Elizabeth St. Cafe is a Completely Adorable French-Vietnamese Breakfast Spot in Austin

Austin, Texas is loaded with plenty of epic eating. Even breakfast – dominated by massive egg-filled breakfast tacos – is out of control awesome. But, for the most part, breakfast is limited to fast-casual options. So, if you want something sit-down and just a bit more formal, you’ve got to look a little bit harder. While I was in town looking for a nice, relaxed breakfast, we got a recommendation to head to a nearby spot called Elizabeth St. Cafe to get our fix.

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Lockhart, Texas: Home of the Best Damn BBQ in the World

October 11, 2012: my life would never be the same. That was the first time Amy brought me out of Austin to the outlying barbecue mecca Lockhart to experience truly authentic Texas barbecue. That day, we hit three BBQ pits in a row and on this day, two years later, I was back to relive the best of the best.

There are a number of places in Lockhart to get ‘cue, but for my money, Black’s Barbecue is the place to go for their truly iconic Moist Brisket. As we pulled up to the place, I could hardly hold back my excitement. I whispered as we walked towards the building “Amy, this is my Disneyland,” as a grin uncontrollably spilled across my face. For me, this is the Happiest Place on Earth. As far as I’m concerned, the stuff served at Black’s is nothing short of the best barbecue beef brisket in the entire world.

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BBQ from a Gas Station Shack at Randy’s Bar-B-Que in Denison, Texas

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Contrary to popular belief, awesome barbecue does not just fall from the sky in Texas. In fact, most of the dining options in smaller North Texas towns like Denison are just chain restaurants with names like North Rig Grill, Cotton Patch Cafe, and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. But, through the haze of generic chains, a different more familiar kind of haze caught my eye. Yes, that smoke was emitting from a barbecue smokehouse.

In a shack, set back behind a gas station off the highway, I noticed grey smoke billowing up into the sky. And next to it, another slightly larger shack bearing both the name Lew’s and Randy’s with a line of people leading up to the ordering window.

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Pig Out with NYC’s Best Texas Style BBQ at Fette Sau in Williamsburg

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With my Texan girlfriend leading the way and teaching me everything there is to know about true Texas ‘cue, I’ve become a bit of a barbecue aficionado, as regrettably also a bit of a snob. I’ve had enough experience consuming the real stuff to know what makes good and bad BBQ and NYC has plenty of each. I’ve travelled around NYC, throughout the boroughs, to Cochon 555, and The Big Apple Barbecue Festival a number of times. Hell, I’ve even been to a barbecue head-to-head event where many of NYC’s top BBQ producers go to show off their chops. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s what in the New York BBQ world.

There’s been much written lately about the booming NYC barbecue scene, but I’ve often found myself disappointed with many of the most highly-regarded, hyped, big-name places. But there also really is some incredible barbecue to be had around NYC. I’ve written previously about my love for Mighty Quinn’s and I think that Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke is pretty phenomenal, but I think the best of the best might be at the old Brooklyn mainstay Fette Sau in South Williamsburg. Fette Sau’s name means “Fat Pig” in German and that’s exactly how you’ll feel after indulging in a meat-tastic gorge-fest there.

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City Limits: A Local Watering Hole with Excellent Deep Fried Dishes in Sherman, Texas

An hour north of Dallas, on the Texas-Oklahoma border along the Red River you’ll find a small town called Denison. It’s a small blue collar town where my girlfriend, Amy, grew up.

Over the past two years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time there and every visit always includes trip to neighboring Sherman for a requisite stop at City Limits for dinner and drinks. It’s the kind of place where clouds of cigarette smoke billow indoors and beards, rhinestone belts, and camouflaged clothes are the norm.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2013

Given the number of insanely delicious things I’ve eaten over the past year, selecting the best of the bunch is a very difficult task. Over on Foodspotting I’ve released a long version that’s over 200 items long which includes every single dish jaw-dropping dish from the last year. Here, instead, I’ve chosen the very best in select categories. In no particular order, let’s begin!
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Authentic Czech Kolaches at Dos Gatos in San Marcos, TX

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On the final day of our whirlwind road trip across the great state of Texas and back, we departed San Antonio early in the morning to head to Austin for our flight home. While on the road we decided that we needed to make of last pit stop to fill up our bellies with something delicious to prepare ourselves for the long day of travel ahead. A quick Yelp search in San Marcos, a small college town halfway between San Antonio and Austin, revealed a well regarded kolache shop on the outskirts of Texas State University. As a fan of this Czech-Texan specialty, I knew we had to make a stop.

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Real Deal Texas Barbecue Burrito Bowls in NYC at Tres Carnes
Real Deal Texas Barbecue Burrito Bowls in NYC at Tres Carnes

Real Deal Texas Barbecue Burrito Bowls in NYC at Tres Carnes

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Over the past few years NYC has been going through a sort of Texas style barbecue renaissance. With many new massive traditional smokehouses popping up, the competition is fierce and some will obviously succeed where others fail. While most of the places serving ‘cue are in the traditional format of counter, line, butcher paper, and meat by weight, Tres Carnes takes a completely different approach. Their menu consists mostly of tacos, burritos, and burrito bowls which get loaded with authentic Texas smoked meats like brisket and pulled pork in a Chipotle-esque construction line. At Tres Carnes, the smoker is helmed by pitmaster Mike Rodriguez who has a pedigree that includes the very famous Salt Lick in Austin. This guy knows what he’s doing.

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Michael Goes West (Texas): Big Bend Park & Marathon Edition

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After Marfa, our next stop is supposed to send us southward to Terlingua and into Big Bend State Park for a river tour down the Rio Grande. I woke up that morning in our Marfa airstream trailer to the never ending clatter of rain striking our tin roof. I immediately picked up my phone and called up the folks at Big Bend River Tours to find out if our river tour would be canceled due to unsafe weather, but was quickly assured that it was completely clear down in Terlingua. Somehow, considering the fact that we’d had nothing but rain for five straight days, I found that hard to believe, but I held out hope.

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