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Austin

El Mercado
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

72

El Mercado

7414 Burnet Road
Austin, TX 78756
(512) 454-2500

Head Public Restaurant Critic

10/19/2008

Satisfactory

So I went to El Mercado recently and it was alright. I had never been to this restaurant before, but the name was familiar from ads I had seen in the local alternative newspaper, so I decided to check it out for breakfast one Sunday morning.

When I got to the restaurant, it was less than half empty, which I don't know is good or not, but it was a Sunday morning so I was expecting more people (like the after-church crowd or something). Looking at their menu, I was not that impressed with their selection or variety, both of which were minimal. I ended up ordering some sort of breakfast quesadilla, which wasn't on the menu but was featured as a special dish on a chalkboard at the entrance of the restaurant.

The quesadilla had egg and chorizo, which was alright, but it was basically just a grilled breakfast taco with a higher 'tortilla to egg' ratio. It was served with refried pinto beans, potatoes (fried or baked I don't know), and some sort of minimalist salad, which I guess were alright, but also just kind of bland.

Overall, I was really underwhelmed by this restaurant.



Fire Bowl Cafe
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

71

Fire Bowl Cafe

5601 Brodie Lane
Austin, TX 78745
(512) 899-8998

Head Public Restaurant Critic

10/18/2008

Satisfactory

So this is my second time coming to Fire Bowl Cafe. The first time I wasn't that impressed because I essentially just paid eight bucks for a giant bowl of noodles and vegetables and chicken, but that was a while ago. As I was in the area recently, I decided to try Fire Bowl Cafe againÖ and my opinion remains unchanged.

This time, I just got a big bowl of udon noodles with shrimp. Wanting to try something different than my previous, and formerly only, visit, I went with the 'Japanese Seafood Udon Soup', which has "shrimp, scallops, snow peas, carrots, green onions, sesame seeds and shiitake mushrooms in a savory Miso broth". From my experience, I wouldn't call their Miso broth "savory".

I went with the Udon noodles because I had never had them before. I knew them to be fat, thick noodles, and they were, but they tasted bland to me with the texture of rubber, so I'm not in too much of a hurry to try them anytime soon.

Overall, I think Fire Bowl Cafe is overrated and overpriced, except for their 'Crispy Crab Rangoons', "golden wontons stuffed with crab and cream cheese", which I could eat all day.



First Chinese B-B-Q
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

121

First Chinese B-B-Q

10901 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78753
(512) 835-8889

Head Public Restaurant Critic

11/28/2009

Good

I don't think I've ever had Chinese bbq before, so First Chinese BBQ was a new experience for me. It was my friend's idea to go there -- he had mentioned that they have roast duck there and I told him that I've never had roast duck before and he said that I should try it and I said yeah and then we went there. I ended up ordering their "203" which their menu describes as "Barbecue pork and roast duck".

Their menu is pretty accurate as I was served a big plate full of barbeque pork and roast duck (we also got rice). The roast duck was pretty "succulent" (I don't really know the exact definition of this word, but it seems like it applies) and the barbeque pork, which had this light sauce on it that I can't really describe, was good as well.

Overall, it was a good experience. I got a shitload of food for around ten bucks, the leftovers of which were the only thing I ate the next day (along with rice that I made myself), and the restaurant staff was very attentive, anticipating my coke refills before I even finished the current glass. I think I like this place better than Chinatown, and I think I'll definitely be back to try some of their other dishes. Succulent. (On second thought, that word sounds a like an ugly stripperís name.)



Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

121-a

First Chinese BBQ

10901 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78753
(512) 835-8889

Head Public Restaurant Critic

3/14/2010

Good

Visited First Chinese BBQ again, but it wasn't my first choice to eat that day. That honor would belong to Juan-in-a-Million, a popular place (psst, It's been featured on the Food Network and is stupidly popular for its stupidly massive breakfast tacos). My lunchmates and I ventured so far as the restaurant itself, only to be dismayed to find a long wait thanks to all of the fuckin hipsters that crowd Austin every year for the SXSW festival. We were told the wait would be around 20 minutes, but we were standing outside for 10 minutes and didn't see the line getting shorter, so we took off.

I was a little bit pissed that we were told the wait would be 20 minutes, because I think they were lying to us*. But I must admit, that is a pretty good tactic -- tell people that the wait is shorter that it actually is so that people wait and wait and never leave in case they're next on the list (there's an early awesome Seinfeld episode with a similar premise).

But anyway, I digress. We eventually decided to go to First Chinese BBQ. We each ordered a plate and shared; there was shrimp with garlic sauce, chicken with black bean sauce, pork and roasted duck and chicken, and thinly sliced and fried pork chops, which were great, and, oh yeah, NO FUCKIN WAIT, which was awesome.

*(I hate being lied to, although, in Juan-in-a-Millionís defense, Iím only presuming that I was lied to, as I didnít actually wait around the full twenty minutes to confirm the lie, although Iím pretty confidant that I was lied to.)



Flip Happy Crepes
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

16

Flip Happy Crepes

400 Jessie Street
Austin, TX 78704
Head Public Restaurant Critic

3/5/2008
3/6/2008

Great!

Thereís a little place here in Austin called Flip Happy Crepes thatís run out of a trailer south of downtown, and itís really really good. Flip Happy Crepes serves only crepes, but they serve a variety of them, both sweet and savory. Flip Happy Crepes operates out of a trailer, with an area in front for dining if you donít mind eating outside. Iíve visited a couple of times a year or two ago (once when they were at a different location, this other location being in a parking lot in the back of some store), and Iíve since gone twice in a row recently.

When I decided to go back, I checked their website to see their hours and days of operation (theyíre not open everyday, and theyíre usually only open during lunch time hours). Their website said they opened at 10:30 am, so thatís when I went as I was hungry for a sweet breakfast crepe. When I got there, they werenít open and the hours they had posted on their trailer said they didnít open till 11 am, which almost made this a bad review. Almost.

I waited in my car till they opened. I got a Nutella and Strawberry crepe to go, which was pretty awesome. I went back the next day for lunch, waited out side in near freezing temperature for a Moroccan Moroccan crepe (the special of the day, with chicken, vegetables, some feta cheese, and a spicy sauce), went home and ate it and it was awesome as well.

I would eat out from Flip Happy Crepes everyday if I could, but itís a couple of miles from my house and Iím not made of money, but I highly recommend the place to just about everyone.

Breakfast

Lunch

Flying Saucer
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

31

Flying Saucer

4600 West Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78751

Head Public Restaurant Critic

4/27/2008

Satisfactory

Apparently, Flying Saucer is a chain of restaurants that are modeled after old English pubs and taverns. They have an impressive array of beers on tap, and even have some sort of promotion where if you try all of their beers, you get a plaque on their wall, but you have to cough up $20 (or a comparable amount) to be part of the promotion.

One good thing about the Flying Saucer is that all of their waitresses wear short skirts. The bad thing about the Flying Saucer is the unauthenticity of it all -- like other chain restaurants such as Chili's, Applebee's, Bennigan's, and TGI Friday's, this restaurant tries too hard to evoke a sense of causal atmosphere in a corporate setting. I never felt I was at a real English pub, but rather like I was at a theme park restaurant pretending to be an English pub.

Despite all that, the best part of the Flying Saucer is their beer selection and their prices -- something is always on special, which is pretty cool. Food wise, it could be better. I was torn between getting their roast beef sandwich or their smoked salmon wrap. In the end, I went with the roast beef sandwich, which was good fortune on my part because one of my party ended up ordering the smoked salmon wrap and was severely disappointed. The only reason I went with the roast beef sandwich was because I could get potato salad as a side with it -- I really like good potato salad, but unfortunately, this was just mediocre potato salad.

Overall, the place is pretty decent, despite being part of a chain fighting desperately to establish its own identity by branding itself with its own quirks like having their waitresses all wear short skirts (yea!) or putting golf tees instead of toothpicks in their sandwiches (yea?). In the end, the place would be better, but it could be a lot, lot worse.

Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

31-a

Flying Saucer

815 W. 47th St.
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 454-8200

Head Public Restaurant Critic

9/18/2009

Satisfactory

A sandwich and potato salad at the Flying Saucer while having a few drinks with friends. I think the drinks here are a bit overpriced, and the atmosphere a bit "stuffy" for my tastes, but this restaurant sure is popular so I guess they can, and are, getting away with it.


Fran's Hamburgers
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

104

Fran's Hamburgers

6214 Cameron Road
Austin, TX 78723
(512) 458-6007

Head Public Restaurant Critic

6/27/2009

Good

I was hungry and wanted to try something new, so I went to Fran's, which is a local (Austin area) chain of burger joints. There's also a Dan's, which is also a local chain of burger joints, and I read somewhere that Fran's and Dan's used to be one chain (I'm not sure if they just used one name back then), but apparently the owners of that chain, Dan and Fran, got a divorce and the original chain broke up into two chains.

I've been to a Dan's and have reviewed it for the site, but I've never been to a Fran's till now. I thought it was just another burger joint and ordered a combo meal consisting of a "large" burger, fries, and a drink, and after I paid and got my drink, I sat down at a table to await my order. As I was sitting, I started looking around and realized that people were eating off of plates and using forks, which I don't normally associate with burgers. In my continued observation I noticed that people were eating various things off their plates, mainly breakfast items, and it all looked good -- home made, old school, diner style food, and I started getting hungry for that. Then, I noticed a sign near the entrance which had their special for the morning, which involved some sort of meat (either steak or pork chops, I can't remember), eggs, some sort of potatoes I think, and bread (an option of either toast or a biscuit I think), and immediately I knew that that was what I should of ordered (even though ironically I can't really remember what it was that I should have ordered), right as my number was called letting me know that my burger was ready.

I got my burger and ate it, and it was good -- the meat was thick and juicy, and the fries were crisp and delicious, but the entire time I was there, I kept lamenting my fate, wishing I had ordered their breakfast special. Next time I go to Fran's, screw the burgers, I'm getting something on a plate.



Freebirds
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

21

Freebirds World Burritos

1000 E. 41st Street
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 451-5514
HeadPublicRestaurantCritic

3/19/2008

Satisfactory

Freebirds is on a list of places I will not take girls out on a date to -- I really don't want to see girls stuff their faces with burritos filled with meats, cheeses, rice and beans.

That said, Freebirds is a burrito place, where they serve burritos stuffed with meats, cheeses, rice and beans. Every time I go to Freebirds it's hit or miss. This last time was pretty good. I had a burrito with meat (dark meat chicken), cheeses (Monterrey Jack and Cheddar blend), rice (Mexican, although I would have gotten steamed rice if they had it), and beans (black). I also had cilantro, pico de gallo, and white onions thrown in, with guacamole at an additional cost.

The burrito was good, I guess. But there's just something about throwing a bunch of stuff together, wrapping it up in a flour tortilla (spinach tortilla in my case) and stuffing it in your face that just doesn't sit well with me. The burrito is so stuffed that when you bite into it the food comes gushing out due to the pressure inside the burrito. I normally use a fork to eat out of the burrito's insides before proceeding to stuff my face with the actual burrito in order to avoid any overflow. I guess the proper analogy would be that a Freebirds' burrito is like a trough, everything you need in one container. Eat up.

Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

21-a

Freebirds

1000 E. 41st Street
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 451-5514

Head Public Restaurant Critic

4/26/2008

Satisfactory

Another trip to Freebirds. They're famous for their burritos. I think their burritos are overrated. I had a burrito. The burrito was alright.
Freebirds (Congress)
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

106

Freebirds

515 S. Congress
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 462-3512

Head Public Restaurant Critic

7/5/2009

Satisfactory

Went to Freebirds again (but this time to a different location!) and got the same burrito I always get (carnitas, rice, black beans, cheese, red onion, pico de gallo, ...).

On the plus side, Freebirds' burritos are a decent value for the price; one of their monster-sized burritos will last me up to three meals. On the down side, there's something about eating a big pile of food condensed to a cylindrical form that overflows when you bite into it that just really, really disgusts me.



Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

106-a

Freebirds

515 S. Congress
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 462-3512

Head Public Restaurant Critic

11/8/2009

Satisfactory

I went to Freebirds on a rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon to test my body to the rigors of a Freebirds "Monster" burrito, which are just frakkin huge and shouldn't exist. These burritos are like high mass elements, which only exist for tiny fractions of a second in a laboratory born out of human curiosity, but are too hardcore to exist "naturally" in the real world. That's what a "Monster" burrito is.

The "Monster" burrito is huge. I got mine with carnitas and some other stuff they put in there, like rice, beans, guacamole, cilantro, and whatever else that could reasonably go in there. This burrito was the only thing I ate the entire day, and I didn't even finish it, that's how outrageous these burritos are.

Seriously, if a homeless man saw me eating one of these, I would be ashamed (and I'm not easily ashamed in front of the homeless). If a bunch of starving children from Africa saw me eating one of these things, I think I'd have to kill myself out of a sudden awareness of my own selfishness.



Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

106-b

Freebirds

515 S. Congress
Austin, Tx 78704
(512) 462-3512

Head Public Restaurant Critic

3/31/2010

Good

Went to Freebirds and got a "Monster"-sized burrito -- the burrito was so big I felt a bit embarrassed eating it. The sad part is that Freebirds has a "Super Monster"-sized burrito, which is even more ridiculous.

My burrito contained carnitas, rice, pico de gallo, black beans, roasted corn, and some mixed cheddar-jack cheese, and probably some other stuff that I'm forgetting at the moment.

I spent about $10 on my burrito and drink, and actually, for the price, the burrito is a decent value, as it'll yield me at least two meals.

One thing I discovered on this visit is that Freebirds has a frequent eater card. I'm not sure how the points work for other menu items, but I got one point for my "Monster" burrito purchase. At 10 points, you get a free burrito, or you can save the points for bigger purchases.

Now that I have a frequent eater card, it's almost certain that I'll be back to Freebirds. This is because I already have one point, and that one point has value, one-tenth of a burrito, but if I never use that one point, it'll be a waste, which is bad, so I have to use that point eventually, which means going back to Freebirds many more times, and the more times I go to Freebirds the more points I get, meaning the more potential value that I'll have that I don't want to squander, which means Freebirds has me hooked -- at least till I use all of my points. To be continued...



Fujian Grand China Buffet (Congress)
Review #

Restaurant

Location

Reviewer

Date

Rating

108

Fujian Grand China Buffet

8709 North Interstate 35
Austin, TX 78753
(512) 977-8822

Head Public Restaurant Critic

7/12/2009

Satisfactory

I had high hopes for this buffet, which I imagined as endless lines of some of the best foods I would ever taste. That sentiment was quite some wishful thinking.

The food here was plentiful, but ultimately mediocre. I think I prefer the similar, but much better, Buffet Palace.




Contact: HeadPublicRestaurantCritic AT gmail DOT com