New restaurants in Austin are a constantly reappearing commodity. And when they’re new, they are crowded. “You’ll be waiting two hours, but it’ll be worth it,” they say. “Don’t even bother going on a weekend,” they say.
So when Launderette popped up on the East Side several months ago, I postponed the trek over there in the hopes that time would alleviate the congested flow of patrons and we could walk in without issue. Yes, I was late to the Launderette party, but my reasons for going were hardly for the hustle and bustle of the hype. I really, REALLY wanted to try this food.
As it turns out, 1:30 brunch on a gorgeous Austin Saturday is the perfect time to visit Launderette. Though the restaurant was comfortably stocked with hungry visitors, we were seated immediately. Our waitress was friendly and informative; the food came out in record time. By the end, I almost wished that I wasn’t such a speedy eater. I wanted more time with the all the stuff this place has going on, from the perfectly-seasoned food to the turquoise-painted floors.
Launderette’s brunch menu looks like many brunch menus in Austin: slightly Southern, slightly Tex-Mex, always from scratch, always something local. Though everything looked really crazy good–from fried oyster florentine to duck hash to salad nicoise–nothing looked particularly unique when compared to other brunch locales. But that was OK with us. We were starving and excited, and the menu hardly dissuaded out palates.
To start our journey through the scrumptious options, we chose the pastry of the day, a Boston cream-filled yeast donut with chocolate glaze.
Ok fine, I’m a donut snob. While the pastry cream inside made me swoon, the donut itself was extra dense and tasted of raw yeast. Did I gobble the thing down? Of course. But Launderettes’ donut on this gorgeous morning, while stunningly presented, didn’t hold much of a candle to the cheap ones you buy at the grocery store. It tasted homemade as all hell, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a winner.
As I crinkled my eyebrows over the lackluster donut, my dining companions were inhaling their “appetizer:” frites with manzano pepper sauce and garlic aioli. One bite of those things and I was that girl… the one who takes your fries without asking. Are fries really ever BAD? Rarely. But these were exceptional.
Before the fries and donut were even half-devoured, out entrees came sweeping out of the restaurant’s open kitchen. I’d have felt rushed as a diner if the food didn’t look or smell as good as it did.
My main course choice was the Pork & Grits, a creamy medley of green chile roasted pork, buttery grits and a barely-cooked poached egg on top. I don’t know what it is about grits dishes, but I can’t seem to resist them wherever I go. I chalk it up to the fact that the North deprived me of this miracle carbohydrate for my entire childhood.
While grits can be a divisive culinary topic, I don’t understand how someone could dislike this dish. It is pure breakfast food in every way and the seasoning is so on point that I couldn’t stop eating it. Fortunately, the gorgeous dishes next to mine convinced me to look up from my personal trough and try the other items on the table.
Marc ordered the Cold Smoked Salmon, a menu item that came highly recommended from our server. If you have a friend, sig-o or family member that likes to eat “clean” in the morning, this plate nails it. In every possible way.
You know good smoked salmon when the color is right. The fish on this plate is a perfect coral pink. It is surrounded by bright red tomatoes, deep green capers, creamy avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, herbed cream cheese, hot pink picked red onion and the friendly yellow of a soft boiled egg. It’s a stunning plate, truly, and the flavors don’t disappoint either.
And last but not least, the South’s contribution to Launderette’s lunch menu: fried chicken with a side of crisp slaw.
We spotted this baby on a nearby table when we first walked in and it was immediately apparent that SOMEONE had to order that. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of fried chicken over the past few months (no judgement please) and this flavor profile was by far the most unique. Their secret: a little dude named Coriander.
I’m not proud of this, but I only recently (within the past 3-4 years) learned that coriander is nothing more than the seeds of the cilantro plant, one of my absolute favorite herbs. That said, though the two things come from the same plant, coriander is characterized by a warm, toasty aroma that cilantro lacks. Friends who can’t stand the “soapy” taste of cilantro may very well tolerate (or even love) a touch of coriander in their food. Some people (like me) go nuts for both.
Food lesson aside, Launderette’s use of coriander in their fried chicken really spunked up an otherwise ordinary dish. And the chicken itself: crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside. As it should be.
Though my dining party decided to forgo the alcohol, Launderette has all of the brunchy-style drinks you’d expect to see on an Austin menu (though they are perhaps lacking in the “$2 mimosas! Hell yeah!” department). Regardless of any missteps (of which there were few), I will undoubtedly revisit this cute little restaurant for 2 main reasons: 1) their tapas-style dinner menu is still on my bucket list and 2) the food proved to be reliably tasty in that oh-so-Austin way.