Thursday, November 20, 2008

Best Turkey Sandwich in Town

Today, Progress Coffee is celebrating its fourth anniversary, and in honor of four years of solid business and a fiercely loyal customer base, Progress is offering everything on its menu for free. Instead of charging it's regular prices, it's taking donations for some great local non-profits.

Progress is always pulling little stunts like this - offering free coffee here and there, for customer birthdays, local music events, or art shows. It's always trying to be honestly progressive: all the coffee is organic and fair trade, the barristas make a decent hourly salary. I wonder how the place manages to give so much away and stay in business.

Oh wait: it's always packed, and you can't get a sandwich for less than $7.

But, oh, what great sandwiches. In particularly, the 5th Street Turkey. It is the best turkey sandwich in Austin. Possibly the best turkey sandwich ever. Or at least, the best I've ever had.

It's thinly sliced roasted turkey on toasted ciabatta bread, along with cream cheese, spring mix greens, and the cout d'gras - the rosemary habanero jelly. The jelly makes this sandwich rise above the rest through a harmonious mixing of savory, sweet, and spicy. It's so good, I would gladly pay $7 for it, but it was even better to get it for free today.

The Basics
Location: 500 San Marcos St., at the intersection of 5th street and San Marcos, just east of I-35
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday 6:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Accepts: all major credit cards
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: Coffee with a conscience, along with a stellar turkey sandwich? I could not ask for more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Austin Restaurant News: Closure of Stortini

Seeing as I have about five readers, and all of them go to Vox, I can safely guess that you (one of those five readers) probably ate at Stortini for half-priced lunch.

I was sad to learn in the Chronicle last week that Stortini closed November 1, and the owners are focusing on the Red House Lounge. The good news is that the Red House will continue offering Stortini's pizza menu, and the Stortini building will be used for catered events. (So if you're looking for a laid-back Austinish wedding reception site, you know where to go.)

So in honor of Stortini, I leave you with the parting memory of an eggplant parmesan sandwich...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some Continental Charm for the East Side

While I cringe a little at the state of uber-gentrified East 11th Street, I'd like to highlight its most charming corner cafe, the Blue Dahlia Bistro. Nothing says gentrification like faux-Euro fare, but the Blue Dahlia is quirky, authentic, relatively inexpensive, and surprisingly humble (check Le Mission).

To the stranded francophile's relief, it offers a menu full French-inspired dishes, including cheese plates and open-faced sandwiches. It also offers continental inspirations not of France, like the porcini ravioli with basil pesto and caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil). Other seemingly everyday American fare is given a French treatment - the egg salad is served with capers.

It's also a vegetarian's delight, with several exotic meat-free sandwiches (and let's face it - those are a rare find). I've already mentioned the egg salad, and also consider the ricotta with fig, black pepper, and agave. Or the brie with walnuts and apricot preserves. Or the humus with avocado, sprouts, and tomato. Plus, all the salads are served sans-meat.

The Blue Dahlia also tries to offer as much local, organic produce as possible, all the while keeping most entrees under $10. Every sandwich is served on whole wheat bread. It's these little touches, plus the beautiful ambiance created through low-lighting and sturdy wooden tables, that make this place seem right out of Provence.

Lucky for us, it's happily settled in East Austin.

The Basics:
Location: 111se E. 11th St., across from the Victory Grill
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Accepts: all major credit cards
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: East Austin's the better for it.