Duy Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
This Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant has a huge menu with takeout favorites like General Tso's chicken and crab rangoon, but the presence of Vietnamese singers on the restaurant's huge televisions indicated that we should order spring rolls or vermicelli. The highlight of the meal was the bánh mì bò kho, or Vietnamese beef stew, served with a side of herbs, lime, and a huge serving of French bread for dipping. The orange-tinged beef broth, kissed with the richness of fish sauce, was absolutely packed with diced green onions and a few slices of shallot. Huge chunks of soft cooked carrot and fatty chunks of beef and tendon floated in the soup.
Duy Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Suite A 101, Austin TX 78753; 512-791-5961
Short n' Sweet Cafe
This cafe is hiding some real treasures behind its bubble tea shop veneer. At first, the ice cream cooler looks stocked with the same boring Blue Bell flavors you could get at the supermarket. But look closer—wedged between the vanilla and strawberry is homemade durian frozen yogurt. When I ordered it, the young man working behind the counter looked at me skeptically and offered a sample. It was as smooth as butter with notes of pineapple and citrus, and an aftertaste reminiscent of a pungent washed-rind cheese. Not in the mood for durian? The coconut milk rice pudding flecked with cubes of purple taro and tapioca pearls is almost as good.
Short n' Sweet Cafe: 10901 North Lamar Bloulevard, Austin TX 78753; 512-873-08931
TC Noodle House
This Chinese restaurant is dedicated to the cuisine of the Teochew people of the Guangdong province in southeastern China. The menu is full of obscure dishes like a Chinese curry duck soup with egg noodles. Pools of fat shimmered on the surface of the orange broth perfumed with allspice and turmeric.The comforting congee, or rice porridge, can be ordered with chicken or seafood, and it arrives with a generous garnish of fried bread.
TC Noodle House: 10901 North Lamar Blvd, Suite B-203, Austin TX 7875; 512-873-8235; tcnhouse.com
The interior of this simply named Korean restaurant is sparse compared to the more lavish spots in town. Apparently their dishes match the atmosphere—my Korean dining partner said of the stir-fried squid dish, "This is like something we would cook at home." The spicy and complex sundae, or blood sausage stew, was the star or the table. The broth was spicy and complex, and not watered down for American palates. The kimchi pancake was a bit bland, but all of the various banchan the friendly waitress brought out more than made up for it.
Korean Grill: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX; 512-339-0234
Pho Saigon Vietnamese Noodle House
This is my go-to spot for the famous Vietnamese soup. The Austin outpost of this Houston based chain does a swift business—young Vietnamese servers buzz around this restaurant carrying giant white bowls of pho with steam rising off of them. It's not the best pho ever, but their glistening broth full of anise and cloves satisfies with beef options like rib eye, brisket, and tendon.
Pho Saigon:10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX 78753; 512-821-1022; phosaigonnoodlehouse.com
This is your source for all sorts of Chinese bakery treats. The refrigerated sponge cake rolls are so soft and delicate that each bite simply dissolves in your mouth. The purple taro sponge cake roll in particular was a revelation. It was like a giant Chinese Twinkie filled with cream, red bean paste, and taro filling that all add their own textural layer to the mix. This bakery also has a selection of satisfying savory baked foods like curry beef turnovers.
Texas Bakery: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX 78753; 512-491-8456
Peaking through the window at Baguette House, I didn't have high hopes. Pictures of sandwich options like "pastrami" and "roast chicken" lined the wall—you know, things I don't particularly look for at Chinatown Market. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized this was a marketing ploy to seem more approachable. The pork meatball banh mi seemed more like an Asian meatloaf sandwich with the regular pickled accoutements. This cafe also stocks baked goods like pâté en croûte—flaky puff pastry filled with a peppery country pâté and a bit of aspic.
Baguette House: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Suite C-312, Austin TX 78753; 512-837-9100
The proprietor is almost always manning the counter at Lily's, and he's not particularly eager to describe his banh mi fillings. Whenever I ask him what's in the #3 Lily's Gourmet Sandwich, he answers flatly, "Three kinds of pork." It's true—three distinct looking cold cuts, all pork I suppose, are piled onto this sandwich with plenty of mayonnaise. Ultimately, a panorama of mystery meats part should be part of the banh mi eating fun.
The egg rolls filled with peppery pork are can't-miss. Lily's also stocks the best Vietnamese desserts in town. You'll find homemade Vietnamese yogurt, silky flan, and rice and mung bean balls submerged in ginger syrup.
Lily's Sandwich: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX 78753; 512-973-9479
First Chinese B-B-Q
Hanging Peking ducks and other meats for take-out or eating-in greet customers as they walk through the door. No complaints about the duck or beef tendon—both were cooked until perfectly tender and heavily infused with the flavors of five spice powder. The pork was also utterly perfect texture-wise with a tender interior and crispy crust on the outside. It also makes the words "pork candy" come to mind—the marinade is cloyingly sweet.
First Chinese B-B-Q: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX 78753; 512-835-8889; firstchinesebbq.com
The store front sign gets straight to the point: "Fresh Tofu for Takeout." Ignore the other items for sale like fried banana coated in a thick doughy casing and yam fritters with shrimp. Unsurprisingly, this spot does tofu best—freshly made fried tofu is coated in pork or speckled with green onions or sesame seeds and red chili flakes.
Fresh Tofu: 10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX 78753; 512-491-9757;