*Guest post by Joseph Ver
Hello! My name is Joseph and I am a college student in Austin, Texas. Coming back home from college, specifically San Antonio, Texas, brings many complaints. My favorite one is the lack of diversity when it comes to restaurants. When I visit, I can expect to receive a call from my friend asking to grab lunch with him. I have come to realize that there are only two options: IHOP or a Chinese buffet. Both fill me with dread and sadness, but living in an area of town where eating somewhere exciting requires driving a good twenty minutes down a highway I have come to accept this curse. I also feel like living in downtown Austin has spoiled me in terms of what I expect from a good restaurant. Allow me to give you a brief culinary rundown on Austin.
From a local's perspective, I feel like many people expect a state full of barbecue and Mexican food. Although it is a bit true, the infamous two-hours in line for Franklin Barbecue come to mind, we have a diversity of great food around the city. From small plate offerings at Barley Swine to classy Mexican food at La Condesa, there are a lot of hotspot restaurants to hit up while you are in town.
Strapped for cash? One of the biggest trends sweeping the country has infected Austin as well. Food trailers are a great alternative for either a quick snack or a big meal. As there are many food trailers, you can't go wrong with any choice (take that with a grain of salt, of course). Craving desserts? Get a frozen banana from Bananarchy (insert Arrested Development reference here). Gourdoughs gives you the option to put almost anything you want on a wonderful doughnut. As a warning, you might want to check in with your doctor before going. Love Balls brings Japanese street food to Austin as they serve lovely balls of takoyaki, gooey balls of dough with a chunk of octopus tucked inside. Ms. P’s Electric Cock, disregarding the vulgar name, serves the best fried chicken I have ever had.
Amidst all of the recommendations that I have given, if I had to choose one restaurant for anyone visiting Austin, it would be Uchiko. Paul Qui, the executive chef at Uchiko, has helped put a greater culinary focus on Austin as he recently won the latest season of Top Chef. Does the food live up to the hype? Oh yes, yes it does. Being strapped for cash, restaurant week was the perfect time for me and my friend to sample the great food at Uchiko. We did not leave unsatisfied. Here are a few pictures from our culinary excursion.
(Sidenote: The pictures are not the greatest ever. I turned off the flash because flash makes photos look bad and I didn’t want to be one of those people that took pictures of their food. Nevertheless, I became one of those people so I probably should have done it anyway. That little creature photobombing the pictures is our pal Tigerbean. I don't really have a good explanation for that guy.)
Edamame grilled and salted to perfection. Our hands were blackened from the char, but this tasty snack that lasted throughout the entire meal was worth getting our hands dirty.
“Loup Crudo”: My friend never had raw fish and was not expecting raw sea bass. I convinced her to try it and she was glad she did. A citrusy burst in your mouth, this Mediterranean sea bass was paired with grapefruit and avocado.
Have you ever had chicken karaage? Served with pickle vegetables, this Japanese fried chicken was the juiciest and sweetest chicken to ever grace my lips.
“Pork Tataki”: Pork belly and shallots with a fish espresso caramel sauce. Yes, that sauce sounds like a confusing mess, but paired with that tender pork belly, it was magic. My friend didn't like it as she thought the pork was too fatty. Being Filipino, I feel like I'm used to fatty pork.
I have complained to friends that have stayed in San Antonio for college about how amazing the food in Austin is and how mediocre it is back home. I know that I've probably received a few eye rolls from it. I really do feel spoiled to be living in such a great culinary city. San Antonio is a great city, no doubt, but if you're ready to have a great food adventure, Austin is the way to go.
Joseph Ver is part of the SpareFoot marketing team. In his spare time, he likes to procrastinate on his school projects, experiment in the kitchen, and explore the city. You can learn more about him through his about.me.