Category Archives: Cheap Eats

Plain and Simple Doesn’t Have to Mean Tasteless

Avenue B Grocery in Hyde Park (Austin, TX) has quite possibly the best turkey sandwich that has ever crossed Sarah’s lips. Last week she had a lunch date with Michelle Gonzalez – a colleague from Quality Seafood Market – and both ladies were strapped for cash and short on time. Luckily, this historic grocery/sandwich shop was in the neighborhood, and it happens to be the only place in Austin (that we know of) where you can get a huge sandwich, a Sarsaparilla soda, and some chips for just 10 bucks. But this isn’t just any sandwich…

The menu is based on a build-your-own, classic approach. Sarah ordered turkey on wheat with the usual suspects (lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo) and added avocado, provolone, and stone ground mustard. The bread, an essential component of a superb sandwich, was perfect: not too hearty, soft, but not so weak that the tomato made it soggy. What really knocked it out of the ballpark was the turkey. It had a texture like a home-cooked bird, sliced so thin that it fell apart when crumbled with your fingers. The taste was out of this world (i.e., OMG turkey goodness). If you’re in the neighborhood, this place is a must-stop for a quick, delicious, and fairly-priced sandwich. Sorry we don’t have any pictures of the interior of the store to share. Although it’s well worth a peak inside (you can buy everything from an antique butter dish to a sirloin steak) we didn’t want to pay the “$500 surcharge for photography.” Sandwich with a side of sarcasm? Yes please.

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A soirée at Asia Café

Last Sunday we were on the hunt for some BBQ but ended up having a Chinese brunch at Asia Café. Random yes, sad no. JR’s Texas-Style BBQ was closed for the weekend, and Franklin BBQ was swarmed with hipsters in town for SXSW. Not wanting to settle for ordinary BBQ just to satiate the palate, we turned to our trusty copy of Austin Monthly, which recently published a story on Cheap Eats in Austin. The article raved about the Szechuan-style chicken in chili oil and black bean sauce at Asia Café. So we jumped in our trusty VW and headed north.

The dining room at Asia Café was massive, with a menu to match. There were nearly 1,000 items numbered, and we were convinced that 3/4 of the people sitting in the dining room weren’t even ordering off the menu. We kept glancing at people next to us who had ordered scrumptious-looking steamed buns and fried rice cakes, but to our dismay, neither was listed on the menu. Clearly, these people were pros. Once we reached the front of the line, we told the cashier we would like to order the Szechuan-style chicken (we too were beginning to feel like pros, as this dish wasn’t listed on the menu either). To our dismay, the cashier just gave us a blank stare and said, “we don’t serve Szechuan-style chicken.” Huh? We mentioned the article we had read and how the reviewers had raved about the chili oil and the black bean sauce. We must have this chicken! The cashier wouldn’t budge. She pointed to a menu of approximately 40 daily specials that the cafe was “known for.” Unwilling to play her game, we orderd off the menu: no. 775 (spicy green pork), boiled dumplings, and a bowl of homemade sweetened soy milk (only available on weekends). All this for just $17.

As we waited for our food to arrive, Christian noticed that the runners were calling out ticket numbers in Mandarin first, then in English; clearly, this place was “legit,” he proclaimed. Our disappointment over the Szechuan chicken quickly faded after our meal arrived. The spicy green pork was flavored with green chilis, scallions, and snap peas, and it had just the right amount of heat. The dumplings were quite possibly the most tender we’ve ever tasted, and Sarah thoroughly enjoyed sipping her soy milk from a bowl – something she’s not allowed to do at home. The sweet, nutty taste helped wash away any inkling of sadness that this did not turn into a BBQ Sunday. Clearly, Asia Café could compete with the best of Texas cuisine.

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