Foodspotting: Best Food By UT

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Hey everyone!

Just want to let you know that I’ve made a new guide on Foodspotting for Austin. It’s called Best Food By UT. It’s open for anyone to add or vote and it’s just a list of places that I would recommend around campus. I also picked foods that I personally like to eat at the place or something that seems to keep people coming back to that restaurant.

There is also a badge available to earn if you are able to spot 5/6 items that are on the list. The badge: a half chocolate-dipped Texas-shaped cookie, yum!

Feel free to add onto the list and it’ll look great with pictures finally on there!

Look through the slideshow up top to get a preview of the food I’m talking about. Good luck with foodspotting! 😛

Have You Ever Dreamed of More Cream In Your Milanos? Think Milano Melts!

Ooh, ahh. You're definitely new around here.

Hey everyone! While shopping around in the college market, I saw a new product in the cookie display: Milano Melts! Yum! 😛

Eager to try something new, I couldn’t resist buying a bag. Oftentimes, I will admit, I eat a Milano cookie and think, “Wouldn’t it be just a little more perfect if there was more chocolate in this?” And I’m not talking about the chocolate cookie Milano’s type of adding chocolate. Now there is a product to answer that need.

Just FYI for those of you who have never tried Pepperidge Farm cookies and in particular the Milano cookies, it seems to be one of their signature cookies that are great to bring to a party or as a small gift to a friend. The Milano cookie is basically a sandwich of sweet oval crunchy cookies (more like biscuit cookies) with a thin layer of chocolate to stick the cookies together. It is a balance of cookie and chocolate, though I have always felt the ratio was more like 60% cookie and 40% chocolate. Now here is where Milano Melts enter the arena.

Ooey gooey chocolate filling waiting to decorate your fingers and face.

First impression: interesting. More than interesting, the Milano Melt does fulfill its duty as having a lot more crème in the middle. The chocolate filling is revealed to be, though, not the best chocolate in the world. However, I would say it is a chocolate that is better quality than Hershey’s chocolate and it is certainly a thick filling inside the crunchy cookie that makes the ratio of taste now 60% chocolate and 40% cookie.

The cookie part is a normal Milano cookie, but instead of a cookie sandwich, you get lots of chocolate crème in the middle. This change of structure, though, appears to have made the cookie less flaky.

So you may see the size of the cookie. Same size as a normal Milano cookie.

Overall, great if you like Milano cookies and have a strong desire to have more crème in the middle. However, don’t expect to have the normal Milano cookie taste and experience because this cookie just is not a Milano cookie. It is a Milano Melt cookie. It may be the overindulgence of chocolate crème or the cookie structure not being quite right. Whichever it is, the cookie also seems to lose a bit of its sophistication when you get that crème all over your mouth and fingers.

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 1/2 for achieving the goal of more crème, but leaving the sophistication and cookie structure behind.

Let Me Eat, Three Little Pigs, Or I’ll Blow Your Trailer Down

You have the address so no excuse not to visit!

Three Little Pigs is a new trailer that’s opened up on the East side of Austin near campus, a little SE of Brackenridge hospital. It’s only been open a couple of months, but is quickly turning into a popular favorite with people like the owner of Jalopy Rotisserie trailer. It is run by professional chef Raymond Tatum who has finally opened his own little establishment. Three Little Pigs trailer is a tiny trailer with a white board side that will be recognized by its Three Little Pigs sign underneath East End Wines (see picture below).

Love the drawings and the menu's here too, if you can see

The basis of the menu is pork (as you can tell from the name) and it seems to be especially pork belly. The pork belly slider is a popular favorite on Yelp. However, the menu changes daily and should probably be checked on its website. They also have a Facebook page that is awesome in giving updates about the trailer as well as supporting eateries like East End Wines and Pie Fixes Everything. Only open for dinner, check out the place and eat well!

Mmm, my mouth is watering just looking at it

I personally ordered the pork belly slider. After hearing about it so much on Yelp, I figured it was something I had to try. The pork belly was nice and crispy and very thick slices. The bread was properly crisp on the outside, but soft on the inside. What really made the sandwich, though, was the maple soy glaze. It was a perfect addition of sweetness to the savoriness of the pork belly. The thin apple slice and fried scallions were good and added flavor, but I’m afraid were not enough to make much of an impact. I could have used a thicker apple slice. The sides with the pork belly seem to vary and I ended up with their unique slaw with sesame seeds. The slaw as not overwhelmed by mayonnaise and that was a definite plus. However, the sesame seeds seemed a little weird. It did give added flavor, but it was a strange flavor that I didn’t personally like and I’m sorry I can’t explain why. Your tastes may vary though. Overall, I enjoyed the pork belly slider a lot and would be happy to come back and try the other ideas the chef can come up with.

We also had the smoked pork loin with black-eyed pea salad and horseradish sauce. It was good, but not great I guess you could say. However, our expert trailer food friend liked it enough to say he was excited to come back and try even more variations that the trailer has to offer.

The seating and the cute little sign marking Three Little Pigs location

The people are very nice, helping out with menu decisions and keeping their tables clean. When a woman came up to ask for paper towels to clean a dirty spot on the tables, they offered to come out and clean the table for her. Along with this, you order at the trailer and they bring your food to you on a tray with napkins and forks.

You can't mistake this trailer as the Big Bad Wolf's Place

Overall, the trailer is a nice new place to check out some good food for a reasonable price (about $6 per meal). The food serving’s a little on the small side so you might want to think about ordering a dessert somewhere. Or splitting dishes with friends.

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 for varieties of pork dishes, rotating menu and definitely needing more tables for the future (only 3!).

I Love Me Some Random Food Fairs

Can you even see the end?

One day after church, my friend and I went to Whole Foods to pick up some groceries for the week. As we drove to park, we saw a bunch of tents and booths right outside the front of the store. Curious, we ventured over and found a mini food event featuring local food vendors that sell products inside Whole Foods. Yum! 😛 Here’s a recap.

Thanks for posing! 🙂

Drinks abounded at this place. We tried teas, coffees, juices, and waters. What impressed me most though was the Pure Rain bottled water. Considered one of the purest waters as it is water that hasn’t even touched the ground. The water was clear as could be and I could actually taste the water as being pretty clean. If I needed bottled water and didn’t mind prices, I wouldn’t mind buying this brand.

The dessert chips were amazing with the unique salsas from Dread Head Chef

There were also a lot of salsas. It’s Texas. One that struck me as quite interesting was the mango salsa from Dread Head Chef. Specializing in dessert chips and sweet salsa, it was a sweet and savory snack that tasted delicious. I could also imagine using the mango salsa like I use my corn relish on hot dogs and chickens that need a little something extra. It was sweet and you could see the mango chunks in the salsa.

We meet again, cocoa nib

Ooh, cocoa nibs! These things are absolutely delicious and something we encountered at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Austin before. Basically, they are cacao beans that are covered in chocolate and a pretty unique snack that just screams organic and Austin. It’s crunchy and perfect bite-sized pieces that will sate your chocolate cravings. Expensive, but a great gift, I am definitely buying some one day.

Low in cholesterol, low in fat, completely vegan, and still tastes like queso? Yes!

I must say, I am impressed by the vegan queso. Though I am not vegan and would prefer a queso made out of queso, I know some people have dietary needs that this vegan queso can fill. It’s not only gluten-free, there are no animal products like milk or eggs and it’s low in fats and cholesterol as well. Heated up and on a chip, it tasted surprisingly familiar and even had the right texture. Mixed in with some salsa or into a taco, I bet you wouldn’t miss regular queso too much. I even ended up buying some, hee hee. 😀

A booth just for pets! 😀

As always, Austin is a pretty friendly place for pets and there were some dogs with their owners checking out the fair. It’s nice how animal-friendly Austin is and there was even a booth with special all-natural pet food for the dogs to try out.

One of the most unique foods I tried at the fair: Pao de Queijo or Brazilian cheese balls

Some other places of note are Kohana coffee with its cold coffee brew in a bottle, Kerbey Lane’s pancake mixes, and Lana’s Egg Rolls that I could imagine buying and keeping in my freezer until I had an Asian food crave. Whole Foods is always full of surprises and this food event is kind of a reminder of the many unique and tasty food vendors that have taken root in Austin. Be brave and try something new, especially at one of the biggest organic chain grocery stores: Whole Foods.

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 for random food fairs with delicious local food.

The Coffee Grind: Bennu Coffee

This looks just like a coffee house should. Mocha on the left, cranberry scone in the middle, hot chocolate on the right.

Tempted by the menu of literary-themed drinks, I visited Bennu Coffee, located close to UT on the east side. It is open 24 hours with lots of comfy nooks and corners to settle down and study in an overstuffed chair while sipping on a drink and chewing on pastry. Or Torchy’s tacos. Or Hoboken Pie’s pizzas.

What makes Bennu an Austin creation is its promotion of small businesses in Austin such as the food places mentioned above, Russell’s Bakery and The Green Cart. Bennu sells its own array of coffees (especially mochas) while also promoting local foods you would want to eat, all at one cozy location.

Does this place not look comfy cozy? Look for hanging plugs on the top right.

If you’ve come here to study, quickly find a chair. The atmosphere is really great, having a sort of hipster quality to it that invites you to sit down and soak in a college atmosphere. Bennu is an awesome place to study since there is free WiFi and even power outlets hanging from the ceiling so that even more people can access a power supply. However, even though the coffee house is a good size, it can get full quick late at night or finals time. It is often difficult to find a place to sit down and enjoy your coffee and can be a grind at this particular coffee house.

The cup of hot chocolate was huge!

Now, to the food. I personally don’t drink coffee, but the friends who did enjoyed it and especially the specials that Bennu offers. The coffee is pretty nice and the chocolate added is also pretty nice. Overall, the coffee is a little better than average, but doesn’t wow you. I was THIS close to trying coffee after hearing about the Pride and Prejudice Mocha. However, I settled for a hot chocolate that came in a huge coffee cup and a cranberry scone.The hot chocolate was pretty good.  but mellowed out the sweetness with the scone. The scone by itself wasn’t that tasty either, but combined with the hot chocolate was very good.

Are you tempting because of the chocolate or your literary references? I am quite befuddled.

The mochas seem to be the specialties of the place. What makes this place so quaint are the mochas that pay tribute to literary greats. How can you not want to try a drink called The Raven or Oliver Twist? In general, the mochas are supposedly pretty tasty, but it might depend on the time you drink it because sometimes the chocolate is mixed in well and other times it isn’t. It’s also good to know that you get a huge mug for your mocha as well. It’s just something fun to try once and say you have tried a drink called the Great Gatsby.

How very zen.

I also cannot forget to mention the bathroom. Awesome and clean! I must have looked crazy taking pictures, but not sure if you’d believe me without them. There is also, strangely enough, a blackboard in the bathroom to keep up the literary tradition of the place. There is only one bathroom as far as I remember, but it seems to be pretty well-maintained. Considering how busy the place gets, try to be careful about filling your bladder up too much with coffee and one bathroom.

Overall, Bennu is a cool Austin-exclusive coffee house that pays tribute to the academic institution it owes many of its customers to. Perfect for the college student who studies late into the night, Bennu also supports small businesses and has all you need for a study marathon. With clean bathrooms. How can you beat that?

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 for its atmosphere, average food, and plugs from the ceiling.

Come Out, Come Out Korea House

This is where my Korean food questing began

Of the Korean restaurants to try in Austin, it seems to be from hearsay and Yelp that Korea House is the place to go. It is also one of the few places in Austin that lets you grill your own meat. Eager to try someplace new and far from campus (sorry guys!), we decided to try the place and see if it lived up to the rep. However, it was quite an adventure to find the menu or even the place! I can solve the menu problem for you by clicking here. I can solve the location problem for you if you read on.

Whoa! There's a pond back here people!

When we first arrived at the indicated location, we were very confused by where to go. The address is on Anderson Lane, but we could not find the place as we drove up and down the road. Apparently, you have to drive into the Village plaza with the Alamo Drafthouse and walk behind the first front of buildings like Madam Mam’s and Yumilicious. After you do so, you stumble upon a peaceful and lovely Asian garden where stands an alternative medicine campus and Korea House.

See the hood and raw meats ready to be grilled?

The nice thing about Korea House is that there is the option of both grill and regular. If you pick regular, just pick what you want off the menu like bibimbap, bul go gi, or even sushi. You get a regular individual meal with side dishes. However, if you feel like grilling your own food, you get put at a special table with grill and vent and you get to grill your own! Minimum of two orders of meat with side dishes. Just to let you know, only 3 side dishes are refilled. So we didn’t want to get too oily today so we decided not to go with the grill this time. We ordered individual dishes and ended up with dolsot bibimbaps and tempura udon. However, it did look delicious as you can see from the picture so maybe next time!

To make it taste the best, allow a little browning, then mix in egg with provided condiments

I first became interested in trying dolsot (stone bowl) bibimbap after watching Mario Batali make it on Iron Chef America. He described the dish, emphasizing how the egg gave extra flavor while the browning rice gave an added dimension of crunchiness and taste. Tantalized by this description, it has been my goal since to try it. After tasting this dish, I definitely felt Mario Batali was right and I think you’d enjoy this if you liked bibimbap. If you don’t know what bibimbap is, here’s a website I like for descriptions as well as the official visitor’s site for Korea. But basically, bibimbap is a rice dish with lots of vegetables and sometimes meat that is placed on top of the rice in a bowl. You then mix it together with gochuchang sauce and sesame oil at your discretion to make a kind of mix-your-own fried rice. Weird description, but a little bit like what it is.

For the dolsot bibimbap, it came out in a heavy iron bowl and was SO hot! It cooked the egg and browned the rice on the bottom. I even had to cool the food down before I could put it in my mouth, it was so hot and fresh. That also made it important to mix up the bowl quickly. Give half a minute to let the rice brown, then mix it up so the rice doesn’t permanently stick to the bottom. Definitely put on the condiments they give you because it makes the food taste even better! Go easy on the red hot sauce (gochuchang) though.  It was also a super big portion. If you’re starving, I’m sure the bowl would fill you up and if you have small appetites like us, it might be better to take some home or share with a friend. We were so full afterwards! I definitely enjoyed my experience of dolsot bibimbap and if you like bibimbap, you need to try it in a stone bowl.

Japanese udon at a Korean restaurant, you be the judge

For the tempura udon, it was deemed pretty good. It was also a huge portion with tasty broth and noodles. Lots of veggies like daikon or Japanese turnip and broccoli. However, there was only one udon shrimp and he looked a little lonely. However, it was tasty and fair for the price (~$8).

Hello sushi bar in Korea House

In terms of environment, there is obviously Korean touches, but there is more of a Japanese/pan-Asian feel to the place with a sushi bar right up front. There are LOTS of grilling tables, but be prepared for smelling like grilled meat when you leave. A little cramped, but more cozy than crowded with warm lighting and a relatively clean interior.

Aww, I thought you'd be unlimited refills...

Overall, a nice place to go get Korean food and especially if you feel like grilling your own meat. However, it was a bit on the expensive side (avg. $13-$15), but at least you felt full and it was pretty good.

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 for self-grill, limited side dish refill, and variety. If you feel like getting some Korean food that you can’t get at the usual Austin places, come here!

Sandwich Fights From The Drag: Potbelly

A distinctive food oasis on the Drag

For the first edition of our Sandwich Fights From the Drag, I had to begin with Potbelly. It is one of the first places I ate at when I came to UT. I first met Potbelly in the DFW area, actually, when I was still trying to figure out where I wanted to go for college. We arrived the day before I was set to tour colleges and it was dinner time. My dad and I were starving as we were figuring out where we wanted to eat. Soon, we came across a small building with the strange name “Potbelly.” I asked my dad about it and he said it was a rather popular sandwich shop some people liked and he knew of some clients that raved about the place. We decided to give it a try.

I'm sorry, I couldn't wait to take a bite

Mmmm! It was yummy! Mostly the sandwiches are fixed (kind of like Quizno’s), but they are made fresh to order with your choice of toppings. I ordered the Wreck on white (the roast beef was calling to me!) and my dad the Italian on wheat. They were both delicious with crunchy toasty bread and warm savory fillings that quickly filled us up. I also think the lettuce and mayo give an added sweetness that is just right with the salty luncheon meats. I have never had their salads, but I am told the Chicken Salad is very good as a salad or on a sandwich.

They're so cute! And tasty!

The cookies ‘n’ cream malt was amazing as well! Very thick with cute butter cookies on the straw. A perfect addition to a yummy drink. It is just the right thickness and is actually drinkable with a straw. I will admit, I’d go to Sonic first for a malt, but Potbelly is a good second! Other desserts include hand-dipped ice cream cones and regular-sized cookies that are also rather tasty. The sugar crystals are big and the cookies are hearty enough for a satisfying, albeit small, dessert. If you like desserts, one cookie may not be enough. 😛

It just looks like a comfy place to sit down and eat

An interesting note is the décor of Potbelly. Potbelly first started out as an antique store that sold sandwiches and soon the sandwiches took over the store! The antique furnishings are a nostalgic callback to the original store’s intent and I feel gives a more comfy feeling with wooden counters and old-fashioned signs hanging around the restaurant. Each restaurant is unique in its decorations and has a general theme, but is individual in tastes. The Austin location has to have Longhorns! I appreciate the warm feeling of the restaurant that invites its diners to rest, relax, and eat well.

When we finally went to visit Austin, we discovered a Potbelly on the Drag as well! Super hungry and in the mood for a sandwich, the sandwich was just as yummy in Austin as it was in Dallas. It was also great to see the unique decorations of the restaurants. There is a small stage in the back for live performances, keeping up Austin’s music tradition. There is lots of seating in the back with cozy booths that are my favorite place to sit.

If you're interested in "how to Potbelly"

The people have always been nice since I’ve been there and are patient in taking your orders for toppings. The price is also pretty great since a sandwich can pretty much fill you up or leave leftovers for less than $5! Awesome for the expensive prices on the Drag these days. You can also order it online and delivery, how fun is that?

Overall, I really enjoy Potbelly and find that, if I have no idea where I want to eat that day, I can always fall back on Potbelly.

Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 for delicious sandwiches, limited customization, great prices.