May 6th, 2013


Bluebonnets, Bats, and Barbecue: April 13, 2013, part 1

Saturday brought us Chris and Amy, barbecue at last, and a mystery guest joining us for one of the most outstanding revels of my Roadfooding.

Unfortunately, it didn't bring us Chris and Amy at 9am as we had expected. In order to satisfy their own travel requirements, Chris and Amy had carried out an elaborate plan under which they had flown to Dallas and then woken at the crack of dawn Saturday morning to take a bus down to Austin. But they shared some of our travel luck: at 9:20, Amy sent me a picture of the road ahead of the bus with the text "Don't know the deal, but the fact that people are turning around on the highway isn't a good sign." We have had that happen to us in Kentucky and Indiana, and we agree that it is not a good sign. We found out later that tractor trailer accident had happened at 7am and blocked the interstate for hours.

This derailed our breakfast plan, because I had planned to make our first stop one of the donut shops that Chris had specifically requested. So I sought out breakfast tacos, because I had not scheduled them for later. Yelp suggested a food truck named El Primo. I felt happy when we arrived: it certainly looked like a place that was more authentic than upscale.
El Primo
El Primo

The "migas-ham & egg" taco was very good, with lots of savory flavor and interesting textures.
Migas - Ham and Egg

The chorizo and egg taco was also tasty. I tried to add a little salsa from a squeeze bottle on the windowsill, and I got a lot of salsa instead - and the salsa had a definite burn.
Chorizo and Egg

We were very amused by this billboard across the street:
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We were particularly amused because this is the lawyer billboard we see most often in Pittsburgh (someone else's picture):

It's pretty clear that David Komie has all the hair that Edgar Snyder lost and more besides. (We commented on those billboards to Adam at one point, and he said that he has played in jam sessions with David Komie, and that David Komie throws killer parties. I know nothing about how raucous Edgar Snyder's parties might be.)

There was also a court of food trucks across the street from El Primo. We wandered among them briefly, but none of them were open. We did stop to take some pictures of the freestanding murals:
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This mural depicts Leslie Cochran, a famous Austin character in every sense. He was apparently famous for hanging out on Sixth Street wearing women's clothing, and the tutu and bikini top pictured here was a common outfit. We were told by a tour guide on Sunday that although he was believed to be homeless, it was discovered after his death that he had a mansion - however, I note that claimed mansion is not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry or the eulogies I checked.

I know nothing of the quality of these food carts, but I really liked the names "Bananarchy" and "Lard Have Mercy".
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Lori suggested we stop in at La Mexicana, a nearby Mexican bakery.
La Mexicana

I ordered a fruit cup, because I've learned that going out of my way to eat some fruits and vegetables helps me on these Roadfood trips. What I ended up with was about a pound of fruit - apples, strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, and grapes - topped with a sprinkling of chile pepper. (This is as close as I have come to the pico de gallo of Arizona, and I don't know how close it actually is.) This was really good; the fruit was very fresh, and the chile really woke up the flavor.
Fruit Cup

Lori's chocolate shortbread was not so good.

Since Chris and Amy were still stuck on the road, we decided to pursue Saturday morning's plan without them. We drove out to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, but discovered that there was a garden and flower show that meant that there was no parking to be had within half a mile.

Our next idea was to go to Franklin Barbecue, renowned for both its barbecue and its long lines, and spare Chris and Amy some line-waiting. We were told that our line would be three hours. Shortly after we joined the line, Amy texted us that they expected to arrive in Austin in half an hour, so we left the line without getting Franklin barbecue that day. But this visit gave us two glimpses of the secondary economy that has emerged around Franklin Barbecue.
1. Across the street from Franklin Barbecue was a man offering chair rental for those standing in line.
2. When the staff member came along to tell us that we had three hour's wait ahead of us, the man ahead of us said that he had heard of people selling their places in line on Craigslist, and asked what the going rate was. She replied that Franklin's discouraged that because it wasn't really fair, but the typical price for a place near the head of the line was two to three hundred dollars.
My rudimentary understanding of economics suggests that in a situation like this where the price doesn't balance supply and demand, a secondary market will emerge to narrow that gap, like the ways people make deals with rent-controlled apartments in New York and San Francisco. I haven't seen that at work with Franklin Barbecue yet, but I haven't had much time to observe. I wonder what other sorts of secondary barbecue economy will develop around Franklin's. Barbecue futures? Default swaps hedging against sellouts?
Franklin Barbecue

Picking up Chris and Amy brought Lori some relief from my speculations about barbecue economics. For our first stop together, we visited another barbecue place recommended to me by Roadfood poster scrumptiouschef: Micklethwait Craft Meats.
I really love the setting of Micklethwait; eating outdoors on a tree-shaded picnic table was a lovely way to start our adventures.
Micklethwait Craft Meats

And the barbecue was fabulous, too. We shared a combo plate of brisket, lamb sausage, and ribs.
Micklethwait Craft Meats

The brisket had a gorgeous smoke ring and a splendid flavor to back it up. Looking at this photo makes me hungry again.
Micklethwait Brisket

The lamb sausage was very coarse and firm, with a rugged chew.
Lamb Sausage

The pit masters at work:
Micklethwait Craft Meats

Next door to Micklethwait was proof that in Austin, mobile trucks aren't just limited to food: this is Gypsy Rose Vagabond Beauty Parlor. (We thought it was a fortune teller at first.) My primary thought is how beastly hot it would be in a metal trailer in the Texas summer unless it has outstanding air conditioning.
Mobile Beauty Parlor