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Friday, September 5, 2014

Austin Downtown MEGA POST

Before I went to Austin last week with Jack on business I did some heavy duty research on fries in the area and found a rich vein of nuggetry.  What?  You don't do hours of in-depth research about the fries in every town you ever visit?  I was originally gonna do a post for each place, but then I realized that was silly. 

Our first fry stop was in the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport restaurant "Smokewood" on the way out of town.

Does anyone else think that having "outdoor" seating in large indoor buildings is silly?  The hostess actually said "inside or outside?"

$3.50 french fries in an airport is pretty much the standard worldwide. They came in a bowl.  Skin-on frozen baggers.

Super hot, crispy, and........lame.

These fries are like a beautiful vapid woman.  They look great, but there's nothing there.  Notice I ate them all though.  Maybe I'm shallow.

Jack ate chicken tenders.  He said not to bother him and not to take his picture.

The chicken tenders came in this mini fry basket.  I thought it was cool.

Smokewood: 6 out of 10 (but only cause of the mini fry basket).

This is what downtown Austin looks like at dawn from the Radisson.  I included this pic cause I had to get up at dawn each day for the conference.  Boo.

The first night we had a pretty ambitious schedule, but I was confident.  Our first stop was Second Bar in the Congress Hotel.

I was excited cause they have black truffle fries and their website has this pic.  Remember this pic for later.

I made up a word for all the swanky joints downtown: Austintatious.  The decor/style of Second Bar is rich girl hipster country.  Gingham napkins/mason jars/tumbleweeds/cast iron pans, etc.   Not bad, just....too much.

Black truffle pommes frites for $8?  Yes, please!

Jack ordered the veal meatballs which came in this mini skillet.  They were pretty good.

Remember that picture of the fries from their website?  I really didn't expect a whole truffle on top of some fries, but where's the truffle stuff?

Oh..I's hidden in the aioli.  Seems like the picture on the web should be of a bottle of aioli then and not a huge truffle.

These fries taste great, but they're too expensive for the amount of fries (and truffle) you don't get.  If you've got a bunch of dough burning up in your pocket, they're ok, but they're definitely a bad value.  It's so weird that just doubling the amount of fries (which would cost them like another 50 cents) would make these a 10, but whatever.

Jack liked them very much.  They made him wistful for his Parisian farming days.

Jack also wanted me to give extra points cause they had Pearl beer in a can.  I will not.

Second Bar: 7 out of 10.

The next stop (just a block away) was The Cedar Door.  It's made out of cedar, get it?

It has a huge outdoor seating area.  Great when it's 104 degrees (which it was).  Perfect if you are young and stupid.  No thanks.  Fat man need aircon.

Everything is cedar!  Even the menu book!  How...something!

Hollywood french fries.  Let's go.

While we were waiting I saw this on the menu.  A seasonal Grilled Cheese .  Market priced!  Hilarious.  We forgot to ask, but we imagined it was like 30 bucks.

The Hollywood Fries are the standard "throw a bunch of stuff on top" type affair.  They aren't astoundingly good, but the amount you get is really good.

Cheesy, bacony goodness.

The bowl was funky shaped.

The kicker was that when we got the bill, the fries were only $4!  Turns out that during happy hour they drop the price on the fries 2 bucks.  Sweet!  Four bucks for these fries in downtown Austin is a straight up misdemeanor theft!  We shoulda got two.

Cedar Door: 10 out of 10 (during happy hour).

Stop three was Searsucker.

This place is HUGE inside.  Like football field-sized huge.  And again with the old west rich girl thing.  When we walked in, it was like the record skipped and everyone looked as us with disgust.  This place is for 20-something beautiful people for sure.

Duck fat fries with prosciutto dust.  Yup.

The fries were presented as a triangle. Freemasonry?

Hard to tell for sure, but I don't think they were fresh cut.

First chomp.  Here's the thing about duck fat: I think it's too heavy/dominating of a taste for fries.  Duck fat seems to work okay with chips cause they don't absorb as much oil as fries, and I think some chefs just push it with fries.  In this case, the overwhelming taste of the duck fat completely negated any hint of the prosciutto.  Also, for 8 bucks the amount is not impressive.

Jack spent most of the time there examining the forks, which I must concede were exquisite.

Searsucker: 6 out of 10

By this point Jack was getting testy and wanted to quit eating fries.  He does not share my fry resolve.  We compromised and went to one last joint: Lambert's Barbecue.  My research indicated that their waffle fries were good, and I was intrigued cause BBQ joints don't usually have fries at all.

We were forced to sit outside, so as were were being led out I turned around and took this pic with the flash on as a form of protest.  The other diners were annoyed.  Anarchy!

The Waffle Fries with smoked paprika (how do you smoke paprika?) and herbs are $7.  You get like 9.

They were okay, but not amazing.

Kudos to this place for having them on the menu, but boo for the cost vs. amount vs. taste.  Try the deep fried boudin fritters, though-they're awesome!

Lambert's: 5 out of 10

Jack revolted after Lambert's and we retired for the evening.  He said five fry places in one day was enough.  Wimp.

Day two we hit 219 West.

Although this place is swanky, it was much more laid back than the joints from the previous night.  And what I mean by that is the bartender didn't treat us with indignation.  Maybe it was cause Jack was wearing a Steve Zizzou shirt.

Shallot Fries?  YES.

Spicy Cheese Tater Tots?  YES.

The shallot fries came in a metal tumbler with the ketchup ramekin shoved in there.  This was gross to me for two reasons: 1) whose fingers were all over the ramekin 2) why are you taking up valuable fry space?

Dumped out on a plate.  I guess for $4.95 in downtown Austin this was a fair amount but you really had to concentrate to taste the shallots.  And come to think of it, why should we care about shallots anyway?

Jack said that if he closed his eyes and thought about the Thames River he could "kinda taste a little bit of shallot-but only on the ends of the fries."  Weird.

219 West Shallot Fries: 6 out of 10.

But HOLD THE PHONE!  Behold the Spicy Cheese Tater Tots!

Discard your life's despair and harken unto divine tatery!

Harken unto them verily!

These things are AWESOME.  You pop one in your mouth, chomp it down, and then like 20 seconds later a wave of spicy warmth swarms your mouth.  It's like chemistry or something.  $8.95 is steep, but the amount is good and they are soooooo tasty.

219 West Spicy Cheese Tater Tots: 10 out of 10

The rest of the night we didn't eat fries cause we were so full.

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