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Austin, TX: Keepin’ it Weird & Tasty

March 31, 2010

Midevil

Fulfilling the stereotype, Texas really is full of barbecued meat. Taken at the The Salt Lick

Every year I go to SXSWi in Austin, I think about how similar the landscape, people and place is to Edmonton. It’s a university town, not unlike Edmonton. Austin is also decidedly left-wing in a right-wing state—remind you of another city? Austin also has a river that runs through it, no real high-rises, and is also the capital of the state of Texas, just like Edmonton is the capital of Alberta. And it seems all of Texas is in love with beef, just like Alberta.

So, going to Austin is like travelling to a hotter, greener alternate Edmonton universe.

Except it isn’t Edmonton, and where it differs, should be a lesson to our citizens to what makes a city unique and fun. Austin is filled to the brim with local food establishments, which Edmonton unfortunately cannot attest to. You will be hard-pressed to find a “chain” in downtown Austin. Their popular 6th Street, unlike Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue, looks to be filled with only local restaurants. Of course, Austin loves to emphasize how they are the “live music capital” of the country, which Edmonton can only wish or aspire to. Next, it’s a no-brainer to close off one of their busiest streets during SXSW each evening. Why can’t Whyte Ave be turned walkable in a regular way in the evening?

But enough about Austin vs Edmonton. How about the food scene? There were many places I could highlight during my regular visits to Austin, including Iron Works, the brand new Piranha Killer Sushi, or even the fun and numerous food trucks—which is so popular, there is a website tracking the numerous carts and their whereabouts—and in particular,TaKorea. However,  one of the most memorable establishments to eat is The Salt Lick, which technically isn’t even in Austin.

Tasty Texan Beer

Beer you can only buy in Texas

The Salt Lick is in Driftwood, TX, a small bus ride—or van ride with my ExpressionEngine compardres, in my case—away. It’s so unapologetically Texan, with its southwest and rustic charm. It’s so popular, that the normal wait time is over an hour. Now, that might sound intimidating especially since you’ve taken the time to drive out there. But, wait—you’re allowed to BYOB! When you arrive, you actually wait in line and reserve your space in a completely separate and open building, and you’re encouraged to wait there or wander around the ranch-like settings. Once you get your waiting pager, just sit back with a beer with your crew and the hour just flies by.

Modeling Meat

Coleslaw!

If the guys ever quit EE development, they have a future in food modeling.

The menu is pretty straightforward: you order your meat by weight, then your sides. However, the more popular option, and one my crew went with, is the all-you-can-eat “Family Style” ($18.95) of non-stop meat and sides, where everyone just shares everything. Since my group were a bunch of big, strapping guys, it was a natural choice, and there were no complaints. One thing to watch out is that the BBQ sauce is not your typical one: don’t expect a dark brown sauce. Their sauce resembles the look and consistency of gravy, but with a surprisingly sweet vinegary taste.

We also ordered some peach cobbler, but it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the earlier meal, so you won’t miss much by passing.

In short: if you go to Texas and Austin, be prepared to eat meat. Sorry, vegetarians.


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