I remember when Zagat was relevant.

Back in the Paleolithic era of searching for good food, the narrow, oblong Zagat guides were pure gold. You could walk into a B. Dalton’s, buy a Zagat guide and Michael Stern’s latest Roadfood book, and set out for your destination knowing you’d have your bases covered.

The three hundred mile journey from Alabama to New Orleans would go by in a flash as your co-pilot reconnoitered through the guides, put little stars on the paper maps and the conversation flowed like sweet tea as you prepared to eat your way through the finest dining city on earth. This is how places like Chez Helene {RIP} and Uglesich’s {RIP} were discovered well before Al Gore invented the internet and John T. Edge experienced ascension among mortal men.

The modern-era Zagat is a sad joke.

Let’s take a look at Austin’s Best Cheap Eats, the newest list from Zagat.

Tacodeli, the overpriced vendor of commercial tortillas and bland, strip-mall food comes in at number one with a price that beggars the imagination: $11. Pitiful. In a city filled with drop-dead delicious Mexican food joints, how on earth did this happen?

Scrumptious Chef alternate: La Flor on South First Street. Half as expensive, hand patted tortillas and Chef Angela in the kitchen riffing on DF’s best dishes.

Torchy’s commissary kitchen must be a bee hive of activity. Everything’s centrally prepared, shipped out in refrigerator trucks and re-heated in a dizzying array of locations around Texas. To be fair, we did have a good barbacoa taco there recently, but is it the number two, best cheap eat in Austin? Not even close.

Scrumptious Chef alternate: El Taco Rico in Montopolis. The best barbacoa in Austin, dirt cheap and San Antonio-level, handmade tortillas.

Mighty Fine Burgers with a $13 value clocks in at number three. We do like Mighty Fine when we feel like paying a king’s ransom for a burger combo but….

Scrumptious Chef alternate: We’d rather spend half that at Flat Top Burger shop on Manor Road.

Flip Happy Crepes is actually a pretty decent choice at number four. We’re not well versed enough in the world of crepes to offer a truly cheap alternate and we’ve always had good food there. Readers, where are you getting high value crepes these days?

Hut’s comes in at number five. What? The glory days of this old-school joint came to a grinding halt around ’91. It’s run of the mill and with a value of $14, astronomically priced. Maybe people are beguiled by the very fine ambiance?

Scrumptious Chef alternate: Hop Doddy does business the right way. They make EVERYTHING in-house and keep the prices low so eating there is not a special occasion. They’re ruling the Austin burger roost, but be aware you must go there during off-times as the crowds have descended.

When Google took Zagat over we thought a return to the glory days were imminent. Instead it’s just the same ol same ol over at the fallen food guide.

How else has Zagat fucked up in Austin?

Tex Mex http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2012/7/19/Buffoonery-Zagat-Ranks-Austin-Texas-Top-5-Tex-Mex-Restaurants

and we’re still waiting on their nightlife issue http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2012/7/23/After-Disastrous-Top-5-Austin-Tex-Mex-List-Zagat-Turns-Toward-Austin-Texas-Bars-And-Nightclubs

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