You’d think finding a meal wouldn’t be all that hard.
My Dear One keeps a small notebook for notes on restaurants he likes the looks of when those eateries are featured on one of the food programs on television. I take that list and poke around the various wikis like TripAdvisor. I include restaurants along with our itinerary of sights and attractions, and that gives us something to work from.
Franklin BBQ looked utterly abandoned; was it defunct? A lovely young woman who operates an adjacent coffee place explained that it opened at 11:00 and closed as soon as they were out of food—most days no later than 3. On we went to Juan in a Million on Cesar Chavez. It too was dark. I walked over to check the hours posted on the door: Monday through Sunday 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. Alrighty then. I remembered that we had passed another Mexican place a few blocks black. That turned out to be a real find. Las Cazuelas was dingy, worn, ordinary and served utterly spectacular food. $27 bought us two beers, chips and three kinds of salsa and two enormous platters of chili rellenos and chicken mole accompanied by refried beans, shredded lettuce and tomato, and seasoned rice. Oh. My. Goddess. My tummy has that glorious sensation of capsaicin-induced warmth. Good thing we hadn’t seen their reviews on TripAdvisor—the reviews were uniformly wretched.
We were prepared today. We’d see some art then speed over to Franklin BBQ for lunch. Ah, the best laid plans.
We arrived at about 12:30. The best estimate of the staff and people standing in line was that it would be a 90-minute wait for a table. That was time we didn’t have. Well, we thought we didn’t have it. My Dear One retreated to the warmth of the car and I went for a cup of coffee at the afore-noted and -mentioned trailer paneled in lumber and operated by the Legend Coffee Company. Much to my delight I was recognized by Our Lady of the Coffee. Ordered a latte—one of the best I’ve ever had. While waiting I chatted with the customer ahead of me—he was from Kansas City and we compared notes on barbeque in that capitol of smoked meat. Wonderful fellow and someone whose tastes clearly align with mine.
So the upshot was that my Dear One and I decided to try another place on his list, Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, and asked GPS Fiona how to get there. That was a mistake, because she sent us to the airport where there is a food stall rather than one of the two suburban Austin locations where you actually can park a car. Lesson learned. I believe the adage is “Short Cuts make for Long Delays”?
We reconsidered and focused on the Chi’Lantro food truck offering Korean-Mexican fusion food. We arrived there just in time but there was no place to stop, let alone park.
Time was a-tickin’.
We opted to drive over to the LBJ library and find something, anything, near there. There is nothing near there and on top of that, Red River Road is under construction, obligating us to take a lengthy and extremely annoying detour.
Back to our list.
We had passed the Texas Chili Parlor between the Chi’Lantro truck and the LBJ library. By this time both of us were faint with hunger. Blind in the dark interior after the sunshine outside, felt our way to an open table. By now it was 2:00. Impatient with my uncertainty, the fellow taking our orders for drinks simply told me to get the Austin Amber. Excellent advice. We ordered one chili sampler and one house salad, two eating utensils. And it was all just delicious.
We’ll take a third and final shot tomorrow at Franklin BBQ. We plan to be there at 10:45—with a little luck, the line will be short. With bad luck, we’ll just starve.
Oh, and supper? We thought we’d try the Chicken Lollipop Chinese a ways north up I-35. Wasn’t operational. Ended up circling back to a Chinese buffet we passed along the way. It wasn’t very good.
The morning dawned blustery and extremely cold—temperatures in lower 20s and biting winds. Facing the long drive to Dallas, we decided to take a quick tour of the State Capitol and give Franklin BBQ one last try. Maybe if we were early—and given the nasty weather—the line would be short or even nonexistent.
The Capitol building is grand with all its soaring spaces, heavy wood, polychromed cast iron and colorful terrazzo. It is also Arctic cold. Enjoyed our little explore and on the way out I saw a lovely bride and her groom/new husband trying to capture the moment with selfies in the rotunda. I offered my congratulations—she was ethereal—and offered to act as wedding photographer. Took a couple of snaps and my Dear One and I were on our way back to the car and Franklin BBQ.
Which was mobbed. The line was much longer than the day before. We didn’t even contemplate a stop and conferred about our options. I had found a place called “Hopdoddy.” My Dear One said fine as long as it was in the right direction, which is to say more or less north of where we were at that point. It was indeed located thataway so we followed Fiona’s guidance and arrived shortly after noon.
A long line of would-be diners stood in the frigid air, prepared to wait 25 minutes or more for their lunch. The Hopdoddy employee was sweet and seemed charmed by our shock, and the crowd assembled laughed when I pointed out that I have nevah, evah been anywhere in the world in my life where people were as willing to stand in line to eat as they were in Austin, Texas.
Back to the car and Fiona. This time we searched for “fast food” and found a nearby Whataburger (a place not unlike McDonald’s but not McDonald’s and you can get a malted vanilla shake there). We arrived. We ordered. We ate. We washed our hands and left, soon to be back on the northbound lanes of the rumble strip bound for Dallas.
Apparently Franklin BBQ will be opening in March a take-away window in an old Gulfstream trailer parked behind the restaurant. It’s a really, really good idea.