As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to Austin, Texas. I always heard a lot of good things about the city, and I imagined it’d be the Berkley of Texas (and the only part of Texas I had any real interest going to). I didn’t know much about the city, except that there would probably be live music, tacos and barbecue. Oh, and Whip It was filmed there.
I like to be prepared when I travel and I have shelves of travel books full of places I have and haven’t yet been. On one hand, I think being in a place that’s unknown is exciting and good for me at times, but I quickly turn anxious and scared when I’m in a place that is 100% unfamiliar. I had picked up this tiny Austin guide book a few months ago. Once I got it home and read through the first couple of pages, I was confused… this wasn’t a guide book at all! I put it down and forgot about it for a while. As the trip approached, I started to realize that I was going to need to do SOME research in order to know my way around town, so I tried out the book one more time. What I found in this teeny tiny book blew my mind. There are short stories, which I had originally thought were super-corny, that were some of the best writing I’ve ever read. I’d even encourage someone who isn’t going to Austin to read those stories, because they are that good! There were a handful of names on where to eat, where to shop, etc, but they required a little extra research. As I approached my trip, I knew what restaurants I wanted to eat in, the best bookshop in town, and I had a pretty good idea of how to get around town.
The first day of the trip was mostly travel. We landed in overcast, super-humid weather and then headed out for some drinks at a super cute neighborhood bar, The Beer Plant. Their vegan platter was super tasty and the rose hit the spot! We were staying in Tarrytown, a more well-off neighborhood, and everyone in the restaurant was part of a large group, most people had kids, and everyone was dressed in a very trendy bohemian style.
The next day was our SXSW workshop, the reason why we were in Austin. I wanted to grab breakfast beforehand, but as a pulled up to Nau’s Enfield Drug I started getting panicked texts from the team. I told myself I’d stop in really quick, but I kept getting more anxious as time went on. The inside of Nau’s was much shabbier than I expected, with sparse shelves and worn down… everything. I ordered an omelet from two befuddled college kids and scarfed it down even though it wasn’t very good. The best part though was when I asked for the best directions to get to the Convention Center and everyone working (all 4 people) popped up and chipped in their two cents with the best way to get downtown. I was hilarious in a “is this really happening?” kind of way and totally amazed me how friendly people could be. I think more than I realized at the time, I was pretty stressed out. Totally out of character, that day I ended up getting a bunch of canker sores on my tongue and hives on my skin. In a major way I was glad that the workshop was over and I could try to enjoy the rest of my time in Austin!
It downpoured all day, but that night I went to dinner at a popular BBQ restaurant, Stubb’s. It was packed and the service wasn’t great, but a picture of Barack Obama at Stubb’s greeted us at the door and we had a feeling we weren’t going to be disappointed. The interior was pretty cute, with spruced-up shanty look. The food came on metal trays and my hard cider came in a tall can. My brisket and sides were pretty good, but I wasn’t super keen on my ribs or pulled pork, both tasted pretty dry and not very smoky.
The next day was my first day without worrying about work and I really made it count! I woke up early, bundled up (it was one of the coldest days Austin had all winter! We were really unlucky with the weather while we were there) and headed to Jo’s Coffee in downtown Austin. I’ll admit it now… I went to Jo’s Coffee two mornings in a row. I ordered a coffee, an orange juice and two potato breakfast tacos both days. The interior of Jo’s was very cute, with cute furniture and great music, but it got very crowded. The first day I got there early enough to snag a spot at the counter where I read the newspaper and devoured the best breakfast tacos of my life. They were just eggs, cheese and potatoes, but they blew my mind! The second morning I went to Jo’s I chatted with a Jo’s Coffee regular Austinite and let her go ahead of me in line because stupid SXSW hipsters were taking over her town. She told me that she and her friends didn’t really mind, because everything in town for SXSW made Austin feel more like a real city to them.
After a long morning of sessions, and getting to hear Christina Tosi speak (!!!), I took one of my longest walks of my trip to a neighborhood called South Congress. It was definitely a really fun, eclectic neighborhood with great restaurants and colorful signage. I wish I had had more time to browse the shops, but I mostly wandered until I found something good to eat. I stumbled across June’s on accident. It was on my list of places to go, but I had thought it was in a different neighborhood. The adorable patio really drew me in, with the bright blue bistro chairs, faux marble table tops, and tiny succulents. The wait staff was so genuinely sweet and attentive and my croque madame was pretty darn tasty! After taking a million pictures and thoroughly enjoying my meal (though it ended up being pretty chilly outside!) I went inside to pay and saw… Christina Tosi! So now I know that we have the same taste in restaurants and we’re basically meant to be BFF’s forever.
I headed back towards downtown but really wished I could’ve explored South Congress just a little more! Here are a few pictures of the neighborhood…
Later that evening I took a walk to Book People because I love checking out book stores in other cities. It was a large store, but it felt fairly empty and somewhat generic. I left with a few magazines for the flight and a tiny toiletry bag with the definition of feminism printed on the outside 🙂
The next day I took another long walk from my final session to 24 Diner for lunch, which was another place that was on my list. They were packed and the interior was adorable, modern, but also retro. I managed to snag a seat at the counter, and another newspaper! The bartender/my server wasn’t particularly friendly, but he was super attentive and brought my the best fried chicken and gravy that I’d eaten in a LONG time. It was an excellent lunch and definitely a place I’d go back to again!