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What started in the early 1990s has become a citywide movement: All over Austin, Texas, creative and talented chefs are giving up traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants in exchange for funky refurbished Airstreams and concession trailers — and the city has embraced it. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 2,000 food trucks are currently operating in Austin, serving everything from cupcakes to kimchi.
And two people at the heart of it all are Andy and Lindsey Potter. About 6 years ago, Andy and Lindsey were on vacation in California and went on a food tour. They thought it was really great, and they wondered if there was anything like that in Austin — there wasn’t.
So, in January of 2011, they started Austin Eats, the original food tour company in Austin, and developed the original South Congress walking tour that they still run on Sundays. Since then, public tours featuring locally-owned Austin food trucks have been added every Saturday (and select Sundays), in addition to private tours for groups of eight people or more.
“We want guests to experience authentic Austin,” Andy said.
With that in mind, Austin Eats’ Best of Austin Food Truck Bus Tour allows guests to eat their way through the south, downtown and eastside areas of the city by sampling a variety of what makes Austin’s food truck scene so unique. Departing from downtown Austin on an air-conditioned bus (a definite perk on one of Austin's 100-degree summer days), the tour is the perfect way for travelers (and even locals) to discover some of Austin’s hidden gems.
Following are some of the stops we sampled on our Austin food truck tour.
Hey!... You Gonna Eat or What? (1720 Barton Springs Road)Hey!... You Gonna Eat or What? Chef Eric Regan takes classic sandwiches and flips them on their head. Take the Fried Green Tomato BLT, for example, or the Spicy SXSW Reuben, which the chef created with Southwestern components for a result that is like no Reuben you’ve ever had. Not for the faint of heart, this sandwich has a definite Texas kick, courtesy of hickory-smoked brisket, spicy slaw, pepper jack cheese and habanero aioli.
But the pride and joy of the truck is the Shiner-Bock-beer-battered Monte Cristo with pit-smoked ham, mesquite-smoked turkey, cheddar and provolone cheese and homemade cherry-and-fig jelly. This beauty won the 2013 Truck by Truckwest Taste-Off and is therefore proudly referred to as “the $10,000 sandwich.” And that win was no fluke.
“There is a very deliberate pairing of the beer in the batter to the smoked meats in the sandwich and a very deliberate pairing of the fruits in the jelly to the cheeses,” Regan said.
Hey!... You Gonna Eat or What? is open for lunch from noon to 4 p.m., and for dinner from 5-9 p.m. It is closed on Wednesdays.
WHAT TO ORDER: The Monte Cristo, of course. The $10,000 sandwich is always on the menu.
For a fun introduction to the Austin, Texas, food truck scene, take Austin Eats’ Best of Austin Food Truck Bus Tour. // © 2015 Samantha Davis Friedman
At the Hey!... You Gonna Eat or What? food truck, order the Spicy SXSW Reuben as well as the Shiner-Bock-beer-battered Monte Cristo. // © 2015 Hey!... You Gonna Eat or What?
Holy Cacao is a dream food truck for anyone with a sweet tooth. // © 2015 Samantha Davis Friedman
Don’t forget to order the beef brisket at La Barbecue, which is cooked for 12 to 15 hours at about 275 degrees. // © 2015 Creative Commons user criminal intent
Foodies can’t go wrong with wood-fired Italian sandwiches at Lucky’s Puccias. // © 2015 Mike Galante
Holy Cacao (1311 S. 1st Street)Holy Cacao was founded in 2009 as a hot chocolate trailer, but in 2013, the truck was taken over by brothers Joe, Matthew and JohnPaul Doherty who upped the ante on this sweet spot. At Holy Cacao, you can find nationally-recognized hot chocolate (and frozen hot chocolate); delectable cake balls, which are bites of delicious cake covered in white or dark chocolate; and Holy Cacao’s trademarked “Cake Shake” — homemade cake bits blended with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
"In a world of health-conscious do-gooders who can make you feel like it's a sin to indulge in junk food, we believe it's your divine right to enjoy the things that are downright bad for you— that's what we call Divinely Delicious," the brothers said.
Holy Cacao is open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
WHAT TO ORDER: Let your sweet tooth be your guide, but you can’t go wrong with the cake balls.
La Barbecue (902 E. Cesar Chavez St.)When visitors ask locals where to get great barbecue in Austin, they are likely to get one of two answers: Franklin Barbecue or La Barbecue. But what some people may not know is that John Lewis, the pit master at La Barbecue, had been lured away from Franklin’s and brought his meat-smoking expertise with him.
The brisket, which Lewis cooks “low and slow” for 12 to 15 hours at about 275 degrees, is perfectly tender. His sausage has a bit of a kick; the chipotle coleslaw has even more of a kick; and the classic potato salad completes the meal.
While the wait at Franklin’s can be upwards of four hours, La Barbecue fans can expect to cut that time in half. However, here’s the best news of all: For guests on the Austin Eats’ food truck tour, there is no waiting at all.
La Barbecue is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until the meat runs out.
WHAT TO ORDER: The beef brisket alone is worth a visit, but the pulled pork, sausage, coleslaw and potato salad are also musts.
Lucky’s Puccias (817 W. 5th Street)If you’re looking for the authentic wood-fired Italian sandwich known as the puccia (pronounced “poo-chah”), you’ll only find it at Lucky’s. That’s because Lucky learned how to make the puccia in Southern Italy, and brought the age-old Italian recipes that have been passed down for generations with him when he came to Austin.
According to Lucky, there is no such thing as Italian cuisine — only Italian regional cuisine. Anyone who serves Italian food should take inspiration from Italian culture. This means using only fresh and organic ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil (which, according to Lucky, means that the olives never touch the soil), and making sure that the dough is never put into the wood-fired oven until a sandwich is ordered.
“If you have a good experience here and go home feeling energized by my food, you will come back,” Lucky said.
WHAT TO ORDER: Lucky’s Puccia with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, arugula and chipotle aioli.