Royal Jelly: A Royal Surprise

Jim – [explaining to Dwight that he can’t be his Bestish Mensch] I just… really wish there was something I could do [Jim looks off into the distance].

Dwight – [turns around, surprised] – Michael. I can’t believe you came.

Michael – That’s what she said.

I love being surprised… the good way. It makes me feel a flurry of emotions in a very short span of time, and it reminds me that life is filled with unexpected twists and turns. It can be as simple as someone leaving a bag of chips on your desk for no reason, or as miraculous as a family member getting pregnant after years of trying (and trust me, I’m speaking from experience here). But a FOOD surprise? That’s rare. In fact, the older you get, and the more your palette develops, the less likely your jaw will drop from a new food experience. Here, I even took the time to graph it: 

Note: This is a very generalized graph. Clearly, if you’ve been eating white truffles since birth, the line will dip much quicker for you

Well, Royal Jelly, good job, because you done gone and surprised me. Now, I’ll admit, there were multiple factors at play here. Chef Jason Salas was gracious enough to invite me to show off his personal favorites on a menu that he personally created. I didn’t read any Yelp reviews, or ask any of my friends how their experience was, or check Insta for pictures, so I had absolutely no expectations other than from taking a glimpse of their menu. In fact, if anything, I had negative expectations. I thought to myself, “What? Korean, Canadian, Cuban, Italian, and American influences all on one menu?” I thought there was no way Royal Jelly could execute such an eclectic menu…

…until Glen and I walked inside.

Who doesn’t love open kitchens?

Comfortable couches, stools, tables, an open kitchen – all of it comes together to create a hangout-y kind of vibe. It borders on a Friends at the Central Perk, drinking around the table feeling, except with alcohol instead of coffee. There was a good mixture of people drinking, eating, relaxing, and just talking.

Then came the drinks.

Left to right: Old fashioned with chocolate bitters, Paloma

I’d never had an old fashioned with chocolate bitters, but let me tell you, it definitely works. I also enjoyed my Paloma, and I love that it’s served in a Topo Chico bottle.

Onward to the feast! Dilly dilly!

Joining us were Desmond and Patty with @IEatYouFollow

Just posting these photos on here is making me reminisce about that night – that’s how strong of an impression this place made on me. For you keen observers out there, you may have noticed that we had so much food, it was nearly falling off the table. Chef S insisted that we shouldn’t settle for any less.

K-town brussels sprouts

Boy, do I love me some brussels. Uchi, anybody? Imagine Uchi’s (but without the crispy outer leaves), mix in some Chi’lantro flavors, and you get the K-town brussels. Absolutely delicious. I couldn’t stop eating these even after everyone else stopped.

Duck Poutine that even the Canadian loved

Wow. I’ve been to Canada. Glen is Canadian. We both agreed that this poutine is worth going back for. Flavorful gravy, slightly melted cheese curds, and a good potato fry to duck ratio. It doesn’t try too hard to be fancy, sticking to the poutine fundamentals. Fries, check. Cheese, check. Gravy, check. Duck? Why not? It adds a different dimension of flavor, and really elevates this dish.

Special edition lamb burger with a side of tots

Great char on the burger, fresh arugula, goat cheese was melted perfectly. You really can’t ask for a better burger. I’m not entirely sure if this is offered on their menu, but it definitely inspires confidence in their other burgers for me. Also, tots. Because who doesn’t love tots?

The Cubana

Not a Cubana fan. But I’ve got no complaints about this one. Tender, tasty pork belly, flanked by crisp, well seasoned veggies and gruyere cheese. Extremely nice texture on the bread. You can just tell from looking at the picture. If you do like Cubanas, this one won’t steer you wrong.

Pork belly tacos, side of yuca – there is a vegetarian option w/ fried avocado

Okay, okay, I know what a lot of you are thinking. Yeah, another sunny side up egg for the gram, that’s it. Uhm, not this time. The ingredients in these tacos all combine into a very unforgettable, taste bud tickling experience. You can’t see it that well, but there’s pineapple slaw in there. To you pineapple haters out there, IT WORKS. Trust me. It adds a nice bite to the taco, and the sweetness complements the pork belly very well, giving it a cool, refreshing, almost tropical-like taste. The egg not only makes the dish look pretty, but it too has a place. The texture of it works in harmony – you already have a bite from the pineapple and chewiness from the pork. Why not throw in a fluffy egg? It also adds an almost excessive amount of volume to the entire taco, so that every bite you take is going to be filled to the brim with ingredients. Makes sense now why there are two tortillas supporting it, doesn’t it?

And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about those yuca fries in the back. Nice, outer crisp. Well seasoned. Starchy, yummy yuca inside. Heck. Yes.

“That’s amore!”

Being 100% honest here – you can taste the love put into these meatballs. To start, the meat in them is done well. Nice bite. You never taste the empty space or the over-breadedness that you get at some other places. No gaminess that lamb has sometimes. But that sauce, though. That flippin’ bolognese sauce. It is out of this world. You just want to take a piece of bread and swipe up all the sauce that stays on the bottom after the meatballs are gone. My mouth is watering just remembering the amazing depth of flavor that it had. Absolutely tremendous. And the craziest part? This isn’t even an Italian restaurant! My mind was blown, and I think I’m still in shock even a week later.

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Quite a busy part of Austin during rush hour

I loved the food so much that I decided to flip the order in which I did this post so that the food would be highlighted first. Be aware that Royal Jelly is on a busy street, and parking may seem daunting to find. There are spaces directly in front of the restaurant, to the side, and across the street. Try to approach it from Lamar – I went on St. Johns heading West. The light at the St. Johns and Lamar intersection is quite a pain, so try to avoid driving that route if possible.

There’s a nice patio out front for seating, but we didn’t get to utilize it since it was raining and cold that night.

On Wednesdays, they have a $3 Old Fashioned, $7 burger special. $20 date with great food, sitting on a comfy couch, inside a place with great ambiance, anyone?

I did NOT get to experience the bathroom, but this article on Gather praises it as one of the top 5 coolest in Austin.

I found out after eating there that Royal Jelly is rated 4.7 on Google, and 4.5 on Yelp with 160 reviews.

Is this place worth your time? A million times yes.

Don’t forget to make your way to @ATXFoodiesBlog for more pictures that are sure to make your tummy rumble with hunger

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Thanks, @theAustinChef @AustinTexasFood (Chef Salas, not pictured) for hosting, for providing the wonderful meal, and for continuing to support my page. The past two weeks have been a roller coaster of unforgettable food

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Cheers to @IEatYouFollow who was one of my inspirations from this week to kick this blog back into gear. I respect what you’re doing, and keep going!

Glen Mar

You already know Glen from my previous post


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