Here’s Your Chow Guide to the U.S. Grand Prix Formula 1 Race
Thousands are descending on Austin for Formula 1’s U.S. Grand Prix. These are the best bites ‘n sips off the grid.
Juan in a Million: For 35 years, Juan Meza has been slinging hot Tex-Mex in the Lone Star capital. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Juan’s is how to start your day. Try the Con Queso Breakfast—two eggs with stewed beef, salty potatoes and enough cheese sauce that you’ll want to strip down and dive in. Or Rib Steak Breakfast—a six-ouncer with eggs, refrieds and ranchero sauce. If you’re headed to the Circuit of the Americas, get your Juan to go; you’ll have something to gnaw on while you sit in traffic. (2300 East Cesar Chavez St., 512-472-3872)
Chuy’s: This is the original of what has become a statewide Tex-Mex juggernaut. There’s nothing “buzzy” or “foodie” or “biodynamic” about it, but Chuy’s is where you order the most beguiling salsa verde ever. The secret? Fat. Milk fat, specifically. Chuy’s mixes sour cream into the traditional stew of tomatillos, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice and spices. So bathed, the enchiladas and tacos are elevated from middling to magnificent. If there’s a plausible explanation for why Texas Hill Country pit-masters forgo sauce on their meats, it’s because they get their saucy fill from Chuy’s Deluxe Tomatillo. (1728 Barton Springs Rd., 512-474-4452)
Licha’s Cantina: Tequila nerds unite in this lovely oasis. Licha’s sits in an old Craftsman bungalow with tables inside and out, a killer bar and strung lights that make it feel like everyday is Christmas. The cuisine is a healthy step above your average joint, with hand-rolled tortillas, sandos made with guajillo peanut salsa-soaked bread, and pan-braised seafood. The booze menu is as long as a novel; pick from over 60 tequilas and mezcals. Try ‘em all! On second thought, don’t. (1306 East 6th St., 512-480-5960)
Franklin Barbecue: To state the obvious, Austin is BBQ heaven. You can smell the meat smoking the moment your plane lands. The Salt Lick (slightly outside town) is an institution, but a bit touristy. You can’t go wrong with brisket at John Mueller Meat Co, or pork ribs at Stiles Switch BBQ. Franklin, though, is arguably the place to go now (even President Obama has eaten here). We love the simplicity of the menu: five meats by the pound (brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, sausage), six sandwiches (all the aforementioned, plus “tipsy Texan”), three sides and four pies. It’s BYOL (bring your own Lipitor). (900 East 11th St)
Sway: This temple to modern Thai food is worth a visit just to sit in the dining room, which resembles a giant, wood-lined sauna. A few bites of Sway’s chili-inflected dishes and you’ll feel like you’re in one, too. No worries—cool off with a jelly beer, a Thai beer that’s been sub-frozen with some weird machine. It’s like a beer slushie. Start your meal with the wild boar ribs in soy-chili glaze, then hit the salt + pepper blue prawns. On an expense account? Order up Wakatake Onikoroshi “Demon Slayer” sake at $100 a bottle. (1417 South 1st St., 512-326-1999)
Austin Beerworks Tap Room: Last we counted, Austin is home to over two dozen breweries. There’s Jester King Brewery on Fitzhugh Road, (512) Brewing on Radam Lane, Live Oak Brewing on East 5th—all top-notch and worth a visit. Austin Beerworks Tap Room is our fave, matching beer geekness with an all-around cool, warehouse-bar vibe. (It is, after all, sitting in the middle of the brewery.) The revolving menu currently features Battle Axe imperial red ale and the Super Awesome helles lager, plus the standby Fire Eagle American IPA. (3009 Industrial Terrace, Suite 150, 512-821-2494)
Any liquor store in town: Austin is where Tito’s Handmade Vodka comes from. Tito himself—a former mortgage guy who started out making flavored vodkas as Christmas presents for friends—practices his alchemy at the state’s oldest legal distillery, right here in town. Tito’s was a trailblazer in the small-batch booze biz. And there’s no better place to drink it than in its hometown.