|1501 S. First St.
Austin, TX 78704
Larry McGuire, the creative force behind Lambert’s, Perlas, and the soon-to-be-revamped Jeffrey’s, has taken his art in a southeastern direction, about 11,000 miles away to Vietnam with the recent opening of Elizabeth Street Café on South 1st directly opposite John Mueller’s new BBQ trailer.
The cuisine at Elizabeth Street Café is a mixture of Vietnamese and French, of foods served both before and after 1956, the year the French officially severed their ties with Vietnam. The result of the French influence can be seen in the bánh mì (French baguette filled with spicy meats and Vietnamese veggies) and the extensive and delicious breakfast menu along with some lovely French-style pastries.
The appetizers are simply a delight. The Fried Shrimp and Yam Fritters, wrapped in lettuce and dipped in a fish sauce, are beautifully crunchy and full of flavor. The Fried Spring Rolls feature a tasty ginger pork sausage and Napa cabbage with the option to wrap in lettuce. I’ve had this several times now and I just love it. And the Niman Ranch pork belly steamed buns are an absolute requisite for those who love the mellow flavor of the French influenced dough.
The bánh mì (which may just be the world’s most popular sandwich) translates to any kind of bread, particularly the baguette introduced during the French colonial period, a roughly 100-year period beginning in 1862. Elizabeth Street makes a classic version with Chicken Liver Mousse, Pork Pate and Roasted pork along homemade mayonnaise, daikon, carrot, cilantro and jalapeno. Now this is a seriously tasty and texturally rewarding sandwich that I would highly recommend. Also try the Kaffir Lime Fried Chicken Sandwich. The lime and the chicken offer an amazing taste combination.
The Pho (pronounced “fuh”) at Elizabeth Street is a variety of beef, pork and chicken broths served with flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, jalapenos and garden herbs. The searing McAllen Ranch Flank steak is my personal choice with beautiful flavors along with Gulf Shrimp Pho, although both are rather pricey compared to other local Vietnamese joints.
The Bun or Vermicelli bowls are amazingly tasty even though some of them are two to three times the price of similar fare around Austin. Perhaps the ingredients explain this. I tried the Broiled Niman Pork Bellies (spot on and not usually seen in this dish) and the Crispy (and costly) Gulf Snapper which blends perfectly with the rice noodles.
There is great care taken in these dishes and the flavors are exquisite. There is communal seating available and the staff is quite helpful. So see you at Elizabeth Street!