Food & Drink : All you can eat

News and notes from the San Antonio food scene

What do we have here in our hot little hands? Why, it’s The Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide, which comprises 390 reviews by three “feisty” writers — Rebecca Markovits, Robin Goldstein, and Monika Powe Nelson. By “feisty” they mean un-sauced assessments such as “It’s the oldest Tex-Mex in town — and that’s about it” (Jaime’s Spanish Village); and “Sort-of-Indonesian food at a popular but disappointing lunch spot” (Java Noodles). Restaurants are listed alphabetically (additional sections provide geographical and cuisine breakdowns), food and experience are ranked on scales of 1-10, and you don’t have to squint at fine print or decode clever iconography to figure out how much your base meal will cost; it’s right up top in a shaded oval. The authors also take pains to stake out the esoteric culinary experiences dear to foodies’ hearts: back-alley haunts serving authentic Asian fare and unlikely gourmet eateries.

Most crucially, the reviews match real-life experience. Their assessment of the (deep) South Austin Tex-Mex Evita’s is spot on, ranking the food well above average but not stellar, and accurately raving about the lazy-susan-o’-salsas that pairs perfectly with the icy schooners of beer. We also have to agree with the 9.3 for food and 8.6 for experience awarded Vespaio, and this refreshingly offside takedown of the ineffably bland modern incarnation of Threadgill’s: “Texas culinary instincts in 1970 were not quite on par with the musical progress of the region, and the execution of the Southern comfort food served here is decidedly dated.” At $14.95, the book is a steal for anyone who frequents Austin restaurants or is looking for a reason to make the I-35 drive. Available at Barnes & Noble, etc. for orders and info.

H-E-B will help you out with gas for your Austin dinner excursion with its Fuel Bucks program, which launched July 7. For every $25 in groceries purchased at participating stores, customers will receive a $5 gas coupon, redeemable at H-E-B gas stations. Diabolically brilliant it is, but unavailable at Central Market — the thinking being, I guess, that if you’re buying $18 olive oil, you’re not worried about the gas bill. has a complete list of Fuel Bucks locations.

Ah, but CM has the gas racket beat. Tarpley, Texas, is only 35 miles northwest of the city, but for those of you who haven’t renewed your outside-1604 passports, on July 17 Central Market is bringing the community’s famous Mac & Ernie’s Roadside Eatery to you, via a Cooking School class with chef and owner Naylene Dillingham-Stolzer. Pistachio & Cilantro Chimichurri Stuffed Pork Tenderloin will be the centerpiece of this $45 tutorial. Call 368-8617 for reservations.

Perhaps you’d like to finish your meal with a cheese plate, but don’t know if you should pair the Heubluman with the Selun just because they’re both Swiss. Whole Foods Market’s Cheese Festival, noon-3 p.m. July 15, will offer samples and advice at the hands of the store’s Cheese Specialist. Just drop by the Chef’s Case. 255 E. Basse in the Quarry. 826-4676 or for more info.

And if you just want to sit down to a nice meal in your hometown, Southtown Café, 1127 S. St. Mary’s, would like to offer its Wi-Fied indoor and outdoor seating. Proprietors Jan Bonugli and Diane Smith serve healthy, seasonal fare such as the Sardinia sandwich, which layers fresh, seasoned goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and basil on ciabatta. Pastries, coffee, and tea are also served. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon-Wed, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri (although the kitchen closes at 9 p.m., because, you know, no one eats in SA after 9). Closed Saturday and Sunday because, you know, we only eat Tex-Mex on the weekends. 829-1196 or Everybodys- for more info.

- Elaine Wolff

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