Review: Franklin Barbecue. Austin, TX.

Franklin Barbecue
900 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

That’s right. BBQ Mecca. I went there and you’re jealous. We all know the drill.

After my original attempt to eat delicious BBQ was thwarted, I returned early the next morning (8:38AM to be exact) to wait in line for the 11AM opening. I was fourth in line (actually sixth when you consider spouses not seen in photo).

Hanging out wasn’t too bad. I sat and read GET JIRO!, drank some coffee (sorry about my hairy legs) and before you know it, the wife and daughter had shown up and the doors were open.

No Tom Petty, the waiting wasn’t hardest part.

The hardest part for me about eating here is writing a review. It’s recieved so much praise, I wasn’t sure that I had much more to contribute to the conversation. It’s amazing. Everyone knows it. What else is there to add?

But after stewing on it, soul searching, and consulting with my spirit-animal (it’s an alpaca in case you’re wondering), I decided that it was still worth getting my thoughts on the matter out there.

So here they are:

If you grew up in Texas like I did, everything about Franklin Barbecue will seem familiar. The building is like a million other barbecue joints in the state. The aroma of the smoldering post oak permeating from the smoker out back will remind you of another time when you had really good Texas barbecue. Like I said, it’s familiar.

At the same time (and this is the hard part to explain), it’s completely new. It’s fresh and it’s like nothing you’ve ever had because….. well…….. it’s perfect. Aaron Franklin puts on a clinic daily. And that clinic is about how to make flawless Texas barbecue. It has to been eaten to be believed. It’s the kind of meal that makes your eyes light up on first bite. The kind of meal in which you immediately know you’re eating something special, dare I say magical. It’s similar to barbecue you’ve had, just way (way way way…) better.

Here was our spread: 1.5lbs brisket (1/2 lean 1/2 fatty), 1lb ribs, 2 sausage links, .5lb pulled pork, potato salad.

The brisket (especially the fatty) is pure magic. As are the ribs. Juicy, savory, fatty, perfect. That’s how I’d describe them. The sausage is different than what you’d expect, but every bit as good. The pulled pork was for my wife and tasted fine (didn’t want to waste too much room for it). The potato salad was standard tasting mustard based fare.

We actually didn’t eat all of this, but we did down most of it.

We also ordered Banana bourbon and pecan tarts, but we didn’t eat them until about an hour later. They were great, though I can’t remember who the vendor was.

As we drove off from Franklin in a complete state of protein-overload, we both had smiles on our faces. I propositioned my wife for some filthy BBQ sex and lucky for her she declined. Later I blamed the meat, it had put me in a state of euporia in which I thought anything would be possible.

RATING:*****

Franklin Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Review: Salty Sow. Austin, TX.

Salty Sow
1917 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722

During our trip to Austin, I wanted to try one of the newer joints in the area. After reading about Salty Sow, I thought it would be a nice choice. It’s from the guys who recently sold Eddy V’s to the parent company of Red Lobster and also behind the recently expanded to Dallas Hopdoddy. Apparently the inspiration behind the restaurant is the Purple Pig in Chicago.

We went here with our daughter and some friends with kids. It isn’t set up super great for kids, that’s not meant as a criticism, just a note because I don’t think it was meant to be.

The menu reads like a list comprised of the hottest trends in restaurants. Ex. fries cooked in duck fat, pork belly, house made charcuterie, brussel sprouts, etc. While not coming across as super original the results were outstanding.

Starting off were the oyster boudin fritters with chipotle remoulade. They were oysters covered with rice, made into balls, covered with batter and deep fried. I dug em, Mrs. Roadrunner thought they were just okay. The remoulade was nice and had a good smokey / peppery flavor.

With the oyster fritters came out the triple fried duck fat french fries topped with a 110 minute egg. The fries were great, though I thought the egg on top didn’t add a ton to them (besides sogginess). The housemade ketchup and cold bernaise were good, but the fries stood on there own plenty.

The truffle deviled eggs with smoke pork belly were outstanding. The small pieces of porkbelly mixing with the intoxicating aroma of truffle oil was completely intoxicating. I don’t care what you say, I still love truffle oil and I’m not afraid to say it.

For sides, we ordered crispy brussel sprout leaves with pecorino and golden raisins. THEY ARE BONKERS. The best brussel sprouts I’ve ever had at a restaurant. So good. Must have if you go here.

The crisp chicken thighs with smashed potatoes and neck bone gravy appear to be on the menu to satisfy the less adventurous eaters. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The other main course we had was Petite bone-in filets with shiitake mushrooms and bone marrow red wine sauce. As opposed to the chicken thighs, these were amazing. The steak was cooked perfectly and seasoned perfectly. The bone marrow red wine sauce mixed with the juices from the meat combined to make sheer magic. Running the mushrooms through the sauce was purely dleightful.

The dessert, Bananas foster beignets with honey nutmeg ice cream, was the low point of the meal. Not sure I can place what was off with them, just weren’t very good. It seems to be a common complaint after amazing meal that the dessert isn’t that great (see Riffle NW, Toro Bravo).

If I gave half stars, this place would be 4.5. It’s definitely the best restaurant in my grouping of 4 star restaurants. Like their other restaurants, I expect this place to start expanding and be a big hit wherever it opens.

RATING:****

Salty Sow on Urbanspoon

Review: Counter Cafe. Austin, TX.

 Counter Cafe
626 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703

One weekend, with my wife needing to be in San Antonio for a bachelorette party on Saturday, we decided to spend our Friday in Austin (of course eating). The plan was to get down early for lunch and wait in line at Franklin’s.

Unfortunately, a wreck on I35 slowed us down an hour and by the time we got to Franklin’s they were out of brisket.

Disheveled, distraught, and a million other words that begin with “dis”, we regrouped and headed over to Counter Cafe. I intentionally left the part out where we listened to Coldplay and cried in our car.

Counter cafe is a tiny little diner with a handful of 2 top tables and counter service. When we got there, all the tables were filled and we waited a bit for something to open up. After a while, 3 seats opened up at the counter (not the best situation with a 2 year old, but we went with it).

The food is gourmet diner food made with organic and as local as possible ingredients. It’ a common concept idea these days, but Counter Cafe was a pioneer of the genre.

The first plate we ordered was the Counter Burger. Topped with organic veggies and cheddar, the all natural beef was a nice thickness and plenty juicy. The white bun had a sweetness that I’m not super into, but the burger was solid none-the-less.

The fries were outstanding. Simple but amazing.

Mrs. Roadrunner ordered Crab Cake Benedict. The crab seemed like it needed to be pick through a little better (too much shell). The toast and egg were fine, nothing to write home about.

Overall, this place is a solid choice for the hipster diner scene. The food won’t blow you away, but you could do a lot worse.

RATING: ***

Counter Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Salt & Straw. Portland, OR.

Salt & Straw
2035 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

2012 for me has been the year of Portland. For the food-obsessed blogger such as myself, that is considered such a blessing. Portland is a mecca for great food. An amazing restaurant on every corner.

The sheer quantity of places I needed to try in Portland is the only excuse I’ve got for not trying Salt & Straw sooner. I knew about it. Everyone knows about it, hence the ever present line at the brick-and-mortar locations.

So after months of eating through the town and after a quick yet delicious bite at Little Big Burger, I decided that enough was enough. Salt & Straw was on call for dessert.

After waiting in line and sampling a few of the flavors, I ended up choosing Almond brittle with Salted ganache on a fresh waffle cone. Oh man, this thing was amazing.

Have you ever taken a bit into something and have your eyes light up because it was so good. On a different level with any other item in that category. This ice cream was that for me. No doubt the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Nothing is even close.

It’s the first time I’ve really freaked out after eating something since eating Doughnut Vault in the spring. I immediately texted some friends and told them that they wouldn’t believe how good it was…. to which one asked if it was better than Braum’s (it is).

I’ve since tasted some more adventurous flavors and while good, none of them can compare to the first one I had. The fact that I mentioned it in the same breathe as Doughnut Vault is about as high of praise as I can give it. If you’re in the area, you have to check it out. I wish I did sooner.

Salt & Straw on Urbanspoon

Review: Tried and True. Dallas, TX.

Tried and True
2405 N Henderson Ave
Dallas, TX 75206

Let’s set the table a bit here (no pun intended). It was a Saturday night. Mrs. Roadrunner and I had just finished the most epic 3rd birthday party ever and we were looking for a place to celebrate. The target was a place that we could grab some drinks with a couple of friends. Good food would be a plus. So we headed over to Tried & True to give it a shot and I gotta say the place was exactly what we were looking for.

We got there and were quickly seated. The waitresses are girl-next-door types (seriously everyone at the table said “I think I know her from somewhere”) and the layout includes high top tables, booths, a bar, pool table, etc. We ordered our drinks (Beer Buddy says the Beer selection is quite admirable by the way) and shifted our attention to food.

Up first were the Brisket Nachos. Chips topped with cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, jalapeno, sour cream….. oh and the most amazing, peppery, moist delicious brisket. I’m not sure how good the brisket would be by itself, but it is damn good on these nachos.

This dish alone is worth coming here. Talking about it again the next day with Mrs. Roadrunner got so intense, you’d swear we were in the midst of foreplay (from what I can remember foreplay to be like, we are married after all, it’s been a while).

The second appetizer was the cornmeal squid. Honestly, these were a complete miss. More cornmeal than squid and the cornmeal was a bit harsh on the mouth (the word sandpaper comes to mind). The sauces, a cocktail and a tartare, didn’t do too much for me either.

The Off-Site Kitchen burger (named after owner Nick Badovinus’ Burger joint Off-Site Kitchen) was the first entree. It was awesome. I ordered mine all the way with bacon and a fried egg. The only complaint (and it’s a little one) is that the bun was overwhelmed by the juiciness of the patty. Still great though. Makes me want to go to Off-Site Kitchen ASAP.

The fries were similar to the ones I’d had at Neighborhood Services (another Badovinus restaurant). They’re good. Real good.

The Mrs. ordered the chicken tacos.  Wonderfully flavored chicken topped with pico, avocado, cheese and pickled onion, wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla. They’re a solid choice. Not the best tacos ever, but good none the less.

One of the members of our group had to wait a bit longer to get her meal, so the chef sent out a complimentary desserts. The stand out of the two was definitely the Pecan Pie. Possibly the best Pecan Pie I’ve ever had a restaurant. The brownie a la mode was solid as well.

Overall, if you’re looking for a bar with good food, this place is a can’t miss. Order the nachos, burger and pecan pie. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

RATING: ***

Tried and True on Urbanspoon

Review: Little Big Burger. Portland, OR.

Little Big Burger
3810 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202

Sometimes when I’m traveling, after a long day at the office, I just want to go somewhere simple and make a burger my biatch. A burger paired with some fries is the ultimate comfort food to me. But comfort food doesn’t have to be low brow.

When I tell people about Little Big Burger, my usual description is “It’s Portland’s Shake Shack.” While that sounds like a bit of an indictment of LBB’s originality, I actually mean it as a compliment.

Their emphasis on local & organic (especially taking into consideration that it’s a fast casual restaurant) is awesome.

The menu, as seen on the outside of the building, is simple. It’s pretty much: Do you want cheese on your burger (who says no to that)? What kind (they offer 4 different local cheeses: chevre, swiss, cheddar, bleu)? Do you want fries?

For dessert they offer floats made with tillamook vanilla ice cream. No frills. All wonderful.

The burger I order is a cheeseburger (cheddar) all the way with truffle fries (that’s right the default preparation for french fries is tossed in trufle oil, hell yea). The only downfall to the burger is, welp, it’s kinda little. I went back and ordered another in order to fill up.

The fries are really good, of course I could drink truffle oil.

Overall, Little Big Burger is a really good burger, responsibly sourced and prepared wonderfully.

RATING: ***

Little Big Burger on Urbanspoon

Review: Smoke. Dallas, TX.

Smoke
901 Fort Worth Avenue
Dallas, TX 75208

During a brief twitter conversation about favorite Brunnch spots, I mentioned that my go-to in Dallas is probably Smoke. A big reason for that is that I live right off I30 and the other reason is that it’s really good.

When a co-worker wanted to meet for brunch one Saturday and then asked if I’d heard of Smoke, I smiled slyly and said “I’ve heard of it.” I didn’t want any backing out because I eat there so much.

The food here is all made in house with incredibly high standards. Chef Tim Byres’ dedication to quality and never taking the easy way out is quite refreshing. The dedication definitely comes through in the food.

Dining with me on this meal was Mrs. Roadrunner and little roadrunner. We ordered 3 plates with the intent of splitting them between us (like every loving family who enjoys variety does).

The first dish up was the Ricotta Pancakes with Vanilla poached  apricots, blueberries and cream. This bad boy is what is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when the conversation of brunch at Smoke comes up. Rightfully so, the pancakes are light and airy and not too overly sweet. The apricots and blueberries always add a nice amount of tartness to the dish, making it a real winner.

The brisket hash was the low point of the meal. I enjoy it, but Mrs. Roadrunner doesn’t (and let me know it repeatedly). I think it’s good, not great though. The smoked brisket sits on top of a cornbread hash and is topped with a poached egg. The cornbread hash isn’t amazing and is probably what causes this particular dish to miss.

The Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict are probably my favorite brunch item in Dallas right now. The pork is juicy and has great flavor. The poached egg and hollandaise are both spot on. It’s a simple dish, but those are always the best right? On the side are goat cheese potato cakes. You can never go wrong with frying goat cheese and potatoes.

Overall, if you’re looking for a great brunch with some Texas flair, check out the Tim Byre’s Smoke. The place is about as good as it gets.

RATING: ****

Smoke on Urbanspoon