Before moving to Austin from Toledo, Ohio so my wife could attend grad school, I heard two things ad nauseum from friends, family, and co-workers:
“Wow, the barbecue is going to be fantastic.”
“At least it’s a dry heat down there, huh?”
I can say with the utmost certainty that both statements have proven to be wild misrepresentations of the Lone Star State’s capital city. No amount of dryness matters when hauling your belongings into an apartment in the first week of August and its five straight days of 105-degree heat.
As for the barbecue... well, it’s complicated. I’ve had some fine low-and-slow-cooked meat since the start of this Southern sojourn, but what’s stood out are the new takes on the classics. The number of trucks, stalls, and eateries that have taken inspirations from other styles feels central to the Austin eating ethos.
Take Chi’Lantro BBQ: a Korean-Mexican fusion that began as a food truck in 2010 and has now expanded to restaurants and even an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. Upon landing in Austin I desired my favorite comfort food, chicken wings, and Chi’Lantro’s take on the dive-bar classic are some of the best I’ve devoured. The fries are the star -- crunchy, crispy, covered in piles of caramelized kimchi, cheeses, Sriracha, and grilled meats -- but the real powerhouse is the Gangnam chicken wings, glazed in the most beautiful Thai chili coating known to man. The wings are huge and fried to extra-crisp perfection, with a craggy exterior that doesn’t let any of the sweet and burn-unit-worthy sauce go to waste. My acid reflux hates me every time, but I can’t resist the tradeoff of pain for this poultry pleasure.