Tag Archives: Austin

Austin Day 2: Kreuz Market

It’s raining in Austin again today so we plan to do a little driving and exploring. Sun is promised for tomorrow and so is the Texas Marathon. But today, brunch will be at 24 Diner. This hip eatery is busy on Saturday and parking is hard to obtain. Once inside the wait is 15 minutes. We are seated and order drinks and peruse the menu. The interior is not diner-like at all but more hipster/industrial.

24 Diner on UrbanspoonThe menu has all the diner classics but refined and many healthy non-dinerish options. I order the Pork Belly sandwich that is reminiscent of a bahn mi with cucumber, mint, serrano and pickled red onion. Sides are ordered separately and I was intrigued by the menu option: vegetable of the day. I expected the usual bland selection of broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Today’s veg was brussel sprouts sauteed in a skillet. Sign me up! I love sprouts. The sandwich was good, the baguette perfectly chewy and the pork belly surprisingly meaty. The mint, serrano and cucumber were not evident and that was a little disappointing. The sprouts were awesome! Charred and sweet.

Rob ordered a patty melt with fries. The melt came nontraditionally on sourdough, but it was perfectly toasted on the flat-top with the pre-requisite fried onions and swiss cheese, combining for a creamy, sweet, sharp foil for the burger. Rob’s a sucker for a patty melt.

After lunch we headed over to the nearby Whole Foods store, perchance to dream. This Austin location is the flagship store and well… as a someone who shops for food in Ottawa…completely depressing. The selection is amazing.

A little tired walking the aisles? Stop here and have a craft beer. *sigh*
Our daughter Hannah always requests meatloaf when asked for dinner suggestions.
Raising the candy apple to an art form. The choice of prepared foods is staggering.

Kreuz Market (pronounced “KRITES”) in Lockhart has been on Rob’s radar for some time. It is one of the oldest and most traditional examples of Texas BBQ. We spent the afternoon cruising around in the inclement weather stopping here and there for a picture. Lockhart is about 40 minutes south of Austin and is considered a bit of a Mecca for BBQ enthusiasts. On the way to Lockhart, Rob informs me that he is not certain I’m going to like Kreuz. Why? Well…its hunks of meat and no sauce, and no forks. But there are sides right? Hmmm…crackers and pickles…maybe potato salad. Okay, I’m pretty sure I already hate this place. I don’t care about its iconic status. Oh well, I’ll grit my teeth and take one for the team.

Kreuz is huge. The woodlot out back is the size of your average supermarket garden center. When entering you are oddly accosted by several of those rip-off “claw and capture a stuffed animal” vending machines. Advance warning, parents. Further in the line up to order begins. Selection is small – two varieties of sausage, brisket, beef and pork ribs, smoked ham special today. Ordering is done at a central counter where you pay as well.

The ordering room contains several large smokers and open fires with hot burning logs. The clerk takes your meat orders only. She calls it out directly to the aproned, blackened cutter immediately behind her who slices your brisket and ribs. She weighs it and the cashier rings it up. It is bundled haphazardly with several slices of white bread in several layers of butcher paper and handed still open to you.

At this point you continue to the next ordering phase in the main dining hall. Here you have a few limited choices for sides including sauerkraut, German potatoes (roasted and steamed), mac and cheese, coleslaw and several pickle selections.

From here you find space at a table and spread out your meal. Kreuz also does not provide forks. Plastic spoons and knives and fingers. That’s it. We ordered the brisket (fat), pork ribs, a sausage, mac and cheese, sauerkraut and bread and butter pickles.

Normally we don’t order the brisket because it is too dry and strong tasting. This brisket however was amazing, moist, tender, flavourful, pull apart delicious with a delicate smoke. It was truly fantastic and I would never hesitate to order it. Like no brisket I’ve ever had. The pork ribs were good, very peppery, tender. and had a nice rosy deep smoke ring. They however could have benefited from a sweet Memphis BBQ sauce. Blasphemy, I know. Texas is about the meat but I am about the sauce. The sausage was very unseasoned and dull – perhaps because we were expecting a spiced Texas hot link and it turned out to be German-style sausage. Again, sauce would have rescued it. We ate most of the meal wrapping the juicy brisket in white bread with the crunchy sweet pickles. Heaven.

The sides are fine. Coleslaw is crunchy, creamy and tasty. The mac and cheese is overcooked pasta in day-glo orange cheese sauce and is awful in that perfect, excellent way. The thick ridge cut bread and butter pickles are the perfect foil to the fatty meat. On the whole Kreuz was an awesome Texas BBQ experience and well worth going out of your way to try.

Kreuz Market on Urbanspoon

 

 

Austin!

Touched down just after noon on Friday. Up since 4 am we are tired and hungry. Austin is overcast and a light rain falls but it is also verdant with spring, mild and the birds are singing, with the bonus of being sans slush and the treachery that is our Ottawa driveway currently.

Rob and I have been to Austin on two other occasions for all-too-brief stops on road trips, so we already have a basic lay of the land and some favorite places to grab a bite. We make an easy decision. Gueros!


Guero's Taco Bar on Urbanspoon

Despite the drizzle, South Congress is alive and buzzing on this Friday mid-afternoon. We luck into a parking spot across from the restaurant and head in. Guero’s is packed but has a couple of free tables. We get seated and first up: Margaritas! We already know Guero’s does ’em right. They offer about 15 margs with different tequilas. We order The Don, February’s featured marg made with Don Julio tequila, Triple Sec, fresh lime juice, rocks, salted rim for me, no salt for Rob. Our drinks arrive with a slice of lime and starting to sweat. Guero margs are in short glasses and are about twenty shades paler than the neon chartreuse abomination that the unfortunate think is a real margarita. Ooooh! Goes down easy after our long day.

Drinks arrive with complimentary, well made corn tortilla chips and two house salsas. The first, a smooth, roasted tomato chile dip provides a nice spicy burn. The second is a fresh, chunky pico de gallo with a hint of creaminess provided by some chopped avocado. I’m not sure which I prefer. Both are great with a margarita. I do immediately regret wearing a white shirt however.

Starving, we select a few apps off the menu to share. Tacos Al Pastor and Chorizo Quesadillas. The tacos are small, open-faced and piled with spiced pork and pico de gallo laced with coriander and fresh pineapple. They come with lots of fresh lime. The quesadillas keep me coming back to Guero’s. The soft, pillowy flour tortillas (corn are also available) are sumptuous with just enough cheese, chorizo and spiced oil rendered from the meat to glue the tortillas together. A generous helping of guacamole and sour cream for spooning up with each bite makes these the perfect marg-soaking-up food. With our bellies content we head to the hotel to check in and have a much needed nap.

Refreshed and ready to roll, we select the Iron Cactus for dinner because we can walk there. We are only a block from 6th street which is hopping on a Friday night despite the rain. The Iron Cactus, a large two story affair here in Austin, has a few locations in Texas, much like the Lone Star in Ontario minus the fake Texas crap and waiter named Durango. We have a 15 minute wait at the bar where the tender tells us they make a  mighty good margarita. We bite. They have a pretty good array of tequila behind the bar. He makes us a decent drink with fresh lime and agave nectar. It’s good but a tad too sweet. Not bad though. The bar is noisy on a Friday. We are by a factor of two, the oldest people in the joint. Oddly the sound track beckons to us: The Zombies, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and Steppenwolf.

Iron Cactus on UrbanspoonAfter we are seated, I order a local beer, Fireman Four. Complimentary chips with two roasted chile -tomato salsas, one warm, one cold arrive. Chips are good and the salsas tasty. We order a Chile Con Queso app. It arrives in a cast iron pan, thin and white with a few chunks of chilies and tomato. Quite average but really good when sharing a chip with the mildly spicy roasted salsas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For mains we are sharing an order of shrimp and pork carnitas fajitas. The dish arrives hot but not sizzling.  The pork is in good sized chunks, sweet and nicely spicy. The shrimp appear to be wild caught as they have an intense shrimpy taste and are smokey sweet. Accompanying the proteins are nicely sauteed onions, poblanos, and red peppers. The flour tortillas (again corn are offered) are soft and perfect. Our mains come with a choice of beans. We both opt for the bacon onion beans which are very good but not sweet. The Mexican rice is dull and the classic fajita fixins are fine but in our book cheese is a no no and the guacamole had been set out too far in advance and had started to oxidize which is unappetizing.

We head back to our hotel via 6th Street, Austin’s bar and restaurant scene. Lots of colourful characters and live music spill out into the street. Can’t wait to check it out!