Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whimsical Sweetness at Chez Zee

For many, Chez Zee seems to be an Austin habit. A monument in Central Austin, if you will. It's hard to believe, but in my 10 years of Austin living this was Breakfast In Austin's first time to experience Chez Zee - an old world bakery, infused with American cuisine. I've heard good things from many! Originally called Chez Fred, Sharon Watkins purchased the old dive in 1988, re-opening in 1989 under her new whimsical brand called Chez Zee. The concept? A place for all to enjoy baked goods & varied foods, the arts and an occasional board game on the outdoor patio.

A new approach for Breakfast In Austin, I asked my 12 year old to do the selecting. I gave her a choice of 3 venues and asked her to eyeball the menu's. I had a hunch she'd pick Chez Zee if only for the pancake, waffle & french toast selection. She's a sucker every time for the sweet breads!

Upon our noon arrival, the 12 year old & I were met by a most friendly female hostess who graciously sat us immediately. No lingering at Chez Zee! The first thing I noticed about Chez Zee was it's understated charm. Crooked chairs hanging on the walls, cushy couches and lights strewn throughout. Think cute & cozy but slightly dated.

Once seated we were then met by our server, Thomas. Thomas' introduction? "I'm Thomas, at the bomb dot com!" Catchy catch-phrase, Thomas! Asking if it was our first time visiting Chez Zee, Thomas provided a complimentary triangle of their #1 selling menu item - Creme Brulee French Toast with Meyer's Rum Sauce. Nice touch, Thomas at the bomb dot com who described the dish as a deconstructed Challah bread, soaked in a Creme Brulee custard and then slow baked for 4 hours and cut. This little piece of sweet & decadent magic was served warm with rum sauce and whipped cream. We held onto our forks for dear life and nearly licked the plate. Really a perfect way to start our meal! (Note: Chez Zee happily sells loaves & kits of their #1)

Drink orders? Continuing with the sweet theme, the 12 year old ordered a tall Hot Chocolate with a hugely significant pile of whip cream. The verdict? Delicious. Who doesn't like an ultra sweet hot cocoa? I went on to order an alcoholic beverage, the Chez Zee Bloody Mary for $5.95. A definite kick due to the tabasco splash and a jalapeno garnish but ultimately a bit watered down.

Brunch orders? Two 8-inch Buttermilk Pancakes for $5.95 topped with a strategically placed strawberry and served with warm syrup and butter whipped. The 12 year old had also ordered a side of fruit but that didn't make it to our table. I should say that this 12 year old is a pancake expert and orders them up all the time! Her verdict? Amazing, the best ever, sweet, fluffy and she'll happily return again and again...

Ever addicted to the Classic Eggs Benedict with Canadian Bacon, Breakfast In Austin forced another choice. Today's Bennie? With 10 choices ranging from a Smoked Salmon Benedict to a Portabellino Benedict topped with an array of veggies, I decided on the Commodore Sausage Benedict served with Country potatoes. The Commodore was equipped with a grilled and rather salty sausage patty, a small toasted English muffin, perfectly poached eggs and a respectable Hollandaise sauce. Frankly less isn't always more. If I wore a sticker on my head that said "Breakfast In Austin loves a ridiculous amount of hollandaise, don't be shy" I'd likely not complain again (unless the balance of taste wasn't there). But I don't announce. I'm just a regular bloke dining on morning fare and prefer all dining establishments and servers read my mind! In any case the hollandaise was balanced but by virtue of there being only a meager amount of sauce & too salty of a sausage patty, the overall Bennie was just average for me. Every bite had me wishing I'd ordered the Classic with extra hollandaise. Side Note. Do you ever ask for ketchup or tabasco so that you can spice up your potatoes? Mine never made it to the table. Darn you, Thomas at the bomb dot com!

Without offending Chez Zee faithfuls, I wasn't hugely impressed with the overall plated food. That said, this was my first time and there are so many other menu choices. Chez Zee clearly understands the word sweet! Baked goods like their Creme Brulee French Toast and sweet breads like their Pancakes were major hits. This is indeed where Chez Zee shined today!

Interested in trying yourself? Weekend Brunch is served both Saturday & Sunday from 9am to 3pm. For parties of 5 or more, contact Chez Zee for Reservations.

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

View the Brunch Menu:

Pros: Extensive Brunch Menu, Complimentary Creme Brulee French Toast was a nice touch, Pancakes, service, year round Christmas lights, full service coffee bar, ample seating
Cons: Forgotten - our sides of fruit & ketchup (not a big deal but this Breakfast In Austin thing is a test!), watered down bloody mary
Suggestions: More hollandaise on your Bennie or offer to provide a side of extra sauce, exterior & interior are dated - I get the Chez Zee vibe but a facelift or an update to modernize the venue might go a long way

Chez Zee ~ 5406 Balcones Drive, Austin, Texas 78731 ~ 512.454.2666

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A fine time with Swine at Bacon

There was a time when Breakfast In Austin didn't eat bacon. In fact I made it a personal mission to convert those I knew from bacon to the leaner turkey bacon. Yep, I was one of those passionate turkey bacon lovers. I should say that I had a lot of success. My friends would go as far to suggest that Oscar Meyer/Louis Rich pay me a conversion fee. Seriously, I would've made bank! Suffice it to say, turkey bacon took a passenger seat and though I still enjoy it, bacon is a part of my life again. We all know that bacon comes from the back and sides of the hog, salted and dried or smoked, usually sliced and fried for food. Bacon is greasy, fatty and full of sodium. It's a tasty mess! Certainly makes one wonder why anyone would give up the swine.

This leads me to introduce one of Austin's newest finds. Any guesses on the name? Yep, Bacon. Makin' Bacon, Spankin' Bacon, Awaken with Bacon. Aside from the logical rhyming, Bacon is located on the corner of 10th & Lamar in a cute yellow house with signs of the pig. If you were a fan of the now closed, Screaming Goat, this is the same location.

Bacon is a venture by Jed Taylor, Zac Bryant, Ryan Reynolds & Reid Reynolds. Bacon offers an infusion of bacon into their meals including Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Specialty Items, Sides and Brunch. The only thing they don't seem to have is Bacon Coffee. Bacon has a very clear vision, a bacon selection, with a consistent theme. You'll see a pink pig on the back roof, a bacon door handle, bacon memorabilia, bacon t-shirts for sale, bacon & pig signage and bacon artwork.

Ordering from the Bacon Breakfast Plates was challenging because everything sounded good. The Broken Yolk BLT had been recommended and always a sucker for runny eggs, I signed up. This is Bacon's version of a BLT for $8.95. Excited to have a choice between 2 types of bacon, I opted for the spiced up Cajun cured with 2 barely fried eggs, bibb lettuce, a tomato, house mayo and Texas toast. The photo doesn't do this sammie justice! It was a tasty, oozing mess and worth every penny. Apart from the BLT falling apart, I definitely recommend for a 1st time Bacon experience.

My friend Micah who has been a supporter of Breakfast In Austin was kind enough to join me for a bit of Nikon snapping. Micah's the one who keeps me in line and calls me out for not posting reviews. Not Micah's 1st time to Bacon, he opted for their Breakfast Special, a Pork Jowl Barbacoa and Bacon Hash with 2 eggs, yellow pepper sauce and tortilla strips for $8.95. When I asked Micah for an insightful breakdown, he offered that there was a lot going on with the dish, which always makes me think there's TOO MUCH going on with the dish. Micah assured me this was a good thing, that his pork/bacon/hash mixture was full of flavor and very filling. The presentation was gorgeous!

Breakfast IS available all day with a handful of other options including Chicken & Waffles - with 2 brined and buttermilk battered all natural chicken breast cutlets served on top of a malted vanilla waffle for $9.95. For something $2 lighter, try their Bacon Waffle with 2 thick cut strips of bacon cooked into a waffle and topped with sliced nanas' for $7.95. If you or your child have a sweet tooth, why not order Bacon's French Toast with 2 extra thick cut slices of locally baked Texas bread dipped in a vanilla batter and griddled for $6.95. If you're a fan of Biscuits and Gravy, try Bacon's spin for only $4.95 with 2 buttermilk drop biscuits topped with house bacon gravy.

No Mistaken' Bacon.

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

To learn more about Bacon, visit them at:
For Tweets: @BaconRestaurant

Pros: Bacon, great service, breakfast all day, location, theme, atmosphere
Cons: Parking is slight in the back lot, minimal on the street
Suggestions: If you have a Sunday Brunch, please add the information to your website

Bacon ~ 900 W. 10th Street, Austin, Texas 78703 ~ 512.322.9777

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gypsy Picnic Results Show

The 2nd Annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival has come to a close. It's pretty clear that last Saturday was a HUGE success with men, women, children, babies and dogs all in attendance, plus 34 vendors selling a ton of their best dishes. More space and more food! Happy faces and stuffed bellies could be seen all over Auditorium Shores. The only complaints that came out of No. 2 was a little dust and a DQ for a trailer because of their wood-fired oven. (Austin's burn ban still in effect?!) Austin-ites came out in a big way, solidifying the event as a must attend and confirming what we all know - trailer food is one of our favorite ways to eat!

Wearing my cowboy boot best, Breakfast In Austin happily took a departure from the typical weekend indulgence of breakfast fare. My stomach & I were ready to over-consume some serious trailer food! No Bennies and no Bloody Mary's. After attending Gypsy's Inaugural Fest last year I vowed not to touch a single beer this year. Cause' let's face it. The lines were so long in 2010 that I took up space somewhere in between the music and beer line. So you can only imagine how lucky this girl felt to be 1 of 10 judges hanging trail side in a privately catered tent. Not too shabby!

Not every trailer submitted, so my group of 5 judges were limited to 12 tastings. I don't think my eyes or stomach could've handled much more. Our categories? Best in Bun, Best Veggie and Best Dessert. The other group of 5 had Best Taco, Best Drink and Best Ethnic. No, they didn't share. That said, each trailer gave each judge a massive portion of food and in most cases that portion could've easily fed a 325 pount linebacker. 3-4 bites seemed to be my max on each submittal. Though a few choice dishes offered such stunning flavor, 3-4 bites didn't seem like enough. Sigh. Take a peek at my photos in the order of tasting, a few comments and WINNER notes. (This was a blind tasting, so we didn't know the vendor or dish name until judging was complete)

Best in Bun:

Short Bus Subs - The Principal (You can't go wrong with the Principal! Nearly perfect sandwich with fresh ingredients and lingering flavors)

Tenderland - Battered Pork Tenderloin

The Jalopy - The Original

East Side Kings - Poor Qui's Buns - WINNER! (One of my favorites with roasted pork belly, hoison, cucumber kimchee and a steamed rice bun)

Best Veggie:
East Side Kings - Fried Brussels Sprouts Salad (I swear I don't remember brussels in this dish! Really?!)

Bananarchy - Halfsie Vegan Chocolate Banana

Blenders and Bowls - O.G. Acai Bowl (Can you imagine fresh fruit, granola with rice crispy's and a chilled smoothie? Didn't win but was refreshing)

Kebabalicious - Falafel Kebab - WINNER! (Another one of my favorites - would satisfy any meat lover because of the bursts of flavor, delish! Take me back to the Mediterranean)

Best Dessert:
Hey Cupcake! - Pumpkinator - WINNER!

Bananarchy - Halfsie Chocolate with Toffee Banana (I was a fan of this frozen banana on a stick - loved the balance of sweet & salty, YUM!)

Chi'Lantro - Macaroons

The remaining categories we weren't able to judge and winners:
Best Taco: Torchy's Tacos - Baja Shrimp
Best Ethnic: Mmmpanadas - Traditional Argentinian Empanada
Best Drink: MamboBerry - Strawberry Basil Smoothie

A huge nod to Tiffany Harelik, C3 Presents (Bettina, you rock!) and The Sustainable Food Center for pulling off a very impressive Gypsy Picnic this year! I was so appreciative to be a part of judging (thank you CultureMap Austin!) and had a terrific time. Until next year!

The Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival is definitely worthy of Breakfast In Austin's catchphrase. It's all about the feast, not the famine!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Judging at the Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival - Saturday, October 22nd

Today is the day for the 2nd Annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival at Auditorium Shores! In a nutshell, this is a gathering of Austin's best trailer food "nomads" who deliver their finest $3 tastings all day long. Admission is FREE, kids & dogs are encouraged to attend and live music, BEER and vendors will accompany the more than 30 trailers. WOW! Check out the Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival website for details:

I attended the 1st Annual Gypsy Picnic last year and had THE best time! Typical with any 1st event, there were some definite issues; long lines, trailers running out of food and not enough space. That all said - the event was incredibly impressive! The food was creative and varied, the vibe unparalleled, attendance was stunning, and the BEER, music and weather kept everyone on the grounds.

This year? C3 Presents has secured more space at Auditorium Shores, re-organized the trailers to create more space and I've heard the trailers have been asked to supply more food prior to start time. Lots of cooking going on! There are a lot of activities for the kids, the dogs, continued live music, beer and a sunny day in the forecast...

Something cool for Breakfast In Austin? I was selected by CultureMap Austin to be the Guest Judge at the Festival today and I cannot wait! Last year I drank more beer than ate food, so it goes without saying that I'm ready to eat and excited to judge. There will be 6 categories at the Cook-Off; Best Taco, Best on a Bun, Best Vegetarian, Best Ethnic, Best Drink and Best Dessert.

List of this year's Judge's:


  • Stephanie Keller, Huffington Post
  • Bryan Beck, KGSR
  • Paula Forbes,
  • Mick Vann, Austin Chronicle
  • Todd Boatwright, YNN
  • Courtney Bond, Texas Monthly
  • Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Austin Food & Wine Alliance
  • Chef Ethan Holmes, Second Bar & Kitchen
  • Chef Philip Speer, Uchiko
  • CultureMap Austin Guest Judge, Jennifer Clarke
For more information on the Cook-Off:

I highly recommend participating in the Gypsy Picnic today - it's a great time and definitely one of the more memorable events in downtown Austin this time of year! I look forward to sharing this judging experience with you. There better be a couple breakfast-type submittals!

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Published Article for Breakfast In Austin!!!

Breakfast In Austin is pretty happy today! BIA has officially published a two-page article with Austin's new Business/Medical magazine called NSide Austin. So far I've found stacks to grab at all Whole Foods locations. I'm guessing they are at most news stands around town - but that's all I know right now! The Article is also available online (link below)...

Tonight is NSide Austin's monthly networking happy hour event at the Vince Young Steakhouse from 6-8pm. This event typically coincides with the launch of their issue and tonight honors their cover story man, local sportscaster, Sean Adams.

For the purposes of the NSide Austin article, Breakfast In Austin re-visited the widely known Sunday Brunch at Trio in The Four Seasons Hotel - Austin, where the food was as always impressive. I was told by the Assistant Manager, Alyssa Belezos, that after my initial review last January, they set out to improve the only item out of 100 that was lackluster - their Eggs Benedict. All I can say is WOW, what an improvement. Breakfast In Austin IS making a difference by changing the Eggs Benedict landscape all over Austin! Woot! Check out all the details in the new article titled, "Plastic Wealth and Overindulgence," at NSide Austin:

To all you faithful Breakfast In Austin subscribers, I'd appreciate you passing on all of my contact information to those who might be interested in Austin's morning fare.

Breakfast In Austin on Facebook - please LIKE:
Follow Breakfast In Austin on Twitter (@breakfastaustin) AND;
Blog for updates - please input your email to subscribe:

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Endless hours at 24 Diner

Last Sunday, 24 Diner and I finally made it official.

One thing about this downtown gem is that no matter what time of day I've indulged in you, consistency is the common thread. Whether it's post-festival going at ACL (you know we fest goer's have a blinding disregard for ordering appropriately) and indulging on chicken & waffles with milkshakes OR lunching with business associates on frittatas and mixed greens – you get some of the best plated food in town. Quality ingredients and a commitment to preparation are motivating factors for 24 Diner. No wonder you're constantly recommended and have an endless wait at the door. Hmmm, think this will be a bad review? Likely not.

Arriving at 12:00 p.m. sharp and being seated in a record time of 5 minutes, I opted to kick-start our meal with the infamous 24 Diner Bloody Mary made with Austin's own Tito's Vodka. 24 Diner blends their own mix and offers a surprisingly tasty medley of pickled vegetables all for $6.50. Call it a drink or meal, any sucker for a spicy bloody with ample flavors and an obvious amount of vodka, will find this styling has all the components. Dare I say 24 Diner boasts the #1 Bloody Mary in town? Try it!

Hungry with absolutely no shame, Breakfast In Austin opted for the massively overindulgent, Fried Egg Sandwich served with skillet fries. Imagine a doughy Challah Bun with Texas Applewood Smoked Bacon and cheddar cheese topped with an over medium egg with a perfectly cooked yolk. For the average diner, guilt may overtake you during those last 4-5 bites. Please don't let it. I encourage you to finish this delicious sandwich. It’s penny worthy and filling with a price tag of $9.95.

Kids in tow? My 12 year old, also excited for 24 Diner, decided to go big & rich with the French Toast Platter. Boasting a large cut of French bread and topped with vanilla cream & fresh blueberries, this sampling was an undertaking for anyone, pre-teen or otherwise. With the addition of egg & bacon sides, it became pretty clear that this plate would go unfinished. Flavorful, filling and pricey at $11.95.

For you breakfast lovers who prefer a gluten-free lifestyle, 24 Diner is mindful of your dietary needs. Along with a gluten-free menu, they are happy to modify recipes, so please ask! My friend, Sarah, who has been GF for several years opted for the 24 HASH with bacon, sausage, jalapeno and cheddar cheese served with a side of homemade skillet fries. Hunger kicking in, our server recommended Sarah order the large portion for $9.95. Thumbs up!

24 Diner has certainly found a niche in Austin with their “round the clock service” and quality of food choices. With breakfast available morning, noon or night, indulgence can occur for you at anytime.

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

For more information, visit 24 Diner at:

Whether it's 3 a.m. or 11 p.m., check out 24 Diner's Breakfast Menu at:

OR 24 Diner's Gluten-Free Breakfast Menu at:

Local and involved, no surprise that 24 Diner is connected! Find with them on FB at: or follow their Tweets at: @24DinerATX

Pros: Hmmm, this is tough - open 24 hours, breakfast 24 hours, best bloody mary ever, creative & flavorful dishes, farm to table local ingredients, locally roasted coffee, green minded - composting & recycling, great location at 6th & Lamar, spot-on service and relaxed ambiance

Cons: Always a wait, so be patient, items are on the spendy side but quality justifies the expense

Suggestions: Order a bloody mary at the bar while you wait, once seated take your time & enjoy - nobody will make you feel rushed

24 Diner ~ 600 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78703 ~ 512.472.5400 (Open 24 hours, with the exception of Wednesday morning from 1-6 a.m. for cleaning)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

100% Green, Natural & Elemental at Java Dive Organic Bistro

Java Dive isn't really a "dive," as the name might imply. It's my neighborhood "go-to" spot for a dark blend of coffee, friendly faces and the occasional baked good or organic whole wheat breakfast taco.

In case you hadn't heard, Java Dive has a following in the Austin & Lakeway areas with a reputation for offering 100% organic food with primarily gluten-free options. Led by owner, Roni Liberman, his concept caters to all breakfast lovers, including those with food restrictions. Other highlights? Varied coffee beans are roasted in house (think anti-Starbucks), along with creatively baked goods (my personal fave - the triple berry muffin) which are made fresh daily, from the kitchen. If you're looking for a quiet place to work on your laptop with artsy ambiance, Java Dive offers free wi-fi to assist in jumpstarting your day. I've taken them up on this service a few times!

Java Dive has created an extensive breakfast and brunch menu that is worth exploring! If you enjoy Waffles, there are many options (also available as gf) including a Mandarin & Toasted Pecan styling - all topped with maple or chocolate syrup and homemade whipped cream. Omelette lover? You'll find several choices including a Pesto & Mushroom Omelette with Swiss Cheese to the Italian Delight Omelette with spinach, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. For the more traditional breakfast lover, Migas, Bagels, Oatmeal & Breakfast Tacos are also available. A common theme provides you options to dress up your meal with nitrate free turkey or ham.

Upon arriving at Java Dive, I'd decided to indulge in something hearty. But first, the steps:

1. Grab a menu at the door (study it)
2. Walk to back counter (wait in line)
3. Place order with cashier (nameless, hurried & all biz, grrr)
4. Pay (card or cash, they take tips at the counter)
5. Collect your number for table delivery (find a table, they were packed today!)

So, what did Breakfast In Austin order? A caffeine fan, I decided on a Soy Cappuccino for sipping which made its appearance in a bulky red cup with an artsy leaf in the foam. Cool and tasty!

...and in appeasing my insatiable need for food after running stairs this morning, I decided on the the South West Bacon Sunrise Panini. Imagine (or see picture below) a delicious creation with scrambled eggs and cheese on a toasted organic sprouted bun with organic and pesticide free tomatoes and a fire roasted poblano pepper. Remember my note of dressing up a meal? I did just that with the addition of nitrate free turkey. All I can say is BRAVO - the presentation was beautiful and the food combination tasty.

Parting words? While on your quest for a great breakfast with healthy options and flavorful food, I highly recommend spending your hard earned $ at this local dive, Java Dive Organic Bistro. Roni and his staff will treat you right!

It's all about the feast, not the famine!

To learn more about Java Dive Organic Bistro, visit them on the web at:

To see a complete list of Breakfast offerings, check out Java Dive Organic Bistro's Menus:

Pros: 100% organic, gf options, varied menu, kid friendly with kid menu, free wi-fi, freshly roasted beans & coffee, delicious baked goods, affordable, locally owned
Cons: When you're busy, it's even more important to get the dirty tables cleaned up
Suggestions: Bring another employee in on Saturday & Sunday mornings. Would increase flow at the door, counter and with turn at your tables. Also, are you Bistro or Cafe? The signage on both locations, then online is confusing

Java Dive Organic Bistro (Restaurant) ~ 1607 RR 620 N, Austin, TX 78734 ~ located in The Oak Grove Plaza ~ 512.266.5885
Java Dive Coffee Shop ~ 900 RR 620 S, Austin, TX 78734 ~ located in the Lakeway Commons Plaza ~ 512.263.5995