Previously disheartened with desserts overpowered by twee nostalgia, Chronicle critic Brandon Watson has found new hope thanks to punk rock diner Holy Roller. He was was delighted by the “haute junk food” offerings of chef Callie Speer’s new downtown punk rock diner, which opened in July.
Speer’s pastry background (formerly of Mars, Swift’s Attic, and Geraldine’s) is seen throughout the menu, especially with the sandwiches:
“Casbah rocks a honey-buttered biscuit, slathered in tangy comeback sauce and topped with fried chicken and a fried egg. Liberty Lunch reinterprets bánh mì by way of Wheatsville Co-op's popcorn tofu sandwich. Both assuredly mix seemingly discordant ingredients.”
Watson’s favorite, though, was the grilled cheese, which he saw as “both an exemplary example of the form while gently nudging it forward.” The creamy Waldorf salad, messy trash fries, and savory-sweet apple bun with shaved ham were also highlighted.
As much as he enjoyed the all-day menu, Watson found that Sunday brunch is when Holy Roller really shines, especially with pastry chef Britt Castro’s desserts, which helm from “the same thoughtfully nostalgic camp as Speer's.” After noting the imaginative cocktails from bar manager Jen Keyser, Watson mused:
The idea of a punk rock diner might seem alien in an Austin currently in a race to see how much counter space it can wrap in Carrara marble. By going against the grain, Speer has again shown us the way forward.
Texas Monthly’s Daniel Vaughn is the latest to sing the praises of the new school barbecue from LeRoy and Lewis, where he was surprised he didn’t have to wait for”some of the best and most inventive barbecue in Austin.”
Vaughn notes that pitmaster Evan LeRoy perfected his brisket during his time at Freedmen’s (the secret is smoking in a foil boat). However, Vaughn enjoyed the more unique offerings from the barbecue trailer like tender beef cheeks, macaroni and cheese stuffed quail, and other fresh sides. Vaughn highly recommends grabbing a pit burger, made from smoked and seared ground brisket trimmings, before the place gets busy, and then there are the pork chops:
[T]he perfect example of light smoke and seasoning allowing a great product to shine... Brined in bourbon and brown sugar, the fat cap on the chops took on a flavor reminiscent of bananas foster. The meat was incredibly juicy, and the double frenched bones made for a nice show piece.