Lunch downtown used to be a tug-o-war between the two poles of Congress Avenue: Hickory Street Bar and Grill (“secretary station”) and Las Manitas (because if you didn’t eat there for breakfast, you might try to catch up at lunch).
There are so many options today, people in other cities are talking about our foodie scene. Which is great, but there is an old standard that helped create a buzz about lunch downtown.
The Texas Chili Parlor (1409 Lavaca Street)
The old timers who first opened the Texas Chili Parlor remember their original wait staff – which includes Jeffrey’s waiter Johnny Guffey. But, they shrug when you ask them about why the place is decorated like an Elgin gas station, “because it was cheap”.
The walls are covered with old Shiner and Ford dealer signs. There is a light hue of neon and a strong smell of onion. The chili is thick and nearly black, and seems to create conversation about the Deepwater Horizon spill. The meat is hearty, in square cubes and it’s up to you to put on cheese, onion or jalapeno.
And, being good Texans, we don’t add beans. Some do, we call them Okies.
On a hot day, a small Chili seems like a good idea for some reason. On a cold day, a large Chili is a great idea and for good reasons. On any day, you’ll understand your overwhelming desire to grab a mint, or three, by the door on your way out.
What’s hot? Get the XX on a hot day, and on a cold day try the XXX. Pair it with a cold Shiner on both days.
One day last week I went to the Texas Chili Parlor and marveled at the decorations on the walls and said hi to some people inside including a well-known Austinite who is a former music promoter.
The next day, I went to Swift’s Attic on Congress Avenue and I marveled at the decorations on the walls and said hi to a well-known Austin music festival promoter…hey, wait a minute.
Swift’s Attic (315 Congress)
There are so many options for lunch downtown and Swift’s is a good one. Sure, there isn’t the cadre of the good looking and over-drawn at lunch, as there is in the evening. But, what an incredible site when your Croque Madame (a Monsieur with a fried egg on top) or any of their wide array of terrific sammches arrive.
I had a salmon that was crusted with Corn-Nuts! Phenomenal! It was sitting on in some sweet potato mashed potatoes! Scrumptious!
Clearly there was a lot of thought put into the décor. I appreciate that they kept the old hand painted advertisements that were once on the exterior of the building that is now the brick interior wall.
There’s a lot of neat-o contemporary feel, plus a faded royal blue wall with handful of fleur de lis-looking designs that is reminiscent of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
What’s hot? Get the Edamame with Chili Oil and Pop Rocks. It sounds nuts, but the chili oil brings the heat, and the Pop Rocks are tons of fun and remind you of buying them in little cartons at a Wag-A-Bag.
As the Paramount Summer Classic Film Series comes to a close, we are reminded of staying cool on hot nights inside the beautiful theater on Congress Avenue.
The series traditionally ‘fades in’ with a near sellout showing of Casablanca. You’ll never know the laughs, the applause, and the sighs that occur throughout this film by watching it at home. The chuckles at Peter Lorre, Claude Rains and Carl the waiter, are funnier in a theater full of people. The power of everyone singing La Marseillaise over the Germans is heavy.
Plus, the Paramount has beer and wine, so it’s a great date night.
This year, we saw Sweet Smell of Success – a first for both of us, and the snappy dialogue reminded me that a character in Diner was constantly rattling off some of the lines between Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis’s Sydney Falco. We also saw Network, All the Presidents Men, My Left Foot and The Big Sleep – which, while being excited by film noir, left us scratching our heads.
We liked Dial M for Murder. Originally, and famously, shown in 3-D, it looked odd on-screen, but we had so much fun laughing with the crowd and such a thrill sitting on the edges of our seats, that we loved the whole thing.
I saw Sahara by myself one hot afternoon. I love it on TNT on Memorial Day weekend, but I really loved it on the big screen. And, though I had seen it a hundred times, there were parts of the film I never caught before because of the audience.
Christie wanted to see Back to the Future, so we did. Because, to quote a smarter man, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. But, she was right on and I’m glad she dragged me. It was like seeing it in the theater for the first time. We rooted for Marty and George McFly, and we booed bad guy Biff.
We even brought my young nieces and my Mom. The nieces thought the movie was fun; my Mom liked the Sauvignon Blanc.
One overlooked treasure, The Paper, pays a nice homage to His Girl Friday. A then-1994 Ron Howard proves his directors chops by shooting a film in a style more reminiscent of the great 1970’s directors. The film has a rough exterior ala Stuart Rosenberg, Paul Mazursky or Sydney Pollack.
Nearby, the Congress Avenue-area offers some great opportunities for a before, or after, movie experience. We enjoyed the bar at the Driskill Hotel, and the balcony at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel – it’s always nice to catch a great evening shot of the Capitol dome. I’m sure someone might like the sushi at Silhouette, or if you’re with the family you can grab a slice at Cozzoli’s. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse offers an amazing wine list, and you can always cozy up to the bar for terrific snacks.
Last week, we tried the bar at the Roaring Fork and found a fairly decent wine list, and their very inexpensive bar menu. – I was always a fan of the Green Chili Pork Stew, but sans tortillas.
Next is 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I don’t want to tell moviegoers, but I enjoy 2010 more. It was Roy Scheider up against the odds! It doesn’t get any better than that.
The Summer Classic Film Series draws the curtain with Gone with the Wind. And, like the wind, the classic films will be gone…until next year. Have fun and come out on September 5th for GWTW, and remember what seeing a real film in a real theater is like.
The next episode of Scandal can wait.
You already recycle, carry reusable bags and water bottles and shop organically, and the benefits are considerable–you feel great about yourself, you’re out saving the world and whatnot. But what if you could earn something more immediate and tangible, like, I don’t know… Whole Foods’ coupons?
Did you say Whole Food coupons?
Whole Planet Foundation’s new free green mobile app, Make Change, Not Waste created by Atomic Axis, an Austin based mobile application development company gamifies learning about eco-actions. Released in May, this mobile application gives users the opportunity to track their green activity and earn coupons to Whole Foods (which by the way are instantly available to scan on your phone at the checkout) for their actions. Planning on donating those old clothes that have been hiding in the mysterious depths of your closet? You can earn rewards for that.
Performing green actions like buying in bulk, reusing towels and taking short showers earn users of Make Change, Not Waste valuable coupons to green brands like Organic Valley, Alexia Foods and Natures Path. Don’t want to use the coupons on yourself? Not a problem. After earning a coupon, an option is available to donate a percentage of the coupon back to Whole Planet Foundation to aid in microcredit loans. You can track how much money you’ve raised under the “My Impact” tab, as well as bags you’ve avoided by reusing your own. Continue reading
On historical E. 6th Street, nestled amongst the bouncers bribing passersby with dollar shots is a hidden gem, dripping in Elvis memorabilia. I am talking, of course, about Beale Street Tavern. We held a happy hour for the
E-Learning Council in the upstairs area of the bar and it could not have gone better. The semi-private upstairs space was perfect for upwards of 25 people to comfortably mingle at the high top tables and lounge on the large leather banquettes. The Elvis décor is charming, and not at all overwhelming. We received impeccable service; the catering staff accommodated our every need and our servers were friendly and fast with a refill. While we did not have a chance to sample the Elvis-themed fare (fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, anyone?), the catering menu offers a delightful spread of bite-sized appetizers. I will happily admit to going back for seconds (ok, thirds) of the fried goat cheese fritter with raspberry chipotle sauce. As it was happy hour and the main bar downstairs was quiet, the level of the music and ambient noise was just right for our networking event. Overall, the experience was laidback and fun for our guests.
One in four Texans has unclaimed property from forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, security deposits and utility refunds. It’s your money. Over $2.2 billion in cash and other valuables waiting for the rightful owners to claim. It’s never too late to make a claim*. Sound like a bad informercial? A scam?
Nope, just the Texas Unclaimed Property Site. It’s run by the Comptroller’s Office and it doesn’t cost a dime to check the site or file the claim (so don’t fall for the nasty scammers who claim want filing fees). We’ve found money from closed bank accounts, an insurance refund check that didn’t quite make it back to us ($500!), and even money from an overpaid bill. A tip, when you’re on the site check for money owed to your friends and relatives–they will always appreciate a tip on free money.
Stopped in to Roaring Fork at Stonelake Boulevard for a business lunch. What a gorgeous location–on the edge of Quarry Lake. The restaurant is quite upscale and I was expecting to blow the lunch budget. However, they have a great deal for lunch–The Texas Two Step. For $13 you can get a Cup of Soup or Pork Stew or Salad and either Grilled Salmon, Trout, or Roast Chicken. Not bad for a sit down meal in a great environment.
Roaring Fork, 10850 Stonelake Boulevard, Austin – (512) 342-2700
The soft opening of Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que on Lake Travis felt more like a family dinner than a restaurant run-through – which, to this comfort-foodie, is a very good sign. After a friendly greeting and prompt seating, my dining partner and I could not decide on which of the 4 house-brewed beers to order. Our server’s solution was to bring out a sampler of each… bless him. We opted for the Amber and Pale Ales in the end, both perfect compliments to our starter of steaming fried pickles. Being something of a fried pickle connoisseur, these spears lived up to my high standards after a few necessary minutes of cooling. The hot sauce-spiked ranch dressing was a welcome surprise for a girl who always adds some heat to America’s favorite dipping sauce.
Photos by Nicole Ryan Photography
In an attempt to try virtually every meat option on the menu, we
The only color film of Japan's surrender at the end of World War II is available for museum at the Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg.
Did you know that Austin has the highest performing Kiva city lending team in the world—http://www.kiva.org/team/austin_texas. Yep we beat cities many times our size. As of March 14, 2010 the team has loaned almost $157,000. It was started by a “poor” graduate student…as she said last night at the AIR awards…she’s rich compared to the folks she loans to.
Join the Austin, Texas team or start your own at www.kiva.org–$25 lets you help an entrepreneur and the best part you’ll get it back to help the next entrepreneur. The Kiva, Austin, Texas members also meet periodically and participate in local charities.