Category Archives: Photographs

78704 Roundup: Breakfast Tacos Galore

Does anyone remember that Shit Austinites Say video, the one with a bunch of college kids just standing around, chanting “TACOS, TACOS, TACOS!”? Well, if there’s one true stereotype you can pin on this city, it’s that we love us some tacos. Particularly ones of the breakfast variety. From taco stands and trailers to nice restaurants, this city is a taco lovers paradise: but you needn’t stray far out of the ’04 to find a big variety of them. Below I have compiled a list of my favorite places to get breakfast tacos in 78704, and evaluated them based on my own personal preferences. This list is very subjective, and with all the tacos in this zip code I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed a few. Drop a line in the comments if your favorite down-south breakfast tacos didn’t make the cut!

Melizzo’s

IMG_0517Melizzoz takes the cake. These are THE best tacos in the city, hands down, Torchy’s be damned. I know, saying that might be blasphemous in Austin, but Torchy’s has grown a bit too big for their britches in my opinion, and their breakfast tacos are massive and very greasy. Melizzoz is slightly similar to Torchy’s in menu only: they make “designer” tacos, with interesting ingredients and cute names. But in execution, Melizzoz tacos are way fresher, and as the truck says, “made with love”. Located in a trailer on South First street, you can pick them up or enjoy your tacos outside on a colorful picnic table. Pro tip: stay for lunch and get the fried avocado taco. You will not regret it. It might be the best decision you ever made, in fact.

Benefits: Amazing tacos made with love, and a beautiful outdoor setting.

Drawbacks: Closes early on some weekdays.

El Tacorrido

-Postcard_of_El_Tacorrido-20000000004540227-500x375El Tacorrido is a great Mexican taqueria on the corner of Oltorf and South First street. It’s walk up or drive through only, so its perfect when you’re in a hurry or on the go. You can build your own breakfast taco for $2. Pro tip: you can add things that aren’t listed on the menu under “breakfast taco ingredients”, such as avocado or even chicken. Open from 7 am until midnight every day, El Tacorrido is one of the most reliable places for quick tacos in 78704. Everything is made fresh to order, and tacos are reasonably sized (small), so get a couple of them if you’re really hungry.

Benefits: Convenient, cheap, and reliable.

Drawbacks: You might want to learn a few words in Spanish if you want your order made correctly. (Is that a drawback, though?)

Taco Deli

lsTaco Deli isn’t exactly what I would call “authentic” by any measure, but they make some damn delicious tacos nonetheless. They have multiple locations around town, but my favorite is the one tucked away on Spyglass. It has a great outdoor seating area– when it’s not too crowded– and is right next to the greenbelt. The tacos are what I would call “Americanized”, or even “Austinized”, with ingredients and combinations you would never see in Mexico. Regardless, it’s absolutely delicious and their breakfast tacos are always fresh and never greasy. Definitely the healthy hippy place to get tacos. Taco Deli is also the leader in exporting breakfast tacos to local coffee shops fresh and early every morning, so even if you can’t make it over there, chances are you can grab one somewhere. I usually get them at the Irie Bean on South Lamar.

Benefits: Fresh and healthy, available everywhere.

Drawbacks: They stop serving breakfast tacos at 11 am on weekdays and 3pm on weekends, which is akin to treason in my book.

La Mexicana

6167195La Mexicana brings all the authenticity to the South Austin breakfast taco scene. A traditional Mexican Panaderia (bakery), they have way more to offer than just sugar cookies and churros. Besides being a great place to grab fresh fruit juice, La Mexicana makes some absolutely killer breakfast tacos, and very cheap. Their handmade flour tortillas are fluffy and real, which is no less than you would expect from a Mexican bakery, but it will amaze you every time you bite into one. This place gets overlooked in my opinion, and as long as its been around I still consider it somewhat of a hidden treasure.

Benefits: Open 24 hours a day!! (Also on an unrelated note, get a slice of their Tres Leches cake. You can thank me later.)

Drawbacks: Not exactly the best ambiance for dining.

Rosita’s Al Pastor

lRosita’s Al Pastor is another place that earns the title of “authentic”. I learned about this gem of a trailer from Melissa, my go-to friend for everything food related in Austin. It’s a bit outside of 78704, situated on Riverside a few blocks east of 35. It is cheap, quick, and amazingly delicious. The menu is surprisingly huge for a food truck, but they seem to manage it just fine.

Benefits: Convenient and cheap.

Drawbacks: The line can be long on weekends. Also, the outdoor seating is limited so you might want to take it to-go.

Habaneros

2011-03-03-Habanero-Cafe-Austin-TXLast but in no way least is Habaneros Mexican Cafe on Oltorf. This is the place to go if you want to sit down and enjoy your breakfast tacos with a nice coffee or horchata. Only open for breakfast and lunch, the service is awesome and the place is always pleasantly busy. Family owned and operated for 20 years, Habaneros is consistent and delicious. They make their own toritllas as well, and for a sit-down dining experience the price is really cheap. This is definitely the place to go for brunch, or after a night downtown when you just want to sit and watch the world go by.

Benefits: Sit-down dining with food truck prices.

Drawbacks: There’s usually a wait for brunch on the weekends (worth it, though).

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78704 Roundup: Dance Party with Monica

1526632_197896657077988_1791837052_nFor the 78704 Roundup, I planned to write about everything from profiles of cool south Austinites to awesome things to do in this particular zip, and I get to do both in my very first post. Say hello to Monica, the best dance+fitness instructor around. My best friend Melissa and I discovered Monica’s Zumba classes at Gold’s Gym a few years ago, and we have followed her around ever since- and we’re not the only ones! Monica turns “an hour at the gym” into pure fun. She now teaches at Lifetime Fitness as well as local dance studio Tiempo, right on South Congress. She’s also a born-and-raised local, a rare breed in this ever growing city. In addition to working a full-time job and teaching dance classes, she’s also nearly 8 months pregnant, so a big thanks to Monica for taking the time to answer a few questions about herself, and Austin. 🙂

Why is Dance so much more fun than a boring gym workout?

 The music, moves and energy you find in a Zumba class is what makes Zumba a more fun workout than your regular gym routine. The music is fast and upbeat, the moves are fun and easy to follow, and the energy is addicting and exhilarating. You also leave class with a feeling of euphoria from releasing endorphins.

What is your “day job”?

 During the normal work hours, I am an Enforcement Coordinator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I monitor compliance schedules and implementation of ordering provisions for formal enforcement actions until a case is resolved or closed; I conduct reviews of technical reports and determine compliance with applicable statutes, rules and orders.

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She shares my love for dachshunds, too.

Where are you favorite places to eat in south Austin?

 Arandas! My favorite authentic Mexican Food in Austin. Umi – The longhorn roll is amazing! They also have a great happy hour! Amy’s Ice Cream – Desert is my favorite meal of the day! Chuys – I love their Tex Mex! Pho Thaison – Their vermicelli bowls are amazing!

What are you favorite “hidden gems” in the city that not many others know about?

Hamilton Pool – It’s very nice and relaxing. McKinney State Falls Park – Nice hiking and good swimming spots. Thirsty Planet (this one is a little outside of Austin but worth the drive): I don’t really like beer or visiting breweries but my husband loves them. This one is my favorite to go to and I actually enjoy it there. The people who work there are friendly and inviting. The facility is small and beautifully located in the hill country. Bull Creek District Park – Nice place for hiking and swimming. Juice Spot – The best smoothies and juice I have ever had. The service is always great and the drinks are amazing! Absolutely the freshest in town!

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 Thanks for the awesome tips, Monica!

If you want to have a blast, check out Monica’s class schedule over on Facebook.

California Dreamin’

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Last week I was lucky enough to travel to California! My parents arranged the trip a while ago, and kindly invited my brother and his girlfriend Jesi, me, and my boyfriend Steve along for the fun. It was a sequel to our amazing vacation together last Christmas in Mexico. We stayed in a house a block away from the beach in Venice, and rented bikes to ride up and down the coast and through the cities. It was an absolute blast. I haven’t gathered all the pictures from everyone yet (and most of the photos of all of us are on dad or Harry’s camera) but I couldn’t wait to share some of the beautiful snaps I took while I was there.


Venice beach is full of weirdos, but much like Austin, they accept this fact with pride. Of all the funky, cool establishments and architecture 10554170_1512198842342573_287659371_nwe saw in the neighborhood, the one that stuck out to me the most was a building across the alleyway right behind our house. It was painted a deep purple, enclosed by Gothic gates and smothered in artwork, gargoyles, and other miscellaneous oddities. It had a spiral staircase up to a rooftop with tables and chairs, so my mom and I assumed it must have been some sort of establishment. It wasn’t until our last day there when we wandered around to the front of the building that we saw a plaque reading “Private Residence” on the gated front entryway. Awesome. Someone lives here. Which begs the questions “Who?” and then, more interestingly, “…why???”

10520348_424632074343399_251972312_nAll the sunshine and fun considered, California really wins my heart with its food. America’s so-called “salad bowl” really delivers. Our very first Saturday we went to the farmers market in Santa Monica to stock up on fresh, ripe fruits and unpasteurized cheese (yummm….) The area was littered with coffee shops, farm-to-market restaurants, and cold-pressed juice shops. My favorite of these was a cafe/juice bar blend called Kreation (the fresh rose water was to die for, and the “50 Shades of Green” juice as well). Another cool coffee shop we stumbled upon was Tom’s– yeah, the same Tom’s that makes those canvas flats. I had no idea they did coffee, or eyeglasses either, but apparently their flagship location in Venice does it all. It had a great atmosphere and the cold brew coffee was excellent. Even the corner store in Venice had a fresh produce section, along with the biggest papaya I’d ever seen. But the highlight of the trip, at least food-wise, was a little joint called Flake that Jessica found. Aside from having THE best breakfast sandwiches ever, it was a super cute place decorated with vintage kid’s cereal boxes and a sense of humor. So good. My folks and I went back for more a few times before we left.

We also got to meet up with our cousin Noah, who lives in LA right now and is a comedy writer. He’s worked  on Workaholics and Kroll Show, two of me and 1941176_1538728219684234_1885090805_nSteve’s favorites! He even got a cake thrown in his face by Zach Galafianakis– which is pretty much the coolest thing anyone can put on their resume. Larry had expressed interest in hiking up to the Hollywood sign, and as it happened Noah lives right beneath it and
offered to be our tour guide. Larry and I drove to meet him on our last day. We walked more than half an hour through his neighborhood, which was beyond gorgeous with beautiful houses and colorful flowers and fruit trees everywhere. Then we started the hour-and-a-half long journey up the hill. It was a relatively clear day for LA so we could see out over all of the city, and the ocean and mountains in the distance. It was quite the workout, and my calves are still sore many days later, but it was so worth it. Here’s our view from the top:

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Ginger Blood

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I finally got a juicer! My dad bequeathed to me both a machine, and the “recipe” for his signature breakfast concoction. I use the term recipe lightly– this is my dad we’re talking about. I gathered my intel by following him around the produce section, and listening. “You want a bit of that, but not more than that much, or maybe that’s fine, no, wait–” and “you can use this, but you don’t have to, but if you do, remember to–” and other equally ambiguous instructions. While the proportions may be tricky, the ingredients are simple enough:

  • Greens (kale, spinach, etc)
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Apples
  • Lemon
  • Ginger root

The beauty of a drink like this is that proportions don’t really matter. Make it to your tastes. Two things I’ve slightly altered from the way my dad does it, are using baby salad greens instead of mature kale (way juicier) and to DEFINITELY peel the ginger, lest it wind up gritty.

IMG_20140607_195843I love this drink. It’s fruity, earthy, sweet, and HOT. I love the hotness of the ginger, and the redness of the beets. I’m tired of referring to it as “Larry’s juice thingie”, and a beverage this good deserves a name. I cant think of anything more fitting than Ginger Blood.

On a side note, one awesome thing about juicing is all the vegetable and fruit pulp waste you can collect. I hate letting things go to waste, so luckily my chickens absolutely LOVE it when I throw this stuff out back for them. Happiness all around!

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Also, I went into Houston this weekend and gave my dad the afghan I made. Happy father’s day Dad!

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Last days in Mexico

After six weeks, it was time to say goodbye. I was so sad to leave. I realized how much I’d miss my host family, and the city I’d come to know and love. But all good things come to an end, and the end of this adventure couldn’t have been better.

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My last Friday in Mexico was the beginning of the end, and it couldn’t have been a better (or longer) day. It was the first official day of spring– the equinox– and by 4 am I had already eaten breakfast and was waiting for a van that would take some of the students and volunteers to a nearby Mayan ruin to watch the sunrise. The Mayans situated so many of their structures to coincide with celestial events. In the pyramid we saw, the sun shines through a small window for just a few brief moments at dawn, only on the equinox. We weren’t the only ones who drove out to see it, either; the place was crowded with locals and tourists, but it was a very calm and peaceful gathering nonetheless.

After a few morning hours at the ruins, I came back to the house to finally pack. Packing is never fun, and nothing seems to fit back in my suitcase the way it came. In between gathering all my stuff I visited with Tere, Maria Jose and Milo, telling them how much I’d miss them as we ate our last (delicious, homemade) lunch together.

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My dad showed up around 3 that afternoon. He had originally said he wanted to rent a car and drive into Merida to get me, but I pleaded with him to take the bus instead. After he’d finally made it into the city he was glad he’d taken my advice (Merida is huge, crazy and impossible to navigate). He visited for a while with my family, which was such an amazing and surreal experience for me. It was like two worlds finally colliding. Between my Spanish and Milo’s English, we managed to introduce ourselves and chat for a while. Dad and I expressed our gratitude to them again, we said our final farewells and were off.

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The next few days in Merida were fun– we managed to see and do a lot. We visited El Museo del Mundo Maya, and saw the zoo downtown that I hadn’t been to yet. We walked around the city a lot, ate some awesome food, and I showed him the old Cathedral in the main square. On Sunday we went back to the same cenotes at Cuzama that I’d visited a few weeks earlier. Larry, for all the time he’s spent in Mexico, had never seen a cenote. We took the horse-drawn train carts through the jungle, saw a super poisonous snake in a restaurant, and Larry swam lap after lap in the huge underground pool. All very fun.

Now that all is said and done, I can look back and say with certainty that this trip was the experience of a lifetime. Coming home to America was surreal, even though I was only gone a little over two months. I went straight to my parents house. It was great to give my mom a hug, and the most amazing thing of all was being greeted by my precious baby wiener dog, Duchess. All the exhaustion that had built up over the past seven weeks finally caught up to me– I went to bed and slept for a long, long time. After a few days catching up to my parents I hit the road for Austin, to make my return complete:

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Those two! I love them both so much. It was such a wonderful trip, but I must say it is great to be home. 🙂

Savoring My Last Weeks in Merida

Hand foot mouth disease hit me pretty fast and was terrible for a few days, but it left as quickly as it came. I feel 100% better, aside from the tough patches where the blisters were now peeling off my foot calluses. (Lovely, I know.)

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I’m the only person than came here without finite plans to return, and people don’t really understand when I explain that my family isn’t really big on making plans. People have been asking me since I got here when I’ll be leaving, and I kept saying “I don’t know!” and receiving some quizzical looks. I’m having a wonderful time, but I do miss my family, my boyfriend, and my adorable baby Duchess. But I’ve now made some plans, and I can say with certainty that I’ll be home in about two weeks.

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School is still going great, and I get a small thrill every time I have a conversation in Spanish. The other day in class we went over how to talk about cooking and write recipes. I chose to write the recipe for my mom’s lentil bean soup, partly because it is one of the few “recipes” I use, and partly because I planned on making it for my family that week! Maria Jose is a fan of lentils and spinach, and since these are the key ingredients I decided it’d be the perfect thing to cook. We all sat down to eat, and they loved it, and we talked a lot in Spanish. I felt so much pride!

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This past Saturday, I went to my first ever Catholic mass- in Spanish! My friend Liz (from England) is Catholic and attends mass at least twice a week; she said she wanted to try all the various churches in town, and I told her there was one right across the street from me, so we went together! The service was really cool to see, and I was able to follow along with most of it because they handed out leaflets with the words printed. Three ladies lead the hymns with guitars and singing, and it was very, very beautiful.

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After church, we went to “Mexico Night” in El Centro, which is a big fair-type thing with tons of great street food and traditional Yucatecan dance on stage. We went with one of Liz’s local friends, Elizabeth, a cuban who now lives in Merida and teaches Salsa, and her other friend who is a lawyer. Both are bilingual, but not fluent in English, so I got to practice my Spanish and help them communicate with each other. We wandered down the street to find a drink, and happened upon an Irish bar called Hennesey. I had no clue that it was St. Patrick’s day weekend, until I walked into a crowd of green-clad foreigners. It’s definitely the expat hangout in town, and although we had quite some fun, I’ve decided I definitely like the local scene better.

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I’ve taken to walking the family’s dog, Jacko, at night. My neighborhood seems very safe, and I have walked alone, but I feel I look way less like a tourist when I’m with a giant labrador. And plus, Jacko is amazing and I love him (sorry Duchess…) The neighborhood is beautiful. There’s a husky on a roof a few blocks away who always barks at me! And bougainvillea everywhere- so gorgeous.

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Today after school Liz came by and Elizabeth picked us up for lunch. Afterward we went to her house which is just a few blocks from mine, and is AMAZINGLY beautiful. She has a flock of tropical birds, and about FORTY turtles in her back yard. Some have even laid eggs!! I’d never seen a turtle egg. Then she taught us some salsa and we danced in her backyard for a couple hours. So much fun.

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Every day here leaves me completely exhausted and happy. I have one more chapter before I’ve finished the first Harry Potter book in Spanish, and have already bought a second to read. I’m really looking forward to my dad getting here on Friday. I’ve planned a trip to the cenotes for us on Sunday, and he’s going to absolutely love it. Then we have a “no plans” week of travel before we head to the airport to fly back in to Houston. I already know I’m going to miss Tere, Milo, Maria Jose, Jacko, and Merida SO much. Not to mention all the amazing people I’ve met and friends that I’ve made here. That’s all for now!

Playa Playa Playa

IMG_20140303_093513Annabelle lived in Playa del Carmen for a few months last year; she and I were the only ones who had been there before so we were SO excited in the week leading up to our trip. She kept singing “playa playa playa”, and by the time we got there we all were too.

Playa is indescribable. It is SO much fun, and so beautiful. It makes Progreso seem like Galveston (yuck). The water is super blue, the beaches clean, and the main drag of fifth avenue is a blast. We stayed at Hotel Colibri, right on the beach and  a block away from all the night clubs on 12th street. I’d never seen Playa so busy, both with foreign tourists as well as Mexican families on vacation for Carnival weekend. Things are definitely more expensive here (unless you head into the town a bit) and lots of prices are listed in American dollars instead of pesos, causing a few problems for the Australians here and there. Everybody speaks English, but I still used my Spanish wherever possible.

I got back to Merida yesterday and came down with a virus! Tere took me to the doctor this morning, and I was absolutely stunned: it only costs 35 pesos to see a doctor! That’s about THREE DOLLARS. And afterward I got all the medicines I needed for under $15. I have a headache and sore throat, but I’m resting up today and am going back to class tomorrow no matter what. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday- I wonder if I’ll see a lot of catholics with the crosses on their foreheads? If I saw that in America I should definitely see it here. I can’t wait.

Celestun – The Land of Flamingos!

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Every time I go on an excursion with my friends here I think “Life can’t get any better than this”. But then we go on another trip, and it does. Last night we went out dancing. I forget the name of the club– but I don’t remember the last time I went out dancing and it was a blast! We definitely stood out in the crowd (both as foreigners, and the only ones dancing) but we didn’t care.

I got home around 2 am and set my alarm for 7, to go to Celestun. We had a van drive us there, about 2 hours away. We took a boat trip around the fresh water lake and into the mangroves. There were– no joke– 25 THOUSAND flamingos there.

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When the boat motor stopped, you could hear them quacking from every direction. There were also baby crocodiles (and one big one!), cranes, pelicans and ducks. And the mangroves! I’d never seen anything like it before. We thought our trip was ending when the boat veered into the forest, down a water way under the trees. It was absolutely stunning. We needed David Attenborough there to narrate for us! I’m exhausted, but today was incredible. It’s so cool to hang out with girls from all over the world. Learning what they think about Americans (MY accent is cool?! Pssh) is especially interesting. Hearing about their cultures (especially Estonia- shout out to Helen!) is equally fascinating too. I am really on top of the world right now.