Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick Austin List

Headed to Austin? Here are some of my favorite places to eat and to take out of town guests.

1. Franklin's BBQ. Best BBQ in Austin (or US). Get there early - as in 1.5 - 2 hours early or they sell out.
2. Rudy's. My favorites are the moist brisket, chicken, creamed corn and turkey. Fast, especially when you can't be bothered to wait for Franklin's.
3. Uncle Billy's BBQ on Barton Springs Rd. We like the moist brisket and the chicken with the habanero sauce (really hot; you have to ask for it). Macaroni & cheese and okra are great sides, while the buttermilk/pecan pie is a great dessert. Also a microbrewery.   
4. Smitty's in Lockhart. It's about a 40 minute drive from Austin, but was considered some of the best BBQ in Texas. We like the brisket and ribs a lot. If you decide to go here, make sure you check out the hours on the website. It got demoted from #1 when Franklin came into the picture. It's better to spend time waiting for Franklin BBQ than driving down to Lockhart. Kreuz Market is right down the street. Smitty's and Kreuz's have the same origin, but split apart due to a family feud.
5. Salt Lick in Driftwood. BYOB (since Driftwood is a dry county -- doesn't sell alcohol in the county). It's a drive out there -- so if you're going to drive, I think Smitty's is better. Plus, you can pick some up in the airport as you're heading out. It's a pretty cool atmosphere on a warm Texas night.

Sit down food (places I won't go in gym clothes):
- Barley Swine - gastropub - one of the local favorites. Great food as well as independently brewed beer.
- El Naranjo - great interior Mexican on Rainey Street. Well done interior, and I'm a huge fan of the Tres Leches in the jar.
- Uchi - Japanese/sushi.
- Uchiko - Japanese. Uchi's sibling. Best desserts in town and great happy hour specials.
- South Congress Cafe - people like the breakfast there. I haven't made it over there for breakfast yet.

Quick and easy / casual:
- East Side Kings - cart behind the Liberty, Shangri La and Grackle. Tasty Asian fusion. There's also one at Hole in the Wall by campus.
- Torchy's - local favorite (check out infogrpahic at the bottom)
- Curra's on Oltorf - Mexican/Tex Mex. Corn tortillas are made fresh here. A favorite spot of the locals.
- Freebird's Burritos - great thing to grab as you're headed to the airport.
- Magnolia or Kerbey Lane for breakfast food (they're both open 24 hours). It's an ongoing debate on which ones folks prefer (Magnolia is meatier, and Kerbey is fresher). If you end up going to Kerbey, get the Kerbey queso - best queso in town.
- Joe's Bakery - amazing bacon and egg breakfast tacos. They flour coat the bacon, so it's never the same afterwards. Closes at 3pm.
- Lick Ice Cream - frou frou ice cream, but really good. Right by Barley Swine, so if you're in the neighborhood, might as well.

Things to do in Austin:

- Check out the botanical gardens at Zilker Park. Or swim in Barton Springs - it's cool 65 degrees, which is fantastic when it's 100 degrees outside.
- Run on Town Lake / Lady Bird Lake (it's about a mile up Congress from where you're staying, and you can do a 5 mile loop if you go west from the bridge). You can also rent a bike from Bicycle Sport Shop on the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar and ride around the lake if you don't feel like running. This trail also goes by Zilker Park. (BSS rents all sorts of bikes - road, mountain, cruiser and even electric now.)
- Short hike to the top of Mount Bonnell. Great views. Featured at the end of "Slackers"
- See the bats at sunset on the S. Congress bridge. Note that they don't come out every night, so it can be hit or miss.
- Segway tour. Good way to see downtown Austin - there's a coupon on the website and you can negotiate a good rate if you have enough people.

Indoors / Less Active:
- Get coffee and dessert at Mozart's .
- Watch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. You can eat (and drink a beer) while watching a movie.
- There's usually a bunch of music shows. Austin Chronicle guide to shows or Austinist.
- Check out the Blanton Museum or the LBJ Library on the UT campus.
- Drinking options - over the past few years, tons of new watering holes have popped up:
  • Walk down "dirty" 6th street on Friday/Saturday night after 11 PM as it's neat to see the closed off streets, but drink somewhere else
  • 4th Street or West 6th are for the professional crowd (can be dressy) 
  • Rainey Street is a bit more casual
  • East 6th (East of I35) is hipster central.
  • Draught House or Black Star Co-op are more chill locations North-Central
- Drinks at the San Jose Hotel on Congress. The Michelada is a good drink here.
- Texas History Museum. Cool if you're a Texas or history buff; also good for watching movies in the real IMAX format.