Monday, December 19, 2011

Casa Chapala

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with my Hispanic roots, but I live with a never ending craving for delicious Mexican food. And most of the time that void can't be filled with the run of the mill Tex-Mex that can be found around Austin. So during one of my recent rants about not finding good Mexican dishes in town, someone suggested I visit Casa Chapala. I had never been, so I decided to pay them a visit on Sunday.
3010 Anderson Lane, Austin
Photo: foursquare

We visited the original location on Anderson Lane, and as soon as we entered the place, I felt right at home. This is the kind of place I enjoyed eating at back in the Rio Grande Valley. On our way to Casa Chapala we placed a call to see what time breakfast cut off time was, the lady on the other end told my girlfriend 2:00 pm. It was 1:30, we were good. We arrived and were quickly seated, no wait! A server took our drink order and in no time another guy arrived to prepare a small batch of salsa in a molcajete according to our personal heat preference. We chose mild. The salsa was wonderful, with the warm tortilla chips. When our waiter arrived we asked to see a breakfast menu. He adviced us that breakfast cut off time was 1:00 pm, we told him we called in. He said he would check. After a few minutes he arrived with the breakfast menu and told us we could still have our breakfast. YESSS! After browsing through the menu for a few minutes, we were ready to order. I decided on the Asada and Eggs, which is carne asada and two eggs cooked to your liking. My girlfriend chose the Chilaquiles Rojos, diced bell pepper, onion, and crispy fried tortilla chips scrambled with egg and topped with salsa. Both were served with rice and our choice of either refried, charro, or black beans. My asada plate also came with my choice of corn or flour tortillas. I'm a flour tortilla fan. While we waited, we decided to have an appetizer: shrimp and mango ceviche. Oh yeah!

table side salsa

Shrimp and Mango Ceviche

After a few minutes our waiter arrived with the ceviche. It wasn't exactly what we were expecting but it was still very good. It was full of small salad sized shrimp, but they went really light on the mango. So much that that don't think I had more than two bites with a taste of it. Anyway, the true test would be the actual plates. When they finally arrived, I couldn't believe my eyes. These plates were served just like back home, nice big plates of deliciousness. My Asada and eggs were amazing! Plenty of well seasoned meat topped with scrambled eggs. The meat was thinly sliced and cooked to perfection. It was moist and melted in my mouth, no toughness at all. The rice and beans were great as well. My girlfriends Chilaquiles were pretty good too. The chips were crispy, as they should be. Her only complaint was that they weren't really full of flavor and seemed to be missing any seasoning. But after using the salt and pepper shakers on our table, they were good to go. 



Asada and Eggs

Chilaquiles Rojos

I have to say that Casa Chapala is officially my new favorite Mexican restaurant in town. As a matter of fact we are going back tonight to have dinner. If authentic Mexican food is what you are craving, look no further than Casa Chapala. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Austin Java


I'm a fan of Austin Java. I've lived in Austin a little over two years now, and have only been there a handful of times, but I've never been disappointed with their quality and service. They have a few locations across town, and they serve breakfast all day! So when Sunday came around and I was craving an awesome omelette, only one place came to mind.


1608 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
Photo: Citysearch
 
We decided to hit the Barton Springs location. I like this location due to the fact that you actually get waited on instead of ordering at a counter. Call me lazy but I hate to get up to refill my own drinks. Another plus is you can park in the garage in the back and have your parking validated by your server. We got there and after a short wait we were seated and ready to grub! We looked through the menu while we were waiting so we ordered right away. We started off by ordering some chips and queso as an appetizer. I decided on The Hippie Hollow omelette, which is filled with spinach, tomatoes, mushroom, onions, and red bell peppers. Awesome, but I requested no mushrooms. My girlfriend chose the Spinach and Artichoke Eggs Benedict, which is two poached eggs over and english muffin topped with spinach artichoke dip and hollandaise sauce. Nice! All breakfast dishes are served with your choice of wheat toast and jam, English muffin, taters, black beans, or a cup of fresh fruit. I decided on black beans, the girlfriend decided on the taters.


Chips and Queso
Our chips and queso arrived and we commenced to chow down. Their version is made with white cheese and was super tasty. My only complaint was that it was not as warm as I would've liked, but I soon forgot about that as we sat there and killed the bowl clean. A little later our plates arrived. The waitress asked my girfirend to cut into her eggs to make sure they weren't runny, since she had asked for them to be cooked hard. Still runny. She apologized and took her plate and said she would take care of it right away. My omelette looked perfect, and just like I imagined it. My girlfriend's plate returned, eggs fully cooked, and we began to grub. My omelette had the perfect amount of sauteed veggies and the eggs were cooked just right. My black beans came topped with melted cheese, a definite plus. My girlfriend's eggs benedict were super good as well and complimented the homemade taters.


The Hippie Hollow Omelette


Spinach and Artichoke Eggs Benedict

Overall, Austin Java is a winner in my book. Great food, quality ingredients, and excellent service always makes for an awesome Brunch experience!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blue Oak Grill


2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock

This weeked I decided to visit Round Rock to see what kind of brunch spot I could find. Up until now, I pretty much stayed in the Austin area, so I decided it was time to leave my brunching comfort zone. I settled on a spot I'd read about and driven past a few times:  Blue Oak Grill.

My girlfriend and I arrived at The Blue Oak Grill at around 12:30 Sunday afternoon, and immediately sensed trouble. The parking lot was pretty much empty! I figured the rain and cold weather was keeping people indoors, so we decided to stay. I should've followed my gut instinct. We were seated and our waiter quickly took our drink orders and brought out a plate of honey cornbread. Yum! They were nice and warm and topped with honey, I figured we were about to have an excellent brunch. I was wrong. The brunch menu was small, but had a few things that looked good. My girlfriend and I both decided on a plate called The Cowboy Up. It consisted of crumbled sausage and bacon grilled with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms, topped with three fried eggs and cheese with a side of hashbrowns. We waited and filled up on more honey cornbread.

Honey Cornbread


The Cowboy Up

Our plates arrived and we realized our plates were missing cheese. My girlfriend and I were sure the menu said WITH CHEESE, but weren't positive as our menus were no longer on the table. When our waiter came around to check on us, we asked and he replied "No, but I can get you all some". Then he came back with two tiny caps of cheese. We asked for more. Then just for our own peace of mind logged on to our phones to double check the menu. The Cowboy Up did indeed come with cheese. We didn't mention it, but big points off for not getting the order right and for the waiter not knowing the menu. The food, was decent, but nothing to get excited about. We both agreed that this was a dish we could have ordered at Denny's or IHop for half the price.

Overall, a pretty dissapointing brunch experiece. I will definitely not be returning, and next time I will definitely follow my gut.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Taco Ole (Rio Grande Valley)

2620 W. Freddy Gonzalez, Edinburg, Tx.
Last week I spent Thanksgiving with family in the Rio Grande
Valley. When Sunday rolled around, I thought of maybe taking a week off from my Sunday brunch....couldn't do it! So I found myself visiting one of my favorite spots for Mexican food in Edinburg, TX:  Taco Ole.

Taco Ole, is one of the reasons I miss The Valley. Authentic Mexican food made from scratch - hand rolled tortillas, caldos, enchiladas, and of course my top can't-find-this-in-Austin favorite....the botana. But that's another story for another time. Today, BREAKFAST. So the girlfriend, her parents, and I decided to see what their menu had in store. I immediately set my eyes on the chicken fried steak plate. My girlfriend, as some of you may know by now, is a migas fanatic. So migas for her, and her parents as well.

Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs Plate

As soon as our plates arrived, I was in love. My plate consisted of a good sized chicken fried steak with country gravy, two eggs, hashbrowns and my texas toast. And let me tell you, it was a proper meal! My chicken fried steak was seasoned and breaded just right. And their country gravy was perfect, not to thin, not to thick.  The migas plates on the table were legit as well. All were the same, except my girlfriend chose yellow american cheese, her mom went with the queso blanco. Excellent choice! All the plates were awesome and the service was excellent.

Migas a la Mexicana 

Besides a delicious breakfast menu, Taco Ole has a regular menu with all the mexican dishes you can think of, but too many to list here. They also have three other locations - two in Sharyland and another in Mission. So if you find yourself down in South Texas, stop by Taco Ole and tell them The Brunching Bloke sent you. I guarantee you'll love it!

Migas a la Mexicana (queso blanco)




Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sazón

1816 South Lamar, Austin
I love South Austin. The food, the people, the vibe. So today I thought I'd take a trip down past the river for some brunch. After some deliberating, the girlfriend and I decided on Sazon on South Lamar. This wasn't our first visit, I had their dinner once and was pretty impressed, so thought I'd give the breakfast a try.

Sazon has a small breakfast menu featuring some standard Mexican dishes as well as some more adventurous ones. I had the Envuelto De Huitlacoche, which is an omelet with queso fresco and corn truffle. For those who don't know, corn truffle is basically a fungus that grows on corn. While most american farmers hate the thing, it is considered a delicacy in Mexico and other parts of the world. Personally, I'm not a fungus type of guy, I really don't do mushrooms - but I thought I'd give this dish a try. The plate came with my choice of beans and a side of potatoes.  My girlfriend had the migas, a standard dish at any Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant, but I was curious to see what Sazon would do with them.
Envuelto De Huitlacoche
My dish arrived and it looked appealing to the eye. But after taking a bite I realized one thing...I just couldn't get past the taste of the truffles. The omelet was prepared well and the queso fresco was excellent. And I gotta give Sazon kudos for using fresh ingredients, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I also felt that the omelet could of used a little more queso fresco and less truffles. But then again I'm a huge cheese fan and that's just a matter of opinion. I really did enjoy the side of refried black beans and the breakfast potatoes were also pretty good served with sauteed onions. I do have to say that while my truffle eating experience wasn't a great one, my girlfriend enjoyed taking them off my plate and adding them to her migas. Which gets me to her plate. Now I enjoy a good plate of migas, but I have to say I wasn't too impressed with Sazon's version. Again, the ingredients were fresh - diced veggies and corn tortilla chips, and it's really hard to mess up a plate of migas. But at the end I have to say they were just ok. Definitely not the best I've tried, but not the worst either.
Migas
Overall, the service was good and I'd like to visit again and try some of their more adventurous dinner items. But I think I'll pass on the breakfast.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Papi Tino's

1306 E. Sixth Street, Austin
Today I decided to hit up East Sixth Street for my weekly brunch spot - Papi Tino's to be exact. This place is a little hard to find, as the restaurant name is nowhere to be found outside. Look for an old white frame house, the address is posted on a small wooden sign hanging on a tree.

Papi Tino's is a really cool spot, and I'd say a cute place to take a first date for brunch or dinner and make a good impression. There's a choice of indoor or outdoor seating, or you can also order and eat at the bar. It was a nice day and all outdoor seating was full, so we found a table inside. A piano player banged out some tunes as we entered...very nice!

Michelada 
The waiter was prompt and quickly asked if it was our first visit (it was). He proceeded to tell us how Papi Tino's uses fresh and local ingredients and took our drink order. While most folks enjoy mimosas or a bloody mary with their brunch, I'm more of a michelada kind of guy. My girlfriend went with the mimosa with agua de fruta and I went with the michelada with a Pacifico cerveza, served on ice. I get laughs when I say I'm a connoisseur of things, but I'm dead serious when I tell you that I'm a connoisseur of micheladas. I've had them all over the state of Texas and Mexico, and let me tell you Papi Tino's makes a MEAN ONE! So if they are your thing, you must try them here.



The Brunch menu is simple but effective. A few egg dishes, chilaquiles, enchiladas (suizas, rojas, de mole) and ceviche of the day. I was here for one thing - the chilaquiles. A few days ago my girlfriend showed me a picture of them that someone shared on twitter. I was sold, hence the trip today! Papi Tino's serves a traditional take on chilaquiles, and offers them tossed in your choice of salsa verde or roja. They are served with their homemade tortilla chips, cheese, chicken and mexican cream. Both my girlfriend and I had the same thing in mind, so she went with the roja and I went with the verde. They were both great! The chips were crisp and tasty, and not soggy, which is a must for real chilaquiles. The cheese was nicely melted and the chicken was tender. The only thing I'd like to note is that the verde version is a little spicier than the roja, but if you don't mind a little extra heat, I'd choose the verde which is tomatillo based. Either way you can't go wrong, it's just a matter of preference.

Do yourself a favor and check out Papi Tino's. I'll be stopping by for dinner soon!


Chilaquiles with salsa verde


Chilaquiles with salsa roja and huevos








Sunday, November 6, 2011

Manny's Uptown Kitchen

9503 Research Blvd., Suite 650, Austin
Photo: Eater Austin
Let me begin by saying Manny's Uptown Kitchen does not disappoint! I've eaten at this spot twice before, but never tried their breakfast. Man, am I glad I did.

After carefully browsing through the extensive menu, I opted for the Uptown Hash, which is "two fried eggs atop a hash of corned beef, pastrami, onions, bell peppers, and pimento cheese" (I couldn't find the words to describe, so I had to rip it straight off their menu), served with two of their infamous potato cakes and toast. The girlfriend went with The Breakfast Bundle, which is two eggs any way, your choice of bacon (Applewood or pastrami), two potato cakes AND a short stack of flapjacks! Both of our dishes were excellent! And having her as my brunch partner every Sunday is great, as I get to eat off and review two plates....win-win!

Uptown Hash

I asked that my eggs be cooked hard (I don't do runny) and they got it right! The hash and veggies were seasoned and cooked to perfection and my potato cakes were great - not too soft, not too crispy. My girlfriend's plate looked great as well, and her Applewood bacon was super tasty. And to end our meal we shared her flapjacks topped with whipped butter and warm maple syrup. No matter what breakfast dish you order, make sure you get the potato cakes.

The Breakfast Bundle

Overall my experience was excellent, my only complaint was our waiter was missing in action most of our visit. He did refill my drink once without me asking, but was nowhere to be found when my girlfriend needed hers topped off. To his credit, this same server had waited our table on a previous visit and was on top of his game then, so it may have just been an off day for him. I suggest giving Manny's Uptown Kitchen a try....you won't regret it!

The Brunching Bloke ready to grub!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bacon

900 West 10th Street, Austin
So today the girlfriend and I decided to hit up a fairly new spot named Bacon. Being a fan of bacon (and pork in general) it sounded like a plan. However, today I had something else in mind - chicken and waffles!

Chicken and waffles is an all time fave of mine, and I still find it a little irritating that this tasty combo can only be found in a handful of menus in town. So once I heard that it was an item on their menu, I planned to make this spot my weekly brunch trek.

Bacon has a simple, yet diverse menu ranging from breakfast plates to burgers and sandwiches, all bacon infused or inspired. And for all you late risers, they serve breakfast all day. But back to the lecture at hand....CHICKEN and WAFFLES! Bacon does an awesome job! They serve you two plump buttermilk battered ckicken cutlets on top of a tasty waffle. Add the seasoned butter and syrup and you are good to go! I've tried this dish at every other place in town that has it available, and I think it's safe to say while it's not #1 on my list, it is one of my top three.
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Hey guys, do you know of an awesome brunch spot I should check out in Austin? Let me know here or write on my Facebook wall. Thanks!

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