James Renovitch with a Chicken Nada at ThunderCloud (Photo by Kimberly Jones)
Editor James Renovitch: I’m nowhere near a vegetarian, but damn it, I love that flavorful fake meat and sandwiches around it in ThunderCloud Subs Chicken Nada Sandwich. Prepare for some quality small talk with your sandwich maker and some impatient pats from those behind you in line as you wait for the patties to cook.
Various locations, thundercloud.com
Maggie Thompson, Associate Editor: I’m one of those people in my twenties who moved here from the west coast, couldn’t score a spot in Austin, and landed at the last minute in the sweet home of Cedar Park. I’m happy with it, because of the hidden gems like Aleida’s Latin cuisine. The restaurant on Little Elm Trail is very charming and always has a gorgeous cake on display (major Abuela vibes), but something about the food truck outside the Chevron on S. Bell Boulevard is different. The original arepa literally appeared to me in a dream, crispy and smothered in Aleida’s sauce.
Restaurant: 2011 Little Elm Trl., Cedar Park; food truck: 602 S. Bell Blvd., Cedar Park. aleidas.com
Arts and Food Lists Editor / Kitchen Lieutenant Wayne Alan Brenner: I can drive to El Rincon, a funky Tex-Mex joint in Pflugerville, from my house in three minutes. I could drive there anyway if it took an hour. The lively canteen atmosphere, the ever-flowing coffee and the perfect salsa, and omg, that generous plate of carne guisada: precisely what it takes to conquer the most hungover morning, any day of the week.
200 E. Pecan, Pflugerville, elrincontexmex.com
Katherine McNevins, Editor of Special Screenings and Community Lists: Last time I ordered my favorite from Vivo, I said that’s what I would like for my last meal. Kind of a morbid thought, but it cemented in my mind how good it was, like I didn’t know it: shrimp tacos, perfectly spiced and on lightly grilled tortillas with cheese, so it’s almost a quesadilla, and topped off with a creme fraiche of chipotle sauce, crispy cabbage and the best fries and salsa in town.
6406 N. I-35 #2343, vivoaustin.com
Editor Kimberley Jones: I love Bun Belly’s salt and pepper tofu so much that I pay Favor’s stupid $6 fee just to have it delivered to my front door. It’s a sinus clearing salad, heavily seasoned with lime, with sautéed jalapeños and radishes. The main event is the chewy tofu, encased in a delicately seasoned tempura that somehow retains most of its crunch even with the trip across town. Worth every penny.
6929 Airport #132, bunbellyatx.com
Poke-Poke (Photo by John Anderson)
Editor Rachel Rascoe: I’ve had lunch fixations on a few poke bowls around town, but Poke-Poke on Hancock has held my attention the longest for its consistent freshness and perfectly simple OG seasoning (soy sauce, sesame oil, onions and Sesame seeds). Specifically, I get the Lil Salmon Poke with white rice, kale, and, if I’m feeling particularly fancy, macadamia nuts.
2320 Hancock, poke-poke.com
Qmmunity proofreader and editor, James Scott: In all honesty, I could put any dish from the Bouldin Creek Cafe as an essential: hangover cure Swamp Thing; the magical pile of beans, vegan cheese and rice from the Slacker Banquet; or the Benedict-style vegan eggs, the Renedict, which always reminds me of our editor-in-chief James Renovitch. But the potato and leek omelet stands above it all, a starchy king smothered in black pepper sour cream and stuffed with delicious potatoes and leeks. Breakfast of champions, I would say.
1900 S. First, bouldincreekcafe.com
Bento picnic (Photo by John Anderson)
Editor and Journalist Lina Fisher: JewBoy Burgers’ bean burrito is my guilty work lunch because it’s both convenient ($5, hearty and portable) and indulgent (schmaltz and queso?? c’maaaan). Bento Picnic’s Garden Bento box is great for special occasions – something about the all-bagel seasoning they put on fresh avocado with kale salad, sweet squash and pickled vegetables on the side ? Vegetarian delight at its finest.
5111 Airport, jewboyburgers.com; 2600 E. Cesar Chavez, bentopicnic.com
Food Writer Melanie Haupt: I’m not a big fan of fried chicken, but my family loves it. So when Tumble 22 pops up in the nightly family takeout rotation, I’m grateful that a salad option is available. The full Cobb salad is a huge serving, and it’s stuffed with delicious things like avocado, bacon, cheese, and deviled eggs. Even without the plump chicken fillets, this is an extremely filling dish. If I have to eat fried chicken, I might as well reassure myself by tasting it on a bed of lettuce.
Various locations, tumble22.com
Editor Mike Clark-Madison: 888 Orange Chicken: I wouldn’t order this dish anywhere else (unless I’m looking for Chinese in malls, which I sometimes do), and it’s not what most people would order to the Vietnamese Pan-Asian mainstay, but give it a try – fruity but also spicy and a little astringent, with perfectly fried chicken, and plenty enough for your hungriest moments.
2400 E. Oltorf Ste. 1-A, 888panasianrestaurant.com
Cultural Editor Richard Whittaker: A fish dish can be complicated, but the fish itself should be simple. District Kitchen + Cocktail’s Rainbow Trout bridges this seemingly illogical divide by searing brown trout to buttery, flaky perfection, then layering it over golden raisin wild rice that looks and feels nothing like see with the texture of a rocky river bed. The pesto sauce adds just enough zest to the surprising indulgence of roasted Brussels sprouts. Pair it with Citrus Old Fashioned.
5900 W. Slaughter Ste. D-500; 7858 Shoal Creek Blvd. Ste. B.; districtaustin.com
Corrector Jasmine Lane: Oh man, those Cuban yucca fries. Something about hanging out on the patio at Kinda Tropical with a cocktail and a pile of crispy, starchy yucca fries really brings the weekend home. How about that avocado jalapeño dip? Magic.
3501 E. Seventh, kindatropical.com
Platanos fritos in El Sunzal (Photo by Kevin Curtin)
Music Editor Kevin Curtin: Platos fritos con crema y frijol à El Sunzal: perfectly ripe plantains, sliced vertically and fried, then placed in the center of a plate and offset with rich, tangy Salvadoran cream on one side and unfrozen refried pinto beans from the other. Altogether, this $6 dish, which pairs well with the a la carte pupusas, features an image akin to a yin yang symbol. And why not? They are fruits, proteins and dairy products in an unexpected harmony.