15 February 2012

Places to Visit: Austin

Oh, hello...back again? 

So for a long, long time I thought I'd make it through life never visiting Texas. What's Texas got that I need to see? They say "Don't mess with Texas," and I pretty much agreed, until I had the chance to go to Austin and Dallas for work recently.

And then...I stuck around Austin for a few days exploring the city with a former Grand Rapidian who has lived in Austin for the past couple years. Austin is the capital of Texas and one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and I now know why!

You like music? Yes, they're the live music capital of the world. You like food? I don't know if they have any official food claims to fame, but I'm willing to bestow the Fresh Starr Fish seal of approval. Modern architecture your thing? They've got that in spades. Have you been? Do you love it too? If you haven't been, here are a few things I loved about it that maybe you will too when you go:

Lambert's Downtown BBQ, 401 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX. We went on a Thursday night to see some bands upstairs, so no BBQ, but my meat eater friends say it's good!  The bands were all were pretty darn good. The friendly opening band called Young Girls gave us their CD after the show when we told them we liked them best of the three that played. Oh and Lambert's has the best Coconut Cream Pie. Seriously! And if you dig some hard core cocktails, they'll hook you up. Try the Dubliner, I thought it tasted like cough medicine, but you know drinks aren't my thing at all! 

Jo’s Downtown Coffee, 242 W. 2nd St. We went for breakfast, but they had just switched to lunch. No worries though. Their lunch menu was full of goodies too. I had a the best veg bbq sandwich I've ever had in 18 or so years being a vegetarian. My friend had a burger and we were both happy! The decor is eclectic, fun and comfortable. Good music too! 

Inside Jo's Downtown Coffee

We did a lot of bike riding when I was there. The city is super bike friendly. You can easily "take the lane" and everyone driving cars just goes with the flow. There are also trails that are great for riding. Go ahead and rent bikes at MellowJohnny's, which is Lance Armstrong's store right downtown Austin.  Fast Folks on the east side of Austin is a super cool shop we actually went to. The dudes there were friendly and happy to talk bikes. Plus, they have the most awesome logo! 

24 Diner. Great vibe. Their site says they "blended mid-century modern design with Austin eclectic." and I'd agree. I loved the decor and they had super good food and lots of beers. I had "M's Grilled Cheese" with fries and wasn't disappointed. I also was eyeing the waffle breakfast with their homemade veggie sausage, which I hear (from a non-vegetarian) is delish.

There's a great independent record store one door down from 24 Diner called  Waterloo Records.  For anyone into actually purchasing music the old fashioned way like I do, this place is great! They had a ton of listening stations stocked with all the latest releases. They've also got vinyl and used music. Go!

Bar Chi 206 Colorado Street, Austin TX 78701. They do a great happy hour during regular happy hours and also have a late happy hour (featuring a DJ with dance/electronic music) both with specials on sushi. We sat at the front bar for drinks and a couple rolls. Our bartender was super attentive and they had Mike & Ike's on the bar like a regular bar might have peanuts or another bar snack. Basically they had me at the candy and the fact that we were in there in our biking clothes post ride and nobody gave us the side eye.

Although I did not stay at Hotel San Jose, on South Congress Avenue - where all the cool kids hang out - I really want to go back to Austin so I can! This place is adorable! Here are a few pics so you can see for yourself, then go check out their site. Everything about the place is cool!

Quick photo op at the Hotel San Jose.

South Congress has a ton of shops - clothing,  antiques, etc. I had fun exploring UnCommon Objects for treasures and bet you will too. You'll also find plenty of bars and restaurants for a good time. We tried Snack Bar a couple times and were not disappointed either time. We also hung out at the Continental Club and heard Hey Bale. They have a standing Sunday night gig at the Continental Club, so if you happen to be in town on a Sunday night, go for the music, especially if you like to dance.

What would a story about Texas be without a picture of a cow skull? This is just s small sample of the kinds of stuff you'll find inside UnCommon Objects!

One last thing to do. Several people told me about the Congress Bridge bats! Unfortunately they were not in Austin when I visited. Apparently they return around mid-March. Maybe I'll catch them another time!

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