Austin is a great town for food. That is a known fact, and it is becoming more widely known by the day. People here like to eat, they like to eat good food, they like to eat real food, and they don't their chones in a wad if there is an item on the menu called a "Dirty Sanchez" (note: it's okay to click on that link at work, I promise). It's a town where the simple pleasures in life like enjoying good music, belly-flopping into a chilly spring-fed pool on a 100+ degree day, walking/running/biking alongside a river or on a greenbelt, or just enjoying the company of the ever-lovable man's best friend (there are cat people too, of course) are recognized and fought for.
It being the state capital and undeniably the bluest city in a famously red state, passions get stirred up here as well. About all kinds of things. It's really pretty fascinating when you step back and just try to observe it objectively. That passion exists in the food scene as well. Heated discussions can be had about where to get the best taco, if you so desire. This is a good thing in my opinion. People should feel passionate about tacos—because they are freaking awesome (provided you are not obtaining them from Taco Bell). And while there are always a handful of restaurants that are all the rage and get tons of attention, most people in this town have their favorite little hole-in-the-wall, "mom and pop" places too that they feel equally as passionate about... if not more so.
|the #9 and the #14|
One of mine is Tâm Deli & Cafe on N. Lamar (like north north, north of 183). It meets the criteria... completely unnoticeable in a nondescript strip center, family-run, interiors that haven't been designed by a professional, orders that are placed by number not title, and food that is consistently great. Tâm Deli is no secret. It's always packed with a mixed crowd of people. Going between noon and 1:00 will assure you a wait unless you are getting it to-go... which is pretty much what I do and why all the photos in this post include to-go containers.
It's a quick jaunt from where I work, and it's become my standard damn-I-forgot-my-lunch place. (Sometimes I forget my lunch on purpose.) They're most well known for their bahn mis—which if you are not that familiar with Vietnamese food is essentially a sub sandwich on baguette—a result of the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine, but with Vietnamese flavorings. The #14, the chargrilled pork bahn mi is pretty much my standard order, but occasionally I branch out. With the exception of their rice dishes, which are good but not anywhere near as good as other menu items, everything I have had is just really great.
I opt for the #9—the shrimp and shredded yam fritters, which they are also known for—pretty often. But sometimes I go for the #6b, the Vietnamese green papaya salad with Tam Deli's beef jerky... I will admit, this one may be an acquired taste for some, and it seems like an odd combination of flavors until you try it. But it works, and it is very refreshing.
The #23, the rice vermicelli bowl with grilled lemongrass beef, is also a winner. The beef is so tender and the flavoring really delicate. The shredded greens give it a nice crunch and round out the variety of textures.
The steamed rice wraps are another flavorful and light option and are available with tofu and veggies, ground pork and mushroom, roasted chicken, sautéed shrimp, or char-grilled pork (#35).
And of course, they have pho and other noodle soups, which are equally as great. Now that the weather is cooling off here it means it is time for me to partake...