year30, writing, travel

The Grand Move: Updates on the road, Days 9 to 12

Day 9: San Antonio to Austin, TX

The only real reason we decided to put San Antonio on our itinerary was because I insisted on seeing a live San Antonio Spurs game. Since we've successfully checked that off our list, we decided to leave town and head to Austin, where there's a lot more happening (read: FOOD). Before we left, though, we made sure we paid San Antonio proper homage and went to its downtown area.

Downtown San Antonio

We did part of the River Walk, which was expertly laid out and connected. We didn't really take a lot of photos while we were there (at least I didn't, maybe J did), but here's a quick look at the map, courtesy of San Antonio River Walk's official website:

We only did the loop part of the River walk, shown on this map.

We only did the loop part of the River walk, shown on this map.

We passed by the Alamo and took around 20 minutes to breeze through the exhibit. We weren't allowed to take photos, so if you want to find out what's there, you'd have to look it (J's favorite line to get out of photography duty: "You can Google better images of ______ than I can take, babe!") up or go there yourself. Or you know, YouTube.

Food and drink (San Antonio)

For lunch, we ate at El Milagrito Restaurant for our first Tex-Mex in Texas. J got the chipotle enchilada (it was fine), and I got the lengua with ranchero sauce, which I would have enjoyed, had I not bit into the random green pepper that came with the dish. My tongue burned for the next couple of hours and I couldn't eat anything for a few hours. Lesson: DO NOT bite into an unidentified garnish from the pepper family.

Road trip discussions

Before zoning out on a few albums for our short drive to Austin, I told Jason about an article I read compiling some of television's worst moments this year and the fact that it included the Family Guy / The Simpsons crossover episode. While I liked both shows separately for different reasons, J admitted to liking Family Guy better. "Family Guy is just smart funny, like, continuous streams of laughter funny. The Simpsons just makes me chuckle for a short time like, oh haha that was funny." I haven't seen an actual episode of the new generation The Simpsons, so I can't really refute him; I mainly remember loving The Simpsons when I was 7 or 8. I also find the jokes on Family Guy a tiny bit more relevant. I just hate it when they waste ten or so minutes on a fight between Peter and the damn chicken.

UGH I hate it so much. J, on the other hand, finds this utterly hilarious.

UGH I hate it so much. J, on the other hand, finds this utterly hilarious.

Playlist

We decided to do whole albums and chose one each. We have impeccable taste, if I say so myself. My pick [1] and his pick, consecutively:

Austin Accommodations

Centrally Located Private Cottage in Austin

Cabin in Austin, United States. This cute little backyard cottage promises to make your Austin visit comfortable, convenient, and because it's away from the street and in my backyard, really private. Step inside the little green cabin to a large comfortable bed, kitchenette, ful... View all listings in Austin

Our Airbnb host, Marcos, was very thorough. He made sure he sat us down before even showing us the small cabin he had in his backyard so he can discuss the map of the neighborhood.

This rental was within walking distance to the South Congress (SoCo) and South First St. (So-Fi) areas, so we had lots to do! We walked along So-Fi, which Marcos called the "funky street" (SoCo was the "trendy street") to try and get our bearings and find some place to get merienda or drinks, and we were both overjoyed to discover that this street was Food Truck City. Definitely coming back for lunch one of these days.

For the moment, though, our mission was to find me some margaritas, so we went to a place called Polvos, which the Web hails as the place to get margaritas in our vicinity. Verdict: So good and OMG SO STRONG. I don't even know how I managed to drink two. J only had one and had to switch to beer because the margaritas were starting to give him acid reflux.

By the time we finished our drinks, we felt so woozy and tired. We walked all the way back home, where we instantly zonked out.

Day 10 to 12 in Austin: Holy briskets, Batman! (and the art of pigging out while on tour)

Seriously, I don't think there's any point trying to break down what our days were like in this fair city in full detail, the ways I usually do with this series of blog posts, because if we were being completely honest, when we weren't busy working over our computers (UPDATE: My Surface Pro 3 is holding up, yay![2]), all we thought about was food and all we did was eat. So pardon me if I skip all my usual mumbo jumbo and just hone in on all the food we've tried during our visit, and share our verdicts.

Shawarma Point

We took a quick drive to the food truck area we chanced on yesterday to see what's up, and this was the only one of two that were open for lunch. Jason got the falafel shawarma and I got the beef/lamb plate.  OF COURSE I had to get it in #BrownPeopleSpicy. Verdict: Despite having a hashtag that appealed to me, we were both disappointed. J says his falafel wasn't that great, and my beef/lamb combo meat was just dry and almost tasteless. Nothing has beaten Shawarma Snack Center in the Philippines for me when it comes to shawarma, I think. Damn, I miss living across SSC. We both do. The only good thing about that meal was the refreshing Crush soda. 4 /  10 for both shawarmas.

The Blue Ox [3]

This place actually looked amazing - the ambiance felt right for a night-time food truck and the atmosphere was definitely conducive to stuffing our faces with brisket and beer. We shared a half pound of brisket with a side of slaw.

The set came with white bread - which we assume was for making sandwiches - but we decided to get rid of the distraction and just focus on the meat. Verdict: The meat was pretty good - we chose the fatty part of the brisket, which made it all the more flavorful. The slaw wasn't really slaw and more like a pile of shredded cabbage - maybe we really were meant to assemble the plate into sandwiches. 7 / 10 for the brisket, 3 / 10 for the slaw. In J's opinion, San Jose's Bray Butcher Block & Bistro in San Pedro Square still had the best slaw he has ever tasted, and that says a lot. He's a coleslaw connoisseur.

Mellizoz Tacos

We originally wanted to get some of their fancier tacos on the menu, but at the time we were there, they only had three options available. J ordered the Old School (ground beef, spinach, tomato, cheddar cheese) and I got the Padre (braised carnita pork, avocado, pineapple and salsa fresca).

Verdict: While J thought his taco was just OK, I was flipping out over mine - the avocado, pineapple, salsa, and pork on a soft taco just meshed well together. It's something I would definitely try to make at home. 5 / 10 for the Old School, 9 / 10 for the Padre.

Gourdough's

I have wanted to get a big-ass donut from this food truck ever since we saw its sign our first day in town, but J thought it was too giant for me to eat alone (I obviously have the more active sweet tooth). But since Mellizoz was right next to Gordough's and I really, really wanted to try one, we decided to get something small at Mellizoz to make room for dessert. We decided on Funky Monkey (grilled bananas, cream cheese icing, brown sugar). Verdict: It was so goddamn good, I may have had a tiny orgasm. Together, I think we decimated the huge donut (bigger than J's fist) in less than 5 minutes. 10 / 10 seriously.

Brown's Bar-B-Que

We of course ordered brisket. Note: Austin is known for beef barbecue, so if you can, always order brisket. We had cabbage and mac and cheese for sides, but they were both standard so I'll skip rating them (although I enjoyed the cabbage more). Verdict: This is a smidgin better and tastier than the brisket from The Blue Ox - the meat was just more moist and had the sauce better integrated. 8 / 10 for the brisket (always get at least half a pound to share with someone, more if you're hungry).

Franklin Barbecue
Anyone I asked about food recommendations told me to make sure I try the brisket at Franklin's, but to note that it's so damn popular, that if you do decide to go, you need to go go fifteen minutes earlier than your original plan. Let me put it another way: Restaurant opens at 11 AM, but people start lining up at 9 AM that by the time you get served, they may have already run out (they remain open only until they still have meat to sell). We get there at 9:20-ish and already there was a huge wait. I sat on the floor on top of my extra fleece jacket and read Amy Poehler's Yes Please on my Kindle; J went back to the car to get some work done. By 10:48 the people started getting out of their seats (there were some available for customer use) because the restaurant was about to open. I was so excited.

Get this, though. We lined up at 9:20 AM. We got to the actual counter to place our order inside by 1 PM. Sounds over-the-top crazy, sure, but let me tell you, it was worth it. The pit master up front cut up some brisket for us to taste prior to ordering, and just from that one bite, I had an out of body experienvce. IT WAS SO GOOD. The smoking was perfect. The flavor was amazing. And it was so, so juicy. We ordered a pound of brisket to share and told them not to give us bread anymore. For sides, we got a pint of coleslaw (we love our slaw) and loaded up on raw onions and pickles available at the condiments section.

This is my third paragraph talking about Franklin, which means one thing: It was definitely the highlight of our visit to Austin, at least for me. I'm happy we were able to make this excursion happen, on our last day in town. Verdict: The slaw was just basic, but better than most. The meat? A perfect 10 / 10, 11 / 10 even. The barbecue-crazy foodie in me was incredibly thrilled to be treating her palate to something so heavenly. Along with Franklin's three sauces, it was just the perfect sendoff meal for us vagabond travelers and brisket tasters.

[1] Some of the tracks on this album are not available on Spotify. Bummer.
[2] Thanks to J, I have developed an addiction to playing Pyramid Solitaire on my computer. I. CAN'T. STOP.
[3] Monday seemed to be a barbecue holiday of sorts. Most of the places we wanted to try were closed that day.