(Austin, TX) — We’re still reeling from our experience at Salty Sow the previous evening, so decide to keep breakfast simple at the hotel restaurant (which is severely lacking in quality and quantity). Still, it fills the hole until lunchtime. We walk around town, enjoying the sunny skies, eventually meandering to our reservation at Lamberts. Their patio has been enclosed in a makeshift all-weather plastic housing, protected from the wind but allowing fresh air and access to sunshine...
I’m happy to be wearing shorts in late December. To Michiganders, 60’s and sunny might as well be summer; most Texans are bundled up as if there were snow on the ground. We walk into Lambert’s, met with the smell of barbecue and heat from the kitchen. I imagine sitting at one of the small tables or booths, sweating. Can we sit outside? Sure, our hostess responds, then leads us out back where the occasional breeze ushers fresh air into the greenhouse-like shelter they’ve erected. It’s the perfect temperature to kick back and enjoy a cocktail! Or, in my case, a Stone IPA.
Our debauchery from last night is still fresh in our mind (and our guts), so we decide to take things slow. The waiter is less than personable, taking our orders with disinterest, and I’m pretty sure he’s disappointed he’ll not be able to turn our table quickly. Tough nuggets, mister! Since the nearby university is off on holiday break, it’s not as if there are customers beating down the doors. We order apps, not sure that we’ll order anything beyond that.
After a quick glance at the menu, there’s no question what I’ll be ordering: Crispy Wild Boar Ribs. Now, I must admit to a bad habit...I often select food based on the title alone, without looking at the description. Boar ribs just sounds so cool! And I know I love boar meat. What’s the problem? When they arrive, I’m a little flabbergasted. They look like a pile of chicken wings? Had I read the fine print, I would have seen Honey & Sambal, Cabrales Blue Cheese, Celery & Daikon Slaw. Yeah, basically buffalo wings.
One bite dispels any fears. Buffalo wings they may look like, but these boar ribs are brilliantly masquerading. The meat is sticky hot-sweet, tenderly cooked and oh so tangy when dipped into the blue cheese. It’s a playful preparation, an elevation of the concept and ingredients. Thankfully, Juliet is predisposed with her Cornmeal Fried Gulf Shrimp (which are perfectly cooked but a little too “shrimpy” for me), and I’m left to polish off all the ribs. Woohoo!
Despite Lamberts being billed as “downtown barbecue” I have no interest in BBQ right now. I’m not sure if it’s remnants from last night, or Salt Lick flashbacks, but I need something different. How about the Smoked Chicken Salad BLT? Sounds right. With tomato, butter lettuce, apple smoked bacon, basil aioli, and toasted buttermilk white bread, it’s a thick sandwich piled with house smoked chunky chicken and grapes. There’s a citrus pucker that conflicts a bit with the smoke, but otherwise it’s a decent sandwich. Probably should have stopped at the ribs...or ordered more.
Juliet opts for a slice of coconut cream pie, and I may have sneaked one bite, though I don’t recall. I’m just too stuffed. We lounge for a few minutes more, then finally vacate the table after paying the bill. I’m pretty sure our waiter breathes a sigh of relief.
After complete overindulgence at The Salt Lick a few days ago, I’m not overly excited about the prospect of lunching at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. The thought of smoked meat and barbeque sauce actually makes my stomach do a tiny flippity-flop. Strangely enough though, as soon as we walk through the door and I smell meat smoking, my mouth betrays me and begins to water.
We’re seated on the patio under a large transparent tent which allows the sun to pour in but keeps the chilly wind at bay. The heaping plate of bones on the table next to us reveals they’ve just shared an enormous amount of barbeque and confirms my desire to shy away from it for a bit longer.
But I won’t be shying away from some bubbles! I order a cocktail with aperol (similar to Campari), vodka, strawberry puree, and prosecco called the “Verona Spritz” to start. Never underestimate the power of a shot of vodka in a glass of bubbles. It’s a strong drink and not as sweet or fruity as it sounds, which is fine by me, not being a fan of syrupy cocktails.
After a few minutes of debating between the cornmeal fried gulf shrimp or the broiled oysters, I go with the shrimp. It’s lovely with four perfectly golden shrimp sitting atop thin English cucumber slices layered on a big slice of Texas toast . The toast is incredibly tasty, not at all like the kind we get in Michigan. I’ve always thought “Texas toast” was a euphemism for thick slices of stale bread. But this bread is only lightly toasted then slathered with a lime caper tartar sauce. The huge shrimp are tasty, sweet and briny from the ocean. The cornmeal crust is delicate and super crunchy.
I already know I want to order the coconut cream pie for dessert, so instead of an entree or sandwich, I order the fried green tomato salad. It comes with lump crab salad and mizuna (Japanese water greens). The fried green tomatoes and greens are quite good, but the crab salad is overpowered by an abundance of red onion. A few bites and I can’t finish, the onions are so noxious.
The coconut cream pie is a cute little individual pastry. It’s quite good, but my tastebuds are still reeling from the onion assault. Indeed, it’s several hours (and several sticks of cinnamon gum) until I’m back to normal.
With the exception of the crab salad, Lamberts' food is relatively solid. The service however is completely lackluster. Our server is slow and forgetful. We have to ask twice for ice waters which he never brings. (The busboy brings them within seconds when we ask for a third time.) We wait for well over 15 minutes for the check after we request it. We notice the same level of service occurs with the other three tables he has on the patio. With all the fabulous eateries in Austin and the top-notch service we’ve had everywhere else, there are plenty of other options.