The Weekend Getaway: Austin
Austin Bergstrom International Airport is not huge, but it captures the city perfectly with Tex-Mex food/beer stalls and live music at seemingly every bend. After a quick Lone Star beer toast, grab an Uber, Lyft or a taxi to downtown, a 15 minute ride that will cost $25-$30. Our go-to hotel is the Hotel San José, a bungalow-style oasis (think the Ace brand) in the heart of the funky SoCo shopping district. If you want something new and fancy, the recently opened Hotel Van Zandt in the heart of the trendy Rainey Street District, has sexy low-lit interiors, snapchat worthy skyline views and the buzzed-about Geraldine’s, where you can nosh on smoked yellowtail tacos and sip seasonal sangria on a pool deck overlooking Lady Bird Lake.
Whether you’re staying in the area or not, a bar crawl through Rainey Street is the way to kick off a weekend. The once sleepy residential area has been transformed into a row of cocktail lounges, colorful dive bars and trendy restaurants. What makes it unique is that instead of simply gentrifying it, the block was countrified in that the broken-down houses were converted into retro-funky watering holes that kept their historic country roots. Clive Bar is a prime example with its wood everything, strung up white lights and roadhouse feel. After a Rainey Street Mule (or two, or three) it’s time to head over for some REAL cocktails at Half-Step. Owner Chris Bostick raises the bar with handcrafted cocktails that are complex without being pretentious. Order the Floradora, (Beefeater gin, raspberry and ginger syrup, lime juice), a shaken masterpiece that the “bartender of the year” award winner tops with in-house ice made from an authentic Clinebell. If you’re more into craft brews, we’ve got that covered too, drop into Craft Pride, a Texas-only craft beer bar with 54 taps and a double cask engine serving one-off, limited edition batches. There’s always a local band playing, which, unlike most cities means they’re awesome, and the Via 313 truck in back serves some of the best pizza in town. If you’re looking for a more relaxed or romantic night, head across the river to Uchi, a sushi destination spot not only in Texas, but the country. After dinner, hit up a show at the Continental Club, a local landmark, showcasing rockabilly, country and swing acts.
There’s no better way to soak up a night of beer, booze and bad decisions than with a plate of breakfast tacos, which are practically a religion in Austin. You can find them served almost everywhere, but our favorite are the migas tacos from the Veracruz All Natural trailers parked around town with their made-to-order tortillas and their life-saving watermelon agua fresca. If you prefer artisan coffee, oatmeal pancakes and people-watching, an outdoor patio seat at Jo’s Coffee is prime real estate on a sunny day. Just don’t overeat because you’re saving up for Franklin Barbecue for lunch. Speaking of, reserve a time with the Franklin Fast Pass app, the brainchild of a child entrepreneur who will wait in line for you, while you mosey onto South Congress Avenue. The artsy SoCo shopping district is filled with vintage shops (creepy taxidermy and creepier dolls at Uncommon Objects), sidewalk vendors, and food stalls. If the Texas heat has you feeling like Clint Eastwood, pick up a pair of of cowboy boots at Allen’s Boots and take 25-minute ride out to Red's Indoor Range. You can take private lessons and fire off a gun collection that would make Greg Hardy jealous at their 100-yard indoor range. Nothing says Texas like shooting guns before you eat BBQ. Just remember to get back in time to go Walking Dead zombie on the best smoked meat you’ve ever tasted at Franklin, a 2015 James Beard Award winner. After waking up from a food coma, stumble out to Congress Bridge at dusk to see millions of bats emerge from the bridge’s underside in an Instagram-worthy spectacle. You don’t have to yell out “Batfleck,” but it would be a lot cooler if you did.
Start your evening by laying a foundation at Qui, an East Austin favorite that wows with “whimsical combinations of flavors.” Everyone’s been raving about the eponymous Top Chef winner’s Filipino-inspired food since you stepped off the plane so here’s your chance to get a taste. If you aren’t feeling the Zen-like setting, you can also enjoy Qui’s cooking at East Side King trailer, located in the back of Whisler’s, a vintage cocktail bar with an upstairs Oaxcan-style mezcaleria (hello!). If you want to stay classy, the Roosevelt Room is a new 20’s-inspired bar serving up inventive cocktails like the Cigar Box (mezcal, smoke black tea syrup, lavender bitters, tobacco bitters, flamed cinnamon stick). If you’re still thirsty, as in looking for a cheap, good time, head to the Dirty Sixth. The city’s urban core is like Bourbon Street without the beads — a strip of bars along Sixth Street with names like Mugshots, 5 Minutes of Fame and Chugging Monkey. This is where UT goes to party and you’ll be glad you paid a visit. The best of the bunch is Midnight Cowboy, a former brothel that’s been made over into a reservations-only speakeasy, where visitors are encouraged to flirt with staff as long as they abide by house rules (ha!). Rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?
Chances are you're waking up feeling a little rough, don't worry though, some Texas hospitality will set you right. Hose down, brush up and head to Sunday brunch at Launderette. The long lines outside are worth the wait after you take a whiff of the good ole’ Southern country fried cooking. If you can’t bear the line, try Emmer & Rye, a new American take on dim sum, full of baked goods including scones, roll cakes and breakfast sandwiches or Frank, whose insane bloody marys and artisan sausages are sure to bring hope to a world without. Now, that you’re feeling alive again, get some fresh air at the Hope Outdoor Gallery, an outdoor spot displaying some of the sickest graffiti and murals in the country. Wind things down before your flight home by stopping into the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a downtown outpost that’s like the Sistine Chapel for movie geeks. As your flight takes off, fire up some Friday Night Lights on Netflix and, in a proper tribute, whisper to yourself what you’re sure to now believe, “Texas Forever”.