Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Favorite Austin Restaurants

I am a vegetable lover who is allergic to wheat, gluten, soy, corn and dairy. We try to find restaurants that offer a good selection of veggies, rice and fish. My darling husband is the meat-eater in the family, so we try to find restaurants that we both like, that accommodate my allergies and that are reasonably priced. We also like to support local, rather than chain restaurants. Here are some of our favorite Austin restaurants:

Our favorite restaurant, for food, service, and Austin weirdness is Magnolia Cafe at 1920 South Congress, which we frequent 3 or more times a month. Sometimes 3 or more times a week! We can have breakfast or lunch there for under $10. I have never had a bad meal at Magnolia.

Cherry Creek Catfish at 5712 Manchaca Road is another moderately priced favorite of ours.

My darling hubby loves Taco Cabana at 211 S. Lamar. He says this is the closest food he has found to his Mama's cooking. Taco Cabana is his comfort food.

Logan's Roadhouse behind Krispy Kreme Donuts at 701 E. Stassney at I35. I dream about their steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes. Because Logan's IS a chain restaurant, and because we like to support local restaurants, we never would have tried Logan's on our own. However, our grown daughter had her birthday dinner for about 30 people there several years ago. We were so impressed with the food and service, that we have gone back several times. I usually order the grilled salmon to accompany my steamed broccoli and baked sweet potato, but, actually, that is too much food, so a take-away box is always needed.

The last time we were there, Logan's was unusually busy - just after the election - and it took about 30 minutes for our food to arrive. Darling husband and I didn't really care because we were talking, enjoying our Zinfandel and not paying attention to the time. The manager came over and said because they had not lived up to their standard of having the food served to the customer within 20 minutes of ordering, that he was not charging us for our dinner. What a treat. However, we were so pleased with the service from our hard-working, friendly waiter, that we left him a tip equal to the price of our meals. Seeing the grin on his face as we walked past the windows on our way to our car, was worth every penny.

A moderately-priced "mini-chain" restaurant that we recently tried, and put on our favorites list, is Fish City Grill in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at 4200 S. Lamar. The food was excellent and the service very friendly and casual. The ambiance at Fish City really is like a little neighborhood bistro.

An excellent Chinese restaurant is Tien Jin
at 4601 S Lamar Blvd # 105 (from Lamar, turn onto Westgate, then turn right between Madam Mam's and the China Buffet) the address as 4534 Westgate Blvd, #105. Ask for the Chinese menu when you go. One dish will serve 2 people. I consider myself somewhat of an expert on Chinese food, having eaten my way from HongKong through central China and up to Harbin, and from Beijing down the east coast, then over to Wuhan during 3, month-long trips to China during the 70's; and having been taught Shandong style cooking by chef Ray Jiing, who, after his UT and UCLA days, became Dean and Professor of the Graduate Institute of the Studies of Image and Sound of Documentary at Tainan National College of Arts, Taiwan. I then taught Chinese cooking for Austin Community Schools back in the 80's. Tien Jin is as authentic as I have found in Austin. If you are a meat-eater, the pork with eggplant is excellent. Ask your waiter for suggestions. The decor is a dated, but the food is great.

We tried Olivia, the new restaurant at 2043 S. Lamar near Oltorf. The food was divine and the service was good. Pity that Olivia is just too darn expensive for our budget. It is the kind of restaurant at which we would like to eat often. I could not find a website for Olivia; however, here is a review site:

Another fairly expensive, but romantic, restaurant that we like for special times is The Treehouse at 2201 College Ave (South Congress at Live Oak.)

The last recommended restaurant I will mention today is the wheat-free, gluten-free bakery and cafe: Wild Wood Bakery and Cafe at 3663 Bee Caves Rd, West Lake Hills, behind Breed & Company. If you have any friends/family who can't eat wheat/gluten, this cafe is for them. Cakes, pies, loaf bread, buns, focaccia, lasagna, brownies, blondies, cookies, muffins, Italian Cream Cake, Carrot Cake, Twinkies, onion-cheese biscuits, enchiladas, sandwiches, salads, etc., etc. Their service is a little spacey, but the food is excellent, especially for those of us who can't eat wheat.

Now for a thumbs down. We had been wanting to try Hill's Cafe at 4700 South Congress With 6 San Antonio family members, who also had been wanting to try Hill's, we recently ate there on a Sunday. The two family members who ordered burgers were the only ones who thought the food was good. I had the turkey plate, which was barely edible. The service was dismal. We waited over an hour after ordering for our food to arrive. We never saw our waiter between ordering and food delivery. That they seated us next to the smelly bathroom did not help. Hill's seems to excel in memorabilia and music, not in food.

Thank goodness there are plenty of other good places to enjoy food in Austin. I would like to hear about yours.

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