August 28th, 2013


Bluebonnets, Bats, and Barbecue: April 16, 2013: Shady Grove

We had arrived at the airport around 2; by the time we had a voucher for a hotel room and left, it was nearly 6. We went to the hotel room (adequate but a little dingy) and collapsed on the bed for an hour or two. I massaged Lori’s legs, but wasn’t able to wholly banish the ache of standing in line for hours.

But at last we revived enough to consider seeking food. But we had little oomph for deciding, and of course we no longer had any plan to follow. But we called Adam in hopes of another chance of his company. It took us a while to come to a conclusion, but when I mentioned Shady Grove, Adam said it was a great evening for Shady Grove.
Shady Grove
Shady Grove

Shady Grove is listed on the Roadfood site, but I hadn’t tried hard to include it, because the review seemed halfhearted. And I thought that we were so aggravated that we wouldn’t be able to really enjoy any restaurant. But our experience at Shady Grove was simply idyllic.

I think that we came at the perfect time to enjoy Shady Grove - both the perfect time of day and the perfect time of year. It had been hot during the day, but because this was April, it did cool down in the evening. So the weather had the balmy languor of a warm evening that feels cool by contrast.

And they were showing The Princess Bride, with subtitles.
Shady Grove

I ordered the chicken fried chicken, with sides of black-eyed peas and green chile rice.
The difference between fried chicken and fried chicken can only be explained in the context of chicken fried steak. Chicken fried steak is notionally beef fried in the manner of fried chicken - but the recipe has taken on an identity of its own. So chicken fried chicken is chicken fried in the manner of chicken fried steak, usually as a boneless chicken breast batter-fried and served with cream gravy. I don’t know what it would be called if you fried steak in the manner of chicken fried chicken. The chicken fried chicken was extraordinary, tender and crisp and succulent - it was head and shoulders above the chicken fried steaks we had had at Threadgill’s and Hoover’s.
The sides were both very good as well. The green chile rice had a strong capsaicin kick.
Chicken Fried Chicken

Lori ordered the country fried chicken salad and found it yummy. She noticed that the menu description said it came with fried green chiles, so she ordered them on the side because she has hardly any tolerance for chile heat. I’d expected that the fried chiles would be crouton-sized hunks or slices, suitable for eating in a bite as part of a salad. But these came in foot-long spears with little heat - they would make a great appetizer.
Chicken Salad at Shady Grove

The menu says “Ask about our amazing desserts… they are deliciously homemade!” and in such matters we are nothing if not biddable. We ordered three desserts and shared them all.

The peach cobbler was the best cobbler of our visit. It had a crunchy, streusel-like topping.
Peach Cobbler at Shady Grove

Chocolate icebox pie was certainly, but to my fatigued palate, it tasted little different from a more common French silk pie.
French Silk Pie at Shady Grove

Peanut butter cheesecake touches on one of my own food prejudices, but Lori and Adam enjoyed it.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake at Shady Grove

Our evening at The Shady Grove delighted us far beyond my expectations. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it entirely compensated for the airline frustration, but it was certainly a brilliant silver lining.

Bluebonnets, Bats, and Barbecue: April 17, 2013: Wednesday

On Wednesday, we had time for one spot before our return to the airport. We went for breakfast to Magnolia Cafe, which Adam had spoken well of. Their signage reflects a conscious Austin quirkiness: the sign at the street says “Sorry We’re Open”, and a sign on the wall points out that they are open 24/8.

Magnolia Cafe

The interior continues that theme with chaotic decor that reminds me of the late Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, in a smaller space with more art on the walls.
Magnolia Cafe Magnolia Cafe

The piece de resistance is the brightly painted pterodactyl wearing a top hat.
Magnolia Cafe

My migas came out looking pretty, but these were my least favorite migas of the trip. The tortillas in the migas were very soft and provided no textural contrast, and the mushrooms and jalapeños didn’t add much to the dish.
Migas at Magnolia Cafe

Lori’s strawberry pancakes came out big and thick, but only of good-but-not-special quality.
Pancakes at Magnolia Cafe

We went to the airport and successfully left Austin. Some trip reports might not consider such things noteworthy.

In the Dallas airport, we saw a Salt Lick food stand. We had passed up eating at Salt Lick while we were in Austin, but Chris had texted us that they had eaten at Salt Lick in the Austin airport. he had said that it was of the same quality as Dickey’s, which is damning with faint parse. But almost all airport food is mediocre, and I like barbecue, so mediocre airport barbecue is as appealing as any other restaurant option. And eating there would let me add another place to my list of Roadfood restaurants, albeit with a very big asterisk. So we had lunch at Salt Lick.

It was bad. It was much worse than I expect Dickey’s to be. (Though in fairness, we ate at Dickey’s in DFW in July, and that was bad too.) Both meats came in a sandwich that was so sodden with sauce that it could not be eaten neatly. The sausage was bland and the brisket was gristly. We had hoped to it would be one last farewell to Texas, but instead it was just a reminder of the pleasures of returning home.
Salt Lick, DFW Airport

After four and a half months, my Austin trip report is over. I probably won’t write another report until we return from our next trip in October.

Hits of the trip:
Collin Creek Bakery
The Broken Spoke
Micklethwait Craft Meats
Southside market
Royer’s Round Top Cafe
The Austin Lounge Lizards at the Bugle Boy
The banana pudding at the Driskill Hotel
Mellizoz Tacos
Kreuz Market
Texas Pie Company
Louie Mueller Barbecue
Shady Grove

Amy’s Ice Cream
Donn’s Depot
Salt Lick

Plus a special extra raspberry for American Airlines.