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[Austin] Southern cuisine restaurants


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I believe Hoover's Cooking is widely regarded to be the best. The prices are high but the portions are huge. Sometimes it gets really packed and I've heard rumblings that quality has been on the decline. Their margaritas are awful.

Dot's Place is probably the second best well known establishment but I believe they're in limbo after their building burned down two years ago.

I went to Tony's Southern Comfort on Monday. If you look at their menu you'll see that half the items are actually Tex-Mex, like nachos and enchiladas. When I arrived with my friend we learned that they were BYOB so we ran to the corner store and picked up a sixer of Ziegenbock.

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Fried chicken drummettes ($4.95). Wonderful, huge chunks of crisp batter. Some of the best fried chicken I've ever had. The spicy dipping sauce was nice, too.

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Chicken fried steak ($5.25). This can probably be considered a textbook chicken fried steak. I'll refrain from judgment as this is a sensitive topic and I need to eat more CFS before I can give a reliable opinion.

In Spicewood, about 30 miles west of Austin, there is RO's Outpost. Their CFS is really fluffy, which I believe many consider to be untraditional. Frankly I like it the most. Their rib end appetizer is also superb and their desserts are recognized by the Austin Chronicle.

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I'll be going to Tony's tomorrow with some work people. My boss seems to like it better than Hoover's, but I really like Hoover's so we'll see. I'll report back.

Has anyone been to Mrs. B's Creole Cuisine yet? I keep hearing good things but haven't tried it.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Austin Bake House on Manchaca, pancakes; The Frisco Shop has been doing it for a long time, on Burnet; the Austin Diner, 5408 Burnet Rd., good biscuts; Nau Drug Store, 1115 W. Lynn, with its lunch counter; The Kitchen Door, kolaches, homemade breads, salads; Austin Water Tank, Broccoli Rice Casserole - mmmmmn; the Little Country Diner in Spicewood; and, of course, Threadgill's and Hill's Cafe. Edited by BigboyDan (log)
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Oh I always forget about The Frisco Shop. It's such an old timey kind of place. I like to go there for the nostalgia aspect of it all. Interestingly, it's one of Kinky Friedman's favorite restaurants.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I went to Tony's Southern Comfort on Monday. If you look at their menu you'll see that half the items are actually Tex-Mex, like nachos and enchiladas.

Just a sidenote:

Tex-Mex is actually fairly common in the deep South, and is a virtual staple in some areas. I'm originally from Arkansas, and literally the minority of restaurants don't sport tamales, cheese dip, or both. On a recent trip down there, we decided to take a "shortcut" to get from Hot Springs back to the airport, and we ended up going through a much more rural area than we normally would. There was a quaint diner on the side of the road that looked like they'd do the majority of their business selling fried chicken and greens after church on Sundays. On their sign out front they claimed to serve "The Best Cheese Dip in the County."

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Ok, I just got back from Tony's. I'm so full I feel like I'm about to go into a coma, but anyway.

We had the seasoned fries for appetizer. Really, really good. Disks of potato, battered, then fried in bacon grease. How could you go wrong? They were cripy, spicy and delicious. Some other people ordered nachos, which looked good but I didn't try.

I had the chicken fried chicken with maccaroni and cheese and fried okra. The chicken had wonderful flavor, but was a bit over cooked and a little tough. The girl sitting across from me got the fried pork chops, and they looked amazing but she said they were a bit tough and overcooked. The chicken fried steaks looked great. Just classic chicken fried steak. The okra was ok. I found the breading too think and too tough for my tastes. For fried okra, I like a simple dusting of cornmeal rather than thick breading, but that's the way my grandmother made it, so I'm biased. The mac & cheese was SLAMMIN'. I mean, it rocked. It was some of the best I've had in years. Creamy, rich, and really cheesy with little bits of the baked cheesyness still on top. Slammin.

It's not on the menu, but you can order chicken & waffles at Tony's, which is what my boss had. I wish that's what I had ordered. The waffle was thick and crispy around the edges, and the chicken drumettes were to die for.

I wanted to try the peach cobbler, but was too full to even contemplate bringing one home. Next time.

All in all, not bad. Not better than Hoover's. However, it is much more vegetarian-friendly than Hoover's and not as expensive. The vegetarians in our party ate well and left as full as the rest of us. The vegetables at Tony's are cooked without pork added, but are still quite good.

I would definitely go back. The people working there are friendly, the prices are right, and the food is tasty.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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  • 2 weeks later...

T.C.'s Lounge is this dive blues bar on the east side. They have some of the best fried catfish I have ever tasted. The options are fried catfish or fried chicken wings for $6. It comes in a styrofoam takeout container and with a horrendous side salad, toast, and what looks like to me, ore-ida fries. But man is that catfish good. Also their beer is so so cold, I don't know how they get it so cold. No liquor, but they sell setups so you can bring your own. T.C.'s is the only old school blues bar left in Austin. You will also meet/see some of the most interesting people and see some of the craziest stuff on the dancefloor, in all of Austin. It's a guaranteed good time. Try to go out there one night and hear some blues and support them and savor their yummy catfish.

Edited by yimay (log)
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not really in austin, but i really enjoy Cafe 290 out in Manor. they have tasty pies and typical "yellow food"... meaning chicken fried steak, chicken and dumplings, fried this and mashed that, everything is covered in gravy and comes with a big basket of delicious cornbread. it's all to die for, literally. a great appetizer to share with friends is their Chicken Fried Universe, which is pretty much what it sounds like but disguised as healthy because it's all fried veggies.

Edited by yimay (log)
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I went to Hoover's (the original location on Manor Rd) today and finally actually paid attention to the food. The CFS is much much better than Tony's. It was thinner, not as tough and the batter had a bit of pepper in it. I still prefer RO's a bit more though. Hoover's menu also has many more Southern dishes with a few Creole items, too.

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how funny! i was there today also, and also ordered the chicken fried steak-- delicious. i especially liked the peppery crust. my gf had the pork ribs, which were also incredibly smoky and moist. it was my first time there (inspired by this thread, actually), and i'm very glad i went.

guess i'll have to give ro's a try sometime soon...

"i dream of cherry pies, candy bars and chocolate chip cookies." -talking heads

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  • 8 months later...

Nubian Queen Lola's Cajun Kitchen

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The Austin Chronicle article explains a bit about the history and background of the place.

I've been to this restaurant twice now and I am in love. Outside of the expensive places like Uchi, this is in my top three, right up there with Quality Seafood and Sam's BBQ.

Lola's can seat only about 15 and she does all the cooking and service. Her (extremely cute and remarkably competent) 12-year-old daughter sometimes will take your order. Despite the name, the cuisine is really Southern, the only cajun items being the gumbo and etoufee. The prices are very low, typical East Austin, cheaper than Hoover's and Tony's.

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These are some of the best fried chicken I've ever had. They're a completely different style than the equally superb chicken at Tony's. Tony's has a lot of breading, while Lola's has minimal breading, just a few crumbs, and is heavily salted.

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Smothered pork chops and onion rings. Smothered pork chops are usually smothered with a plain, bland gravy but this was quite spicy with bits of jalapeno. This is how I like my onion rings, sliced just the right size with copious crispy breading.

I can't wait to go back again to try more of the menu. The small, intimate environment is also completely unique to Austin and is quite a treat to experience.

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Kent, thanks for the update of Lola's. I've driven past it a million times and always wanted to go in, but never have. The fried chicken looks great.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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  • 2 weeks later...

RO's Outpost

In Spicewood, about 30 miles west of Austin, there is RO's Outpost. Their CFS is really fluffy, which I believe many consider to be untraditional. Frankly I like it the most. Their rib end appetizer is also superb and their desserts are recognized by the Austin Chronicle.

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These are not in the Central Texas style but they're still tasty. The sauce tastes fine on the ribs themselves but by itself is mediocre, one-note with no complexity.

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This is the best chicken fried steak I've ever had. Better than Hoover's, Tony's and Lola's. The menu warns that it takes a while to make the CFS, about 45 minutes. This is because it is tenderized, hand-battered and pan-fried.

I have never had CFS like this. Though they use the same cut of meat as everyone, the tenderizing makes it so soft that it can be sliced with only a fork. The batter is also nice and fluffy instead of the typical bread crumb batter. It is also pan-fried instead of deep-fried. The gravy is nice and flavorful with a thick, floury texture.

The sides are pretty good, too. Not quite as good as Hoover's or Lola's though. The plate costs $11.50, which is pretty expensive for a CFS plate but is well worth it. It's well worth the 45 minute drive to Spicewood, the 45 minute wait and the $11.50 for the best damn chicken fried steak.

The desserts are renowned but I never have enough room.

Photo of menu.

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  • 2 months later...

I went back to Lola's again.

Fried pork chop was superb. She is truly a whiz at frying. The big difference between her style and traditional Southern frying is that there is very little batter, it appears to be just dredged in flour seasoned with spices and salt. This may be more in the cajun style.

I also had the gumbo which is all land animal: shredded chicken, sausage. The roux is quite thick but light-colored. Her gumbo is pretty good by Austin standards but Quality Seafood still has the best gumbo that I've had in town.

The po-boys are gigantic and a superb value. The chicken in the fried chicken po-boy is highly seasoned and very juicy.

Of the sides, the onion rings and yams are the best. Hoover's has better yams, but theirs is less traditional with lots of cinnamon. The mac and cheese is mediocre, tasting not much different than Kraft. Hoover's also produces a better version of this.

The iced tea is the sweetest I've had in town. This may be considered more traditional as a lot of people in the South like their iced tea really sweet -- I don't.

Service takes a little longer than most places -- after all, she's the only chef and waitress. Dishes also won't come out all at once. The dining room gets pretty greasy from the deep fryer; after leaving, your hair and clothes will smell like fried chicken so plan to take a shower afterwards.

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  • 4 weeks later...
From my eGfoodblog: Soul Food Wednesdays at Ben's Longbranch BBQ.

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This charming lady serves you cafeteria-style. She doesn't do the cooking -- apparently some fellow gets up at four in the morning to do it.

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Chicken and dumplings, collard greens, yams, cornbread. This is the best chicken and dumplings I've ever had. Soft dumplings, copious amounts of chicken, very thick soup. There is also a thin, more soupy style of this dish; this is not the place if you're looking for that. Yams are too sweet; Hoover's still makes the best yams in my book. Cornbread was a little dry.

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Smothered pork chop, beans, banana pudding. Pork chop is very thick, one inch, and is a bit dry and overcooked. Gravy is mild. I prefer Lola's version which employs thin, half-inch chops and a spicy gravy. Ben's version, though, is still much better than most places. Banana pudding was pretty good.

Each of these plates is $10-12, which I find quite outrageous. $7-8 would be more reasonable. I don't mind paying that much but I feel sorry for the working-class people that can't afford it.

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The place is frequented mostly by downtown office types (as seen above) and some working-class. I wonder how many working-class fans of soul food are kept away by the high prices.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another trip to Lola's. I had the beef tips that were the special of the night. Very good. Every main course there is of uniformly high quality.

More Soul Food Wednesdays at Ben's Longbranch.

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Meat loaf, collard greens, black-eyed peas, peach cobbler. Meat loaf was very good, fatty and juicy. Yes, I'm gushing about meat loaf. I rarely ever eat meat loaf, and especially not at restaurants, but this was well worth it. Collard greens can come with a lot of pork, if you ask nicely. Peach cobbler was good.

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Another trip to Lola's. I had the beef tips that were the special of the night. Very good. Every main course there is of uniformly high quality.

More Soul Food Wednesdays at Ben's Longbranch.

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Meat loaf, collard greens, black-eyed peas, peach cobbler. Meat loaf was very good, fatty and juicy. Yes, I'm gushing about meat loaf. I rarely ever eat meat loaf, and especially not at restaurants, but this was well worth it. Collard greens can come with a lot of pork, if you ask nicely. Peach cobbler was good.

How were the black eyed peas? I love black eyed peas. And i tend to over sprinkle the pepper vinegar sauce from my greens onto my peas.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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  • 1 month later...

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Lola's crawfish etouffee. She doesn't make this everyday, but definitely on Thursdays. This is one of the best examples of this dish that I've had in the city, generous portions of crawfish, quite spicy. Quality Seafood is the standard bearer in my eyes and this is definitely on par with theirs.

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  • 2 weeks later...

these photos are ridiculous! and queen lola she closes on sundays to feed the homeless? we need to support more people like this. i will make sure to stop at lola's the next time i'm in austin.

thanks for this posting, kent.

"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks."

-Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 1937

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  • 5 months later...

Victory Grill

1104 E. 11 St.

512-902-5057

Website

Just a few blocks from my house (this is why living on the East Side is the best) is the Historic Victory Grill. You can read up on their website about its history as a "chitlin circuit" music venue. They still have live music there, usually on the weekends. The restaurant opened a few months ago as "Bayseas at the Victory Grill" or something like that.

The regular menu is typical Southern fare, lots of fried seafood, etc. I haven't tried that yet but it looks fine. However, each day they have a few specials that are made by the cooks that used to do the Soul Food Wednesdays at Ben's Longbranch BBQ (Ben's is now closed). I can't recall which days serves what but I do know that I took these photos on a Tuesday, and Wednesday also looked promising.

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Chicken and dumplings. Quite different from the version they used to make at Ben's (see below) but equally tasty. Instead of balls of doughs, the dumplings are huge strands of thick, fluffy noodles. I assume these are hand-made as I've never seen such "noodles" in a store.

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Chicken and dumplings served at Ben's (RIP).

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Oxtail. A little overcooked this time (by the cook's own admission) but still very good. Essentially the same as the version at Ben's.

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I believe that's a gumbo up top. Mostly land meats I think, not bad.

Prices are a buck or two lower than when they were at Ben's, but the portions on the main course also seem a little smaller.

The restaurant stays open pretty late on the weekends when they have music in the back.

I'm very glad that the former Soul Food Wednesdays cooks are back in business. Between the Victory Grill, Lola's and Galloway's (photos coming soon) I have the top three Southern cuisine restaurants all in walking distance from my house!

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  • 9 months later...
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