Adventures in Apps: PayPal Edition

I’m pretty famous for my shameless abuse of happy hours, deal apps, and open bar parties. You really have no idea. It’s bad. (It’s good!) Recently, I was told about the PayPal app, and that you could simply use the app and get anywhere from $5 to $20 off your bill, regardless of the amount you spent. Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. Let me walk you through a day of me wreaking havoc on (just a small fraction of) these specials, and to clarify: PayPal did not contact me, and is not paying me for this post. I just wanted to share the good with you, and make you aware of the promotion while it lasts!

Macarons at La Patisserie

 Life is short, so we’re going to talk about dessert first. In addition to $9 off at Sugar Mama’s, $5 off at Holy Cacao, and another $9 at Hey Cupcake – PayPal has a discount at La Patisserie. Combine this with a sweet Yelp check-in offer for free mini-macarons with qualifying purchase, and you’re set. Did I mention that you don’t have to spend the full amount at any of these places? That’s right. You can spend, say, $6 and tip at Sugar Mama’s and still have some change left to use there for next time. Another full disclosure: I don’t think my boyfriend was aware that you didn’t have to use the full amount in one go, and came home with 3 cupcakes. I am not complaining.

Iced Coffee at Caffe Medici

 In addition to desserts, this deal also works at restaurants and coffee shops. All 3 Caffe Medici locations have it, and it’s $8. 8-freaking-dollars! That’s a lot of iced coffee! If you didn’t know already, Medici is famous for their mind-blowingly delicious coffee. They don’t serve alcohol (sad face), but the coffee drinks are top notch.

Blackened Tilapia Salad

I hate when my pictures turn out blurry! Too bad. I’m still posting this, because Turf N’ Surf Po Boy is freaking magical. Sure, the term “po boy” is a buzzkill for me, but for those out there who also avoid po boys, you can get an enormous salad. Look at that salad! It’s huge! The prices aren’t cheap, but the quality makes them worth every penny. You can even upgrade to fancy things like Chilean sea bass. Turf has a 4.5 star Yelp rating, and that’s not easy to come by, especially for a former food truck tucked into a sports bar. I can’t remember if the deal was $8 off or $9, but regardless, download the PayPal app, be sure to save the deals before you use them, and go nuts. It’s completely worth it.

If you need more pro-tips and discounts, hit me up on twitter: @amberdemure.

Oysters at Clark’s Oyster Bar

Martini + Hamster at Clark’s
Clark’s Oyster Bar is dangerously close to my house, and appeals to my need for nice atmospheres, over the top service, potent martinis, and fresh seafood.  The ambiance is perfect, despite the small space, and everything about the experience is pleasant. It’s simple luxury, nothing too seemingly flashy… Only the price.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
 I like coming here during the day. Lots of windows means basking in the sunlight, while servers in deck shoes pass out bread with sea salt to freshly seated patrons. The partner and I are a bit obsessed with trying all kinds of oysters, and chose to mix and match several. (They have 12 different varieties!) The prices range from $2.75 to $3.25 each. They definitely were some of the best oysters we’ve had in town, despite putting a (fake) mortgage on our (non-existent) house to pay for them.

The drinks were fair in price at about $10 per martini. If oysters aren’t your thing, but seafood still is, you can have their ever-so-popular red snapper ceviche, clam chowder, catch of the day, or even their $24 crab cake. In defense of that crab cake, it’s all crab, and very little “cake.”

The only thing stopping me from a weekly jaunt is the price. Maybe they’re worth it? Maybe it’s a tad too much? I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Dinner at Michi Ramen

Vegetarian Ramen at Michi
 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.

Burnt Ends
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!

Brunch at Micheladas

Riptide Oysters

I bet that you’ve never had oysters for brunch before. I’m also pretty sure that you don’t think a restaurant near The Austin Convention Center can be different from the many other chains that dot hotel-filled areas.

If the answer is yes to either of those questions, chances are that you haven’t been to Micheladas yet.

Shrimp Taco
The brunch menu is pretty standard for a Texan: migas, biscuits, breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, and more! We were excited to explore the full menu in addition to the brunch specialties. Who knew that you could find Riptide oysters on a downtown menu? Usually, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to get stuck with Gulf oysters (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing) anytime you’re craving the shelled stuff at other local restaurants. 

Dom Estable
My partner, the ultra-carnivore, chose the Dom Estable. It was a filling dish of steak fajita enchiladas, rice, and borracho beans. He claims that he downed a ridiculous amount of mimosas to combat the spiciness of his dish, but I think the fact that mimosas were only $2 each was the real reason. Did I mention that they squeeze their own juice daily? The juice makes a huge difference in mimosas, and the prices on bloodies and beer made great alternatives for when I needed to try something else. We explored the frozen margaritas, which are only $3 during their happy hour, and they were tart!

Patio at Micheladas
 Apart from their sunlit, spacious dining rooms, Micheladas has both a street-level and rooftop patio. Not only does it make it a perfect spot for a large group, you can also bring your four-legged friends along. 

The bottom line: I just had a healthy, delicious shrimp taco with copious amounts of salsa. I am full. I am happy, and I had enough mimosas to work up a nice afternoon buzz. If you like Tex-Mex, then you’ll love Micheladas.

Jester King Brewery & Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza

Commercial Suicide by Jester King

Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza is the new, permanent food source on site at Jester King Craft Brewery. (Previously, it was all just temporary food trucks.) The new spot offers something patrons of Jester King have been wanting for a long time: the ability to buy bottles of beer to take home, something which Jester King is forbidden from doing themselves by the TABC.
The Penelope

Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza opens around 12:30, which gives you time to grab your lunch before the mad rush for brewery tours begins at 1. We showed up at 12:15 and people were already hungrily waiting to order their pies.
Here Comes The Airplane…
The Penelope was sparsely topped compared to most other pizzas. The focus wasn’t on a ton of sauce or cheese, but on a few quality ingredients. The peppery arugula was one of my favorite parts. My partner says that the crust was “thin, crispy, and delicious!” while I was ambivalent. I was in it for the fresh, colorful tomatoes that I wished they’d given us more of.

Wood Oven, Not The Greatest Photo I’ve Ever Taken
 The place is about as bare bones as it gets. The “kitchen” is surrounded by the bar, it lacks walls, and the bathrooms are an annexed (yet, very clean!) airstream trailer off to the side. Luckily, Texas is pretty temperate, at least this part, and the openness shouldn’t be a problem most of the year. It covers a large amount of space and several other tables brought children with them. Watching those kids run amok over the vast, open space made me realize that this is the perfect place for small ones. It’s big enough to where little ones playing chase won’t bother any other patrons.

Jester King Brewery Tasting
 This wasn’t my first rodeo at Jester King’s brewery. My partner and I have been coming for ages, and think the $10 for 8 samples are ample, generous, and the perfect way to relax on a Saturday. The place gets PACKED. So I’d shoot for arriving as close to opening as possible, if not a few minutes before. You get to play games like corn hole, listen to some decent live bands, and take home the glass when you’re finished.

Lunch at Lucky Robot

Green Machine
People have been talking about this crazily decorated new place on SoCo, and we decided to investigate. It’s called Lucky Robot, and they’re definitely something different.

Green Machine (again!)
The moment that you’re seated you’ll hear a long spiel about how to use the “iPad ordering system.” It’s pretty easy if you’re used to a tablet, so don’t feel intimidated. You put things in at the same time if you want them to come out together, and put them in later if you want them later (helloooo deciding I want another roll!).

Japanese Pizza?
We absolutely loved our first dish, ‘The Green Machine,’ which was a sashimi dish comprised of albacore, avocado, serrano, and cilantro. I loved it, and enjoyed checking the nutritional info on each item using their ordering system. 
That means the pizza (shown above) didn’t make the cut for healthiest dishes, but it was a delicious, cabbage-based mess that totaled in at only 560 calories. It was easily shareable, and we couldn’t even fathom finishing it. Have a group? This is the dish to pick.

We didn’t just have the ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Japanese Pizza’ (which is nothing like pizza, BTW, it’s more like a vegetable pancake mixed with delicious seafood — tastes great with sriracha). We also had the salmon kimchi. It neither looked nor tasted as good as we wanted it to be. For someone that loves both kimchi and salmon sashimi, this was the disappointment of the meal. Stick to the other sashimis, and avoid this one (unless, you REALLY love kimchi, which I thought I did, but really…).
iPad ordering at Lucky Robot
At the end of the day, we want to go back. I loved the first sashimi specialty (the green one, not the kimchi one), and enjoyed a decent $5 cold sake. My partner loved the specialty items, such as the “Japanese pizza,” and we both got to pretend like we’re going to get skinny in the ‘New Year’ by checking up on the calories on each. There is a table with a swing-set for a chair in the back, and I really hoped to sit there, but not everything goes my way. Just most things.

Here’s my overall comments on the ordering system:

 Need a server? Use the iPad.
Need a drink? Use the iPad.
Need to add something to your order? Use the iPad.
Need your check? Use the iPad.
Want to see nutritional information? Use the iPad.
Want to split checks? …hit the server button on the iPad.

Oh, and we’re totally up to try new places. Feel free to tell us which to try next! We recently started a Facebook page. Please feel free to like us.

Lunch at Roll On Sushi Diner

Pork Dumplings
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.

The Hippie

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.

The Grouch

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!

Seaweed Salad

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…

Brunch at Russell’s Bistro

Poached Egg at Russell’s Bistro
 Russel’s Bistro is nestled just shy of 38th Street, near the original Kerbey Lane Cafe. We were on our way to Kerbey, but the massive line (and rather annoying drum circle at the shop next door) made us stop to see just what Russell’s had to offer. 

When I learned that they give you complimentary mimosas and coffee while you wait for a seat, my mind was made up.

House Breakfast $10 at Russell’s Bistro
 The menu was overwhelmingly focused on eggs, but that’s pretty standard for most brunch spots. The mimosas, cheaper than the advertised price if you don’t spring for the Prima Perla Prosecco, were lukewarm and dismal. The wait between each one on their otherwise enjoyable patio became unbearable. At one point I had to leave my seat to seek service.

Crab Cake Benedict $15 at Russell’s Bistro
 Dishes run from $9 all the way up to $17. The crab cake benedict was disappointing. The potatoes were fine, the poached eggs were good, but the crab cake was all cake and no crab.

My partner enjoyed the complimentary fruit served with our meal, and even the coffee. We thought the ambiance, particularly the patio, was pleasant, but I don’t think the food dazzled us. If they upped their game on the mimosas (such as serving them cold and fizzy), and if service had been even a little attentive… I’d have loved it.

Blogger Tasting at Soleil

Scallop at Soleil
Recently, as the last few streaks of sunset spread across the sky, we were treated to a blogger tasting at Soleil

View of Lake Travis at Soleil
Soleil is on the lake, practically connected to The Oasis, and promises a breathtaking view with your meal.

Watermelon Radish at Soleil
We started off with light bites, champagne, and various other dazzling finger foods brought out on trays by excited waitstaff. It appeared that the people working there were as hyped about what we were about to eat as we were.

Foie Gras at Soleil
Given that I often lean vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian while my partner leans towards, well, everything – I was pleased to find that they were graciously accommodating with my dietary preferences.

Edamame-Filled Ravioli at Soleil

The “Amber-friendly” items turned out to be even better than my partner’s; I assume that they were, because I liked them so much. They were a little heavy on the cheese, but I wasn’t complaining.

Fried Goat Cheese at Soleil
I’m not usually one for fried food, but the carnivores around me swiftly descended upon my fried goat cheese dish. I was pretty distracted by all of the truly perfect wine pairings they had lined up with each course.

Scallop at Soleil
Everyone else got bacon on their scallops, but mine was just fine without it.

Apples, Caramel, and Cheese at Soleil
The dessert courses (that’s right, more than one!) were phenomenal. Most of the other bloggers at our table admitted to normally passing on dessert, but we all happily dove in again and again as the plates came out. We were apparently competing to see who could stuff themselves the most throughout the night.

Given that we were at a blogger event, it’s hard to not walk away having had the absolute greatest time, but I am hesitant to say that this event was lovely only because I was in the company of local food writers. I believe that the ambiance, view, food, service, and wonderful little touches such as the live jazz band all equaled a difficult-to-match dining experience.

In fact, almost everyone that was there has already made plans to go back. After all, the partner said it was his favorite food event we’ve ever attended to date.

Lunch at Franklin Barbecue

Moist Brisket, Sausage, and Peppers

I’d be hard pressed to find someone that has never heard of Franklin Barbecue, the place that Anthony Bourdain claims has the best barbecue in America. If you live in Austin, chances are that you’ve been before, or at least seen the lines of hungry would-be patrons wrapped around the block in hopes of getting in before Franklin runs out.
Moist Brisket
 I don’t eat red meat, but my partner and his friends are pretty much anti-vegetarians. I think cookies are the only non-meat thing they’ll consume. We woke up early, stocked up on booze, and set up camp in line hours before Franklin opened. I recommend getting there as early as 9 a.m. and bringing a chair. Bringing your own alcohol helps make the time pass rather quickly.

Once inside, the seating gets competitive. Expect to have to sit outside for the most part, and to see Aaron Franklin himself serving you from behind the counter. He complimented my partner’s glasses and I’ve never heard the end of it. “Aaron Franklin likes my glasses!”

Out of the ribs, sausage, and brisket that was had, it appears that brisket was the star (and most photogenic). I admit to taking a tiny piece of the meat just to say I did, and despite what everyone on Twitter said, which was mostly, “You’re going to be a carnivore after trying Franklin!” I must confess that I am still not into meat, but could see how people who enjoyed meat would especially enjoy Franklin’s creations.
Was it the best barbecue my partner and his friends ever had? Yes.
Will they wait in line for it again any time soon? Probably not. The hassle of getting in makes it more of a special occasion sort of thing, and not a weekly excursion.

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