AUSTIN, TEXAS: Cocktails and a Food Truck
On my January trip to Austin, one downtown highlight was visiting a popular food truck and enjoying expertly crafted cocktails guided by my friend Cristi, who lives in the city. Paul Qui's East Side King Thai-Kun is parked behind Whisler's and open 7 days a week, 4 pm to 1:45 am. Qui, of Uchi and Uchiko, has 4 East Side King food trucks and a legion of fans. With Chef Thai Changthong in charge, Thai-Kun is more Thai-inspired (other ESK locations may find you dining on pork belly buns, octopus tacos, fried kimchi, or ramen).
I wanted one of everything after seeing the menu, but we finally decided on 3 dishes. There are picnic tables set up to eat al fresco, but we took a seat at Whisler's bar, sipping on excellent Old Fashioneds stirred up by Brett (who formerly lived in Arizona and worked at the Jade Bar) as we waited for our dishes to be delivered.
Our feast was some of the best street food dishes I've had and Thai-Kun was not afraid to bring on the heat. We loved the crunchy grilled baguette with a peanut curry sauce, a harmonious blend of coconut milk and red and massaman curry; Khao Man Gai, tender steamed chicken on rich chicken-fat rice, chicken jus and soy bean sauce; and the Isaan sausage special - a garlicky fermented sausage made with pork and rice and served grilled with fresh herbs and crunchy cabbage.
Afterwards, at Brett's suggestion, we headed over to Firehouse Lounge & Hostel, a craft cocktail lounge with an entrance hidden behind a bookcase in the hostel lobby. Our evening ended with excellent service and libations (try a Quill or Familia Real) from Carolyn, and a complimentary round of Bee's Knees shots. It was a perfect last night in Austin before heading back home.