Today, as I was driving to Austin on my first Texas road trip, it hit me that I basically go to Whole Foods and buy the same three entrees every week: sushi, a couple veggie pizza slices and ground turkey enchiladas. How sad is that?
But what's even sadder is that I've been here nearly a month and I have not had Tex-Mex yet.
Call me crazy, but I've been saving it for a special day when I can really savor the moment. That day is today...and I'm going to try it at Ranch 616, which is a South Texas Ice House in Austin (just because I happen to be in the city and someone told me it was good).
So what did I get? Well, I would love to tell you, but I'm not exactly sure as I couldn't pronounce it. I think it might have been the special of the day. The one thing I do know is that it was good...really, really good.
The dish consisted of grilled sea bass, over a chicken enchilada, with some beans and a whole lot of onions. When my server plopped down my plate, the first thing I thought was: Do I eat the onions? The answer is "yes".
Let me tell you something about Texas onions. I don't know what they do to them, but they are special. Unlike the onions I grew up with, these ones don't burn, make your eyes water, or leave you with bad onion breath. Instead they are sweet and yummy. If you don't eat them, you are totally missing out on a Lone Star treat.
But the onions weren't the only part of the meal that was amazing. Everything was perfect. The fish was tender and flakey with a subtle grilled flavor, and the enchilada was flavorful and spicy. And I'm not being nice just for the sake of it. The chef at Ranch 616 knew what he was doing, because the heat from the spice stopped just before your eyes watered - just how I like it.
AND A LITTLE DESSERT FOR THE ROAD
Even though I was stuffed after my entrée, I couldn't resist trying dessert. Miguel, the manager of Ranch 616, recommended the Fried Apple Pie.
This dish is a meal in itself, but it is so worth the calories. It comes with two fried apple turnovers and a special Mexican vanilla ice cream. It sounds simple, but it's divine. First of all, the turnovers are filled with real apples (not like the ones at McDonald's), and the dough is so flakey it melts in your mouth.
When Miguel brought over the plate, I told myself I would only try a couple of bites, but that didn't happen. I couldn't stop myself and ended up finishing them both off.
Ranch 616 (located at 616 Nueces just off of 6th Street) has been around for 10 years. It's also been voted Austin's favorite Ice House (which is why I decided to check it out). If you happen to be in Austin in the next couple of weeks, you'll notice they have a bunch of outside construction going on. That's because they are building an outdoor patio.
If you want to try what I ordered, it's the last entry at the bottom of the lunch menu (I really can't remember what it was called), but they also have other cool things like oyster sandwiches, fried quail, and black Angus burgers.
Miguel also said they make excellent Tequila drinks and at night they have live music, but I'll have to save that for another time.
Now that I'm no longer a Tex-Mex virgin, and I know that it's not just a kick-up version of Taco Bell, I'll be scouring Houston looking the best the city has to offer. Let me know your suggestions, and I'll give them a try.