Austin is a paradise for any foodie. For this reason, my greatest dream since I arrived in the city in 2017, was to show its culinary virtues to my mother. My mother, a culinary savant, whose cuisine would make any chef awarded with the highest distinctions pale. Unfortunately, cancer took her to a better world just a couple of months ago. She was too good for this universe that now confines itself at home looking to be reborn.
She was so close to walking through the Capitol Gardens, feeling the river breeze on its hikes, watching the sunset at Mount Bonnell or trying one of the restaurants we talked about so much in those endless Facetime conversations. Austin brought us together despite the distance much more than any other circumstance in life. This is a tribute to that great woman and her legacy that I will talk about later and also to the wonderful city of Austin.
Come savor the most exquisite places in Austin. Come with me and my mother on this tour around the tastiest tables in the city.
Like Being at Home
My mother was a meat fanatic. She was born in a small town in Asturias. Although very young, in the middle of the Spanish post-war period, she moved to Oviedo, the capital of this beautiful region in northern Spain. Since she knew what hunger was, she greatly enjoyed watching others eat until they were full. Something we could have savored at Salt Lick. Its barbecue style combines very well with Asturias, where the green pastures consumed by cows outdoors, produce meat as good or better than Texan. The All You Can Eat menu would have amazed her with its exquisite brisket, pull pork, sausages and other delicacies.
New Experiences in Austin
She was a fan of traditional Asturian and Spanish cuisine but she did not object Mexican gastronomy, so colorful and delicious. Gabriella’s, as we have recently told you in this article, would have been a garden of exploration for my mother. She would have been enraptured with their cocktails and cervezas preparadas. The gorditas, the choriqueso and the tamales would have excited her to the sound of music and a fascinating conversation about life. In the courtyard, my mother would have gazed at the city in astonishment, admiring the beauty of its radiant downtown.
A Sweet Temptation
My mother’s downfall had always been candy and ice cream. Despite her diabetes problems, nothing stole her smile like good Swiss chocolate or sweet ice cream. Of course, Austin’s best ice cream would have been a downfall for her. I imagine that Belgian chocolate or French Vanilla would have been her most recurring choices. I do not know the toppings she would have chosen, although I imagine that she would have tried various and tasty combinations full of creativity and love.
Meet the Myth
My mother was a fan of Western and she was fascinated by American culture and life. She was very excited about touring Texas as she admired John Wayne. An Austin classic that evokes that border life and old Texan flavors is Franklin’s. Waiting in line to access its interior would have been hard, because it was difficult for her to stand a long time, but I’m sure the best Texan meat would have lived up to her high expectations.
Fusions and Passions
Loro’s fusion meats were another of my foodie wishes that I wanted to share with my mother. She was not very assiduous to Asian flavors, but I am sure she would have fallen in love with Loro’s Texan-Japanese fusion. An evening that could have started in their patio, enjoying a good sake or a craft beer to finish in its wooden interior, tasting some tempura or the hamburger that so many times I pointed out to her as my favorite.
Life is a Tango
I’ve been in love with this restaurant since I discovered it. I have never visited it because I was looking forward to trying its meats or Tres Leches with my mother for the first time. An experience that I can only perform in my memory, without her. A shame.
Life is a tango, she used to say wisely. Her mother had been born in Buenos Aires, so that Argentine connection was a symptom that this place had fascinated her.
In addition, in Asturias, when I was little, dozens of Argentine steakhouses proliferated and my parents became acolytes of the flavors of the Argentine grill. Asturian meat and the Argentine style were the perfect marriage. In places like El Gaucho Fierro or La Nozana in Oviedo, we celebrated birthdays and spent happy Sundays. I am sure that feeling would have been repeated in this charming place that takes us to the Argentine capital.
Takoba is a delight that fuses such exquisite Latin cuisines like the Mexican, the Cuban or the Venezuelan, with European techniques and Spanish gastronomy. We talk about it in our special article about this beautiful place. Their rice dishes would have been one of my mother’s favorite dishes in Austin. She loved rice, especially paella. Hers was insurmountable but that Arroz a las tres vueltas from Takoba would have excited her. Also, the decoration and location of this place was ideal for my mother to interact with the cultural life of the city.
My mother was not a fan of donuts. In Spain, there is a delicious variety of native sweets, that’s why she never had a passion for donuts. Despite this, I was very excited tfor her to discover the authentic American donuts. The best representative and most aesthetic of these spherical delights is Voodoo. Its stylish decoration would have transferred her to the genuine flavor of the donut. My favorite, the one with the pink frosting, maybe it would not be her favorite option but would have probably ranged between classic or chocolate.
A Classic Ice Cream
Everyone has been in love with Sandy’s since the 1950s. I couldn’t be less. Its classic aesthetic fascinates me. Its hamburgers are among my favorites, but the most exquisite secret of Sandy’s cuisine is not its legendary hamburgers but its ice creams. Hot Fudge would have been a dangerous temptation for my mother because of her diabetes. I’m sure it would be one of her recurring requests.
A Coffee to Remember
Great music, Austin’s best coffee, and craft beers in one of the city’s most magical courtyards. Many of my mother’s Texas afternoons would have ended there. Between smiles, stories and good advice, evenings would be remembered forever. My mother would have been happy under the shaded trees.
A Western-Style Tavern
Locally produced craft beer is one of the wonders that Austin hides. My mother was not a beer fanatic, but I am sure she would have enjoyed this cozy place immensely. A walk through César Chávez and its galleries would have ended with a good hamburger or another of the delights of the casual menu of this place watered by a good local beer.
The Taco of Austin
Entering Juan in a Million is a unique experience. Without a doubt, the perfect breakfast is served there. It would have been wonderful to offer my mother the opportunity to savor the exuberance of Mexican cuisine in this iconic place. As it closes early, we would have gotten up early to be ready to devour a Taco Juan in a Million. Maybe we should have taken more than half home, but just seeing her eyes of surprise at this giant dish would have been worth it.
If there is a place that evokes the most Rock & Roll America, it is the Casino El Camino. Rock, Bloody Marys and the best burgers in the United States would have delighted my mother’s exquisite palate. An experience that I am sure would not stop telling all her friends in Asturias.
The Symbol of Texas
The icon of Texan cuisine would have been our first destination once we had got off the plane. I’m not sure if Sweet & Spicy, my favorite, would have been my mother’s choice. Perhaps, she would have opted for Menu No. 1, without lettuce, since she had undergone a stomach operation years ago and could not digest any vegetables. A purely Texan experience that my mother would never forget.
For all those moments, advice and smiles that came out of your face when you saw us on the iPad screen. For a lifetime of dedication. For that undying love. For your incomparable kindness and your example of fight and survival. For that modernity and clarity you had to do to make me see the world more simply. For having survived a postwar period, a fascist dictatorship, cancer and a widowhood with hope. For all this and more, these words go to you, mom. I will always dream that you will come see me in Austin.
I love you mom.
* In memory of my mother