I’m spending a few days after Thanksgiving in Austin for vacation, mostly trying to focus on trying new and/or iconic foods. It’s my first time in Texas, excluding airport transfers.
I started off by visiting some Austin institutions that have terrible (aka 3.5 star) Yelp reviews.
My first stop was Texas Chili Parlor. Open since 1976 and a filming location for Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof film. Also the subject of a song by Guy Clark:
It’s close to the Texas State Capitol building and has kind of a dive bar aesthetic. I had the CHILI SAMPLER ($12.50) where one can pick three of their chilis. I had mine with the CHUNKY BEEF NO BEANS, medium (XX) spicy, the HABANERO BEEF & PINTO BEANS, which does have beans (gasp!), and the WHITE PORK CHILI Pork Sirloin, White Beans & Hatch Chile which also has beans. I also added some shredded cheese and sour cream on the side. All chilis come with a basket of plastic wrapped saltines, pickled jalapeños, and raw onions. Pretty good chili, though I thought it needed a little salt which was easily remedied with the salt shaker on the table. The beef in the traditional chunky chili was quite tender, as was the pork in the (New Mexico style?) white chili. The Habanero Beef & Pinto bean chili had ground beef and a little heat that was tamed by a little sour cream and cheese. Good chili flavor in the traditional beef chili.
I also had a Mad Dog Margarita ($8.00) Monte Alban Mezcal and Triple Sec with fresh lime, which is basically a margarita with mezcal instead of Tequila. It’s also mentioned in the above Guy Clark song. It may have been a little smokier than a regular margarita due to the mezcal.
Friendly service and they also gave me a bumper sticker.
Next stop for dinner #2 was Matt’s El Rancho. Open since 1952 and famous for the creation of the “Bob Armstrong Dip,” a dip with Texas queso, avocado, ground beef named after and invented by Texas politician Bob Armstrong. Naturally I had to try this dip. I had a small order ($9.95). It was like the topping of nachos, only with the chips on the side. A good dip, very rich. The avocado was slices of whole avocado rather than in guacamole form. The cheese was liquid and stayed that way.
I also had a Matt’s Knockout Martini ($18.95) Milagro Reposado Tequila, Cointreau & Fresh Lime Juice. An expensive cocktail but not really considering the shaker contained about 3 or so drinks! This was like a margarita but with olives and maybe some olive brine for some savoriness. Note that there are enough olives for about 3 drinks as well. Tasty and good to cut through the rich queso.