Let’s have a quick moment of honesty Internet. This review might be a bit biased because I absolutely love the city I currently call home. Austin is awesome for so many reasons, one of them being the food. Austin does not play when it comes to comida (to which I am forever grateful). A book combining both is not only fabulous, but further proves my point of how awesome this city is.
How can I not love a book like that?
Austin has staked its claim as the seat of innovative culinary movements, and its food culture mirrors the transformations taking place across the city. The evolution of the east side is reflected in joints like Franklin Barbecue, while landmarks like Scholz Garten, the oldest restaurant in the capital, testify to the contributions of the town’s college presence and a healthy German influence. Joe’s Bakery isn’t just one of the town’s most beloved Tex-Mex spots; it’s the place where the real wheeling and dealing in Texas politics happens. Food writer Melanie Haupt samples Austin’s iconic restaurants and the rich heritage that produced them.
What was most intriguing about this book was that it showed how the changes in time and culture had such a powerful influence on the changes in food. Like Texas BBQ coming from the slaves to how post World War II prosperity lent to more drive-thru restaurants to the beloved breakfast taco, to SXSW reviving the city in the 80s to the hippie/vegetarian creations to the restaurants incorporating Tex Mex and Southern tastes. Much like the city itself. I found it completely fascinating and it perfectly explains the Austin the world knows today.
Since I currently reside in Austin, I particularly enjoyed reading about the start of many of my favorites and staple restaurants (like Kerbey Lane, Torchy’s Tacos and Magnolia Cafe). I was reading this on a plane ride back to Austin and had to go to Torchy’s directly from the airport :). Sprinkled throughout the book are also interviews and tidbits from long time residents of Austin, restaurant owners and other folks, providing fun and additional insight into the Austin culinary culture.
Also, this quote made me chuckle. It’s from the chapter where Haupt discussed the growth period of the 90s and the folks who started moving to Austin: “…attracting residents from nearby as California (who became the scapegoats for everything from increasingly bad traffic to skyrocketing housing prices)…” We still get blamed 😉
So any foodies out there? What’s one of your favorite restaurants? Oh and if you’re in Austin, I promise to be your food guide!
(Thank you to The History Press for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)