I may be a holiday card slacker but I still love street food

I drove to Texas to recover from Christmas.

Well, sort of. Not really. Maybe a little. Hang on, I’ll explain.

Enjoying a gorgeous winter day with Austin street food and a giant Wrigley’s ad. 

Remember that crazy table full of food at Thanksgiving? This one, with four different pies? Yeah, that lovely locavore Thanksgiving was the harbinger of crazy and madness that was the month of December. I have two kids – one who is young enough to fully believe in the magic of Santa, and the other who is on the fence about maintaining a belief in Santa (and who I swear asked for an expensive electronic device so that he could test Santa’s existence because his parents would never get said device for him). Also, Christmas was on a Sunday this year. The combined pressure of managing correspondence with Mr. Claus to ensure maximum rapture on Christmas morning while also NOT having the weekend right before Christmas to run around like a madwoman threw me off completely. Case in point: I had the photos we used for our holiday cards since Halloween, and didn’t get around to ordering said cards until five days before Christmas. And I’ve maybe sent out 10 of the 50+ I need to ship out. I’m totally counting Martin Luther King Day as part of the larger holiday season so no one can say my cards are late.

Craziness aside, we had a lovely Christmas Eve and Day, with fresh chocolate chip cookies made for Santa and a small group of people sharing a much simpler meal. It was perhaps the most stress-free holiday I’ve had since I was a kid.

And then we drove to Texas the next day (well, started to, anyway). Yes, we’re nuts. But we needed to meet our niece, who was her mama and daddy’s slightly belated Christmas present last year, and frankly, I desperately needed a vacation away from my office and my glowering piles of laundry at home.

Thankfully, my in-laws live relatively close to Austin, though we had never straggled over to the state capitol on previous trips to the Lone Star State. Since we tend to lean towards la rive gauche, as does Austin, we’ve wanted to check it out for a while now. Little did we know it is one of the best places in the country for what is, quite possibly, my husband’s and my favorite food type – street food.

We’ve both been suckers for street food at least since college. Pop the Greek first introduced me to tzatziki sauce with his little cart and umbrella, and the Thai roach coach in front of Hillman Library had green curry sauce and bamboo shoots and other culinary wonders never before experienced by this wonder bread-raised suburban white girl. Studying abroad in Europe introduced me to jacket potatoes and crepes and my husband to döner – and we introduced each other to these mobile delicacies on our honeymoon in Ireland. (How a man addicted to Nutella had never had a Nutella/banana crepe is beyond me.) We’ve been known to detour to a taco stand for lunch many times – lime juice dribbling down our chins, enjoying the simple flavors, good quality ingredients, and affordable price that keeps us coming back.

But, man, Austin kicks it up a notch. I had done some research before we left – mainly on sites like Austin Food Carts and Food Trailers Austin – and was, frankly, amazed at the options. Here in urban Appalachia, there are a few carts near the universities, and maybe a small scattering downtown. In Austin, there are literally hundreds. Like, over 1,600 by the end of 2011. Does Pittsburgh even have that many brick and mortar restaurants?

A couple of innovative trucks caught my eye. Sadly, VERTS mobile kebaps (served out of the back of a Smart car) was on winter break when we were there. But Chi’lantro – Korean BBQ/Mexican fusion – looked intriguing. And as you may have already seen, we tracked it down. 

Hummina, hummina, hummina. I may drive to Texas again just for the pork quesadilla with kimchi. The food was fresh, flavorful, spicy, and delicious. My kids even ate things they probably would have pooh-poohed elsewhere, because they got to eat outside out of a truck. Though I couldn’t convince them to put the fried egg on the chicken sandwich.

Hello, lover. The Korean chicken hamburger with spicy fries.

We also struck gold at Kebabalicious, with a fantastic kebab, but Chi’lantro’s food came up first and I couldn’t put it down long enough to grab a picture. Sorry, Kebabalicious, it’s nothing personal. Just didn’t want to get kimchi on the camera.

We topped the afternoon off by wandering through Zilker Park, feeding swans, running like idiots through the grass, watching kayakers and fishermen, and feeling very odd being exposed to so much sunshine in one place. Austin, you and your food trucks charmed the pants off us, and helped us recover from Christmas madness. Now I’m off to read the city’s Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance. Yes, seriously.

We found Chi’lantro and Kebabalicious at 2nd and Congress in downtown Austin. We highly recommend paying attention to their website and/or twitter feeds since they, being food trucks and trailers, are mobile and, you know, can actually move.

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