Friday, March 4th

Comprehensive Guide to Indian Food in Austin

It’s time for my annual update on all the Indian restaurants in Austin, as part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. This is a tough task because each year many places close and many open. I promise that as of writing, this list is accurate and complete. Take a look at years past to see how much has changed. (2015, 2014, 2013) Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite are and what you like to order. 

2016 AFBA City Guide

Asiana

801 E. William Cannon Dr, Ste 205, Austin, TX 78745

T-Th 11-2, 5-9:30, F 11-2, 5-10, Sat 12-3, 5-10, Sun 12-3, 5-9:30

Don’t let the rundown strip mall or sparse decor fool you, Asiana makes some great food. Delicious dosas, fluffy naan and some of the spiciest vindaloo in the city. Ask for it spicy and you shall receive.

Naan

Biryani Pot

12407 N. Mopac Expy, Ste 200B, Austin, TX 78758

T-Th 11-2:30, 5:30-10 F 11-2:30, 5:30-10:30, S 11:30-3, 5:30-10:30, Sun 11:30-3, 5:30-10

This chain has high quality food, friendly service, and is a very popular lunch destination. Formerly Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine.

Bombay Bistro

10710 Research Blvd. #126, Austin, TX 78759

4200 South Lamar #300, Austin, TX 78704

M-Th 11-2, 5:30-10, F 11-2, 5:30-10:30, S 11:30-3, 5:30-10:30, Sun 11:30-3, 5:30-10

The elegant, romantic decor of the south location makes for a great date spot.

Bombay Dhaba

1207 S. First St, Austin, TX 78704

M-Sat 11-2, 5-10

This South Austin food truck puts out consistent food at a great value, making it a popular local stop for diners and lunch and dinner. Like all trucks that have good food, they’ll occasionally run out of things so head there early if you’ve got your heart set on a particular item.

Bombay Express

13000 North I35, Bldg 12, Unit 216, Austin, TX 78753

Tues-Sun 11-9

Vegetarian.

Bombay Grill Indian Restaurant

3201 Bee Caves Rd. #148, Austin, TX 78746

Sun-Th 11-2:30, 5:30-9:30, F-Sat 11-2:30, 5:30-10

Cheery service and wide range of options on the buffet.

Indian Spices

Bombay to Kathmandu Kitchen

9616 N. Lamar Blvd, Ste 168, Austin, TX 78753

Th-Tues 11am-11pm, W 5 pm-11pm

Northern Indian street food and Nepali cuisine. People love the momos (dumplings.)

Chennai Cafe

3203 S IH-35, Ste 560, Round Rock, TX 78664

Tues-Thurs 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-9:30pm, F 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm, Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-10:30pm, Sun noon-3pm, 6pm, 9:30pm

The Dallas franchise plays South Indian classical music and expertly prepares the region’s dishes so well that it quickly became one of Round Rock’s most popular Indian restaurants.

Chicken Lollypop

1005 E. Braker Lane, Austin, TX 78753

11-9 daily

The Mumbai-style Indian Chinese menu satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Curried Mussels

Clay Pit

1601 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701

M-Th 11-2:30, 5-11, F 11-2:30, 5-11, Sat 12-3, 5-11, Sun 12-3, 5-10

downtown favorite, Clay Pit offers a modern setting and delicious Bombay-inspired cocktails. The curried mussels alone are worth the trip.

Coriander Indian Cuisine

4894 Hwy 290 W, Sunset Valley, TX 78735

Sun-Th 11am-2pm, 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm

In the former location of Royal India, Coriander is a Dallas outpost. I love that there are lots of interesting dosas on the menu. Lunch buffet fans should hit this one as it’s a cut above the rest.

Coriander Indian Restaurant, Austin Texas

Curry in a Hurry

2121 W. Parmer Lane #114, Austin, TX 78727

Daily 10-9

This vegetarian spot features a daily curry. Bonus: free wi-fi!

Daawat Indian Cuisine

500 Canyon Ridge Drive, Austin, TX, 78753

M-F 11-2, 5-10, Sat-Sun 11:30-3, 5-10

Formerly Indian Spicy Kitchen, the extensive menu and online ordering system makes takeout a breeze.

G’Raj Mahal

73 Rainey Street, Austin, TX 78701

Once a popular food truck this lovely Rainey Street restaurant has lots of outdoor dining in the front and chic backyard, as well as indoors. It’s a great date night spot or a place to fill up on carbs before or after hitting the bars.

Gandhi Bazar

3421 W. William Cannon Dr, #133, Austin, TX 78745

12809 N FM 620, #3, Austin, TX 78750

2121 W. Parmer Lane, #113, Austin, TX 78727

8650 Spicewood Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78759

Daily 10-9

Prefer to cook your own Indian food? Stock up on spices and other essentials at one of Gandhi Bazar’s locations.

Hot Breads Bakery and Cafe

7318 McNeil Drive, Ste 102, Austin, TX 78729

Daily 10-10

So much more than a bakery, choices run from traditional Indian dishes to savory spiced puffed pastries. A unique concept in Austin.

Hyperabad House

11150 Research Blvd, Ste 210A, Austin, TX 78759

Sun-Th 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11a,-10:30pm

Authentic South Indian done well, there’s a large menu to choose from with meat and veggie dishes. The biryani is a favorite among guests.

Inchins Bamboo Garden

3107 S I35, Ste 760, Round Rock, TX 78664

M-Th 11:30-2, 5-10, F 11:30-2, 5-10:30, Sat 12-3:30, 5:30-10:30, Sun 12-3:30, 5:30-10

This Indo-Chinese chain features street food inspired dishes and a buffet.

Kababeque

3220 Amy Donovan Plz, Austin ,TX 78701

M, W-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun noon-6pm

Indian Mediterranean fusion truck at The Domain. Most popular dish is the Chicken Tikka Masala Wrap.

KP Indian Grocery

1212 W. Parmer Lane, Unit F, Austin, TX 78727

Daily 10:30-9:30

Small Indian grocery store stocked with the essentials.

Lamba’s Royal Indian

414 Waller Street, Austin, TX 78702

Spicing up farmer’s markets, Lamba’s sells a wide range of frozen Indian dishes. They can be found at HOPE and other farmer’s markets in and around Austin.

Bollywood

Madras Pavillion

9025 Research Blvd, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78758

M-F 11-3, 5:30-9:30, S-S 11-10

The vegetarian favorite has cuisine from both North and South India.

Man Pasand Grocery

3601 W. William Cannon #750, Austin, TX 78749

13945 N. Hwy 183, Austin, TX 78717

Daily 10-9

A great place to stock up on spices, snacks, frozen meals, grains and more. The freshly made hot samosas for $1.00 at the counter are some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Masala Dhaba

75 Rainey Street, Austin, TX 78701

T-Th 5 pm-12 am, F-Sat 5 pm-3 am, Sun 5 pm-10:30 pm

This food truck is a Rainey Street staple and reviews are extremely positive. Perfect for late night eats while bar-hopping.

Masala Wok

1100 Center Ridge Dr, Ste 300, Austin, TX 78753

10515 N. Mopac, Ste. A-155, Austin, TX 78759

1500 E. Whitestone Blvd, Cedar Park, TX 78613

Daily 11-10

This chain has classic Indian and Chinese options.

Ganesh

MediterrIndian

2512 Rio Grande St, Austin, TX 78705

M, W, Sun 5pm-10pm, Th-Sat 5pm-3am 

Live the name suggests, the friendly, affordable truck serves Mediterranean and Indian staples.

Mirchi Austin

1212 W. Parmer Lane, Unit A, Austin, TX 78753

Sun-Th 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-mid

Per the website, the menu draws upon the rich tapestry of Indian and Pakistani food culture and tradition.

MTM Indian Foods

9225 W. Parmer Lane, Austin, TX 78717

Sun-Th 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9

Grocery store with a range of Northern and Southern Indian items.

Naanful Indian Grill

11101 Burnet Rd, Ste A130, Austin, TX 78758

Sun-Th 11-3, 5-9:30, F-Sat 11-3, 5-10

2000 S. I35, Round Rock, TX 78681

Sun-Th 11-9, F-Sat 11-10

Quick, build-to-order dishes. Will deliver, but order early, as their site estimates 60-75 delivery time.

Nasha, Austin, Texas

Mussels Malvani at Nasha, Austin Texas

Nasha

1614 E. 7th St, Austin, TX 78702

Sun-Th 11 am-12 am, F-Sat 11 am-2 am

The sister restaurant of New India Cuisine has a full bar, moderate prices, and favorites such as Millionaires Curry and lots of seafood dishes. Their tagline Get High on Indian Food is perfect for its East Austin home.

New India Cuisine

2304 S. Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

M-F 11-10, S-S 12-10

The South Austin Marathi-style restaurant offers lots of fish and yeast-free naan. While not my personal favorite, many love this place.

New India

Paradise Biryani Pointe

1779 Wells Branch Pkwy, Ste 102, Austin, TX 78728

M-Th 11:30-2:30, 5:30-10, F-Sun 11:30-3, 5:30-10

They specialize in biryani, but if that’s not your thing, there’s a large menu with lots of diverse options.

Saffron

3616 Far West Blvd, Ste 113, Austin, TX 78731

Sun-Th 11am-2-pm, 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm

BYOB and has an extensive Nepali menu and a buffet at lunch. There’s also a Curry in a Hurry option, with three curries for ten bucks.

SIZZLE Indian Kitchen

2200 I-35 Frontage Rd, Ste C1, Round Rock, TX 78681

Tues-Sun 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm

One of the many restaurants implementing online order systems, SIZZLE is popular for takeout.

Star of India

2900 W. Anderson Lane, Ste 12D, Austin, TX 78757

Sun-Th 11-2:30, 5:30-9:30, F-Sat 11-2:30, 5:30-10

Standard buffet of classic dishes in a comfortable setting.

Curry

Suprabhat

9225 W. Parmer Lane, Ste 108, Austin, TX 78717

M-Th 11-3, 5-10, F 11-3, 5-10:30, Sat 11-3:30, 5-10:30, Sun 11-3:30, 5-10

All vegetarian, specializing in thali options.

Suvai Indian Kitchen

12920 W. Parmer Lane #105, Cedar Park, TX 78613

M-Th 11-2:30, 5-9, F 11-2:30, 5-9:30, Sat 12-3, 5-9:30, Sun 12-3, 5-9

Formerly Kadai Indian Kitchen, Cedar Park residents are delighted by large portions, fresh spicy dishes, and fast service. A must do if you are in the area.

Swad

9515 N. Lamar Blvd #156, Austin, TX 78753

Daily 11:30-9

Vegetarian favorites and fun street food. The big-as-your-head dosas are a must try. You won’t even mind the lack of atmosphere. Prices are low and service is fast and efficient, if not personable. Not a place for a date, but still one of my favorite places in Austin.

Mysore Masala Dosa

Taj Palace Indian Restaurant & Bar

6700 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin, TX 78752

M-Th 11-2, 5:30-10 F 11-2, 5:30-10:30 S 11:30-2:30, 5:30-10:30, Sun 11:30-2:30, 5:30-10

For more than 20 years the extensive buffet has been delighting loyal customers. This was one of Austin’s first Indian restaurants.

Tarka Indian Kitchen

201 University Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665

2525 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757

5207 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78745

11501 Rock Rose Ave, Austin, TX 78746

Sun-Th 11-9, F-Sat 11-10

The little sister of Clay Pit offers many of the same classic curries and fantastic pakoras. The fast, casual counter service has proven to be so popular that they keep expanding, with three locations in the area and one in San Antonio.

Mirch Masala

Pakora

Taste From India

519 E. 7th Street, Austin, TX 78758

Th-Sat 7 pm-4 am

Indian kabobs for the late-night bar crowd.

Teji’s Foods

2100B Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

Sun-W 11 am-10 pm, Th-Sat 11 am-3 am

1205 Round Rock Ave #115, Round Rock, TX 78681

Sun-Th 10:30-9, F-Sat 10:30-10

1335 E. Whitestone Blvd, Ste T130, Austin, TX 78613

Daily 11am-10pm

Part grocery, part restaurant, the widely-respected Teji’s has the fluffiest naan.

Tempura Grill Austin

9310 N. Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753

Sun-Th 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

Halal Pakistani and Indian in the Northgate Shopping Center.

Whip In

1950 I35 South, Austin, TX 78704

Daily 10 am-midnight

A funky South Austin staple, Whip In is a convenience store with indoor and outdoor live music, a massive selection of craft on draft, and a large menu of fusion Indian eats. Namaste, y’all.

Zarab’s Kabobs

2001 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

Daily 11am-11pm

Modern interpretation of classic Indian dishes. This hole in the wall gets mixed reviews.

Bollywood

Saturday, February 27th

Nights at Home

This post is part of my relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

She’s only six months old, but Violet has a more active social life than many adults I know. Chris and I commit to a lot of social events and, so far, it’s been relatively easy to bring Violet to most things. Having a baby hasn’t slowed us down much yet, which is why those rare nights at home are so special.

When we stay at home I cook a simple meal and we’ll play settle in to play with Violet. She’s actively rolling around, playing with toys, and vetoing the food we give her. Those nights are filled with giggles and baby sighs and something fun on Netflix. Sometimes we’ll opt for a movie, other times we’ll watch a few episodes of a series.

Live Oak Brewery, Austin, Texas

Southwest Pediatrics, Austin, Texas

Baby food

Of course, the series everyone is talking about this week is Fuller House. The beloved family show is back after 21 years for a sentimental revisit of the sappy, silly show I loved as a kid. The cast aged well and it’s a great bit of nostalgia to see them back, laugh track and all.


Here are a few things I’ve watched lately:

Luther

Luther starring Idris Elba

Luther is a must-see for anyone who is debating giving in to a full-blown Idris Elba obsession. Just give in. The British cop show is the oft-told tale of a troubled cop who doesn’t play by the rules but it’s SO MUCH MORE! Unlike our American cops shows, this one is disturbing as hell. It’s not a show I can binge watch because it’s so dark, but it’s simply fantastic.

Love

Netflix series Love

Sigh. I really, really loved this show, you guys. Love is a binge-watcher for sure and feels made for that purpose. Each episode picks up right where the last leaves off. It’s a ten-episode tale of two people, a hot mess of a woman and a slightly less messed-up dork. We watch them meet, see them interact with each other and with friends. It’s not exactly the romantic comedy the name implies. A+ to Judd Apatow.

The Tiger and The Monk

I was so enthralled with The Tiger and The Monk that I watched it twice. The 50-minute documentary from 2007 is a glimpse into the idyllic Tiger Temple, where monks and tigers live in harmony together. I was actually coming up with a plan as to how we could make a trip to Thailand to see it in person. But in recent weeks, extremely distressing news has come out about the temple. My heart is broken. Watch it before reading this.

What are you guys watching? What do you do on your nights at home?

Tuesday, February 23rd

Where to Get Ramen in Austin

2016 AFBA City Guide

Once again it’s time for my annual ramen contribution to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s City Guide. Each year the ramen scene gets a little bit bigger. You can see my from my previous guides how things have changed. (2015, 2014, 2013.) If I didn’t include your favorite place, leave me a comment and tell me what I missed! And while you’re hungry, check out the rest of the guides from my talented food blogger friends. 


 

What’s not to love about ramen? It’s hearty, flavorful, bouncy. It’s not just trending in Austin, but all all over the US. But proudly, Austin’s become notable for its ramen. Enough so that visitors make sure to visit a ramen shop while in town, just like they do with barbecue and tacos. If you haven’t given ramen a try yet, pick a rainy day and hop in line at any of the places listed below. Soon enough you’ll be slurping with the best of them.

If you need more convincing, check out local filmmaker Christian Remde’s Culinary Equation fantastic video all about ramen.

Banzai Sushi and Grill

3914 N. Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

M-Sat 11am-9:30 pm, Sun noon-9pm

No-frills ramen with choice of pork, beef, shrimp, tofu, or meatball. Every bowl comes topped with veggies and a hard boiled egg.

Cho Sushi Fusion

4300 N. Quinlan Park Rd, Ste 105, Austin, TX 78732

M-F 11am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-10pm, Sat noon-10pm

2422 620 S, Ste A100, Austin, TX 78738

M-Th 11am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-10pm, F 11am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-11pm, Sat noon-11pm, Sun 4pm-9pm

Simply labeled “Japanese Ramen” the lone offering at Cho features pork, vegetables, and egg in miso broth. $9 at lunch and $12 at dinner.

Daruma Ramen

612B E. 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

M-F 11:30-2, 5:30-10, Sat 11:30-10, Sun 12-9

People happily line up on East 6th to wait for their steaming bowls of noodles. Most notable is the vegan ramen, whose complex broth is steeped with veggies and fruit. Very interesting, and different than what anyone else is doing.

Daruma Ramen vegan bowl

Drunk Fish

10000 Research Blvd #139, Austin, TX 78759

M-Th 11am-8pm, F 11am-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm

Offering a variety of broths and toppings, this Arboretum hole in the wall is popular with lunchers in a hurry.

Komé

4917 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751

M-Th 11-2, 5-10, F 11-2, 5-11, Sat 11-3, 5-11, Sun 12-3, 5:30-10

Known for their wide array of fresh and delicious sushi, Komé also makes a kickass ramen available at lunch. Their ramen efforts were so popular that they opened a sister restaurant, the aforementioned Daruma Ramen.

Kome tonkatsu ramen

Michi Ramen

6519 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78752

Tues-Sun 11am-midnight

3005 S. Lamar, D-114B, Austin, TX 78704

Everyday, 11 am-midnight

The ramen groundbreakers of Austin, Michi Ramen was here before anyone else, slinging noodles out of a truck. The menu expanded when they moved to a brick and mortar. Last year they opened their second location on South Lamar, which strictly does take-out. They offer traditional broth thickness options and lots of toppings so you can build your own bowl.

Michi Ramen

*Pro-tip: Leave room for dessert! The mochi, 2 for $3 is shipped frozen from Hawaii and just heavenly.

Mochi

Midori Sushi

13435 N Hwy 183, Ste 301, Austin, TX 78750

M-Th 11:30am-9:30pm, F 11:30am-10:30pm, Sat noon-10pm

Twelve bucks will get you a bowl of miso ramen, topped with roasted pork, bean sprouts, and onions. Available at dinner only.

Musashino Sushi Dokoro

3407 Greystone Drive, Austin, TX 78731

Tues-Fri 11am-2, 5:30-10

Should you stray from the sushi menu, there are a variety of ramen bowls available at lunch.

O’Daku

2501 W. Parmer Lane #500, Austin, TX 78727

M-F 11-10, Sat 11:30-10:30

Ramen comes in three sizes in chicken, beef, and seafood, and “regular” as choices.

Origami Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar

1110 N. 35 Frontage Rd, Ste 200B, Round Rock, TX 78681

M-Th 11:30-2, 5-9, F 11:30-2, 5-10, Sat 11:30am-10pm

Miso and shoyu ramen offered at lunch.

Ramen Fukuya

1914 Guadalupe St, Ste A, Austin, TX 78705

M-Th 11 am-10pm, F 11 am-mid, Sat noon-mid, Sun noon-10am

Daily ramen offerings include fukuya (chicken bone broth), tonkotsu, and veggie. Seafood ramen and tsukemen are weekend additions.

Ramen Tatsu-ya

Ramen Tatsu-ya North 

8557 Research Blvd #126, Austin, TX 78758

Tues-Fri 11-2, 5-10, Sat-Sun 12-3, 5-10

Ramen Tatsu-ya South

1234 South Lamar, Austin, TX 78704

Mon-Sun 11-3, 5-10

Arguably the most famous ramen in Austin,  Ramen Tatsu-ya is a must. Great for first timers, the menu provides a quirky guide on what to order, how to eat, and definitions for all the unfamiliar terms and ingredients. They offer classic toppings and fun flavors bombs, so you can customize every bowl. The masses cheered when their second, larger location opened.

Mi-So-Hot

Check out their website for the full menu which includes highlights like katsu sliders and sweet and sour Brussel’s sprouts.

*Pro-tip: Get there before 5:00 or after 8:45 to avoid the long line. Or just show up whenever and stand in line chatting with fellow ramen-heads, letting the anticipation build. Also, don’t miss the art in the bathrooms of the north location.

Ramen Tatsu-Ya Restroom Art

Shabu

2700 Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757

11am-9:30pm daily

Most people visit Shabu to get hotpot and plain ramen noodles are one of the many options to enjoy with hotpot along with meats, veggies, and various toppings. Non-hotpot ramen options include BBQ Pork Ramen, Ramen Shrimp and Shitake, and Street Ramen which has Spam, beef, and lots of veggies.

Soto

11066 Pecan Park Blvd, Ste 402, Cedar Park, TX 78613

M-Th 11-3, 5-10, F 11-3, 5-11, Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11-9

The reputable sushi spot has an acceptable ramen offering, too, pleasing customers with a decadent seafood ramen as well as traditional tonkatsu and shoyu.

Sushi Junai

1612 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701

Mon-Sat 11am-10pm

Known for all-you-can-eat sushi, they also offer a spicy ramen for $6.95.

Tokyo Sushi Japanese Restaurant

3201 Bee Caves Rd, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78746

Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 4pm-10pm

Ramen offerings come in two flavors, Sapporo and Tokyo, with choices of chicken, beef, shrimp, crispy pork or seafood.

Whole Foods at The Domain

11920 Domain Drive, Austin, TX 78758

8 am-10 pm daily

Of the fabulous amenities this store boasts, the ramen bar is one of the best. The Texas ramen gives shoppers a taste of Japanese ramen with a twist…barbecue! Casual and easy, it’s a treat to have this spot for a quick slurp while you do your shopping.

Xian Sushi and Noodle

1801 E 51st St, Ste C370, Austin, TX 78723

13201 Ranch Rd 620, Ste U208, Austin, TX 78717

M-Sat 11:30-3, 5-10, Sun 12-p

Known for their exceptional hand-pulled noodles, Xian (pronounced SHE-ann) offers one ramen in their roster, shoyu. The Ranch Road location is fairly new, proving that the demand for noodles in Austin cannot be stopped.

Yanagi

4404 W. William Canon Drive, Ste B, Austin, TX 78749

M-Th 11-2:30, 4-9:30, F 11-2:30, 4-10:30, Sat 12-10

The two ramen options—Ramen and Spicy Ramen—have a miso broth and are topped with pork, onion, green onion, zucchini, and boiled egg.

Monday, February 8th

The Best Banh Mi in Austin

Banh Mi in Austin

Everyone is always debating who makes the best bánh mì in Austin. At least, my friends always are. Maybe your friends have loftier things to worry about, but my crew is serious about sandwiches. What started with a few simple comments on Instagram manifested into a full-scale event, with the aim to finally put it to bed. We were going to crown a winner.

When a determined group of food bloggers put their minds to a competition, you’d better believe the judging was not taken lightly. Master of data, Tasting Buds ensured that we didn’t enter into this haphazardly. There was voting ahead of time to determine who would make it into the competition. We settled on two categories: grilled pork and the traditional combo. Scoring sheets were simple. Each sandwich was to be scored from 1-10 and there were places to write notes about the bread, the filling, and anything else we wanted to talk about.

Banh Mi in Austin

The contenders were selected in advance and we dutifully fetched our assigned sandwiches before convening at the home of Foodie is the New Forty. The restaurants were not told about the competition, so the sandwiches were as authentic and regular as any other Saturday. The players:

Baguette House

Lily’s Sandwich Restaurant

Lulu B’s

Ng BMT

Saigon Le Vendeur

Tam Deli & Cafe

Thanh Nhi

Austin Banh Mi

In a state of raging hunger, we painstakingly set up the sandwiches. The Smoking Ho, pictured above, brought butcher paper and a massive cutting board. He’s our resident AFBA bánh mì expert so be sure to check out his City Guide post on the topic. After a lengthy photo shoot of the sandwich table, it was time to dig in. The room was quiet as everyone worked their way through the sandwiches, thoughtfully taking notes and sipping the Vietnamese coffees made by Girl Eats World.

Afterwards we discussed our findings over cream puffs and love letters. And the verdict is…

Banh Mi Austin

…that taste is subjective. Sorry, were you expecting a definitive winner? I’m getting to that. But before you skip to the bottom of this post, let me note that if one bánh mì was significantly better than all the rest, everyone would already know about it. But let me break down some of our findings.

When it came down to bread, everyone agreed that the most desired factor was crunchiness. And across the board, the bread was softer than we’d hoped. Lulu B’s bread held up the best, in my opinion. Lily’s was the best looking but possibly the worst quality bread. Lily’s was actually the worst overall.

Baguette House fared well on the combo (and also make the longest sandwiches) but the pork was abysmal. Still, Baguette House ranked among the top two. Which place had the best ranking among the group? Saigon Le Vendeur! More than half the judges picked Saigon as their favorite overall when polled at the end of the day. But Saigon’s combo was the most polarizing of sandwiches, yielding the highest and lowest of scores. (I ranked it as the worst sandwich of the day, but rated the pork very highly.)

What role did preconceived notions play?

Most of us came into this with personal preferences, but only a few kept those opinions after tasting the sandwiches side by side. My favorite, Tam Deli, remained my favorite. The same for Brisket and Bagels, who remained loyal to Ng BMT.

The judging was very individual, as each of us valued different things. While all agreed that filling carried more weight than bread, we had differing opinions on texture, flavor, and sauce. I gave higher points for those loaded with jalapeños, while South Austin Foodie felt they could be overpowering. Some appreciated a good sauce but Craft Taste was repulsed by mayonnaise. Gaminess was prized by some, but a negative for other’s palettes.

I placed a higher value on the veggies over the meats and might have been alone in that. Lulu B’s does not make a combo, so their lemongrass chicken was the lone variation. As someone who doesn’t love lemongrass, I appreciated how subtle it was. Others disliked that they could barely detect the lemongrass.

Value and service didn’t place a huge part in the rankings but we did discuss them. Tam Deli ranked as a high value option for low price point and sandwiches loaded with filling. (They were also the shortest in length.) Lulu B’s was the most expensive and also has the worst service of the group.

We did not include Elizabeth Street’s bánh mì purely for cost reasons, so I’ll have to head over and try one while the others are fresh in my mind. Because there were only so many of us and we could only reasonably eat so many bánh mì, we had to leave some out. Sadly our tasting and this post do not account for Dang Banh Mi, Bun Belly, Pho Van, I Heart Pho, Ya Ya’s, and more. If you have strong opinions about any of those places, please leave a comment so that others can see it.

Austin #BanhMania

So there you have it, the results of #BanhMania. On this day, the victor was Saigon Le Vendeur!

To read more about our Banh Mania, check out this post from Foodie is the New Forty.

Tuesday, January 26th

Year of Adventure

This post is part of my relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

I’ve been bad about updating my About page, so it looks like I’m a mom to two cats and completely ignores the fact that there’s a new little human in my life. But she’s here and she’s awesome.

Violet and Daddy

These last five months with Violet have been the greatest adventure of our lives so far. And I think the surprises and fun will keep coming all through 2016. I wish I could say our plans for the year have us traveling to Botswana or even New York, but our adventures will be of the more conventional variety. Still, if we look at each day as having the potential for adventure then we’re all in a position to do something great, right?

Some things on our horizon:

– Food! We’re starting to think about Violet’s next stages, which will include feeding her actual food. I can’t wait to see her little face as she gets to try her first sweet potatoes, avocados, and all sorts of other delights.

Little Sipper

– Swimming! My tiny mermaid will return to the sea. Or the kiddie pool.

Mermaids

– Crawling, toddling, sitting up. She’s going to be on the move before we know it and I’m afraid…but that’s all part of adventure, right?


 

So what am I watching? 

Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat came up in my list of suggested titles because I’ve watched The Inbetweeners oh, I don’t…5,000 times? The British comedy is about a group of college freshman who didn’t make it into campus housing and are all put in a house together. It’s funny, shocking, and touching, like so many good British shows. I watched it twice. And if you’ve never watched The Inbetweeners, go do it now! Leave work if you have to.

Degrassi

Degrassi

Yes. I am probably the oldest living fan of Degrassi and I squealed when Netflix bought the series after its recent cancelation. For the uninitiated, this series has been on forever. It started in the 80s and came back in 2001 as Degrassi: The New Generation. (This is when I started watching.) It’s been on since then and this latest iteration is called Degrassi: The New Class. This is some edgy, Canadian teen programming, people.

Making a Murderer

making a murderer

The documentary show everyone is talking about, Making a Murderer, is just as compelling as it claims to be. I wasn’t hooked right away but eventually it did suck me in. The extreme poverty and subject matter make it tough to watch.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook

A Young Doctors Notebook

This story about a doctor played by both Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe is unlike anything else on television. The bleak Russian landscape is brought to life by a small cast in a tiny hospital. It’s gruesome and funny and tragic. Daniel Radcliffe is simply fantastic. Two short seasons are available on Netflix and I can’t wait for more.

What are you watching?

Monday, January 25th

Korea House

Korea House, Austin Texas

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about food over here. Or, ahem, ANYTHING. So if you’re reading this and haven’t written me off for dead, thanks. I recently bought a new laptop which prompted me to clean up my old laptop. Buried in a series of forgotten folders, I discovered these photos I had taken at Korea House.

I can’t remember when I last ate there, but Chris and I used to visit from time to time for some grilling. I had heard that their sushi was pretty good, too, so on this particular visit I ordered a spicy roll of some sort. Probably tuna. Based on this one roll, can’t say much about the sushi. But for some simple grilling and light Asian beers, this place is A-OK.

Spicy Tuna Roll at Korea House, Austin Texas

The banchan is solid and my favorites are fermented black beans, kimchi, and pickled cucumbers. If you want bean paste, you’ll have to ask for it. Most people come for the bulgogi, and I am no different. It’s flavorful and satisfying. Perfect for a novice griller because it doesn’t matter too much if you overcook it.

Korean BBQ at Korean House, Austin Texas

Octopus at Korea House, Austin Texas

Now octopus takes a little skill. It’s easy to overcook. But you also don’t want to undercook it. When you hit that sweet spot it’s nice and tender, slightly chewy.

Banchan at Korea House, Austin Texas

While the atmosphere falls far short of charming, Korea House is the type of place you feel immediately comfortable, such as you would in a dive bar. It feels worn in, tried and true. The service is efficient and sometimes terse, but you’ll be glad of that when you’re waiting outside for a table. Despite the crowds, the wait is never too long. Everything moves quickly and your water glasses will be refilled and you won’t want for anything. Looking at these photos, I think it’s time I go back.

Kirin at Korea House, Austin Texas

What are your favorites at Korea House?

Korea House

2700 W. Anderson Lane, Austin TX 78757

M-F 11 am-10pm, Sat-Sun 12 pm-10 pm

Thursday, January 7th

Jamming with the Presidents

My love for TV intros has been previously documented, but recently I realized a love for both the imagery and scores (especially the scores) of American president shows. Maybe I’m feeling extra patriotic because we’re in an election year.

BIll Clinton playing saxophone for Boris Yeltsin

The West Wing is beloved by many. Including me. The show’s writing is unbelievable. And Martin Sheen is the best president ever. And how did Josh Malina go from acting on a show this good to the shit that is Scandal? But I’m getting off track here.

W. G. Snuffy Walden composed the music for many TV shows, including The Wonder Years, thirtysomething, Felicity, My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights, Roswell, and many, many more. But The West Wing is his most famous and won him an Emmy.

The Kennedys features a magnificent solo trumpet that paves the way for swelling strings and takes a turn toward darkness. It’s hopeful, then sad. Much like the story of the Kennedys. I believe that the opening would have made a stronger visual impact with just the swirling flag and credits, nothing else. But it still makes a powerful statement.

Composer Sean Callery also did Homeland, 24, Medium, Elementary, Bones, and lots more. Another prolific, talented TV composer.

I think my favorite of the three openings is House of Cards. The score is sinister, mysterious, and compelling. The time lapse footage of DC is all shadows and light, hinting at the evil that lurks within the city and the government.

I am drawn to this music and find myself listening to it semi-regularly. It’s my favorite part of the show, along with the styling of Robin Wright Penn. I’m not the only who loves it, as there are several articles about the song and composer Jeff Beal. This piece on Slate talks about how the music evolved between the first and second season.

Beal also wrote music for The Newsroom, GCB, Monk, Ugly Betty, Rome, and Carnivàle, among many others.

Tuesday, December 29th

Why I’m Against the Open-Carry Handgun Law

handgun

This Friday, January 1st 2016, the open carry law takes effect giving licensed gun owners freedom to wear their firearms in plain site. Up until now, the law allowed for concealed firearms, so the argument has been, wouldn’t you rather see who’s walking around with guns? 

Um, no. Not in the slightest. Without turning this into a discussion about political leanings and beliefs, guns don’t make me feel safe. They make me feel scared. And I feel that seeing someone walking around in public with a gun holstered to their body is going to be intimidating to those of us who are unarmed. Without even distinguishing between the good guys and bad guys, the very presence of firearms changes the setting. There are places where I expect to see guns, like when I get off an airplane in Mexico. But when I’m pushing my baby in a stroller around Town Lake, or having coffee with a friend, I’d prefer not to feel scared or intimidated.

And what is the point of open-carrying, if not to intimidate? I’ve seen some feedback from pro-gun folks who think it’s a bad idea because it could make the carrier a target. If the shit is going to go down, isn’t it wise to take out the person with the gun first? What exactly is the benefit to anyone to have firearms out in the open?

I only hope that the state’s almost million registered gun owners choose to keep their firearms hidden, or better yet, locked up at home. But I guess that remains to be seen. I hope that many companies exercise their right to ban open-carrying in their establishments, such as the following businesses have done:

  • Chili’s
  • Chipotle
  • HEB
  • Panera Bread
  • Randall’s
  • Sonic
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Whataburger
  • Whole Foods

I’m not trying to change anyone else’s views here or debate the Second Amendment. So if you’ve stumbled on this post and are looking for a fight in the comments section, I’m not interested. You aren’t going to change my mind about what makes me comfortable. But thoughtful discussion is welcome.

And yes, most states have some degree of open-carry laws in effect. For a quick explanation of permission vs. non-permissive states, you can find more information here.

Tuesday, December 22nd

End of the Year Netflix Binge

We’re approaching the holiday in mere days. Hopefully that means some time off for most of you and in between gifts and lovely meals and family hugs and puppy snuggles and taking those giant bows off your brand new cars, you’ll have some downtime. (And my, don’t you all have such idyllic lives?) I’ll be hitting the Netflix pretty hard in my downtime, and I can’t wait. I think I’m going to pick one series to binge watch. What should it be?

I’ve been keeping up with my streaming of new and old things so that we could discuss them here. Leave me a comment and let this ole Stream Team gal know what else to watch. Here’s what’s been keeping my eyes company lately:

Master of None

Master of None starring Aziz Ansari

I’ve always been on the fence about Aziz Ansari, unsure if I really liked him or not. But after watching Master of None, I am 100% TEAM AZIZ. The ten-episode season is among the best shows of 2015 and instantly garnered tons of attention. The premise of a single Indian actor living in New York is somewhat autobiographical in nature and his character’s parents are played by his actual parents. Although funny, the show tackles some deep subject matter and left me thinking about it for a long time.

Bonus for Adult Swim fans: H. Jon Benjamin and Eric Wareheim play two of his friends.

Laid

Laid TV Show

Aaaaaahhh! I love this show. Laid is an Australian comedy that was tragically put down after two six-episode seasons. I almost hate to tell you about this show because it’ll break your heart to only have a dozen episodes, but it’s too good not to share.

The premise: Woman realizes that everyone she’s ever slept with dies! The second season digs deeper and gets a little poignant on us, but by and large this is a hilariously dry comedy. NETFLIX! PLEASE BUY THIS SERIES AND MAKE MORE EPISODES.

Related: If you watch Laid Netflix will recommend a movie called The Little Death. This one is also completely worth your time. I watched it twice, actually.

The Little Death

Call the Midwife

With four seasons streaming on Netflix and no sign of BBC calling it quits (they just announced Season 6) Call the Midwife is a solid bet for hours of entertainment. It’s joyful, incredibly sad, and so very touching. It’s a story where people are good and kind; poverty is the villain.

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin looks like a little boy from the seventies and is one of the smartest comics out there. He went to Yale and then blew off Harvard to study law at NYU, which he also blew off…for comedy. Lucky for us. If you like stand up, don’t miss this one.

Okay, my Netflix people. Tell me what you’ve been watching. And have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21st

The Big Fake Wedding

The Big Fake Wedding

Photo by Grey to Blue

Recently I was tipped off to a unique experience for brides. The Big Fake Wedding is a bridal show alternative, with vendors showcasing their stuff in a wedding format. Kind of like Tony and Tina’s Wedding, but attendees are scoping out the dresses, catering, and other details for their own big day. My friends Rachel and Brian are getting married next year and I wanted to hear their take on The Big Fake Wedding when they were in Austin. To my delight, Brian wrote down his thoughts and I wanted to share it will all of you. My message to all the brides out there is to get your grooms involved! 

A Whole New World

This fall The Big Fake Wedding was kind enough to host an event at The Palm Door on 6th Street. My fiancée—let’s call her Brachel—and I had tickets; Brachel thought it would be a great way to introduce me to the upcoming steps we would need to take for planning our wedding. She was absolutely right. I did not title this A Whole New World because Aladdin was my favorite Disney movie as a child (who doesn’t love Gilbert Gottfried?) but because I learned more in one night than I had in attending a lifetime’s worth of weddings.

We arrived right before the wedding vow renewal was about to begin. This is the part of weddings with which I am most familiar. A couple stood in front of an officiant to exchange vows, rings, and a prayer that no one stood up to shout any objections. After the ceremony we were invited to stay for dinner, enjoy the music, and meet with area wedding professionals.

There was not a wasted space, nor a wasted opportunity for me to learn. Brachel herself has worked in facets of the wedding industry for years and had always told me I had no idea what we were signing up for. While waiting in line for food and drink I learned that tables and chairs are not always provided by the venue. China, flatware, tablecloths and napkins are also available to rent for the big day. Each table was decorated to show different décor options. The menu was also diverse and featured items that I would not have previously thought would be served at a wedding. Like quinoa. (Did you know that quinoa and couscous are two different things? #deepthoughts)

The second half of the venue was the vendors’ space. This is where Brachel really shined, as she introduced me to some professionals in industries I was familiar with, like photographers, and others I was not aware of, such as invitation and save-the-date designers. It was like a baby visiting Santa Claus for the first time: overwhelming with a lot of shiny objects to catch my eye.

My visit to The Big Fake Wedding was a blast, and I learned so much more about what we can consider as options for our big day. Long country tables, vibrant linens, German chocolate cake. The possibilities are endless! This event is a must attend for any engaged couple, and has helped me get more involved in the planning process.

-by Brian Helmick, with fiancée Brachel Rachel Gill