La Barbecue, Austin 07-2021

In my short Texas weekend, I had a beef plan but due to Franklin's online order only system I had to look elsewhere.

La Barbecue is also decently reputed and owned by a female (which is unusual). I tried to make an online order in advance, but it didn't accept my non-USA cards. It was a short queue but really, really slow as 1 person takes the order, 1 person serves, and 1 person takes payment. Very inefficient and just our luck they ran out of brisket as I was front of the line. 

In my disappointment, they stared at me waiting to hear what I wanted to eat, which honestly at that point was nothing.

We ordered a bit of the pork rib (the only other thing left was sausage) and the rib was fine, but not Memphis quality.

But the Texas winner was clearly Terry Black's (

Terry Black's Barbecue, Austin 07-2021

After a decade of enjoying smoked meats from London and Melbourne, I couldn't wait to go to the mothership - Austin, Texas - where beef reigns king. It was a short weekend there, but my start was less than successful initially.

Franklin's is the most well known place, however at that point in time, it was only doing takeaway orders, with strict limitations such as you must order online with a forced tip, minimum 3lb(!!!!) meat, need to do it about a week in advance to get brisket. I couldn't get the brisket and didn't want the other items by themselves.

La Barbecue is also decently reputed and owned by a female (which is unusual). I tried to make an online order in advance, but it didn't accept my non-USA cards. It was a short queue but really, really slow as 1 person takes the order, 1 person serves, and 1 person takes payment. Very inefficient and just our luck they ran out of brisket as I was front of the line. The pork rib was fine, but not Memphis quality.

Brown's is in the carpark of a petrol station. It was closed that week for a fishing trip.

Loro's is co-owned by Franklin's but with Asian influence, and so it was the closest I could get to the original. There was a long dinner wait, so we ordered very fast takeaway and sat outside to eat. Brisket was part soft and part really dry, whereas the smoked bavette was better.

Finally that left Terry Black's. A large carpark houses two buildlings, one for the restaurant/dining area, and a large shed with lines of smokers that house lines of meats. One of the cooks was happy to show me and let me take a few photos. It was a very long queue (35mins from queue to food) and I chatted to a local paramedic in line who told me just how many shootings they attend to. 

Anyway the queue moves reasonably well and efficiently. First comes what sides you want (cornbread, green beans, pinto beans USD3.75 per single serve). Staff ask which cuts of brisket (USD31/lb) you want, the fattier one or the leaner one (and recommended to me the fattier one). It was excellent, soft, tender, moist and delicious. Even better was the beef rib on the bone (USD30/lb) with it's huge slab of meat on a bone handle charred brilliantly with a delicious bark. The sides, pickles and sauces complemented the meat well. The white bread was... well, as expected and not worth eating much of it.

In addition to the excellent food, cleaning staff work hard and are polite. 

An unforgettable local experience.

Crawfish & Noodles, Houston 07-2021

I was really excited to learn of 2 fusion Asian restaurants in Houston. One was Blood Bros. BBQ - a Vietnamese-inspired smokehouse that unlucky fate would mean would be closed during the one week that we passed through. Oh well, it was not to be. The other was this Viet-Cajun crawfish place that although not in Louisiana, would bring those fusion flavours to the plate.

After a late morning, a late lunch, wandering through the local sights and The Menil Collection and the Houston Centre For Photography, we weren't all that hungry. However it was late afternoon, there wasn't much else to see, the weather wasn't so favourable, and traffic was only going to build. So we decided to make the slow journey home via Crawfish and hope for a table.

Luckily there was no waiting at all, and we could see the tables around us with enormous serves of crawfish. There's not much to muck around with the menu, and at USD12/lb we ordered 2 lbs at medium spice with potato and corn. Maybe they were a little surprised that we didn't order more, particularly compared to the table of Asian aunties and their massive amount.

The flavours were chilli with lots of garlic and a touch of tangy flavour (maybe lemongrass) and fish sauce. The little fresh crawfish were juicy, the heads did not much brain and little meaty tails. The white waiter serving us had to demonstrate the art of opening them without spraying your eyes with chili. The delicious sauce would be great with noodles. Boiled potato and a bit soft corn rounded out the meal with a bit of carb and vegetables to interrupt the flavour.

I really liked the flavour (even if the small meat was a little less satisfying) and if hunger permitted would have gotten more.

It did remind me of the insanely spicy version in Beijing ( but this was much more pleasant.

Alpha Bakery, Houston 07-2021

I didn't realise Houston had such a large Asian population and we were staying in the west area which was conveniently where all these places were. The main reason was to try Vietnamese crawfish, but it was fortunate that it gave us the time and opportunity to look around the area. I searched for an Asian supermarket and came up with Hong Kong City Mall (and their Food Market). What I didn't expect was an enormous Asian grocer full of Vietnamese foods ready to eat including grilled meats and several varieties of che including some I hadn't seen before. Incredible.

The inside shops also were full of Vietnamese restaurants with the older (and younger accompanying) generations sitting around having a chat and a drink. Just like being transported to Asia (or the similar places in Melbourne).

A random banh mi place was USD3.5. The ladies spoke Vietnamese and we had our cold cuts and bbq pork. Overall much better (especially the bread) than the last offering in New Orleans's best (

B&C Cajun Seafood Restaurant, Louisiana 07-2021

I've tagged this under New Orleans knowing full well that this place is an hour outside. But the reason we were here was in between visiting the Oak Valley and Laura plantations, which is a trip most likely done to or from New Orleans.

The initial intent was to hit both plantations in the morning then go for lunch enroute to Houston. But a later start, a longer time in Oak Valley and hunger got in the way. A quick Google search found this nearby well rated local seafood and Cajun place - both alluring adjectives for our last Louisiana meal, particularly as we hadn't really had any Cajun food.

The restaurant has you enter via their shop which sells snacks, some takeaway and souvenirs from gator amongst other things. We didn't buy anything but it was an interesting browse. The restaurant side was a simple place adorned with monetary bills from all over the world. Gator, catfish and gumbo dominates the menu. And for a location close to tourist venues, the prices were decent too.

- Cajun Breaux Gator Burger (wild gator served with B&C seasoning on home-baked bun) USD9.99 - I remember vaguely that crocodile is similar to chicken, but gator was more like mince pork to me. It was heavily salty but very tasty;
- Louisiana Seafood Gumbo (fresh gulf shrimp, crab meat, okra over rice) bowl with potato salad USD12.95 - this murky mud water looking gumbo was delicious with tiny seafood bits of fish and prawns. I think I asked for salad rather than potato salad just to be a bit lighter. It was in an overly sweet dressing but fine for contrast.

A delicious local Louisiana meal and a fine farewell to the state. I could've tried so many things there like fried frog legs, soft shell crab, the elusive oyster po-boy and more. I doubt I'll back in this area in this lifetime though...

St. Roch Market, New Orleans 07-2021

A little upmarket foodhall in New Orleans that houses gourmet coffee (and beans), an ATM in the corner, a Malaysian laksa place (that tempted me so) and oysters. It was the oysters that we went for, particularly for their Mon-Fri happy hour 4-7pm which did gulf oysters at USD6 for 6 raw or 3 broiled.

The raw oysters were fine - decent sized one that filled the shells. They were a creamy texture and quite mild, in contrast to my preferred bit of firm bite and a strong salinity. The broiled had some melted cheese on top which were also ok but I always prefer the unadulterated raw versions.

Nonetheless for that price I can't complain at all.

I can't remember if the laksa place was closed, or if it was just that we wanted to eat somewhere along Marigny Street in between some jazz. That ended up being a bit of a mistake because there wasn't much there we wanted to eat.

MOPHO, New Orleans 07-2021

One of my goals was to try America's versions of fusion Asian food everywhere we went. It was surprisingly difficult to find recommended places online, despite many hours of searching. I suppose a lot of these places don't have a large migrant Asian population who moved into modern food, or the local chefs who have branched out that way? I'm not too sure.

When in New Orleans, cajun cuisine came up and it was great to see a Cajun-Vietnamese restaurant there. I found it unusual that a fusion place would be in a building smack in the middle of a shopping strip carpark, but I suppose that's a more normal place to frequent in the USA. 

Our American Asian waitress was inquisitive about our accents. I was inquisitive about the food. The menu certainly reads interestingly, with not only Vietnamese but Burmese and Laotian influence. The Hangover pho certainly looked the most unusual (reminiscent of the breakfast ramen from the now closed Melbourne location ( and what she recommended as the most popular.

- Crispy drumsticks (nuoc mam caramel, lemongrass, ginger, Thai chili) USD10 - chicken was cooked ok but not that succulent. Skin was thin and crisp at least. But the coating of sugar, fish sauce, fresh ginger and spring onion was deliciously excellent;
- The Veggie Pho (veggie broth with Ms. Le's tofu, mushrooms, braised greens, roasted eggplant) USD12 - vegetable broth, lightly spiced with some odd eggplant that was firm (grilled maybe?), served with tofu and kale;
- The Hangover Part II Pho (beef broth with Burmese pork, meatballs, double smoked bacon, mushrooms, slow poached egg, jalapeño American cheese) USD17 - beef broth was spiced but not standard pho. It was still nice. There was strong flavours from the meaty balls and pork strands and fatty bacon, and some simpler mushrooms. It was quite odd to have poached runny egg in pho, and the cheese was even more bizarre. I think it ruined the broth by making it too cheesy.

The pho came with a very small (considering it was for 2?) plate of beanshoots, Thai basil, coriander, jalapeno and lime. This is just the right combination of additives that I'm familiar with (although usually bird's eye chilli rather than jalapeño).

We definitely couldn't fit in dessert after these American-sized servings, but the banana brulee with fish sauce icecream, caramel sauce and coconut shavings sounded really good. 

I'd definitely try this place again, but maybe target it on a day where a special I wanted was on - like Thursday for the BBH. And the fried chicken for that combination with the sauce again. I'm not that familiar with Cajun, but the restaurant seemed to be more of a modern take on Viet rather than Cajun I think.

Dong Phuong Restaurant & Bakery, New Orleans 07-2021

New Orleans is known for po' boys (aka sandwiches) and I did really want an oyster one. Even though we didn't get around to actually trying one (even with 4 nights), there also seems to be a banh mi movement going on here (aka Vietnamese sandwich I suppose). The best rated one in town actually isn't in town. It's a solid drive looking like  a highway pit stop with loads of parking. It is close to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (which is a nice little walk, but it really is little and there isn't a whole lot to see).

The takeaway counter is next to a restaurant - I'm not entirely sure what the restaurant serves, but probably Vietnamese cuisine.

It's certainly an excellent price for banh mi USD5.50 inc. tax. Compare that to NYC getting into USD12+. Even the local prices in town are around USD8-10. 

Cold cuts was very generous with lots of meat layers and also quality vegetables, pickles. Nem nuong was also very generous and deliciously seasoned, and I would get that one next time. Unfortunately though the bread was too soft with the outside having no crunch/crackle to it. Maybe it was a bad batch, too old or that's just the way it's done here. Or maybe it has something to do with the humidity? Not sure.

They also sell pate chaud $2.50 (aka "meat pie") which uses a wet char siu type filling rather than the dense pork patty usually. It was alright. There is also a variety of che which I didn't try. They also ran out of bread/banh mi by about 1pm this day.

Nice to have something Vietnamese although I don't think people here know how good banh mi can get if this is their mark. It got better in Houston though...

Coop's Place, New Orleans 07-2021

On the 4th of July, we headed into the French Quarter to explore the street festival atmosphere (although I'm sure quieter than usual due to Covid and the lack of tourism) and fireworks. It was an easy walk from Marigny and lots of people were out and about. All of the more well known restaurants in the area had queues outside (such as the Original French Market restaurant with people wanting their crawfish). A simpler and less busy place along the way was Coop's. For whatever reason the staff were keen to keep the tables empty and the central bar area full, and so there we sat.

Creole is the local cuisine of New Orleans, a mix of the flavours from the settlers of many regions in Europe, Africa and the West Indies. Coop's was one of the few I found online that was well rated, well priced and served jambalaya (thanks Seinfeld for introducing this word into my vocabulary).

Coop's Taste Plate had it all (cup of seafood gumbo, cajun fried chicken, shrimp Creole, red beans & rice, rabbit & sausage jambalaya) USD15.95.

Seafood gumbo (Creole stew served with rice, prepared using dark brown roux, French Market vegetables, ground sassafrass leaves, drum fillet, shrimp, oysters, crab claws) was tomato based with little crab and meat parts. Decent Southern fried chicken (not Nashville level though). Shrimp Creole was a disappointing tomato and prawns on watery unflavoured rice. Smoky beans were good though. Finally the dish I wanted most had arrived. I expected jambalaya to be a soup (from Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode) but it was an actual rice dish (like paella). It had a smoky flavoured rice with pieces of sausage and was pretty good overall.

The food was fine without being anything mindblowing. Nonetheless good to try authentic Creole food at its origin.