I’m gonna go ahead and file this under ” T ” for “Things I’m Really, Really Pumped About.”
$4.00/glass, $10/half-liter. Party.
Cafe Crepe: 200 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX, 78701-4028, (512) 480-0084
Part-time Salsa dance club, part-time tex-mex dining establishment, Copa (@ 217 Congress Avenue) moves to the beat of many a drummer. Since my dancing skills are reminiscent of Elaine Benes at a company party (“like a fully body dry heave set to music”), I chose to visit Copa at lunch, lest I be tempted by Salsa rhythms, thereby making the other patrons lose their collective appetite.
And it was pretty decent, if I do say so myself. I walked in to a warm, cozy environment where brick walls and arches dominate the scene. There’s three areas downstairs: the front area which seems dedicated to dining, the middle bar area, and a third, large and mirrored room with a small stage that’s dedicated to dancing. There’s also an upstairs and a small patio (of which I did not get any pictures – sorry) Here are some photos:
The architecture is well-done in my opinion, but I’m a sucker for free chips and salsa, and Copa “brings the pain” so to speak, in that department. My waitress was prompt with hot tortilla chips and mild salsa, and the refills didn’t stop throughout the meal. Yum! And, my meal was easy to choose because the menu is only a one-pager of reasonably priced food. I ended up ordering the fish tacos, which my server, Joanna, explained was her favorite item on the menu. At $8.95, they were a pretty good deal – deliciously seasoned and generously portioned:
As I mentioned, Copa also hosts Salsa lessons. Not having taken lessons there, I can’t speak to the quality of them, but the reviews of the lessons from other folks are generally pretty good, though there seems to be a widespread disdain regarding the fact that they do charge a cover for these lessons.
If any of our readers have been, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!
Overall, I’d recommend giving Copa a try (at least for lunch or dinner)!
I don’t really cook, and I don’t own a car, so if I want something good to eat and want said something good to eat in short order – I’m pretty dependent upon restaurants/eateries/deli’s (whatever you want to call them) that are within walking distance. I’m particularly partial to those establishments where I can get something tasty, satisfying, and simple at a reasonable price.
Which is why I was pumped when three new restaurants recently popped up in my Downtown Austin neighborhood: Thundercloud Subs, El Naranjo, and Nacho Creations.
Thundercloud Subs is more than a catchy jingle (btw, I’m a Veggie Delight and Jude is a New York Italian), they are “your neighborhood sub shop.” And now they are MY neighborhood sub shop, too! They’ve been open at their 360 Condos location for a about a month, and I’m delighted to say that the vibe AND the food is what we’ve all come to expect from Thundercloud. Quick, delicious, and fresh food at a reasonable price (I got the regular Tuna Sandwich combo – sandwich, chips, and drink for $5.99) with a simple and clean (but with more character than Subway) vibe. Service was friendly – but my sandwich artists looked a bit bored – only because apparently business hasn’t been quite as good as expected. I was the only person there at noon on a Saturday, which seems weird. I want to keep the likes of Thundercloud in Downtown Austin, so please go out and support – buy a sandwich (and get a cookie, too – you deserve a treat)!
For your convenience – click here for a downloadable menu.
4/2/2010: UPDATE – I ran into Chef Ileana after this was originally written – she informed me that the portion sizes are now larger. I have not re-visited el naranjo yet, but will take some pics next time I’m there and report my findings!
I will say this – the food was delicious. Chef Ileana de la Vega knows the cuisine, and knows flavor – I readily exclaim this to the masses. For me, the main problem (nay, really the only problem) with el naranjo was that I didn’t feel like I got nearly enough of that delicious food for the amount of money I paid. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the quality in relation to the portion size at G’Raj Mahal, where I can get a very tasty, high quality $9.00 plate that takes me two sittings to eat (even though I did initially have some pricing concerns here, as well), but I left el naranjo feeling like I got a $12.00 snack (albeit a flavorful one). I’m kicking myself for not taking some snapshots of the food – as I think a picture would be worth a thousand words in this particular case.
However, other than portion size (of which I do not want to minimize the importance), I was pleased. Right now, as an intermediate step toward opening a full blown indoor restaurant, el naranjo has taken up in what seems to be all-the-rage in Austin eateries these days: a trailer (fun!)! They’ve also put out picnic tables for outdoor seating, adding to the patio-scape that is the Rainey Street bar and restaurant scene:
Click here for a downloadable menu of El Naranjo’s opening selections.
I actually have not been here yet, but heard second-hand about this casual Tex-Mex concept’s opening. Apparently, Nacho Creations rents the Texas Picnic Company location during the evenings and weekends. Different owners, entirely different concept, same space. A great idea to maximize the use of an otherwise only day-time and weekday business space. Nacho Creations’ hours are as follows:
Wed – Thurs: 5:00 pm – 1:00 am
Fri: 5:00 pm – 3:00 am
Sat: 12:00 pm – 3:00 am
Sun: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Planning on trying it after the SXSW rush, and will hopefully add some commentary then. If any of our readers have tried it – would love to hear your thoughts!
I’m excited that new, casual style restaurants are continuing to open here in Downtown Austin. I like the “everyday people” focus these establishments are taking, and believe they are well-suited to the residents and visitors of Downtown Austin.
Now, I gotta go, because it’s time to eat!
9/25/2012: Breaking news….G’raj Mahal announces through their Facebook page that they are expanding! 2nd Location will be at 73 Rainey Street, and it looks like they will have live music. Check out our story on the details of G’raj Mahal’s expansion here.
7/3/2012: Updated menu below! Large groups should note that G’raj Mahal now only takes a maximum of 3 credit cards per order – no matter how many people are in the group. I was told by a server that this policy has been around for years, but I’ve been with several large groups there and June 2012 was the first time this happened, so I think it’s actually relatively new. This policy seems particularly odd to me personally because the minimum credit card order there is $10 (last time I checked, unless they’ve changed that, too), so logic would tell me so long as the total bill for each card is larger than $10, there shouldn’t really be an issue from a fees perspective. I guess maybe it has to do with the servers not wanting to take the time to run multiple cards? I’ve asked Sidney Roberts, the owner – but she has yet to give me a response or reason on the issue….will keep you updated!
Incidentally, it’s also worth noting that the gratuity for parties of 5 or more is now 20% (it used to 18%, per their older menu).
7/2/2010: G’Raj Mahal is currently open from 5pm-12am on Weekdays, 5pm-3am Fri-Sat. CLOSED Mondays. Also looks like all delivery will now be going through Longhorn Delivery (contact info on menu). G’Raj Mahal is BYOB!!!
Sidney, the owner also wanted me to let everyone know that the lamb is halal, blessed, and grassfed – for those following strict diets.
If somebody asked me what I thought about eating Indian food made in a truck, my *go-to* response would be – “less good choice.” At least, that was until I tried G’Raj Mahal Cafe (no website yet, but you can find them on Facebook), located at 91 Red River Street in Downtown Austin. Ummmmm…super yummy!
This gem opened a couple of weeks ago, and when I had the opportunity to try it out the other day, I was very pleasantly surprised. I had the Vegetable Goan Coconut Currie with the Classic Vegetable Samosa, which was all washed down with a Mexican Coke:
Looking at the menu, I initially thought the pricing seemed way super high. After all, this is food made from a trailer. However, the food was made to order, tasted fresh and high-quality, and the portions were generous. While I still think it’s a bit on the pricey side, I also believe that it’s worth it.
**UPDATE 12/14/2009: The owner (Sidney aka Ms. GM) just contacted me to tell me: “FYI…We reduced our prices this week slightly for the entrees as much as we could. However, we use such high grade ingredients, we are somewhat restricted to obey our food costs. We will soon have a late night menu with $5-8 items like naan wraps, lamb burgers, Indian “taco” salad, and spicy goan sausages.” Once I’ve received the updated menu, I will post it.
G’Raj Mahal Cafe does table service and take-out. The table service I experienced was friendly (even deferential) and the overall vibe was good. I would note that there is no indoor seating, but the outdoor seating is covered, and what I would describe as breezy, surrounded by peacefully flowing pieces of gauzy white fabric. Here’s a shot of the typical table:
Overall, I think it’s a good, unique addition to the downtown Austin restaurant landscape, gives the east side of Congress a quality casual dining option, and is a small business that I will support. It’s just a few steps from our residence at The Shore Condos. My only real complaint so far is that it’s only open for dinner (from 5pm-3am everyday). I think a Saturday/Sunday lunch (business permitting) would be awesome.
I love sushi. However, I DON’T love spending a ridiculous amount of money on said beloved sushi. Enter Piranha Killer Sushi (beware, this is one of those websites with the music….), a sushi restaurant on 2nd & San Jacinto (right next to Max’s Wine Dive) with a nice vibe and a reasonably priced (for sushi) menu.
Here’s what I ate (with pricing info) in order of appearance:
I also splurged and had a kettle of hot green tea and an appetizer salad. My total for EVERYTHING was around $30, which sounds like a lot, until you remember that it’s SUSHI we’re talking about – and that I had a bunch of other stuff, too! And the sushi is good! Not great, but good. My shrimp tempura roll…well, okay, the tempura part tasted a little wonky and not like at other more expensive places, and honestly, my “spicy” sauce on my spicy tuna roll wasn’t totally awesome either, but I could still tell the quality of the fish was fairly good. And nothing was bad or tasted gross or anything like that….I’m gonna put it like this – the food is appropriate for the price point. It ain’t Uchi, folks – but then again, it ain’t Uchi (i.e., I don’t have to be an NBA player to afford a solid meal there). I guess the real test would have been to have some sashimi or full-on sushi, which I did not do because I only really like/eat rolls generally at any other sushi place.
While the taste may not have been absolute perfection, the presentation was a step in that direction, for sure. All of the food was presented in a fun, clean, and crisp way. It was colorful and looked fresh and appetizing (see above photos).
And the atmosphere holds the same attributes as the food presentation. The vibe is light, clean, and airy. I dig the Eanes®-style chairs, the natural-like wood grain finishes and furnishings, and the overall DWR-esque-with-a warm-twist style (very clean and modern, but warm and light):
Bottom line: for the money, I think it’s a good call, and a place that deserves and at least one try for those looking for a decent, not too expensive sushi joint in downtown Austin.
Location: 207 San Jacinto, Austin, TX, 78701
’til next time….
A little deli and flower shop with some big backers (namely Sandra Bullock, who also has ownership interest in Bess) opened in downtown Austin earlier this year. All of the DAB crew was pretty excited to have another daytime-use casual cafe downtown. It’s technically the second location for a Walton’s (there is a Walton’s florist shop on Bee Caves). I’ve been a few times this year, but I took the almost extinct ‘Dillo there last week with the express purpose of doing a little write up on the place.
First of all, I think the atmosphere is awesome. The place is kind of split up into three different parts: 1) the front, deli area with some seating, 2) a little flower shop in the back of place and 3) a separate alleyway that consists of only seating. There’s also a small outside dining area. Here are some pictures:
The vibe in here is….well, frankly, it’s adorable. It’s kind of a clean and airy 1940’s vibe. Very light, very sunny. Feminine, but not uncomfortably so.
Now, on to the food. Hog Island Deli fans may not like this statement very much, but it’s been said, and I agree, that Walton’s Fancy and Staple fills the gourmet sandwich void in downtown Austin. I think we all at least can agree that it’s a hell of a lot better than Subway, Which Wich, or Murphy’s. I ordered what I considered more of a specialty sandwich, the seafood po boy:
It was really, really good, as everything I have ordered there has been. It was pricey ($12.99, if I remember correctly), but oh-so-delicious. Everything on the sandwich was fresh and cooked to order, and was delivered to my table pretty quickly after ordering. I didn’t have dessert, but it was not for want of temptation (the desserts are also reasonably priced, in my opinion):
After I ate, I meandered over to the florist shop area. Very adorable, but not extremely affordable. Here are some close ups:
To sum up:
Pros: Great vibe, great food, fills downtown Austin’s gourmet sandwich void.
Cons: A little pricey.
Check it out and judge for yourself: Walton’s Fancy and Staple Website