Archive for November, 2005

Shisha and belly-dance south

cleo.jpgOpen for about two weeks, Cleopatra Mediterranean Restaurant (2120 South IH-35 on the west frontage road) brings much that’s new for South Austin.

A divan room, generous with cushions, is outfitted with a hookah for use with shisha tobacco. Every Saturday night there’s to be Arab music with a DJ, along with dabke and belly-dance.

There was quite an extensive buffet set out for lunch, and there’s a full menu at dinnertime. A take-out menu includes shawarma, all the appetizers that one would expect, and a variety of sandwiches on pita bread. Each day’s luncheon and buffet features a specialty and soup of the day. Except on Sundays, when Cleopatra’s hours are from 3 pm to midnight, the doors open every day at 11:30 am and don’t close until midnight Mondays through Thursdays and not until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Ample parking behind the building makes it easy to stop by and pick up a take-out menu or food to go on the spur of the moment. Advance take-out orders may be placed by calling 947-9462 or 707-1578.

Up and down, round and round

ferris.jpgThis Ferris wheel’s been standing up against the sky for a week now. It’s at the Crabtree Amusements show set up on the north Ben White access road between IH-35 and South Congress, on Warehouse Row, which is a bit west of that big Wal-Mart.

There’s real downhome barbequeing going on there and the food concessions are very clean. The rides and backdrops are freshly painted and the small carnival games midway is spiffy as well, with Little Nemo plush seeming to be among the most popular prizes.

There are many rides for the little kids, and several favorites for the grown-ups, including the Octopus, the Tilt-A-Whirl, the merry-go-round, the Ferris wheel, and the Scrambler. My personal favorite is called Crazy Dance this time around. It was tough to quit it, but I think I’ll go back tomorrow. When I’m hungry. To try some of that food. And ride some more.

On with the show

dairy.jpgAs the Chuy’s parade formed up, there were a few drops of fine rain, but the skies cleared, and the Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band, delighting the crowd as always, probably could have forgone its plastic hat covers. After the parade, Manuel’s was busy almost to capacity. If we’d arrived too late, we planned to go back uphill to the Athenian on Colorado Street, which was also doing a good business. There was chicken being roasted there giro-style on spits, and a good-looking buffet set up. Even if the threat of rain kept you from enjoying the parade and donating toys there, Blue Santa can still use your help.

More Development Downtown

Yet another high-rise condominium project was announced, this time with the addition of the boutique hotel chain Kimpton as a compliment to the project. I’ve lost track of how many new developments are in the works for downtown and most of them seem to be residential. I love the idea of bringing residents downtown, but at the same time I’d like to see more commercial and retail development to support what is expected to be a boom. Living and working in downtown is what will make Austin a true ‘urban center’.

One good thing for sure will be the addition of hotel room space. Austin loses out on a lot of convention business because we just don’t have enough hotel rooms. With more hotel space in the city center we can count on additional convention business which brings additional dollars to the city. I’ve stayed at a Kimpton hotel and I can vouch that they are a great hotel.

Rain on the parade?

Stepping off near the Capitol at 11 o’clock this morning will be the Chuy’s parade. This may be the first time ever that it’s been this rainy on a parade day, but surely a few drops of water won’t stop it. The order of march is printed on page 9 of the current Chronicle. People hand out parade information, but it doesn’t always reach all spectators, so tear out that page. Pick up a toy and be ready when the entire parade stops to collect it. Expect the Anderson, Travis, and Hutto high school marching bands, floats, and giant balloons. And get ready to sing “Hey! Baby” with the peerless Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band, a parade highlight for the past several years.. This is a Blue Santa event and Blue Santa needs help.

Zilker boat rental about to sink

After decades of service along the shores of Town Lake, it looks like there may be no gold watch for the proprietors of Zilker Park Boat Rentals. The couple who germinated the whole canoe rental idea in 1969 have now been outbid by two other proposals and are in danger of losing their business.

The current concessionaires, the Barnetts, make their case on their website. It’s easy to get caught up in loyalty and nostalgia about this issue, but realistically, what exactly does the city expect from a new rental provider: Soy lattes? Chauffeured boating? It’s difficult to see a demand-side argument for changing suppliers, especially since the Barnetts identified the need in the first place, and presumably have the best insight into meeting it given their 36 years of experience. I’m assuming this comes down to increased concession fees and the city’s desperation to find parks funding, but that’s a bit callous without having seen the competing proposals or bid requirements.

The City Council will ultimately decide the fate of the Zilker boat rental concession on December 15th. Post your thoughts here, or contact the council if you have any lucid thoughts one way or another.

PS A neighbor forwarded a link about “curb rights.” The article specifically addresses transit, but applies to any clunky government bidding processes such as this.


pollos.jpg This outfit was spotted on the west side of Congress downtown, 400 block, and looks new. I think there was a hot-dog trailer there before for a while. Look at the heavy-duty vent on this trailer.

The menu features a lot of chicken charcoal roasted, or so the signs say, and at good prices. There are additional items that look very tempting.

I haven’t found anyone yet who’s tried this place, so I don’t know whether the “Mexcellent” painted on the side of the trailer is true. But the slogan’s great, and it would be a treat to find some good tinga here in Austin. Are there other Pollos Tale

Walk it off

travisht.jpg Up hill and down dale, the third annual two-day Travis Heights art walk is Friday and Saturday, from 11 o’clock in the morning until 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

Visit the homes and studios in this close-in neighborhood just south of the river between Congress and IH-35. You may or may not accomplish part of your holiday shopping, but you will certainly burn some calories, especially if you walk the entire route.


And oystered, too. With the best of people-watching. We all headed for McCormick & Schmick’s. The secret is to be seated in the bar area, where passers-by on the Avenue may be viewed at close-up range, as may those passing through the building’s plaza on their way to the dining-room proper.

The dining-room was jammed with those who had made reservations, mostly for a turkey or ham dinner. We were a party including those who wanted to take advantage of the oyster sampler. Today’s varieties were six: two from Nova Scotia, three from Prince Edward Island, and one from Long Island. Our table thought, and the waitstaff concurred unanimously, that today’s winner was the “north shore gold oyster” billed as being from Karabo Island, Nova Scotia.

The executive chef came out in his clogs to converse with friends of his family, there on the bar side, a party of five. At mid-afternoon, the bar was lively with conversation. The music was pretty much Sinatra, with a different football game showing silently at each end of the lounge.

The only disappointment was the butternut squash soup, which was topped with sour cream or perhaps whipped cream. The soup was fresh and with a beautiful texture, but was sweet and not the preferred savory. The scallops and fish came piping hot to the table, even though we were borrowing wait-service from the dining-room side of the house. My own black drum with chipotle butter was topped with excellent fresh lump crabmeat and accompanied by very tasty mashed potatoes of a good homemade texture, along with some green beans and carrots of the freshest.

We’re tempted to return, all of us, again tomorrow, lured by the prospect of additional oysters and perhaps scallops. There’ll be a wedding party of one hundred or so, but all will be open continuously from eleven in the morning, as I understand it. There was valet parking service, but on a weekend like this, there’s parking to be found within a half-block everywhere.

Support local businesses in your post Thanksgiving shopping frenzy

The Workshop is hosting some holiday sales where local vendors are going to be selling their handmade goods.
They are selling everything from soaps to jewelry to cloth baby diapers. So go ahead and get your shopping done -and support small local businesses:

Sunday November 27
12-6 p.m.
Tuesday December 6
6-10 p.m.
Thursday December 15
6-10 p.m.

Click here for more information.

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