The capital of Texas proudly wears the slogan Keep Austin Weird, and after all of the frustrations I’ve been feeling lately, trying to infiltrate the averageness of Ontario’s suburbs, a trip to Austin was exactly the dose of weird that I needed.
My hubby and I jam packed as many Austinite experiences as we could into 4 short days. And I feel like we did pretty well but, honestly, I feel like the chilled out, musician way of life is such apart of the Austin culture that to truly experience it, you would have to live there for at least a year. Until that time comes (fingers crossed) we’ll just have to consider this a ‘beginner’s round’ of Hot Pink Apron’s Top 5 of Austin.
5. Find a venue that speaks to you (there is no shortage in Austin), sit at the bar, buy the barkeep a shot and ask them for some guidance.
Bartenders are the concierge of the real world – in any city, especially Austin. The list below is from Wendy, Queen of the stunning steampunks and evening bartender at Casino El Camino on 6th Street.
Be sure to visit Casino El Camino during the day for THE MOST AMAZING Bloody Mary and one of their world famous, delicious burgers. Don’t let the dungeon-like decor dissuade you, this meal will have everyone embracing the dark & twisted – even Grandma.
4. Get your Salt Lick on.
While in Texas you must devour as much smoked meat as possible – the South just does it best. I hear rumours about Franklin Barbecue being the Holy Grail of brisket but I also hear you need to get in line at 9am to ensure you’ll even get a taste of it for lunch. We opted for the 300+ readily available seats at The Salt Lick, where the hospitality is warm and the meat is oh-oh-oh so good. I recommend the brisket “burnt ends”. With this you can enjoy the crisp, caramelized outer edge as well as the succulent centre of that perfectly smoked piece of meat. Seriously, it’s orgasmic.
As tempting as it is to gorge yourself on this life-altering spread of meat, be sure to leave a little stomach space for a piece of their signature pecan pie. Of course, don’t feel too guilty if you can’t. You also have the option of purchasing a whole pie to take along with you. Just don’t miss out on that pie!
Heads up: The Salt Lick is about a 20 minute drive outside of the downtown core. It’s also BYOB so be sure to stop into Whip In (the most amazing convenience store/brew pub/live music venue/beer store ever) for your ales & lagers on the way.
3. Get drunk, go vintage shopping.
I have been a proud Value Village shopper since I was a wee Nirvana fan, yet had no idea just how elevated the experience could be after a few drinks. There is one shop on 6th street called King’s Strip that I had a blast in around midnight – 2 nights in a row. The narrow store is broken into sections for multiple vendors to display their second hand goods for sale.
Perusing vintage apothecary jars and classic albums on vinyl, plus trying on at least 4 decades of clothing, I eventually committed to a pair of vintage leather boots – which I continue to adore.
2. Show your Craft Pride.
54 Texan craft brews to choose from, but don’t be overwhelmed – the staff of Craft Pride is knowledgeable about beer and brewing and will be happy to guide you through flights of beer o’ plenty.
Rustic, elegant decor, really solid staff, a massive selection of GOOD beer, Craft Pride is a must stop for beer fans – new and old. Oh, and when you start to feel the inevitable hunger pangs that follow 3 pints of ale, there is a BACON FOOD TRUCK in the back ready to hook you up.
Craft Pride is located at the end of Rainey Street – another must on your list of areas to explore. Rainey Street is a stretch of old Southern homes renovated into restaurants – think killer house party with a food truck in the backyard.
1. Go to the Farmers’ Market.
This is where Austin and I really committed to our affair. The Sustainable Food Centre (SFC) Market at Republic Square Park is a really cool place to be on a Saturday morning. Certified as a growers-only market, the vendors beam with pride as they serve their produce, baked goods and beverages. The booths create a giant triangle across this downtown field. In each corner, a musician is performing an acoustic set, and right in the centre of it all is a giant soft play area for the kids to dive into.
I was missing my own kids, so watching the little ones laugh and play in the middle of this foodie haven had me feeling extra sentimental. Regardless, double fisting my samples of organic Texas sake and locally produced blueberry kombucha everything felt so so good, so right. I turned to my husband and said, “We need to move here. Like, yesterday.”
My husband never wastes any time reminding me that I tend to fall in love with every place we travel to because it’s new and exciting, but I profess that this love for Austin is more than a summer fling. Austin made me feel relaxed, it felt like a place I could very easily call “home”. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Austin has become trendy and population has increased so drastically over the past few years that the citizens of Austin are now pleading “Please, don’t move here!“
To which I say, I beg, “Can’t you make room for just one more eccentric, music-obsessed, passionate foodie?!?!”
I would really like to avoid the “I can’t believe you didn’t mention ______________!!” emails. So I feel like I need to keep the list going a little longer. After all, Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World” having something exciting happening in every venue, each night. How do you possibly summarize that in just 5 bullet points? Here are a few more essentials for your to do list:
Embrace food truck culture. One person told me that if you are a restaurant in Austin and you DO NOT have a food truck, you likely won’t survive. Eating food from a truck has become a way of life for Austinites. The food trucks – all trying to be more innovative and creative then the next – are a dream for this experimental eater on the go.
Experience 6th street. Go during the day and then again at night, and go during a weeknight and then again on a weekend – when all of the scantily clad college kids come swarming in with nothing but trouble on their minds. (<- Right there. With that, I just became my mother. F*ck.)
Gourdough’s Big. Fat. Donuts. Granny’s Pie – caramel, pecans, bananas & graham crackers, need I say more??!
Breakfast Tacos at Taco Deli. Imagine being served the best breakfast burrito of your life by your favourite folk musician.
Go see the bats. 1.5 million bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge and they all come swooping out at dusk. It’s like a romantic version of a Bruce Wayne nightmare.
Austin is too great of a city to explain in a blog post, you really need to experience it for yourself. GO! Have FUN, report back on what YOU loved the most.