Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Lamb Stone Pot Noodle Soup (l) and Steamed Soup Dumplings at Si Jie Special Noodle (photos by John Anderson)

Welcome to “The Strip Club,” an ongoing series highlighting Austin’s destination strip malls. Where else can you race go-karts at a whiskey bar? Head to church, then Church’s? Buy a silencer and a Hawaiian shirt in the same shop?

Austin loves to fête. SXSW, ACL, Pecan Street, Hot Sauce, Food & Wine, Frontera, you name it. But Lake Creek Festival in Northwest Austin isn’t a lake, creek, or festival – it’s the perfect place for doing donuts, and since there are already several dozen on the pavement, I rip a few at Dad speed.

Greatest Touch Customs

Still dizzy, I can’t believe my eyes as Silencer Shop comes into focus. I thought silencers were just for murder, but apparently if you’re 21 and can pass an ATF background check, you too can rationalize suppressor ownership by saying you’re “protecting your hearing.” As I’m perusing their Hawaiian shirt with machine guns baked into the floral pattern, and chatting with their employee, a customer chimes in that silencers are also “great for introducing children to firearms.” I decide to grief-eat.

It’s still morning, but there’s already a long line at Si Jie Special Noodle.

It’s still morning, but there’s already a long line at Si Jie Special Noodle, a new-to-Austin Northern Chinese mini-chain from the Bay Area. Tinfoil Duck Blood, Griddle Pig Intestines, Pork Blood Chop Suey, and Fried Pork Kidney might sound offal to some, but I curb my enthusiasm for entrails and opt instead for Steamed Soup Dumplings with Pork and Pork Soup Pan Fried Dumplings – the latter coming in a crispy-bottomed, bao-type bun. Both are perfectly prepared but slightly sweet, so the chili oil on the table saves the day.

Crispy Taco Plate at Vazquez #3

What’s so special about these noodles? Well, they’re cooked at your table in a scalding hot tub full of broth. Lamb Stone Pot Noodle Soup with Sichuan Numbing Pepper is what happens when lamb carpaccio, fried tofu, a fish ball, noodles, greens, and cilantro are dumped into a cauldron of liquid green peppercorn at your table. Once it’s served, I’m not sure what to do with it, because they’ve provided small spoons and chopsticks, but no ladle. Maybe the soup is mostly there to cook the noodles? Regardless, it’s an aromatic and delightful winter warmer that hits the spot.

The Pickle Green Beans Minced Pork Mixed Noodles is a hearty, interesting coda, as briny haricots verts mingle harmoniously with fatty pork, chili, green onions, and a hard-boiled soy egg. It’s served with a small bowl of mushroom broth that completes the experience.

For dessert, I pick low-hanging fruit at Dollar Tree. They have socks in all flavors: Reese’s, Cheez-It cracker, A.1. Steak Sauce, Ritz, Froot Loops, Oreo, and Kraft Mac & Cheese. Grabbing a pair of Old Bay for old bae, I notice everything at Dollar Tree now costs $1.25, and pray for democracy.

The menudo at Vazquez #3, advertised as a hangover cure, salves my craving for innards, and their gorditas remind of the old country – fluffy and spongy, but not too dense.

Vazquez #3 says “Come Try Our World Famous Salsa.” Famous in which countries? “Mexico” – specifically Guanajuato, where the owners are from. I tell them I’m a first-timer, and a sampler of carne guisada, adobado, and barbacoa appears. The three amigos are in character and the menu is deep with Mexican classics, but I can’t keep my eyes off the Crispy Taco Plate, which comes correct – so fatty that if you wait a few minutes, the shell will soak through and collapse. The menudo, advertised as a hangover cure, salves my craving for innards, and their gorditas remind of the old country – fluffy and spongy, but not too dense. For Mall-Mex, estupendo.

My only beef with Vazquez is that there’s too much of it – no seafood and no real vegetarian options. Plus, no margs?

Behind the bar at Mikki’s Tavern


But once I’m inside, I’m less interested in lumberjacking than Mikki’s Tavern, a snack bar named after the owner, serving made-from-scratch pizza rolls and weekend brunch. Their full bar’s bottles sit inside vintage arcade games, making an odd couple out of Q*Bert and Frangelico. Back by the restrooms, I notice there’s another bar – whiskey only – adjacent to a go-kart track. I’m tempted to practice drunk driving and carve more brodies, but I resist, and take in the Godzilla flick at Lake Creek 7, whose concessionaire offers four hot dogs and two large soft drinks for $15.

Back in the light at Juicy Claws Restaurant, owner Han Tran is serving up the Viet-Cajun cuisine I recently read about in the Chronicle. This jazz fusion of Asian foodstuffs is in full effect here with Saigon Butter Juicy Wings, Lotus Salad, and Grilled Jumbo Squid jumping out. The squid comes Instagram-ready with house green sauce and kitchen scissors. The sauce, which I imagined as nam jim, is more like whipped mayonnaise with mint and cilantro, and though the creature is nicely charred in Cajun spices, cooking squid requires timing, and today this one recalls Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

After sticking my head in the Marine Corps recruitment office and being turned away because I’m a 52-year-old liberal, I’m chatting up the owner of Greatest Touch Customs sneaker shop about vintage Air Jordans, when I notice animation stills from The Simpsons hanging on the wall – and he’s in them. I ask if he made the prints online, and he weaves a tale about how he guest-starred on the series. I’m bemused, but the sight of Homer has me thinking about donuts again, and I peel out.

Lake Creek Festival Shopping Center

13729 Research Blvd.


By admin