Archive for March, 2005

Visitor’s list o’ restaurants/bars

The following is a list of restaurants/pubs I’ve been in while in Austin:

  • Chuggin Monkey – Already mentioned in a previous entry. It’s all about the backyard patio/balcony in my book.
  • Dona Emilia – Fantastic salmon. Also, get the Sangria.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – Standard bar fare, but pretty good. I sampled the popcorn shrimp and the potato skins.
  • Paradise – Nice atmosphere for a get-together, but it really wasn’t my favorite place. I guess I didn’t like the noise.
  • Bouldin Creek – This is by far the hippiest place I’ve been to in Austin. This was where the Austin Metblog Meetup was. Very good vegetarian food. I highly recommend the grilled cheese sandwich with basil.
  • Shady Grove – Get the breaded deep-fried catfish. ‘Nuff said.
  • Salt Lick BBQ (in Driftwood, TX) – Holy smokes, this is some kick ass barbecue. We literally stuffed ourselves with brisket, ribs, sausage, and all the veg trimmings.
  • Cafe DeVille – Relaxed laid-back atmosphere with couches in the yard. Nice touch.
  • Side Bar – I didn’t like the dense smokey bar so much, but I did like the backyard patio. I’m noticing a pattern in my preference for bars — there has to be a backyard area where it isn’t so dark and smoky.
  • Red Eyed Fly – Awesome back patio area, which gave me the feeling of being in a cabin in the middle of the woods. There was a covered area for the stage show, and an uncovered area for mingling about.

Once I find links to the above places, I’ll fit them in.

Nuclear Tacos

My words of wisdom for today: do not underestimate the nuclear taco.

After the panels today at SXSW, I ventured on over to Brush Square Park where there was to be free nuclear tacos and beer.

Considering the fact that I enjoy spicy food, I figured that the whole nuclear taco thing would not be a problem. As I slowly moved up in the line, “WARNING! NUCLEAR TACOS ARE INCREDIBLY HOT” signs were all around. I ignored them for the most part.

Nevertheless, I decided to play it safe and go with one “Hot” taco and one “Nuclear” taco. Yeah, uhmm, bad choice. I could barely eat the hot taco, and I found myself finishing a can of soda in record time. My lips are still burning as I write this. For a while, I felt like I was breathing fire.

I don’t know if nuclear tacos are an Austin thing and if they actually have any restaurants in the area that serve them. If they do, I’d highly recommend that you think twice before going for the “nuclear” flavor.

Mild, anyone?

Public Transportation Showdown

Lauren here from the Chicago Metblog. Like Nicole, I will be guest blogging while I am in town for SXSW. And being from Chicago, I can never pass up the chance to use public transportation, no matter where I am. I guess it just goes hand in hand with being from a city that has the greatest public transportation system in the world. My first night here, I walked to the ginormous new Whole Foods to get some snacks and save on travel expenses. Instead of hiking about a mile and half back to the hotel with my groceries, I hopped on the Dillo. I talked to the driver and found out some great information about these new lines. Apparently, they get all their training information from Chicago, and the driver seemed sad about the underuse of the lines. He told me that the majority of the time, people just ignore the Dillo and take a cab. Even though the Dillo is free!

In Chicago, we are having a bit of a public transportation crisis, with fare hikes and service cuts in the works to make up for a $55 million dollar deficit. Hey Austin, you’ve got a great and FREE resource out there! Use it!

Deer Daniel

HiHowAreYouContinuedStoryCDcover2in_small.jpgSome nights on the way home, my drive takes me down Wickshire Lane bordering Mabel Davis Park, which is currently undergoing a massive cleanup from illegal dumping of pesticides and car battery casings among other things from the days when it was a landfill, and Linder Elementary.

This past week, I was driving that way and happened upon four deer standing just on the edge of the road. They were all of a similar size and either all does or too young to have antlers. As I passed them, I was listening to KGSR play “Story of An Artist”, a Daniel Johnston song covered by Matt Ward from Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered. It’s a very haunting song and it fit the moment perfectly.

Daniel Johnston is one of those famous but not-so-famous Austin-area artists. You can find plenty about him on other sites, so I leave the searching to you. There’s a regional premier at SXSW of the documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, about his life. He’s also performing live this Wednesday at Escapist Bookstore at 6pm. I think his live appearances are fairly rare.

For the out-of-towners, there was a controversy early last year, when the Wendy’s owned Baja Fresh moved into the space formerly occupied by Sound Exchange, an independent record store that had been there for as long as I can remember. Daniel Johnston had painted his famous, “Hi, How are you?”, alien on the wall years back and it was going to be demolished as part of the changeover. There was a quick mobilization of citizens who wanted to see it preserved, driven to some degree thanks to blogs and e-mail, if I’m not mistaken, and Baja Fresh did The Right Thing and kept it. A small victory in the battle between what Austin once was and what it is becoming. You can check it out for yourself. It’s at the intersection of Guadalupe and 21st Street, effectively the southwest corner of the UT campus.

Ahhhhhstin

What a weekend it was. Glorious weather. 80s, windy, but great.

I took by three-year old son with me to San Marcos, a beautiful little city, thirty miles south of Austin and home to Texas State University, where my wife is a professor. There he and I played golf at the little 9-hole university course. The course is great to play with a three-year old, because there is never anyone playing that cares about golf etiquitte. We had a great time. He ran around like crazy. Used an extra club of mine to punish the fairway in hopes of hitting a golf ball.

Welcome to our guest bloggers from San Francisco and Houston. Nicole, the loud birds are “Grackles“, and they are real pests. Ugly too. You’re not quite in time to see our bats; they are just starting to arrive from Mexico. But come back in September and they will be spectacular.

Don’t limit yourself to Sixth Street. Head over to the Warehouse District. Many more places there and there’s the free ‘Dillo to get you there.

There are tons of other ideas for food and drink (including the Threadgills, where Janis Joplin was discovered). Explore and have fun.

Turnip greens and separate checks

There are times when it’s just too complicated to figure out whose turn it is to pick up the check, especially when there’s an ever-changing cast of characters over a period of days.

That’s the time for Luby’s, especially if it’s in the middle of the afternoon and nobody’s up for Katz’s or for Mexican or Chinese food. Luby’s isn’t new or exotic for people from Texas, but it’s a surprising tourist attraction.

The cafeteria system takes care of the problem of separate checks. Very little kids can be rolled through the line in one of those wheeled high-chairs. The closest to downtown is at Oltorf, convenient to the Clarion and La Quinta.

Tea (no need to say “iced” around here; say “hot” if that’s what you want) has always been the chief beverage; lately, varieties of Jarritos have been available.

Yesterday, my personal LuAnn platter included the very best turnip greens tasted in years and years and years, green and tender and sweet and cooked either with ham or bacon. And the jalapeno cornbread was fine, just fine. Others held the coconut cream pie and the (don’t laugh!) Jell-O salad in as high regard. The pico de gallo was heavy on picante serranos, and the excellent cornbread, as always, was unsweetened, as tradition dictates.

Hello from San Francisco

Hello dear Austin-ites (Austin-ers? Austinians?)! My name is Nicole Lee, and I’ll be one of your guest bloggers for the next few days, thanks to my presence at SXSW. I’m a writer for the San Francisco Metblog when I’m not traveling about elsewhere.

Not only is this my first time in Austin, it’s also my first time in Texas. Not only that, but the last time I visited another state was about four years ago. And of course, it’s also my first year at SXSW. This trip has been momentous in more ways than one.

I have to say that the first few impressions I’ve had of Austin leads me to believe that this is one helluva college town. I have never seen this many pubs, bars, pizzerias, burger joints, all together in just a few blocks. Just last night, we went on a serious bar crawl from one spot to another, where the cops shut down an entire couple of blocks or so. First we went to a place called Buffalo Grill or something (I can’t recall), then we went to the Chuggy Monkey, and then we went to Paradise Lounge. The difference of the neighborhood during night and day, was seriously like… night and day. Daytime, it’s quiet and kinda slow. Nighttime, it’s like a swarm of party-goers have descended upon the city.

What I enjoyed the most about the Chuggin Monkey was the balcony/patio at the back. We were actually able to speak and make conversation without shouting at each other. It also helps that the skies were clear and the night looked beautiful. There was also much debauchery involved, as these SXSW flickr tags show. I’ll also probably cross-post some of my stuff in the Austin Metblog Flickr group.

Few additional notes about Austin:

  • The tall buildings in Austin are all kinda geometric. Triangular, pyramid-shapes, etc. Or maybe I’m imagining things.
  • The weather here is driving me crazy. All hot and humid in the morning, and all cold and windy in the evening. We had to do an emergency extra-jacket pickup today because it got way cold all of a sudden
  • The lake/river is absolutely gorgeous in the daytime. Shimmery and beautiful. Kinda gunky though, when looked up close.
  • There are some really loud birds here. Like really loud. Like Hitchcock’s Birds loud. I hear they’re called Brackles or something like that. It’s kinda freaky how they fly about and caw like that, as if they were to attack you at any second.

I’ll probably write more about my impressions as soon as I have more time and better WiFi. Any more tips on Austin food and drink will be much appreciated.

Thoughts From An “Outsider”

Ordinarily you’d find me blogging at the Houston Metroblogging site, but seeing as how I’m here for SXSW Interactive until Tuesday, I thought I’d post my reflections on our capital city.

Some passing thoughts:

  • It’s amazing that so much is within walking distance in downtown. Even though I’ve got my car with me (Houston’s only a mere 150 miles away), I find myself spending less time driving and more time walking due to the fact that everything’s so close. That and the general lack of free parking.
  • Houston may be the fattest city in the United States, but I’d have to say our downtown food offerings don’t match those of Austin’s. Then again, as I found out today during the Metroblogging meetup, there are apparently alot of Houston restaurants that I haven’t been to, so I could be wrong.
  • I have to admit that the people that have asked me for money in the middle of the street have much more creative methods than the ones in Houston…
  • MTV’s Real World Austin is taping right next to my hotel. Whether or not that’s cool depends on how you look at it. I guess it’s nice to have a cop stationed by the hotel at all times though.
  • You’ve got hills! Damn the flat landscape of Houston!

Per the recommendation of some of the Austin metrobloggers, I’ll be trying at least one restaurant I haven’t heard of tomorrow. I’ve been craving some BBQ, and it appears there’s a really good BBQ place on 8th and Red River (I think?). I forget the name, but I’m sure I’ll find it – this coming from a person that had to spend 45 minutes circling the city looking for the Boldin Coffee House..who knew that S 1st Street and E 1st Street were two different streets?

Sunday night and nothing to do?

I just got back from a Metroblogging meetup with some of the members of the Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Los Angeles metblogs. Over the course our discussions, I mentioned a few places that they should check out, so I thought I’d share with all of the other SXSW-going readers.

The music portion of the festival hasn’t officially kicked off yet, but you can get an early jump on it at Emo’s where you can catch San Antonio garage punk masters Sons of Hercules along with Pat Todd & The Rank Outsiders and The Golden Boys. Before you go, fuel up with a massive burger at Casino El Camino. They’ve been voted best burger and best jukebox in Austin several times over. I recommend the Amarillo burger and be sure to give yourself at least 45 minutes cook time. Those suckers take a long time and they’ll be busy down there. If you’re looking for something lighter or perhaps some caffeine to fuel your festival-going, hit Little City between 9th and 10th on Congress. Did I mention that both Casino and Little City have free wi-fi?

Tsunami Relief Bake Sale, Round 2

Grab some homemade baked goods for a good cause Sunday (3/13) morning at the surprise second day of the bake sale benefitting the village of Aragumbay, Sri Lanka.

The fun begins around 8 AM and lasts until 2 PM. Saturday’s sale was held in the South Lamar Shopping Center, where the new Alamo Drafthouse is located. Sunday’s sale is at Taco Xpress, 2529 South Lamar.

To read more about this fundraiser and the village of Aragumbay, visit tsunamibakesale.org.

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