My trip to Austin, Texas, Part 2! See Part 1 Here! Note: Picture-heavy post, might take a while to load. Recipe post coming soon.
On the first day of Second Grade a very tall girl with a sunflower hat took the desk two rows in front of me. Little did I know that day that we'd soon become best friends, and that years later I'd be Maid of Honor in her wedding. Jenn has been my closest and truest friend ever since (aside from middle school, but that doesn't count since girls in middle school suck as a rule) and it made my heart hurt when she moved across the country last year when her husband accepted a job at Facebook.
However, it means that I had the ultimate reason to visit Austin!
|FREE MIMOSA CAN I MOVE HERE?|
We met up at Russel's Bistro. Rachel, Martin, and Jess put in their names for brunch, and Jenn and Matt picked me up to take me to brunch elsewhere as we had the whole day together. While I waited, we were offered free mimosas. Although I wasn't staying, I couldn't say no!
The original brunch spot was way too crowded, so by coincidence Jenn and Matt took me to one of the restaurants I'd flagged as a "must try" thanks to my Twitter suggestions--24 Diner!
I got an amazing corned beef hash with eggs, and a lovely fruit side dish. I loved that fresh fruit was an option, since the hash was so heavy. It was nice to have a little palate cleanser in between. Also we got mimosas and iced coffee because duh.
Then it was back to Jenn and Matt's gorgeous apartment to meet their furry children. Sophie and Twizzler are probably the cutest dogs ever. Corgis are just always adorbs, and Sophie appeared to be a dachshund/yorkie mix. A hotdog Yorkie? LOVE.
We relaxed by the pool for a few hours. While I LOVED the heat--the dry air makes it SO much more bearable--I couldn't stay in the sun long. I think if I were to move to Austin, a pool would be a must.
For dinner, Jenn, Matt, their friend Louis and I all took a drive outside the city to get BBQ at a highly-recommended place called The Salt Lick. The location was far out of the way, but the line was intense. They assured me though, it was worth the wait. The parking lot was so huge that we had to take a shuttle from our spot to the main area.
To accommodate what appeared to be HUNDREDS of hopeful diners, TWO restaurants were on the property, as well as a winery next door.
The Salt Lick (Driftwood Location) is BYOB, though you can grab some booze from the winery next door, and the outdoor waiting area provides free live music while you wait. We got some lemonade and popcorn and sat down to listen to some sappy country music and I truly felt like I was getting the Texas experience.
Finally, we were seated. The restaurant is huge, and multiple parties can be sat at the large picnic tables inside. Four different servers served us, and each were friendly and helpful with their suggestions--for example, I was clueless about the brisket choices so the waitress told me that I'd probably like the "marbled" piece best. The prices were way more reasonable than I expected for such a well-respected place, and I got The Rancher sampler plate (smoked turkey, brisket, ribs, sausage, cole slaw, potato salad, beans and pickles) for only $16!
After eating our fill of the best BBQ I've ever had--if you go, opt for the spicy habanero table BBQ, it's the perfect spicy-sweet combination--we made our way to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for drinks and a movie.
This is a GENIUS idea and I am sad that Massachusetts hasn't jumped on the opportunity to have a chain like this: Restaurant/Bar meets movie theater. While waiting for your movie, sip drinks on the patio outside, especially if it's Sunday and therefore an all-day Happy Hour. Then, when your movie is seating, grab anything from an appetizer to a whole meal to nosh on while you watch the film! The waiter is summoned when you write your order on a card and clip it to the edge of your table. During the film if you need anything, simply ask for it on a card. Brilliant.
|I made a friend!|
The movie we saw, btw, was You're Next. I'm a total horror movie nut, but rarely do I find a movie that is so perfectly balanced in horror, gore, and just a dash of comedy--and You're Next hit it home on all accounts. Plus, two horror movie regulars are in the cast, as well as a handful of indie horror directors making an appearance. If you love horror or suspense, definitely see this film!
For my last full day in Austin we kind of laid low and relaxed. Jenn cooked us a great breakfast of bacon and pumpkin pancakes and we watched Mythbusters and How I Met Your Mother since the humidity had hit and it was a bit hot to go outside. Later, when I joined Jenn on her grocery shopping trip, we got lunch at Korea House at Matt's suggestion, since friends of his had spoken highly of the sushi. It was decent, but the price was kind of high for what we got, and the service was spotty. However, we were given a free side of some sort of raw fish with spicy sauce. "Eat this," the woman who served it to us said, and nothing more. Was this an apology for slow service? Or a gift from a secret admirer? We'll never know. I got my usual spicy tuna roll and one special called the "music box" and nibbled at the gifted fish. I'm glad we went for lunch, since dinner might have been a bit much. I'd love to check out more sushi joints next time I'm in town, though, I hear good things about Uchi, but I didn't make it there on this round.
For dinner I offered to cook for the group. Jenn took me to Sprouts, which is probably my new favorite grocery store ever. Think, if Whole Foods and Trader Joes had an amazingly inexpensive organic food lovechild. Everyone we'd hung out with during the weekend--Jenn, Matt, Louis, Martin, Rachel, Lauren, Jess and I--all gathered at Martin and Rachel's apartment and I made a dinner of creamy chicken marsala, gluten free pasta, and buttered spinach while we drank lots of wine and ate brownies for dessert. I was so happy Jess's friends and my friends got along, we were like one big happy family! We continued to drink wine into the night until it was time for the guests to leave, and Jess and I to rest up for our journey home the next day.
Though it technically wasn't part of my Austin trip, it was my first time at the JFK airport. Woah, that place is HUGE. We had to take a ten minute bus ride from our arrival gate just to get to our departure. However, I was thrilled to find a Shake Shack in the terminal. Shake Shack is kind of like NYC's response to In-N-Out Burger, and I'd been dreaming of those fries and that delicious little special-sauce burger since my last trip to NYC. This lovely little lunch held us over until our layover ended two hours later, and we headed home to Massachusetts (and, of course, I'd gotten more GoPicnic boxes just in case!).
|Get the cheese for the fries, you won't be sorry.|
Overall, Austin surprised me in so many ways. I loved the food, the culture, the laid-back atmosphere and the prices of EVERYTHING. I know Texas has its ups and downs--my super liberal friends keep reminding me "Texas isn't the best place for women these days"--but Austin seems like a wonderfully hip, young part of Texas that just shines in everything. I'm sure I'd be okay. I'm also officially adding it to my List of Places Ashley Would Love to Live In Someday (next to NYC, LA, San Fran, San Diego, Montreal, London, Paris, etc.), and am keeping just half an ear open for opportunities in the area in case it's even a possible reality for me. If you know of any, let me know!
Thank you to my incredible hosts and friends, Rachel & Martin and Jenn & Matt. I hope to return someday soon!