Restaurant, movie, book, etc. reviews

Review: Magnolia Café

magnolias eggs benedictBy Tiffany Young

In Austin, we love our brunch. Breakfast? Closer to the lunch hour? Brilliant. Saturdays and Sundays you should expect to wait a couple hours to eat if you wake up past 10. But that’s OK, because mimosas and bloody Mary’s are likely to be involved.

One of my favorite brunch places, especially to take people from out of town is the tried-and-true Magnolia Café. Open 24 hours, this classic diner has its breakfast menu down. From the love migas to the eggs benedict and eggs zapatino to the Magnolia omelet, there’s an option for everyone’s taste. Not to mention the delicious pancakes and daily specials.

I love the Lake Austin Boulevard location, where you can see runners trekking  around Town Lake. Parking is slim, but you can always park in the neighborhood and have a lovely, hilly walk to your destination to especially appreciate the good food.

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They do expect you to have your entire party before being seated, so respect the rules–the staff is trying to make everyone’s visit nice, not just yours. It’s the least you can do. After all, they keep fresh flowers on the table for you each and every day.

I especially love the eggs zapatino–basically the eggs benedict for vegetarians, it comes on an English muffin, topped with an egg and smothered with queso. Yum Yum!

If you’re at a loss for where to go, Magnolia Café comes through for you, no matter the time of day–breakfast is always served.

City Guide: Sarah’s Mediterranean Grill And Market

When you run a food blog, people seem to think you are a guru in the world of food. Maybe I relish in letting my friends think that I am the all-knowing. Maybe it’s a facade. Or maybe, I truly enjoy food and finding hiding gems in the city.

Over the past, the Spooners have stepped away from restaurant reviews and have leaned more on spirits, recipes, food memories and feeding creativity.  A large number of blogs do reviews better than we do. But when the Spooners get excited about a food establishment, we get excited! Overjoyed, even.

Sarah’s Mediterranean is a diamond in the rough. A number of Austin establishments pride them selves with unique fusion cuisine and gorgeous yet disenchanted service. Sarah’s is nothing like that. Tucked away on Burnett between 51st and Keonig, you can Sarah’s in the same shopping center as Man Bites Dog. Visually, Sarah’s is both a grill and a market. Not a far stretch from a layout of any major grocer that has an eatery – just on a smaller scale and less glitch. By that, I mean that anyone, in any attire could feel comfortable.

Sarah’s reminds me of going over the your aunt’s house. She will greet you with a smile on her face and hug you if she isn’t standing on the other side of the counter. Her and her family use well rehearsed and silly banter to disarm even the most hard-hearted. Side note: Any front-of-the-house manager or server could learn or be reminded of a thing or three from Sarah and her family and their interactions with customers.

As for the food, Sarah and her family cook well spiced and tasty Mediterranean dishes. Everything from Lamb Shank to my personal favorite, the rotisserie chicken. I am not kidding when I say that I eat the chicken at least twice a week. All dishes are prepared Halal. A number of places in Austin are trying hard to stand out but Sarah’s has leaned on the other end of the spectrum by doing what they love and doing it well.

By now, you might have figured out that Sarah’s is the place I recommend the most. “It’s been a long day at work, where do I go?” Head to Sarah’s. “I need a paleo meal to go.” Sarah’s in the answer. “What about a first date.” Sarah’s is perfect. Needless to say, I believe that Sarah’s in the answer for most every occassion.

Sarahs Mediterranean
5222 Burnet Road, Suite 500
Austin TX, 78756
(512) 419-7605
Mon – Sat 10 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday

Suggestions: 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken [$6.99], Lamb Shank [$9.99] and Baklava [$0.99]

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Review: Biscuits & Groovy

In all honesty, I love biscuits and gravy. But as a near-vegetarian, I just can’t order it very often. Few places make a vegetarian gravy and fewer still make a vegan sausage, so needless to say—I crave biscuits and gravy—a lot. While Mexican breakfasts are generally my thing, I’m still a Southern girl at heart.

So … when I heard about Biscuits and Groovy I was so excited! So, so excited! And for some reason, Antonio has not shared in this excitement. I don’t get what he is not getting, but you can buy biscuits and gravy from a trailer topped with goodness all over it in Austin! What is there not to love?

Anyway, I hear about it and yet week after week he takes me to breakfast—anywhere but there. Not that it was a rule or anything, but still. So, my friend Lindsay said she wanted to get together. I was leaving for my parent’s in the morning, but I thought maybe we could meet up for breakfast. She asked where and it took me a few minutes to think before it dawned on me—I knew just the place! Luckily she was game and we met the next morning at Biscuits and Groovy, a trailer in Hyde Park.

Was it everything I thought it would be?

You bet!

I ordered the Biscuits & Groovy ($6) as a meal—biscuits, gravy, sausage (I got vegan) sprinkled with chives—It was heavenly! Such a good meal to eat before a car ride, too, since you know it won’t leave you hungry in an hour. The biscuits were perfect, the gravy—oh-so-good, the vegan sausage could have fooled any meat-eater and the chives added a nice fresh element to the table.

In addition to its biscuits and gravy options, there were also quite a variety of drinks to choose from, ranging from O.J. to pressed coffee.

While I hadn’t thought about how hot the sun would be on a warm July day, we still enjoyed sitting outside on one of the picnic tables and catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives.

I will definitely be going back for more gravy goodness. Whether or not I have convinced Antonio of its greatness … well, we’ll just have to see.

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Farmers Market: Engel Farms

Full disclosure: I’ve been working for the Engel’s this summer, selling fruit and veggies at Austin’s farmers markets.

Having quit my full-time job in April as a newspaper lady, I’ve been doing random jobs this summer while I build up some freelance clients. One of these jobs is working for Engel Farms. While I was working at the Lakeway Farmers Market I decided to shoot some pics of the produce coming out of their farm to share with everyone.

This isn’t to say other farms don’t have lovely produce as well, but since this is the fruit and veggie stand I’ve been staring at on my weekends, I tend to have a bias on how beautiful it looks.

The Engel’s farm is in Fredericksburg, which means—famous peaches! They are as good as everyone says. Even when they are a bit harder than you would like, they still have a sweet punch when they’ve been picked off a tree at the farm just a day or two ahead of when you are biting into it.

Most people don’t realize the fruit at the supermarket was picked much earlier and will never taste or smell the same as freshly picked peaches. This week was the first week for the farm to have eggplants, figs and pears. I brought two eggplants home, which I plan on using for tomorrow evening’s dinner, along with a variety of tomatoes.

The Engel’s tomatoes are fun, too, with varieties such as the Rembrandt, chocolate tomatoes and pop-n-sweet. If you’re always disappointed by the melons at your local grocery store, try farm fresh melons—they’re way sweeter and tastier. I eat them plain or chop them up in my arugula salad.

Foodie Foto Featurette /// Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 North Boulevard
Richmond, VA

(804) 340-1400


Foodie Foto Featurette /// Garridos

360 Nueces Suite #10
Austin, TX 78701

(512) 320-8226

Date Night: Sagra

On our second date, Antonio kidnapped took me on a several hour date that began at Sagra Trattoria and Bar, an Italian restaurant on San Antonio Street. He was trying to make a good impression after his mistake on date No. 1, where he cut the date short because he had other plans. He claims he was meeting up with friends for dinner, but it sure sounded like he had double booked dates to me.

This was a restaurant where he felt comfortable—after all he used to work there—and we had brunch on the front patio in nice weather.

That’s where I fell in love … with the Sagra pizza. He’ll tell you my love for him grew at a much slower pace, but he was on to something bringing me to a place with such great food. Since that fateful day in January 2011, we have been back many times for happy hour and date nights.

The Sagra pizza includes a classic Italian tradition—an egg atop the pizza. This may not sound like a good idea to you, but that just tells me you haven’t tried the Sagra pizza yet. For $15, you get a whole pie topped with tomato sauce, egg, grana padano, spinach, mozzarella and truffle oil. Their other pizzas are also delicious.

Last month we visited them and got the funghi pizza  for $14 with mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh herbs and fontin. It was good, but I still missed the Sagra pizza, which we returned to on our date night last night.

I also really enjoy their libation menu, which includes not just creative cocktails, but also apertivos—an appetite stimulator—and digestivos—which helps settle your meal. My favorite so far is the apertivo Perucchi Vermouth Blanc with flavors of chamomile, ginger, lemon, cinnamon and orange blossom for $5. It comes in a tiny, tiny cute glass that I enjoy slowly sipping on before my meal comes. The flavors meld together so amazingly.

We also enjoy the wine selection, which comes in three sizes: a glass, a quartino—about a glass and a half—and a bottle.

Outside of the pizza, we highly recommend the fried calamari and the arugula salad, although I can’t recall us eating anything we didn’t love at Sagra. Also, while we rarely eat dessert at most places, unless it’s a special occasion, we usually do ask for their dessert menu. They change their gelato regularly and have great custard-type desserts featuring fruit.

We hope to see you at happy hour some nice evening enjoying the front or back patio, which reminds me—all the seats in the house are quite romantic. Enjoy!

Sagra Restaurant
1610 San Antonio St. Austin, TX, 78701,

Foodie Foto Featurrette /// Eastside Pies

Eastside Pies
1401 Rosewood Avenue
Austin, TX

(512) 524-0933


My Favorite Food Find Of 2011 /// The Slayer Dog

The other night I was asking the other spooner about how her part of 2011 was, which led us to start laughing at the silly videos we made for the Slayer Dog at Fun Fun Fun Fest this year. I had almost forgotten that we had even made them.

On the first day of the festival, I noticed Frank’s was promoting something called the Slayer Dog. I thought to myself, “This is amazing! I have got to try this!” But the lady at the table told me to try back tomorrow.

Saturday morning, I visited Franks again. The kind lady behind the table looked worn from answering the same question. “We won’t have them ’til tomorrow,” she muttered.

By the time Sunday came, I was determined to get my hand on this dog. Buzz was stirring at the festival. Rumors were flying that Slayer wanted a Slayer Dog as well. I wish I could find a source to confirm this instance.

Upon arrival at the fest on Sunday, I made a B-line for Franks. The same poor girl told me that Frank would send a tweet when the dogs were ready. I told her that although the idea sounds great, text messages were coming in late due to a lack of bandwidth at the festival. Finally she said, “Just be back around 5 p.m.”

I based my entire day around this moment. At about 4:30, I was the 10th person in line. Quickly, people started to migrate. After about an hour of waiting, our friends at Franks passed out “tickets,” which were napkins with the words “Slayer” written on them in blue marker. If you got a napkin, you got a dog. Everyone else was turned away.

From this point forward, I will let the videos explain how the rest of the evening went!

I hope you enjoy one of my favorite food moments of 2011! Spoon away!