By the BTRtv Staff
Welcome to an exceptional edition of Dish + Drink here on BTR. A handful of staffers were fortunate enough to be down in Austin, TX for South by Southwest last week and, as we foodies know, Austin is a hub for grub. So, we’re delving into where they ate, what they ate, and just how awesome it really was.
My favorite meal for the past few years at SXSW has been from the food truck The Peached Tortilla. I would describe the menu as Asian, Mexican, and southern fusion. The Banh Mi taco is by far the best thing that has ever entered my digestive system. It is filled with Vietnamese braised pork belly, pickled daikon, carrots, sirracha mayo, and cilantro.
The second most delicious meal this year was from the Travaasa food truck. I had an extremely satisfying and unique Steak burrito. It’s contents included skirt steak, quinoa, fresh farmed veggies and chimichurri sauce. I will be thinking about this particular burrito until I can figure out how to make it myself. It’s unlikely that I will be able to replicate it, but I will make it my life goal. Yay for food trucks!
Two spots tied for my favorite of the trip. First, Sala & Betty, a new restaurant set a bit outside the usual SXSW path. Our group shared a few appetizers: cream of cauliflower, which included pine nuts; fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, which were served with fried egg, bacon, cheddar, and gravy; and prosciutto-wrapped nopales (a type of cactus), served with apple butter, almonds, and shishito peppers. For my entree, I had the tri-tip steak, which was served with sweet potato puree, cauliflower rice, and red adzuki beans. Every single item tasted great. The steak was even one of the better ones I’ve had, and I say this as someone who enjoys a good steak and sometimes marks special occasions by going out to a nice steakhouse in NY. The mix of tastes on each plate were especially appealing. And the chocolate souffle we ordered was a great capper to an amazing meal.
My other favorite spot was Salt Lick, a place I’ve been to a handful of times before and serves perhaps the best BBQ I’ve ever had. Bryan and I ordered the family style meal, which includes all-you-can-eat portions of brisket, sausage, and pork ribs. The food is the best part of going to Salt Lick, but, really, the entire trip to their restaurant (which is really more of a compound) is a great experience. There’s usually a wait, but they have a very nice outdoor area with rustic picnic tables where you can BYOB and hang out, while listening to live music, as the smell of the barbecue pits makes your appetite grow.
Depression burger from the Travaasa truck!
SAME AS MAIA, THAT BURGER!
Every time I go to Austin for SXSW, there are a few food goals in mind:
1. Find a restaurant and eat a real meal at least once.
2. Try out some food trucks I haven’t had before.
4. Get some good Mexican food.
5. Eat as many breakfast tacos as possible.
Since the BTR crew mostly stuck together when it came to food outings, many of my top picks have already been covered: Sala & Betty was a great find a bit north of downtown (it happened to be near the spot where some audio rental gear needed to be returned and Yelp came in handy). From the outside, it looks like a drive-thru fast food joint, but the menu, decor, and quality of food and service makes their mission of SLOW FOOD FAST apparent.
As usual, food trucks brought sliders, elotes, tacos, our beloved fried beets and brussel sprouts from East Side King at our day party, and more, but the clear winner for myself (and apparently Maia and Hans) was the Texas Depression burger from the Travaasa food truck. Their farm-to-food-truck approach came through in the food, as everything tasted fresh and delicious, and as a serious burger eater I’d say it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Just check out what was in it: ground brisket, bacon jam, sauteed onion, cilantro, sriracha mayo, and jack cheese on a sheila bun. Sounds pretty much perfect, right?
Going into the trip, the whole team was looking forward to revisiting the Kerlin BBQ food truck, but our timing was off, so our first attempt (right after getting to Austin) was a bust. Then for our second we had very limited choices because it was late and they were out of most things (still good, but not ideal). Finally, we got a proper bag of sausages first thing in the morning and couldn’t have been happier. We do still need to try some of their Kolaches though. Of course, we capped the whole week off with some serious BBQ thanks to old standby Salt Lick, so we we still got a chance to bring on the meat sweats.
Though our first try at getting our hands on BBQ didn’t work out, it was a blessing in disguise, as just up the road a bit was Taqueria Chapala, a straight up, no-nonsense Mexican restaurant. Our table was an assortment of enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and margaritas, and everybody walked away stuffed and satisfied.
Finally, the house we rent for SXSW happens to be very close to Porfirio’s Tacos, an unassuming storefront selling breakfast tacos. It’s not only the closest restaurant to our house, but also a favorite (you can’t really argue with cheap, delicious breakfast tacos) so we got food from there pretty much every day of the trip and can’t recommend it enough.
BONUS: Sometimes you go out to find random concerts and you stumble upon random food, too. On one of our first nights out, Lottie, Hans, and myself wound up at Kebabalicious, a Turkish restaurant that was hosting a free showcase (we caught neo-soul crooner Geoff Ong). In need of a snack (and perhaps inspired by smells coming from the open kitchen door nearby) I picked out the K-fries (french fries with zatar, feta, spicy red sauce, and crushed red pepper) and it was a surprisingly impressive dish (check out Hans’ reaction to it in the video above).
For more photos in higher definition, check out our Flickr account.