Odd Duck

1201 S Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78704 • (512) 433-6514 oddduckaustin.com

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I was in town for SXSW and had heard that Austin had some serious culinary game, so after doing copious amounts of recon before our travels, I came upon one recurring must, the Odd Duck. Over and over people said it was hands down the hottest, bestest place in townest. And being the little instigator that I am, I just had to waltz on over there packing chips on both shoulders.

Inside the duck, the décor is very casual, with not much to it, yet just enough cues to make it feel somewhat cool and contemporary, although I can’t honestly say why I felt this way. I just sensed it. Maybe it was our server, who started off with a chip or two on his shoulders as well, wanting to prove to the Yankee scum before him that Austin has skillz. Well, sadly he won, because these small plates packed some big flavor.

Starting things off, we enjoyed the goat brie with jam, a white balsamic syrup and multi grain crackers. It is bone simple and bone delicious. It can also be found on the dessert menu, depending on how you roll with the fromage.

After the strong start, however, it was followed up by two of the weakest dishes of the night, the sweet potato and the pig face buns. The pig face was rapped inside a Parker house roll sitting in a pool of mustard and it wound up tasting a lot like a pastrami sandwich from a kosher deli. Good, but not at the level of anything else we had. And while the sweet potato was also fine, with its green chile, nacho spice and fried skins, I’m really not gonna get into it, because we have bigger and better dishes to get to.

At the tippy top, an Ultimate two times over, was the jerk spiced pork belly, served over a cheddar rice cake and complemented with the genius addition of fresh strawberries, giving it a pop of sweetness to accent the heat, along with a little moisture to quench the fire. It was ire mon!

Another fantastic dish was the duck fat fried rice (duck had to be on the menu somewhere, right?) loaded with goodies like a soft egg that oozed all through the rice, Brussels sprouts, chile and ez cheese, which I am so conflicted about I can’t even tell you, but it was so good that when I later die from it, I need to go back and re-read this review to remind myself that it was worth it.

Keeping the interesting coming, the braised goat with masa (tortilla dough) , queso fresco, peanut pipian (a sauce typically found in Mexican food) and lime mayo was such a genius blend of Middle Eastern and Mexican flavors.

Now, after such artistry and inventiveness, I had to double down on dessert going with the sensational cream filled donut brightened with orange, sweetened with honey, dusted with pistachio and bested by no one. Yes, Doughnut Plant and Peter Pan, you just got served!

But as good as that donut was, the second dessert was every diet’s worst nightmare. A pear butter cake made with bran, pecans and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. It was moist and dense and packed with so much yumminess, it was as if every pecan in the state of Texas were summoned into this little, round disc of delicious.

Easily the best meal I had in Austin and a very Texas-big four knives.

4 teeth

‘wichcraft

11 E 20th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 780-0577 • wichcraftnyc.com

Witchcraft

Sandwich gri la! This place kicks some serious derriére between two slices of bread. But I expect no less from Colicchio. My favorite sammies are the fried egg, frisée and gruyere, the roasted turkey avocado and bacon with onion relish and the heritage smoked ham- all three are choice. Granted sometimes they over cook the egg on the first one, so be sure to ask for it runny. Otherwise why even get it, am I right?

After that though, it can be a little more on the average side as the chicken sandwich, pastrami and meatloaf are all good but not great.

Other plusses- they do have seating upstairs and they are one of the few places left that stocks Grapefruit Fizzy Lizzy (a natural soda drink and personal fav of mine).

4 teeth

2nd Avenue Deli

162 E 33rd St. New York, NY 10016(212) 689-9000 • 2ndavedeli.com

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Forget for a moment that it’s not on Second Avenue. It used to be, but some greedy landlord hiked up the rent and they moved. Yes, it would’ve been ideal for them to find a new location somewhere along Second Avenue, but I’m assuming they tried that. And in hindsight, I’m guessing they probably wished they had chosen a different name for the restaurant, but I imagine they never thought this would ever happen to them. Guess they should’ve maybe read a few history books, because being displaced is hardly a foreign dynamic to the Jewish people.

But enough about the move, because regardless of where this place is, it will always be the quintessential New York deli experience in my eyes.  Corn beef sandwiches the size of your head (pictured), but quality meat. Not just packed on there for gluttony sake like at Carnegie or Stage Deli. Same goes for their pastrami. Knishes and potato pancakes as good or better than Bubby used to make. Their eggs with lox and onions is killer. The best rugelach in the city. Best matzoh ball soup. Even the pickles and pickled tomatoes sitting their free, right on your table are worth writing about, hence I am. If you are a Jew, and live within 50 miles of this place and haven’t been there yet, you should be ashamed of yourself.

5 teeth

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop

174 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 675-5096 • eisenbergsnyc.com
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I feel like such a curmudgeon shitting on the likes of this iconic New York deli, but the way I see it, if you open your doors for business, you open them for praise and scrutiny. Unfortunately in this case, it’s scrutiny. From the authentic rude New York service by grumpy career waiters to the grimy, old-school, diner/deli decor this place is right up there with Carnegie, Katz and Second Avenue Delis. But that’s where the similarities end, because the food isn’t even close.

Let’s start with the tomato soup, or more accurately, the watered down ketchup. It is so shamelessly bad they don’t even bother to hide the giant, industrial sized cans of Campbell’s sitting behind the counter.

And as for the tuna salad sandwich- Christ, my wife makes a WAY better tuna sammy. Hell, I even make a better one and I’m borderline retarded.

I know that pastrami pic above looks really good, but that’s more of a testament to the photograph. Not the restaurant. If you want something that tastes as good as that looks, I implore you to get it from Katz or Second Ave. instead. You’ll thank me.

1 tooth