You can’t escape Austin’s current ramen fetish, and the craze doesn’t seem to be losing momentum. In fact, by the time I finish this post I suspect at least two new ramen restaurants well pop up (not really, but in coming weeks… really). If you don’t mind leaving the safety of downtown Austin, journey just a few minutes north to Michi. Besides, it’s the only ramen joint that currently has a permanent veggie option.
And that veggie option is good.
My partner ordered the first ramen on the list, “Michi.” You can choose to have your ramen light or stout, and the general consensus is that stout is the way to go. His friends ordered Meat Lover’s, and all four of us paid extra to make it “extra spicy.” The consensus overall was, “That wasn’t spicy AT ALL.” Said disappointment aside, I returned another day for lunch and requested that they make it “Extra, extra spicy,” and that time they delivered. I suppose if you hope for spice you’d better really stress it to them, otherwise it’ll be a bit lackluster.
There are a lot of different things you can add on to the ramen. Green onions are free, but everything else will cost about $0.50-1 extra. I prefer the less expensive onsen (lightly boiled egg) to the ajitama (marinated soft-boiled egg). As far as sides go, the burnt ends (chashu, or rather pork) were a hit amongst the carnivores. I think they preferred it to the ramen, but these were the types to find ramen a bit exotic for their tastes.
Pistchio & Cherry Blossom Mochi
I thought the veggie ramen was fantastic, filling, and richer than expected, but what meal is complete without dessert? I’ve had my fair share of Asian desserts, and then some. No one else at the table knew what mochi was, but I was quick to insist that everybody have one! We weren’t as thrilled with the cherry blossom flavored mochi as we were the pistachio, but come on… nothing beats pistachio ice cream.
Main complaint? That iPad ordering system gets awkard when you pay the bill, but it isn’t enough to keep me from coming back. If you haven’t had ramen at Michi yet, go!
Malaga is a Spanish tapas bar tucked away near the end of the 2nd Street district. I’ve been in there for dinner before, but it was years ago and checking back on my old Yelp reviews… I didn’t necessarily love it. (Nor did I hate it.) I was bored around lunchtime, wandering through the area a few weeks ago, and decided to try them out for lunch.
Their weekend lunch happy hour has discounted food and drinks. Day-drinking is a hobby habit of mine, and to grab some good $4.50 wine at 1:30 in the afternoon was a delight.
Weekend Lunch Happy Hour(s)
The $10 lunch special I had allowed me to pick a few of my own tapas, and start it all off with a soup or salad. I went with the soup, a gazpacho, and it did not disappoint. I’d show you pictures of it if it wasn’t just so damn unphotogenic. I know that’s not a word.
Two Tapas Lunch
The tapas I chose were peppers stuffed with a creamy blend of cheeses, and shrimp served with aioli and a side of plantains. It was worth it for the money, and people-watching on the patio made it spectacular.
Overall, I think Malaga has a very decent lunch, but it’s been too long for me since I had dinner there to comment further. Just today I overheard two friends discussing how much they enjoyed brunch at this place, but I haven’t tried that yet. All I can say is, if you’re downtown on a weekend between 11:30-2, give lunch a chance.
We recently ventured just a hair north of our usual “downtown bubble” to grab a late lunch at Roll On Sushi Diner. With quick service, inventive rolls, and a slight obsession with social media (hey! I can relate!) they won us over.
It would have been nice if we had made it in time for happy hour, which is the usual Monday-Friday 5-7 business with a nice lunchtime edition available on Saturday from 11-1. Then we could’ve gotten dumplings and nigiri for under $3, and washed it all down with $1 off beer and wine. Regardless of not having perfect timing, the prices were still completely fair.
My hippie roll tasted as healthy as it was, and that’s not a bad thing. Roll On is pretty famous for their less healthy items, like the Cholesta Roll which involves mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, and green beans. My partner, who has absolutely no qualms about putting things like chicken into sushi, loved “The Grouch.” It was roasted chicken, green chile, jack cheese, onions, arugula, and aioli. He won’t admit it, but I think he secretly loves mayo/aioli, so it was a double-win for him. As soon as this is published, he will be mad at me, but I’m not the one with a jar of remoulade, mayo, and sour cream in my refrigerator YOU DAIRY LOVER!
Roll On has a real 50’s diner feel, hospitable owners, and even a flat screen displaying all the tweets people make about them, which of course is what I was doing while eating because you know, if a tree falls in a forest and no one tweets about it…
Nestled between Eddie V’s and Rivals Steakhouse downtown you’ll find one of Austin’s newest bars with a surprisingly decadent menu. Forget bar food, this is authentic Russian, comrades!
Cocktail with Champagne, Vodka, & Berries
The breakfast drinks were $5 a piece, with the full menu offered (food AND drink-wise!). Have you seen the list of crazy vodka infusions that they do? You can have insane mixtures late at night or with brunch at Russian House! I strongly recommend having a designated driver if you feel compelled to start that early.
Decorations at Russian House
The entrance to Russian House features a taxidermied bear, Russian soldier costumes for you to wear in photos, and more Soviet kitsch than you can shake a sickle at. The adorable patio has hand painted strawberries on the ceiling, and in the back there’s a beaded curtain leading to an even cuter dining room. The middle is a vacant dance floor (unless you’re there at night).
The blinis (shown above) run about $3.50 and up, and come stuffed with various meats, cheeses, and even caviar. My partner went with the ham and cheese version.
Mashed Potatoes The mashed potatoes were cheap as well, and very different from other mashed potatoes. They were somehow more dense and chewy.
The Virgin Mary?
The fish delicacy appetizer is about $15 and is more fish than one person can handle. Two of the fish types were hot smoked, and one was cold smoked. The quality was good.
They thew in a side of bread and sour cream that tasted more like creme fraiche, which I absolutely loved. My only complaint was that I wished they served more dill… and that the waitresses weren’t sort of dressed up like maids. That part was a bit weird for me. Overall, I like Russian house. It’s weird, it’s kitsch, and the prices are completely fair. Go at night, go if you feel like clubbing, go for Sunday brunch, or even just go for lunch. They somehow manage to do it all without failing at any particular part of it.
Banger’s is the new sausage and beer garden on Rainey Street that’s famous for their 103 taps. I’ve been 3 times so far, and though they’ve been less than perfect when I went, I love it. Perhaps it’s because they carry sours?
The first time I went was at night (hence the shotty photography). They were incredibly busy, and their famous tap wall was broken. I’m chalking that up as a one-time thing, but it did have a profound effect on our enjoyment of our evening. This is a place where you come for the beer and stay for the sausage! Or is that the other way around?
Who knew that fresh, sliced tomatoes could be such a win? This delicious side comes with basil and can have goat cheese added on for as little as 75 cents. Trust me, this simplistic side is a must.
Also on the healthy produce list? Pickled vegetables served up in a mason jar and extra briny. These, I could live without, but did like them.
The sausages are both sizable and endlessly customizable. You have 3 vegetarian sausage choices (I choose the mushroom one), and more meat options than you can shake a piece of venison at. After that, you choose your type of bun, garnishes (including BYFO peppers which stands for “Burn Your Face Off”), and sauces.
You’re going to want to put the spicy mustard on the side, and think hard about whether or not you want the BYFO peppers. I’m Cajun, and this place terrifies me when it comes to heat. Spicy really does mean spicy to them.
My partner got the chili cheese fries. It’s literally a tray filled with, well, what’s shown above. It is a monstrosity (portion-wise) and should be shared by, I don’t know, 50 people?
The very best time to come is during lunch. They have an “Executive Lunch” deal which is any sausage, any side, and any Texas draft for $8. Sausage and beer fans rejoice!
Oh, and they have a deal with a tattoo artist. Really. You can get a free tattoo of the Bangers logo if you like them that much. I like them a lot, but only enough to make Executive Lunch a regular staple to my diet.
Truth be told, food has come out wrong 2 out of the 3 times we went, but the errors were minor and all new restaurants are going to experience growing pains; so grab your dog (there’s a dog run!), a drinking buddy, and your appetite. I think Banger’s is really going to impress you.
I admit to being less than dazzled by Hillside Farmacy the first time I ate there, but a follow-up visit about a month later really won me over. Fresh seafood? Yes, please.
The cost of a cocktail is a bit on the pricey side, and the same goes for mimosas. If you have to have a drink with your breakfast (I know I do!) I think the carafe is the most affordable way to go. The orange juice is super pulpy, which I view as a mega-plus.
The croque monsieur (shown above) was a big hit with my partner. He had a pretty bad experience with a grilled cheese-like sandwich, the “dough well done,” on our first visit so I’d steer clear of that one.
The smoked salmon was a hit with both of us, except for the cole slaw, which is a matter of personal preference. I HATE COLE SLAW!
As pretty as those boiled shrimp look, they weren’t really worth it. Don’t get me wrong, they taste fine. I just can’t justify what you get for the cost on that one. It’s extremely plain, but maybe you’ll be into it; who knows?
As adorable as the food and space are at this hip, little gem… I must confess that the seating is extremely uncomfortable and tables are painfully small.
Pro-tip: They have half-off all oysters every Monday!
All in all, do I like Hillside? I love it! Grab that citrusy delicious crab salad and a carafe, and go have brunch!
1st Chinese BBQ is one of those places where you find a string of cooked ducks hanging behind glass, and staff with a slight language barrier. We were some of the only white people in there, and that’s generally a good sign.
This is not by any stretch of the imagination, a vegetarian’s paradise. In fact, it’s probably their worst nightmare. In an effort to avoid both pork broth and cute, dead things, I chose vegetables and soup. The boyfriend, on the other hand, had tender pork with rice.
The prices are right, the meat is perfect, but the location is in the nether regions of North Austin. If you’re wanting to cruise the nearby Asian markets, then stop for a tasty lunch, it’s well worth it.