It seems as though the whole world is in Austin right now, which threw me back to late last year when I too was in Austin, for a completely different SXSW, SXSW Eco. I learned a lot, and as one of the business owners hosting a one on one session, hopefully imparted some lessons. But when I wasn’t learning/teaching, I was eating.
Nau’s Enfield Drug
This gem of vintage soda fountain in the back of a pharmacy was our first stop from the airport – it’s charming and likely unchanged since it opened in 1951. The pimento cheese (a very Texan sandwich) was delicious as was the coke thanks to it’s free pouring syrup and soda water style service.
This German BBQ joint is quite literally ancient, with a 1866 opening date it’s practically a piece of history. The BBQ is good, not the best ever, but good, and the beer is great. This was the place for meat sweats….
After indulging a lot of my vintage dining fantasies, it was time to allow my travel buddy Jenny, a chance to eat a) something that wasn’t a big plate of meat and b) somewhat healthy. We stumbled across No Va on Rainey St and basically ordered everything.
Lone Star Court Hotel
Somewhere between going to the conference and eating all the food, we did manage to get some sleep. Our hotel was gorgeous, a modern building built with a giant courtyard in the middle (from the outside it did not look as great – a corrugated metal monstrosity in the middle of a mall), and our room was adorable – it was resplendent with a full size Smeg fridge filled with beer… what more could you want? Well, a better location for one, as nice as it was we definitely wish we’d stayed closer to downtown Austin.
The Hoffbrau was probably one of my favourite places, a tiny little steakhouse that’s been slinging steak since 1932. The steak, served with giant potato wedges and a side salad is served drenched in butter (as is the side salad) and what it lacks in heart healthy goodness, it makes up in flavour.
Shopping and Fried Chicken, Foo Fighters and Ice Cream on South Congress.
It wasn’t all eating in our time off. There was shopping too…! I think my favourite shopping stop was definitely Uncommon Objects – a treasure trove of bizarre ephemera and antiques. Feathers Boutique was a pretty great vintage clothing store, but I definitely spent the most moolah in UAL (United Apparel Liquidators). We’re talking Band of Outsiders and Current Elliot shirts for $20… yup!
Of course there was eating to be done here too. Ms P’s Electric Cock has a fun name, charming staff and some really great fried chicken and Amy’s Ice Cream (there’s a few around) is definitely worth a stop. I had the Barry White Sundae.
We also ate at Little Barrel and Brown and got to see a honky tonk supergroup (it was also City Limits Festival at the same time) led by Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters and featuring Rami Jaffee of The Wallflowers as well as Laur Joamets (guitarist with Sturgill Simpson) and Kevin Smith (who plays with Willie Nelson), Tom Lewis and James Shelton, all local musicians, at The Continental Club.
South Congress, however cliche’d this may be, was definitely my favourite part of Austin.
Over in the college part of town, Dirty Martins was a great late night stop. The burger stand has been around since 1926. They have wine on tap, which I found amusing, and that pic above? Four words: Pimento Cheese Tater Tots.
After all that eatin’ – some exercise was definitely in order. On our last full day we headed out to Hamilton Pool, a collapsed grotto complete with watering hole. It’s a mini hike down and a refreshing swim in the cool pool – with the fishies. It really was a stunning natural wonder and not what I expected of Texas at all.
House Park BBQ
If you’re looking for an old school BBQ joint in Austin then House Park is your best bet. It’s been around since 1943 and the soot covered walls alone will tell you that. It’s smokey, dark and, well, a little grubby, but it’s good – be warned it’s only opened during the day for a few hours and only on weekdays.
The Broken Spoke
The Broken Spoke was a major highlight for me, cheap beer, honky tonk and a dance lesson from a cowboy. It was like a dream come true. I even got lasso’d on my way out the door.
Shopping and Donuts on South 1st Street
South 1st Street – a few blocks walk from South Congress is another shopping gem. We fell in love with local designer, Esby, and their linen and lightweight designs and stumbled across one of the greatest kitchen shops ever – Metier Cooks Supply – featuring beautifully curated new and vintage kitchenware and new and vintage cookery books. I picked up a set of 60’s cookbooks in mint condition for $20.
Before we left we made a run to Gordoughs – there’s a few locations but the original truck is on South 1st. Gordoughs is a crazy donut spot where you can choose your filling and your topping… It was just the right amount of fatness to complete my week in Texas weight gain.
Ok. Now I want a donut.