The abnormally cold weather this country is currently experiencing might be overshadowing the fact that spring is supposed to be here. It’s March for crying out loud! We’re supposed to be stocking up on concert tees and sunglasses, firing up the BBQ pits and making peace with the New Year resolutions that didn’t make it to the end of Q1.
As we keep our fingers crossed that things heat up in time for SxSW Holiday Weekend, I’ll share the buzz on some of Austin’s best food trucks and trailers. With all the venue hopping I’m expecting to do, who has time to miss all of the action of Austin while sitting in a dimly lit restaurant making small talk with the waitress? Not I.
East Side Kings @ Liberty Bar (1618 1/2 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702)
TV Foodie fans who watch the popular Top Chef may recall Season 9’s winner, Chef Paul Qui, who has made a name for himself in Austin as the executive chef of Uchiko. Chef Qui and a few of his chef friends opened the ESK food truck as a delectable side project, serving quirky Asian-American fusion dishes. The original truck is permanently parked behind Liberty Bar, so grab a drink on your way through, and enjoy.
“Poor Qui’s Buns” – arguably some of the best buns in town, this includes (2) freshly steamed buns stuffed with roasted pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi and green onions. Reserve your judgment of those who get back in line for a second order… they’re that good.
Fried Brussels Sprout Salad – Any salad that shies away from the typically boring green players has my attention. This vegetarian dish (they’ll even make it vegan if you request it) includes fried Brussels sprouts, a tangy sweet-spicy sauce, shredded cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint, onions and jalapeños.
Gordoughs Big. Fat. Donuts. (15030S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704)
Austin insists on being the weirdest city in the world, so of course you can find the weirdest doughnuts in the mix. With 20+ unique creations, there’s something on the menu to tempt your sweet tooth. If you’re looking for a classic glazed donut, keep looking. Gordoughs is for us sugar addicts lovers and adventurous foodies.
- Mother Clucker – mixing fried chicken with breakfast foods is nothing new to the culinary world. But a donut topped with fried chicken and sweet honey butter? Don’t mind if I do.
- Flying Pig – Doughnuts are a breakfast staple. Bacon is a breakfast staple. So a warm doughnut topped with crispy bacon and maple syrup icing is only natural, right? Right.
- Funky Monkey – Gone are the days when I find comfort in a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream. This doughnut features warm, grilled bananas and cream cheese icing with brown sugar sprinkled on top.
- Boss Hog – being a foodie requires you to be adventurous sometimes. Putting cookout classics on a doughnut is one of those times. This one includes pulled pork and potato salad drizzled with Honey BBQ Sauce.
- Black Out – Chocolate lovers, I challenge you to overdose on this one: brownie batter, chocolate fudge icing, chocolate covered brownie bites, topped with chocolate syrup.
Hey!… You Gonna Eat or What? (1318 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704)
The official winner of the “Truck by Truckwest 2013 Taste-Off”, prides itself on being one of the rudest eateries in Austin, TX, but Austin, the owner, is really friendly and passionate about his food and your experience. Take his jokes as lighthearted as he intends them to be.
The award winning Shiner Bock Battered Monte Cristo is a must-have! A classic Monte Cristo, with smoked ham, turkey, and warm, gooey cheese; deep fried in a flavorful Shiner Bock beer batter, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by a tangy cranberry sauce to dip it in. It’s really enough to share with someone, but you probably won’t want to. Also, be sure to pick up a side of Chef Eric’s fresh potato chips.
Chi’Lantro (Check their site for current truck locations)
Korean fusion food truck concepts are probably the most popular across the US. Chi’Lantro capitalizes on the Korean and Tex-Mex pairing and does it exceptionally well. Their claim to “The Original Maker of the Kimchi fries” may or may not be true, but it’s hard to debate: hot, thick cut fries, topped with caramelized Kimchi (pickled veggies), chopped grilled onions, Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese, cilantro, “magic” sauce, sriracha and sesame seeds. Chi’Lantro operates 5 trucks in Austin so you’ll be sure to find one of them while stumbling around SxSW.
- Burro Cheese Kitchen (1221 S Congress Ave Austin, TX 78704)
The grilled cheese sandwich is all grown up! Burro Cheese Kitchen might have on of the coolest trailers I’ve ever seen. It’s a bright yellow shipping container that the Burrow family had converted into a kitchen. They pride themselves on serving the world’s best cheese with a variety of spins on the classic grilled cheese. The sandwich with the most buzz? The “Waylon & Willie” which consists of beer bread, aged cheddar, fontina, caramelized Onions, pepperoncini and a spicy maple bacon sauce. If one of the six crafter sandwiches doesn’t tickle your fancy, build up you own! Don’t forget to order a side of fried pears. Yes, fried fruit. It’s SXSW, nothing is supposed to make sense.
CowBells Burgers (1620 E. RIVERSIDE DR. | AUSTIN, TX 78741)
Should you find yourself near the South Shore Eatery (a small food truck trailer park), be sure to stop by CowBells. Owner Daniel Oliveira is there serving up American burgers with Japanese style onion rings and Mexican Coke.
My carnivorous bees should try the “Spare Tire” burger, which touts double meat burger, dressed with mayo, cheddar cheese, bacon and fried pickles. For my vegetarian bees, the “Woody Harrelson” is a black bean burger on whole wheat bun, drizzled with honey mustard, avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. Do you consider yourself a burger purist? “The Archetype” should suit your palate: regular burger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. CowBells is pet-friendly and BYOB, so if you brought Fido with you, and need a break from the sensory overload that is 6th Street, check them out!
Sometimes you don’t want to be adventurous with your food. Sometimes you just want to soak up some of the alcohol from your wild night out. Sometimes you just want good pizza. At the corner of 6th and Red River, look for the red truck with the long line. Their pizza is simple, but delicious. Father/Son duo, Steve and Tony Cohn, have a winner with this Austin favorite.
Nina’s Carnitas (Breakpoint at the Boardwalk 2201 1/2 Lakeshore Blvd, Austin, TX 78701)
In a food truck world that focuses on fusion, Nina’s is a throwback comfort with classic offerings. Nina’s “Especial Pork Tacos” give you (2) tacos with a choice of corn or flour tortillas with juicy pulled pork carnitas and special chipotle sauce, topped with white cabbage, pico de gallo and yellow cheese. Feeling nostalgic? Order corn on the cob, rubbed with mayonnaise and sprinkled with cotija cheese and chili powder. Wash it all down with a Mexican Coke.
- Torchy’s Tacos – 1311 South 1st Street, Austin, TX 78704
You honestly can’t come to Austin and not go to Torchy’s. Visit the location in the food trailer park. Try the Trailer Park (skip the veggies and make it trashy), the Dirty Sanchez, Mr. Orange, or the Taco of the Month. March’s taco is The Roscoe, back by popular demand. It’s a flour tortilla filled with a fried egg, waffle, fried chicken, bacon, and maple syrup. No matter what you pick, you can’t go wrong, but you will go back for more, and I won’t judge you.
The Vegan Yacht – (1700 EAST 6th St 78702)
Looking for animal-free fare? Check out the vegan options at this luxury food trailer. The “freeto” burrito feature organic tempeh chili and corn chips wrapped in a grilled tortilla. The seitan quesadilla includes organic avocado, shredded organic carrot, seitan and daiya vegan cheese grilled in a flour tortilla. Danielle and Mike are committed cruelty-free, GMO-free, 100% organic and non-fried good food. Be sure to grab a “We are sick of f*cking chemicals” button if you feel the same!
SLAB BBQ (2330 San Antonio St, Austin, TX 78705)
Slab BBQ is not your traditional Texas BBQ place. They pride themselves on “bridging the taste bud gap of the Dirty South from Memphis, to the Carolinas, Alabama and Texas.” Once you let out the hearty laughs for the menu names… (The Tony Montana, El Jefe, the Texas O.G. and the Notorious P.I.G.) order “The Donk”. Its 1 pound of every SLAB smoked meat available, topped with pickles, onions, jalapeños, queso and BBQ sauce.
Ok Bees, let me know if you visit any of the spots listed or if I missed one of your favorites! I’ll be on the ground tasting all Austin has to offer. Feel free to grab a bite with me if you catch me… #HivexSW - @RaquelSeymone