Are these classic Austin fries best in U.S. or overrated?

11:00 p.m Saturday, April 1, 2017 Austin360
Fries from Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Dale Rice/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

You know what fries go well with? Burgers. You know what else they go well with? The endorphin-rushing satisfaction of national culinary praise.

The locally beloved French fries served at Hyde Park Bar & Grill have been named among the 20 best in the country by Food & Wine magazine. From the magazine’s accolade: “Hyde Park treats its fries like many people treat fried chicken: by soaking cut potatoes in buttermilk, battering them, and then frying them. They’re served with a side of mayo that’s kicked up with jalapeños and dill. Possibly the most famous fries in Austin, and deservedly so.”

As a news release from the restaurant points out, this is not the first honor bestowed upon the fried tubers. Last year, the dish also made Food Network Magazine’s list of “10 Best French Fries in the US” list and People’s “15 Best French Fries in the US” list. The fries have been on the Hyde Park Bar & Grill menu since the restaurant opened in 1982.

We should also mention that Austin360 restaurant critic Matthew Odam calls the Hyde Park fries some of the most “overrated” in Austin, along with those at In-N-Out Burger and Chi’lantro. Odam, in his list of “10 great French fries in Austin,” instead recommends potato sticks from places like Hopfields, Vino Vino, Justine’s, P. Terry’s and Crown & Anchor.

Also on the Food & Wine list with an Austin connection: the duck fat fries at Salty Sow. The magazine spotlights the egg-and-béarnaise-topped dish at the gastropub’s Arizona location, though you can get the same fries at the Austin location on Manor Road.

If you’re asking this humble Irish American boy, there’s no reason to pit potatoes against each other. To each their own snack. Other exceptional, fast-ish food options in town can satisfy without sitting down, like Shake Shack (cheese ‘em), Mighty Fine and Five Guys. If you aren’t a Francophile but can’t commit to calling them “freedom fries,” home fries from Kerbey Lane Cafe and Magnolia Cafe give you all the unpeeled skin without the pretention. And if you would rather watch a indie flick while scarfing down your side dish, order up a plate at Alamo Drafthouse (again, cheese ‘em) or Violet Crown (their lemon aioli cures illnesses and minor injuries).

All are delicious and starchy in their own way.

Not quite a tequila sunrise, but close

In Austin, “tequila cloud” could be the hippest new tech company. Maybe the kind of place where you can lounge in the bean bag room on Beer Friday. Or, perhaps, “tequila cloud” could be the hottest band at South by Southwest.

In Germany, a land traditionally a little short on whimsy, the “tequila cloud” was a cloud. It was made of tequila. It rained alcohol.

Really.

This is not the best possible side effect of climate change, but rather the invention of the Tourism Promotion Council of Mexico and U.S. marketing agency Lapiz, who created the artificial cloud for display at the Berlin creative space Urban Spree earlier this month. The display was meant to urge Germans (long used to rainclouds during their damp and cold winter) to hightail it to sunny Mexico.

But you do not care about German tourism, presumably. You want to know how to get a tequila cloud to rain booze at your next party. “Lapiz formed the ‘tequila cloud’ by using ultrasonic humidifiers to vibrate tequila at a frequency that turned it into visible mist, just like a cloud,” digital magazine Designboom reported on their site. “The boozy mist then condensed into liquid form as it came into contact with a plastic container, making a real cloud rain tequila.”

The lucky Berliners to visit the display could simply hold a shot glass under the cloud and fill it up with tequila. With any luck, somebody already is working on vodka snow.

— Dave Thomas, American-Statesman Staff

Eat like Willie

Once marijuana legalization started to take hold in places such as Colorado and Washington state (don’t hold your breath, Texas), it was only a matter of time before noted connoisseur Willie Nelson launched his own brand: “Willie’s Reserve.” Roll ’em up and smoke ’em before you die, right?

But now you can enjoy Willie’s stash in a more delectable fashion — at least if you are in Washington. Annie Nelson, Willie’s wife of more than 25 years, has launched “Annie’s Edibles.” Her first product, a marijuana-infused artisan dark chocolate (with Himalayan salt, no less), is available “at select retailers in Washington.”

Legal marijuana use, edible or otherwise, is not currently on the table in the Lone Star State. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, however, will have daily nonstop flights to Seattle in June.

— Dave Thomas, American-Statesman Staff

A peach of a town

One of Central Texans’ favorite weekend getaways has been named one of the best small towns in the South by Southern Living magazine.

“What is it about a small town that hooks us? Whether they’re waterfront or mountaintop, the great ones all have a few things in common: a thriving downtown with locally owned restaurants, shops, and galleries; a touch of the artsy; loads of character; friendly locals; and, of course, a beautiful location,” the magazine wrote.

That’s why Fredericksburg is No. 2 on the magazine’s list of the best small towns in the South.

It’s easy to see why: The Hill Country town is full of beautiful scenery, and thanks to its ever-growing number of wineries, great food and plenty of bed and breakfasts and guest houses with character (like Starry’s Studio), it’s great for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Visitors can hike Enchanted Rock, enjoy authentic German food and check out the shops in the historic downtown district.

— Katey Psencik, American-Statesman Staff

Emptier nests

One Texas university is taking real action when it comes to its pigeon problem.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas Tech will begin battling an overpopulation of pigeons by filling feeders around campus with edible birth control. The birth control, called Ovo, will be mixed with cracked corn and prevents eggs from fertilizing.

An official with the school, Sean Childers, said the initiative won’t have an immediate impact, but will eventually start to reduce the pigeon population in the area over time. Childers also reported that the school spends over $100,000 in pigeon cleanup around campus each year.

— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman Staff

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