Taco Bell Cantina
I am a food lover. I am not a food snob. We each have our hierarchy of fast food joints, and Taco Bell ranks highly in mine. When I learned the new Taco Bell Cantina on the UT campus serves alcohol, I made my way to the Drag as fast as I could. It’s the loveliest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. Mosaic tile surrounds its semi-open kitchen. Through windows you can see exactly what the cooks/assemblers are doing in there. But, let’s get real, the star of the show is the booze. There are three flavors of slushy—margarita, fruit punch, and Mountain Dew Baja Blast (of course)—and you can mix in shots of vodka, rum, and tequila. For locavores, they serve Tito’s Vodka, Treaty Oak Rum, and Tequila 512.
2000 Guadalupe St.
A lot of local food bloggers and journalists are saying that Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, from the team behind—you guessed it!—Ramen Tatsu-Ya, is one of the best restaurants to open lately. The Texas-Japanese small plates menu relies heavily on barbecue, and classics are given fun twists: takoyaki (fried octopus) serves as the base for Frito pie, and pecan pie is topped with an azuki bean whip. Adventurous eaters are encouraged to try the “squid marinated in squid guts,” but for something everyone will enjoy, the brisket and gouda “hot pocketz” and the “TX Butter” dipping ramen are divine. I’m still thinking about them three weeks later.
2713 E. Second St.
Brentwood Social House
I’m a huge fan of Great British Bake-Off. I’ve watched numerous seasons not really knowing what they were making. I guess I understood the concept of a Victoria sponge cake or a Bakewell tart, but I’d never tasted them—until I went to coffeehouse and cafe Brentwood Social House. They’ve got all the fancy British goodies, with ingredients shipped from England and Belgium for maximum authenticity. A personal favorite is the cheese pasty, which is a savory delight wrapped in puff pastry.
1601 W. Koenig Lane
For a quick and healthy working lunch, Juice Society has launched a menu of toasts, including avocado with pesto and alfalfa sprouts and spiced banana with almond butter, cinnamon, and bee pollen, both on local sourdough. They are rolling out more menu items soon, like raw pad Thai with spiralized zucchini in place of noodles, quinoa tabbouleh, and raw chocolate tart made with dates and avocado cacao. The food and drinks are delicious, but I’m a huge fan of the multitude of outlets, which make snacking on the go easy.
1100 S. Lamar Blvd.
Right next to Juice Society, and for a vastly different dining experience, there’s El Burro, from the team VOX Table. I’m still on the fence with how I feel about expensive Tex-Mex when cheaper and equally delicious options are plentiful in the capital city, but El Burro does have delicious food and cocktails. I ordered the beautiful (and very strong) Frida Kahlo made with rum, tequila, strawberry hibiscus and lime, which started the meal off on the right foot. Everything we ate—guacamole, cheese enchiladas, and chicken quesadillas—was excellent. The most memorable part of the meal was the guava dipping sauce that came alongside the churros. Hoping that a happy hour starts there with some discounted dishes.
1100 S. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 1125