Best word to describe Austin is awesome. The place rocks.
We had a fairly short stay at Austin but we still managed a late afternoon tour of the University, the famous Avenue South Congress and Whole Foods headquarters and then a midday to early evening restaurant & bar crawl on day two. It was enough time to see why this is one of the most sought after places to live in the states.
During our first afternoon we started off seeing the University which was fairly interesting to wander around bearing in mind that I have never been on a Uni campus before. It was ultimately depressing though, seeing how young everyone was and how much cooler they were.
Next was Wholefood's giant store which was cool with its own bar in between the aisles where many gentlemen were sipping on craft beers as their better halves were buying healthy goods. The best treat of the day though was our final point of interest South Congress Avenue which has so many brilliant food places and funky stores selling fashionables, antique furniture and crazy sweets like chocolate covered bacon.
After eating some award winning pizza slices from Home Slice we wandered along the road to a nearby park which had it's monthly Trailer Food Tuesday event with local food trucks set up alongside a pop up bar and band for the great people of Austin to enjoy at sunset overlooking the city on a small mound. People on cruiser bikes, students and families all came flocking to nibble on various tasty morsels and enjoy a warm autumnal outdoors dinner. We then had take away ice cream from the famous Amy's Ice Creamery on South Congress Ave. They are famed for their Mexican Vanilla flavour, which we promptly tasted with cookie dough mixed in for Lucy and butterfinger for me.
Our second day had to be a bar crawl through parts of the city which Austin is famous for. Austin's people have a well known love of sport, outdoor lifestyle and having a good time (helped by the massive University in the middle of the city). All these elements combined seem to encourage creative thinking and subsequently people have developed an excellent social scene which includes an endless number of super cool food places and funky bars wherever you turn.
We started on South Congress Avenue for lunch at Hopdoddy's, a large independent burger joint. Our food was fantastic so we understood why later that evening the queue to get in was around the corner of the building.
After leaving South Congress we aimed to have our next drink on 6th street which is popular for club hopping. However we never made it because we fell in love with Rainey Street.
Rainey St was a very sleepy and not so nice residential area (so we were told) until about 7 years ago when they tried to encourage some development near Austin's Convention Center and the first bar popped up. The popularity grew and grew so much that now 75% of the historic bungalow homes have been turned into bars with the remaining ones awaiting licences. Each place has it's own style of decoration but they all are set inside picket fences with gardens front and back for outdoor drinking.
It is all so cool you have to see it to really believe and appreciate it. There is a small lot with half a dozen food trucks and one new larger bar made up of a few containers piled on top of each other. Get there in the next couple of years before it gets too big or commercial (hopefully not!).
After a few strong ales, getting bought a round for us (by the bartender!!!), eating a pre dinner meal of a large gourmet sausage with mac and cheese we needed to move on again to our next destination. We were truely filled up with beer, more food and joy for what we experienced there.
Even though we had already been there twice we worked out that it would be best to finish back on South Congress by our bus stop as we knew we would be too stuffed, tired and merry to want to do any more walking after our official dinner. We were right. Our penultimate stop was another very popular restaurant on SG Ave called Taco Garcia's which did mean margaritas and top tacos, funnily enough. It was an all round good place to eat and drink with an appropriate Mexican design and feel.
One other thing to mention about there, and everywhere else we had been, was the service. I assume most people know that in the States service staff work for tips as they have very low wages. One barmen said he officially earns $2 an hour but with his tips, he earns equivalent to $60k a year. I am sure you can work out from this that many people give great service. In Austin it did seem to be a little bit better. Perhaps this is due to the very cool venues which had very cool people working in it. After giving our waiter his deserved tip we decided the night was not quite over so we headed back to Amy's ice cream parlour to grab some dessert for the bus. Another thing we were not disappointed about....until the morning.
This weekend sees thousands of people flocking to Austin to watch the F1 and I am certain they will all enjoy a great show, big parties and fantastic food without having to try too hard. It is our kind of place and we can see why so many love it.