Posts Tagged ‘South Congress’

Congress southside today

Washburn's that wasThe sign for Washburn’s is still there, but a rise in rent forced our cleaner and shirt laundry out just after a new sign had been put up. Now, Home Slice Pizza is using part of the building as an annex, an outfit called Stag has recently opened in the remainder, and we’ve followed one of the Washburns over to Capitol Cleaners on South First. We came out today to grab some brisket from The Pit (no taste of ketchup!) and pick up a Mexican calendar from Tesoros. Our mistake. Somehow, I managed to depict a street that appears to be nearly empty. It wasn’t. Vehicles were bumper to bumper in the street, and pedestrians, many accompanied by dogs or strollers, filled the sidewalks. I hope all those people were spending some money. I’ll be spending some in various establishments and very soon, but it won’t be on a Sunday afternoon; I’ve learned my lesson.

Perla’s leisurely late lunch

Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar outdoors, South CongressThis picture shows outdoor seating at Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar after 1 pm at lunchtime today. It’s shady there, and remarkably quiet. We, however, dined indoors, where the paint colors are subtle and watching fish in a giant aquarium seems more relaxing than observing the hurly-burly of South Congress. I thought that the people with children who chose Perla’s over Guero’s were being smart.

Little crunchy hush puppies made from coarse-ground meal came free to be snacked on while ordering decisions were made. Perla’s serves the best gazpacho I’ve enjoyed anywhere for a long, long time. It’s $6 and arrives in a large portion that’s worth every penny. All tomatoes served in any context today seemed to be home-grown. The oysters and the fish were very fresh and very tasty. The accompaniments to fish and seafood were great complements without in any way overpowering the main attractions. What seemed to be freshly grated horseradish was one of the condiments that came to the table. The hand-cut French fries are in shoestring form and a wonderful treat.

Mixed drinks from the bar weren’t tried, but as described they are novel and sound appealing. The desserts weren’t sampled today, either, but include blueberry shortcake, a homemade lemon ice, and more than one flavor of homemade ice cream. Port and sherry are available.

Many tables were ordering from the appetizers and then enjoying one of the popular items from the sandwich portion of the menu. We saw beautiful bouillabaisse and also a handsome plate of octopus.

The rooms benefit from pleasant natural light in the daytime. The sound was not overpowering. I discerned Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan before I stopped paying attention. Don’t let this one get away, people! There’s real value here and no fooling around with “small plates.”

Woodland quick-lunch

Pie case at The WoodlandThe Woodland on South Congress has been serving lunch for less than a month, but the word must be out, because every table and booth turned over at least once during the noon-hour today. And the pies in this case were going fast. Our table accounted for one giant wedge of apple pie with a beautiful hand-woven (not pre-cut) lattice top.

Here’s my Big Wish when it comes to The Woodland: may the heavenly pork empanadas never leave the menu, ever, for any reason at all. You must try one to know why I beseech the menu divinities to heed my request. This is non-fatty, completely cooked-down pork seasoned with chiles and more and served with a delightful green sauce and some beautifully dressed finely shredded cabbage.

The on-line menu and what’s actually available are not the same, at least not at lunch-time. Today’s soup was tomato bisque, and a lot of it was being served. The main-dish special of the day was chicken-fried steak. A first course brought to our table in addition to those empanadas was a plate of fried oysters, with yet another sauce that could be consumed in bucket-sized quantities. Of the main courses, I tasted only my own very acceptable salmon plate. Chicken pot pie brought in a large bowl would have fed a platoon. It’s reported that the sauce was rich and that there was both light- and dark-meat chicken.

There was a party including several children. Because the acoustics at The Woodland are so lively, it’s difficult to hear the waitstaff or tablemates, so I doubt that even a colicky infant would create any sort of disturbance. Several people were being served at the bar, and I think that I saw meals brown-bagged for takeout being picked up. I’d be interested in sampling other offerings on a future visit, but I’ll never forsake those pork empanadas.

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!

At the brisketeria

Richard Jones Pit BBQ, South Congress
I’ve always been one of those standing outside the window at the Richard Jones Pit BBQ on Congress, just like these people today. Our intention had been to go to Matt’s to enjoy the people-watching on this UT graduation day. There was space in the parking lot, but the tables were full, the waiting area was full, and a line stretched outdoors. We were too late or too early. We thought we’d pick up some brisket for fine home dining, but the line at the Pit window inspired us to go inside and take a table for the very first time ever. Some diners were enjoying their breakfast; others thought that lunchtime had arrived.

We took a booth and there was food on the table within seconds. Service was friendly and efficient. All is spotless. Here’s some of what came to the table: brisket, potato salad, cole slaw, French fries, cornbread, sausage, beans, and a basket containing break, Saltines, and real butter. Remaining to be tried in the future are chopped steak, biscuits, the chili dog, and more.

There’s no sign of ketchup on the outside of the brisket. The rub and smoke reach beyond the surface. The side sauce is a sweet one, but there are jalapenos, Louisiana hot sauce, and Tabasco sauce available for asking so that those who need to may doctor any item to heat it up. I like my cornbread to be made from coarse meal, with no sugar added; those who prefer the opposite will find it here. The beans are particularly good. Lovers of chunky potato salad will find salad of a finer texture. Fried okra was in great demand, although not at our table. The indoors diners were a typical group of South Austinites, mixed with a few tourists. This was the first time indoors here for us, but it certainly won’t be the last.


Fran’s Hamburger’s, South Congress, AustinPark under the carport, go in, step up to the window and place your order, fill your cup with tea, sit down, and wait for your number to be called.

There’s a jukebox, but there’s usually vintage music coming over the speakers with no need to spend any money. If the jukebox is an option, there’s plenty of Tejano music on it.

I always order French fries. They arrive in a flimsy little paper sack. Tabasco sauce is on every table. The chili cheeseburger is gone from the menu, so those who were fond of it must console themselves with a plain cheeseburger.

Fran’s Hamburgers is for the hungry who can’t wait and for those with tired feet. Skip the lines at Magnolia if either of these two conditions apply to you. Your order is made up just for you, and is usually ready quite quickly. Fran’s, along with the Richard Jones Pit, is a South Congress survivor. Ask for carry-out if that’s what you want. Children are welcome here, too.

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