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Austin, Texas

The culinary couple visit the capital of Texas for some delicious eats.

The Texas Book Festival, one of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind, lured us to Austin for our road trip’s last stop. We leap at any opportunity to attend this weekend celebration because of its all-inclusive “big tent” approach to literature, served up with a hearty helping of Texas music and panache. This year one of the featured books was our latest work, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure.

Any excuse to visit Austin thrills us anyway because it’s the home of our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. The highlight of the festival for the entire gang was the presentation and book-signing by R.L. Stine, master of the scary Goosebumps series of kids’ literature. What could be more entertaining on Halloween weekend? Mr. Stine enthralled the large crowd with tales of his childhood Halloweens, including the time when he desperately wanted to be a vampire but his mother bought him a duck costume instead.

Our whole family, especially the grandchildren, love Tex-Mex food, so we grazed together through a few of the city’s many renowned spots for fajitas, cheese enchiladas smothered with beefy Texas chili “gravy,” and five-year-old Chloe’s favorite, a bean burrito covered with chile con queso.

As always, we stopped at the original downtown Chuy’s, something of an Elvis shrine cum eatery, where the two of us love the fish tacos topped with spicy green salsa. On Saturday evening, on the way to a party celebrating the joyous Mexican Day of the Dead, we dropped by Jorge’s for the restaurant’s memorable charro beans, earthy whole pintos long-simmered with bacon, onion, tomato and a generous handful of cilantro.

On our own one day at lunch we discovered Torchy’s Tacos, locally popular but new to us. In three no-frills locations, it offers an artful array of signature tacos, everything from The Republican (grilled jalapeno sausage) to The Democrat (shredded beef barbacoa). Avoiding politics so close to an election, we settled on two other options, the Trailer Park Taco, Trashy-Style, with strips of crispy fried chicken and green chile drenched in chile con queso, and the Green Chili Pork Taco, featuring slow-roasted carnitas topped with fresh cheese, cilantro, onions and a green chile sauce. We can’t wait to come back and sample more of the menu.

Even if the Texas Book Festival shuts down some day, even if our family moves away, Austin will remain special to us. It’s not just the capital of a state, it’s the world headquarters of great Tex-Mex cooking.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jamisons’ newest book, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.

Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at cookingwiththejamisons.com. You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”

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