My trip to Austin, Texas, Part 1! See Part 2 Here! Note: Picture-heavy post, might take a while to load. Recipe post coming soon.
The Facebook exchange went something like this:
Jess's Facebook Status: I'm Going to Austin!!
My Comment: Jealous! ...take me with you?
Jess: COME WITH ME!
Me: I probably can't afford it...
Jess: It's not that bad! And you could stay with my friends for free!
Me: Well, if round trip tickets cost less than one of my paychecks, I'll do it.
Jess: $250, round trip.
Me: WE'RE GOING TO TEXAS!
Now, $250 is not a small amount in my life right now--it could buy groceries, pay bills, make a car payment, and do a lot of things. I'm brokedy broke, but when it comes to travel, and the opportunity to see my best friend from childhood who just moved there last year--I'll make it work if at all possible. I put the cost on my credit card and paid it off bit by bit, and was even able to save some $$ for the most important thing: FOOD!
Since we were flying domestic on United Airlines, we didn't really get fed on the plane. Luckily, I planned ahead and packed two GoPicnic meals for Jess and me. I LOVE GoPicnic--a perfect little meal in a small, easy-to-transport box. And this turkey pepperoni is perfectly tasty AND filling (it's my favorite, GF and only 300 calories!) I chose peanuts for my plane snack, but sent longing glances at Jess's Biscoff cookie.
When we landed it was dark and nearly 9:00, but lovely and warm. We were pretty hungry. So our lovely hosts, Rachel and Martin, brought us to the east side of the city for some booze and snacks (forgot my camera for this one). We wandered this very cool little section of Austin, where old residential houses had been turned into lively bars with live music, until we came upon one that not only had a great drink list but some interesting food options, Banger's.
I ordered cider, not realizing I was buying a whole freaking bottle. Oh well, it was tasty--perfectly fruity and tart. For my snack, I got deep fried bacon mac and cheese. It was incredible with the side of BBQ sauce, but they were so rich I could only eat two.
Jess got the homemade pizza bagels, and Rachel and Martin shared a plate of nachos which apparently were the best they've ever had. Everything was so rich and flavorful, if (WHEN) I ever return to Austin I'd love to return when the full restaurant is open!
The next morning Rachel and Martin made us breakfast tacos to fuel us up for a drive around the city and a short hike at McKinney Falls State Park. We met up with my friend Lauren, who I graduated college with. She had just moved to Austin three weeks prior, but I hadn't seen her in about a year so it was a fun little reunion. The park was gorgeous, and the water was perfect for swimming!--if you don't mind fish and assorted bugs nibbling at you. I was just excited to see wild cacti.
We wandered around Congress Street, an adorable stretch of road with retro-looking shops on either side. Fresh, wild rosemary grew in bushes hanging out of landscaped areas, and Martin had to grab some himself. The "I love you so much" graffiti on the side of Joe's Coffee is apparently a popular tourist picture-taking spot, since there was a line for the pose. A group of teenage boys on bicycles asked us to be in the picture with them, but we politely declined.
Somehow, we skipped lunch. But dinner more than made up for it. I checked my Twitter suggestions since a bunch of local chefs, travelers, and foodies replied to my request for recommendations--EVEN ANDREW ZIMMERN
See my lists on http://t.co/2MoMYPtsJW RT @AshleyBeeCooks: @andrewzimmern you inspired me to try (cont) http://t.co/HFJAntyhBj
— Andrew Zimmern (@andrewzimmern) August 28, 2013
...and we decided to check out Güero's Taco Bar as my first-ever authentic Tex Mex experience! I pretty much loved everything about this place. The decor was a fun mish-mash of Austin knick knacks (I want those hanging bats), pictures, and Mexican souvenirs.
|One of the FOUR bags of chips behind the marg|
The best thing was that our waiter had the habit of dropping his R's... that's right, he was a native Masshole too! He brought us FOUR baskets of chips, which was probably half accident, half display of New England kinship. He also helped us decide what to drink--"No, don't get that drink, pay the extra dollar for something you'll ACTUALLY enjoy"--and assured us that our meal choices were good ones.
Here, I got an awesome mango margarita (only $6!) and split a No. 1 Dinner with Lauren. All that food for only $12?? More than enough for us, and saved some budget money for more drinks, woo! The food was incredible. Best Mexican food I've ever tasted. I am longing for that carne taco right about now. Everything was SO flavorful, but nothing was TOO spicy. Looking at this picture makes me mighty hungry.
We realized we hadn't taken advantage of Austin's incredible Happy Hour specials, so we did a quick stop at the Snack Bar for some interesting drinks. The decor reminded me of a 50s diner, and the food looked incredibly gourmet, but we only had a drink each before moving on. Next time I'm in town, I'd love to sample the menu! I opted for the house sangria, and Lauren got the Thai lemonade. Both were delicious, and helped amp up our margarita buzz for the rest of the night.
|On the bridge|
Next, we saw the bats.
It sounds weird, but this might have been my favorite thing. It was just SO cool. The bats sleep under the bridge during the day, about a million of them, and then exit en masse from the bridge at dusk. People rent kayaks or take boat tours while others lay out blankets on the shore. We opted for the bridge, and were lucky to find some standing room.
|Me, Rachel, Jess, and Lauren|
I'd never seen a bat up close before, but from our standing spot on the bridge we could look down on the furry little creatures as they exploded from their slumber into the night.
Once the bats were gone and the city was dark, we decided to brave 6th Street--the Party Central of Austin. The bars were brightly lit on the streets and full of live music and drink specials.
We popped into the Dizzy Rooster because it had live music and no cover, but the pricey drinks ensured we only stayed for one apiece. I suppose we were just spoiled by the Happy Hour prices we'd just experienced!
|Being goofy in the mirror at Dizzy Rooster|
Then we found Shakespeare's Pub. $5 mixed drink pitchers, SCORE. Thank goodness we hadn't arrived a day earlier, since Long Island pitchers were the special the night before. I probably would have ensured myself a hefty hangover had I gone for that one. But after splitting two pitchers among the five of us--one pitcher gifted to us by a way-too-tipsy bachlorette whose friends wouldn't let her have the pitcher she just bought--we all had a healthy buzz and a bit of the drunken-munchies.
So, back to the east side for some food truck fun!
Food trucks are a serious staple in Austin, and the possibilities really are endless. This was only one of the many food truck parks around the city. I think I could probably have eaten my way through my whole trip on food trucks alone if only I'd been left to my own devices!
I decided on this cute, retro-looking cart that was called "Fried and True." Yes, every single thing on the menu was deep fried. Diets don't count on vacation, right? Though I was tempted by the deep fried PB&J or the deep fried pickles, I opted for the corn dog and fries. I loved that the corn dog was lumpy and bumpy--it just screamed homemade to me. I wolfed it down and it helped curb my buzz and probably prevented that hangover I was flirting with.
All of this, and it was only my first full day and night in Austin! Pretty sure I very nearly literally ate my way through the city. Next post will be the remainder of my trip, be sure to check it out! :)