Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

August 9th, 2010

Eat, Pray, Austin


KS_EatPrayAustinI had exactly seven days left in Austin and I had not yet eaten the second greatest burger in Texas according to Texas Monthly Magazine.  Why I thought I would have room in my stomach for the second greatest burger in Texas I do not know… the last few weeks had been a gastrointestinal marathon of good-bye lunches, dinners, and breakfasts with the good parishioners of St. Austin Parish.  Not that I was an unwilling participant in all of restaurant hopping, mind you.

One of my favorite Paulist preachers here in Washington, DC used to be the rector of our parish in Rome.  One of the reasons I like his preaching so much is that he usually has great stories to tell, especially on the topic of saints; he almost always comes up with some interesting aspect of the saint’s life that’s not usually found in the official listing.  But it is obvious where his heart is because many of his homilies start out with the phrase, “There is this church in Rome…”  I only bring that up here because I can imagine a time in the future in which I repeatedly fall into the trap of starting most of my homilies with the phrase, “There is the taco stand in Austin…”

Counter1So I am sitting at the Counter Café on Lamar with Bob, who has insisted that I have to experience the second greatest burger in Texas before I leave; one half pound of grilled meat topped with cheddar cheese, jalapeno peppers AND a poached egg.  And I am grateful to God not only for the feast before me, but for His grace in providing extra Prilosec OTC in my life so that I would even be able to enjoy this fine banquet.  Legendary Austin musician Charlie Sexton comes in to the restaurant and sits behind me.  Life is good… indeed, beat NOT so lonely.

As lunch begins, Bob and I begin to talk and “somehow” the conversation turns to all of the great places I have been visiting during the last few days… and how much I will miss them.

“So, which place was your favorite?”

I reflect for a long time on his question and I realize that it’s impossible to answer.  It’s like asking Santa Claus who his favorite elf is… he cares about so many of them.  That’s when I get the idea to frame it within the context of a day… what would my perfect Austin day of food look like?

“Okay, in the morning we’d stop off at Café Medici for iced coffee BUT then go up the road to Torchy’s Tacos to get their jalapeno and cheese sausage breakfast taco.”

“You’re splitting places?”

“Trust me, it’s the only way to make this work.”

“Very well, it’s your day!”

Firemans“For lunch, we head over to Barton Springs to Shady Grove to get an order of Green Chilli Cheese Fries… to go, because then we head over here to Counter Café to get the second best burger in Texas with a Fireman’s 4 Blonde.”

“When you say ‘Fireman’s 4 Blonde…'”

“A Blonde ALE. Even though it’s my fantasy day, I am still canonically required to make sure that I stick to restaurants only.”

“Fair enough. But if you don’t mind me saying, you look a little concerned…”

“Well, I don’t know where to fit in the ‘Al Pastor’ from Tacodeli.  It is my absolute favorite taco in Austin.”

“That’s really ironic because you are on your way to becoming a pastor…”

“I KNOW!  That’s what I was thinking!!!”

“You could make it a whole weekend and have the Al Pastor for lunch the next day… ”

“Yes, this is becoming reminiscent of the phenomenon known as ‘Mission Creep’ in the military… but it does open up possibilities for me to head out 40 miles past the Austin City Limits to Lockhart, Texas.”

“The Barbecue Capital of Texas!  But there are four places—which one would you go to?”

“I know that Smitty’s AND Kreuz’s are to Lockhart barbecue what Pat’s and Gino’s are to Philly Cheese steaks – everyone has an opinion as to which one is better.  I do give Smitty’s a slight edge edge, but because it’s my day—and because I’m canonically barred from including other elements outside of restaurants in my fantasy day—I’ll be stopping by both establishments.  Besides, I won’t be heading straight to dessert… after driving back to Austin I’ll have some extra time to let the ribs digest while watching the bats come out of the South Congress Street Bridge.  Which will put me only a few blocks from…”

AmysAmy’s Ice Cream?

“Yes!  Mexican Vanilla with strawberry’s and pecans.”

“Why not get a cupcake?”

“Well, I’ve thought very hard about that… but I’m going to save that for the next night’s adventure.  That is when I’ll be stopping by Home Slice for dinner for great thin-slice, New York style pizza topped with meatballs.  Following that up with ice cream would be too much daily in one sitting, so a cupcake will be in order.”

“Will you be stopping by the Hey Cupcake trailer down the street?”

“Maybe, but I have to give the edge to Quack’s on 43rd and Duvall to end my second day.”

“How were you going to start it?”

“Oh, that’s right!  Breakfast Quesadilla at Austin Java… but I might have to sneak in an Iced Coffee from the Whole Foods headquarters on South Lamar. SO good.”

“Now you said that you were going to entitle this adventure ‘Eat, Pray, Austin.’  What is the prayer part?”

“That I make it in time to the hospital in time for the angioplasty.”

The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
See more articles by (98).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Leslie Stavrowsky

    A yummy list of culinary delights, Tom. However, the next time you are Austin, you MUST try the Sunday brunch at Lambert’s BBQ downtown. We’re talking all you can eat of delicious prime rib, pork ribs, beef brisket, the best cheesy jalapeno grits, blueberry pancakes, brisket hash topped with an egg, Eggs Benedict, French toast, fresh veggies and fruits, fruit smoothies, biscuits and gravy, chocolate eclairs and tres leche cake for dessert. AND, you can bring home a “doggy bag” plate for your dinner. It’s the best deal in town! We will miss you greatly, Tom.

  • Fr. Larry

    A fine list, Tom. But you somehow missed the lemon-poppyseed pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe, and the incomperable Chicken Fried Steak at Threadgills– with collard greens and cheese grits.

    I know the folks in Austin will miss you! Perhaps, in God’s time, you’ll be assigned there!

  • Marie

    Really? Really, Tom? I thought I’d adequately schooled you on South Austin cupcakes….Sugar Mama’s is WAAAAAY better than Hey Cupcake! And, surely you didn’t try “The Monk” breakfast taco at Torchy’s because if you did you’d have to concur that IT is the best breakfast taco in Austin…..eggs, bacon, cheese, and green chile strips. Yum!

powered by the Paulists