5 places to eat in Austin

With Austin officially now hosting A LOT more people in town thanks to SXSW, the city’s restaurants are banking on the increase in business. With SXSW beginning today, everyone is buzzing with festival plans. The parties. The shows. The drinking. But what about the eating? Austin is a city of hidden gems and among those gems are restaurants and food trucks. Make no mistake, I have barely begun to chip away at the long list of fine eateries in Austin. But I’m looking under every rock I find and a new place I love seems to pop up every few days. But since so many people will be in town over the next week and a half, and since they’ll all have to eat something, here’s a little list of my personal favorite places to eat in Austin. In no particular order, other than the order of decadent memories that come to mind:

1. East Side Showroom.
The East Side Showroom is like Moulin Rouge meets antique store meets 1920s meets great food. The cocktails are a little pricey (for Austin), but once you have one, you’ll understand why. The food is good, the art is eye-catching, the wine is savory, and the decor is romantic. And, like most places in Austin, they sometimes have live music. The food as been described as “rustic French with a soul food flair” and I second that.2. El Chilito.
El Chilito is a cute Mexican food stand up the street from me. There’s a big mustache outside that doubles as a see-saw. The food is amazing. My favorite: the fish tacos. You can’t sit inside El Chilito, there’s no space. But they have picnic tables outside in both covered and uncovered areas.

3. P.Terry’s.
It may seem silly for me to put a ‘fast food’ joint on this list, but, I kid you not, P.Terry’s is one of my favorite discoveries since moving to Austin. It’s a burger drive-thru but here’s the difference: They’re local to Austin. They use hormone and antibiotic free meat. They only buy vegetarian-fed meat. They offer (delicious) veggie burgers. Their french fries start out as potatoes (not frozen) in their kitchen and they’re fried in 100% canola oil with no trans fat or hydrogenated oils. Their produce is organic and delivered fresh every morning. They offer wheat buns. What does this mean? Well, it means you can really taste the difference (like REALLY), and also that you can finally eat some fast food and not feel so crappy about it.

4. Home Slice.

I’ve only been outta NYC and in Austin for 5 months, so when it comes down to pizza, I’m still a New Yorker. And where the hell do I get a slice? At home slice. The stuff is good. I’m not sure if I can safely say “as good” or “the same”, but, put it this way: I’m satisfied upon that last bite. And, for what it’s worth, East Side Pies is also very good.

5. Gourdough’s.
There’s nothing healthy about a food truck blasting music filled with people ready to make you your dream donut on demand, but there is something glorious about it. Gourdough’s is just that: a truck where you can order whatever kind of donut you want, included customized donuts. Hang tight while they make your sweet treat and remember this: one is enough for two. Or three.

I’m leaving out a bunch of favorites, but these are the first five that come to mind. Have Austin dining suggestions? Leave them for us in the comments so our Austin-going readers can dive into the goodness.

Undiscovered New York: Who’s Got the Best Slice?

Pizza. Is there any food more symbolic of New York? Sure, Chicago’s got some pretty awesome deep dish at places like Pizzeria Uno and in California you can easily find a pie with toppings like goat cheese and duck sausage. But no pizza seems to have as great a hold on the American food consciousness as the New York style pie. Say what you will about your own local specialty, but there’s something about that thin, crispy New York crust, the flavorful sauce, some milky mozzarella and a few fresh basil leaves that always gets my mouth watering like nothing else.

Yet in a city as big as New York, finding the best pizza spot is a source of controversy. Ask a hundred New Yorkers where they go to get a great New York slice, and you’re likely to get hundred different answers. Strong opinions are offered. Questions arise. Which Ray’s is really the original Ray’s Pizza? Does Brooklyn have better slices than Manhattan? Is it the New York tap water that makes it so good? Is Grimaldi’s worth the wait?

There’s enough uncertainty out there that visitors might find themselves paralyzed with indecision. Want to know where to find some of the best pizza spots in New York? Click on through below to get our take on New York’s top five spots.
Number 5: Joe’s Pizza
Love it or hate it, but famous Joe’s is a New York pizza institution. Though New Yorkers have long flocked to Joe’s for the no-nonsense slices, the restaurant gained its first taste of national prominence for a cameo in Spiderman 2. Movie star status aside, pretty much everybody from Zagat to New York Magazine agrees this is one of the best spots in NYC for a slice. Personally? While we find the slices to be quite good, we think Joe’s can be inconsistent.

Number 4: Grimaldi’s
Warning – if you want to visit Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, be prepared to wait. Tourists and locals alike have long made the pilgrimage to this holy site of Brooklyn pizza, and I have to admit, the pizza is outstanding. Grimaldi’s fresh ingredients, meticulous attention to detail and “what’s the hurry?” attitude all demonstrate their relentless pursuit of pizza perfection. What really distinguishes Grimaldi’s for some of the other entries on our list is that they don’t do slices – hence the wait. But perhaps that’s just part of the charm? So grab a few friends or bring the crossword puzzle, and you will be rewarded with a first class Brooklyn pie.

Number 3: Di Fara
The brave traveler who makes it all the way out to Di Fara in a remote strip of Brooklyn soon learns why it was worth it – Di Fara owner Domenico De Marco takes his pizza very seriously. If Grimaldi’s is like the luxury store of pizzerias, then Di Fara would be its one-of-a-kind artisan. De Marco’s pizza’s are hand-crafted circles of pure deliciousness, assembled by their master with utmost care. Once you taste the Di Fara pizza’s freshly grown basil (grown in the store), hand-dusted Parmesan and light crispy crust, you’ll understand why you came.

Number 2: Sal & Carmine’s
Although New York guidebooks frequently rave about Joe’s Pizza and Grimaldi’s, there are plenty of lesser known pizzerias which are equally good. In fact if you’re looking for one of New York’s best-kept pizza secrets, head to Sal & Carmine’s unassuming pizzeria around 101st Street on New York’s Upper West Side. Like most quality pizza spots, the atmosphere is nothing to look at – the narrow space is decorated with not much more than a bare brick wall and a few press clippings. You will also be served by two very grumpy old men. But make no mistake, what Sal & Carmine’s lacks in atmosphere, they more than make up in their unique pizza. We are particularly fond of the cheese, which has a uniquely sharp yet subtle “garlicky” flavor, along with that quintessential New York-style crispy crust.

Number 1: Joe & Pat’s
Our number one pizza spot, Joe & Pat’s, is not an easy pizzeria to get to – it’s located in Staten Island. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend trying to take the subway to get there. But it doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to New York pizza. We can still taste that first bite: crust crispy but not crunchy, the sauce tangy and flavorful, the mozzarella like cheesy ambrosia. Are there easier New York slices to find? Sure. But this one is worth the trip if you’re a die-hard pizza junkie.

So did we mention your favorite New York slice? Think you’re a New York pizza know-it-all? Give us a “piece” of your mind on New York pizza in the comments – and don’t be afraid to be “saucy” about it.