Category: First Person Travel (page 1 of 5)

Franklin Barbecue – Best Barbecue in Austin?

I recently drove from Dallas to San Antonio, which means that I had to go right through Austin, Texas. When I was planning my trip, I decided to see what restaurants were best rated in Austin and pick one for a meal either on the drive down or back up to Dallas. And Franklin Barbecue is the place that I decided on. I’d found several things online raving about the place – to the point that I was going into it with VERY high expectations.

As someone who grew up in Tennessee, I know good barbecue when I taste it. My dad is always trying some new hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint in search of the best of the best. I also lived in Kansas City and tasted what they try to pass off for barbecue there (blech). And I’ve had plenty of brisket and other BBQ in the DFW area. So, Franklin BBQ had some pretty big shoes to fill right from the start.

Since I read online that lines start before 10am, I knew that this would have to be a stop on the way back to Dallas. So, on the day that I was to leave San Antonio, I got up at 6:30am to get ready and make the pilgrimage to Franklin Barbecue. From what I had read online, this BBQ was going to be a religious experience – at least the brisket.

I’d read that Anthony Bourdain was in Austin earlier this year and declared it the best brisket he’d ever eaten – and that is quite an endorsement. So, I got in line around 9:25am and there were already five or six people there. Most of the people started arriving around 10:30 though. They don’t open up and start serving until 11am.

I wasn’t traveling alone, which means that I got to sample more than one thing on the menu. I tasted the brisket, the pulled pork and the ribs. The sides I tried were the slaw and the potato salad.

Best Brisket in Austin? The Verdict

I can say, that the brisket was definitely the best that I have ever had. It was not quite a religious experience, but I would stand in line for it again. The pulled pork also ranks really high up there for me. However, I didn’t really care for the ribs. The meat seemed a little dry and tough. Sides were good but nothing to rave about. It is also served, if you order the 2-meat plate, with two slices of white sandwich bread (I didn’t eat mine).

Why didn’t I eat my bread? Because they give you enough food on the 2-meat plate to feed a small army! Seriously. They really heap the barbecue on your plate. For two of the 2-meat plates and two iced teas, the total was just over $31. I can’t wait to have an excuse to go back to Austin just to get some more of this brisket.

Franklin Barbecue two meat plate

Review: Old World Bakery and Pizza in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Located directly next door to DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen in Gulf Shores, you will find Old World Bakery and Pizza.

During my stay in Gulf Shores, I never got a chance to try the pizza, but I did have some food from their bakery. From the reviews on Yelp for the pizza, it seems like I did not miss much.

You might be thinking that a pizza-bakery combo restaurant sounds like a disaster. I agree. In fact, I never would have gotten bakery items here if my father hadn’t raved about their sticky buns.

Old World Bakery and Pizza makes these giant sticky buns that are a cross between a cinnamon roll and a pecan roll. There is no icing on top, as it looks more like a pecan roll. The flavor is quite good as it is not too sweet and not too bland.

The only problem with this place is that their opening hours seem fluid. One day they are open by 10am and the next day they are not open until almost noon. The reason that this is such a big problem is that all of the locals seem to know about these sticky buns and they go fast! And once they are gone, Old World Bakery & Pizza does not make more until the next day.

Review: Lulu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Lulu's at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Lulu’s Restaurant at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama has got to be one of the coolest beach restaurants that I have ever been to. The place is huge and it is surrounded by a really awesome obstacle course-like play area for kids of all ages, a huge sandbox, a gift shop, a couple of outdoor bars, an outdoor restaurant and a music stage.

Lulu's Restaurant at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The interesting thing about Lulu’s restaurant is that it is owned by Lulu Buffett, sister of the one and only Jimmy Buffett.

For me, I went to Lulu’s because I saw on the online menu that they serve grass-fed beef for their burgers. I love me a good grass-fed burger. When we arrived at Lulu’s, the wait for the main restaurant was two hours! Instead of waiting that long to eat, we wandered over to the bar with the outdoor picnic table-style seating and were able to get a table immediately. The only catch with eating in this area as opposed to the main restaurant is that you do not get the full menu.

Sadly, the food here was not all that great. Despite ordering my burger medium-well, it was the driest burger that I have ever had the misfortune of eating. The onion rings were not great either as the appeared to have a cornmeal type of batter. The worst part of the meal though was dessert – Krispy Kreme bread pudding. It was soggy and just disgusting.

The only way that I would willing return to Lulu’s is if I had kids and they wanted to play on the obstacle course. If you are considering going for a burger – skip it! You can get a better one at a fast food joint.

Review: DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen in Gulf Shores, Alabama

DeSoto's Seafood Kitchen in Gulf Shores, Alabama

All of the advertisements you will see for DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen in Gulf Shores, Alabama mention how it has been a People’s Choice winner in a variety of categories for several recent years. Supposedly, it was been dubbed ‘Friendliest Staff,’ ‘Best Lunch,’ ‘Best Dinner’ and ‘Best Seafood’ several times.

Of all those titles, all I can say is that the staff is friendly. However, my parents think they have the best food in the area.

I suspect the location of DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen has a lot to do with its popularity since it is one block from the beach and directly beside the popular Old World Bakery.

I dined at DeSoto’s for dinner and ordered the Caribbean Platter (price: $18.99). It came with three Coconut shrimp, a piece of jerk chicken & a fillet of grilled grouper with mango-pineapple sauce. One side comes with the platter, and I ordered the yellow rice.

The best part of my meal was the rice. It was moist and perfectly seasoned. The coconut shrimp was also good, if not a little sweet. More than three of the shrimp would have been nice. The grilled grouper had a hot spicy flavor, like the jerk chicken, and was more pepper hot than tasty. I left the jerk chicken because it was terrible. It looked and tasted like one of those fake pieces of chicken that many restaurants serve – you know the ones I am talking about where the chicken fillet has the perfect symmetrical shape with zero naturally occurring fat.

I also tried the fried green tomato appetizer, which was pretty good. The complimentary bread was also good.

I do not think I would ever return to this restaurant on purpose. While much of my meal was edible, it was not particularly tasty. The restaurant seems to specialize in fried seafood, which is the problem with most of the seafood restaurants in Gulf Shores. As a result, their grilled fish is not the best and most of the stuff on the menu seems overpriced.

The Hangout Restaurant Review – Gulf Shores, Alabama

The Hangout Restaurant Review gulf shores

If you like loud music, slow service and crappy food, then the Gulf Shores staple The Hangout is the place for you. It is part restaurant, part bar and part music venue. Plus, it has a huge play area for the kids. The Hangout it directly on the beach and even shares a parking lot with the public beach parking for Gulf Shores public beach.

The main restaurant area has a bar in the center and is surrounded by tables. A gift shop is also located in the restaurant. And the entire restaurant is open air to take advantage of those sea breezes. The outer area of the restaurant is made up of bars, stages and play areas.

You will most likely encounter a wait when you arrive to eat. Consider this your warning that the food is not worth the wait. My party tried the following items:

  • Mediterranean Salad
  • Caesar Salad
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Fries
  • Gumbo
  • Onion Rings

The only standout was the gumbo (shrimp & sausage), which truly was good tasting. The chicken sandwich had a bun that was as hard as a rock and the chicken itself was beyond dry. The onion rings are in a cornmeal breading (blech) and the Caesar salad did not have traditional Caesar dressing or any cheese on it.

If there is no live loud music playing through the speaker system, there is an annoying DJ playing loud music and encouraging everyone to line dance in the aisles. The same aisles where people are trying to sit and eat (talk about annoying!). And since there is play area for kids, there are constantly kids running down the aisles.

My opinion of The Hangout in Gulf Shores is that it is a total waste of money and time.

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