Austin’s hottest new picnic-style joint “announces itself boldly” with a unique, flashing neon sign, said Matthew Odam in The Austin American-Statesman. “A leggy dame holding a chicken leg” beckons passing drivers to pull in beneath her glow for a piping-hot meal that, taste-wise, “has few rivals.” The fried chicken originated at chef James Holmes’s more upscale Olivia, but was too popular to remain just a weekly special there. Holmes couldn’t resist broadening Lucy’s menu to Gulf oysters, Texas chili, and daily-special sausages, but the chicken and sides are the reasons to visit. The birds served at Lucy’s are raised on vegetarian diets, and the parts are soaked for 24 hours in a buttermilk brine before cooking. Once the chicken has been fried to “rust-colored perfection,” the “knobby skin enshrines tangy, buttery meat made salty by a dash of soy sauce and piqued by cayenne and paprika.” Enjoy your bucket with some sides of smashed grilled potatoes and a few cold beers, but be sure to leave room for a slice of the oat-streusel shoofly pie.So, a few weeks ago Hubby and I grabbed our friend Mouse and set out to find "Lucy". First off, I love a place where I get the back story, so right off the bat from reading the above blurb I was IN. It turns out that College Ave is a little side street, almost a back alley running in between Oltorf and S. Congress. We almost missed it, but then you see the "leggy dame" and you know you are in the right place. Parking is minimal at best and there are signs EVERYWHERE telling you NOT to park at the gas station across the street or you will be towed. We parked down the street about a block. It was not a big deal.
When you walk up there is a big picnic area outside and a small indoor seating area. In being an uncharacteristically cool day in Texas, we opted for outside. The staff is wonderfully attentive without being intrusive. They are also friendly and a little chatty, which I enjoy.
We crack the menus, and first off I notice that this is more than fried chicken, much more. They have deep fried deviled eggs, fried chicken livers (I'm a big fan of chicken liver) and a bunch of other interesting things. They also have some serious down-home southern sides. Right away we HAVE to order the calf fries because, to be blunt, testicles have been on my foodie bucket list for years.
We ordered a basket of chicken to split, and several sides. The chicken is amazing! The skin is crisp and golden, but not greasy. The meat is incredibly moist. They serve all their chicken with pickles and jalapeños on top. [Side note: They add jalapeños to EVERYTHING in Texas, so if you don't like spicy be on guard!] In the future I will ask them to leave the peppers off. For sides we ordered collards (another food I have always wanted to try), Mexi-coke mashed sweet potatoes and smashed, grilled potatoes. I would order all three again in a heart beat. To be honest, MY sweet potatoes are better (because what isn't better with whiskey?) but I only make them once a year, so there is that caveat. The grilled potatoes were delicious, as only something swimming in butter can be. The collards were tasty. Having never had them before, I don't know if they were good, as compared to others; but they were delicious. They were much more vinegary than I anticipated, but that bite went well with the succulent chicken.
The piece de resistance of the meal HAD to be the dessert. Mouse, Hubby and I each ordered a different type of pie, and then we all shared. We got the Sweet Tea pie, S'Mores pie and Shoofly pie. The S'Mores pie was delicious, but very rich. The chocolate layer was akin to a solid hunk of ganache and too sweet for more than just a couple of bites. The Shoofly pie was lovely, with a strong molasses flavor. It was not like the syrupy, sweet shoofly pie you get in Pennsylvania, but more like a moist oatmeal cake with molasses mixed in. The shoofly was Hubby's favorite, and Mouse tucked into the S'mores pie with delight. This worked out for me, because in my estimation the best thing on the entire Lucy's menu is the Sweet Tea pie!
The menu describes it as a chess pie with lemon and tea added. I just call it heaven! I was kind of glad that neither Hubby nor Mouse chose it as their favorite - more for me! You can buy whole pies to take home, but they were a bit pricey. I was very tempted though. In fact, the overall pricing was decent and the food was certainly worth it, but if you decide to order a bunch of things in order to taste a variety (as I am prone to do) it will get expensive fast, but you will end up with yummy leftovers! Again, our friendly waiter was happy to chat with us and provide a myriad of little cups and containers to stow our chicken bounty for the trip home.
Our experience was so enjoyable, that a little over a week later when my friends from And That is What He/She Said called and said they were passing through Austin, we suggested meeting up at Lucy's for some chow. (Any excuse for more of that pie!) You can read their review of Lucy's HERE.
This time we sat inside. This is good, because I learned upon leaving after our first visit that the blackboard specials are only listed inside. Make sure to stick your head in even if you are "picnicking" or you might miss out on some gourmet salads or frog legs! However, while the outside is laid back and pleasant, the inside is ... LOUD. We had trouble even carrying on a conversation. Again, the waiter (a different one) was awesome. He got brownie points for not needing an explanation of what goes into an Arnold Palmer. [Another side note: They brew their own tea and make their own lemonade. The lemonade is TART, so even though I drink my iced tea with nothing in it, I mix lemonade with "sweet tea" at Lucy's to get more sugar in the cup.]
Hubby and I skipped the chicken and decided to nosh on fried chicken livers and fried chicken gizzards. The waiter offered us a basket of half each, which we immediately dubbed as "fried lizzards". They were both so awesome that we ordered a second basket! They come with a spicy sauce, so I exhibited my north-east plumage and asked for the ranch sauce I enjoyed on the calf fries on our first visit. I was adamant about ordering more sweet tea pie, and I sampled the apple pie that our friends ordered. It was nice, but (again) not to be vain, but mine is better. I do have to give them props on their pie crust. The sweet tea pie and the apple pie have the same type of crust, and it is out of this world. When you run out of filling you still want to eat every last bite of that yummy crust! I wonder if I can wheedle the recipe out of them ...
So Lucy's seductive leg wave drew me in. The pie alone will keep me going back. Check it out at 2218 College Ave., (512) 297-2423.