Austin's East Side King
Hello friends! I trust this week finds you all well. This week's review takes us to an old favorite: East Side King. Like many from Austin, my first introduction to East Side King was through No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. In fact it was just about the time we had first decided to start this little project of ours. As soon as we saw them on the show we knew we had to go! What is East Side King? It is a trailer that resides in the back of The Liberty Bar on East 6th Street and they serve up some of the most innovative cuisine in town.
Out of what is probably the most colorful trailer in town, they serve up some of the best Asian-fusion food anywhere. Actually, it's probably some of the best food anywhere if I'm being honest. We'll start today's review with our main courses. First up, the Poor Qui's Buns, easily some of the best pork belly I've had anywhere. Pork belly, for those of you not familiar with it, is basically uncured slab bacon. At East Side King it's roasted until tender and served on a steam bun with hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchee, and green onion.
Our next main dish was the tongue bun. Beef tongue, although prepared many different ways, will always fall into one of two categories: fantastically awesome or fantastically bad. If it's bad it's really bad, tough, chewy, flavorless — in short bad. If it's done right, however it can be one of the best, most flavorful, and tender cuts of meat you'll ever have. We've had it pickled and boiled (think Manny's Uptown tongue sandwich) and we had it roasted this time at East Side King. This is without doubt one of the best examples of beef tongue I have ever had. It is perfectly tender and moist and falls apart easily. The seasoning on the tongue itself is just right, and plays very nicely with the fresh basil and peanut butter curry it comes served with. This is easily my favorite main dish on the menu.
So let's talk sides. At a lot of places, including trailer/carts around town, sides come in the form of fried this or that and maybe a salad. I suppose the same is true even at East Side King, but with a slight twist. How about a fried Brussels sprout salad? I can already see your faces cringing at the thought of those horrible little balls of green slime. Until about a year ago I would have been one of you. Until, that is, I had a grilled Brussels sprout salad at the Odd Duck and began frying them myself in bacon grease. Yum.
So needless to say based on past experiences and knowing what I already knew about East Side King, my expectations were high. The sprouts are fried and have a perfect crunch and flavor. A flavor I have yet to duplicate, so I think I'll leave it to the experts. It comes served with a very nice sweet and spicy sauce, fresh shredded cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion, and jalapeño topped with a fried steam bun. Man, writing about it makes me want another one.
Secondly, we had the beet home fries. If you're like me, beets have always been a bit low on your list of culinary priorities. Not that they are bad by any means, just not one of my favorites. If that has been your opinion as well, then the beet home fries may very well change your mind. What you get is a nice crispy exterior and a soft earthy-sweet interior. While I may have always been a bit indifferent toward beets I'll take these any day of the week. In fact, our table mates, whom we had never met, noticed them and we got talking. I ended up insisting that they give the beets a try. The lady, whose name I don't recall, said that she did not like beets but that she really liked the beet home fries and would have no problem ordering them. The gentleman she was with completely agreed.
A couple of things to be aware of when you go — and you will eventually go. They only take cash and it's not exactly a kid-friendly kind of place. It's in the back of The Liberty Bar, so you have to be 21 to get to the place, which means there are no squealing kids in sight. And that's about all the reason a person needs right? We had a great meal and a great time and can't wait to get back.
Restaurant: East Side King at The Liberty Bar
Location: 1618 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702
Austin Food Junkies' Rating: Five Lone Star Points
The Austin Food Junkies are Alex Artibee, Matt Braley, and Dave Braley, "Two guys who love food, and one chef, trained at the Texas Culinary Institute." Check out their reviews of other Austin area restaurants on their blog, Austin Food Junkies.