Poll: Austinites prefer queso over guacamole, Salt Lick over Franklin Barbecue

Pollster Peter Zandan has released a comprehensive survey about life in Austin. He polled 800 locals on everything from public transportation to barbecue. Austinites biggest concerns, not surprisingly, were transportation and affordability in the booming town.

But the findings that matter to us most in this space were about food.

(Credit: Kenny Braun)

Locals narrowly chose queso over guacamole, with the fake food stuff beating out the avocado-based dish 53 percent to 41 percent. Those who didn’t vote preferred neither and are probably horrible people to hang out with. Maybe the respondents in the poll that has a four-point margin of error were hungover when they answered, because I could say a knee-jerk hungover response being queso. I, too, love queso. But guacamole is fresher, tastier, more versatile and is actually, you know, food. About seven percent didn’t care for either. Stay away from those people.

Maybe the respondents were still drunk when asked about barbecue. Twenty percent said Salt Lick was the best barbecue in the area, with Franklin Barbecue coming in second with 16 percent of the vote. There was another eight percent who don’t eat barbecue. They are probably the same people mentioned above. Stay away from them, as well.

One thing most could agree on, breakfast tacos are good. Sixty-five percent said they eat them at least a few times per month, with 41 percent saying they ate them at least once a week. Of course, there were seven percent who just aren’t into them at all. We call them Yankees, and they hang out with the seven percent who don’t care for queso or guacamole.


Queso the Mondays: TacodeliCurra’s Grill, Magnolia Cafe, Guero’s, Fresa’s | Azul Tequila, Papalote, Sazon and Torchy’s Tacos

Austin360 Dining Guide: Best barbecue in Central Texas | Best Mexican restaurants | Taco All-Stars

Two Austin burgers make Tasting Table’s ‘most mouthwatering’ in America list

An earlier version of the Odd Duck burger. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

TastingTable.com put together a list of 10 of the “most mouthwatering burgers in the country.” It’s not quite clear who voted or what the criteria were for these “Instagram-worthy” burgers, but two from Austin made the list.

It’s no surprise to see Odd Duck on there. My #4 restaurant from the Austin360 Dining Guide had the #1 burger in the city when I last compiled my list in 2015. Tasting Table praises the recent incarnation, which features American cheese, green chilies, refried bean mayo, pico de gallo, cabbage and a tostada, on a toasted sesame seed bun.

Local favorites Hopdoddy also make the list, thanks to their Terlingua Burger, which comes with chili con carne, Tillamook cheddar, Fritos, sassy sauce, red leaf lettuce, white onion and sliced beefsteak tomato.

See the whole list here.


September 2015: Best burgers in Austin

Lick Honest Ice Creams opens today in Mueller with free ice cream and Urban Roots benefit

Visitors of the Thinkery and residents of the Mueller development have a new spot for ice cream just in time for summer. Lick Honest Ice Creams opened today at 1905 Aldrich Street, Suite 150, across from the children’s museum and around the block from neighborhood Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro. It is the fourth location from the farm-to-table creamery that originally opened in South Austin in 2011. The shop is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday.

To celebrate its grand opening, the shop will give away free scoops (one per customer) from 7 to 10 p.m. this evening. In addition to the give away, all proceeds from the first day will go to Urban Roots, and Lick will accept donations for the non-profit throughout the week.

Dark chocolate. (Credit: Annie Ray)

“I wanted to have the proceeds benefit Urban Roots because it’s an organization that’s close to my heart and we’re all so impressed and inspired by the work they do. We’re also lucky enough to source produce from them each year and I hope we can only strengthen that commitment in the years to come,” co-owner Anthony Sobotik said.



Quack’s bakery opening a location in South Austin

South Austin will soon get a taste of the pies, pastries and other baked goods that have made Quack’s such a hit in Hyde Park. The bakery founded by Art Silver will open at 5326 Manchaca Road in the old Strange Brew space, which closed in January following financial difficulties. Captain Quackenbush’s first opened in 1983 on The Drag, and bills itself as “Austin’s first coffeshop.”

Quack’s in Hyde Park. (Alberto Martinez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

It also looks like Quack’s has some live music plans in store for the spot that was a popular spot for singer-songwriters for several years.


Torchy’s Tacos takes on significant investment from New York equity firm

The green chili pork taco, Missionary Style, from Torchy’s secret menu. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos is taking on some serious investment backing, according to Statesman business reporter Gary Dinges. The restaurant chain, which started as a trailer in Austin more than a decade ago,  has partnered with General Atlantic, which has taken “a significant minority interest,” according to Dinges’ story.

“As part of the deal, General Atlantic’s Andrew Crawford and Shaw Joseph will join the Torchy’s board of directors. So will Todd Diener, former president of Chili’s, Dinges reports.

Read the full story on Statesman.com. 


Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant closing; land sold to Houston-based company

One of Austin’s longest-running fine dining restaurants will see its 32-year run come to a close in the coming months. Carmelo Mauro will shutter his namesake Italian restaurant in downtown on Father’s Day, June 18. Mauro sold the property at 504 E. Fifth St. in March, according to county records, and cites rising property tax prices for the closure.

Mauro said he believes the new owners, listed as AHC-Seazen ODH LLC, intend to build a high-rise condominium on the plot of land at Fifth and Red River streets. According to state records, AHC-Seazen is connected to Houston-based firm Allen Harrison Company, which develops multi-family apartment buildings. The Statesman has left a message with a representative for the buyer.

Mauro first opened Carmelo’s in Houston in 1981 after arriving from his native Sicily in 1978, and opened the Austin location in 1985. The restaurant is located in the 145-year-old building that once the housed Old Depot Hotel, recorded on the National Register as a Texas Landmark.

The painted courtyard of Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant on Fifth Street in Austin.

Mauro said he never intended to sell the land, which he purchased in 1992, but that property tax increases in recent years made staying impossible. According to the Travis County Appraisal District’s website, the property was appraised around $3 million in 2014 and rose to just over $5 million last year. Mauro said his restaurant would have to do $8 million-$10 million in sales annually, a number he says is unfathomable, in order to remain profitable.

“We are not here to become wealthy but because we love what we do,” Mauro said. “But at one point if you work just for the tax man then it is not fun anymore.”

Carmelo’s parking lot had helped Mauro generate extra revenue in recent years. The space played a major role during South by Southwest for 2012 to 2014, with Doritos building a massive stage on the lot. But an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in 2014 to regulate public safety during SXSW kept Carmelo’s from being able to obtain a permit to host such shows in its parking lost, according to Mauro. Mauro said the change cost his business hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he would have used to defray the rising tax cost.

Mauro thinks local government is making financial concerns the primary factor in Austin’s growth, a move that puts the city’s unique culture at risk.

“They are on a mission and their mission is to get as much money from the business community. The tragedy is there is no cap on businesses, so they can increase as much as they please,” Mauro said. “They forgot who made this corner. Now they are looking for the top bananas with a lot of funds.”

Carmelo’s was once one of the hottest spots in Austin, home to special-occasion family dinners and a regular dining destinations for some of the city’s power players. When Anne Richards was elected governor in 1990, the Statesman’s Lee Kelly wrote that lunches at La Zona Rosa and dinners at Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant were “in.”

Mauro, who served as president of the Texas Restaurant Association from 2007-2008, was recognized in 2001 by the National Restaurant Association as the group’s Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year, and he regularly participated in charity and community events, including last year’s “Austin Loves Amatrice” benefit following the devastation earthquake in Italy.

“The beauty of Austin through the years is we were able to get involved with a lot of charitable organizations and helped raise substantial amounts. So we were part of the community, and we will always be a part of the community,” Mauro said.

Mauro gave three months notice to his staff, in hopes they’d have time to find new jobs. Some of the employees at Carmelo’s are children of some of the restaurant’s original employees, according to the owner. 

The closure in Austin will not affect the original Houston location in that city’s energy corridor.

“Houston is more sensitive when they increase,” Mauro said. “Five or 10 percent.”

Carmelo will spend time in his restaurant in the weeks leading up to the closure, hoping to get a chance to say goodbye to many of his longtime customers and employees.

He closes the Austin chapter of his restaurant life with mixed feelings.

“It’s a shock to each one of us. So even though I cashed in, there is no celebration,” Mauro said. “The heart tells you one thing but the brain says it’s time.”

Austin360 Dining Guide: Top 25 restaurants in Austin

Top Italian restaurants in Austin: Juniper | Bufalina | L’Oca d’Oro | Enoteca

Now open: New South Terminal at Austin airport features food trucks


Flights started taking off today from the new South Terminal at Austin Bergstrom-International. You can access the small building, which services Allegiant Airlines, off Burleson Road. The little retro-designed building doesn’t have all of the amenities of the main terminal, but you can get food and drink.

Stacked Sliders is the food truck dijour for the secured area of the South Terminal at Allegiant Airlines as the airline celebrated it’s inaugural flight arrival Thursday afternoon (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

In addition to the indoor concession area featuring grab-and-go sandwiches, snacks, and beverages, there is an outdoor patio that will be serviced by a selection of food trucks. The first truck in the secured dining area (gotta have a plane ticket for this meal) is Stacked Sliders. A representative for ABIA said that operators are still considering which local food trucks to select for the space, but are hoping to create a “dynamic food truck scene,” with trucks rotating out regularly. The airport’s concessionaire also intends to bring some of the food truck operators into the terminal.


The public got a preview of the newly finished terminal on Saturday afternoon.

PHOTOS: A first look at ABIA’s new south terminal

Head to the South Terminal’s FAQ page for more information on the recent addition to ABIA.