just one more geek in a sea of austin techies

July 1, 2012

Excellent food, decent prices and no wait #EatAustin

With small kids in the mix my wife and I don't get to try new restaurants as often as we used to.  This weekend was different: we managed to sample some new spots (kids included) and still stay finances-friendly.  In all I added three new food vendors to my growing list of preferred Austin eateries.  In this post I'll share our experience with a new "kids eat free breakfast" find and, true to the atxgeek blog theme, manage to clumsily tie-in and rant about something technical in the process...

In Search of:  Kids Eat Free
Ever the frugal consumer, I'm always in search of places with both "kids eat free" offers and good food.  Fortunately my wife is a fan of another Blogger-based website, Free Fun in Austin (we recently sat and chatted with the very nice lady who operates the site but that's another story.)  The Free Fun site includes a Free Food section which is basically a big "kids eat free" list. That list helped us plan our recent Saturday morning meal.

Breakfast at FoodHeads
When it comes to quality breakfast selections your "kids eat free" choices are severely limited even in a town as big as Austin. Thanks to the Free Fun site, we were alerted to a summertime offer from boutique cafe FoodHeads on 34th street near Guadalupe:  kids eat free Monday through Saturday from 7am to 10am.  Even better, only one adult meal is required to qualify for two free kids meals.  The kids menu is somewhat slim but the food quality is very good.

We have two kids but ended up purchasing a third kids meal as our littlest one didn't care for his original choice.  I had to persuade the worker/server/hostess that I *should* pay for the third $3.99 kids meal since I only have two kids and each had already gotten one free meal.  I argued that the spirit of the offer is that each kid gets a free meal, not unlimited free meals.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed to charge me for the third meal (I hope I didn't mess up a good loophole for everyone else with kids.)  More about that server in a bit.

FoodHeads    Sandwich at FoodHeads


  • Saturday morning the place is cool, quiet and relatively empty -- you have easy parking, no wait and your pick of most any table inside or out.
  • Breakfast hours include breakfast tacos and breakfast sandwiches plus any of the regular menu items including soups, salads and sandwiches -- you're not restricted to a "breakfast only" menu.
  • Summer deal: Kids eat free till 10am! (also Thursday through Saturday from 4pm to 6:30pm).
  • The converted house and mismatched furniture helps to create a feeling that you are somewhere with a bit of character rather than just in another strip-mall eatery.
Being our first visit, we weren't aware of FoodHeads' protocol.  The girl acting as worker/server/hostess didn't attempt to guide us or offer any information unless we specifically asked:
  • Do we wait to be seated?
    No, you seat yourself.  This is fine but it would have been great if the worker/server/hostess cleaning a table just outside the front door had said something other than "Hello" as we stood debating whether we should seat ourselves.
  • Do we wait to order from the table?  
    No, there is an inside counter to order from on the far back wall though this is impossible to see if you seat yourself outside or sit inside on the right half of the main room.  Again, we were left to discover this on our own.
  • How long should we wait before asking about the drinks we ordered?
    You don't wait -- all the drinks are self-serve.  Upon reflection this should have been obvious to us since drink stations flank the walls to either side of the order counter.  Still, the worker/server/hostess could have said something to that effect after we made it clear it was our first visit.
I can't really say these were FoodHead cons -- they were simply the result you can often get with an inexperienced server (remember to tip your waitstaff well when they do the job right!)  The worker/server/hostess was generally friendly if not overly helpful.

  • All the meats and cheeses were the excellent deli quality you'd expect.  The cheese quality was especially apparent in the kids' Cheese Quesadilla and in the Ham and Cheese Omelet.
  • The sandwich breads were ok.  Nothing bad but nothing great for the particular items we ordered.
  • The homemade lemonade was only so-so at best.  It seemed almost a waste of effort.
  • The coffee ($2) was good but it ran out well before filling my 12oz mug.  The container of creamer (half-and-half) was already completely out.  There was only one other table of customers in the place!  The manager dispatched someone to the store for more creamer.  I had a coffee refill with creamer just before we finished our meal (yea!) but gulping down a cup at the end of the meal didn't quite live up to my original plan of leisurely sipping coffee while waiting for the meal to arrive (boo!)
  • My Gypsy Grove Sandwich was quite good.  However, at $9.95 it was the most expensive sandwich on the menu -- I think I'd probably have been just as happy with one of the $7.95 offerings.  My wife's BLT&A (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado) was every bit as tasty but only cost $6.25.
  • The kids' French Toast breakfast portion was slim compared to the other "kids eat free" breakfast item portions.  I'm not complaining about a free item -- just pointing out the facts.  Portion-wise your free kids' meal opportunity is best spent on the excellent Ham and Cheese Omelet.

THE WEBSITE (this is a tech blog, after all): 

October, 2012 UPDATE:
The following website details are now completely out-of-date as FoodHeads has reworked their website and addressed most of the items I'd previously called out. The website still does not include information on kid's food selections but, interestingly, the restaurant has also done away with the picture-framed kids menu that formerly adorned the order counter -- there is now no "kids menu" at all (does it *not* pay to be family-friendly?!?)  To FoodHead's credit they still whipped up an excellent no-longer-on-the-menu Ham and Cheese Omelet for my 4-year-old after I asked and the hostess looked up the old kids menu items on a computer in the back room.

Web Designed, not Web Developed
  • There is no META information other than the page titles.  No page descriptions, no categorization tags, etc. 
  • The website lacks a location map and does not list the address as plain text.  The address is presented as a graphic rotated 90-degrees counter-clockwise that reads vertically from bottom-to-top instead of the standard, easier-to-read left-to-right text arrangement.
  • The phone number is also a graphic rather than plain text.
  • Neither the address nor the phone number graphics feature ALT text attributes. (508 compliance issue)
  • Neither the address nor the phone number is repeated as plain text in a footer or on another page.
  • There is no "Contact Us" page -- not even for FoodHeads' catering side of the business.
  • Every page features a smallish graphic announcing "Best Lunch Spot 2005, 2006 by Austin City Search Restaurant Poll".  Like the address and phone number graphics, this is not duplicated anywhere as plain text, as an ALT attribute, in a META tag or via a link to another page/site.  The info is extremely unlikely to be picked up (from the FoodHeads site) by any search engine.
  • There is no mention of the all-summer-long "kids eat free" deal.
  • The kids menu is not included on the website nor is there an indication that a kids menu is offered.
  • FoodHeads' ratings are impressive:  4.5 out of 5 stars from Yelp (272 reviews);  92% from UrbanSpoon (144 votes); 4 out of 5 stars from FearlessCritic.  However, none of these impressive social media ratings are linked to or even mentioned on the FoodHeads website.
  • FoodHeads has a Twitter account @FoodHeadsCafe as well as as Facebook page.  Strangely neither one is linked to or mentioned on the FoodHeads website.
In short, some uninformed design and implementation decisions were made regarding the treatment of simple, basic business info.  The results are not good for usability and are downright bad for SEO.

Are the latest announcements always made via Facebook and Twitter?  If so why doesn't the website say so and provide some links?  
As a parent looking for kid-friendly eateries, I would have passed based solely on info from FoodHeads' website if not also for the useful information provided by Free Fun in Austin
impaired customers who rely on screen reading software will most definitely be left out in the cold as they have no means to determine FoodHeads' address or phone number. On this count it's worth noting that within Austin's 271 square mile city limits area, FoodHeads is located a scant 1.2 miles from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

A handful of relatively small modifications would empower the existing
FoodHeads website to benefit the business as fully as it should without added expense or maintenance.  This is not a complaint regarding FoodHeads' seeming lack of awareness regarding web standards but rather a basic example (ok, rant) of the potential positive impact of employing professional / responsible web developers versus someone who can "make it look good" but has no real background in delivering websites for the masses.  The items detailed above are so simple that, if I knew the owners, I'd do the modifications myself in trade for more of those tasty sandwiches (call me!)  I have, in fact, traded food for web development (a custom online shopping cart) for another boutique restaurant located just four blocks from FoodHeads ...but that's a blog post for another day.

Bottom Line:  the eating experience
Back to what really matters:  the food!  In all I quite liked FoodHeads though the business missed a number of small opportunities to raise its game and make a better first impression.  My wife agreed -- she had no shortage of small complaints regarding the service but was pleased with the food.  I've since made a second visit with my kids -- we had a pleasant experience with consistently tasty sandwiches all around.

The bottom line is that the overall food quality is very good and the value of the summertime kids eat free offer simply can't be ignored.  If you like soup/salad/sandwich fare and have small children I definitely recommend that you check the place out before the summertime kids eat free offer expires.

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