Thursday, September 15, 2011

Machu Picchu

Living in Pflugerville, I didn't expect such a wide array of ethnic cuisine, and I had driven past this place several times and noted it.  I stopped in for lunch one day.  When I walked in I noticed the cute coziness of the place.  There were several tables, but it wasn't terribly busy.  I think it had only been open for about 3 months when I came in.  I watched a man and a young woman walk past me carrying out food to the tables a few times but wasn't really acknowledged for about 10 minutes or so.  The young woman came over to seat me and took me to a quiet table in the back of the restaurant next to a window.  When she came back to take my order she was warm and friendly and welcomed me to the restaurant.  She asked if I had tried peruvian food before and I told her I hadn't so she handed me the menu and told me that she would be back with a sampler platter so that I could taste a variety of their offerings before I settled on what I wanted to order.  How cool is that?  I remember when I first stared branching out with ethnic food and was really worried I might order something I hated and get stuck with it.  I think that the sampler platter is a wonderful idea!  I wished other places would do this!  She came back with the little sampler platter and it had several main dishes, ceviche, and some different sauces.  They were all pretty tasty!  I didn't order it, and I regret that I didn't, but the ceviche was the best I have ever tasted!  I will come back just to have a full order of it.  There were several stews, and you could pick several for a lunch combo so that is what I did.  I selected the beef stew, a chicken stew and a pork stew.  The plate came with all three, served with rice and a salad.  They also supply a bread basket perfect for sopping up the delicious sauces.  The beef stew was good, the chicken one was so-so and the pork was really good.  The salad was also very good, but I had to flag down the owner to get it for me, and I never got a refill on my water, and it was a super hot day and I slurped it down as soon as I sat down.  This is the main reason I give this place 3 stars.  I think the service is lacking because they had just opened and didn't have enough staff.  The owner was a very nice man that was super passionate about his food and his restaurant and chatted it up with me for some time.  I hope that now that it's been around longer they have fixed the service part.  The food is very comfort-foody and homey.  But the plate I had wasn't all that memorable, but that ceviche certainly was!  I would recommend this place for anyone that likes to try new things and loves ceviche.  I hope this place gets more staff so that service improves and I hope they stay around for a while.

Pecan St. Station Deli & Grill

This place has fantastic food.  I would have given them 5 stars, but had to knock off a star for service.  I'll explain that.

I phoned in an order for pick-up, around 8pm.  The guy on the phone had a "yeah what do you want" kind of attitude.  I ordered 2 double cheese burgers, one for me and one for my husband and 2 orders of tots and sent my husband on his way to go grab it.  He was back super duper fast!  So, they are really great about being timely when you phone something in.  It was a little off-putting that the guy who answered the phone sounded annoyed that I had bothered him and lacked common politeness.  Not a big deal, but if you hate answering the phone and don't like talking to people-why not have someone else that does do it instead?  When my husband got home, he said the guy at the window was rude. Must have been the same dude.  So, that is why I docked them down a star.  Now, on to the great food!

Those burgers were phenomenal!  They were so yummy and flavorful and greasy and delicious!  They tasted homemade and incredibly fresh!  The tator tots were a very generous portion, fried perfectly crunchy outside and creamy on the inside!  And even though we didn't ask for chili, there was a side of chili included, and what a nice surprise it was!  I guess it's a condiment for the tots, but man was good!  The meal was so good, so filling and so cheap!  The whole shebang was only like $13, I think that's less then Whataburger drive-thru, which is still tasty, just is no comparison to the burgers we had from Pecan St. Station tonight.  I glanced over their menu-they have a lot of things that I want to try.  I would like to dine in the next time and check out the restaurant.  I would totally recommend them, they do have really great food that is really inexpensive especially for the quality you're getting.  it's like the fact that they don't inflate the prices makes it tastes better or something.  I will definitely return, I hope they are nicer next time.

Bess Bistro

I went twice in one day.  That's how much I loved it!

Visit 1-Brunch.  We got there and luckily found a super close parking spot.  The place wasn't crowded and crazy like a lot of other downtown brunch spots, so that was nice.  My husband and I were seated in a section without anyone else in it.  I think that the hostess must have thought that would be nice since we were a couple and I appreciate that if that was the case.  The ambiance is cozy and romantic and has an upscale charm without any pretentiousness.  I would have felt comfortable coming in in either a nice dress or flops and shorts.  The waitress, Stephanie, greeted us warmly and was attentive without being intrusive.  She made fabulous suggestions that I would like to highlight.  First off-the drink she recommended was out of this world!  It's called a Lagniappe (sp?) and it might just be the best cocktail I've ever had!  It's a made with basil infused Hendricks, and while not a big gin drinker, it was incredible!  It also has pureed raspberries and a bit of muddled fresh basil, and lime and cucumber.  Holy cow!  This drink was so freakin' awesome that I had to come back later the same day to have another!  My husband ordered a mint julip and it was also very divine.  That is a drink that can go south real easy and I was impressed that it wasn't too strong like it normally is when we order it.

The food is really really outstanding and priced appropriately.  I had shrimp and grits, which Stephanie recommended,  and my husband ordered steak and pomme frites.  My meal was crazy good.  The portion size was perfect, and the grits were the best I have ever had!  Creamy, but still had some texture, not overcooked or undercooked with just the right amount of white cheddar.  My shrimp were big, fat, juicy little things!  Omg, sooooo yummy!  My husband's steak was cooked to the perfect temperature that he ordered it.  The french fries were awesome, seasoned and fresh.  The mushroom demi-glaze that came with the steak was out of this world!  I thought that I would want a desert, but the portions are very generous!  I was too full to get one.

Visit 2- Originally just having that amazing cocktail in mind, me and my honey returned.  We were feeling a bit peckish, so we decided to order some appetizers.  We had their mussels and fried green tomatos and mac n cheese.  The mussels are outrageous!  They come with grilled ciabatta and the mussels are cooked in this amazing tomato broth!  OMG!!  The broth and bread could stand alone, but the mussels were so tender and tasty.  My husband made me promise to go back this Friday for happy hour he loved them so much!  The fried green tomatos were good-but the crab salad that came with them had a lot of onion in it and I don't care for raw onion, but if you like raw onion then you'd probably think it's delicious.  The mac n cheese was a big portion and was creamy and baked with panko on top.  It was also very good.

This place is perfect to take friends to or enjoy a romantic date with.  Hats off to their bartender and kitchen!  Service was excellent both times, and the food and drinks wow'd both times.  I had visited this place one time before a couple of years ago for dinner.  The service wasn't as good then, but I remember I liked the food back then.  I guess this place just gets better and better.

European Bistro

When I want to take my taste buds on a trip to wonderland, European Bistro is where we go!

This is my absolute FAVORITE restaurant!  The food there is AMAZING!  And the charming waitstaff and ambiance only add to the sparkle of this little gem.  It is Hungarian, Czech, and German faire.  Taste it once, omg you will just DIE!  You will die and go to food paradise!

I have sampled a majority of the menu, but if there's anything that you simply must try-it's the pierogis!  They are like little pillows of savory dumpling heaven!  They have both beef and lamb, the beef are my fav.  I could eat 20 of them in one sitting.  They come 4 to an order and are served with a delicious dill-sour cream dipping sauce.  I dream of pierogis from European Bistro!  I also recommend the cucumber salad as well.  I have tried numerous times to recreate it at home and as simple as this dish is-the folks at European Bistro possess a certain finesse and I have never been able to make mine come out like theirs.

I think my favorite entrees are:
1. Chicken Paprikas-yummy, tender, fall-off the bone chicken with homemade spaetzel in a sauce of sourcream and paprika.   It's comfort food to the max!
2. Cabbage rolls-scrumptious, and just like everything here-the presentation is so fun and enticing!  The saurkrout served with it is legendary.  I have also tried to recreate it and failed miserably.
3. The schnitzel-the jagerschnitzel is my favorite!  It's tender and fried beautifully

The deserts are another wonder to behold.  They put them in a case and you can go look at all the different goodies they have.  They make everything from crepes to black forest cake to fresh pastries and kolaches.

The building itself is charming and super cute.  On Fridays, a nice old man comes and plays the baby grand piano.  When you come here, you feel like you've escaped life for a while.  They have special menus for all the holidays, too!  In addition to the regular menu they feature things like beef stroganoff and beef welington-my husband got the special last time and it was incredible.  A 4-day marinated beef potroast with potato dumplings and red cabbage.  It was awesome, of course we knew it would be like anything else they have there.

Sadly, it's been pretty slow the past few times we've been in.  I would be crushed if the place ever closed down.  I wish more people would check this place out.  It's such a great place!  Yeah, it's a little out of the way for you folks in Austin.  Luckily, we just moved to Pflugerville and it's like 10 minutes away from us now.  But, when we lived in Austin, I gladly drove 30-45 minutes for this place.  So go try it out!  It also gets high marks for being the most charmed, cozy romantic date destination, but can also be enjoyed in the company of good friends =)

Zuzu Handmade Mexican Food

I was out running errands and had driven past this place a zillion times so I stopped in to get some lunch on the run.

Here in Austin, we have a plethora of wonderfully delicious mexican places-so save your money and go to Tacodeli, Torchy's or a great little taqueria.  Hell, even Taco Cabana is better if you are desperate and on the run like I was.

I had some kind of weird combo plate and the only thing good was the chicken flauta.  So, I basically spent like $15 to eat a chicken flauta.  I will never return and I wished someone had warned me.

Berryhill Baja Grill

If I could, I'd rate this place at MINUS a few stars.

I have eaten a boatload of mexican food, tex-mex and whatever kind of variations you can imagine of "mexican" food.  This place is THE ABSOLUTE WORST "mexican" food place I have ever been to in my life.

I ordered beef fajita tacos.  The meat appeared to have been boiled completely unseasoned, it was really wet and made the flour tortilla soggy.  Chips and salsa was a joke.  It was overpriced and under delivered in a big way.  I have no idea how this place stays in business.  I think you could open a can of Alpo and put some in a wet soggy tortilla and have something pretty similar for what they are calling beef fajitas.  I got in my car, drove down the road feeling sad and hungry.  Austin has soooo many wonderful places to eat mexican and scratch your taco itch.  Don't waste your time or money here.

Hudson's on the Bend

For myself and my husband like most folks out there-fine dining is truly a treat.  You work hard for your money, and shelling it out for a meal and experience that is deserving is ok, but when it's lack-luster you just feel bad that you spent so much and didn't get what you paid for.  That's how we felt after eating at Hudson's.

The meal started off with a really good appetizer-escargot.  It was really good.  The wine we had was really good, too.  Excellent- we were starting things out on a high note!  And then-our entrees came.

I ordered a fillet and my husband ordered a platter with assorted meats.  My steak wasn't cooked rare like I had asked for and was itty-bitty.  The meats that came on my husbands plate were delicious!  The food TASTED really good-but for the price, it was so small =(  We ordered appetizer, salad, entrees and desert and were still hungry when we left, and it's not like were sumo wrestlers that eat wheel barrows of food when we go out.  The desert was awesome!  We had a creme brulee trio and I really loved it.  I think that the chef is really talented and the restaurant is nice-but feed me if I'm spending that kind of money, you know?  If they upped their portions and cooked my fillet at the correct temperature then I'd go back again and again.  I can't criticize this place on lack of flavor or poor service-they were great when it came to that.  But if someone orders a fillet rare and it comes out overcooked at a fine dining establishment I feel like that is unacceptable.  I didn't ask for a steak at the Outback-if so I would have expected something like that. Funny, Outback always nails my temperature, though.

I think because of it's reputation and price I had to be a little more critical of this place.  Their menu has some really cool exotic stuff on it and tastes so good, but can't justify spending at least 2 bills on a dinner and feeling like I only got a snack.