Easter in Austin, TX
There are endless places to eat barbecue in Austin and endless quirky restaurants with retro signs like this. But if you want to eat barbecue at a quirky place with a cool sign, this is the place to go!
This 19th century limestone building has housed everything from grocery store to furniture store to an old tavern years ago. But since the 1990's it has been one of the most popular food and music venues in Austin. The old limestone building serves the brisket and sauce created by Christopher B "Stubb" Stubblefield and welcomes performers like Willie Nelson and BB King to it's indoor and outdoor stages.
Food and Church
If you're having to drive 2.5 hours to meet your kids for brunch, then you might not have time for church and brunch. So here's a little compromise. In the lower half of the building you have a stage set with some awesome gospel music. Those seated downstairs were getting the whole deal. It was pretty loud for conversing. But hey, you're not supposed to talk in church anyway.
There are so many options for dining. We were seated in a fun little room with red candles on the fireplace mantle and warm plank wood floors. There were only about 4 tables and we could hear the music plenty fine from in here. We even had some great photos of old Stubb's himself.
Here is the photo of Stubb, in his early days of cooking. He grew up in Navasota and Lubbock with his 11 siblings. He spent time picking cotton and serving in the Korean war before ending up in Austin in 1984. He died in 1995 before his restaurant moved into the current building on Red River.
Here's a photo from when the building was once a tavern. It must have catered to fishermen and hunters.
This is how the bar looks now. It's hard to see with people in the way, but not too much has changed.
Bloody Mary Bar
It seems a bit sinful to have Bloody Marys while listening to gospel singers, but it seemed to be the thing to do at Stubb's. The vodka arrived in jars of ice at our table, then we moved to the bar to customize!
Inside and Out
Part of the fun of the place, is the flow from in to out. There was seating down in the yard and the informal buffet was served on an outside deck. Since this is as much music venue and restaurant, there's a huge outside area where concerts play from various levels and locations.
Time to Eat
We sat at a cute metal top table beside a brick wall while we pigged out on our buffet feast. The plate above shows my first trip...southern style grits, migas, fried catfish, biscuits, gravy and a super spicy enchilada! I went back later for the brisket that they're famous for. All was excellent.
What to Wear?
Anything goes at Stubbs. Which is pretty much like any place in Austin. I saw tee shirts and shorts and a 3 piece purple suit. My daughter and I posed with white glove... in memory of my childhood Easters!
This wasn't your usual Sunday brunch, so there were a lot of tables filled with big families and large parties. So the people watching was a little livelier.
We were at the 10:30 seating, so it could be a different crowd for the second seating. Maybe we would have seen more church hats. Heidi seemed to be the only one sporting a festive hat!
Bottles of Sauce!
What a nice surprise to be handed a bottle of Stubb's famous BBQ sauce as we headed out the door! We decided to do some posing with our white gloves. We figured they may want to use this is future advertisements. You just never know.
Or maybe the men could sell it better. The main thing I noticed when we stood outside posing, was that quite a crowd was congregating on the corner with us. The 10:30 group had basically been booted and the 12:30 crowd was standing in line to go in. We could have lingered for days at our table. There had been a nice breeze blowing through the open doors. But it was hard to be grumpy about leaving when we had a free jar of sauce!
The crowd on the sidewalk all seemed to be in the same festive chatty mood, enjoying "after meal good spritis". You have to hand it to the Stubb's crew. They were very efficient. They do this every week and they're darn good at it. They left us wanting more... in a good way. We will have to go back!
Food of Puerto Rico!
It's always fun to add something new to the list and now I finally get to add Puerto Rican food! My son, Scott told us about this cute little place across from his work on North Lamar.
My husband and I met up with "the kids" on a Friday lunch hour last week. The interior was cozy and festive and doing a pretty good lunch business.
We didn't get to meet the owner, Santiago "Chago" Aponte. He was probably in the kitchen cooking, since this is family owned and run. He is from Puerto Rico and uses recipes passed down through the family.
We did however get to meet Chago's very gracious wife, Solemar. She came around to greet tables and we were excited to tell her it was our first time. Scott told her he would give a good report to his coworkers, since this is a convenient lunch spot for his office.
Mofongo and Paella
Sadly I did not get good close ups of our food. Scott was very excited to order the well known Puerto Rican specialty, Mofongo. He had sampled it elsewhere, but was disappointed by the dry texture. He seemed pretty thilled with his moist mound of meat and fried plantain. (Moistened with garlicky broth and olive oil) There was an option of beef, chicken or pork. Don ordered the vegetable paella which I sampled! The white rice was cooked in coconut milk and mixed with eggplant, chickpeas, black beans and peppers...topped with cheese! A salad and tostones (fried plantains) made this another huge feast. I think I might have to order that next time!
An Authentic Choice
I asked our server what I could order that was considered Puerto Rican, besides Mofongo. I ended up with a very yummy and curious sandwich called El Jibarito. Instead of bread, the sandwich used green plantains. The inside was stuffed with juicy pulled pork and swiss cheese. On the side I had a huge helping of pigeon peas rice and a fresh spring mix salad. I was impressed!
This was a great choice for a quick, reasonably priced lunch! It was just plain tasty AND I got to add a new food culture to my list!
Next time we'll have to check out the evening atmosphere. I heard there's open mic or karaoke of some kind... not that I would be game to perform. But I would have a pina colada and watch!
It wasn't easy getting here, but it was well worth it!
Americans and Mexicans have crossed the Rio Grande in this area of Big Bend National Park for decades. The Texas communities near Big Bend have had a good relationship with the tiny village of Boquillas, across the river in Mexico. But after 9/11, the border was firmly closed.
Since April of 2013, tourists with passports have been allowed to cross the Rio Grande in Big Bend into Mexico by checking in at the new Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry Station. In February, my husband and I had a chance to try out the new crossing. We arrived early morning and chatted with rangers before heading down to the river. It was a beautiful morning and we could hear a couple voices from across the river, "Welcome to Mexico!" Then we heard the voice of Victor, who is the official singing greeter for Boquillas.
Carmello rowed us across the river. We could have waded, but this was all part of the experience. We also wanted to support the community with our 5 dollar tickets.
Yes to Burros!
I was excited that Don was game for the burro experience. It was only 3/4 mile to the village, but he's not a big fan of horsebackriding. Of course these weren't exactly horses. In fact I felt a little silly on mine, but it was fun! Joel followed along, since the burros are a little out of practice. Many were set free when the border was closed and tourists were no longer coming across.
We hadn't asked for a guide, but after tying up the burros and checking in with passports at the visitor center, Joel stayed with us as we wandered the village. This was actually great because we were the first tourists that day and we wouldn't have known where to go. Joel pointed out the school, and the original bar of Boquillas. He took us inside the little yellow church and he greeted the only village doctor in front of an adobe hospital. Joel told us about 180 people were now living in the village, with only one landline phone and no electricity. He pointed out a few solar panels and satellite dishes. He pointed to the building that held the only phone in town. He told us there was no electricity, only solar power
Joel introduced us to some of the locals. Many were selling crafts, from bedspreads to walking sticks. We bought bracelets and wire animals from the children who approached and we bought a patchwork quilt from one family.
We brought along a silly collection of monkey socks from the US and these became handy gifts now and then. Some of the children were eager to pick out a pair. Even some not so little kids liked the socks.
The little town with its dusty main street never got more than a handful of American guests. But after wandering for an hour through the unshaded area, it seemed like all the visitors ended up in the same place.
It was time for a little food and Cerveza at Jose Falcon's. Don and I had a couple beers and visited with a few other travelers from Connecticut, Michigan and Colorado. Sitting on the shady terrace overlooking the spectacular Mexican mountain range, was the absolute highlight of our village visit.
When in Boquillas...
The other diners on the terrace were pretty much like Don and me...in other words, not a Spring Break crowd! So it was a little funny that we all decided it was important to sample the tequilas to complete our experience. "Only one!" Don and I agreed. "We have to be able to ride our burros back!"
And here is the food that inspired a dining blog entry. Obviously the food was just a tiny part of the whole experience. But our simple and authentic beef tacos and chicken enchiladas were mouth watering. You will notice there is a small bear near the tacos. He has his own blog and that's another story.
Soon after lunch, we headed back on our burros for the river. There had been no charge for our "tour" with Joel, but we handed him a gracious tip. Even though he struggled with his English, he made us feel comfortable and welcome. Victor the singing greeter, got a tip as well. We so hope the Village of Boquillas continues to get generous tourists, to keep this tiny village alive. If only the border between Mexico and the US could be like this everywhere!
Now a Restaurant
This little Queen Anne cottage in the small town of Kingsland has been many things.
When it was moved to this location in 1998, it became a café, with a railroad theme to match the railroad themed hotel on the property.
The Chainsaw Café?
They could have gone for a totally different kind of theme, since the house was once used in the filming of the 1974 cult classic, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I do love a themed restaurant.
My book club, a group that has been discussing books and films for years, was recently in the Kingsland area for a weekend getaway. We decided to have dinner at the Grand Central Café. In this photo we look like we might be pondering whether or not to dine in this little house with its haunting history. Or maybe we just look like we're posing as the cast for the latest sequel...Texas Chainsaw Massacre & The Book Club. This would not be the first sequel or remake of this fine film!
I took this photo a year ago, so I already knew what to expect. It's not creepy at all. But when we stepped inside the café on Friday evening, the entrance did not look like this quiet photo. The café was bustling with food toting servers and folks squeezing past each other moving up and down stairs. The noise of cheery diners distracted us from any thoughts of gory movie scenes.
The lounge upstairs was packed as well. This attic-like space was as upbeat as the downstairs, but there was one little movie reminder. I saw it near the bar. We had just moved towards the counter to order a glass of wine... and there it was... a chainsaw! Okay, maybe it was made by Fischer Price. It was some kind of toy dangling from a hook as a playful decoration. I should have taken a photo.
Since it was so lovely outside we were actually glad to sip our wine on the patio for 30+ minutes before our table was ready. We were seated in one of the two front rooms and spent the next 90 minutes jabbering away over various seafood dishes. This group has had a lot of experience discussing books and movies and a million other subjects around tables of food. But we did not once discuss the meaning of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact now that I think of it, I'm not sure anyone at our table had even seen the movie. In fact I don't know why I keep bringing up the subject. No one else did!
After a day spent mostly outside, we had worked up a pretty good appetite for dinner. A couple of us had the special with salmon and avocado, which came with two sides. We had a few crab cakes on the table and a couple of Cajun shrimp stir fry orders. I believe the salmon was the most praised of the dishes. I would say the food was very decent for a small town.
Should We Return?
I told my book club I had come to the café a year earlier to enjoy breakfast with my daughter and husband. The Book Group was almost convinced to return the next day to sample another menu so we could try a treat that had not been available at our dinner.
It wasn't breakfast that was luring the group. (Although they do have yummy options with names like Locomotive and The Dispatcher)
It was a dessert called The Caboose. On Friday night, our server made the mistake of telling us about this favorite dish made with fried pancake batter...or something decadent. But, we were out of luck. Only the day chef makes the dessert.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.