Tyson's sign by Gia Marie Houck

Airport Blvd. Showdown(e): #teamtysons vs. #teamgrand

As comedians, we can get embroiled in dumb bits and running jokes that are only entertaining to those on the inside. In this case, nothing could be more important to the well-being of humanity and necessitate public debate than the ColdTowne rivalry between those who are #teamtysons (tacos) or #teamgrand for pre and post-show hangouts. In this blog post, we get takes from those on one side or the other of the Airport Blvd debate, as well as those who champion a new hero [insert echo effects: (hero) (hero) (hero)].
Please note: The views expressed are each respondent’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of ColdTowne Theater, because we’re partial to both.
Caitlin McNally, #teamtysons

Caitlin McNally, #teamtysons

Caitlin McNally
A #TeamTysons haiku:

I like to drink beer
Tacos are important too
Tyson’s has both though

Emma Holder
Tyson’s is great. They make good tacos, they have beer they are friendly. I like going to both places, but if I had to choose one, it would always and forever be The Grand. The Grand is more than just a dive bar/pool hall, it is a home. I joke that it is my Cheers but it’s true. Every bartender there knows my drink order and my name. I have been going there after shows and rehearsals since I started improvising at ColdTowne in 2008. The smoking ban had been in effect or was just going into effect but the servers at the Grand didn’t give AF and would bring you a little plastic cup of water for an impromptu ashtray if you lit up inside. That was 9 years ago and they (thankfully) don’t do that anymore. The Grand is now clean and renovated and has a great patio for smoking (not that anyone should smoke but I am not your mom), but that history is still there for me and the drinks are still as cheap as they were when everyone was smoking inside. I love that I have never played pool there but don’t feel out of place in a bar that is 70% pool hall. In fact, the pool hall gives you space you rarely find in a bar. The Grand is expansive, it is its own little universe, a microcosm of chill. You can always find a quiet spot to talk with friends, you can hide from people you don’t want to see but easily see anyone you do want to run into.I love that the Grand is at least partially female owned and operated. Rachel is one of the owners and she is awesome. TBH I don’t know exactly who else owns it because everyone who works there is so chill they could all be owners and I wouldn’t have any idea.

Emma Holder headshot

Emma Holder, #teamgrand

I only know Rachel is an owner because it came up in conversation when I was complimenting all the really awesome changes she has made. I like supporting a female owned business, but it’s more than just that. The servers and bartenders all hang out there when they aren’t working. This speaks to how great a place it is. The staff seems to like each other and like their place of work. That makes me happy. The Grand makes me happy. Whenever I do a cleanse and am not drinking, I still go to The Grand. Alcohol is great but honestly I just love this weird giant bar with an even bigger heart. They also have tacos and other food now and it is pretty good but you can still get a Digiorno pizza cooked in their legit pizza oven. #teamgrand

Ashley Blom, Food Writer
From a purely culinary lens, without question, Tyson’s is the clear winner. I feel confident in my authority to declare this as I am a local food blogger and published author (forkingup.com and “How to Eat a Lobster and Other Culinary Enigmas Explained” Quirk books 2017). So, trust me when I say this is no contest. Let’s break it down.

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Ashley Blom, Food Writer and author of “How to Eat a Lobster” #teamtysons

Tyson’s: While the jury’s out on whether or not their tortillas are made in-house, they’re definitely of a higher quality than price-comparable taco joints in the city. The breakfast taco selection is the clear star of the show, taking up the majority of the real estate on the board. And the expertly crafted Austin favorite is certainly worth a bite. However, their lunch and dinner tacos are equally unique and tasty. What other place in town can you get a crispy duck in any form for under $5? I challenge you to try. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any meat on their menu that isn’t deliciously cooked to perfection.

Their sides deserve a mention as well–the street corn and queso are both top notch. For those who don’t trust their house specialties can build their own, and as an added bonus, if you order enough of them they’ll name a taco after you. Even better, if you’re a troubadour of sorts they’ll allow you to sing for your supper–a taco a song.

Alcohol is purely secondary in my review, but their new selection of draft and canned beer has something for everyone. I recently found the new Austin Eastcider’s Blood Orange (they happen to be sponsoring Not the Gayest Show You’ll Ever See if you’d like to try a sample!) in their display. The crisp, light flavor of orange and cider pairs wonderfully with their braised beef cheek Barbacoa taco or perhaps a Diablo Shrimp.

Overall, Tyson’s provides some of the most unique and tasty tacos in town, and are the only option for hungry theater-goers either before or after a show.

The Grand: The markup on grocery store frozen pizza should be enough to keep any food-conscious person from even considering this place as a viable option for post-show snacking, or food consuming in general. They make no effort to hide the fact their offerings are Dijorno’s pizzas and, occasionally, a hastily thrown together taco or “nacho” akin to what you’d find at a movie theater, after being dried out under heat lamps for hours. And for about the same price.

I will give them credit for their alcohol specials–I’ve enjoyed a pitcher of cold draft beer many times while in their “Mafia Room.” This review is purely about the food, which comes off as more of an afterthought and quick buck than a solid attempt to appeal to anything more than a tipsy bar patron who forgot to hit In-n-Out on his way in.

But while their beer drafts and bottles are decent, the cocktails are definitely not their strong suit. They did not have the ingredients for an Old Fashioned, a popular cocktail, on at least 3 occasions, and anything beyond a simple gin and tonic seems a bit out of their range. No offense intended to the bartenders, the bar simply does not cater to those wanting something more than a simple beer.

One simply does not visit The Grand for food. If you have $10 in your pocket, go get three tacos from Tyson’s and then head to The Grand, if you must, to play some pool and sip some draft beer. #TeamTysons.

michaels-face

Michael Perkins, #teammcguiresclocks

Michael Perkins
Perhaps, the cognac is speaking for me and so I will be brief. My concern lies not with the space we inhabit but rather, with the time allowed us to do so. For those with interests akin to my own, please know that there is a place where they may be discussed. The space is secret. The time could never be for those who would blaze it with Grandfather Time.

Everything you need to know to find us is in this message. #teammcguiresclocks

Xaria Coleman

Xaria Coleman, #teamtysons

Xaria Coleman, #teamtysons

The Grand is dope, I’ve had my past couple of birthdays there and have hung out in the Mafia Room quite the bit. Pun intended. Buuuutttt Tyson’s is the bees knees and real OG’s remember when they had delicious burgeeeerrss!!!  Which, I will try to convince them to bring back. It’s better because they are a somewhat young growing business, they have been stepping up their game recently and you can tell they mean business, but they’re also about love. Their logo is literally a heart and the food fills mine with meet, cheese and love. Here’s my breakdown…

Xaria's comparison chart

Xaria’s comparison chart

Danielle Gonzalez

Danielle Gonzalez, #teamtysonsbutkindateamgrandnow

Danielle Gonzalez, #teamtysonsbutkindateamgrandnow?

A small but hopefully valid point. As someone who is new to the ColdTowne community with heaps and bundles of social anxiety, I felt (and feel) much more comfortable going to Tyson’s after a show. The Grand definitely has that “everyone knows your name we come here all the time” atmosphere, but only if that’s true. I remember being very nervous my first, 10 times?, going to the grand because it felt like a space with a history I wasn’t a part of. Tyson’s like that, which feels great for a dork like me. It’s a place where everyone can go, there’s no special things you should know. It’s just a place where you can eat and exist, never worrying if you’re out of place.

At the end of the day, it matters less to us which business you prefer frequenting before or after the shows at ColdTowne (not mentioned here: Sweet Ritual, Omelettry, Juice Peddler, Kome, Sala + Betty, House Pizzeria or ESP): what matters is that we’re in this love together and that locally-owned Airport Blvd businesses are our friends and neighbors and what makes Austin great.