Mr. E and I go on annual eating adventures, which to most people, is simply called a vacation. This year, after celebrating Easter down on Long Island, we headed back to one of my favorite cities, Austin.
The first Monday morning, I wandered upon Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. The only reason I post this is because a new member of the family joined the ranks back in mid-February. My too-cute-to-boot nephew Cooper was born February 18th and has been my best friend ever since. After seeing this miraculous sign, I knew we’d made the right decision and that Cooper approved. Ok, end of doting aunty plug. I really just wanted to post the bunny ears picture below because… well, you’re welcome.
Ok to get on with it. Mr. E and I spent 5 days in the big state, so you can count the meals and snacks that would have happened. We’re big walkers, so we found everything was relatively easy to get to by foot. We probably clocked at least 10 miles a day. Occasionally we’d grab an Uber for those late night trips, but I do find that walking leads you to all of those hidden gems and otherwise missed adventures.
What to do
South Congress Avenue Shopping – it’s easy to mill around South Congress and stop in the variety of boutiques and shops. South Congress Books is worth a visit for their eclectic art and collection of vintage and first edition books. Every older book is carefully packaged and preserved to withstand the elements. An institution that’s not to be missed is Allen’s Boots. If you’re like me and have no idea what the heck is going on when it comes to cowboy boots, you’ll go for the thrill of guessing how expensive a pair of boots costs and get your fill of that sweet, sweet leather air.
Rainey Street Bars – Need a place to relax, people watch, and enjoy a quick snack and a brew? Head down to Rainey Street for happy hour. Conversely, you can go there at night for an entirely different experience. We stopped into Half Step for a pre-dinner cocktail/mocktail. Most bars have spacious outdoor seating and lawn games. Unfortunately, while we were there, there was a ton of construction going on. It’s sad to see the high rises taking over those neighborhood corners.
SoulCycle Downtown Austin – Because I’m getting older and our eating frenzies may have finally caught up to me, I booked myself a ride each morning at the crack of dawn. Shout out to Christy for helping me avoid having to buy larger clothes as the days went by.
Art Walls – Visit the various art walls, but get there early to avoid the dance with all of those fashion bloggers and content creators.
I love you so much – this mural shares space with Jo’s coffee. See my notes below on where to eat.
Greetings from Austin – the mural on Todd Sanders’ Roadhouse Relics is up there in popularity with the I love you so much wall. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to stop into Todd’s studio, but his neon signs are in full display all over the city.
Blanton Art Museum – The museum is located in the University of Texas’ campus. One of their permanent exhibits, Austin by Ellsworth Kelly, is worth the hike. We went just as the sun was setting, so the art was not at its peak, but it was quite beautiful. Check out this google image search to see what it should ideally look like.
Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge – How does that Sam Cooke song go? The moon belongs to everyone. The best things in life, they’re free. Well, this bat viewing is free, but I’m not sure everyone would say it’s the best. Mr. E and I took a risk and sat below the bridge to see the 1.5 million bats emerge at dusk. Fortunately for us, we dodged that guano… I mean, bullet. We didn’t photograph the bats because we wanted to just live in the moment. Plus no picture could do it justice. You just have to see it to understand how amazing it is.
Natural Springs – It was too cold this past trip, but Barton Springs and the Hamilton Pool Preserve were on our list. I’ve been to Barton Springs before. The water is generally a cool 70 and is the home to the endangered Barton Springs salamanders.
Where to eat
Jo’s Coffee – Jo’s SoCo location is the home to the iconic I love you so much wall mural, mentioned above. Get here early for a no fuss breakfast – bacon, egg & cheese and bean & cheese tacos. Don’t mention The Food Network or the wall to anyone who works here. I saw some poor man get an eye roll that could have easily competed with the Chinese reporter Liang Xiangyi’s viral eye roll.
Amy’s Ice Cream – there are a whole host of Amy’s around Austin, but we had one that was located a stone’s throw away from our hotel. Thankfully, I had the will power to stick with a one and done visit. That being said, after having that Mexican vanilla, I know they have their hooks in me.
Launderette – Stop into this polished “diner” for a leisurely lunch. The space was converted from a laundromat, hence the cutesy name. I ordered a Bird of Paradise cocktail, which was a little aggressive for Monday at noon, but vacation! Order the sweet potatoes, the fried chicken sammie, and a cold cocktail to wash it all down.
Uchi& Uchiko – Mr. E made sure we made it out to both Uchi and Uchiko this trip to Austin. Both restaurants are on the pricey side, but the food is so incredible, you generally don’t stop until you’re uncomfortably full or you’re broke. For Uchi, we opted for an omakase that focused on the the day’s specials and the Tsukiji fish selection. Pictured below was the tartare maki, a mix of wagyu flank, fuji apple, and fried onion. At Uchiko, we gave our waitress carte blanche on all ordering decisions and she brought out a selection of dishes the restaurant was known for. The highlight for me, which is one of the restaurant’s staples, was the hama chili, yellowtail, ponzu, thai chili and orange. It was refreshing, sweet, acidic, spicy… just everything you’d want in a dish.
Torchy’s Tacos – 4 years ago, we tried Torchy’s food truck down at the Trailer Park & Eatery. Sadly, the park closed maybe a month or so before our visit. Fortunately for Torchy’s, they’ve been on a growth spurt these past few years, popping up in a permanent brick and mortar on South Congress. While we initially came for the tacos, we came back for the queso. It’s unbelievably addictive, but less photogenic — so here’s a look at their tacos. A word of warning, these tacos are more like small burritos. Mr. E and I split the queso and I was barely able to finish one of these.
Emmer & Rye – We came to E&R for what I thought would be a more bougie dinner. While it was quite fancy, the restaurant incorporates a dim sum element where surprise dishes are carted around. It ends up being a fun/stressful game of ordering just enough from the a la carte menu so you don’t overdo the cart dishes. My absolute favorites of the night included the cacio e pepe blue beard durum spaghetti (a la carte), the chicken liver tart (dim sum item pictured below), and our dessert grapefruit sorbet with salted cream.
Elizabeth Street Cafe – My girl Kayla suggested this absolutely darling French Vietnamese boulangerie. The decor makes this place one of the cutest darn eateries I’ll probably eat at ever. We ordered the house special banh mi, which included pork pâté, roasted pork, and chicken liver. My only gripe was the pickled veggies lacked that sweet acidity I crave to offset the rich, earthy liver. That being said, the quality of the bread was something dreams of made of. We also got the beef pho which included braised brisket, tendon, and beef round. To be honest, I regret ordering the pho over a bun bowl, but there’s always next time. On our way out, we grabbed an almond croissant to snack on for our walk back to South Congress. It was so good, we ran back the morning we were heading home to bring it on the plane for a snack.
Homeslice – It kills me to say this, but I think I ate the best Sicilian slice I’ve ever eaten at Homeslice. What further kills me is this is not a normal pie they have all the time. In the meantime, my search for Sicilian pizza in Boston continues. If you know a place, hook a girl up.
Forthright Cafe – We came in for a late breakfast during the week. The space is quite nice for what seemed like an office building coffee shop. Forthright resides in the first floor of the San Jacinto Center office building. The cafe is counter service with a few tables spread around the shop. I ordered a cortado and an avocado toast with poached eggs to dine in. The avocado toast was served on a thick slice of toast with crushed red pepper and pepitas. The portion was so big, Mr. E and I probably could have split it. My cortado was wonderful (and beautiful). The barista seemed to really care about the quality if his work and checked in before we left to see if I enjoyed it. Great service.
Austin has a very special place in my heart. I’ve traveled here with some of my favorite people and each time gets better and better. If there are any places you’ve been to that I missed, let me know and I’ll add to my list for the next trip!