Jimmy Kimmel has returned to Austin for the second year in a row to film Jimmy Kimmel Live! during South by Southwest. The food-obsessed host previously took an Austin barbecue tour and staged food truck pranks on his show. So far this year he's featured perhaps the only action movie ever made about breakfast tacos.
Eater spoke with Kimmel over Kerlin Barbecue kolaches about what he loves, what he's over, and where he still needs to try. From the hottest of hot new openings (Olamaie, Launderette) to the classics (Fonda San Miguel, Tacodeli), Kimmel seriously knows his way around the city's dining scene. He also knows how to prepare: he brought a bigger pair of pants.
Why is food such a big part of your show when you visit Austin?
Whenever I travel, even when I'm not doing a show, I make a point to figure out where the great local spots are. The worst thing that could happen to me on a trip is I wind up eating at a Denny's. I have a motto that I share with my wife which is "No Meal Wasted."
It's hard sometimes too to distinguish between restaurants that are popular and restaurants that are good. You see that especially in the world of barbecue. In both pizza and barbecue, there is a lot of bravado. I have friends who are chefs who point me in directions. A very good way to know which place is best to line them up next to each other, which is something the average person never does. Last time I was here I had a whole day of barbecue, which is not the best way to eat barbecue either.
Where have you been eating this time around?
I've been going to places that I've read about or have been recommended to me. Getting a group of ten people is also part of the occasion. We've been to Jeffrey's, Perla's, Olamaie, Fresa's, Launderette, Fonda San Miguel, Jo's coffee with Tacodeli breakfast tacos, Wholly Cow, and we had Franklin Barbecue for lunch. I love that banana cream pie sent here by Chez Zee. We ate at Odd Duck last night which was really fantastic. The pretzels, and the smoked fried turkey leg was amazing. These kolaches are great, too.
Any other favorite dishes?
I like Tacodeli because there's mashed potatoes in the breakfast taco -- that's a neat trick. The brick chicken at Launderette was phenomenal. And their hamburger was incredible too, especially the bun, soft and a little sweet the way I like. Jeffrey's had a great branzino and deviled eggs, and the steak was excellent. Olamaie sent out some kind of smoked ham that was like prosciutto but not so dry. And dessert was brown sugar ice cream.
Did you flip out for Olamaie's biscuits? Seems like almost everyone who visits mentions them.
The biscuits were great. It's a weird thing. I think restaurants make too much of their biscuits, especially in LA. Biscuits have entered the world of fried calamari and caprese salad for me. It's on every menu.
After your last visit, Austinites associate you with barbecue. But you're checking out a wide breadth of restaurants.
I like good restaurants. It doesn't matter if it's a three dollar a head or an expensive restaurant. There are a lot of bad things about being famous. The good thing is that you can get into restaurants and they always bring you extra stuff. But I feel like I have to eat everything so it doesn't seem rude.
There are places I want to get back to, too. La Barbecue and Micklethwait. The desserts at Micklethwait are fantastic. And they have chicken too which you don't see that much. I'm a big chicken guy myself. I like to eat all animals.
I ate at La Condesa last time, it was really good. Hopdoddy was also really good.
Where do you like to eat in LA? Does every meal have to count?
I'll try new restaurants when they open but I have some go-to spots. There are great sushi restaurants in LA, a few good Italian places. A lot of good Mexican restaurants, but it's a different style than here. I have neighborhood places. I like Salt's Cure, and an Italian restaurant called Angelini Osteria.
Downtown Los Angeles has lots of great new restaurants. It's still hard for me to wrap my head around. You go downtown for dinner, and you go to a restaurant that's butted up against Skid Row. You open a door to a restaurant and there are four hundred people eating inside. And you're like, Where did these people come from? Where are they parking?
You guys put out a request for local businesses in need of a new commercial. Many, many Austin restaurants were trying to get your attention, I know.
I wasn't looking for stunts, really. I wanted it to be natural. The most important thing for me was that it be a local business that people were proud of. We ended up making it for Vulcan Video. In LA, most video stores have closed, and it's nice to see there are two locally owned video stores here still making it.
Late night television now seems to have a bigger focus on potentially viral videos. Do you see food as an important part of reaching your audience?
I haven't singled food out as category people would be interested in. It just so happens it's what I'm interested in. If you pitch me jumping out of plane, there's no way I will do it. I don't care about how entertaining it would be, I don't want to jump out of a plane. But if you pitch me a barbecue tour, I'm probably going to go for that.
Last year I was not fitting into my pants by the end of the week. That's not a joke. I literally did not fit in my pants. This year we brought some of my suits that haven't been fully tailored yet that are in the queue for Thursday and Friday. I still have about nine pounds to gain before I leave. I'll worry about that when I get home. I can't deny myself when I'm here.