Eldorado Café

You guys know that restaurants are a thing for me. Since becoming a more experienced food blogger in the past few years, I’ve learned how to wine and dine myself. I go to frequent food tastings. Basically, I eat a lot. So when I tell you I have a new restaurant to add to my Austin Top 10, you should know that this is pretty serious stuff. Eldorado Caf√© makes for some serious eats, y’all.

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This new Mexican Comfort Food eatery is located in a strip mall on Anderson Lane, but it feels more like walking into your best friend’s house. If your best friend is a tried and true Austinite who can make a mean Mai Tai and drool-worthy carnitas.

Truly.¬† I walked into Eldorado and one of the first things that happened was me being handed a slice of Mexican Pizza that the owners were taste-testing. I might have mumbled something about how good it looked. Next thing I know, “Here!” – and the tasty little Mexican Pizza slice is now in my possession.¬† So we were off to a good start.

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But, truth be told, I knew I would like owner Joanna before I even met her. She used the word “Yay” more than once in our email correspondence, and I was sold. After the tasting she titled an email with the word, “Awesomeness”, and I obviously knew from that point that she was just the best ever.

Joanna and her husband (fellow owner and head chef) Joel, longtime Austinites themselves, have created an atmosphere that embodies the goodness that Austin is made of. Kindness, for starters. Speaking with Joanna and Joel felt like chatting with long lost buddies. They were warm and funny and inviting and just the right amount of eccentric. My kind of humans. These two also know their way around the city, and have made friends with what seems like half of the ATX. In fact, Eldorado is up and running due to a slew of investors and backers in the area. On the ceiling you can note the name of many who helped make this foodie’s dream a reality.¬† The restaurant itself seems to tell its own special tale of Austin living and loving.

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The food has its own stories to tell as well.¬† Each dish and drink came with an anecdote of how exactly it came to be.¬† The Shiny Ribs, for instance. The name stems from the local band named, appropriately enough, the Shiny Ribs. Joanna and Joel both love said band and one member is even a backer of Eldorado. So the Shiny Ribs were lucky enough to have Shiny Ribs named after them. (Can we call the queso Christina’s Queso?! Pleaaaseeee?) The dish itself, inspired from many trips to visit Joanna’s step-dad in Hawaii, is slightly tangy and subtly sweet and a (non-vegetarians)¬† food-blogger’s dream come true. Joel noted that, while it seems to be a trend to keep ribs sauce-free as of late, he decided that, in modeling the Chinese sparerib, he would keep the sauce. Can I just tell you how much I highly agree with this decision? Because, guys. The sauce is pure divinity.

And divine is the word I would use for most of the Eldorado menu, Divine, but more importantly, unique. Esme’s Magic, for example. This is an enchilada stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with ancho chile sauce. Mashed potatoes is a common theme for stuffing things with at Eldorado. I would be lying if I told you I thought I would love this from the get-go. I don’t love mashed potatoes, okay? I’m weird, ALRIGHT?! But I should be using past tense here. I didn’t love mashed potatoes. But Eldorado, in all their magical potato stuffing powers, changed my mind and my life here. I was blown away by how ingeniously they used their tots. Turns out, mashed potatoes inside enchiladas is a mind-blowingly magical experience. Thank you for carb-seducing me out of my ignorance, Eldorado.

If I HAD to pick a favorite dish (like if somebody was tickling me and told me to pick or they would keep tickling me forever which is my worst nightmare) I’d probably go with the Carnitas Cubanos. This is¬†Crispy Pork Roasted in a Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Mojo. It’s like it sounds, but somehow so much better. The pork is crispy on the outside but nearly melts in your mouth as you bite into it. Paired with one of their homemade corn or flour tortillas? It’s a mouth orgasm, guys.

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I know this is getting long, but I would be remiss to not mention the queso in detail. While I don’t consider myself a queso snob, I do have an intense obsession with good queso. So much so that I usually know if I will or will not like a place based on my first taste of their melted cheesy goodness. And y’all, I absolutely adored Eldorado’s queso.¬† It was creamy and smooth and mixed with just the right amount of veggies. Love from first bite. And until approximately my 150th bite because I basically licked that bowl clean. Oh, and if you want to spice up the chip you’re dipping, may I also recommend trying one of their FIVE amazing salsas? Avocado, salsa fresca, chileverde, salsa x, el scorpio. Yum, yum, yum, yum and more yum,

As I chatted and laughed with the owners and staff, sipped on tasty cocktails and indulged in dish after dish of bites that made me whisper-scream, “OH MY GOD.” about a million times, I realized I’d found something really, really special at Eldorado.

Joanna and Joel met at the late Electric Lounge, where they both bartended. They were just friends at the time, but met again years later. And now here they are. Owning a business and making people happy and full together. That is an Austin love story if I ever did hear one. I’m just feeling lucky that the rest of us get to be a part of that.

 

Brooklyn’s Down South

You may know that I’m a big believer in going a little off the beaten path to find treasures. To Austinites, the city of Buda can be off the beaten path. But, oh, does this path have its share of treasures. The most recent gem I found is Brooklyn’s Down South. Located in the heart of downtown Buda, this is a must-visit if you’re ever in the area. Though I’d go so far as to say that it’s a must-visit even if you’re not in the area.

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I was instantly charmed walking into Brooklyn’s Down South. The interior is simple, sleek and quickly introduces you to an open bar area. The cocktails are a big part of the beauty of Brooklyn’s, so the prominence of the bar seemed appropriate. But, ahem. I’ll get back to that.

I requested to sit on the patio because Austin just experienced a “cold” front (meaning it’s 85 degrees instead of 105), and because #foodbloggerlightingproblems. And the back patio? Gorgeous. Magical. Spacious and filled with string lights, picnic benches and comfy couches to relax your food baby on.¬† So now you that know I’m swooning over the ambiance at Brooklyn’s Down South, let’s get to my favorite part. DA EATS.

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I was brought an array of plates, all beautiful and delicious in their own right. Seriously guys, my taste buds felt like they were on vacation. From the cheesy and creamy shrimp and grits to the spicy, tangy and perfectly crunchy carnitas tacos, my senses were taken on a wild rollercoaster of deliciousness. I realize this is all sounding very superfluous, but that’s okay because it’s also true.

Marrying into a Cajun family, I have a long love for boudin. For those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t before I married a Boudreaux) what boudin is, it is a spicy sausage containing rice and some type of meat, usually pork. Also, It is DELICIOUS. So my one request at Brooklyn’s was the bouldin balls. This is fried bouldin. Shaped into balls. It’s a dish I’ve long been obsessed with, and Brooklyn’s Down South only fueled said obsession. The fried balls (I’m giggling writing this, because I’m mature.) complemented the soft, flavorful boudin inside so wonderfully. I WANT MORE NOW.

Oh, oh and the Gumbo. It was 85 degrees outside, but this instantaneously took me to Christmas Day with the Boudreauxs. It tasted so similar to the thick, rich broth served to me by a Cajun clan in December. So I can tell you from experience, the gumbo served at Brooklyn’s is about as authentic as it gets.

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And it only gets better. The 967 burger is topped with American cheese, jalapeno bacon jam, crispy onion strings, and an egg. As if that doesn’t already sound incredible enough, it’s served on a toasted sourdough honey bun. I KNOW RIGHT.

I also have to give a shoutout to my new friend, Brooklyn’s bread pudding. Let me tell you about my new friend. This is French bread baked in a rich vanilla cinnamon custard topped with Bourbon sauce, powdered sugar and fresh fruit. Guys. Arguably the best bread pudding I’ve ever devoured. And I love me some bread pudding. It was the vanilla cinnamon custard that really did me in. The decadence of said custard soaked into the bread pudding and it was simply divine, y’all.

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Can I tell you about the drinks now? Because, yum. I started with the Buda Bowl which is a big, green, fruity concoction that I adored. But my favorite cocktail was the Prickly Pear ‘Rita, made with El Jimador silver, Patron Citronage, prickly pear puree, fresh lime juice, simple syrup & a splash of orange juice. It is even more refreshing and delightful than it sounds. The puree pairs perfectly with the lime and orange juice, making for the greatest of patio sippers.

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You might be catching onto the fact that I’m hooked on Brooklyn’s. This lovely new obsession is about a forty five minute drive from my house, but is easily worth every minute of annoying Austin traffic. Because boudin balls and bread pudding and prickly pear ‘ritas, y’all.

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Tasting at PS 35

Let’s talk pizza, y’all.

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More specifically, let’s talk pizza at PS 35.

This is new the spot in my neck of the woods that is creating quite the buzz.

After visiting, I completely understand said buzz.

PS 35 is located in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin. But there is nothing suburban about the vibes of this joint. PS35 explodes with personality and pizazz, from the graffiti-laden walls to the classic video games inside and the patio foosball. Walking inside is an experience all its own, both a throwback to the 70’s and a tribute to New York public spaces.

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The beers on tap are a-plenty, and I found myself getting happily lost¬†with the chalkboard menus. I’m one of the few and far between that absolutely loves sour beers, and they had not one but two choices for me here. So, before a bite had ever entered my mouth, I was sold on this place.

But then food did enter my mouth and TRUFFLE TOTS and HOT HONEY PIZZA. Excuse the word vomit. PS 35 has been the word on the street lately and those two things alone could justify this joint being the talk of the town.

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The truffle tots boasted just the right amount of crunch and seasoning, and the truffle salt complimented this combination in the most toothsome of ways.

The Hot Honey pizza is like crack for honey addicts. My friends, I have a confession to make. I AM¬†A HONEY ADDICT.¬†I shriek and run every time a bee gets near me (Don’t ask me how I ever took beekeeping classes. This is still¬†a mystery to me.), but I love those terrifying little creatures for the miraculous substance that¬†they create. Okay, I digress. The point here is that the sweet and salty combo of Mike’s hot honey, ricotta, pepperoni, sausage and tomato sauce was joy delivered straight to my taste buds.

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Another favorite was the Harlem Chopped Cheese. I was a little hesitant to try this one as it reminded me just ever so slightly of a Philadelphia Cheese Steak, which I have a strong aversion to.  In my undergrad years, I performed in a short play in which I was required to eat a microwaveable Philly Cheese Steak for all rehearsals and performance nights. By the end of this experience, just hearing the word Philly Cheese Steak made me want to vomit. It takes a strong sandwich to reverse this feeling, but the Harlem Chopped Cheese did just this. It was juicy and cheesy and filled with fresh veggies and just the right amount of hot sauce, mayo and oil and vinegar. Is your mouth watering?! Because mine is. The sesame seed bun simply perfected this work of sandwich art.

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I cannot forget the New York Sour. This frozen drink stars bourbon, lemon and a red wine float. It was strong but smooth, just a little fruity and absolutely ideal for pairing with pizza or tots. I would go back just for this cocktail. But I could say that about most things on the menu.

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One of the owner’s and head chef of PS 35 Clint¬†Elmore¬†has a story that adds to the uniqueness of this pizza joint. After attending law school and practicing law for a bit, he decided it wasn’t the life for him. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to New York to pursue his dreams of creating art through food. From there, he travelled to Italy for a month to become a culinary expert. Fast forward years later, and Austin is blessed with PS35.

It’s a beautiful and delicious story, but the ending is definitely my favorite part.

Welcome to Austin, PS 35! I will be seeing lots of you. And your honey pizza. And those truffle tots. And your… Okay, y’all get it. I’m obsessed.

Vivel’s Blog Tasting

I’ve never been a big pancake fan. A few bites in, and I’m bored. But crepes? Crepes I adore. Their thin texture paired with their versatility makes for a winning combo in my book/blog.

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Despite this founded adoration, my experiences with crepes have been few and far between. In fact, until yesterday, I had never tasted a savory crepe. I know, I know, such a food blogger fail. Luckily, my tasting with Vivel Coffee and Crepes changed all of that and opened my eyes (and mouth) to the beauty and variety of LIFE.

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But, really. The word Vivel translates from Latin¬†to mean “Life.” Owner Ali noted that he thought of this name during construction. While looking at the hills and greenery that Vivel is surrounded by in Lakeway, Texas, the name just seemed to fit. And it does.

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Because, y’all, these crepes gave me life.

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Ali spoiled me with all of the crepes. Like, all of them. I could have taken a crepe bath, and the bathtub would have been full. Of crepes. It was magical. Before I get into serenading my favorites, let me tell you¬†a little story about meeting Ali. As we were emailing back and forth, I assumed Ali was a¬†female.¬†Hear me out. I SWEAR,¬†somewhere I read that his name was “Ally” and not “Ali.” Obviously, the pronunciation in my head was completely wrong. When I met Ali the man in person, I was confused enough to stumble with my words and feel the need to explain myself. “I um.¬†Sorry. Thought you were going to be a woman.” So yes, my first words to this kind¬†gentleman were that I thought he was going to be the opposite gender. Typical smooth talking Christina, y’all.

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Back to crepe talk now.¬†Ali the man spoiled the heck out of me with these beautiful creations. A gorgeous combination of French, Italian and Mediterranean, I found myself swooning over each and every one. It’s going to be tough, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top five so that this blog doesn’t turn into a¬†short novel.¬†Ahem.

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  1. Smoked Salmon Crepe – This was my one request at Vivel’s because I have a slight obsession with smoked salmon with all the fixin’s. It was everything I dreamed of and so much more. The lightness of the crepe paired with the decadence of the¬†cream cheese, capers and salmon was DIVINE. I’m salivating just writing this. Sexy, I know.
  2. Citronade – Are y’all ready for this?! Lemon reduction, brown sugar, whipped butter and vanilla gelato. I know, right?! Butter and lemon are two of my favorite things in life, and this pairing was pure happiness. The creamy, homemade gelato perfected¬†an already heavenly masterpiece.
  3. Cannelle –¬†This is simplicity¬†at its finest and most delicious. Cinnamon, brown sugar and whipped butter. That’s all it took to leave me with a crepe crush.
  4. The Marrakesh Express – I’m a firm believer in putting an egg on it. This crepe did just that sunny side up, and added some shredded spiced lamb, cumin and extra virgin olive oil. That runny egg matched with the tender lamb and the light, airy crepe? Words cannot even express the¬†feelings of elation I felt biting into this one.
  5. The Nutty Nutella – Okay, so it’s hard to go wrong with Nutella but Vivel somehow made it¬†taste more right than ever before. The walnuts and toasted almonds made the Nutella feel¬†perfectly at home in the crepe¬†paradise that¬†it so rightly deserves.

Special mention also goes out to the Vivel Latte with the lavender infused milk. I knew by my second sip of this strong and slightly sweet concoction that I had found myself a new beloved latte.

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Vivel know how to put life into crepes, you guys.¬†Every¬†single bite of every single crepe that¬†I bit into was exquisite. Ali is a worldwide and longtime expert¬†of the food industry, and this is evident in the¬†mesmerizing combinations of flavors he so masterfully creates. Forget pancakes, guys. Vivel’s will have you¬†exclaiming ‘Holy Crepe!’ in no time.

 

Baked By Amy’s Tasting

You walk in, and are immediately hit with the smell of happiness. The sweet¬†warmth¬†of cupcakes and cookies fill your lungs, and there’s suddenly an extra bounce in your step.¬† It’s like magic. Beautiful, delicious magic.

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This is how I felt walking into Baked by Amy’s. I was immediately greeted with four seasonal macarons, two cookies the size of my face and three gigantic cupcakes.¬†They sure do know how to woo a girl.¬†I was also immediately charmed by the interior. Bright and merry and full of flowers and¬†gorgeously decorated chalkboards.

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I was so excited about all of the things that it took me a while to settle down and actually bite into anything.  But once I started eating, stopping was not an option.

The pina colada macaron had me from first taste. I had forgotten the description given to me by the time I¬†bit into it, but it might as well have been called “summer.” It tasted like¬†a first dip into a swimming pool, like the sweet smell of tropical suntan lotion, like a perfect vacation in the middle of July. Put simply, it was paradise to my taste buds.

Another source of pure joy? The lemon tart cupcake donned a light, whipped topping which was an¬†ideal¬†match for the crumbly,¬†curd filled cupcake. Another addition that pairs wonderfully with a hot, summer’s day.

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The rest of the baked goodness did not disappoint. From the Tres Leches cupcake full of fresh fruit and cream to the¬†blissfully sweet¬†cherry and berry macarons, every little thing Baked by Amy’s does¬†is magic.

The best part of all of this for someone as indecisive as me? I don’t have to choose between cupcakes, cookies or macarons before coming in.¬†They have ’em all! Not in the mood for any of that (you crazy, boo) either? There’s an Amy’s Ice Creams RIGHT next door.

Did I mention yet¬†Baked by Amy’s¬†is ten minutes from my house? Ain’t that the sweetest?!

 

Tasting at La Patisserie

I have macarons on my mind. ¬†Pistachio macarons, white macadamia macarons, rose macarons. ¬†All of the macarons.¬†Also¬†chocolate croissants,¬†lemon tarts¬†and various other French pastries. Who is to blame for my fixation, you¬†might ask? La Patisserie is the culprit.¬†Two weeks ago¬†I had a tasting at this French pastry shop and it’s roughly 75% of what I’ve been thinking about for the past¬†fourteen¬†days.¬† Obsessive? Maybe. Croissant crazed? Perhaps. Delicious? AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

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The rose flavored macaron, which was light and airy as a cloud, surprised me. I’m not usually big on floral flavors, but the delicately¬†delicious taste changed all of that for me. It was immediately a favorite, though the white macadamia was also in the running. Rich but smooth, this is a flavor that the masses will enjoy. The Funfetti flavor boasts sprinkles and sweetness¬†– I took this one home to my three-year-old (Okay, I took a bite out of it first. For the blog, of course.) and she devoured it and commented, “Mmmm! It’s good.” Food critic in the making, y’all.

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I can’t not mention the lemon meringue tart. Both tiny and regal, this little guy packs a big and beautiful¬†tart punch. This paired with the buttery¬†flakiness¬†that nearly melted in my mouth¬†have¬†me swooning while typing. And the Millefeuille?¬†Bliss.¬†Chocolate and butter loaded bliss. Need I say more?

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Actually, I do need to say a little more. Soraiya, the owner of La Patisserie, is such a joy.¬†¬†It was immediately evident to me both the love and care she puts into everything from her sweet treats to her equally sweet staff. She is an attentive, warm and¬†genuinely kindhearted individual. Speaking with her warmed my soul as much as the delicious Green Tea/ Coffee hybrid I was drinking.¬†In the time I spent at La Patisserie, we talked everything from our kids to travel to¬†the importance of women banding together.¬†All of this while I’m nibbling on the most heavenly of macarons. It was truly a lovely experience.

I’d love to tell you how the idea for all of the loveliness¬†began. After a childhood trip to France, Soraiya told her parents she would open a French pastry shop one day.¬†La Patisserie¬†now¬†boasts both a downtown and a north Austin¬†location on Burnet Road. They¬†are both¬†reminiscent of the quaintest of European cafes.¬†She is truly living her dream, and that is pretty inspiring stuff.

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Soraiya’s favorite thing about owning a pastry shop? Seeing people’s faces light up when they try macarons for¬†the first time. This was not my first macaron, but I know my face lit up just the same.

Tasting at Coffee Shark

I have a new favorite coffee shop in Austin. Maybe even new favorite coffee shop ever.¬† It’s called Coffee Shark, and it will change your life in the best, most caffeinated¬†way possible.

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Don’t let the name fool you. Coffee Shark serves far more than just coffee (also there’s no sharks), my friends. They’ve also got an amazing array of beer, sandwiches, (may I suggest the Pesto Mozzarella Tomato? Because I’m daydreaming about that cheese and pesto filled ciabatta bun right about now.)¬†soups, pizza (from East¬†Side Pies!),¬†and so much more. I’m going to make a suggestion. Order the soft pretzels and the cheese plate and proceed to immediately dip the soft pretzels into the brie. GUYS. I am salivating thinking about this right now.

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The inside dons the open,¬†industrial vibes that¬†I am learning is¬†something¬†that I like a lot in my coffee shops. Games like cornhole and giant Jenga grace the back patio, which is perfect for drinking a cold beer on a hot, summer’s day. As far as beer goes, the¬†flirty and¬†fruity Hye-Biscus had me hooked from first sip.

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The best part?¬†All is¬†served with a heaping side of LOVE, y’all. Okay, I know that sounds super cheesy, (Speaking of cheese –¬†Coffee Shark’s all¬†comes from the local Antonelli’s Cheese Shop) but it’s true.¬†Both the staff and clientele at Coffee Shark made me feel like family. I spent over three hours at this tasting, and when I wasn’t eating I was probably laughing or lost in good conversation. I hit it off with one group of customers so well that I made them take a picture with me and the owner joked that he had hired them for the day. After that, I spent another hour and a half¬†chuckling and chatting¬†with the Coffee Shark team.

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Though mine was more of a beer and food tasting, I can’t not mention the coffee. I had a regular drip coffee but this was far from¬†any¬†‘ole¬†regular drip coffee. Coffee Shark uses a steampunk coffee brewer. This is a hybrid (trybrid?) of the French press,¬†siphon and pour over. They make their delightful drip coffees by using temperature, time, volume and water agitation.¬† So basically this coffee is pure MAGIC.

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I almost wish I could keep this place a secret, but that would be nearly criminal. I must share this good with the world. So, here you go, world. Coffee Shark is where it’s at.¬†¬†Prepare¬†to eat good food, drink good drinks, and make new friends.