Alamo Drafthouse

I knew when I moved to Austin that I had to check out the Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters. The concept is simple: it’s a movie theater that also serves up booze. I’d heard Chicago has a similar concept happening, but Austin’s Alamo blows this out of the water. Not only do they serve alcohol and the standard popcorn and Junior Mints, but they’ve also got a full menu for those who like to take dinner and a movie all at the same location.

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz (photo via Alamo Drafthouse)

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz (photo via Alamo Drafthouse)

At first, you might wonder if all this chowing down and ordering during the films might turn a rowdy crowd loose, with NYC-style yelling at the screen encouraged. Luckily, the rules are simple and spelled out for newbies by groovy waitstaff: write your order on the slip of paper and place it standing up in the designated pocket. The waiter will come by to take and deliver your order silently, and will place a bill on the narrow table to pay before you leave. Warnings from Homestar Runner are also played onscreen to remind the audience to shut the heck up, turn off cell phones, and refrain from rowdy behavior. Sweet!

For those who do like to talk back to the screen, there’s another bonus: the Alamo’s Quote-Alongs and Sing-Alongs. Seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so many times you can quote the whole thing from start to finish? Lucky for you, there’s Quote-Along night, where “you’re *required* to yell out your favorite lines, stand up and dance to the best songs from the soundtrack, and play with a series of props that are handpicked for most movies.” For all those who’ve ever seen (and loved) the cult-classic Grandma’s Boy, there’s an upcoming Quote-Along scheduled for December 24. Even if you’re way too baked to drive to the Devil’s house and have a robot vagina, you won’t want to miss this one, Grey Bush.

As the type of person who likes to comment aloud on movies (especially the really bad ones), I’m pretty stoked about the Quote-Alongs, as well as their Weird Wednesdays (where only $1 gets you in) and monthly Dionysium debates (for those who like to get their think on). If you’re a hard-working member of the service industry, you also get a break on Monday-night movies, pizza and pints. Nice!

The menu varies from one Drafthouse to the next (there are four locations in total), but all feature movie-themed menu items such as “The Breakfast Club” (lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon and a fried egg on sourdough with chipotle mayo) and the “Royale With Cheese Burger” (an Angus patty with lettuce, tomato, onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and chipotle mayo). When I hit up the Alamo’s Village location, I tried one of their white wines during a viewing of Where the Wild Things Are. It was kind of surreal to be watching a kid’s book that had been made into a movie for adults whilst drinking wine as a few rugrats got scared to death a few seats over.

The only negative thing I can really say about the Alamo Drafthouse is that if you drink half a bottle of wine while you watch a movie, you’re probably going to have to use the bathroom about halfway through. This isn’t a big deal when you’re watching flicks at home and can just pause the DVD, but it’s a bit annoying to have to sneak out, pee, and come back to your seat. I guess this is probably why most theaters don’t serve alcohol. But then again, they do serve those giant 48-ounce sodas, so what do I know?

All in all, the Alamo Drafthouse is definitely my favorite cinema in Austin, and one of my top hangouts overall. Check it out and bask in one of the ways locals like to Keep Austin Weird.


Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q

After a hard day of apartment searching, I got a hot tip from my agent about Rudy’s Bar-B-Q. Since they were in the neighborhood (or I was in theirs?), I hopped in the BBT (Big Black Truck) with my Dining Companion and took a spin to see what all the hubbub was about. Or if there were, indeed, any hubbubs to be had.

The agent had mentioned that there was a handwashing machine outside the restroom, and indeed there was! It says to insert your hands and allow the machine to clean them for you. Truly, the lazy man or woman’s dream! In fact, it even suggested that this is “a jacuzzi for your hands.”

I was a bit too embarrassed to try it out, given that the whole restaurant can watch anyone who does. Maybe next time.

Photo by Laura Roberts

As you enter Rudy’s, you’ll see a lot of interesting signs, including one for their “sause” which refers to it as “The worst BBQ sause in Texas.” Above the door to the kitchen, there’s another warning: “If y’all don’t wanna cook, stay outta the kitchen!” Hanging above the line-up (which became rather long just after we arrived) there was another winner. It read: “In case of slow-moving line, break glass.” The kicker? This sign was attached to a glass case containing a cattle prod.

I was giggling to myself as I took stock of all the down-home signage, and further amused myself by watching the meat festival on the “Cutter Cam.” There, you can watch as the kitchen crew slices and dices brisket with remarkable dexterity. It’ll make your mouth water as you await your food.

Meanwhile, the Husbot was sampling menu items and shooting me thumbs-ups from the counter. Ultimately, he came to the table with half a pound of beef brisket, half a pound of baby-back ribs, some BBQ turkey for later, and a container of potato salad.

Then came the sause.

I liberally applied it to the ribs and took a bite. Delicious! I tried it on the brisket. Delightful! I decided against dipping the potato salad into it, as that would’ve been weird. But I was mighty tempted to use the white bread they’d given us (for making sandwiches) to sop up the extra sause.

Although we’d purchased a pound of meat, plus potatoes, we both felt we could’ve eaten more meat after we plowed through the first batch. Overall, we found Rudy’s to be tasty and inexpensive, with 100% oak smokiness and country store charm. Worst BBQ in Texas? Flagrant false advertising… or maybe just a clever bit of reverse psychology.

ADDRESS: 11570 Research Blvd.
PHONE: 512-418-9898

The Screaming Goat

The first local restaurant the Husbot and I tried in Austin was The Screaming Goat, as we passed it by on our totally random, self-guided driving tour of downtown. The place looked nice from the outside, located in a little house on 10th Street just off Lamar Boulevard, and naturally the name intrigued us. Stomachs grumbling, we decided to give it a whirl.


Photo via Sifting Through Austin

Entering the restaurant, there’s a tiny counter with the equally tiny menu. Choose from tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tostadas, tortas or flautas, and then pick your filling: ground beef, chicken, pastor, adobo chicken, steak, carne asada, bean and cheese, veggie or tilapia. We both went for the steak burritos, and the Husbot ordered two Budweisers (they were on special, and apparently the restaurant only serves the day’s beer specials?). The guy who was taking our order asked if he wanted to keep one on ice, and was amused when Husbot replied that he was going to pound them.

We picked out a table with our drinks and sat down, and our food was served up in about five minutes. During our short wait, we decided that the little house in which the restaurant was located would make an ideal home, with its sweet hardwood floors and adobe airplane bathrooms (the Husbot reported that he was so close to the automatic paper towel dispenser that it kept spitting out paper towels as he, um, completed the transaction), and wondered if we could find something similar for cheap on our apartment search.

I had ordered the verde salsa on the side, which was rated three peppers in heat, while the Husbot picked the mere two-pepper green tomatillo. He questioned whether mine might burn me two times, but it turns out the verde isn’t quite as hot as the warnings imply.

After snarfing down our burritos, the verdict was that the food was fairly inexpensive, pretty tasty, but not quite as spicy as we’d imagined it might be here in the land of Tex-Mex delights. Husbot complained “Not enough meat! Too much rice!” but ultimately agreed that the food was delicious, despite the fact that their hot sauce was a mere 5.8 out of 10 on the hotness scale. “If you’re gonna call it ‘extra hot,’ it’d better still be burning me when we leave,” he advised.

Overall, The Screaming Goat is a good bet if you’re in the neighborhood, a nice alternative to chain taco joints, and according to Austin360 we should’ve tried their beef flautas, which are the tastiest things on the menu and only cost 75 cents on Sundays and Tuesdays.

Supplemental Parking Review: Parking is available behind the restaurant. Warning signs are posted, noting that your car may be damaged, as the lot is tiny and hard to maneuver into or out of—particularly with a behemoth rear-wheel drive truck like ours.

Welcome to Shoestring Austin

Shoestring Austin knows there are plenty of places where you can read about life in Austin, and that lots of them devote most of their space to the local music scene. We think that’s groovy, for those who are into it. Our deal is somewhat different. We’re always asking the question: what is there to EAT?!

We may be on a shoestring budget, with only enough cash to order delivery from the same two places once or twice a week, but BY GOD, WE WANT IT HOT, FAST, PLENTIFUL AND DELICIOUS! This is our only credo: Cheap eats that taste great. Wherever you can find ‘em, there we are.

And that’s the deal. We’re all about snacking our way through life, lived deliciously. Because living on a budget doesn’t have to suck. When’s dinner?

In short: Shoestring Austin is dedicated to uncovering Austin’s greatest cheap restaurants–because living on a budget doesn’t have to suck. Blog editor Laura Roberts also maintains the Shoestring Montreal blog. She can be contacted online via Twitter @originaloflaura.

Finally, our current Shoestring Austin banner is based on a photo taken by Flickr user Stuck in Customs, which has been kindly made available to the public via a Creative Commons license. The photo itself depicts downtown Austin at night, and the original version also features the Frost Tower in the background, which is said to resemble a giant pair of nose hair trimmers.