Our affable waitdude threw an extra ham-and-cheese croissant into my carry-out box in a failed effort to get me to put a sock in the ceaseless flow of gushing stream-of-consciousness love-gibberish I loosed on him when I went to pay the bill.
My fellow peckish Austinians—and anyone else who finds herself lurching through life in search of a lunch that wonâ€™t make you puke—I have three words for you: Buenos Aires CafÃ©. And now seven more: On the corner of South 1st and Oltorf. And finally, three more: Go there now.
Two hours prior to this writing Stingray and I made our lunching debut at the aforementioned feed trough, and it is with unqualified jubilation that I award this joint a perfect 87 Tacos on the Twisty Lunch-O-Meter. In fact, this lunch was so flawless that I have begun to wonder whether it really happened, and to reason that, if it did, thereâ€™s no way it could have been anything but a fluke. Iâ€™m almost afraid to go back. I mean, can you go back?
Among the comestibles that ranked as the best of their ilk that I have experienced in Austin were, in order of presentation:
Exquisite coffee. Served in a gracefully proportioned cup, it arrived at optimum slurping temperature and betrayed not a trace of the bitterness, over-roasting, or incidental hazelnuttiness to which this essential beverage is regrettably prone in coffee houses city-wide. After a single sip Stingray turned to me with the gooey, wild-eyed expression she only gets when in the throes of a restaurant epiphany and announced urgently, â€œThis is my new favorite place!â€ The saucer even had a doily. Speak to me not of doilies being too femmy for your butch, coffee-swillinâ€™ ass. The be-doilied saucer is what separates H. sapiens from the invertebrates, and you can tell PZ Myers I said so.
Hummus wrap. â€œBut Twisty,â€ you protest. â€œWhy go to an Argentinean restaurant and order something so unethnic and pedestrian as that?â€ In asking this question you reveal a soundness of mind for which I applaud you. Not because there is anything particularly holy about â€˜ethnicâ€™ food (itâ€™s all just one big foodariffic continuum to me), but because hummus wraps, which generally appear on menus only to satisfy a chefâ€™s diabolical urge to torture self-righteous vegetarians, are universally mediocre. Indeed, I held out but a slender hope that this one would be any different. But letâ€™s face it; the Twisty innards arenâ€™t what they were, and I reasoned that what is essentially a salad rolled up in a wheat tortilla would stand at least a fighting chance of not provoking any swollen, roiling regrets an hour later.
To my immense and continuing surprise, the Buenos Aires hummus wrap, amply crammed with squash, bell pepper, field greens, a charming vinaigrette, and some other stuff I canâ€™t remember, was the ne plus ultra of its species. The homemade hummus (everything they serve, for crying out loud, is homemade) was ducky, the crisp vegetables impeccably fresh, the plating appealing, and a worthier side of fries I have never dunked in a ramekin of ketchup.
Spicy beef empanada. Buenos Aires CafÃ© is an Argentinean joint after all, and Stingray could not be dissuaded from reliving the good old days when she reveled her way through South America photographing uprisings and stuffing into her mouth anything that didnâ€™t move, so she ordered the specialitÃ© de la maison. I sampled only one bite, but you can take it from me that if Iâ€™d had my own spicy beef empanada, you couldn’t take it from me. Stingray waxed enthusiastic for an hour afterward on the fillingâ€™s miraculous balance of picante to dolce (â€œChopped raisins!â€), and on the perfection of the pastry crust. She soon became possessed of an idÃ©e fixe; I have not heard her say anything since lunch that deviated from the theme “Yay.â€
Key lime pie. A triumph. In fact, this pastry represented nothing less than the next level in the evolution of pie. Superb mousse-like meringue floating on superb ethereal filling, the whole superb love-pile anchored in this universe by a superb graham-cracker crust that managed to be moist and crisp at the same time. Moist and crisp, I tell you, at the same time. I do not exaggerate when I say that I had to actually brush back a tear, so profound was my contentment as I crammed as much of the stuff as I could into the Twisty craw. You know, before Stingray could get any.
I love pie.