Austin, TX holds a special place in my heart. It’s not too far from the east coast, it’s doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s weird, and it’s wonderful. This was my third trip to ATX, and my second with Michael. It’s one of the few trips we’ve taken where we actually relax.
Instead of packing our days full of activity and sightseeing, we sip coffee slowly, eat doughnuts, see movies, and just walk up and down South Congress Avenue. Austin is attracting creative individuals in tech, art, film, and otherwise. Even Tim Ferriss recently made Austin his home.
Friday: Austin is a relatively short flight from Orlando (a little over two hours). We Uber’d from the airport to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Austin, right on the Colorado River. I would highly recommend this hotel for its proximity to South Congress and downtown, but if you’d rather be immersed in the Austinian culture I would shoot for the charming boutique hotel, Hotel San Jose on S. Congress Ave.
Upon arriving, we set out toward S. Congress Ave. for a cup of coffee at Jo’s. This is also the site of the “I Love You So Much” mural. There are also tons of cute shops in this area. I finally found some comfortable, casual shoes at the TOMS store, we checked out Big Top Candy Shop, and had a tasty brunch at Torchy’s Tacos. We had the chorizo and egg taco, bacon/egg/cheese taco, smoked brisket taco, and guac. It all hit the spot.
Parallel to South Congress is South 1st Street, another gem. 1st Street has its own slew of cute restaurants and coffee shops, not to mention murals (Welcome to Austin postcard and Bob Barker). We took this street back toward the river/hotel, although we found it not to be as pedestrian-friendly as South Congress. More of 1st Street later.
After a quick respite at the hotel (I forgot to mention I was 7 weeks pregnant at the time), we headed out to South Lamar Street for dinner at Odd Duck. South Lamar was a busy road to walk up and down. We ended up walking this road twice, although I don’t recommend it, especially at night, especially with all the traffic. The restaurant was upscale but rustic, and we didn’t feel out of place in jeans. The courses are designed to be shared. We had the smoked fish tostada with apple fennel mayo (mutual favorite), braised goat in Parker House rolls with avocado crema, smoked short rib in beans and mushroom, and a Meyer lemon creme brulee for dessert. We ate it all!
Saturday: We spent the first part of Saturday morning walking along the Colorado River, watching early morning runners out in groups and dogs playing in an open dog park. We crossed the pedestrian bridge toward our breakfast destination downtown. I would have stopped to take some photos of the gorgeous city view, but a homeless man told us to “get the f*ck out of here.” Anywho, we made our way to the Counter Cafe on North Lamar. This was a tiny cafe where we took the last available table as soon as we walked in. I read about it as a recommendation and also a spot featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I ordered a pretty normal breakfast for me: two eggs, sausage, and a biscuit. Michael had Joe’s Special, which was potatoes topped with sausage, sauteed spinach, two scrambled eggs, and 9-grain toast. It was good, not great, and a little pricey.
I’d been following Book People on Instagram for a while and was excited to visit this giant, independent bookstore. It turns out Hilary Clinton was hanging out there the day before. There were scant John Hodgman books, none of which were signed, so we figured we’d get signed copies at the show later that day. We also checked out the REI next door, because who can pass up walking through all that glorious outdoor gear?
Next, we headed to the Farmer’s Market on Guadalupe Street. The first thing I saw was this cold, fizzy ginger beer for sale, which really hit the morning sickness spot. We also saw famed chef Marcus Samuelsson teaching an outdoor cooking class, which was a surprising delight. We kept the beverages coming with coffee at Juan Pelota cafe, a part of Mellow Johnny’s bike shop.
We decided to do the free State Capitol tour. The capitol building is beautiful and the park out front is just a nice place to sit and reflect. The tour was a bit noisy but to be expected on a beautiful weekend day. Tours run every 20 or so minutes and last only about 30 minutes or so. You can also explore the first few floors on your own.
After the cultural portion of our trip, we headed to lunch. I heard about Easy Tiger from a podcast I like to listen to. We shared the housemade “Chex” mix and German Plate with soft pretzels, beer cheese, mustard, bratwurst, potato salad, and kraut. It was all amazing! They also had a great beer selection. Michael ordered a real ale that he was pretty excited about.
After all that, another nap was warranted at the hotel. Before we knew it it was time to head out to see John Hodgman perform Vacationland. I planned to try Holy Roller for dinner but it was a bit of a walk and I was a bit tired. We ended up going to Sandy’s, a real old-fashioned burger joint and staple of Austin since the 1940s. I mean, it was a good burger but didn’t blow me away. We also got an Oreo malt to round out the preggo hunger.
Finally, it was the main event! We walked across the bridge to the Paramount Theater downtown. If you don’t know John Hodgman, you really should. Check out this write-up by my amazing husband on our blog, Exciting Jazz Music.
Tons of copies of Vacationland were set out in the lobby area. Michael and I had already read the Kindle version but decided to get a hard copy to commemorate the evening. We figured they were already signed but the nice book people (from Book People) told us that John was doing a book-signing after the show! Whoa! Moments after that we saw Aaron Franklin (THE Franklin of Franklin Barbecue) walking around the lobby. Oh man, what a magical day.
The show was great and John Hodgman was really, really nice and very appreciative of our support. One thing I wished we had done more was to tell him exactly what we enjoy about him. Next time.
Sunday: Our last full day in Austin was last-call for our favorites. We walked up to the Gordough’s truck on South 1st Street for our favorite doughnuts in the world! We had the mother-clucker (with fried chicken) and the Sin-A-Bomb.
There’s something about these doughnuts. They have a biscuit-like texture on the inside and are like no other. They also have a restaurant with a wider menu (sandwiches, burgers, beer). We headed across the street for hot beverages at Seventh Flag. I had a chai latte and Michael had a cortado.
Later that afternoon we took S. Lamar to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to see Thor: Ragnarok. This dine-in theater is unique in its excellent food selection and all-around movie-nerdiness. It’s hard to describe, but check out the display from the lobby (below) pretty much sums it up. #redrum
On the way back, we had to fit in some real Texas barbecue. We stopped at Terry Black’s BBQ on Barton Springs Rd. Terry Black’s “old school” barbecue is not just in their smoking method. Imagine lunch trays and a cafeteria line, where they charge by the pound for meat and you can grab whatever side you’d like. I haven’t experienced this style of serving barbecue before, but I liked it. We ended up getting splitting sausage, brisket, and mac and cheese. I was definitely having a nauseated moment at this restaurant but it was still good food.
Monday: We caught our early morning flight back to Orlando. It was regrettably too early for Gourdough’s, but we said farewell, once again, to our own little vacationland, Austin, TX. We’ll be back (for more doughnuts).