Many of you know that while I was born and raised in Miami, and will ALWAYS call Florida home, I lived in Dallas during my high school years and I love, love, love Texas. My boyfriend had never been, but to me, Dallas isn't exactly the kind of place you visit just to visit. So we decided to go to Austin for a few days, and we had the best time. Austin and Dallas are VERY different cities, and I adore both. It's always nice to be back in the Lone Star State.
Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and their tourism factor is exploding. Between food, music, and art, there's just so much going on there. I thought it was worth sharing my favorite parts, as I know more and more people have been traveling to Texas' capital and I'm hopeful that at least one of you is planning a trip there and can benefit from my musings!
We went to Austin to eat. That's the long and short of it. We didn't really do lunch while we were out there. We focused on big meals in the morning and at night, with a little snack in between.
We ate brunch at the bar at Perla's on S. Congress. I did what I do when I can't decide what to order; I made a meal out of side dishes. Amazing eggs, bacon, and grits. Yum! The offerings are very rich. I had a bite of my boyfriend's lobster omelette, and it was perfect.
We also had a great breakfast at Austin Java. It's a cute cafe with tons of options. I automatically love any place with a) creative coffee offerings (the honeynut latte is lovely) and b) the option to order a single pancake. I'm not into the stack; I prefer one big, fluffy cake. This place gets it right.
On our last morning, we had breakfast at TRACE, which is located in the W Hotel, where we stayed. They have a lovely outdoor seating area and a really great menu. Delicious egg dishes and iced coffee.
When I was in Austin in 2012, I had a memorable dinner at Uchi and was hoping we'd make it back there this time. We did, and it did not disappoint. I know what you're thinking: sushi in Texas? Trust me. Order the hama chili, the beet salad, and a Califonia roll with snow crab. You won't be disappointed!
After much hemming and hawing about where to dine on Saturday evening, we ended up at Parkside, and my goodness gracious, it was fantastic. The heirloom tomatoes and stonefruit salad, the gnocci, and the scallops were delicious. The ambiance is dark and romantic but also really laid back. Highly recommended.
We wanted traditional Texas BBQ for our last night (Sunday) and we wound up at Stiles Switch. I no longer eat red meat (more on that later, I'm sure) so I opted for chicken. I had corn casserole (it's kind of like eating mushy, gelatenous-like corn bread with a spoon - HEAVEN) and mac & cheese as my sides. So, so good. For those of you who have seen Varsity Blues... you know the scene where they leave the strip club at like, 6AM the next morning? That's what exiting SS was like. It's a windowless, unglamerous place and we STUFFED ourselves. When we opened the big wooden doors to leave, the sunlight came pouring in and stung our eyes. (Yes, we at dinner at 5 and left at 6. We were HUNGRY.)
(P.S. The dessert pictured above was from our dinner at Parkside. It wasn't phenomenal, but it sure was a beaut!)
We didn't drink very much in Austin, but we did enjoy a fabulous happy hour at The Living Room. They offer great little appetizers and Texas-made liquors on the cheap.
I'm a bit of a smoothie hound these days, and I tried two places: Daily Juice and Blenders and Bowls. I felt like the Goldilocks of smoothies, to be honest... The former was too thick and the latter was too thin (but delish). I was kind of disappointed with DJ. If you're going to charge me $12 (!) for a smoothie, it had better be fantastic. That's more than I pay in Manhattan, for crying out loud!
There's tons of great walking to be had in Austin. I love wandering around S. Congress and 6th Street. It's also worth driving around The University of Texas. What a gorgeous campus! I didn't go to school there, but I own approximately seven UT t-shirts and zero from my own alma mater. Oops. If you drive out to the 'burbs, check out The Domain. Very cool architecture, tons of restaurants and shops, and an impressive iPic movie theater. We saw Sex Tape there. I am a huge Cammy D. fan girl, and hot damn! I hope my body looks HALF that good when I'm 41. She is such an inspiration!
Exercise is the one thing that doesn't take a vacation with you, and I love discovering new-to-me fitness studios in other cities. I was planning to go to CYC while in town (the founder is an ex-SoulCycle instructor) but saw that RIDE was across the street from our hotel and opted for convenience. I'm not sure who's behind it/developed it, but they have definitely been to Soul. It was so similar! From the ambiance to the format... I felt at home, but it was just different enough that I felt challenged.
If you like Soul and are visiting Austin, definitely give RIDE a try. If you live in Austin and go to RIDE and are visiting NY, CA, or anywhere else with a Soul studio, you should try it!
Austin is so different from New York - so laid back. The instructor, Maria, walked around and said hi to everyone. She asked me if I was new as she hadn't seen me before and I explained that I was visiting from New York. She said, "Oh, you're a SoulCycle girl!" She knew right away, which was funny. One thing I noticed is that A LOT of people strolled into class late, several minutes after it has already started. That doesn't really fly in NY. In the three years I've been going to Soul, I have been late once and it haunts me to this day. Never again. So if you're visiting from Texas, I recommend you show up on time. :)
I was eager to spend a little time on the water, so we ended up heading to Lady Bird Lake (she's my most favorite first lady) and renting Austin Water Bikes. Highly recommend! It's inexpensive and requires no prior skill. It's a great lower body workout, too. It was extremely hot out, so we opted for the half hour rental. (Despite hailing from the Sunshine State, I don't do well with excessive sun exposure.) It was the perfect amount of time.
One word: Gordough's. It's a sweet little doughnut streamliner on S. 1st Street. I ordered a Miss Shortcake (cream cheese icing and strawberries atop a doughnut) and it was hands down the best doughnut I've ever eaten in my life (and that's A LOT). Each doughnut is made to order, so you're getting your treat fresh out of the fryer. I was nice enough to share it, too. Big mistake. Keep this one for yourself.
I also had a solid make-your-own-fro-yo at Yogurt Planet after the movie at iPic. But really, it's all about Gordough's. I'm still bitter I shared mine.
We stayed at the W Hotel on Lavaca Street, and we loved it. We rented a car, which I highly recommend, but you don't have to. The W is within walking distance of 6th Street, Lady Bird Lake, and a lot of other great spots. There's a great gym and a beautiful pool with a big outdoor space - lounge chairs, couches, cabanas, etc. Unfortunately, we didn't even make it into the pool! It's not really a "swimming" pool... more like a shallow container of water to stand in. There's a DJ and it's a very, very clubby atmosphere. There were lots of bachelor parties going on and it was just a bit too fratty for me. Don't be fooled by the website's photo like I was... oh well. It's still a gorgeous outdoor space to lounge in. The room was fabulously chic and overall, we had a great stay.
Have you been to Austin? Would you ever go?