I seem to be some kind of curse. Three of the places I’ve reviewed on the blog have closed down, only one of which I gave a bad review. I’m starting to worry that I’m some kind of anti-cool: the minute I like something, everyone decides it’s not cool, and quits going. I’m a bit worried, and hesitant to blog about places I like. On the other hand…
I can go to restaurants and demand free stuff! If they don’t provide it, I’ll just write a fantastic review, then their business will dry up! Boutiques will have to give me presents and jewelry to ensure my favor! I DEMAND TRIBUTE.
I tried to use my power for good. I gave DiMassi’s a less than stellar review, and I was gleeful when they shut down. But they have opened back up! They have signs out that say “Grand Opening”! They didn’t even change the sign! You can see I have no choice but to use this for my own gain.
But before you judge me, think about this: I make take some of you minions with me to exploit this. We could be up to our ears in crab cakes and fashionable accessories!! Being a minion does have its benefits. So you guys just keep sucking up, and we’ll see what freebies trickle down to you. In the meantime, I’m going to go check on all my favorite restaurants and make sure they’re still open.
I ended up at Dominican Joe for several hours a couple weeks ago. A friend was driving me to Houston, but had to go to a pizza contest for work, and I had no where else to go. That’s the kind of slightly bizarre events that make up my existence.
Dominican Joe has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, with all the obscure fixin’s you could hope for: stevia, sugar in the raw, agave nectar, soy milk, whole milk, skim milk, plus your usual splenda, sugar, half & half, at no charge.
In addition to being smooth and delicious, the coffee is all organic and cheaper than Starbucks. Cardboard to-go cups with compostable lids are the foam on the latte, so to speak. There were plenty of options on the menu, including some snacks that looked tasty, without being overwhelming. Plus, they call the coffee “DoJo”, which made me giggle.
The set up inside is comfy and work-friendly, with a variety of ambiences. You can sit in a broody, dark corner, writing gothic poetry, or at a well-lit table, writing gothic poetry. You can sit smack in the middle of the place directly in front of the door so your friend who’s coming to get you can spot you easily, not realizing the fact that being surrounded by 8 duffel bags and resembling a back-packing hoarder makes you easy to spot, and also an object of staring and confusion. I wish I was joking.
There’s also an ample supply of local free newspapers to keep you occupied in case you didn’t pack a library in your ample luggage. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I wish I lived closer because I’d have a new hang out”.
As you all know by now, I really love Asian food. Any time we go out to eat, that’s all I want. Awhile ago, me and the girls from work went to Triumph Cafe to test their pho. I love pho, plus this place is cheap and close to work.
Pros: It’s cheap, close to where I work, and the place has a great atmosphere. It’s small, but bright and clean. The grilled meat dishes I sampled were very good, pretty much as good as anywhere else I’ve had them.
Cons: The pho was good, but heavy on the nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Personally, I prefer a more savory broth, with only a hint of sweetness. These guys kind of over-did it. The place is small, and very popular (at least at lunch time), so it was hard to get a table all together.
On the Clever Chick Scale Triumph Cafe gets a “I would definitely eat there again for the good food at good prices, but my quest for the ultimate pho continues”.
Cupprimo is another one of those little cupcake shops that have been sprouting like mushrooms in the night lately. It’s over on Spicewood Springs near 183, and I went there with Phuongaholic and Melilalala (who is too lazy to blog, so therefore gets no link).
We went right after eating at this tiny Chinese restaurant that will probably get blogged later. We were getting sleepy from all the dumplings, so coffee and dessert, and more sitting around gabbing sounded like a great idea. The shop is tiny and cute, and smells great. They have tons of different coffee drinks, but we got regular black coffee.
One cool thing is that they have mini cupcakes. It was too hard for us to decide on just one, so a dozen minis split between the three of us was perfect. Pictured below are (from the upper left, clockwise) the chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and red velvet. They were fine, but nothing to write home about. The strawberry had a piece of real strawberry baked into it which was good, but the red velvet was dry, so it balanced out.
Now I’ve forgotten most of these. Again from upper left, clockwise, there’s Heath Bar, red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate. Phuong got some kind of citrus something also, which I tried a bite of. It was good, but I’m not a fan of citrusy things in general. Peanut butter flavored things are like my kryptonite. I would rather live on bell peppers for a week than eat that tiny cupcake pictured below.
On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “If someone else bought me one of their cupcakes, I’d eat it, but I’m not going to go out of my way to go there”. I prefer Hey Cupcake! or madCakes, but that’s just me. The great cupcake debate rages on.
– That Clever Chick
I have mentioned it before for different events, but I thought I’d finally write a post dedicated to the awesomeness that is Spider House. It was originally just a coffee joint, but they now have food and a full bar, and they took over an old Blockbuster Video and turned it into a ballroom. That’s where the Austin Poetry Slam was held, as well as BedPost Confessions, which I attended recently.
This place is just awesome. It’s covered in antiques, art work, and this one hot guy:
This is part of the mural on the back of the ballroom, what used to be Blockbuster. It is made up of all kinds of movie scenes, and I can identify all but one (I think). The Jaws shark is going after a swimmer, right above one of the characters from Labyrinth, and the poster from Evil Dead 2.
Ash from Army of Darkness, with the hill from Nightmare before Christmas in the background. You can tell Bruce Campbell is pretty popular around here.
I just thought this statue was cool. My Gram has an intact version of the little girl in her yard, and has always had it since we were little. I love how rather than trashing two broken statues they attached them to each other to make some kind of awesome chimera.
Spider House has great food, beverages, and prices, and there are always interesting events occurring, often for free. I just noticed that I Luv Video runs CineMondays, free movies every Monday night at 10pm at Spide House. Check out their homepage for a calendar, and maybe we’ll run into each other at some weird Austin event.
– That Clever Chick
My little sister, Beans, is making me feel old. She’s buying a house in a couple weeks, and now she has a real-live grown up job. The only benefit to me (therefore the only one I’m concerned about), is that her job involves a bunch of traveling, so she was able to stop by for dinner the other day. I got to see her, give her some crap I don’t want, and receive presents from her, so it was all winning.
I was planning on cooking dinner for her, but at the last minute begged to go out to eat. Beans is super easy going, so out to eat we went! Beans had never had Vietnamese food, and I was dying for some, so we headed over to the Parmer/I-35 area to invade Pho King. Just so all you people know, it is spelled Pho, but pronounced Fuh, so yes, we ate at Fuh-king.
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is beef broth with thick rice noodles, and then you can choose what kind of meat goes in it. I prefer the very thin slices of steak they put in raw, and the hot soup cooks it instantly. When you order Pho, most places will offer you small or large bowls. It’s so cheap, you’d assume the small is like a normal cup of soup, but it’s generally the size of a basketball. Ask your server how big the bowls are before you order. I have never finished a small yet, and I have no idea how big a large is.
When it comes out, they bring you a side plate with raw herbs (usually basil, I think), bean sprouts, limes, and jalapenos on it. Those are for mixing into the soup, according to your preference. I generally throw in a few bean sprouts at a time, and eat them while they are still crispy, and add a dash of Sriracha. Pho is very tasty, and it is great for
Pho King also has grilled meat with rice or noodles, and lots of other enticing things on the menu. I usually get Pho whenever I can, but this time I got grilled pork and rice. The meat is cut very thin, and grilled to perfection. It has some kind of slightly sweet marinade on it, which blends beautifully with the charred, crispy edges. Beans loved her Pho, and even ate it like a native, throwing in raw jalapenos and Sriracha.
I’m attempting to find the best Pho in town, but it’s hard since we tend to go out to eat semi-rarely, and Hubby isn’t a fan of Pho. There’s a new place on my list to try, but unless someone wants to pay me to be a food critic, it’s going to have to wait for the bathroom remodel to be completed. On the Clever Chick Scale, Pho King gets a “I will take everyone I can there, and tell lots of people about it”.
My friend Phuongie, of Mi Bella Rosa designs and blog, has probably eaten at every Asian restaurant in Austin, and knows where all the good ones are. Last time she graced our fair city with her presence, she took me to Coco’s Cafe on Highway 183 near Burnet. It’s in the same shopping center as Mister Tramp’s, and Sunflower Vietnamese Restaurant.
Coco’s is Taiwanese food, which I had never had before, that I can recall. I got a rice bowl with pork, and Hubby got a rice bowl with bar-b-qued eel. Both were fantastic, and cheap, at about $6 each. Phuongie got several kinds of appetizers (I forget which ones), but they were all very tastey as well. Each day Coco’s has a different kind of soup, and the day we were there it was some kind of melon soup. I had never had anything like it, and it was great as well. If you go there, there’s a huge pot with bowls next to it to the left of the counter by all the silverware, and it’s self-serve.
Coco’s also has a bazillion types of drinks. We got bubble teas, which are the beverages with large, round, tapioca balls, or “bubbles” in them. The bubbles are chewy, like gummy bears, and I enjoyed mine a lot. Coco’s has an amazing website also, beautiful, but functional, and it shows you the variety of drinks available. They don’t have any prices listed on the website, but everything was cheap or reasonably priced. They only take CASH, however, and have an ATM on-site, which just screams of “scam” to me, but whatever. Just take some cash out before you head over there.
On the Clever Chick Scale this place gets a “Super delicious, and great value. I can’t wait to go again, and I will recommend it to many friends”. My only criticism is the fact that they only take cash. That just seems ridiculous these days, but it’s not enough to keep me from going back. Loved it!
Karibu is an Ethiopian restaurant in Southeast Austin that Hubby and I stumbled across on a disappointing trip to the Habitat Restore. I had never had Ethiopian food before, so we decided to try it. It was definitely different, and very flavorful.
We ordered the lamb (Yebeg Tibbs), red lentils (Kay Misir Wot), collard greens (Abesha Gomen), and green beans (Fosolia). The waitress asked if we wanted it on one plate, or separate plates, and we got everything on one giant plate together. It came with a big basket of flat bread, that tasted like sour dough and had a great chewy texture. You eat everything with your hands, and can use the bread to scoop everything up. I preferred the way the food tasted without the bread, for the most part.
The lamb was delicious, the lentils were a bit spicy for me. The collard greens were fine, and the green beans were from a can, so not great. The reviews on yelp are kind of mixed, so I think people would agree with me. Overall, I give it a “If I happen to be in the neighborhood, and someone else is buying, I’ll go back”.
I got a coupon in the mail for buy one get one free (or something similar) to the Mongolian Grille, so Hubby and I decided to try it out. I was a bit hesitant, since it’s next to the awful DiMassi’s buffet that I did a review of, and then it closed.
The place is a bit odd, if you ask me. They have a small buffet in the back with raw veggies, meat, and pastas. You pick up a shallow bowl to fill with your choice of these. You then make a separate bowl of your own sauce mix. They have giant recipes on the wall for you to follow. You then set your bowls on the counter for the grill master to cook for you.
The meal comes with soup (which was blah) and dumplings (which were decent), which you can see on the right, and “bread” which is those white rectangles on the left of the picture. They were bland, but what do I know? I’ve never been to Mongolia. Maybe that’s how they make their bread.
So this is my stir fry. It was good, but I don’t think this place is worth what I would have had to pay without the coupon. I’d rather go out for Vietnamese or Chinese food.
Overall, the place was fine. Apparently they have a few locations, so maybe this location, up on 183, is just in worse shape than the others. The bowls to put your veggies in were really shallow and awkward, and the whole process was unclear, even after the waiter “explained” it to us. On the scale I haven’t created yet, I give it a “meh” – I’d eat there again, but the price was too high for what you get, and it seems like the same stir fry I make at home.
I went to a recent work event that was held at Maggiano’s in the Domain here in Austin. I’m going to start off by saying, generally I would never set food in a place like this. Italian food = pasta = super cheap to make at home. Therefore these ritzy Italian places = instant rip off. A big bag of portabello mushroom ravioli is $5 at HEB. That fact is always in the back of my mind whenever people want to go out to eat Italian. I just don’t see the point. All that aside, this was free food for me, and you know I am all about free stuff. I don’t mind if someone else gets ripped off.
First things first: this place looks like the inside of a fancy hotel. I personally feel all the frou frou crap is unnecessary, and it was setting off all my “rip off” alarms. I had to reassure myself that I was not paying, and therefore could relax, even when surrounded by high ceilings, dark wood, and
boring tasteful artwork.
Because this was a large group, they placed large plates of each dish on the table for us to pass around. For appetizers we had the bruschetta, which was nice, tomato caprese which was good, and the Maggiano’s salad, which was heavy on the raw onions, but otherwise fine. These were my favorite part of the meal.
For entres we had lasagna, which was normal, although pretty acidic, the baked ziti which I didn’t have because it looked like a hot, watery mess, but was told it wasn’t that good, and the parmesan-crusted tilapia, which was really good. The fish was crispy on top, and served on a bed of spinach, with capers and lemon butter. It was tasty, well cooked, if a little bland. I actually had seconds of that.
The desserts came out, and I was pretty excited, but that didn’t last long. The first dessert was Nonna’s toasted pound cake, which doesn’t even sound like something I’d want. It came with carmelized bananas, and I’m already biased against bananas. I had a small bite of this, and it was fine. If I was paying, I wouldn’t order it, but if someone hands it to me, I’m not going to turn it down.
The other one that I saw, and got excited about was the chocolate zuccotto cake. It was put on the table as this massive domed wedge of chocolate upon chocolate. First of all, that is a really awkward way to serve cake at a group event. There is no good way to cut a normal piece off so that you don’t look like a pig in front of all your coworkers. Second of all, I f**king love chocolate, and you guys basically gave me brown cake that looked like chocolate. I guess it is techinically chocolate cake, but it just tasted like liquor and sadness. Again, if someone handed me a free piece, I’d eat it, but I’d rather have more of the fish or tomato caprese.
Here’s the thing, at least in my mind. Chili’s, of all freaking places, makes a damn fine chocolate dessert. So seriously, what’s up? Rich people don’t like chocolate? The cake was completely mediocre in all ways, just moist enough, just sweet enough, and just firm enough to technically be called cake, and to make me say “meh”.
So, final ruling? If someone else is buying, go for it. If you feel like spending $20 per plate at LUNCH, you better think again. There are many fine places you could eat better, healthier food at and still have cash leftover.
You all know that I freaking love sushi, but I am also ridiculously cheap. Momiji satifies both of these desires. Hubby and I went a few weeks ago on a Wednesday to enjoy some of their half price sushi! This place is hidden in a strip center between the Loew’s and 183 where 183 and 45 intersect. I drove all through the parking lot before I found it tucked in over there.
The half price sushi goes Sunday through Thursday. Not all the rolls are half price, but the ones on the list are definitely worth it. It’s not like only a sad skinny California roll is half off. There are tons of them. Unfortunately, they seem to have messed up their web page, so you’ll just have to trust me. They also have a different item on special each night of the week. Wednesday was $3 for a bottle of hot sake. I could care less, but Hubby was all over that stuff. I think it tastes like nail polish remover, but I don’t judge.
We definitely stuffed ourselves (enjoying every bite), and spent around $30-35. It’s definitely possible to spend less and still enjoy yourself, but as always we decided to experiment and try some things we hadn’t had before. I think we had some kind of giant clam or something? It was good, but next time I’ll stick to the classics. The place is really adorable too, with lots of parasols hanging from the ceiling. I guess I’ll have to go back and take pictures…
I’m a bit disturbed by the trend of Americanized sushi. This stuff is supposed to be healthy, so all these tempura and cream cheese creations, while tasty, are kind of missing the point. Leave it to Westerners to fatten up on raw fish and rice, and pay out the wazoo for it. Someone give me money so I can go to Japan and eat authentic sushi for comparison. I promise to blog about it after. This is the season of giving, after all.