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26 Hours of Austin Eats: the Good, the Better and the Gluten-Free

24 July 2012

Last weekend when one of my coworkers asked me how I was going to spend my weekend, I replied,


A little dramatic, and probably not as much information as my coworker wanted. We've been overworked at work and overworked at home lately, so when my sister invited us to Austin early last week you might think I would decline so we could spend some time at home. Too bad Austin is a lady that is hard for me to refuse, despite her in-your-face hippiness and overall lack of hygiene. Being the self-employed marriage counselor/vacation enthusiast that I am, I knew that all we would do in Dallas if left to our own type-A devices would be chores and planning and errands. Austin offered escape, adventure, and, since my sister already had evening plans, a chance for us to have a real life dinner by ourselves. Just the two of us. 

Well, the two of us and Sistah Cousin, who texted me the night before and asked for a ride. 

Austin has some of my favorite foods, and while I was only in town for a rapid speed 28 hours, I did manage to eat. Here follows my Austin road trip food diary:

1. Polvos Mexican Restaurant 

For a while Sistah has told me of a love for hers so profound, that I would barely be able to relate to her until I had been to Austin and she was able to make a proper introduction. No this was not her boyfriend turned husband, but Polvos Mexican Restaurant. We started with queso and some of the best restaurant guacamole I've ever had, as well as multiple trips to the salsa bar in the middle of the dining area. Markus is one of those Texas salsa snobs, making his own when he can and able to identify what's missing from a batch upon his tastebud's inspection at any given Mexican eatery. He said this was some of the best salsa he's ever had! 

What's not to be missed, though, are the fish fajitas. Cooked in a sweet/savory, almost thai style sauce. The enormous piece of fish sits on top of a mountain of veggies - cabbage, onions, peppers and corn. We ordered this for four people and each added an a le carte taco or tamale (also excellent). Yum these were so damn good my mouth is seriously sad as I write this. I was too overwhelmed to take a proper food photo but you can see them popping out in the photo of me, Sistah and Sistah Cousin below. 

Bananarchy is pretty much the best dessert place in the world. A real life fozen banana stand for lovers of chocolate, potassium and Arrested Development. Take a look below at all of the amazing menu choices. It's always so hard to pick just one! 

I've never known a pack of rainbow sprinkles to let me down. I got mine over a halfsie with vegan chocolate!

Editor's Note: Between Bananarchy and our next food stop, I tried on a dress at one of my favorite vintage store, Feathers. The dress was too small on my food loving body.

After some wandering around South Congress, in search of long yearned for treasures that I am eager to share in an upcoming post (the suspense!), I sought the oasis of the South Congress food truck lot. This shaved ice stand's many flavors and promises of no high fructose corn syrup got me hook, line and sinker. 

I got my standard pink lemonade with cream. It was awesome and yards above any unnamed gourmet shaved ice trucks in Dallas. The ice was a perfect weight and shave and the world was good.

After our SoCo jaunt we went back downtown and walked the area around our hotel. I was a little full but had heard that Frank's offered gluten-free buns and vegan hot dogs and there was no stopping me. Knowing that I was too full to do the bite by bite comparison that I originally planned, I chose just the plain dog on the gluten-free bun. The bun was ok, while a generous gesture to the celiac hot dog enthusiasts like me, but the hot dog was awesome. So so awesome. I also tried the iced coffee and Dublin Dr Pepper barbecue sauce which were both good. I can't wait to go back for the vegetarian chili cheese fries!

Editor's Note: Before Frank and our next food stop, I went by Sistah's house and tried on some of her clothes. Did any of them fit? No. Would this have been a sign to, say, stop eating? Yes. Did I do that? Let us continue...

After we got the kids tucked in for the night, it was husband and wife date time. Except for the part about one of our good friends seeing that we're in town via Facebook and joining us for dinner. It all worked out perfectly, as Shady Grove is one of those Southern Utopian spots that's meant to be enjoyed as a group, preferably as your mama rocks you like a wagon wheel...

I know it is shameful, but believe it or not at this point in the day I began trying to pace myself food wise. I had heard awesome things about Shady Grove's green chile sauce that they add to many of their dishes, but it did not appear on their gluten-free list so I decided to go with the dinner salad and the jalapeno twice baked potato. The best part of the experience was the housemade pesto ranch, which deserves its own spot in the Texas Condiment Hall of Fame.

A ranch enthusiast for life, I do strive to not be "that Texas girl" at restaurants who orders some semblance of food with her ranch on the side and then continues to hound the wait staff at every opportunity with "Can I have, like another side of Ranch?!?!" for dousing every inch of any crumb on the table that enters her mouth. I was blissfully and uninhibitedly THAT Texas girl at Shady Grove thanks to the unique mix of Ranch and fresh pesto made with walnuts, and next time I'm in Austin I can't wait to do it again. As Garth Brooks (basically) sang in his smash hit "The Dance," I could have missed the shame, but I would have to miss...theeeee...Ranch.

After a long day with sistahs and friends, it was time for just lovers. We finished our meal at Shady Grove and went down to 6th for some night time people watching (also called count the Bachelorette sashes) and a trip for desserts at Bess Bistro. Bess Bistro is below street level. Walking in from the bustle of downtown to the exposed brick, cozy booths and stunning chandeliers gives it a Southern speak easy feel.

We ordered both desserts marked gluten-free on the menu, the Fourless Triple Chocolate and Mint Torte and the Pecan Street Delight. Both were incredible, layer upon layer of different textures and flavors of mint chocolate or pecans. I am a pecans-in-dessert savant and was in love with the cruncky macaron paired with the bittersweet whiskey ice cream and soft and nutty topping on the Pecan Sreet Delight.

After a great night's sleep, I woke up on Sunday morning ready to workout? No. Ready to eat some more! Thankfully, Sistah Cousin felt the same so we met up with her and the pals she stayed over with at the Megnolia Cafe. I was late to the game in paying a visit to Magnolia, and paid dearly with the wait we endured (probably about an hour, but they do put coffee, chairs and water outside for waiting guests). The service was fast and friendly once we were seated. While I've heard awesome things about their Love Migas and the ordering of them would have contributed nicely to my Migas Across Texas research initiative, there was a menu item that could not shake my attention: the Queso Omlette. An omlette prepared with peppers and avocado, then covered in their spicy and creamy queso. Pictured below with my two sides: black beans and fresh watermelon.

It's hard to imagine that in all my trips to Austin I had never been to Magnolia before and it's hard to predict a return to Austin that will not include breakfast here.

Halfway between Austin and Dallas, Waco is the rest stop of choice on the drive home. Our group had collectively tried Health Camp, Elite Cafe, Rudy's and George's on different trips to mixed reviews. We didn't need a full meal, just a quick stretch and pep for the last leg of the trip. That's when it hit me: the soda shop at the Dr. Pepper Museum for clean rest rooms, good air conditioning and hand poured Dr. Peppers. 

Sistah Cousin and I each ordered a small hand poured Dr. Pepper (the perfect size to wet your whistle but avoid an extra bathroom break on the way home) and a Frosty Pepper - vanilla Blue Bell ice cream mixed with pure Dr. Pepper syrup - in a snazzy souvenior cup, no less.

We wrapped our final food purchase in 26 hours feeling like full on food champions!

We try to stick to quasi healthy foods at home, so when I go off the rails I try to make it worth it with foods that are unique, fresh and memorable. Given my dissertation above I think I might have accomplished just that this weekend. Now can anyone recommend a good juice cleanse or Pilates studio in town?

What are some of your favorite travel eats?

Do you have a favorite Austin restaurant?


  1. nom nom nom. now I want Polvos & Bananarchy for dinner!

  2. Sounds like you hit up a number of the Austin greats; I learned of a few myself just reading this. Glad you had a good trip!

    I need to add that Dr. Pepper Waco stop to my next ATX-Dallas road trip itinerary. We usually stop in West for kolaches and - don't tell the Czechs - but I can take or leave those. A root beer float, on the other hand . . .

  3. All sound so delicious! I will need to go on an eating excursion down to Austin myself. That omelet at Magnolia's sounds amazing and I totally appreciate the frozen banana stand!

  4. For future stops in Waco, you need to try Kitok's (Korean/burgers), Taqueria Zacatecas (on LaSalle), D's Chicken Delight (Mediterranean), Vitek's (barbecue), Schmaltz's (sandwiches), Cafe Cappuccino (breakfast food, etc.), Clay Pot (Vietnamese) and Rosati's (pizza).


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