Austin has been experiencing somewhat of a restaurant Renaissance lately, with a new establishment opening seemingly every week. Our take on this? The bar is consistently being raised on the Austin restaurant scene and it’s great to have the option of a wide variety of cuisines in town.
One of the perks of food blogging is getting invited by various new restaurants around town to sample great food that the owners put so much hard work into making. On our radar over the past month or so were 2 new restaurants – one serving up healthy American fare in the Arboretum, and another food truck serving Asian food right downtown.
Zoes Kitchen is a chain restaurant that serves up healthy, quality, “quick casual” American fare in a slightly upscale environment. While the food is pretty standard, their claim to fame is using fresh ingredients that are prepared every morning just like mom used to (in fact the former CEO’s mother Zoe was is the founder and the namesake of restaurant). The chain has been on a quick expansion path throughout the Southeastern United States – apparently capitalizing on the movement to more healthy fresh foods.
How does it stack up? The food is good, service seemed to be pretty fast, and the menu definitely seems much healthier than most quick serve or fast food restaurants around town. Of the 10 or so items I got to try at their opening party, the shrimp kabobs and the spinach wrap ups were the biggest standouts. I would definitely recommend those to anyone. I heard the other kabobs were great as well, unfortunately, I did not get to try them.
The sandwiches though are more plain but well executed. I enjoyed the egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches. The hummus was also pretty good if a bit different. It seemed to me that the Zoes recipe calls for less olive oil but more spices than other places, sticking to their healthy philosophy.
Overall, I would call Zoes very solid if a little bit unexciting. The environment is nice and is great for families and soccer moms (who I think the gffrestaurant is targeting). It would be a great place to go to for lunch if you work / live in the Arboretum area for a quick healthy meal. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here though (being a single guy who lives down south!).
Me So Hungry
With the explosion of food trucks around Austin lately you would think that we have seen it all, but there seems to be a distinct lack of Asian food being served up from mobile restuarants. There’s only 2 that I know of, so I was pretty excited to hear about a new place near me. This particular restaurant serves up a unique fusion of Asian food so it’s a welcome change to try something new.
The Banh Mi at Me So Hungry doesn’t stick strictly to the standard recipes seen in Vietnamese cuisine. Me So Hungry’s version of Banh Mi sandwiches were described to me as a bit of a fusion between Vietnamese and Cuban sandwiches – the meat is Chinese BBQ pork, but it’s paired nicely with a very nice mayo cilantro sauce. The result is something a bit new but very tasty. I’ve been to a couple of events catered by Me So Hungry, and these by far are the biggest hit – be forewarned though, it should be noted that the sandwiches come with raw Jalapeno slices inside them, so if you don’t like spicy, you need to ask for them on the side (I’ve seen spice adverse people run for the ice machine after mistakenly eating a whole raw jalapeno in these sandwiches too)
The other signature dish at Me So Hungry, Pad Lao, is a bit of fusion as well. Pad Lao is similar to Pad Thai but not quite – it has some queues from other Asian styles of cooking as well. I’ve ordered this a couple of times for myself and friends and the feedback has been good all around. Again, the food is served pretty spicy so if you can’t handle the heat, you’ll need to request a less spicy version.
I’ve also tried the traditional spring rolls, but I think the unique fusion of Cuban and Asian food or of different asian styles is where they shine. Stick to that and you should do just fine. The truck is located right in front of the Tinest Bar in Texas (fire twirling on Wednesday nights!) very close to the Whole Foods downtown.
The only drawbacks are the schedule of Me So Hungry and the lack of seating. They are currently open only nights from Wed-Sat to serve the crowd at the Tiniest Bar from 8pm-?, but they and they will start serving lunch soon as well. I would check out the official website for more details. I would recommend them for catering or for to go service, but it’s definitely a quick dinner, not a place to sit and chat w/ friends over dinner.