It all happened when my friend in I were stuck in south Paris at three in the morning and were as drunk as could be. The subway had stopped running and my friend was swaying as she struggled to memorize the five connections we would have to take to get back to our apartment on the north side of town. I turned around and saw a taxi idling not 10 meters from where we were. As we sailed down empty streets and were offered a rare view of a deserted Paris, I thought to myself, “This is the best 13 Euros I have ever spent.” Since that moment, I now refuse to take a taxi unless I know it will be an equally good idea. I will walk as far as possible, take the subway (it’s cheaper, anyways), or do something else, as long as it prevents me from hailing a taxi.
My philosophy of avoiding those impulses has extended to other parts of my life. I don’t eat Fritos every time they look appealing – which is always. Nor do I give into my constant burger urge. Instead, I go get an amazing burger when I get together with likeminded friends. And I don’t go somewhere like Wendy’s. I go to a bar or a place like Dirty Martin’s where the burger is guaranteed to absorb me completely. Friends should be freaked out by how much I am enjoying something. But that’s not the real reason I have become so discerning. I do it because I enjoy things more. By filtering out frivolous occurrences, I make sure all my experiences are quality.
Some people may see this as a natural extension of my control issues, like insisting on driving and bogarting the remote. And they might be right. But who wouldn’t like to improve the quality of their life by making everything they do awesome?
I call this the “best thing ever” philosophy. Having or doing the best thing ever doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend a lot. You might have to drive a little further or wait for a place to open, though. I want everybody to have the best thing ever, so I’m going to share some of the places that make me smile in the hope that they will do the same for you.
Pizza. While I enjoy a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut as much as the next person, I’ve had my life’s fill of shitty pizza. Now I either fight the crowds at Home Slice Pizza or walk down to The Onion. Both do New York–style pizza the way it should be done.
Sandwiches. Bread can make or break a sandwich. For that reason, I go to Upper Crust Bakery. Their croissants elevate anything inside. Their bread isn’t the only attraction – their chicken salad with grapes and walnuts alone makes Upper Crust worth the trip. New World Deli is a close second. Their meatloaf sandwich dipped in broccoli cheese soup is certainly a best thing ever. The Italian sausage sub at Delaware Subs also falls into this category. It’s pretty simple: Italian sausage, marinara sauce, sweet and hot peppers, onions, and provolone cheese. I don’t exactly know what makes them so delicious so I don’t question it. I do know that the fact that it’s only available on Fridays makes it taste even better.
For something a little different, I go to Tâm Deli on North Lamar. Their Vietnamese sandwiches, or bánh mì, are the best thing to come out of imperialism. Fillings like pâté, eggs, charred pork, or garlic shrimp are accompanied by fresh jalapeño, carrots, and cilantro on French baguettes that are crunchy like they should be. And they’re cheap, too. Prices range from $3–$5. For $.50 more, you can finish off your meal with an exquisite French cream puff filled with crème anglaise.
If I want to make Mexican/Tex Mex count, I head down south to Evita’s Botanitas. Entrees are easy. It’s not hard to find a place with great enchiladas or tamales. When even the rice, guacamole, and beans all qualify as the best you’ve ever had, you’ve found something special: Evita’s.
BBQ is best when it’s about 30 minutes outside of Austin. Unfortunately, you can’t always run out to Llano, Lockhart, or Luling every time you crave meat. Even if you could, the hours aren’t that convenient. When in town, I go to Ruby’s. Not Rudy’s. You wouldn’t expect to find serious central Texas BBQ located just north of UT, but this is the real stuff. They’re open until midnight every day and serve all natural, hormone-free meat cooked all day in a pit. For $5, you can get a chopped beef plate that includes two sides and enough chopped beef and bread for a sandwich. I usually view sides as a waste of space that should be taken up by meat, but Ruby’s macaroni and cheese, beans, and potato salad always deserve a place next to my meat.
Every meal can be the best thing ever. You just have to work at it. So next time you feel like Tex Mex, drive right on past Maudie’s and never feel like your food wasn’t worth the 10 bucks you just threw down.