Indian Redux

It’s been awhile.

I know it has, and it’s not that I think that the few friends and family have been wringing their hands, wondering when I’ll post again, but I’ve missed writing.

I started working again, and going back to a full-time job after a summer resplendent with liquor and sunshine was a bit of an adjustment.  I am at a new school this year and, all though I adore it, my coworkers are incredible, and the kids are (for the most part) sweethearts, it is always difficult learning the ropes at a new place.  Couple that with my brilliant fucking plan to take two grad school courses this semester (one from 8:30-4:30 on Saturdays), and when I get home there is little left for me to do but pick up whatever detritus Ollie has spewed all over my carpet and watch Simpsons reruns.

I am slightly stressed, although there are nothing but good things going on in my life.  However, I have lately been feeling that intoxicating blend of angry and depressed.  And since lists are easy to read, here’s why:

1) Work.  Not because of the coworkers, and not really because of my kids.  More… what my kids have gone through, where they’ve come from, and the total fucking lack of support that most of them have.  If you’re going to have a kid, get your shit together.  Special ed kids’ problems are heinously exacerbated by the fact that for many of them (seemingly to a higher degree than in the general population), their parents are totally absent/don’t give a fuck/add to the problem.  Of course, some of my kids have lovely, supportive, encouraging parents who are invested in their kids’ education.  But it’s not many.  And it pisses me the fuck off, because the kids I teach need that support more than anyone else.

2) I realize that following #1 with the fact that my skin has gone completely haywire comes off as extremely narcissistic and superficial, but I don’t fucking care.  Maybe stress, maybe just bad luck, but my formerly spot-free, radiant skin has been besieged with dry spots, red, angry welts on my face that oh-so-charmingly resemble spider bites.  What. The. Fuck.

3) Friends being dicks.  My friends have all moved away.  This is not an exaggeration and I honestly didn’t think it would affect me as much as it has.  Two have defected to San Francisco, that bastion of bush men and Ghiradelli chocolates.  One to Florida, although I don’t know how, because Florida is even more chock full of crazy, inbred assholes than Texas.  Two schlepped away to Houston, at least within a short car trip, but still far enough to miss.  And then, best of all, my sister decided to abandon her neurotic yet lovable baby sibling and jet off to France, where she posts pictures all day of picturesque bridges and rivers and tulips and says shit like, “I just had a picnic on the banks of the Loire!” without any trace of sarcasm.  So she’s probably the biggest dick of all.

Ugh. Whatever.

4) Politics.  Too much to get into.  There’s still a month and a half to go until the election and every day some new bit of information comes out to thoroughly depress me.  If it’s not low-minded barbs or awe-inspiring gaffes, it’s middle east riots and starving children.  It makes me want to watch Sandra Bullock rom-coms until my brain turns to mush and I am no longer angry.  But, as some wise old bird once said and then plastered on millions of bumper stickers, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Transport me to a world of quick quips and handsome admirers, Sandy.

So basically, the state of the world is getting me down a bit more often these days.  And I realize that this is a food post and the reason I bring all of this up is the fact that there are probably three things in my life right now that never fail to cheer me up: 1) My patient, calm, mother who occasionally visits and drinks cocktails with me, 2) My lovely rabid canine, who, despite his penchant for destroying anything and everything he can get his mangy little paws on, is incapable of bringing me anything but joy, and 3) a good, solid, tasty meal.  If for one moment I can escape the world of vitriolic politics and ignore my skin and ever-increasing weight and mental stressors, it’s sitting down in front of a full, steaming, succulent plate of heavenly goodness.  This is what I did today instead of my first plan, which involved copious amounts of alcohol.  And since Indian food was what sated my hunger and calmed my nerves tonight, Indian food is what I shall, at long last, discuss.

There are 3 Indian food restaurants of any merit that are in Austin proper.  Clay Pit is probably the most popular, and it’s a chain restaurant, which should tell you everything you need to know.  Even though it’s a small chain, the only franchised restaurant I will ever sit down to eat at within Austin city limits is P. Terry’s, because it’s Austin-owned and so damned delicious.  Clay Pit is very standard, run-of-the-mill Indian food- the kind you take your grandma to eat.  I’ve been there once, and once was enough.

It doesn’t make sense to go to Clay Pit when there are two other solid options for Indian food in the city.

Garaj Mahal is the restaurant run out of a trailer on Rainey Street.   The ambience makes the place worth it; there’s nothing else like it.  It has the casual comfort of a trailer eatery with the added bonus of waiters, tables, a crazy long installation of bicycle art, and BYOB.  There are lights strung everywhere and since it’s in the heart of Rainey, it’s easy to follow up food with some cocktails or corn hole.  Since it’s open til midnight, it’s also a great place to go after you’ve been to the mezcal bar next door and have an acute case of the drunchies.

It’s dog-friendly, too

That being said, the food is nothing special.  The samosas are good: thick, fried, fluffy, artery-clogging goodness, and the pakore is decent as well.  However, the main dishes lack the seasoning and flavor that is a staple (and to me, the best part) of Indian cuisine.  That being said, it’s the perfect date spot, or a perfect place to take a visitor.  You can’t beat the atmosphere.

If you’re looking for the best Indian food in Austin, look no farther than Taj Palace. Located on Middle Fiskville near Airport and 2222, it’s on the north central side of town in a run-down strip mall.  Don’t let the surroundings fool you.  Once you walk in, you are greeted with white tablecloths, Indian music, and a great view of the big Tandoori oven.  It’s very traditional Indian, in both the atmosphere and the food.

Dicey location. Delicious food.

And the food is amazing.  The naan is thick, buttery, and fluffy, and the dishes are made with that lovely, intoxicating blend of spices that clears your nasal passages.  They’ll tone down the spice if you want, and the flavors are still perfectly melded together to create a wonderful mouthgasm of magnificence.

If you find yourself way, way up north, there’s one more good bet, and it’s another strip-mall staple, unassuming and slightly ghetto: Teji’s, across from Round Rock High School.  Teji’s is actually half grocery store, half restaurant.  The restaurant used to be nothing but paper plates and rickety tables, but they’ve since remodeled it to be bigger and slightly more visually appealing.  The food is incredible and the prices fantastic.  To be warned- last time I was there I couldn’t shake the aroma of a vet clinic.  I have no idea what that was about, but honestly, it didn’t throw me off one bit.  And if you’re curious, you can always window-shop lentils and saris while waiting for your food.

Paper tableware FTW!

Garaj Mahal

Hours: T/W/Th/Su: 5pm-midnight

Friday and Saturday: 5pm-2am

Call ahead during extreme weather

512-480-2255

91 Red River, Austin, TX

Taj Palace Indian Restaurant
6700 Middle Fiskville Road
Austin, Texas-78752 USA
Tel: (512) 452-9959

Teji’s

1205 Round Rock Ave #115

Round Rock, Texas 78681

http://www.tejifoods.com

Mmmm… sno cone…

 

In the unassuming north airport district, tucked in between a low-end convenience store and ramshackle apartments, sits a hidden jewel in the Austin sno-cone scene.

Normally anytime the sno-cone is brought up to an Austinite, they will immediately regale you with tales of Sno Beach, the burgeoning franchise with favorable locations on Barton Springs Road and North Campus.  The servers are cute girls, it’s cheap, it’s good.

No complaints there, although I think it’s overrated, particularly when compared to the heavenly manna that is Casey’s Famous New Orleans Snowball.  In the little wooden house, behind the wooden sign advertising to angry drivers on Airport Blvd, deliciousness is served in about a hundred different flavors… and then there’s the cream.

There’s a reason on hot summer days the line for Casey’s stretches around the side to the dirt parking lot.  And it may have something to do with their cream flavors.

The ambitious (and delicious) menu

I sadly had to give up the cream flavors when I gave up dairy.  And many sno-cone places have cream as a topping.  But these flavors are different; they do have cream you can add on top of any flavor, but the cream flavors (like chocolate, dreamsicle, egg nog, and boston cream pie, among others) are smooth, creamy, and a delicious mouthgasm for those who don’t mind the extra calories.

Heaven in a styrofoam cup

Casey’s has juice balls, made with fresh juice, sugar-free flavors, and regular flavors in addition to the cream flavors.  They hollow out two paths in the ice going to the bottom of the cup, and they are extremely generous with the syrup.  The workers are extremely friendly, the cones are cheap, the location is great, and there’s no better way (gastronomically speaking) to beat the heat.

Jen enjoys her first Casey’s Snowball

Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs

Summer hours: 7 days a week/12-9pm

808 East 51st Street  Austin, TX 78751
(512) 345-2999

Tasty Vegan Noms

Trailers are a huge part of Austin’s foodie culture, and there are plenty of trailers serving vegan options.  However, the main spate of trailers calls East and downtown Austin home, with smatterings of courts on South Congress and South First.  As a Hyde Park resident, it’s difficult for me to get my trailer fix without hopping in the car- a wasteful enterprise when so many delicious eateries are a short amble away.

Enter The Vegan Nom.  One of Austin’s newest trailers, it opened in the revived North Loop district, where Counter Culture used to be.  I had eaten at Counter Culture a few times, but I was never impressed.  For what the food was, the prices were exorbitant.  I was also not a fan of their meat substitutes, although they did serve an amazing vegan mini corn dog during a film screening.  

The Vegan Nom has a less ambitious menu, offering vegan breakfast and lunch tacos.  They also recently expanded the menu to include vegan queso, nachos, and cookies, served out of a small blue trailer with rock music blaring from small speakers.

Sometimes the simplest offerings are the best.  What they make, they make damn well- and, except for the tortillas, which are sourced from Milagro, everything is made in-house (in-trailer?).  Their potato and tofu scramble taco is delicious, and when supplemented with achingly fresh salsa and avocado, it becomes heavenly.  Their tempeh bacon is perfectly cooked, and their avocado reale taco (one of the favorites, I’m told) may burn your mouth if you eat it too fast but is worth it.  The new vegan queso rivals Kerbey Lane’s- a feat for an eatery with such small prep space.

When it first opened about two months ago, I got the impression they were still sorting out the kinks, as service was achingly slow.  It has sped up as of late, and you can call in orders ahead of time to pick up.  Their hours are perfect for grabbing some tacos on the way to work- and the prices can’t be beat ($2 for a breakfast taco, $4 for a lunch taco, $0.50-$1 for add-ons like vegan cheese, avocado, and black beans).  All in all, if you can suffer the heat under the umbrellas, sitting at the copper wiring spools that serve as tables (a funky touch), The Vegan Nom is definitely one to try, for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.  You can also grab some drinks at the gas station next door to cool your hot but happy palate.

Image

The Vegan Nom

https://www.facebook.com/TheVeganNom/info

Hours: Tues-Sun, 7:00am-3:00pm (and now open on Thurs-Sat for dinner)

Location 120 East North Loop-B, Austin, Texas 78751

Just a reminder: Austin Girl Eats does not accept money or noms for any reviews.  All reviews are solely my opinion and not influenced in any way by incentives or meaningful looks from food merchants.  Not that my word is powerful enough to warrant that… yet…

The Room of Requirement

aka, The Room of Requirement

The outside, with flags

The students I teach have never read Harry Potter.  To be fair, most of them have never read a book–any book, ever.  And they think that since they’ve seen the movies they are somehow enveloped into the magical world of whimsy and wonder and THEY’RE WRONG.  The movies, despite being chock full of every landmark British actor of the past fifty years, sort of blow.

But I digress.  This wasn’t supposed to devolved into a harangue on kids today or movies versus books.  This was supposed to be about the Room of Requirement.

Ahhh, the Room of Requirement.  That magical room on the seventh floor of Hogwarts that fills itself with… whatever you need.  Chamber pots.  Cleaning supplies.  A nice, elf-sized bed for Winky’s bouts of drunkenness.  And a place to hide… whatever you need.

Fiction is often depressing when you are jolted back to reality by a telephone call, a police siren, or a dog throwing up on your carpet.  However, I have wonderful news for you- the Room of Requirement exists!  Right here in Austin, Texas!

The Hyde Park Market and Organic Deli is ostensibly a gas station.  It lies at the corner of 45th and Duval St and catches the eye because of its multitudinous colored flags waving over the awning and pumping stations.  But once you go in, you begin to realize how amazing this place really is.

Simply put, this is a magical gas station.  I have never once gone in here looking for something they did not have.  Plug adapters.  AV cords.  A dog leash.  And then…

Gourmet cheeses.  Fresh fruits, vegetables, ice creams, local sorbets and pizzas.  British candy and every type of fancy chocolate you can dream of.  And then there’s the alcohol selection… hundreds of different beers and wines from all over the world line the walls in a delectable visual orgasm of alcoholism.  Oh, they also have Dom Perignon.  Courvoisier.  The market is home to the Mix n Match six pack, where you can pick any six bottles you want.  It is also apparently one of the oldest markets in the city They also sell the flags.  I have a  University of Texas one in my classroom.

The family that owns the store is extremely friendly.  I go in there probably five times a week so they know me pretty well, but they’re always helpful and make sure you can find what you need.

I would say the only downside is that their groceries are a bit more expensive than what you would find at the HEB down the street.  However, given the availability and the overall awesomeness of this place, I would say that it’s worth it.  And as a plus, the gas there is usually the cheapest in the area.

A few different beers

Delicious, delicious ice cream and chocolate selection

Hyde Park Market, Deli and Organic Grocery

4429 Duval St.

Sunday-Friday, 6:30am-12mid; Saturday, 6:30am-1am