Archive for May, 2010

H-E-B plus for us

H-E-B plus! stores have been springing up all over Texas, including in the Austin area, but not close to close-in Austinites. With the arrival of the redone store on East Riverside, all this has changed.

Somewhere between a standard H-E-B grocery (if there’s any such thing) and Central Market, there are H-E-B plus! stores. They are larger and they stock more household soft and hard goods, including such items as televisions. As of this past weekend, the H-E-B on Riverside, perhaps even more crowded per square inch with merchandise and people than the store at Oltorf and Congress, although open during the entire enlarging and remodeling process, is now officially a plus.

The parking lot is still undergoing improvements and there’s still some stocking to be done, but gone are the narrow aisles of yesteryear. It used to be almost impossible to avoid bumping into a fellow shopper, but those days are over.

I forgot to count the number of checkout lanes, but they were legion, and they were all open and complete with assistants to place the checked-through purchases in sacks.

The produce section is very large and complete. Aguas frescas in many flavors are being prepared in view of the shoppers. There’s a fish counter, and in the case are many specialties, including octopuses displayed in the fashion often seen in Mexico. There’s a very long glass case that shows off all the popular cuts of beef as they would be displayed in Mexico. These carniceria cuts are in addition to the standard packs of beef to be seen in any store in town.

No part of the steer, the hog, or the bird is wasted. Every part is available for purchase, from pigs’ trotters to chicken feet.

This store, at 2508 East Riverside next to Pleasant Valley, is open from 6 am to 1 am every day of the week (telephone 448-354).

Counter Cafe: breakfast for the busy

At the Counter Cafe, there’s also breakfast for those at leisure. This is the former GM Steakhouse on Lamar across from Book People.

The patrons this Friday morning were young and old, first-timers and regulars, deuces, solos, and larger parties, with children and without them, seated on backless diner stools at the counter, or at tables, inside or outdoors.

Although the coffee comes to the table in one of those extremely thick mugs, not a personal preference, the brew is from excellent beans and is generous with them, and the refills come without asking.

At our two-top we enjoyed eggs benedict, which arrives with a baking-powder biscuit for a foundation and a choice of layers; spinach was the selection. The egg dish shared a plate with a very generous helping of house-made hash-brown potatoes with onion and pepper. I can only speak about my own order, biscuits and French fries. I was very pleased.

Pancakes and breakfast tacos seemed to be the most popular orders. On every table were bottles of “rooster sauce” (Sriracha), Tabasco, and a bottled red salsa from Mexico, along with a bowl of tiny portions of half-and-half for those who don’t take their coffee unadorned.

The acoustics do not overpower conversations, but the space is small and it’s possible to overhear talk that’s interesting and not. Those seated at the counter enjoy a close-up of the professional culinary work behind it. Table service is swift and professional. Someday, I hope to try the lunch menu; the quail sounds especially tasty. Counter Cafe is one more only-in-Austin place that’s not overrun by tourists but that’s a lot of fun and people-watching for out-of-town guests.

Quiet zones

Back in October I wrote and entry entitled, the Sound of Silence. While I know that many residents enjoy the sound of the train horns as they approach the various street level crossings in town, there are federally approved standards for design that eliminate the need for them.

Well Leander is moving forward on this, based on this report from KXAN. Josh Hinkle reports that Austin won’t be moving forward anytime soon.

Why? Well the city can’t find the $500,000 needed for a study. What?

Outrageous, why is a study needed and how the heck does it justify spending HALF A MILLION DOLLARS on it. It seems to me that’s just an excuse for the lack of real action.

While I know it’s not linked, Brian Kelsey Director of the Capital Area Council of Governments is leaving Friday May 14th. In a summary of his 5-years in planning he said: “Planning is critical, but it needs to evolve. We talk a lot about the value of a plan being in the process, rather than the end product. And then we spend 50 percent of the budget on a 125 page document that very few people will have time to read, much less use in any meaningful way.”

Someone at the city needs a rocket up their ass if they really think HALF A MILLION on a report will solve or help anything or tell us something we don’t already know. Get on and do something, less consultants, more action!! Make a decision will ya, thats what you were elected for…

Property values, guns and oil

Guns and Oil (1998) by Sokari Douglas Camp

Guns and Oil (1998) by Sokari Douglas Camp

Mike Mandel the Chief Economist at Business Week has an interesting post on his personal blog about house price values in major metro areas. In way that the web only can, there are also interesting comments and cross links to a separate blog that summarizes data on salaries.

If you feeling the squeeze here in Austin, maybe this is the reason for it. Salaries are increasing only a little more than 1% per year before inflation, and one of the lowest; house prices which many see as the bellweather of the Austin economy and many would argue the reason for so much [unwanted?] change, are also significantly lagging.

The areas with most growth? Those around significant development areas for guns and oil, Austin-Round Rock-San Macros, Killeen-Temple-Fort-Hood and Odessa, Texas are all discussed. Read through to the comments on both blog entries, I learned something… A Wonk isn’t just a cuddly creature from The Adventures of Wonk by Muriel Levy

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