Archive for July, 2008

Jim’s quick-lunch

While the Frisco Shop is in transit between its former location and its location-to-be, what’s a Frisco fan to do? We thought of Jim’s and headed for Oak Hill. We’re so glad we did. In keeping with old Austin customs, the noon rush-hour seems to begin at about 11 o’clock. Counter, tables, and booths but for one were still occupied by the first luncheoneers when we arrived, but by 1 o’clock, more seats were available.

The milk-shake critic deems the offering at Jim’s to be just as fine as the one at Katz’s, although a bit smaller. Today’s special was smothered chopped steak, meaning topped with mushrooms and homemade brown gravy. It pleased the one who ordered it, and that person had fully intended to order a ‘burger with Jim’s Frontier chili atop it before being sidetracked by the special. Beyond the customary potato trio of French-fried, hash-brown, and mashed, the vegetables of the day were black-eyed peas, fried okra, and cabbage. For some reason, all at our table made a beeline for the cabbage, so that’s all I can report on. We enjoyed it in its downhome glory, complete with plenty of something pork, smoked and salty.

Dough products were a light dinner roll and fine light biscuits, individually shaped by a circular cutter. Butter doesn’t arrive at the table unrequested, but it is available, so one needn’t stick with the margarine that comes unbidden. I myself very much enjoyed my grilled chopped steak, obviously a custom grind of Jim’s, with not a hint of bone or cartilege, and of course no filler. I’m always meaning to try that pot roast of beef, the Wednesday special, but that Wednesday has yet to arrive. It must be that I’m set free only on other days of the week.

I very much like the tortilla soup. Since even a cup of it is a satisfying quantity, I suppose that a bowl might keep a person happy for a week. There are often extra tortilla strips on the side for those who’s like even more solids to join the chicken and other ingredients in the tomato-ey broth. Many were those who really tried to set aside room for pie or cake, but who failed.

Jim’s is open 24 hours a day, every day but Christmas. I think that breakfast is served all 24 hours, although baked potatoes are available only from 5 to 10 pm. Those who remember the Magic Time Machine may not remember that it was a corner of the Jim’s universe. Jim’s still uses chairs on wheels at the tables, as Luby’s used to. I love the physical menu itself, plastic coated and richly illustrated with photographs of food in the full splendor of saturated color, which stays at the table so that you can plan what you’ll order the next time you dine at Jim’s.

Blue south of the river

Blue-faced in South AustinA small gathering of those with blue complexions was spotted this noon-hour.

At least one person sported a face of green. Peeking from the backpack of a member of the cast of characters was what looked suspiciously like a chainsaw. A prop?

The female members of the cast were costumed in school uniforms.

Someone must have spent a considerable amount of money on blue goop.

Salmonella Outbreak: Might as well tell me I can’t eat

We’ve all, no doubt, heard about the salmonella outbreak by now. Reports first blamed tomatoes, then jalapenos and cilantro. The tomato ban was lifted last week. A new report today says that salmonella has been found in a Mexican jalapeno at a plant in Texas. Here’s the FDA page on the outbreak.

This is killing me. Figure it out already. That latest report is so contradictory and vague, I don’t know what to think. If I can’t have tomatoes, jalapenos or cilantro, you might as well tell me that I’m not allowed to have food.

Fliptastic triangulating

Flipnotics, the TriangleFlipnotics has a version of itself at the Triangle these days. Speaking of coffee, the espresso at $1.19 was a generous shot of excellent coffee prepared as it should be. Presentation in a Styrofoam cup did nothing to enhance the superiority of this excellent beverage, but that’s a mere quibble.

The lighting by day is crepuscular, quite a relief from the brightness of the noonday sun. There’s plenty of room for those wishing to take advantage of the free WiFi. The only evidence of day that makes its way in is back behind the small stage, where a window looks out upon a courtyard pool and those sunning themselves by it.

Emerging from the Flipnotics twilight world, we wandered by a bocce court and a funny fountain with programmed multiple sprays. You won’t see it at work, though, until you find that activating button and push it.

Sago weekend lunch

Sago modern Mexican food, the TriangleDon’t miss the charro beans at Sago. Don’t miss the Sagorita (Cazadores reposado, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, perfect and without stinting on the portion). Don’t overlook the outdoor seating if you’re not in search of air-conditioned chill. Do appreciate the subtle sauces and salsas. The corn tortillas were homemade.

At our two-top, I loved the subtlety of the sauce made from chiles de arbol. It was picante and very complex, a wonderful pairing with the pork enchiladas. The Faithful Dining Companion loved the cheese enchiladas. At first taste, the beans seemed slightly salty; if that perception was true, it was soon forgotten, since these beans were a perfect texture, with a wonderful broth and plenty of smokey pork of one kind or another. Coke was refilled with no asking required. The honey-cilantro rice could do without the honey, but that’s just one person’s opinion.

The kitchen is semi-open, the acoustics are lively, the music was Latin rock and pop, the napkins are cloth, the service is friendly and attentive, the two table salsas are not duplicated elsewhere in town, the chips are a bit salted, and the physical surroundings include a bar, booths, and tables, with colors on the Barragan-esque part of the spectrum.

Sago bills itself as “modern Mexican.” I was glad to see a good number of tables filled, even at the very beginning of the lunch hour. Sago stays open continuously from breakfast until closing. It’s attractive by day and I’d guess that it’s quite romantic under evening lighting. I plan to try other items on this menu in the future. Sago is a bright spot at the Triangle, which grows livelier day by day.

iPhone Lines – One Week Later

This will probably only interest a small minority, but that’s what blogging’s all about right?

I’ve been planning on getting the 3G iPhone for pretty much the past year, but I wasn’t enthusiastic enough to wait in line last Friday to get one. Last year, when the first generation was released, a co-worker waited a little less than a week to go get one at the Apple store at The Domain and walked right in and out with one. I was hoping that I’d be able to do the same.

No such luck.

I’ve been watching the iPhone availability page over the past week and both Barton Creek and The Domain have shown no stock. I finally decided to call The Domain store this morning at 10am. Turns out, they are, in fact, getting phones on most days, it’s just that people are lining up as soon as they’re open and they’re selling out of each day’s stock by the end of the day. So, if you really want one anytime soon, it appears you’re going to have to do pretty much the same thing that you had to do on the first day.

A few more tips:

  • Be prepared to wait. I was there for 3 hours today. One of the employees estimated a 1 hour 45 minute wait when I arrived. Yeah. They did seem to be good about making sure that there were enough phones for those in line.
  • The holdup appears to be people switching from another carrier. One man was being helped for a full hour and three others were there for a half an hour. I’m an existing AT&T customer. It took them 10 minutes to check me out.
  • Over the three hours I was there, there were between 2 and 5 Apple employees actively setting people up with phones. It really should be 5 all the time. I realize they need breaks, but Apple needs to staff up.
  • They could probably streamline some of the process. The employee has to ask you which model you want and then shuffle back to the back room to get the phone and come back. They’re using up a few minutes with each customer to do this. It’s probably to avoid theft, but this adds up.
  • My guess is that you might have a faster experience at an AT&T store but I hear that their stock is much lower. That’s all purely anecdotal, so please correct me in the comments if you’ve had a different experience.

How do I like the phone so far? It’s pretty fscking amazing. I giggled like a little girl the first time I controlled my iTunes library on my PC from the phone. I sense an Airport Express purchase in the near future. The App Store is like crack. I downloaded several apps, including Shazam, which can identify a song you’re listening to on the radio and then link you to purchase it in iTunes. Unbelieveable.

Something for the weekend: Hello/Goodbye – Musical Notes

It’s a strange old thing, I guess if you hang around the music scene long enough you get used to seeing groups come and go, form and reform. I met up with Nelson Valente last w/e and he told me that Maneja Beto were doing one last gig before taking a break for the rest of the year, so I went along last night and had a great time at the Mohawk. So goodbye favorite local band Maneja Beto, come back soon, in the meantime, there is always YouTube.

Meanwhile my longtime buddy and “superfan” Peggggy has got me hitched with Four Way Free. The band are touring the old fashion way, in a van. They have a great acoustic rock sound, and have been writing and posting video blogs on the earlier part of their tour, I’m looking forward to seeing them back in Austin.

They are in town Saturday evening at the “Dirty Dog Bar“. Interestingly Dirty Dog describes itself as “sports bar with a focus on extreme sports” – I bet my definition of extreme sports and theirs are a bit different, 112-mile ride followed by a marathon anyone? – Anyway, I disgress. The band are in town for just one show before heading off to New Mexico and gigging their way back home to Southern California. Check them out online, and come see them Saturday.

Jo’s out-javas those others

That’s the conclusion to draw, I think, from the fact that Starbucks has announced its plans to shutter some 600 of its outlets around the nation, that only two on the big closure list are in Austin, and that one of those two has been in a geographic face-off with local favorite Jo’s Hot Coffee on South Congress.

There’s dog-friendly Jo’s, independent stand-alone that sprang up on the pavement where a used-car lot used to be, Jo’s without much shade, Jo’s building a name from scratch as a venture after the pie biz and before Lamberts, Jo’s with beer, juices, and food to stand alone or accompany the caffeine.

Maybe Starbucks has good coffee, but I don’t know. Caffeine-ingestion at the homestead begins and ends with unsweetened piping-hot black or very chilly iced coffee brewed from house-ground Ruta Maya beans picked up at the Farm to Market. The filter is Melitta number six. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a Starbucks, and I’ve never consumed any Starbucks product. The first Starbucks that I can remember was the one on Congress with the knobs outside the windows to ward off Evil Bus Riders (I’m one). Little City was downtown first and has always welcomed everybody, open from the beginning to all life-forms on the Avenue.

Jo’s has been a magnet on Congress south of the river since its earliest days. Long may it thrive and prosper!

Full moon celebration

Its full moon tonight, just a quick reminder of a couple of fun things…

First up at 7.30pm it’s Full Moon Yoga – Should wrap up around 8.30pm, leaving just enough time to drive down to Barton Springs and park for the 9pm free Barton Springs full moon swim, which was big fun last month although I only caught it on the Austinist [video, work safe!] – hint, don’t bring your wetsuit – should be a howling good time!

Recycle, reduce – Rethink!

So, down at the coal face it seems there is an ever increasing drum beat to do more, turn off lights, switch to energy efficient bulbs, recycle more etc. I’ve always done my part, the cardboard boxes are piled high in my garage waiting for that w/e when I have time to flat pack them and tie them up for the City to take.

However, everday, between 4.30-7 am an industrial garbage removal truck comes to the local bakers, tips up their huge industrial size bin and out flows more garbage per day than I generate per year(probably). If I watch during the day, they throw in a stream of cardboard boxes, along with all the regular trash. I dunno, just sayin…

Last night as I flew back into Austin on the late flight from Chicago(Yeah I know, the very act of flying isn’t so great), it was with sheer amazement that I watched as the City burned so bright. It wasn’t so much the downtown area, but the huge lots either side of I35, the parking spaces way out of town, not a single car in sight, the car dealershsips, some strange homage to the $1 Gallon of gas, now laden with steel monsters from what is possibly a bygone era. Never mind, even at 10,000ft you can still pick-out the individual shapes thanks to the fantastic floodlighting.

Wait a minute, Austin Energy is asking me, all of us, to let them fit a control to our AC system so they can cycle off on AC during the middle of the day at peak times, fair enough maybe. But, is all that energy used to illuminate nothing, empty parking lots, trucks that won’t sell, really free? Somehow I think not. Isn’t it about time to start tackling local waste before proposing more offshore drilling?

Start by requiring businesses that are closed during the hours of darkness and for whom there is no use of their parking lot to shut off their lights and then how about a commercial recycling scheme? Oh yeah, I’m prepared to do my bit, no more closed bottles with just water in at sports and music events. Lets ditch the plastic…

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