Today was a patchwork day. Maureen and I went to an old Austin favourite for Breakfast, took a drive to San Antonio for Lunch, and ate sports event concession food for dinner.
The day started with a trip to the Magnolia Cafe. it’s one of the most popular cafes in the hip SoCo (South Congress Avenue) district — a funky (overused term when describing things in Austin) 24-hour joint with an eclectic menu that described the cross-section of cultures here — cowboy favourites sit along side Mexican dishes. Diner food mingles with upscale eats.
Although the entire menu is available 24hrs a day, we were there for breakfast. Migas is a popular Tex-Mex breakfast item, scrambled eggs with onion, cheese, tortilla chips, served with tortillas and salsa and refried beans on the side. At Magnolia, there’s an option to order the “Love Migas” where the entire dish is cooked in garlic butter and serrano chilies. We opt for that, please!
The place is also celebrated for its plate-sized pancakes and we order one each — gingerbread for Maureen and I opt for the cornmeal pancake, continuing my love affair with all things corn.
Our breakfasts arrive and the aroma rises to make us want to roll around in the plate. The garlic, cheese, heat from the serranos are heaven when the eggs and beans and house-made chunky salsa are piled into a fresh, hot flour tortilla and eaten taco style. It makes for a creamy, eggy, spicy experience that’s totally unique to the Magnolia Cafe.
On to the pancakes: Maureen’s gingerbread pancake has the same rich hue of good gingerbread, but it has the soft and fluffy texture of a pancake, a real winning combo. My cornmeal pancake has great corn-cake flavour and a coarse texture from the cornmeal — great with butter and syrup.
We hit the road to check out some of the small towns (Gruene and New Braunfels) on the way to San Antonio to tour it’s famous Riverwalk — a peaceful, meandering canal through the heart of San Antonio. Constructed with a great deal of forethought and vision for the city, it’s overhung with Magnolia trees, filled with singing birds (important to us Canadians who have missed them for the last several months), and lined with plantings, fountains, cafes and shops. Some stretches of the canal reach into historic districts. Tour boats and water taxis move up river, some with bandoliers, and or microphoned tour guides.
After walking some distance, checking out the sights, we were heavily motivated to have a seat at a sidewalk cafe and enjoy the warmth of the sun (it had been overcast and a little chilly (for Texans – still t-shirt weather for Canadians) since we’ve arrived. We chose Ibiza, an eatery that specializes in Latin cuisine, with Mexico, Cuba, Spain and others well-represented on the menu. We order the Cubano sandwich, which has the traditional ham, roast pork, cheese, pickles and mustard in a toasted roll. Ibiza decided to fore-go the pressing of the sandwich and left the roll in it’s full-volume state. Mixed veggie chips accompanied the sandwich and we washed it all down with a couple Blue Moons. The roast pork was excellent and was definitely the star of the show. As well, the Cubano depends on the combination of salty ham and pork, the creaminess of the cheese and the sharpness of plain old yellow mustard and pickle to provide it’s iconic flavour profile. Even though the sandwiches weren’t pressed, these satisfied the yen.
We headed back to Austin via I-35 — as depressing a stretch of road as you’re likely to find. Chain restaurants, one after another on both sides of the roads for miles and miles, broken up by gas stations, low-end hotels, warehouses and the odd outlet mall were the only view. It reminded us yet again, why we have a strict no interstates, no chain restaurants rule on our road trips.
We had to get back to Austin because we had tickets to the season opener of TXRD all-womens’ Roller Derby. Austin is the epicentre of the resurgence of this sport, blending more actual sport and less Wrestlemania-style they do inject some light-hearted fun into their version of the sport. There are local rock bands playing in the breaks and punishment for minor penalties are assessed by spinning a wheel. Punishments involve the potential to give up points if a penalized player loses a contest, such as a pillow fight, arm-wrestling, a tug-of-war or a two lap track race. However game play is serious and highly athletic, and there’s plenty of bone-crushing contact between players to keep the audience on their feet. There’s a punk rock aesthetic to the whole roller derby scene in Austin that keeps it a great venue for watching people letting their freak flag fly. It was a great time.
Another thing we liked about it was the concession food. Sure, you could get pizza and hot dogs, but you could also get some highly inventive fare from Jackalope, a local eatery. In addition to items like a jalapeno Texas hot-link dipped in orange pancake batter and deep-fried as their take on a corn dog, they had one item that was too intriguing to not order: jicima and cabbage slaw with Cap’n Crunch and couscous crusted fried chicken with green chile ranch dressing on top all served in a bacon waffle cone. This was easy to hold, easy to eat and man, was it good. Sweet, savoury with a nice bite from the slaw and heat from the green chile ranch. The chicken was tender and juicy and Cap’n Crunch is an inspired choice as breading material for fried chicken… well, fried ANYTHING for that matter.
In case you were wondering, the Holy Rollers beat the Putas Del Fuego in a close 54-51 match with the Putas putting on a major comeback push that made it a nail biter. It was a great day across a couple cities. We ended the night with a major crash and slept in on Monday.