A Few Quick ATX Bites Recommendations
Whether you're visiting or you live here, add these spots to your list for an amazing lunch or dinner.
Hello everyone! It's been a hot minute since I last posted here. I have been moving to a new apartment, traveling to writers' conventions, and other life cray cray. In the past few weeks I have had some extraordinary bites around town which I would like to share with you, all from Austin institutions that have been around for decades!
The first dish hails from Kerbey Lane Cafe South on South Lamar. After realizing the previous days meals had consisted largely of tacos, queso, omelettes, and other heavy artery cloggingly delicious morsels, I was craving something fresh and healthy. Kerbey, while considered a "diner" is well known for their selection of creative garden inspired takes of classic diner fare. I selected on the "Nabil's Mid-East Feast" salad and was awe-inspired when it arrived at the table. Definitely large enough for two people to share, this dish is definitely the perfect harmony of middle eastern flavors from the salty feta cheese and kalamata olives, crisp sweet cucumbers, tomatoes and chickpeas, to the perfectly grilled portabella mushrooms and chicken, each and every bite is deeply satisfying and multidimensional. I selected the lime cilantro and the ginger soy dressings to try. Both were excellent and made in-house. However, the lime cilantro definitely brought the needed burst of citrus to tie the whole dish together and lend a brightness to the earthy tabouli element on the plate. For only $11.95 (plus $2.95 extra to add the additional protein that I did) "Nabil's Mid-East Feast" is most definitely just that—a FEAST!
Next up is a pizzaria I have been hearing about from my friends and neighbors for the past few years, Via 313. Via 313 provides the Austin area with authentic Detroit-Style pizza. Make no mistake, this isn't Chicago deep-dish pizza. Oh no! This is a style of pie that is far more decadent and buttery with a crust that is pure crispy, yet oohy-goey heaven. One bite and your eyes will flutter and your lips will curl into a satisfied smile. I know mine did. At the hyper-enthusiastic fluttering recommendation of my friend Kris to our table, we ordered the Ambassador's Bridge pizza. This pie comes with natural casing pepperoni, sausage, chopped garlic, and fresh house-made ricotta standard.
Holy smokes! I think I have been forever ruined and will never be able to eat another slice of pizza without comparing it to this experience. Let me reiterate just how good the buttery fluffy crust is that just melts in your mouth after an initial crunch of the exterior. The sausage and pepperoni are an exotic blend of spicy, salty and sweet with classically defining notes of fennel, oregano, and rosemary that lend to the pizza an artisanal old-school credibility. The sauce is vibrant and fresh, but obviously the end product of slow cooking to develop a deep richness from the tomatoes. Lastly, the house-made fresh ricotta is like little clouds of sweet cheesy velvet dolloped across the top of the pizza. While you would think the dairy would make the pizza even more rich, the ricotta is so light and airy that it actually serves to cut through the other more formidable layers to the pie. This only one of fifteen different pies Via 313 offers. They even have gluten free options! We also were treated to an on-the-house appetizer of baked artichoke hearts with fresh ricotta. Simple and elegant, this dish is the ultimate tribute to the beauty of the artichoke in all its floral glory.
The next time you're craving pizza try something different and order a Detroit-Style pizza from Via 313 and be ruined, like me. Oh, and a cool little tip: If you bring someone with you who has never been there before, or it's your first time yourself, at the North Campus location, mention that to the waiter and they may bring you a free appetizer as a thank you and a welcome! ;)
Lastly on the Quick Bites tour is Casa Maria's on South 1st street. I was out running errands fruitlessly in rush hour traffic one day and was overcome by hanger, that wave of treacherous emotion when your blood sugar drops from starvation and you realize you have about five minutes before you start making angry bad decisions about life unless your fed. So I turned into Casa Maria's for a quick bite at the bar and a stiff margarita to calm me down. I landed on an order of nachos. That seemed simple enough. Moments later the largest plate of nachos I have ever seen were plopped down in front of me. For a long while I simply stared in awe at the feast of tortilla chips, beef fajita, cheddar cheese, guacamole, and sour cream that was literally bigger than my head. The guy next to me at the bar even laughed and commented, "Guess you know what you're also having for dinner tonight!" When it comes to portion-size and simple, yet high quality ingredients, Casa Maria's does not skimp -- they want you to go home filled to brim with excellent Tex Mex classics. There's a reason why Casa Maria has been around for twenty-two years and it is obviously their dedication to high standards in genuine comfort food.
Ok, that's all for now. More ATX Quick Bites to come soon!