My weekend exploring Austin as a food tourist

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Mike Pitstick, Contributing Writer

 

I was hungry. Then I was not. That was the story of my weekend in Austin, Texas.

It started out just like any other weekend, except that I went to bed early on Friday, got up early on Saturday and drove three hours to Austin. Why, you ask? For months, my friend and roommate, the dashingly handsome Matt Leibowitz (he told me to write that), has been tantalizing me with promises akin to those of God to the Israelites about the land of milk and honey. This being my maiden voyage to the Texas state capital, I couldn’t help but fantasize about the many culinary temptations that awaited me. Little did I know what kind of gluttony would ensue.

The "Dirty South" from Gordough's. All of the restaurant's menu items feature a doughnut along with the rest of the food. –Photo by Mike Pitstick
The “Dirty South” from Gordough’s. All of the restaurant’s menu items feature a doughnut along with the rest of the food.
–Photo by Mike Pitstick

Having completed the three-hour drive, armed only with an empty Starbucks cup and the clothes on my back (well, and the clothes in the backpack on my back), I stretched my legs and gazed on the world around me. My childlike curiosity, fueled by hunger, ensured that we would soon find food.

Our first stop was the storied land of Gordough’s. From the outside, it appeared to be a shack surmounted by a simple sign reading, “Public House.” Once inside, it was clear that this would be an eating experience unlike any I had experienced before. Gordough’s philosophy rests on the simple premise that any food can be improved by being placed atop, inside or near a doughnut. Read that again. Savor it. Understand the depth of that truly American innovation: anything on a doughnut.

Matt and our friend, Marie Zivnuska, shared what may be considered the most Southern meal ever created: chicken-fried steak and a potato pancake atop a savory doughnut, smothered with gravy and topped with cranberry and habanero jam — aptly named the “Dirty South.” Matt’s sister chose the “Mother Clucker,” a sort of elevated honey-butter chicken biscuit. I settled on a brunch special, the “Petunia,” which was a doughnut adorned with pulled pork, a fried egg and delicious southern gravy. Lip-smacking, artery-tingling good.

Our festival of flavor continued as we all headed to South Congress, an avenue flooded with Austinites enjoying the warm sun and mild temperatures. Lined with unique shops and more unique food, SoCo was not a disappointment in regard to the Austin “feel.” Bearded men in tight pants roamed the sidewalks and the neighborhood felt vibrant and young. I found numerous gems in the shops, including mustache bandages and presidential-campaign memorabilia. More importantly, I found more food.

Guero’s Taco Bar, featuring live music and fresh tacos, was the highlight of our pleasant afternoon. We entered the outdoor area soon after it opened, the first to take seats that would quickly fill. The tacos were fresh and tasty, although the slow line was somewhat off-putting.

After enjoying our tacos, we crossed the street for a slice of the Austin pizza scene. Home Slice Pizza, clearly prepared for the crowds, offered a by-the-slice outdoor ordering window. My slice, topped with meatball and onions, reminded me of the pizza served at a pizza parlor back home in Ohio. The crust was chewy and the toppings, cheese and sauce were well-balanced.

We completed our day (and began our food comas) at Austin’s treasured burger joint, Hopdoddy. I was informed that the line, long by any other standards, was shorter than usual. We only had to wait an hour to place our orders and sit down.

Boy, was it worth the wait. My Greek burger, which seemed like a tribute to the gyros so many of us loved in Greece, did not disappoint. The lamb patty, though lean, provided great flavor, the arugula gave bite and the tzatziki rounded it all out. The fries were fresh and crispy. The shake, which I thought would be the highlight of my meal, let me down a bit. The “Hunka Hunka Bacon Love,” on special, lacked the intense bacon flavor I expected because of the name, but managed to make up for it a bit with loads of creamy peanut butter. Overall, the meal was excellent. I’m happy to inform the reader that Hopdoddy has a location in University Park in Dallas, which I will likely test soon as well.

I’m not sure I intended to eat my way through Austin, but I’m incredibly happy I did. It was a paradise of doughnuts, local produce and colorful waitstaff. I’d encourage anyone to spread their wings a bit and visit Austin. These staples alone are well worth a visit. I’m sure there are probably museums or something too. For those of you who now have to go eat Aramark food, I’m sorry. Use your

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