Dec 15 2006

Public Cans of Austin: El Gringo

Stingray calls this “western kitsch,” but I fail to see what’s so kitschy about a gold spray-painted horseshoe.

I-35 runs down the middle of Austin, a cee-ment ribbon of apartheid segregating the populace according to caste. On the west side, which is never called “the West Side,” is the university, the Whole Foods, the horrid 6th Street clubs, the state and city government, and most of the honkys, including me. On the East Side, which, when one is on the west side is always called The East Side because it isn’t the default affluent honky Austin, are the persons of color, persons who can’t afford the west side, assorted impecunious artsy-musiciany types, the gentrified yuppies who inevitably stalk the artsy-musiciany types, some virtuous militants who have spray-painted “Yuppies Off The East Side!” all over everything, and Norbizness.

Stingray and I tippy-toed across the highway the other night in search of some vittles and a couple of margs, which we found at El Gringo.

Here’s the blindingly bright shiny can.


El Gringo pushes one of my favorite cuisines: Lowbrow Bistro (alternatively “Big & Dumb”, or “Texan”). This school of culinary thought is not excessively nuanced and presents but a minimal challenge to the unschooled palate, but ideally satisfies four criteria: there’s chile in everything, it’s masterminded by someone who knows her way around a peck of pickled peppers, there’s a deep-fryer in the kitchen, and it’s served on a covered patio without benefit of chi-chi white tablecloths. To wit:


Ancho chile onion soup with a crouton of queso fresco broiled on a hunk of bolillo, on a bare, fake wood laminate table. The cheese tasted faintly of feet, and the grease-halo was not insignificant, but otherwise, quite a palatable little number.

Stingray enjoyed a thing called the South Padre Platter: 47 pounds of battered, deep-fried fish, crabcakes, oysters, bacon-wrapped shrimp, fries, and “pickled vegetables,” i.e. slaw. I wish I had a picture of it; it looked like an artery’s last gasp.


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  1. Mmmmm. Bacon-wrapped shrimp.

  2. Mmmmm. Feet.

    Btw, Twisty, that was me that sent you that Perelman playlet the other day–hope you enjoyed it.

  3. blog.3bulls.net

    Stingray eats that yumminess yet decries shrimpy corn dogs? So complicated!

  4. saraarts.com

    I think it’s the cheap, hardware-store W that makes it kitschy.

  5. kathymccarty.info

    Near my house lives a man, who has a large picture window on the front of said house. Day and Night this man can be seen (he has no curtains) sitting on his sofa, typing in to his laptop. The house is spiffy and the man is handsome.

    I have often wondered: “Is that Norbizness?”

    You know, because I live in Austin, and I know Norbizness is here SOMEWHERE, and, you know, he MIGHT live in Bouldin.

    But now I know. Tis not.

  6. Twisty

    Stingray is a woman of many facets, Pinko. Many facets.

  7. norbizness.com

    I wouldn’t be caught dead without curtains, and I have no laptop. Keep trying, K. There’s also the parts about house-spiffiness and handsomity, but I won’t further pile on myself. Unfortunately, the closest I get to Bouldin is for a cup of coffee and a South Side Vulcan video rental, and to TP that guy’s house you were talking about.

    As for East Side artery clogging, nothing beats a carnitas plate lunch at Angie’s on E. 7th. And the bathrooms are divine.

  8. hello, ive never commented before but i gotta ask…what kind of camera do you use? i noticed most of the photos on here have the same style to them so i figured you took the pictures (if not just ignore me). i really love it though!

  9. Ah, Twisty, that last line made me laugh out loud in spite of a toothache that’s required me to seek solace in a Percoset. Thank you.

  10. blog.3bulls.net

    Admit it, norbiz, you also coated his late model Camry with trans-fat Oreos. For shame.

  11. angryforareason.blogspot.com

    I used to be in the east side. I guess I’d fall into either the artsy group or the sprypainting group. Anyhow, I loved the east side.

  12. I found it kitsch, based on the fact that usually men train/shoe horses. It’s also hung with the usual splendor of one lump down, instead of two lumps down.

    Now the immediate reaction I got, is if you attemped to get fresh with a horse, he/she will immediately kick you in the behind, applying that logic to the female bathroom of the species of human, yeah it’s saying that the horse is kicking the W out of the female. hehe Anyway I tried to make sense of that.

  13. Dallas did Austin one better: when they laid down the Central Expressway in the 50s it not only cut off the black population from the white, they ran it right over the top of an old freedman’s cemetery. By the way, you might be interested in knowing I was one of those courageous white people who helped break down the barriers of segregation in Deep Ellum twenty years ago, travelling with other whites to the new clubs on east Commerce. I trembled inside every time we saw a police car, its true; but I just kept thinking of my great-granfather, the star second baseman who never got to fulfill his dream of playing in the Negro Leagues. And then the next day, we’d always discuss our struggles, and nurse our hangovers over the lunch counter at Woolworth’s.

    Such was the crucible in which my character and values were formed.

  14. Twisty

    Electrodot, one of these days I’m going to put all the camera information in a post.

    Right now I’m shooting a Canon EOS-1D Mark II N, which is a huge professional camera that exceeds my capabilities but which I bought because it takes 8 frames per second. I usually use a 30mm Sigma, a Canon 16-35mm wide angle zoom, or a Lensbaby 2.0. I’ve got a new tilt-shift lens that I’m trying to figure out. I use Photoshop CS2 in post, and am irked to discover that the beta for CS3 is already out.

  15. ahh you should, thatd be awesome

    haha why i was thinking it was some sort of hasselblad is beyond me. but nice! ooh if only i could afford such things right now.

  16. Camera names eh? Why don’t they just call it the Louise or something sensible.

  17. blog.3bulls.net

    CS2 already chugs on my lemon, but WIRED says CS3 is fast, most likely because they were running it on Deep Frickin Blue. Ay caramba!

  18. South Padre Platter, mmm. But today I’m going to have roast chicken breast and a winter salad of romaine, fennel, orange, red onion, and avocado with a simple red wine vinaigrette. Got to do something to counteract the holiday onslaught of irresistably bad-for-you food.

  19. i thought at first that the photo was W’s official ranch logo. then i realized he wouldn’t be caught dead without a presidential seal sticker in there someplace.

    stingray’s meal sounds heavenly — plus, leftovers for days.

  20. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    Stingray’s South Padre platter sounds like something my husband got at a local seafood joint. Made my stomach ache just looking at it, and I’m a woman of hearty appetites.

    Twisty, I love your photographs, and now I can also envy your camera.

  21. barlyru.blogspot.com

    I’m one of those honkies who can’t afford a house on the west side, so here I am in Windsor Park. I’m a loyal El Chile customer but haven’t tried their new place yet. I’m so happy to hear that you recommend it. That soup sounds great, feet & all.

    Speaking of eerily-bright restrooms, the last time I was at The Tavern (with Ayun Halliday), that restroom was lit up like a UFO. Freaky.

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