How to see Austin on a short jaunt
I recently found myself in Texas for the first time in my life. While I was expecting to be greeted with a chorus of “y’alls” and “yeehaws”, I soon discovered that Austin wasn’t the Texas town that I expected it to be. This hipster haven came at me with an unexpected punch. One that I welcomed with open arms. With only 48 hours in Austin, I knew I’d have to explore it with gusto. While I could have spent an eternity wandering the nooks and crannies of this eclectic city, I do pride myself with finding a few delicious gems that I know I’ll be returning to in the future.
Austin has a bountiful culinary scene. It’s a city that’s not afraid to push the boundaries of its cuisine while still paying tribute to its southern roots. Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill is the perfect place to fill up on some classic Americana comfort food in a relaxing setting. Drinks are served in mason jars and the patio is the best place to sit back and fill up with friends. There won’t be much room for dessert after a generous plate of pecan-crusted crawfish tails or green chile macaroni and cheese, but if you manage to leave a little room, splurge on the white chocolate bread pudding with raisins, pecans, and bourbon sauce. If you want to substitute a little liquid libation for your already boozy desert, order a shot of the moonshine. The powerful seasonal infusions of white lightening will definitely send a jolt down your spine.
Keeping with the theme of southern comfort food, Turf N’ Surf Po Boy offers a relaxed atmosphere for enjoying their hearty sandwiches. Once a popular food truck, these traditional Louisianan sub sandwiches are now served from a small kitchen with enough seating for you and a few friends to catch some sports while grubbing on delicious food. Turf N’ Surf’s po’ boys come dressed for the ball in a carriage of fresh bread, mixed greens, slaw, tomato, onion, and pickles. A few local favorites are the blackened catfish, fried pork chop, and the “naughty cat” (catfish with bacon). Despite the name, the serving sizes here are perfect for any budget.
Now that’s what I call a hot dog
Looking for a unique spin on a traditional sporting staple? Look no further than Frank. The self-proclaimed purveyor of artisan sausage serves up its housemade hot dogs with enough kitsch to fill your grandmother’s living room. Take the “Notorious P.I.G.,” for example. This delicious monstrosity is a custom-made smoked pork, bacon, jalapeño, and sage sausage that’s topped with creamy mac n’ cheese and Dr. Doppelgänger BBQ sauce. If that’s not adventurous enough for you, try the “Jackalope,” a smoked antelope, rabbit, and pork sausage with cranberry compote, Sriracha aioli, and cheddar cheese. Vegetarians are free to substitute any of these clever combinations with a vegan dog or sausage for no added charge. The world rejoices!
Viewfinder Tip: Head to the roof of Handlebar to find life-size Jenga pieces and a seesaw. The fun never ends!
There’s no shortage of unique watering holes in Austin. With only 48 hours in the city, it would be hard to hit them all, but I’ve found a few of my favorites. Mustaches are the new black and cleverly named Handlebar is leading the charge on this facial fashion. Wet your ‘stache with one of their custom libations, all served by a bartender with his very own fu manchu. My favorite boilermakers were the Selleck (Fireball dropped in ginger beer) and the Ron Burgandy (Amaretto dropped in wheat beer and orange juice). Both will put a little hair on your face.
My fabulous bloody mary at The Driskill Hotel
For a casual place to catch your favorite team, look no further than Doc’s Bar and Grill. This local institution has been serving up its signature cocktails since 2005 and is the perfect place to gather with friends. I would recommend ordering either the Dill-licious Margarita (Camarena Reposado tequila, pickle juice, lime juice, and fresh jalapeños) or the Austin Sipper (Tito’s handmade vodka, Fleur elderflower liquor, Mexican Fresca, and fresh squeezed lime juice) with a couple of Doc’s appetizer platters. The numerous big screen TVs make this the place to booze up with friends and boo your team’s competition.
To help recover from boozy nights at the bars above, you’ll find the perfect hair of the dog at the historic Driskill Hotel. This hotel is not only one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S., but also has the best build-your-own bloody mary bar my hungover eyes have ever seen. The rustic cowboy decor allows you to saddle up as you relax on one of the cowhide couches. All my dreams came true as I was handed a mason jar filled with a heavy pour of Tito’s handmade vodka. I proceeded to fill my jar with Driskill’s signature spicy bloody mary mix, a slice of crispy bacon, green olives, celery, carrots, smoked okra, a meat and cheese stacked shish kebab, and some salami for good measure. The crazy part? I only used about a fifth of the ingredients that were on the table. Imagine the possibilities if I was handed a bucket to fill! Now that’s spooky.
While I left so much of Austin to explore, I can’t help but dream of revisiting these delicious and unique hot spots. In what other city can you build your own Bloody Mary after a night of being served by a bar stocked with mustache-clad men? And while I really must dash (get it?), I hope to make it back for more culinary expeditions in the near future. Thanks for keeping it weird Austin.
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube