allandale eating: t22 chicken joint

I write a column for our neighborhood newsletter on food in the hood. Here's an upcoming review:

Allandale Eating: T22 Chicken Joint

The first thing I think about when I think about Nashville is country music, the Grand Ole Opry, and those price tags hanging off of Minnie Pearl’s hats. I don’t think about chicken (or at least I didn’t use to). However, not surprisingly, Nashville also has its food traditions, and Nashville-style hot chicken is one of them. 

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is purported to have conjured the contemporary version of hot chicken after Thorton Prince’s girlfriend lathered a late night leg of fried yard fowl with cayenne sauce as revenge for him staying out late one night without her. He liked that angry bird so much that he opened a restaurant dedicated to it. Even today, hot chicken is considered a late night snack in Nashville after an evening of music and friends.

So what makes hot chicken hot chicken? Tradition holds that the chicken is marinated in buttermilk, breaded and fried, and then tumbled in a spicy paste. Sometimes folks apply the spicy paste before the breading as well as after the frying. Time-honored delivery is a pile of spice-glistened chicken atop a slice of white bread capped with pickle chips. 

This brings us to Howard Marmulstein’s T22 Chicken Joint on Burnet Road. Marmulstein is the owner and executive chef of Salty Sow up on Manor (a worthy stop in its own right). Although he grew up in New York, he has a sincere appreciation (and deft touch) with down-home southern cuisine. Not one to rest on his Salty Sow laurels, Marmulstein opened a trailer called Tumble 22 back in May serving Nashville-style hot fried chicken. T22 Chicken Joint on Burnet brings the trailer’s concept (presently at Star Bar on West 6th Street) to a brick and mortar sit-down experience.

T22 serves food inspired by Nashville-style hot chicken, which means Marmulstein has brought a chef’s eye (and taste buds) to the dish. I’ve never had Nashville-style chicken before Tumble 22, but if it’s as good in its natural habitat as this, I’m all in. The chicken at T22 is perfectly fried, juicy, and delicious. The tumble comes in four heat levels (Wimpy, Hot, Dang Hot!, and Fire in the Hole!! [the menu shows the latter with a chicken emitting flames out of both ends; you've been warned!]). For the delicate flowers among us, there are non-spicy choices as well.

On my first visit, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find a sit-down, full-service restaurant (many trailer-to-brick transitions offer counter service). The vibe is shabby-sheik southern but open and comfortable. Wait staff are friendly and well trained. For my first taste, I went traditional with the 1/4 White (breast and wing, $7) with Dang Hot! Sauce, described by my waitress as sriracha-level heat. The batter was crunchy, the chicken juicy, and the sauce the perfect balance between pleasure and pain. For sides, I went with kale slaw (cole slaw with whisps of kale, $3) and potato salad ($3); both were pretty dang good. You can get some side dipping sauces for 50 cents apiece. The waitress recommended the Comeback Sauce as a fire retardant. I also ordered Sweet Chili Yogurt Sauce, a deliciously sadistic concoction that combines the cool breeze of yogurt with more pain.

Even the iced tea is chef’d up, offering complex notes like a fine wine (seriously the best iced tea I’ve ever had). On a second trip, I went with the O.G. Sandwich (hot breast topped with coleslaw, pickles, and mayo; $9) with sides of fries ($4) and mac-n-cheese ($4); again, delicious. 

T22 offers a few salads ranging from a Caesar ($6) to a Potato Chip ($7) to a Hot Chicken Cobb ($9). The Potato Chip is ephermal: It was there the first time I went and not the second (and now appears again on the menu). When I asked what happened to the Potato Chip Salad on my second trip, the waiter explained “We learned that people that want to eat salads aren’t likely to eat a salad sprinkled with potato chips.” T22 also serves oysters and other sides and pies (be sure to save room and share the memorable Mile High Lemon Meringue). They also serve beer, a couple Texas wines, and mixed drinks to help wash on-site (or off-site) pain away. T22 also offers family-style to-go piles of chicken and chicken tenders.

The prices are amazingly reasonable given the quality of the food and the sit-down nature of the restaurant. The vibe is friendly and down-home with an excellently curated playlist of blues and old rock-n-roll. 

You might wonder whether or not Allandale needs another chicken joint with what is becoming Fried Chicken Row along Burnet with Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Flyrite Chicken, Top Notch, and now Tumble 22. However, each joint scratches a different culinary itch. Top Notch pitches old-style fried chicken, Lucy’s chef’s up that old-style, Flyrite offers fast-casual and drive-through chicken sandwiches, and Tumble 22 (considerably) spices things up. All are delicious. All are great additions to the neighborhood. 

(T22 Chicken Joint, 7211 Burnet Road, Tumble22.com)

A plate of pain: the ¼ White at Dang Hot! With sides of tater salad, kale slaw, avocado, and two dipping sauces.

The Mile High Lemon Meringue pie

The Hot Chicken Cobb. It's a salad, so it's healthy, right?

Chicken sammich.

allandale eating: news, OneTaco, Cabo Bob's

I write a column for our neighborhood newsletter on food in the hood. Here's an upcoming review:

Allandale Eating: Quick Bites!

There’s always something good cookin’ in Allandale for foodies these days! Three recent (and exciting) announcements concern (1) the good folks of Ramen/Kemuri Tatsu-Ya leasing space next to Tacodeli, (2) a new Home Slice going in on North Loop, and (3) the mysterious Sumptuary.

Time Out listed Ramen Tatsu-Ya as the best ramen slinger in the country, and the owners are currently (well-deservedly) up for a James Beard Award for the best new restaurant in America for Kemuri Tatsu-Ya. No announcements yet on precisely what they plan to put in the space they leased on Burnet, but I’m deliciously excited to see what they mix up. Home Slice, considered by many to be the best pizza in town, is reworking a space at 501 East 53rd Street for a new outlet. It’s a wee bit out of the ‘hood, but it’s a lot closer than South Congress. Sumptuary, a concept kitchen by Dr. Foo Swasdee (of Satay), Jack Gilmore (of Jack Allen’s Kitchen), and others to create a shared (and rentable) restaurant space near the old Satay for pop-up meals by local, regional, and international chefs. If you want to get in early as a Supporter and to see what’s cooking, check out www.sumptuaryaustin.com.

In national news, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine received yet another James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest (come on, Bearders, give the man his award!). In state news, Texas Monthly listed Bonhomie as an Honorable Mention in its “The Ten Best New Restaurants in Texas” article. Texas Monthly also listed Barley Swine and Fonda San Miguel among the “Best in Town in Austin.” 

In local news, several stalwarts and newcomers are getting their accolades. Eater Austin listed Eldorado Cafe as its #1 hottest brunch spot. Eater also included Chi’lantro (#2) and Lucy’s Fried Chicken (#12) among its "21 Outstanding Chicken Wing Bets in Austin.” Eater (who tops the list of listmakers) listed Lala’s Little Nugget (#6) and Little Longhorn Saloon (#12) among its “Austin’s Iconic Dive Bars.” The prolific Eater included Be More Pacific (#2) on its list of the “17 Hottest Restaurants in Austin, March 2018” list. Eater (whew!) also recognized Cover 3 for sporting “resolution friendly” salads.

CultureMap gave a shout-out to Chez Nous and Fonda San Miguel as “classic restaurants worth another shot.” CultureMap also included Yard Bar as one of its seven places to “chase away the winter blues,” and the ‘Map just listed Pinthouse Pizza as one of Austin’s nine best breweries. Be More Pacific and Eldorado Cafe also appeared as nominees for CultureMap’s Tastemaker Awards.

Austin Monthly listed Veracruz Al Natural (#1 and a short distance up the road to 183 and Burnet) and Tacodeli (#11) as Austin’s “Best Breakfast Tacos.”

In other news, Flyrite Chicken’s Burnet location celebrated its one-year anniversary, and Allandale alumnus The Omelettry, now on Airport, celebrated its 40th anniversary (hopefully with an omelet bedazzled with an age-appropriate number of candles). And word on the street is that Be More Pacific started brunch service on Easter Sunday. 

Here are a couple of quick reviews of two new fast-casual restaurants in the hood:

OneTaco. An Urban Taqueria (2900 Austin Lane, Suite K)

As one of Austin’s basic food groups, there’s always room for one (or four) more taco joints in the neighborhood. OneTaco, an Austin-based tortilla topper, brings homemade flour and corn tortillas, a variety of fillings, and a snappy 50s-south-of-the-border vibe to Anderson Lane, its second location in town. I’ve tried their chicken taco (yum!) and el pastor (OK, but I've been spoiled by the richer-than-Bill-Gates al pastors at El Mercado). Perhaps the stars of the show at OneTaco are the tortas: messy layers of taco fillings splayed between two puffy sammich buns. Plus, mega bonus points for spinning my favorite Royksopp track during my second visit: Silicon Soul’s Hypno House Dub of Royksopp’s Poor Leno/There is a Light That Never Goes Out (A Capella). Yummy to the tummy and the ears! 

Chicken taco (left) and al pastor taco (right) at OneTaco

A torta at OneTaco

Cabo Bob’s (7849 Shoal Creek Boulevard))

The simplest way to describe Cabo Bob’s is Chipotle’s-Run-by-Beach-Bums, and I mean that in the most loving way. Being Austin-based and unshackled from distant corporate soul-sucking suits, Cabo Bob’s provides made-to-order foil-wrapped burritos and taco trios but with fresher and funner ingredients. Tortillas are made in front of you with a tilla-presser (unless you order plain corn; don’t order plain corn) with four choices: buttermilk flour, ancho chili, cilantro tomatillo, and smokey cheddar. Bob’s sports multiple choices for proteins (sizzled on Big Green Eggs), beans, and veggies (including vegan options). If you don’t like to choose, there are pre-arranged options (“I’d like a Number 4 all the way.”) as well as several specialty options. While not the healthiest item on the menu, the ground hamburger riddled with fresh bacon-bits is memorably savory. And the place is hopping with high-schoolers, families, and folks simply looking for a great burrito.

A taco trio from Cabo Bob’s

Grilling fresh tortillas at Cabo Bob’s

Before the wrap...