Where to seek comfort in regional cuisine

Stephen Acevedo

Leaving home for college is often accompanied by a string of uneasy emotions. As lucky as UT students are to be located in a great city like Austin, newcomers — especially out-of-state students — are still susceptible to feelings of homesickness. One way to help alleviate those feelings is by treating oneself to a home-style meal. Luckily, Austin’s food scene is a massive melting pot of different cuisines from all around the country. Here are a few restaurants than can take Austin transplants right back to their hometowns with a single bite.

Roland’s Soul Food and Fish Kitchen 

For people hailing from Louisiana, and especially folks who are waiting out the Houston floods in Austin, the right kind of meal can make any homesickness disappear, if even for a brief moment. Roland’s specializes in that right kind of meal. From smothered pork chops to chitlins to delectably fried fish, the food at Roland’s can transport even the most cynical patron right back to their childhood kitchen. I would advise that you chase your meal with a serving of their fantastic peach cobbler, just to ensure a maximum level of comfort.

Las Trancas 

Californians almost unanimously agree that Austin’s signature Tex-Mex cuisine isn’t real Mexican food, or at least not as good as what they have back home. Las Trancas comes a lot closer to California-style Mexican food than most other popular taquerias in Austin. Specializing in small street tacos, burritos and tortas, this place is a spitting image of the taco trucks that seem to be on every other street corner in Los Angeles or San Diego. My personal favorite menu item is the al pastor street tacos. It’s a very simple dish that wields more than enough flavor to make a Californian feel less bitter about Austin’s “Mexican” food scene.

Tropicana Cuban Restaurant 

Due to its proximity to Cuba, Florida has played a big role in popularizing Cuban food on American soil, and Austin has certainly been receptive to the Sunshine State’s mouthwatering cuisine. One of the more notable Cuban restaurants in Austin is Tropicana, which puts all its focus in authenticity to fantastic results. Everything from their empanadas to their seafood perfectly executes the flavor that so many Florida natives grew up enjoying. Anything off the menu at Tropicana should be ordered with a side of sweet tostones, or plantains, and savory yuca fries. You won’t regret it.

Cedar Tavern at Eberly 

While Austin does justice to plenty of different regions’ cuisines, New York City is one part of the country that Austin struggles to simulate in the food department. Maybe the culinary history of the five boroughs is too deep-rooted in the city to be properly replicated anywhere else, but any recommendation I could make for authentic New York-style food in Austin would be quickly dismissed by New Yorkers who insist it doesn’t come close to the real thing. That said, the best recommendation to make would be the Cedar Tavern at Eberly. Aside from the charcuterie board and the oysters, which are both great, there is really nothing on the menu that even tries to mimic New York food. The bar itself however, has been disassembled, shipped to and reassembled in Austin directly from the Greenwich Village. So while there’s not much to be offered here in the way of New York comfort food, simply kicking back at the bar and enjoying a few rounds of drinks and oysters is about as close to a New York dining experience that Austin has to offer. Customers should also make a point of sticking to the Cedar Tavern menu, as the rest of the Eberly menu is sure to break the bank.