and headed to Rio’s with the idea of getting coffee and finding some breakfast. I’d only had coffee from there before, so when we sat down and saw a menu it was a pleasent surprise.
It has that homegrown Austin vibe, and shabby thrown together look of the east side that is kind of charming. Quiet Latin music and a fluttering canopy made it feel like we were instantly taken to a side street in Rio.
We picked a few items off the menu, kind of blindly guessing at what to try. Everything was very fresh and homemade, highlighted by the malagueta sauce that is still a mystery to me, but worth buying by the gallon. We each tried an egg, bacon, sausage, and cheese concoction that was fried in an empanada-like pouch, but still very light. We followed that up with a mozzarella, sweet potato, and zucchini pastry that was fluffy, savory, and spiced just right. Our last culinary adventure was a savory pastry made of mashed yucca and stuffed with pulled chicken in more malagueta sauce. It was ‘divine’, just as the server described. All together, this place was a great surprise lunch, and 100% worth revisiting. It had plenty of gluten-free and vegan options if that your thing as well. This humble little joint is a diamond in the rough of east Austin.
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G’Raj Mahal

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”.

G’Raj Mahal

91 Red River

Austin, TX

http://grajmahalaustin.com/

Easy Tiger

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

Most of the seating is out back

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

www.easytigeraustin.com/

Little Deli

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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.

Little Deli
7101-A Woodrow Dr.
Austin TX 78757

http://www.littledeliandpizza.com/

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Lee’s Meat Market

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
(512) 467-6700

www.leesmeatmarket.com

Takoba

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

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Galaxy Cafe

Yesterday Katy and I went to Galaxy Cafe for lunch because I had a groupon that was about to expire this weekend. Usually I feel like restaurants on groupon are sub par, otherwise, why would they be on there? But I got it anyway as a reason to try a new place in a new city and luckily this wasn’t the case.

We went for lunch around 1pm and had no wait at the deli style counter. After a long debate over the menu, Katy ordered a seared tuna salad and I decided on a build-your-own burger, but flipped the script last second for the daily special of shrimp tacos. Everything is better as a taco. We got a number, sat in a comfy booth, and were served within 5 minutes.

The shrimp were fried and delicious. On top of flour tortillas and topped with avo, pico, and fresh slaw they were great and worthy of a repeat. And with your choice of side for a little over $9 it’s not a bad deal. My side was whipped sweet potatoes but as Katy put it when she tried them, “it’s like pie filling”. Great texture and taste but a bit too sweet to eat the whole side.

From my tacos and what I tried of Katy’s salad they know what they are doing at Galaxy. Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood.

Galaxy Cafe
1000 West Lynn Street
Austin, TX

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Turf N’ Surf Food Truck


This eclectic gem of a food truck has abolished my cravings for east coast seafood that I’ve had since I moved here. Done is Louisiana style po’ boys, the seafood is AMAZING and completely filling. We’ve tried fried shrimp, seared tuna, and fried catfish, and all were worth ordering again. They offer everything in the form of two tacos instead of a po’ boy which is nice since lately everything is better as a taco to me.

As the name states they have more then seafood, offering all your favorite land animal snacks but I haven’t been around to try them yet. If they are anything like the seafood then you won’t be dissapointed. Prices range from $8- $13 for po’ boys/tacos and are completely worth it.

$3 Jalapeno hush puppies and a buffalo chicken po’ boy are on my menu for the next visit.

Turf N’ Surf Food Truck

207 Congress St. between 2nd and 3rd

fried shrimp taco with slaw and greens

The County Line

As a new Austinite…..Austonian….Austineer.….as a new resident of Austin, I feel like it is my duty to explore everything the city has to offer. I feel the same way about any city. You don’t get the true feel for a new town until you explore all the knooks and crannies.

So when a a restaurant comes highly recommended by more people than you can count on one hand, you have to give it a try. And thats what I did this past weekend when I went to The County Line. This review may be slightly biased because I went with family and well, I didnt have to pay. Everything tastes better when its free. But that being said I’m being as honest as I can be.

We went for lunch on a Friday and it was surprising how busy it was. Most of the dining room was full and a couple of parties of 20 or so which I imagine were corporates getting out early for some BBQ. The second you walk in you start to grin because you can smell the smoked meat wafting through the wood and lingering in the decor. Quickly sat and quickly served by friendly Texans, we got right into the meat of things.

I ordered a Pork Combo, which consisted of beef brisket, pork ribs, and sausage with 2 sides that ended up being cole slaw and garlic mashed potatoes.

Beef Brisket: A-

It was moist and flavorful, but lacked the smoke ring that makes the best brisket great. Not a disappointment though.

Sausage: B+

A huge portion of sausage that I would guess was a mix of chicken and pork. Great flavor but a little too greasy for me.

Pork Ribs: A

They were so big and meaty it could have been a meal itself. Great tender ribs with awesome flavor, I just wish they had more rub on them and relied less on the sauce.

Sides: B-

Where the mashed potatoes excelled the coleslaw fell short. Very bland slaw with no real dressing or seasoning. Potatoes were more in the whipped variety then mashed, being very smooth and rich.

Overall grade, I give The County Line an A

I will be back to try more, but the underwhelming sides and sausage brought the grade down. Definitely worth the drive out for brisket and ribs though.