By Melanie Haupt | Live Mon
The Austin food scene has certainly generated plenty of national attention lately, from Aaron Franklin’s appearance on American Express commercials to various chefs’ appearances on Chopped, to the ubiquity of Paul Qui. Indeed, even our food trucks have gotten in on the action, with Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri, and other Food Network/Cooking Channel luminaries (*cough*) featuring local favorites like East Side King and Luke’s Inside Out on their respective shows. And yeah, we know all about those trucks by now. But here are some local mobile (or stationery but still in trucks) vendors you may not have heard of that are churning out some legit eats.
1. Proper Breakfast: Opened in the late spring by Tim Warren (formerly of Uchiko and East Side King) and Justin Spence, Proper Breakfast has been wowing breakfast aficionados with expert preparations of griddled eggs, thick-cut bacon, heaps of hash browns, and thick pancakes that would make your grandmother cry. Some people, who are less squeamish about off-cuts than I am, also praise the scrapple, but I’ll just have to take their word for it. I’m all about those fluffy pancakes and the eggs, which bear the flavor of a nicely seasoned griddle, and you can taste the freshness of the locally sourced ingredients. I’m looking forward to returning soon so that I can have that classic hallmark of a proper breakfast: a toad-in-the-hole. 4001 Medical Parkway, Mon-Sat 7am-2pm, Sun 8am-2pm, properbreakfast.com.
2. Melvin’s Deli Comfort: I’m a sucker for a good sandwich. I can take or leave hamburgers, but a sandwich thick with slices of juicy roast beef swaddled in fluffy bread will stop me cold. Give me a bad croque monsieur and you’ve got an enemy for life. Fortunately, the folks at Melvin’s — “Melvin” is a portmanteau of Melinda and Kevin (Ellis), the couple that owns and operates the trailer — know from sandwiches and offer a broad array of deli favorites, from a hot italian sub scratch pb&j. My favorite so far has been the croque monsieur, rich with shaved ham and topped with bechamel sauce and gruyere cheese, but I’ve also got my eye on the Reuben with house-smoked pastrami; I’m even a little curious about the scratch pb&j. 53rd & Duval, Tue-Sat 11am-2pm,melvinsdelicomfort.com.
3. The Fat Cactus: Navajo tacos aren’t really a thing in these parts, although you can get them at the annual powwow at the Toney Burger Center. Navajo tacos follow a similar template to a “regular” taco, except instead of a tortilla, the fillings come wrapped in a piece of frybread and always, always, always come dressed with New Mexico green or red chile. The Fat Cactus offers a variety of Navajo tacos, but start with the O.G. with traditional toppings of spicy ground beef, pinto beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Look for daily specials like roasted pork and the Greek Western. Vegetarian options are available. Gibson and South Congress, Sun & Mon 12-6pm, Tue-Sat 12-9pm,fatcactusaustin.com.
4. Burro Cheese Kitchen: Open since February on South Congress, catty-corner to Amy’s ice cream, Burro Cheese Kitchen elevates grilled cheese to gourmet status. Operating out of a sleek yellow shipping container, Justin Burrow pairs accessible cheeses (brie, fontina, havarti, gruyere) with workmanlike breads (sourdough, beer bread, King’s Hawaiian) and adorns them with fancy sauces (chocolate, balsamic apricot fig, spicy maple bacon, and so on) before smooshing them with what I imagine to be an industrial-sized panini press. I opted for the O.G. (what is with that naming convention), a simple construction of havarti and King’s Hawaiian bread, and got a cup of tomato soup on the side. While I could have done with a little less char on my bread, the cheese was dreamy-gooey and the generous portion of tomato soup was heavenly. 1221 S. Congress, Tue-Sat 11:30am-8:30pm, Sun 10:30am-4pm, burrocheesekitchen.com.
5. Cow Tipping Creamery: Ice cream season is almost behind us, all the more reason to hasten to the Rio Rancho food court for the innovative sundaes (called “stackers”) and shakes at this mom-and-pop ice cream shop. The stackers feature housemade soft-serve in a variety of flavors, layered in numerous variations featuring CTC’s signature sauces and crunchy toppings. We most recently opted for At the Ritz, a salty-sweet combo of hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, and Ritz cracker crunch topping. My friend is a big fan of the Fluffer Nutter, boasting toasted marshmallows, Nutter Butter crumb, peanut butter sauce, and sliced banana. Keep an eye out for rotating seasonal flavors like fig and cotton candy. 26th and Rio Grande, Tue 1:30-9pm, Wed-Sat 1-9pm,cowtippingcreamery.com.