Warning: Long post. I did split it out into two posts, though, with another one coming soon. You’ll also notice in this first post that I don’t have many of my own pictures as I didn’t snap many photos until about half-way through the trip.
I had sort of promised a recipe from Texas in my last post, but decided instead to introduce you to some of the fine Texas fare we indulged in on our whirlwind trip for a family reunion, as well as some sightseeing tips if you ever happen to travel into that part of the country.
After the flight into Austin with my daughter (the hubby opted out of this trip), my parents picked us up and drove us 45 minutes away to Wimberley, a charming town on the Blanco River in the heart of Texas Hill Country. On our way out of Austin, I demanded to be brought to Taco Cabana, a fast-food Tex-Mex restaurant found all over Austin (and Texas) that was my cheap staple of late night cravings while attending college there in the early- to mid-80s. Hey, I was hungry!
I ordered a Carne Asada taco and a bean and cheese taco, and filled up several plastic containers with some of the six or seven fresh-made salsas they had at their salsa bar. They even had a pineapple chipotle salsa. It ain’t no Taco Bell, that’s for sure. You can find them by the bright pink signs off I-35.
The next day, we got up early-ish and set out for Houston to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle on the other side of the family, one of my brothers, and several childhood friends I grew up with in Houston. Although the mileage is 175 miles, I made it to Houston in record time, as the speed limit is 75 mph there on I-10. Considering the max speed limit in my area is 55, and only 45 in town, I felt I made it there twice as fast. I might have, in fact, since my speedometer was pushing 85-ish most of the time lest I get run over by all the trucks. It felt strange driving so slow back in Oregon.
We met at Chapultepec Lupita, which my Uncle promised was The Best Houston Tex-Mex place to eat. It’s located in the middle of an old downtown neighborhood in a dive of a building, but it was charming! I’ve mentioned before that my litmus test of a good Tex-Mex restaurant is by ordering the chile rellenos, which is exactly what I did. The tortilla chips they served before the meal were a bit disappointing because they were stale (boo hiss) but my chile rellenos, beans, and rice were done to perfection. Good job!
After a mediocre dinner with my daughter and Uncle at an unnamed tavern, we retired for the night and then got up the next day to travel to Pflugerville, north of Austin. Again, record time. My dear Uncle told us we HAD to stop at Buc-ees in Bastrop, a truck stop on the way back for lunch. He said they have THE cleanest bathrooms anywhere around. I had to check that out.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure was interesting. It was the size of a department store, with everything from ordering food at computer terminals, to souvenirs up the yahoo, to a complete grocery store, a camping/hunting section, and about 50 gas pumps out front. Very surreal. I had me some BBQ brisket sandwich, with pickles and onion. Not bad, really. They made it right there in front of you. And, the bathrooms were spotless.
We then spent the afternoon with yet another brother and his wife and their daughter in Pflugerville (I love saying that name), then left my own daughter there to spend the night with her cousin a year older than her. Apparently they shopped at “The Domain,” a trendy outdoor mall in Austin, while I then traveled 20 more miles north up the road to visit a dear high school friend in Georgetown. We quaffed more than a few beers and she made us some yummy taco salad for dinner. Can’t have enough Tex-Mex while in Texas!
The next day, we lazily got out of bed and decided on Chuy’s for lunch in Round Rock. Chuy’s is an iconic Tex-Mex restaurant that has its roots in Austin near Zilker Park, and has branched out to other areas. I adore Chuy’s with their funky atmosphere and to-die-for Charro Beans and light, crisp (and fresh!) tortilla chips. Lucky me, their Carne Guisada was on special, so of course had to get that along with the Charro Beans. I swear I swooned eating my meal. Just. That. Good. I also bought the hubs one of their t-shirts for a souvenir, because every time I go to Texas he gets a new one. This time he got the funky tie-dyed fish on black. Cool.
Onward back to Austin! Now I’m at my sister’s then brother’s house in East Austin (they live a block apart), and most of my relatives are now showing up from Oregon. My brother has a bunch of chickens and chicken paraphernalia around his house. He loves his chickens, and so do I!
My parents then showed up with with massive containers of family-sized take-out from Trudy’s Texas Star Cafe, another iconic Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin just off the UT campus. I worked the late shift there in college, and was so happy to have some of that food even if I didn’t make to the restaurant. We chowed on various tacos, enchiladas, beans, and rice. My sister made an awesome homemade guacamole to go with it all. If you ever make it to Austin, this is another great restaurant to stop in for some Tex-Mex.
We stayed the night at my sister’s house, then again lazily got up and walked approximately two blocks to experience The Best Taco Truck in Austin, called Veracruz All Natural. It sits next to a Shell Gas Station and Piñata store in a parking lot. Seriously! My sister said I had to order the Migas Tacos, so of course I did. WOW! I can now say I’ve had the best breakfast tacos ever in my life. And the homemade salsa was divine, served in an authentic molcajete bowl.
The next most amazing thing I had was their Watermelon Agua Fresca. I didn’t order it at first because I’d brought a bottle of water with me, but then tasted my sister’s and fell in love. Ever “drink” a watermelon?? It comes in this ginormous styrofoam cup, and didn’t think I could handle that much liquid, so ordered a small. “I’m sorry, it only comes in one size.” I looked over at my daughter’s smoothie she ordered in a small styrofoam cup, but let it go. My taco order wasn’t out yet, and who am I to complain with the one making my meal? OK, large it is. And yes, I drank every last drop of it!
Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River… to be continued later this weekend!