“There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.” Willie Nelson
As soon as I heard that Austin’s slogan was ‘Keep Austin Weird’, I knew I’d love the place. I wonder what that says about me 😉
Apparently, the phrase was coined by Austin Community College librarian Red Wassenich and was intended to promote local businesses – and it quickly caught on. I saw the slogan referenced in and around the city – and on plenty of souvenirs and t-shirts (I guess, like everything good, it quickly becomes commercialised).
But I still loved it – and, of course, I now own a ‘Keep Austin Weird’ coffee mug and t-shirt, lol.
My t-shirt also says ‘Support Local Music’ and I think that is what I loved most about Austin. They do support local businesses and encourage creativity. I saw lots of quirky bars and restaurants. I saw artwork adorning walls and buildings. I heard local musicians performing; the music spilling out onto Sixth Street. I tasted plenty of delicious southern food; including Tex Mex at the historic Chuy’s, and slow-cooked meats at Franklin Barbeque.
I also sweltered in the HOT weather (38-degrees Celsius/100-degrees Fahrenheit) for the five days I was there. But it didn’t matter. I was so happy. I’d fallen in love with Austin.
Here are some of my favourite photographs… and some descriptions of the places I most enjoyed spending my time 🙂
Fixe – Austin’s Southern House
Our first night in Austin, we checked out a restaurant recommended by Supernatural star (and local resident) Jared Padalecki. At Fixe, we tried a bit of everything – fried chicken (with buttermilk, kale, green apple and spicy honey); Fixe biscuits (which are really just like scones back home); lobster and crawfish pot pie (with Maine lobster, Louisiana crawfish, mushrooms, sweet corn and miso béchamel); and potato salad (with peewee potatoes, country ham, green garlic and white barbecue sauce). It was such delicious food. The restaurant was also very charming with a great atmosphere, and our waitress was super friendly; it was our first taste of southern charm.
Formerly known as Pecan Street, the Sixth Street district is lined with historic buildings that now house bars, cafes, restaurants, art galleries, tattoo parlours and souvenir shops (it was here that I got my t-shirt). Live music of every genre spills onto the street, including jazz, blues, country, rock, hip-hop and punk. We had a bite to eat in the World Famous Dive Bar – The Jackalope, which really was a bit weird, even for me! Later, we stopped for a cold drink at the Dizzy Rooster and listened to a great country singer.
Reputedly the best BBQ joint in the world, Franklin Barbecue has developed a cult following. I mean, where else would people queue all morning, in the searing Texas heat, just to get inside a tiny no-frills restaurant. We had been told that it was definitely something we shouldn’t miss – and we decided we were game!
At 8.00 am, we were among the first people to arrive. We even got chairs, as they provide a dozen or so to early-comers. And it was a fun morning. We made friends with others in the crowd, listened to country music that was blaring over the loudspeaker, and enjoyed a light breeze which kept the temperature manageable. When the doors opened at midday, we were in the first sitting – and it was well worth the wait. I honestly did not know meat could taste that good. We had pulled pork, pork ribs, smoked turkey, brisket and sausage. The brisket had been cooked for 18 hours and melted in my mouth. It was all amazing, but the pulled pork was my favourite. We also purchased a key lime pie to eat (much) later in the day. For now, we were bursting at the seams… in a good way!
Barton Springs Road
On another day, we visited the Barton Springs Road restaurant district after a quick visit to Barton Springs Pool (which, FYI, is the perfect place to cool down on a hot day and quite the oasis in the middle of a bustling city). As well as restaurants on Barton Springs Road, there are food trucks and a picnic area; but ultimately we decided to try Chuy’s Fine Tex Mex.
Chuy’s has a chain of Tex Mex restaurants, but this is the original. It opened on 16 April 1982 in an old abandoned Texas barbeque joint and incorporated some funky décor into its new look, including hand-carved wooden fish hanging from the ceiling and hubcaps above the booths. There is even an Elvis shrine, which prompted us to order the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo. It was also practical, because it gave us a way to try a few things. We enjoyed beef Tex-Mex enchiladas, cheese Ranchero enchiladas, chicken Tomatillo enchiladas, seasoned ground sirloin crispy tacos and homemade tostada chips dipped in chile con queso. Add to that some margaritas and we were all set.
According to Chuy’s website, “the menu is made up of a combination of flavours, with recipes and ingredients from across New Mexico, Mexican border towns, the Rio Grande Valley, deep South Texas, Austin and beyond. Wherever it came from, it was delicious.
The other place I really loved was the Hula Hut on Lake Austin, even though we only had time for a very quick visit. Austin is also home to a number of festivals, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival; both of which I think would be amazing to attend. I guess that gives me an excuse to return 🙂