Archive for the ‘Nites Out’ Category

*I was offered a tasting of Carino’s gluten-free menu as sponsorship for this post. My thoughts and comments are my own.*

Carino’s, located along I-35 in Round Rock, has expanded their menu to include gluten-free entrées and pizzas.

Making a good gluten-free pizza crust is a tall order, but the chefs at Carino’s pulled it off with the help of Udi’s.  You get to choose up to five toppings for your specialty pizza ($12.99 for a medium, plenty to split with a friend).  I ordered mine with artichoke, bacon, spinach, chicken, and extra cheese and you could have fooled me… it didn’t taste like a gluten-free pizza!

I invited my friends to try out the pizza with me.  They were equally impressed.

If you like soda, try the raspberry Italian Soda with cream!  Not too sweet for my taste and you get refills for free, good deal since I drank three of them.

The entrées on the gluten-free menu are mostly some kind of meat with vegetables.  There is gluten-free pasta, but I didn’t try it on this trip.


2600 N. IH-35 Round Rock,TX


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After a long morning in Georgetown, I took my Dad out for lunch to Jack Allen’s Kitchen.  I’ve been hearing great things about chef Allen from other AFBA Members, so I had to feed my curiosity.  JAK sources as much as possible from Texas farms and producers, which gives me those warm hippie fuzzy feelings.

fish tacos Jack Allens Kitchen

Baja Style Fish Tacos

My father, being the adventurous type like me, ordered Baja Fish Tacos, a dish he claims he could not find at home in Alberta.  He vacations in Mexico and the Caribbean, I was surprised he hasn’t encountered a fish taco yet.  However, this is Texas after all,  and we do things weird in these parts.

Chicken Enchilada Jack Allens Kitchen

Chicken Enchilada

Forgive me, but in my moment of gluttony I forgot the name of the dish I had (!!!).  It resembled chicken enchiladas in stacked form, with a fried egg on top.  It was as if I was eating the circle of life, smothered in a creamy chipotle sauce.  Damn fine dish, what ever it was.  Both of our dishes would pass as gluten-free thanks to the corn tortillas.

Paired my chicken with a pint of Independence Brewery Stash IPA, it was dark and smooth, just how I like my water slides.
Key Lime Pie (to die for!)

Key Lime Pie (to die for!)

Finished out the lunch with a slice of heaven, a key lime pie slice that is!

Our server was very knowledgeable of the entire menu, including the beers on tap.  Jack Allen’s Kitchen is perfect for any occasion to celebrate with locally sourced fare.  Reservations for dinner are recommended.  Lunch crowd was not bad at all during the week, but I would guess the weekends are busier.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen

2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681 


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On the hunt for peppers on your burger?  I found three around town and I’ll tell you which one was my favorite.

First up is the Oasis Hatch Chili Burger.

oasis hatch chili burger texas

The Oasis


The bun was big and dry, the burger was dry too.  Come for the views of Lake Travis (and yes there was water in there), however the incredibly slow service may irritate you.

Second were the Hatch Green Chili Sliders I found at Round Rock Market Days.



Hatch Green Chili Truck

These little babies had a creamy sauce and juicy slider patties, topped with roasted hatch chili peppers.  Perfect quick lunch while on the go at the market!  Saw the Rockin’ City Rollergirls there too.

The last one I want to share with you is a Poblano Burger from Louisiana Longhorn Café in Round Rock.


Louisiana Longhorn Café

Louisiana Longhorn Café

The Poblano Burger was on the special menu, and it was loaded with toppings.  The Cajun fries were tasty but a little greasy.  It had fresh pico de gallo and avocado to compliment the peppers.  All held together with cheese!  Our server brought out a pitcher of ice tea, none of that annoying tea to sweetener ratio control required, you can refill at your own pace.  The décor was full of purple and gold (LSU), mirrors, and odds and ends.

Even though I enjoyed the Poblano Burger with the added avocado, I have to say my favorite pepper burger was the Green Hatch Chili Truck’s hatch sliders.  It’s great to see a few trucks around Round Rock after the Trailer Park went vacant this summer.  Sucks to lose a spot to hang out with the dog and kids, while eating a variety of foods.  I hope to find the Green Chili truck again!

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Need a quick no fuss lunch option under 10 bucks? If you’re in north Austin (ok, way NORTH) I’d suggest stopping at La Tapatia. It’s a tiny taqueria on the south bound frontage of Research Blvd (Hwy 183).

la tapatia drinks austin texas

Typical selection of sodas are available, as well as beer. The chips and salsa are nothing to write home about, probably not freshly prepared in-house, not that I’d expect it here.

la tapatia austin texas

There’s a jukebox that randomly wakes up to flood the cement-walled eatery with Latino folk music. A bit loud when you’re sitting right next to it, and startling if you’re not expecting it. Restroom was clean and well maintained but didn’t have a changing table, just a heads up if you tote along ninos.

torta de lengua la tapatia austin texas

Lunch for myself was less than $5 (not including tip). The lengua was very soft and sliced thin, very few clumps of pure fat, in fact I only found one. Needed a little salt, or I’m just craving salty tongue right now for some reason. Very filling lunch option for those with smaller appetites (and wallets).

La Tapatia is located at 13450 N Hwy 183 Austin, TX 78750

For more Mexican Restaurants click here! For more Austin Restaurants click here!

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What’s the connection?

Well, Paramount set up shop east of Austin to film portions of the anticipated fourth installment of Transformers. I went to Taylor to check out the digs. The filming ended weeks ago, but the aura of Mark Wahlberg remained, like when you walk by people smoking, the fumes linger in the hot humid air.

It would have been exciting to see Bumblebee up close, or from the barricades a few blocks away, same difference.

transformers 4 bumblebee concept car

The new Bumblebee?

I asked the bartender/waitress in Taylor Café about Transformers, she said much of Taylor was shut down during filming including the café. It’s neat to realize a film was being made about 10 miles from my house! Of course there have been other great films set in Austin, Office Space for example. That’s a whole other topic.

Food. BBQ, specifically, is what I was hunting today. (Man meat aka Mark will have to wait.)

Taylor Café is on the list of Texas Monthly’s BBQ lineup for BBQ week, going on now through Friday.

We tested two plates: ribs and turkey sausage.

Rib BBQ Plate @ Taylor Cafe

Rib BBQ plate @ Taylor Café

Turkey Sausage BBQ Plate @ Taylor Cafe

Turkey Sausage BBQ Plate @ Taylor Café

I’m a sucker for ribs.

These ribs were moist and seasoned well. A good amount of smoke permeating the meat. Quite a bit of fat, but that comes with oinker territory. It didn’t stop Little Sister from picking the bones clean! And then stealing her brothers beans.


He didn’t care, so long as he had the last of the Dr. Pepper.


The turkey sausage was plainly seasoned with pepper, I couldn’t decipher many other spices in them. The BBQ sauce was mildly sweet and very tangy.

The beans were named “crazy beans” by my son because they had quite a bit of black pepper on them. He’s sensitive to spices, what 8-year-old isn’t. I can’t blame him, he’s half Canadian, bland runs in his genetic makeup. Yet he loves beans, go figure.

The potato salad was alright, not convinced it was made in-house. Does that matter?

For less than $20 we had ourselves an evening out, complete with a tour of a Hollywood movie set and Texas rainstorms. Quite an exciting Monday!

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Sushi A lunch with Alaskan Roll

Sushi A lunch with Alaskan Roll (click for map)

sushi sake Sushi Sake sits along the frontage access road of Research Blvd. in north Austin’s Gateway Shopping Center. An unassuming place with surprisingly good food. It was clean and orderly, staff was friendly, complete with sushi bar or table seating. I had the “Sushi A Combo” for lunch with an upgrade to the Alaskan Roll for $1 more, a total of $12.95 for miso soup, salad, a roll and five generous sashimi pieces. Not bad at all. The roll was a little thin compared to Midori, but the fish was fresh and cucumber was crisp. The wasabi and ginger were presented family style and were also pungent (in the best way). There were a few younger guests in the next section enjoying bowls of noodles. Not a buzzing restaurant, but sometimes that can be a relief from the constant chatter of the world. Maybe it’s busier at night, who knows! I think I will go back again, it’s convenient for lunch.

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Austin Restaurant Week: Copper

I had no idea Copper existed until today. It’s Austin Cake Ball’s boutique cafe nestled next to the CPK in the Domain shopping center. The special for the week is a $17 three-course lunch consisting of an appetizer, lunch entrée, and a cake ball. A great way to try out the incredibly fresh flavors happening there.

I had the Truffled Deviled Eggs, Pancetta Salad, and Tiramisu cake ball. Not too filling, exciting flavor combinations, and a delicately sweet kahlua infused treat ended the meal on a high note.

I will be back, you should check them out!

2013 Copper Domain Austin - ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

2013 Copper Domain Austin - german chocolate

German Chocolate Cake Ball

2013 Copper Domain Austin - tiramisu

Tiramisu Cake Ball

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antonelli's cheese event space austin 2013

Arriving early yesterday to help pour wine gave me a chance to snap a couple of pictures before all of the guests arrived at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.  The event space across the street is a remodeled turn of the century home, an intimate gathering for cheese and accoutrements.

jordan 2010 chardonnay and 2003 cab sauv

A selection of four wines were presented: (left to right) 2010 Chardonnay, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.

My favorite wine to drink on its own was the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, it was so mellow and fruity.  The best pairing was the 2010 Chardonnay with Pure Luck’s goat cheese and a lime marmalade.  Most of the food bloggers in attendance enjoyed the Red Hawk cheese with the youngest Cabernet Sauvignon.

jordan wine guests at antonelli's cheese 2013

Lisa Mattson (pictured left) walked us through each wine and described the area north of Healdsburg, CA where the winery is located.  Kendall Antonelli (pictured far right) guided us through the cheeses, her passion for artisanal fromage bubbled.

2013 antonelli's cheese pairing platte

I have to check out the shop next time there is a need for cheese (which is pretty often in my house!).  Pictured above (clockwise) Pure Luck goat cheese, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, Ossau-Iraty, and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.  The Red Hawk had a beautiful cream line under the rind, I could eat my weight of that cheese!

AFBA event 2013 Jordan Wine Antonelli's Cheese

Two of my fellow AFBA members, Elizabeth of  Local Savour and Stephanie of Steph Cooks, who hung out after the tasting.  Elizabeth, Brittanie (Three Diets One Dinner), and I enjoyed the rest of the evening at Dolce Vita as I needed some coffee after all that wine.

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Salsa options range from mild and tangy, to slightly sweet fire sauce.  Clockwise above: medium heat tomato based salsa, hot Habanero sauce, and mild tomatillo sauce.


Lunch specials include $4.99 for two tacos and an iced tea (including refills).  I tried the Cochinito Pibil tacos, pork in a habenero sauce cooked in banana leaves, which was flavorful and very tender.  If you are gluten-free, ask for corn tortillas.  I didn’t ask if they have separate kitchen areas for the gluten-free orders, although a friend eats there on a regular basis who recently discovered their aversion to gluten.


This is one of the other lunch special tacos on the menu: Green Chile.  Not spicy.  Pork is just as tender as the first tacos.  I removed most of the large pieces of white onion, otherwise it’s a great taco.

Spinach Enchiladas

Also tried the vegetarian option on the lunch menu that did not involve fish, the Spinach Enchiladas, which were tasty and full of veggies.  The black beans were slightly harder than I would make them.

carnitas rojo taco plate

Lastly, the carnitas rojo tacos which are pork simmered in a red sauce, probably my favorite so far.

The atmosphere is hole-in-the-wall but the staff were all pleasant.  They try to spruce up the tangerine walls with art and mirrors.  It lacks in high class comforts but makes up for it with authentic Mexican flavors.  Evidence is on the chalkboard menu on the wall next to the kitchen, it lists “Gourmet Tacos” which are not found on the menu, you’ll have to ask if they have any of them available that day.

Molca’s is at 8127 Mesa Dr, Austin, TX 78759

For more Mexican restaurants check out my city guide post, or view the entire Austin City Guide here.

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The best places to find authentic Korean food all seemed to be tethered to Lamar Boulevard.  There are a couple downtown worth noting, however North Austin keeps the best kimchi and bulgogi secrets.  Surprizingly, there are hardly any Korean themed restaurants south of downtown.  A few of the places recommended below cross into sushi territory but have notable Korean menu items. 


Geisha Sushi & Grill (616 East 6th Street) Downtown fusion restaurant where bibimbab and bulgogi on the menu.  Geisha shares the block with El Sol y La Luna, a local Mexican restaurant, and is a short walk from Esther’s Follies if you like twisted political comedy shows (8pm start time).
Koriente Restaurant (621 East 7th Street) North from Geisha on Sabine Street you’ll find Koriente.  A quaint and cozy spot to enjoy vegan-friendly MSG-free Korean fare and bubble tea.  Nearby you will find Lipstick24 and Barbarella to get your groove on after dinner.

North Austin

Together Restaurant (9200 N. Lamar Blvd.) Nestled between a Mexican joint and a Pho place you’ll find Together.  The menu is full of authentic Korean dishes, some of which are only in Korean so you might have to ask what they are.  The decor is old and doesn’t really seem Korean, more like a collection of posters of places the owners might have been or want to go.  The Effiel Tower being among them.  The kimchi was fresh, crisp, and clean tasting.  I had the beef bulgogi which came in a bowl of sweet broth topped with carrot and onion slices.  Very affordable if you don’t mind the setting.

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Korea House (2700 West Anderson Lane #501) My favorite Korean restaurant in this area.  Often a lunch spot for traveling clients who want to try something other than BBQ or Mexican, this is at the top of the list.  Service can be curt but they are generally quick.  The lunch bento boxes are plenty of food and are great when you can’t decide what to order.  Prices are fair.


Bento Box off the lunch menu at Korea House

Tous Les Jours (6808 N. Lamar Blvd) A French-Korean bakery chain that started in Korean in 1997 and opened thier first store in the USA in late 2000.  It smelled amazing in here!  Beware if you have nut allergies by reading the labels.  So many delicious pastries with almond cream that I could not test for you, but I did buy a chocolate croissant and a bean bun.  There are a few sandwiches if you’re looking for a light lunch with a juice or coffee.

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Manna Korean Restaurant (6808 N. Lamar Blvd) Manna shares the same plaza as Tous Les Jours, Rockin Rice, a Korean grocery store, Austin Karaoke, and a hair salon.  You are greeted with a smile by the waitress and hostess for the cozy Korean restaurant.  Clean design, Korean television, and a peek of the wizardry in the kitchen is visible from your table.  I had to try the Bi Bim Bap in Hot Stone!  I even took a video so you could hear the snap-crackle-pop of the rice in the blazing hot stone bowl.


Umiya (1540 Cypress Creek Road, Cedar Park) Usually pretty busy for dinner but worth the wait once you get in.  The Korean dishes are delicious and the sushi is reasonable with a fair quality.  A good place to eat if your night includes Cedar Park Center for a hockey game.

Here’s a handy map


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Thanks Michelle from Foodie Is The New Forty for some of the photos!

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