“Well, look at you two,” slurred the homeless guy reeking of beer as he nearly stumbled into me. “Ya’ll look like Ken and Barbie.” Daniel and I looked at each other as he passed us by and laughed. “Well THANK YOU, sir!” I bellowed after him. Then I snapped this photo.
Hang on a sec…maybe I stumbled into the guy…and I’m pretty sure we reeked of beer, too. After all, we were DRUNK. It was after 2:00 a.m. at that point and we had been drinking in Austin, Texas for well over 12 hours. Let’s see if I can recall what those first 12 hours looked like. Thank God I took lots of photos because it’s the only way I can trace back where we were and what we did.
After a nonstop flight on Southwest from San Diego to Austin, we arrived super late on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and stayed at a brand new Hyatt House right on the outskirts of downtown in an area called Red River Cultural District. Don’t let that fancy name fool you. The neighborhood is on the up and up, which means we shared the sidewalk with homeless and drug addicts as we walked to trendy new bars. Using our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card points, I was able to get a one bedroom + kitchen suite for next to nothing on a holiday weekend. Since it was new as of May 2017 when we went, they were still offering rooms at super low rates.
Saturday Breakfast – A Foundation for Alcohol
We slept in on Saturday then headed out in the late morning looking for brunch. I had read about Paperboy a few weeks before so we walked nearly a mile in the suffocating heat and grabbed some grub. I think the humidity temperature index was set on schvitz.
On the way, we passed the famous Franklin BBQ and scouted it out. Man was that line long. People were wrapped around the building and sitting on chairs supplied by the restaurant. With the sun beating down on me, I made a mental note to try some of the other BBQ joints I had been researching.
Yes, Franklin is ranked as one of the top BBQ joints in the world, well-renowned chefs fawn over it and the chef won a James Beard Foundation award, blah, blah, blah. I just didn’t want to waste time in line since we only had a few days in town. Now, if I had known about their online preorder for to-go orders, I would have done it. Live and learn! (Note: Franklin had a fire in late August 2017 and according to their website as of mid-October 2017, they were still closed.)
Saturday at High Noon
Around noon, we set out looking for an Irish Bar called Fado. Daniel’s soccer team, BVB, was playing that day and his research found that a bar playing the game was in the Warehouse District downtown. Oh sweet heavenly air conditioning! I was perfectly content soaking up that cold air. And yes, Dortmund won. We went to the bar next door (The Ginger Man) to celebrate.
It was mid-afternoon at that point and threatening to sprinkle on us. The humidity was suffocating. We needed more beer, STAT! So, we headed to Rainey Street. Love that place! Tons of restaurants and bars, all in adorable houses with yards.
We first stopped at Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden. Mmm-hmm. That place is CK approved. I only wish there was a band playing while we were there. After all, it’s Austin! I was looking forward to music.
Stuffed with sausage, fries and beer, we ambled down Rainey Street until we heard what sounded like a band warming up. Jackpot! We walked into Craft Pride – a fantastic bar only serving regional Texas craft beer. We perched up on a hightop out back and listened to a bluesy band while we tasted different beers. And be still my heart – in the backyard was a Via 313 Pizza food truck serving Detroit-style pizza. I was stuffed but YES PLEASE! I even paid extra for the corner slice. Nom, nom, nom, nom.
Sitting at Craft Pride, listening to the band play and feeling warm and buzzy, I had one of those travel moments where I looked over at Daniel and thought, this is great. Life is good.
After a few beers there, I looked up at the sunset sky turning cotton candy colors and I yelped we gotta get moving. The bats are waking up! Now, we should have headed to the South Congress Ave. bridge to line up with the throngs of people to wait for the millions of bats to emerge, but for some reason we headed to the J.W. Marriott instead. We went straight to the rooftop pool bar area, grabbed a beer and figured we’ll watch the bats from there. One of us passed out. I won’t say who. (But I will post photos so you can guess.)
Things are a little fuzzy after the J.W. Marriott. I know we went to 6th Street, where tons of bars and music can be found. But it was so touristy we said to hell with that scene. (There might have been a stop for shots, though.) I do know we ended up in a fun little food truck area (there are food trucks EVERYWHERE in Austin. I love it!) on the corner of 7th and Trinity Street, downtown. We grubbed on some delicious Peruvian food at Llama’s while we people watched.
Satiated from our Peruvian food, we aimlessly walked around getting caught up in the buzzy nightlife. And then the drunk homeless guy ran into us and called us Ken and Barbie.
Sweating, drunk and done, we headed back to the hotel. But damn that was a good day. My liver hated me. My stomach was hissing at me, but I did not care. It was exactly what I needed and planned for.
Planning an Escape
I shared my experience dealing with a miscarriage in my Napa blog, which resulted in me initiating travel plans as a coping mechanism. Researching for this trip was a way for me to heal. It gave me something to look forward to. I had rationalized that it was only a matter of time before I was pregnant again, so we had better go party like rock stars (or Ken and Barbie) in Austin while I could still drink. And there you have it. I don’t have a thread to tie this trip together, so I apologize for my blog rambling along. But that’s basically what we did during our long weekend in Austin. We ate a lot. Drank too much. Saw great live music. And bopped around town.
So, let’s see what else we saw…
The Other Two 1/2 Days
Since we had a rental car, we drove 66 miles to Longhorn Cavern State Park. We were fortunate and had a small tour of about 10 people as we explored the caves for two hours. If you have the time, I say check it out. The cavern has an interesting history, especially during prohibition.
Because the temperature was sticky and hovering in the mid 90s, we bought cheap blowup rafts at Walmart and took them to Barton Springs, a large pool fed from underground springs. If you go, take a raft you can sit in because that water is cold! You’ll have to pay $8 per person to get in and you can’t bring in coolers, alcohol, food, frisbees, balls, etc. Basically, every lawyer in Texas made it so you can’t have fun there. And there’s limited space to set your stuff down since steep grassy hills border the sides of the pool area, hence why I’m not the biggest fan. But I’m a big believer that with the right crowd with you, you’ll have fun no matter what. (Psssst…be smarter than us and sneak your booze in.)
For sunset one evening, we drove up to Mt. Bonnell and took a short walk at the top overlooking the Colorado River. It was nice to see another part of the city and its surrounding area.
We did try some Mexican food while we were in Austin. First, we ventured out to Polvos at their South location. Their salsa bar was extensive and tasty. But honestly, neither one of us were thrilled with the food. It’s tough living in San Diego where we can get amazing Mexican. I would say we’re biased, but then we ate at Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon at their South First location. YUM! Yes, I recommend this place with it’s tasty take on modern Mexican and a gorgeous outdoor seating area under the cover of huge trees.
Yes, We Ate BBQ
Finally. On our last day, a Tuesday, we headed to Micklethwait Craft Meats (not far from Paperboy). We had to wait until Tuesday because most of the BBQ joints were closed on Monday and I figured the lines would be shorter on a weekday. Since they opened at 11:00 a.m. that day, we arrived a little before but found the line already had about 25 people ahead of us. Fortunately, we were seated with our food by 11:40. Not too shabby considering most BBQ wait times in Austin average hours. I had done my research and consistently read really positive reviews about Micklethwait and it seemed it was one of the local’s favorites. We were not disappointed. That brisket was delicious. I just can’t get on board with the wimpy white bread as a side.
Here to help us understand Texas BBQ is a Thrillist article by Dan Gentile.
When people say “Texas-style,” they mean “Central Texas-style” South Texas focuses on barbacoa, East Texas serves chopped beef, and West Texas cooks over direct heat in a style more akin to grilling. The food varies depending on where you are in the state, but when people use the term “Texas barbecue” it almost always translates the Central Texas-style of cooking brisket low and slow over indirect heat.
We had tried to get BBQ from la Barbecue, but the good stuff (brisket, ribs, etc.) sold out on a Sunday by 12:00 p.m.! The good news for us West Coast BBQ groupies is that they’re opening a location in Los Angeles soon. Giddy up!
Lots of Miscellaneous Stuff We Saw & Did
We loved Austin and I’m looking forward to going back. It’s quirky and proud of it. Hell, the city’s slogan is Keep Austin Weird. Damn straight!
On our way back to the airport, we stopped off at Jacoby’s Mercantile. A recommendation from a former local. Great place along the river.
Thank you, Austin for being the perfect place for us to visit and party like Ken and Barbie. I needed it. We needed it. And we will be back.