Sunday, July 31, 2011

Phil's Icehouse on Burnet

Phil's is such a happy place. It shares a building with Amy's Ice Cream. They have a brightly colored playscape for the kids. There's '80s pop tunes playing. They even have one of those take-your-own portrait booths inside. And the burgers are really good.

Sometimes you can run into a bit of a traffic jam right as you walk in. You order at the counter, and that area can back up with a line. The employees are quick to get your order and are very friendly. You may also have a cluster around the soda machine. All the times I've been there, I've been able to lay claim to an inside table. But, I always feel like I just got lucky and got the last one. There's also seating outside with retro patio tables and a little shade under umbrellas.

The Phil-a-Buster, a double burger which is also politically relevant these days. 

Single burger with cheddar and bacon. Yum! 
The burgers are 1/3 pound, cooked on a grill with the cross-hatch marks. They cook them all medium well... my only slight complaint. They serve them on the soft sweet sourdough buns from a Houston bakery. There are quite a few cleverly-named burgers with tried and true topping combinations, or you can build your own. I like to get the mixed fries (sweet potato and regular), so I don't have to decide. They also offer mini-burgers and non burger options like veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches, plus a fish sandwich, corn dogs, and frito pie. Just thinking about Phil's puts a smile on my face.

Phil's Icehouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scholz Garten

There are a few things I love, no matter how cheesy... potatoes, Bavarian kitsch, and restaurants in old buildings.  With the promise of all of my favorite things, Scholz Garten should have warmed my cheesy little heart. (And yes, if you are near me now, you're hearing the chorus of "A Few of My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music. It didn't let me down on these points, but I wasn't exactly singing when I left.

Scholz Garten was established in 1866, and there's plenty of history inside those walls. Now the memorabilia is hanging in between flat screens, and it's a popular place to have beers and watch the Longhorns play. We went on a summer Saturday afternoon so to avoid the raucous sports enthusiasts and just enjoy food. We parked easily across the street at 1610 San Jacinto in the state parking garage. There wasn't a charge for parking, but I'm assuming this might not be the case if there were events going on, or if it were a weekday.

To be perfectly honest, my expectations were low, knowing this is now owned by the same owners of Green Mesquite, and having read reviews raving about drinking beer and watching games. The menu is mostly barbecue, a few German dishes, and standard fried pub food. Most reviews forewarned not to expect authentic German schnitzel, which was fine since I prefer my German comfort foods when the temps aren't in the hundreds. We started with a  half order of that German specialty... potato skins. Theirs were better than TGI Fridays, but not the best I've had. There was a Irish pub in my hometown that is gone now, but it set the bar pretty high for potato skins. My husband ordered a two meat plate with brisket and grilled bratwurst. The barbecue plates came with two sides, and he ordered sauerkraut and potato salad (we thought he was ordering the German potato salad from a 100 year old recipe, but he got regular company picnic potato salad, so be specific when ordering). He liked the brisket, but found the bratwurst bland. I tried it, and concur. It also had a strange "twang" I couldn't put my finger on, and wasn't as fatty as traditional brats I've had in our neighboring German communities. I ordered their one meat plate with mesquite smoked wings and pinto beans and corn. The wings are normally served in their hot wings sauce, but our friendly waitress let me know I could get them plain and add the barbecue sauce, which was how she liked them. I did actually prefer their barbecue sauce to a hot sauce, but that may be a completely personal preference.

We did end the meal with a piece of fudge pie. This is a hot gooey brownie baked in a pie crust. It was rich and kind of crispy (my husband translated that to "dry").

Now for a bit of a math lesson. The 6 wing appetizer was $4.95 and each side was $1.99. The 1 meat bbq plate was $9.20 and came with three wings and two sides. So, by my calculations, Scholz owes me three wings and 27 cents. Which is why I wasn't singing about my favorite things when I left.

Bathroom Door Art

An Old Menu on the Wall

This is what happens when you go to the ladies' room while waiting for dessert.

Bratwurst, brisket, sauerkraut and potato salad

Half order of potato skins
Three tiny wings
Wings, beans and corn

Scholz Garten on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jo's 2nd Street

Before I moved to Austin, I'd never had a sweet bun. Now I love me some sweet buns. And, apparently, I've lived here long enough to come to expect my burgers on a sweet buns. Jo's follows that model and delivers a perfect, juicy medium rare 100% Angus half-pound burger on a soft, sweet pillow of a hamburger bun that does the sweet & salty dance on my tongue. Juices dripped, I swooned a bit, yeah it was that good. And the giant basket of hand-cut crispy fries... these were some of the best and most plentiful fries I've had in Austin. It broke my heart just a little that I couldn't even finish the basket. 

My husband had a burger and a basket of onion rings. The onion rings were lightly coated on the premises and were golden with flecks of black pepper. Not only were they delicious, they were also rather photogenic. They don't have soda fountains, so we grabbed bottles of Mexican Cokes. We did get a lot of quality food for the downtown price we paid. 

Jo's is known for their coffee, and their menu includes breakfast, burgers, sandwiches and salads. You order at the counter and get a number. They'll bring your food to your table. There is seating both inside and out. They are friendly, but not particularly fast. I checked out everyone else's food and it all looked tempting. 

It took me years to make it to Jo's downtown, and I'm now kicking myself. A tip, if you're going on the weekend before 5pm, you can park free in the Austin City Hall parking garage, which is less than a block from Jo's. Completely off-topic, but what's up with the uvula sculpture outside the parking garage there?

Jo's Exterior
Beautiful Onion Rings

A Metric Ton of French Fries (bigger than it looks)

Jo's Interior (the chairs are almost kindergarten-sized)
Order at the Counter

Yummy Burger with Bacon and Bleu Cheese

I know it's a water drop, but tell me it doesn't look like a uvula. 

Jo's on Urbanspoon