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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Did You Just Say Mexonesian?

Thursday, May 6, 2010 @ 08:05 AM

024 Two weekends ago we had to privilege of taking a little weekend get-away to visit some great friends of ours, Dario and Jaclyn, at their home in downtown Austin.  Admittedly, this trip had an ulterior motive, in that we wanted to spend time with them, but we also knew we could easily squeeze in 3 – 4 PCC-worthy restaurants during the trip. ;)  In fact, I don’t think Adam and I can go anywhere anymore without thinking about what fun and famous restaurant we’re going to try on the trip. I know…it’s a disease! 🙂

Well on this trip, the first place on our list was the Hula Hut, an old favorite of Adam’s he would always try to squeeze in when passing through Austin during his work travels.  We were recently watching an old episode of Travel Channel’s "Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels" and were pleasantly surprised to see that she visited Hula Hut during her trip; and because we knew we were heading to Austin in the near future and Adam is a big fan, we thought it only appropriate to add it to the Pop Culture Cuisine menu.

Now if you are from the Austin or Dallas areas, you are sure to be familiar with Chuy’s, the uber – popular chain of tex-mex joints scattered throughout both cities.  Well…Chuy’s owners (Mike Young , John Zapp and Andy Norton) also created the extremely popular Hula Hut in 1993.  Located on beautiful Lake Austin, they decided this joint needed a jolt of life, rather than another typical tex-mex place that are scattered around every corner in the state.  So why not mix it up a bit and pretend we are in the tropics?  Thus, Hula Hut and the term “Mexonesian” was born.  Yes I said it…“Mexonesian,” or in other words a fusion of Mexican favorites with a Polynesian/island flair, complete with palm trees, grass hutch tops, and tiki torches. In other words, it feels as if you stepped off onto a tropical island when you step inside. 

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Hula Hut is a massive establishment, but one that is packed to the gills on a Friday or Saturday night, especially when the weather is nice.  Patrons love to be able to sit outside on the two back patios and watch the sun set over the lake while enjoying a drink. Also, free chips…and you know how much people love those! 🙂 Dario and Jaclyn arrived shortly before us and were able to put our name in for an outdoor table. In the meantime we were lucky enough to score an outside table by the bar and enjoy that same scene I described earlier.  Unfortunately, right after placing our drink order, we realized our waitress was “feelin’ a little good” and was likely not going to be of much service. Yes…she was drunk!, but we didn’t let that ruin the evening, and by the time we were seated, it had all become quite comical. If fact, when asked if she was ok, she openly admitted how "wasted" she was from other patrons buying her shots, and we all had to laugh and tip our hats at her candor. 🙂

After being seated, I decided to order one of their fun lemonade type drinks as a fun start to the evening…

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It was cool and refreshing and not too sweet, but as drinks like this go, because it was so smooth, it could be very easy to drink far too many. ;)  So, I just had the one and that was good enough for me! 

While we continued to chat, I took some time to peruse the menu, since I was the only one of us who had never eaten here.  Unfortunately, while we were waiting that hour or so, I had managed to eat my weight in chips and salsa and was no longer all that hungry.  Therefore, I decided I would order an appetizer and then take bites of Adam’s dish, which turned out to be ginormous!  So, I ordered a stuffed avocado that sounded tasty and Adam got his standard Roasted Chicken Pipeline Enchilada. 

*I want to take a brief moment right now and mention that I can’t find the stuffed avocado on their online menu, nor must I have read the menu that closely. Being that it is an appetizer, what I am about to show you, I totally did not expect…

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I read "fried" somewhere in the description, but I guess I didn’t fully grasp that the entire thing was literally fried! Oh well, it still looked darn good and I dug right in; and that was about as far as I got…one bite in.  I must have missed the part in the item description that mentioned some ingredient that literally lit my mouth on fire on the first bite (that’s cause it wasn’t there!!! L).  I know I have mentioned before that I am a major wimp when it comes to spicy foods, and this was not just spicy…it was downright hot!  So hot in fact that I didn’t really eat any more bites past that. If feel that if something has this much kick, the menu ought to say something…you know…for wimps like me. What…am I just supposed to know that it is fireball avocado without any mention on the menu about it? Perhaps it is a new type of avocado from South America that I’d yet to experience. I mean, it’s possible…right? 😉 Well, let’s just say that it was a good think for those chips and salsa, or it might have ruined my overall experience. But, Adam’s dish was so big and one of the Hula Hut’s most popular items, that having some of it completely made up for my dish’s failure…

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I mean let’s be real…this is the enchilada mother-load! It could give birth to like 5 normal enchiladas! Truthfully, I think we should just call it what it really is…a burrito. J  Needless to say, Adam could not finish the whole plate and I was able to get in a few bites, which were great.  It is a huge corn tortilla stuffed with chicken and cheese and then topped with a cheesy sauce that has a nice zing (a NICE zing…not a light your mouth on fire zing!).  It’s a simple dish, but prepared well and with flavors that go very well together.  Adam felt it was not as “awesome” as he had remembered, but we chalked that up to the fact that we now live in Dallas and he has had similar dishes since living here, where as when he used to visit the Hula Hut it was a very unique dish to him.  Still, nostalgia aside, he thought it was just ok, although he admitted it did hit the spot and he managed to put a nice dent into that pipeline (and Dario ordered the same thing and must have really liked it, because he completely finished his…way to go Dario!).

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Hula Hut is a fun, hopping, joint that fits in an area that loves to be unique, laid back, and eccentric. I mentioned above that it is very popular around Austin, especially on peak nights, so it would be wise to get there early or plan to wait.  In truth, waiting can be a nice time to enjoy the boats coming in, watching the sun set, and sharing drinks and conversation with friends.  Still, if that is not your style, be prepared, because it is not a quick ‘in-and-out’ sort of place.  As I alluded to above, the ambiance is really fun and festive.  One could say that they really took the Island and Polynesian theme and ran with it. But, it truly complements the laid-back atmosphere, and as they say “Undeniably different…undeniably Austin!” 

Our service (once we were seated for dinner) was excellent (good job Leon)! We rarely had to wait on anything, including our food; and given how busy they were, I thought they did a fantastic job.  As far as a signature dish for Hula Hut…I’d say they don’t really have one in particular, but their pipeline enchiladas and tubular tacos, aside from being unique in their naming, seemed to be the most popular and most ordered items.  As far as taste goes, although it may not have lived up to the expectations (and memories), I enjoyed everything I tried, and even think that had my avocado not been so spicy, it would have been delicious.  In short…the food was all prepared well, quickly, and hit the spot, not to mention that their prices are very reasonable, as well, ranging from $7 – $15 for most of their typical dishes, which for the amount of food they give you, I think is a good deal.  Overall, we truly enjoyed our experience at the Hula Hut, but would likely only return in the future to take in the scenery and grab a few cocktails with friends; and with that, I give the Hula Hut 3 1/2 Little Piggies.

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