I had the great pleasure of visiting the cool Texan capital that is keeping weird — a not-so-little place called Austin. Declared the “live music capital” of the USA, it’s a musical, tropical, funky paradise. Flying from New York, I was one early morning uber to LGA and onboard tear-jerk film away from the South Congress Hotel and rooftop pool oasis.
We arrived at our beautiful hotel where our room included two queen mattress bunk beds! There were also endless pumps of Aesop in the bathroom, that were bolted to the wall so they wouldn’t end up in our suitcases. Smart.
My closest compadre Nicki and landed just in time to fill our bellies with the incredible cuisine at Elizabeth Street Café, a Vietnamese-French culinary adventure and true bánh mì boulangerie.
We took the afternoon to tour the neighbourhood that we would call home for the next two days: South Congress. Also known as SoCo, it’s an artsy, vibrant area south of Lady Bird Lake (which looks more like a river through the city). Its main artery is South Congress Avenue so if you can manage to stand in the middle of the road, you’ve got a direct view of Texas’ Capitol bookending the northern end of Congress Avenue.
S. Congress Ave. is filled with cafés and restaurants, and plenty of unique shops like South Congress Books and one of the largest cowboy boots stores I’ve seen south of I40, Allens Boots.
We grabbed a drink and a bite at our hotel bar before venturing to Perla’s for a fish dinner. The bartender let us know our drinks were taken care of by a male patron, I did a thank you nod and enjoyed my free beverage but it might have been the first time I saw my always cool, calm, collected friend infuriated by his assumption that we like men and weren’t instead on a date with each other. She had a great point and that night I learned that she has better morals than me, because the economics of my free drink filled all my morals. (Love you Nicki!)
We sat inside at Perla’s but they do have a really sweet outdoor patio, while slightly more hot and humid.
Monday is jazz night at The Continental Club. This place has everything you could want for a live music hideaway — it’s one dark flight up with couches, pulled up chairs, and a bar serving cheaply priced Bulleit. The room had a low blue glow, filled with folks of all ages tapping their feet and enjoying the music. We sipped our nightcaps before hitting the hay on our giant bunk beds.
Did somebody say breakfast tacos? Hell yes. We headed to Jo’s Coffee for spicy egg tacos and iced coffee which we enjoyed outside while there was still a grey cover and a cool morning breeze. The tacos were delicious, as was every meal we ate on the entire trip. Austin is a food capital in my book.
Texas is big, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Austin is big too. The city allows carsharing with Car2Go and we found it to be the easiest, most affordable route to see the city on our own terms.
We loaded into our teeny, tiny Smart car and hit some of Austin’s highlights: the University of Texas at Austin campus; the Whole Foods Market flagship; and Barton Springs — a three-acre swimming pool where Robert Redford learned how to swim.
With our squeaky little car, we headed back to SoCo for lunch.
But first, doughnuts.
I believe these were called blue balls. They were blueberry doughnut holes of sugary goodness. Gourdoughs is on S. 1st St. at Elizabeth, just two blocks from S. Congress and surrounded by heaps of food options.
Then, more tacos at Güero’s plus margaritas rounding out dessert with lunch, followed by a siesta.
Tuesday evening, we enjoyed wine and a charcuterie board at June’s, a beautiful spot with a fifties retro vibe and French-inspired menu.
Then, it was off to Vinaigrette for dinner—their specialty being salads. The sky cooled with the sunset and we dined over big bowls of greens in their beautiful backyard paradise.
Wednesday was oh so hot and humid. To make the most of it, we got up early to enjoy a little pool time with a coffee from the in-house Mañana coffee shop.
There was still time yet before our evening flights home to New York, so we hopped back into our trusty Car2Go and explored downtown Austin — home to the capitol, the historic Driskill Hotel and some fine BBQ which we finally sampled at Lamberts (no, there were no throwed rolls).
Back in SoCo with a bit of time to spare, we headed across the street to very cool Hotel San Jose and sipped frosé before frosé was a thing. It’s still the best I’ve tasted.
Until next time Austin!
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