So, I haven’t written a Gastro Graze in a while. We have been trying to cut back on eating out, but the amount of new eateries popping up in Austin hasn’t slowed. Yesterday Chip and I decided to try Stiles Switch, a new local barbecue joint on North Lamar.
Stiles Switch has a nice location with an industrial feel and, best yet, lots of parking. That being said, it was 1:30pm on Saturday…and the place was almost empty. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and well kept, and it has a more established feel than the 10 months it’s been open. The gentlemen behind the counter were very nice, as well. For our lunch, Chip and I decided on BBQ staples: 6 pork ribs, 1/2 pound of brisket, and cole slaw. There wasn’t an option for moist (fatty) or lean on the brisket, and we didn’t notice that they also served sausages until after we’d paid for lunch, so I would go back to try their jalapeño cheddar offering. I generally stay away from chicken at BBQ places, which Stiles does serve, only because of its tendency to be dry. We also got a root beer and an orange soda. The total came to $31, which means they’re a bit pricier than Black’s or Smitty’s out in Lockhart, but that’s the price of not having to drive an hour out of town.
Ribs are a staple when gorging myself on smoked meats. A rub can make or break them; I find Cooper’s to be too black peppery though Chip disagrees. Stiles had a decent rub on their ribs, however, that was a good balance of smokey, sweet, salty, with the flavor of pepper coming through without being over-powering. Our lunch order came with a cup of the Stiles sauce which was…interesting. I’m not a big fan of BBQ sauces, but they seemed to be attempting a new spin. Rather than use a base of ketchup in their sauce, it tasted heavily of canned tomato soup. It was odd to say the least, though not all together bad, but most of it remained when Chip and I finished eating.
Stiles Switch sells two kinds of cole slaw and we got a small serving of each. I’m generally not a fan of mayonnaise based cole slaws, but theirs was tasty and not heavy. Chip felt it seemed to be a very basic slaw, however, and nothing special. The other slaw they served was a lemon vinaigrette variety, which was flavorful and bright, and a nice change of pace from the usual offering. Stiles also offered potato salad and macaroni & cheese, neither of which Chip or I tried.
Now to the brisket. I am picky about my brisket. It should be moist – but not too moist. Unfortunately, the brisket we had at Stiles was closer to beef jerky than to juicy, tender brisket found at Iron Works or Franklin’s. As you can see on the left side of the picture, this brisket is dry. It was also cut very thick, which only served to make its texture all the more unappetizing. Between the two of us, Chip and I only finished one piece of our 1/2 pound of brisket. The bark was tasty, but was ultimately too tough to enjoy.
Would I return to Stiles Switch? Yes, because I would like to try the sausage, and maybe even give the brisket a second chance, but it won’t be any time soon. Would I recommend it? Probably not. My issue that barbecue is not cheap, and there’s so much competition near and far in this area, that a restaurant really can’t afford to make less than great.
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
Heading to a dinner party and don’t know what to bring? Want something special for an appetizer, but don’t know what to plate up? Or maybe you’re just a lover of cheese, like me and want something exciting.
If any of those are sound familiar, and you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. This little place down on Duval, just north of the campus, is a great shop to try something new, get something impressive for the table, and really bring an evening of courses together.
If you need a very specific cheese for a recipe, you can bet that not only will Antonelli’s carry it, they’ll probably offer a number of variations. Overwhelmed shoppers need not fear, either, as the staff at this cheese emporium are incredibly nice and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable. Merely mention what flavors you do like or what you’re serving for dinner, and they’ll share tips and let you taste alternatives you may not know existed. And to bring everything together in perfect harmony, Antonelli’s also offers complimenting wines, honeys, meats, and baguettes. My friends and I have always said that if we were to win the lottery one of the first thing we’d do is have a dinner of a multitude of different cheeses, and Antonelli’s would be the only shop we’d need to make our purchases.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, Antonelli’s offers classes a couple of times a month for nerdy foodies in the need to know. Tickets are $35 and sell out pretty quick, so be sure to plan ahead. On top of all that, when you check out at Antonelli’s you have the option of giving them your email and name. They then will put you in their system so that you always know what you’ve ordered in the past and they can make recommendations on your next purchases that will delve you further into the world of cheese. We’re looking forward to having a Fromage Fest in fall, inviting each friend to bring a different kind of cheese, putting out pickles, breads, crackers, and wine and gouging until the sun comes up. When you have plans like that, suddenly Autumn feels very far away. Good thing I’ll have time to squeeze in a couple of classes before then!
Hillside Farmacy is a bakery and eatery located East 11th, just east of Blue Dahlia. My office chose to go for lunch recently for a coworker’s birthday, and our experience would be rated to 3 out of 5 stars, where as Blue Dahlia would be 5. I’ll review that for you at a later date, but let me just say Blue has Farmacy beat on price and execution.
The interior of Hillside Farmacy is very pretty, great usages of classic and modern. The staff is very “hipster”, but the client base is very, very mixed. A person going for lunch should expect to pay right around $10+ for their sandwich, which isn’t too bad. It’s choosing the right plate that’s a little tougher. Myself and four coworkers each ordered a different sandwich. Tap water was placed in the center of the table for us to serve ourselves, which was quaint, but it is Austin in late June, so having the option of ice, or even chilled water would have been nice (it was room temperature and the jar-glasses were iceless).
The short rib sandwich received excellent reviews from the two coworkers that shared it, and there was not a crumb left by the end of the meal. The grinder, which is similar to an Italian sub was also enjoyed, but at $11 it was much more than similar offerings at other locations. One coworker had the Forager, a brie and mushroom sandwich, which was very tasty (see picture below). I had the Faccia Bedda, and it was rather disappointing. Though the menu states it’s made with smoked mozzerella, it seemed to contain a single slice of deli counter cheese, sliced on the thinnest setting. I had to pull it a part to discover if there was any cheese on it at all and it was completely void of the deep smokey, salty flavor that normally accompanies this kind of mozzerella; it could have been American and made no difference in flavor. The single slice of tomato was awkward and the arugula was served on the side. My final coworker got a single bite into her pate sandwich before she began pick it apart (see below), finally quietly settling on going back to the office to eat other food. She was asked by two staff members why she had stopped eating (as well as why she was declining a box) and she explained very calmly and honestly, but politely as is her style: “The pate was very dry, almost like an over cooked burger patty. The bread is too big, and the strong flavors of the pickles, goat cheese, and mustard are far too much competition for each other.” To Hillside Farmacy’s credit, they took the sandwich off the bill, even though no fuss was made and no complaint; my coworker only explained the issue when pressed. One confusing aspect, however, was that one of the two Farmacy employees mentioned that he himself had had similar feelings about this particular sandwich, had received the same review of it from customers “all the time”….so why leave it on the menu or not change it?
While I always recommend trying new places to eat, Farmacy seems fairly hit or miss as well as being somewhat expensive. While it’s in a very good location, and has a charming interior, their menu needs a bit of work to be listed as a full fledged Foodie Find. It’s certainly worth trying, but be aware that what you get maybe hit or miss, especially for the price.