Given our love of music and food, Beth Ann and I had been talking about visiting Austin ever since we met, and unfortunately I had never made it down for SXSW. So, when we saw that the Memorial Day weekend weather was going to be classic Seattle spring (read: rainy), we booked a last minute flight and hotel and went down for the long weekend.
Unfortunately when we got down there, we had brought the weather with us. Our plane was met with the first rain in 60 days for Austin, and this was no ordinary rain. It was a torrential downpour which forced the cab driver to go about 10 MPH….
We checked into the W Hotel in downtown, and we were upgraded to a River view suite which was an excellent surprise. We then met one of Beth Ann’s friends and his wife at Swift’s Attic. It was a fantastic place with great cocktails, funky décor, and great food. From there we all decided to go see some live jazz at Elephant Room. Elephant room is a cool, below ground jazz club with a good beer selection and wasn’t too crowded.
After a few beers there it was time to experience some Austin street food, and I finished the night with a Korean BBQ quesadilla at Chi’Lantro. That was a treat and a perfect way to end the night — Caramelized kimchi, Bulgogi, cilantro, onion, Chi’Lantro salsa, magic sauce and sesame seeds.
The next day we woke up, and we headed immediately out on foot to the South Congress area to check out the area that was described by many as the coolest area of Austin. We started with breakfast and bloody marys at South Congress Café which hit the spot – especially since we were able to somehow skip the 45 minute line (which seems to be the norm there). We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the area, checked out a cool men’s shop called Stag where they give you beer as you browse, and then had a refreshment break from the heat at the Hotel San Jose. The hotel is famous for its Michelada, and although I was not a fan due to the salt and soy combo, Beth Ann thoroughly enjoyed it! We headed back to the W with the plan to hit the pool for a little bit of relaxation, but we were in for a surprise as the pool was going nuts due to the Wet and Wild Memorial Day bash and packed with an upscale version of the Jersey Shore crew. Not exactly the atmosphere we were looking for, but it definitely provided some great entertainment value. That night we had dinner at La Condesa which serves really good Mexican food in a fun atmosphere followed by a post-dinner snack at Barley Swine which was a culinary delight despite being located in the middle of nowhere. We then walked to the Rainey Street area and had a phenomenal bar-crawl experience starting with Lustre Pearl (best bar there) and then going to Clive, Lucille, and Mum. Rainey Street is a fun and vibrant place and the story of its inception is a super interesting one and Lustre Pearl is a cannot miss gem that made us hearken back to our college experiences (3rd edition tiki-bar during the summer specifically for me). It is a shame but not suprising given the rapid growth in that area that Lustre Pearl is being forced out by a new high-end residential complex.
Sunday was the day for our BBQ expedition, and as everyone had told us prior to the trip, we had to get it at Franklins. That turned out to be more of a challenge than we thought since we arrived at 9:15am (1.45 hours before opening) and immediately learned that we had missed the cut for guaranteed BBQ. It blew our minds but we quickly hatched plan B thanks to a newly published article of the “50 best BBQ joints in Texas”. We hoofed it through “up-and-coming” neighborhoods to the next on the list – John Mueller Meat Co. And were we in for a treat! The atmosphere was great, they had a live band playing, free Lone Star beer and Bloody Marys, and best of all they still had BBQ. And some fine BBQ it was. We sampled the brisket, pork shoulder, turkey, and pork rib and inspired me to step my meat smoking game up a notch. Here is some of their handiwork:
Although we weren’t fortunate enough to eat Franklins BBQ, we also didn’t have to wait in very hot and VERY boring line for 4 hours! We headed back to the pool where we let the food digest and prepared for the favorite meal of the trip – Uchi.
We live in Seattle and get great sushi there but Uchi is definitely one of the best if not the best Japanese food experience that I have ever had. If anyone reading this is going to Austin, either Uchi or Uchiko are must visits. Just make sure you have a reservation. The sushi is imported each day from Japan and is very good but the hot and cold dishes were the standouts. After a meal like that, we felt like the only way to chase it was with some great live music and the Continental Club didn’t disappoint.
When we woke up Monday, we still hadn’t had enough bbq so we hit up Lamberts for some great (albeit higher class/higher priced) bbq. Then, in the airport we finished with a pulled pork sandwich from Salt Lick in the airport! What a city and what a great place to take a long weekend vacation. We will be back soon.
A friend of mine put together a cheat sheet of his Austin favorites and recommendations which was super helpful in the planning. I uploaded it and put it here: Austin Spots. Here is a good NY Time Travel article.