Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kerbey Lane

2606 Guadalupe St Austin, TX (512) 477-5717

2700 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX (512) 445-4451

3704 Kerbey Ln, Austin, TX (512) 451-1436

So I feel like we've gotten into the habit of only writing about the really great Austin restaurants or the really bad ones. When was the last time we reviewed just an ok restaurant? Well here's a good 'ok' Austin restaurant for ya - Kerby Lane. Now, before you start whining about how its an Austin institution, let me say that I fully acknowledge its innate Austin-ness. I've been eating at Kerby on and off for 10 years now and back when I was in college (and didn't know or couldn't afford better) it was a late night institution. But I am older and wiser and have since discovered the joys of other better local Austin institutions like the Omlettery and Magnolia Cafe. So how did I end up at Kerby again? Sheer laziness.

A few weeks ago I was out with Laura, Jenn, and Elena. The night was promising, we had special invites to a 1 year anniversary party at Prague. Now I thought Prague was a goth bar. The gargoyles and red lights usually signify goth-like tendencies, but Laura assured me it was just "European". So we get all tarted up and head to Prague. Boy were we disappointed. We were lured there with the promise of free drinks (it was sponsored by Grey Goose, which usually means free vodka) and free food (it was also sponsored by a local restaurant). Well we get there and not only was the place dead (as in we were the only people there), but there wasn't any free food, AND to add insult to injury, we had to pay for our drinks. Suck. So we headed for Betsy's, a nice little bar near the warehouse district and got our Lone Star on ($2 Lone Stars on Thursdays, as if Lone Star is even worth that much). Well it got to be 10:30 and being the working girl I am, I started packing up. I offered to drop Elena off at her place. As we were walking back to my car, I mentioned I was hungry and Elena said she was too, I mean, we were expecting free food. We decided on pancakes and since it was on the way, we thought we'd hit Kerby Lane.

We stopped at the Kerby on Guadalupe and 27th and the first thing we noticed was that the place was Hopping (with a capital H). We parking lot was full, we had to wait a second for a spot and we had to wait in line to get a table. But the wait was only 5 minutes, so we decided to stick it out. As we waited in and amongst the college students, something occurred to me, I am old in their eyes. I remember being a 19 year old college student looking at the late 20 something semi-professionals that would come to our frat parties and thinking, wow, that guy is 28, how old is that. And now that old guy is me and I'm a stranger in the world of the young and hip.

Anyway, it was chilly out and by the time they seated us, we were quite cold. We immediately ordered tea and hunkered down to warm up. As we scanned the menu, I noticed that it had changed considerably in the 5 or 6 years since I'd been there. The menu seemed less dinerish and more organic. As Laura noted on a trip there a few weeks later, there were more veggie options. But the reason Elena and I went there was for (a late night) breakfast. After hemming and hawing over the various options, we both decided to get a breakfast taco and a pancake. The pancakes, when they arrived were exactly as I had remembered them, large and spongy. I was less than enthused about the spongy (I use that word again because truly it is the best description) pancake in front of me having been a loyal patron of Magnolia Cafe for so many years. I have to say, in a side by side comparison the firmer, more flavorful Magnolia Cafe pancake would win. However, what really amazed me was the breakfast taco. Now, I've lived in Texas for 10 years and consider myself something of a breakfast taco expert, I've eatten a short ton of breakfast tacos in my lifetime. That Kerby breakfast taco was one of the best I've had. I went with a normal taco, egg, cheese and sausage and all were exceptional. The tortilla was lightly toasted and crunchy on the outside. The eggs were light and fluffy; the cheese to egg ratio was perfect. And the sausage.. Oh the sausage. It was tender, rosemary infused, and perfectly cooked. All together, the taco was tasty and damn near perfect.

Now, the reality of Kerby. They are really inconsistent. I went back to the same Kerby, on the same day of the week at the same time with Laura a week later. I wanted another breakfast taco. The first one was so good I had been dreaming about it. What was delivered to me was less than what I was expecting. The tortilla was overtoasted to the point that it wouldn't bend, and crumbled as I ate it. the bottom of the taco was soaked in grease. The sausage was overcooked and tasteless, and the eggs were dry. It was made up slightly by the tasty but not spectacular tortilla soup I had as a side. And overall disappointing experience.

Bottom Line: Inconsistant OK Food - If you want breakfast, stick with Magnolia Cafe

Mariah: 6.5