My Texan Adventure: Austin

Posted on December 15, 2011

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I knew nothing about Austin other than that the food was meant to be good, there is a good music scene, and that I was meeting some friends there for the weekend. If you go, here’s a more things that may help you adore the city as much as I did…

The city is pretty small, walkable even, which is unusual for the US. There are two main streets that I used for direction: Congress, which leads up to the Capitol building, and 6th Street which has all the bars.

Congress is split into two, with SoCo (South Congress) as a bohemian neighbourhood with great shops and coffee houses (and a fabulous cowboy boot store). The northern end, know simply as Congress, has cross streets of numbers and is more downtown. We ate at Annie’s Coffee House which had a delicious mix of salads, and a soup of the day (tomato and brie is great!) and importantly nothing seemed to be doused in the usual Texas quantity mayonnaise.

6th Street split into areas, and where you hang out says a lot about you. One end has some seriously cheesy college boy bars (one aptly named Bikini Bar funnily enough has girls in bikinis serving). It moves along, through different ages/cultures to include nice restaurants and then up to East 6th Street which has more lounge bars, including the Shangri La and Cheer up Charlie where we spent a fun evening.

One of the things I loved about Austin is the food van culture. Usually this makes me think of greasy kebabs at 2am in the UK but in Austin, the are plots of land with a few vans selling amazing food. These are usually young chefs who can’t afford to set up restaurants. Every one we went to had good food and was relatively cheap at around $10. I loved the British van, particularly the early gray ice cream but others on this patch included vegan, food fired pizza, Greek, and Mexican.

When we are out at a food van, an English friend living in Austin asked for Mexican coke. It looked exactly the same as every other coke bottle I have seen but the difference is the sugar. In the US they don’t use real sugar, in Mexico they do. I am not a coke drinker myself but I hear this makes all the difference!

And a must do for a foodie is an excursion to the SaltLick BBQ at Driftwood. BBQ in Texas is different to what us Brits refer to it as, it’s more of a smokehouse and they make AMAZING ribs. It’s byo (but fret not, they have a brewery there that you can buy beers from), with a large waiting area complete with guitar playing cowboy for entertainment (it gets packed every weekend) and popcorn to stave off hunger pains (don’t eat too much though). And when we got our table I went family style – all you can eat for $20 – just because I could. Suffices to say it was enormous, but delicious – the ribs fell off the bone and although I usually hate well done steak, it was tender and smoky. But save room for a taste of their pecan pie (with ice cream, or a la mode as it’s known in the US)

And the last Texas tip of the trip – when driving between Dallas and Austin on the i-35 there are two stops that are worth making:

  • The Smokehouse does a great BBQ if you are hungry
  • The Czech Stop has great beef jerky and a huge bakery
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Posted in: Destinations