Will Travel for Food: Highlights from Austin and Favorites at Home

Old Pecan Street Cafe has the best pecan pie I've ever had.

Old Pecan Street Cafe has the best pecan pie I've ever had.

Eating the local fare is one the best parts of any trip. It gives you a true sense of the place you’re visiting.

So when Tammy and I both found ourselves in Austin for South by Southwest, it’s no surprise that we made it a point to hit the local restaurant scene while we were there.

We got lots of good dining suggestions from folks on Twitter and from Austin foodies before we left, and even though there was no way we could try everything in six days, we did our part.

The only sad thing about the food in Austin was leaving the best of it behind to come home. I often want to take the tastes I fall for with me.

So here’s my list of highlights, along with a list of places right here in Chicago that will help me satisfy some of the Austin-related food cravings sure to come a callin’:

Tex Mex
Austin does Tex Mex like no other. The breakfast tacos are a must. You can get them just about anywhere, from street carts to coffee shops.

Every salsa, guacamole, and mole sauce we tried was different but good. I particularly liked the mole sauce at Manuel’s and Guero’s Taco Bar.

You’ll find me at Mixteco Grill when I want mole in Chicago. It’s truly the best in the city… especially served on lamb.

BBQ
BBQ is a staple on many menus in Austin, good specialty places like The Salt Lick aside. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed the BBQ pork at Cuba Libre. Who would have thought the only standout on the table at a Cuban restaurant would be BBQ? Only in Texas!

My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Better plan a trip to Smoque soon!

Ice Cream
Amy’s Ice Cream is bliss in a cup. The flavor stands alone… no doctoring is needed. I like the vanilla and pistachio flavors best myself. If you want a specialty sundae, the ingredients are pounded into the ice cream ala Cold Stone Creamery.

But I’m a purist. So I think I’ll stick with Oberweis.

Pecan Pie
The pecan pie at Old Pecan Street Cafe in Austin is hands-down the best I’ve ever had. This is the one thing that may have no equivalent. Since trying it for the first time last year, I’ve searched Chicago bakeries and restaurants, and nothing matches up.

The closest I’ve found to it was a homemade pie from the Downtown Farmstand. But alas, it’s out of season now.

I had started to wonder if it was my imagination. Was the pecan pie I tried in Austin really that good?

The answer is yes, it is. I went back to Old Pecan Street Cafe to try it again, and after just one bite, I parted with $20 to buy a whole pie! I have no regrets and am sorely tempted to fly back to Austin for some more. I wonder if they ship.

Amy's ice cream sundae with pecan and caramel. Are you sensing a theme in my flavor choices? Still, Amy's is better plain.

Amy's ice cream sundae with pecan and caramel. Are you sensing a theme in my flavor choices? Still, Amy's is better plain.

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