Archive | March, 2012

Papi Tino’s Makes Me Happy :)

26 Mar

After my bike tour with Austin Eats Food Tours a few weeks ago, I’ve had a new appreciation for East Austin.  One great gem I recently discovered is Papi Tino’s on East 6th.  The atmosphere of a place is very important to me and Papi Tino’s absolutely delivers on this.  The restaurant, which serves fresh Mexican cuisine, is located in this adorable old house that, if the walls could talk, I am certain would have some stories to tell.  The rustic home still feels like a home, with its wooden walls stripped of many layers of paint and wallpaper, vintage fixtures in the bathroom and the space still divided into separate rooms – you almost feel as if the residents just stepped out for a moment and allowed you to stay a while, relax and make yourself at home.  There is ample outdoor seating in the front yard underneath beautiful shade trees and seating in the backyard as well.

Along with the great atmosphere also comes great food.  The menu is simple and elegant, not the typical East Austin Mexican dive (which can be great as well, by the way).  My husband and I had the guacamole to start, which was fresh and delicious.  For the main course, I ordered the Camarones a la Diabla – five or six large shrimp covered with a spicy peanut salsa on top of diced mango and avocado and garnished with baby kale, which was a nice combination of spicy and sweet.  Really good.  My husband ordered what I consider the gold standard for Mexican food – chicken enchiladas with suiza sauce.  The creamy green sauce was one of the best I’ve ever had – after he was finished eating, I scooped up the rest of the sauce with chips!

I also enjoyed their house margarita – not too sweet and very refreshing. Happy hour only runs on Saturdays from 4 to 6pm, but I imagine it is a fun one, especially on a beautiful day.  I really liked Papi Tino’s – the food was wonderful and the ambience was fantastic.  I don’t think I can get back soon enough.

Papi Tino's on Urbanspoon


Food Tripping with Austin Eats Food Tours – Part Two

6 Mar

Howdy folks!  If you recall my last post, I left you at Hops and Grain, where our bicycle tour group with Austin Eats Food Tours got to enjoy some refreshing beer samples.  So…what’s a fun thing to do with a belly full of food and beer?  Pedaling up a steep hill, of course!  Doesn’t that sound awesome?!  After leaving Hops and Grain brewery we had a slight hill to cycle up, but it really wasn’t that steep – I just found it amusing that the one hill of the entire day had to come at that particular time in the trip.  After flexing our calf muscles, we arrived at Blue Dahlia Bistro on East 11th St.  Blue Dahlia is a cafe with a European flair and my favorite part is the secluded garden patio in the back.  We enjoyed a wonderful picnic of breads, fruit, various cold cuts and cheeses, as well as a glass of wine.  Sitting on the back patio while surrounded by lush greenery was so relaxing. It was hard to pull myself away from that place.  But we still had three more stops, so back on the bikes we go!

Our picnic feast at Blue Dahlia

This next place, I must say, really captured my heart.  Way South Philly, located at 6th and Waller, specializes in authentic Philadelphia cheese steaks.  Philadelphia and its culture has always held special meaning for me.  My dad is from Philadelphia and when I was young, my family would travel up there, by motor home, to visit my grandparents.  The owner of Way South Philly, Willy Pearce, is from Philadelphia so when it comes to east coast comfort food, he knows what he’s talking about.  He’s got a Rocky Balboa theme going on, with sandwiches named after Rocky movie characters.  He hosted The Italian Stallion Challenge, in which the contenders had 36 minutes  (that’s twelve 3 minute boxing rounds) to finish an Italian Stallion sandwich, which is the size of four of his Balboa sandwiches!  The first person to finish the entire sandwich in 36 minutes was crowned The Champ and got to create and name their own sandwich.  Willy takes his sandwiches seriously and wants them to be as authentic as possible – so authentic in fact that he has the bread (called Amoroso rolls) shipped in all the way from Philadelphia!  Now that’s dedication.  I was very excited to see Tastykakes on the menu – the east coast version of Twinkies, but way better.  I haven’t had those since I was a kid!  So I will definitely be back to this trailer, with my parents in tow (my dad is already talking about it).  Oh, and one more thing – Willy is ordained, so if any of you want to get married in front of a bright red food truck over a couple of cheese steaks, you now know who to call.

Eat like a champ at Way South Philly

Willy from Philly!

At our next stop, located next to Way South Philly, we also got sandwiches.  But these sandwiches were just a tad bit colder.  Cool Haus is an ice cream truck and they specialize in delicious and inventive ice cream sandwiches, made to order. You pick your cookie and your ice cream flavor to make one awesome ice cream treat.  With ice cream flavors like sweet potato and marshmallow, balsamic fig and mascarpone or bananas foster, you are going to get some very interesting combinations.  The ingredients used are all natural and the dairy products are growth hormone free.  Very cool indeed.

Get ready for a treat at the Cool Haus!

The final stop on our tour was Buenos Aires Cafe on East 6th, a colorful and warm space with beautiful and eclectic artwork adorning the walls.  Owned and operated by Argentines, they use fresh, organic ingredients and support local farmers whenever possible.  We were offered wine and got to try two different dishes.  The first was their gnocchi quartet, which consisted of four different flavors – pumpkin-cinnamon, cilantro-jalapeno, potato-herb and sweet potato-chipolte.   All four were delicious.  The second dish was the pork tenderloin with chimichurri sauce.  It just melted in your mouth, it was so tender.  I found the food here to be of excellent quality and will be coming back.

Gnocchi at Buenos Aires Cafe

Pork tenderloin at Buenos Aires Cafe

I had such a nice time on this tour.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, I got a little exercise and I got to experience so many different eateries that I didn’t even know existed.  But what I enjoyed the most was meeting new people.  Usually one would think that a culinary food tour would be a good way for out-of-towners to get to experience Austin, and it is.  But I would say that this tour is also a great experience for us locals – a fun way to rediscover your own city and make new friends.  Thanks Andy, Scott and Rachel for such a fun day and to everyone else – sign up with Austin Eats Food Tours.  You won’t regret it.

Food Tripping with Austin Eats Food Tours – Part One

1 Mar

I had the great opportunity to join Austin Eats Food Tours on their inaugural bike tour  through East Austin.  It was so much more fun than I had anticipated!  If you’re not familiar with Austin Eats, you should be.  Owned and operated by Andy and Lindsey Potter, you are taken on a culinary trip to some of Austin best eateries, places that help give Austin it’s vibe.  Austin has truly become a foodie town and Austin Eats wants to help you experience the best, the quirkiest and the weirdest home grown places this city has to offer.  And this time, it was all experienced by bike.  So we loaded up on the three speeds, provided by Barton Springs Bikes, and headed east.

Our first stop on the tour was Love Balls, a food truck (aka the Love Balls Bus) located on East 6th in this quaint food trailer park.  With a name like that, what could they possibly be serving??  Don’t worry – it’s not as risqué as it sounds.  Love Balls, owned and operated by the husband and wife team, Gabe and Sao Rothschild, serves up Japanese street food in the form of, you guessed it, balls.  As in Takoyaki balls, which are round fried balls filled with various scrumptous morsels, such as octopus, scallions and ginger (traditional street food) or their own unique variations, such as mozzarella cheese and scallions.  We got to try both of these items, as well as the garlic yaki-onigiri, which is a grilled rice ball with soy sauce and a seaweed wrap.  So simple yet so delicious!  I really liked the flavors coming out of this truck (as well as the 1970s vibe with the 8 track) and plan on going back.  Thanks for the hospitality, Gabe!

Gabe Rothschild, groovin' with the 8 track

loving the love balls

Back on the saddle we go and head over to Cazamance, an eatery on East Cesar Chavez that specializes in West African dishes.    There we were warmly greeted by Iba Thiam, co-owner and head chef.  He enticed us with peanut butter stew, a traditional African meal that was served over rice.  I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in it, but I can tell you that is was very tasty.  Another aspect of Cazamance that I really liked was the location.  It is tucked away in the CTC Garden, a space owned by the non-profit organization, Comfort the Children International.  The eclectic outdoor space, used for various events and fundraisers, makes for a wonderful backdrop to enjoy the delicious African cuisine.

Iba Thiam

peanut butter stew

a mural in the CTC Garden

Andy Potter, Scott Hummel and Rachel Feit, my fellow trippers

The next stop on our Tour de Austin took us to Rio’s Brazilian, a colorful cafe owned by Ben Googins and Elias Martins.  These guys took their love of Brazilian food and brought it to Austin, starting as a vendor at the downtown Farmers’ Market.  They then opened up this restaurant in 2010 and serve traditional and contemporary Brazilian cuisine.  Ben greeted us and offered us their Estrogonofe de Frango, chicken stroganoff served over rice with paper-thin yuca crisps.  Yummy!  We also tried the cheese bread made with yuca flour.  This dish was delicious and gluten-free.  Rio’s also has a happy hour from 4 to 7 pm, Tuesday – Saturday.  Just might have to hit that!

Ben Googins at Rio's Brazilian

the Estrogonofe de Frango

I was working up quite a thirst by now, so it was a good thing that our next stop was at Hops and Grain, one of Austin’s  microbreweries.  They believe in minimizing their impact on the environment by giving to local environmental non-profits, packaging their beer in recyclable aluminum cans, supporting local farmers and they take their  used brewing grains to make doggie biscuits.  Very cool – I’m sure my pups would love those.  Our bicycle gang was offered three rather large tastings of any of the beers they brew.  I tried their Belgian style beer, which was refreshing, and their Ruta Maya Dark, which smelled and tasted like a cup of rich, dark coffee.  It was very smooth and very delicious.  I was already pretty full on all the food we’d eaten so far – too full in fact to finish my second beer, much less tackle the third one.  So, alas, I had to pass on the third tasting.  But I’m not too worried – I’m sure I’ll be back.

look at all those cans!

So this sounds like a great way to end the tour, right?  Wait – not so fast! We still have four more stops to go as we eat our way across East Austin.  Stay tuned for Part Two of Food Tripping with Austin Eats Food Tours.

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