Fifteen food trucks have taken over the property at the corner of Rainey and Driskill Streets for SXSW. This pop-up food truck court, christened "SouthBites," was curated by Austin star chef Paul Qui.
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The number of food trucks in Austin is overwhelming. With more than 1,000 trucks (many with quirky and kitschy themes, like "Biscuits and Groovy"), some might even say the scene is saturated. Don't settle for mediocre food served from gimmicky trucks! For this list, we wanted to highlight the trucks that represent the Austin scene at its best—scrappy entrepreneurs making excellent food with minimal overhead.
Assembling a list of only 10 must-eats is difficult in a city like Austin where new restaurants and food trucks are opening constantly. With many out-of-towners visiting for SXSW, we've assembled a collection of eats that are representative of Austin's personality: barbacoa taco, rabbit and dumplings, barbecue, and more!
Food truck empire East Side King expanded westward last month to dive bar and live music venue Hole in the Wall. As the first brick and mortar location, it has greatly increased the quality of food options in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. So what does a permanent kitchen with running water mean for the menu? Paul Qui of Top Chef fame and partner Motoyasu "Moto" Utsunomiya have revived a ramen program that was originally available at the Grackle location, but they've developed new flavors.
If Paul Qui's fine dining food is like a sweet, quiet, bespectacled, intelligent sister, the food he serves from his three East Side King trucks is like the uncle who crashes the wedding, steals the bride, covers her in Japanese mayonnaise, smokes a joint with her behind the chapel, and carries her off on his motorcycle while simultaneously rocking out on his guitar. Now, don't you want to see?
It's hard to resist ordering something called "tongue bun." One, because it's filled with tongue. Two, because you get to say "tongue bun." Beyond the novelty, though, these are two fine little creatures from East Side King, the trailer from the chefs behind Austin's much raved-about contemporary Japanese restaurant Uchi.
Parked in the backyard of an Austin dive bar, East Side Kings is imaginative Asian-inspired drinking food done right, run by talented chefs from the city's best sushi restaurant. SE editors Erin Zimmer and Robyn Lee tried it last year on their SE book research trip, and left a little obsessed with the late-night fried beets, fried brussel sprouts, and this Thai Chicken Karaage. It's genius drinking food: the sort of crunchy, fried, salty, spicy stuff that was born to be paired with cold beers.
Beet fries. That's all Robyn and I needed to hear to get us to East Side King when in Austin recently. The food cart, covered in a brightly-painted cyclops design, is nestled in the backyard of an East Austin dive bar, The Liberty. It's yet another mobile food business launched by restaurant chefs: in this case sous chef Paul Qui and sushi chefs Moto Utsonomaya and Ek Timrek from Austin's much raved-about contemporary Japanese restaurant Uchi. It opens nightly from 7 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. and a good chunk of the menu involves the word "fried." Like those beets.