Sapporo Beer Bacon Miso Ramen
Beer ramen? It's a thing. Chef Paul Qui of East Side King food truck and restaurant describes their ramen as decidedly non-traditional, instead playing with Southeast Asian and Mexican influences on a bacon-based dashi. Strange as though the combination might sound, you can't deny that this is a crave-worthy bowl cup of noodles.
East Side King: 2538 Guadalupe Street, Austin TX 78705 (map); 512-422-5884
Fricano's is an offbeat deli and neighborhood hangout in a strip mall near the University of Texas in Austin. It's a laidback place plastered with artwork and hand-written menus, run by a dedicated group of friends that have taken the business from hidden gem to one of the city's favorite sandwich spots since opening in 2006.
Although they've developed a number of hot dogs, the Reuben Dog is a popular choice, and it well should be. The franks are wrapped in a generous amount of corned beef and dropped into a freshly baked hot dog bun from Central Market and piled high with sauerkraut and Swiss, dripping with homemade Thousand Island dressing.
[Photograph courtesy of Fricano's Deli]
Located right next to the UT's campus, Loveballs is a food truck specializing in Japanese food like takoyaki, the pancake-like balls stuffed with octopus or mushrooms. They're crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. These 'Love Balls' could convert any octopus hater. They're also, shall we say, ballin' when smothered in spicy kimchi.
Shiner Bock Beer-Battered Monte Cristo
A food truck run by a husband-and-wife team, Hey!..You Gonna Eat or What?, makes a Shiner Bock Beer-Battered Monte Cristo with pit-smoked ham, mesquite-smoked turkey, cheddar cheese, provolone cheese, homemade cherry-fig jelly, AND housemade potato chips. This is a monster sandwich that's hard to pass up.
Pork Floss Crepe
Crepes Mille is a food truck on South Congress Avenue that offers a variety of crepes, both sweet and savory. But even on a menu that includes BBQ Brisket, Panang Curry, and Korean Bulgogi, one especially standout crepe is the Pork Floss crepe. Filled with finely shredded sweet dried pork, mayonnaise, and Sriracha sauce, this crepe is like a meaty and spicy dessert, and reminiscent of the rousong-stuffed buns of Singapore.
Crepes Mille: 1318 South Congress Avenue Austin, TX 78704 (map); 512-919-2416; crepesmille.com
The 'Predator and Prey' (a.k.a. Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage)
This wins the title of "weirdest sausage we've ever eaten." From the Wurst Tex cart, this is a rabbit and rattlesnake sausage with peppers and onions on a long bun. While a tasty sausage, juicy-middled and well-seasoned and as meaty as you'd like, the bunny and snake meats weren't really discernible, particularly with peppers and onions thrown on top. That might be a good thing?
Brisket Cheesesteak 'Panaani'
Whip In is a relaxed hodgepodge convenience store, bar, restaurant, and live music venue. This family-owned operation has been refining its brand of weirdness for over 20 years. They stock locally-made artisan food products, gourmet ice creams, and specialty wines and beer, and are known for their "panaani" sandwiches. The Silly Cheese Panaani is made with homemade naan and filled with slow roasted brisket, American cheese, green pepper, and tomato chutney. It hits all the right meaty-spicy-cheesy notes. Somehow simultaneously managing to be a quesadilla, a cheesesteak, and a roti roll all at once, but none of the above, it's hard to go wrong with this weird one.
The hot dogs at Frank range from classic to wildly unpredictable; one of their artisanal hot dogs is the Jackalope, with a custom-made rabbit, antelope, and pork sausage, topped with cranberry compote, cheddar, and Sriracha aioli.
Tacodeli has a taco for just about everyone: the staunch carnivores, the vegetarians, locavores, vegans, gluten-free people, the food-adventurous, and even just picky eaters. But the Tacoloco, filled with brisket braised until fall apart-soft in adobo sauce, then topped with guacamole, cilantro, queso, is a shining star in this menu and definitely worth trying.
'The James Hetfield' Sandwich
Nestled amongst a group of food trucks along East 6th Street is Rockin' Rolls, a truck baking up rich brioche-like rolls daily and filling them with rockstar-inspired ingredients.
The James Hetfield is a stuffed with "Master of Puppets" bacon-wrapped meatloaf blasted with "ride the lightning" spicy ketchup. Opening your mouth wide enough to eat this sandwich might prove to be a challenge, but don't let that stop you from appreciating the well-seasoned juiciness of the meatloaf, the spice of the ketchup, or the crispy saltiness of the bacon.
Kielbasa and Poppy Seed Kolaches
Kolaches are a pastry originating in central Europe that are popular in southeast Texas, but not so much anywhere else. They're a remnant of the Czech immigration to Texas in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
There are many places to pick up a kolache in Austin, but Lone Star Kolaches is reliable for its huge selection of kolaches, especially in the savory department. The kielbasa kolache stuffs a large link of the Polish sausage inside the dense and chewy breading. It's also one of the few places in town to pick up a traditional poppy seed kolache.
[Photographs: Meredith Bethune]
Beet Home Fries
Potatoes are the standard starchy vegetable for home fries, and sweet potatoes are not an unusual alternative. Then why not another root vegetable like beet fries? (Thanks for going there, Austin.) Sweet candy-like centers surrounded by a paper-thin crust of crispness, these guys are best eaten fast because because they don't stay crunchy for long. East Side King is known for its unconventional ramen, but the non-noodle options are also worth a try, and offer a delicious break from slurping.