When the shutters pop up from the side of its rustic trailer, Trai Mai Thai’s kitchen is ready to transport diners to Thailand. The business's owner and head chef, Ning Kongla, purportedly impressed her boyfriend so much with her cooking that he convinced her to pursue it as a career. With that, Trai Mai Thai was born. There, she stuffs crab rangoon with blue crab from the Gulf to prelude the thai soups, dumplings, and noodle dishes that populate a menu that “reeks of authenticity," according to Austin Monthly. Picnic tables and other food trailers populate the sunny area—dubbed the South Lamar Trailer Bazaar—where the sounds of live music drown out the sound of fancy white tablecloths picketing on the street.
According to Cajun Boils, no party is complete without crawfish. Its staff, led by a New Orleanian specializing in crawfish boils, boil hundreds of pounds of the delectable crustaceans for all sorts of events, from weddings to weekend nights out.
Its Austin-based boils complement the crawfish with potatoes, corn, and garlic, emulating classic New Orleans?style meals right down to painting a fleur-de-lis on each crawfish shell. The cooks also host the occasional crab boil, and cook up seasonal specialties such as jambalaya, roast pig, and frog legs.
With more than 90 buffet dishes including 30–35 hot entrees and more than 10 varieties of sushi, it’s no surprise that Buffet Palace's Austin location has been voted best buffet 12 times by Austin Chronicle readers. The similarly well-stocked Killeen location looks like a grounded spaceship from the outside, complete with a cylindrical metal cage, a Saturn-style ring, and two alien-like statues.
At each location, a modern 350-seat dining room vaunts sleek countertops and high ceilings as well as a buffet so long visiting Lilliputians regularly land planes on it. Items range from Korean-style salads and Japanese sushi to more than 30 primarily Chinese hot dishes such as sesame chicken and pan-fried dumplings.
In addition to these made-from-scratch items, a chef cooks Asian pancakes and dumplings. Before departure, diners can also stock a plate full of the buffet’s housemade desserts, which include cakes, cookies, and fruit so fresh it often gets smacked by older, wiser side dishes.
Wahoo's Fish Taco conjures the surf-influenced fare and the carefree attitudes of the California beach, offering swiftly served fish tacos, monster-sized burritos, and piquant rice bowls. The inviting allure of Wahoo's menu starts with its tacos ($2.20), as soft-corn tortillas platonically hug marine proteins such as fish and shrimp or savory meats including chicken, steak, and pork. The immense banzai burrito ($5.49) packs in sour cream, salsa, rice, beans, and your choice of meat. In addition to appetizers such as taquitos and quesadillas, Wahoo's slings in-house vodkas and juicy margaritas at its full bar.
Open an Asian-American dialogue with the guidance of a wide-ranging menu and the goodwill of taste-bud ambassadors. Start off with an order of spicy Thai Dynamite shrimp served over Asian slaw (S $5.49, L $8.99) or potstickers—dumplings filled with pork, green cabbage, scallions, and ginger and served with a citrus soy dip (S $3.99, L $6.99). Rice dishes and noodle bowls, such as Spicy General Fu and Pad Thai, are priced by main star, with chicken, beef, or tofu for $8.29, shrimp for $9.29, or veggies for $7.29. After selecting a hunger weapon, dive into the eastern seas of flavor with a wok-sizzled order of fried rice, which includes bean sprouts, scallions, carrots, egg, chopped broccoli, and brown sauce, or a spice-tastic Singapore noodle bowl with rice noodles tossed in a spicy yellow curry with carrots, onions, scallions, celery, garlic, and basil. A gluten-free menu and two special seared entrees are also available: seared ahi tuna steak, encrusted in sesame and served over a bed of sautéed spinach ($14.99), and flat- iron steak, marinated in a red-wine soy sauce and served on a bed of red bell peppers, mushrooms, and green and yellow onions ($12.99).