Back on the 10 to Texas we went. The swamp areas we drove through were quite beautiful. Upon entering Texas our first impression was, “hot damn, is this a big state.” The last exit on the 10 (or the first if you’re coming from the East as we were) is 878. That’s a wide stretch of the 10! I laughed out loud at the billboard for a jewelry store that boasted merchandise that’s “Just a Little Bit Gawdy!” we quickly noticed that drivers in Texas – at least Eastern Texas – are very aggressive and abide by the “keep left pass right” mentality despite the signs advising the opposite and the Welcome to Texas signs that advise visitors to “Drive Friendly – the Texas Way.”
We checked into our hotel in Austin, conveniently located at 6th and Guadalupe (an Extended Stay – nothing to write home about other than cheap and well situated, don’t believe their lies about free wifi, you have to pay for wifi that actually works). We walked out to 6th street and Alan pointed out the places he’d partied at Josh’s bachelor party. There are tons of food trucks all over the city, but this being Sunday night we couldn’t find any open. We opted for Turf N’ Surf Po’ Boy to try and squeeze in an oyster po’ boy before we left the south. Unfortunately they were out of oysters and we got a buffalo shrimp with blue cheese to share. Much more up Alan’s alley than mine, but not horrible. The bar itself seemed like a pretty fun place to watch a game as well, and the people were very friendly.
We faced some threatening weather the next day (first time in a while on this trip – we were so lucky for pretty much all of the eastern seaboard and south). We drove over to Juan in a Million for breakfast tacos. SO good. I got a guacamole taco (literally just guac on a taco, so I’d probably skip that next time but the guac is fab) and a nopalitas and egg taco which was so freaking amazing. Nopalitas is prickly pear cactus. By the way, for breakfast you could definitely get away with one taco, I only ate half of each and took them to go. Kinda weird, but the nopalitas held up surprisingly well. Alan go the machacado and migas, also both fantastic.
After breakfast we drove across the lake, and over to South Congress. I loved with area. Tons of cute shops and coffee shops and food trucks and restaurants. The signage is probably my favorite thing about Austin. You’re nothin’ if you don’t have a hipster-cool neon light. I particularly enjoyed wandering around Uncommon Objects to check out the antiques, and we tried on some cowboy/girl boots at Allen’s. Big Top Candy Shop had a ridiculous selection of candies, including a number I’d never seen before. And I know my candy.
After South Congress we drove to Covert Park at Mount Bonnell and climbed the 100 or so steps to the top of Austin (775 feet) for some beautiful views of the river and downtown Austin. We admired the mcmansions on the waterfront, and afterwards we drove around Scenic Rd admiring more impressive Texas sized homes.
We checked out the University of Texas campus, which was nice and more urban that we’d expected. For lunch Alan got his second barbecue fill at Iron Works. Both Obama and Bush were pictured on the wall, so I was prepared for some legit BBQ. We shared a combo plate that had beef brisket, ribs, sausage, potato salad and beans. The ribs were best, the brisket OK. I didn’t bother with the sausage, and the beans here had nothing on Brick Pit’s.
For dinner we went to Chuy’s which came recommended by several friends. Alan ordered the Texas Martini, which is a margarita in a martini glass rimmed with salt, and with jalapeño stuffed olives. Be sure to ask for the creamy jalapeño sauce (free) for your chips and salsa. We split the enchiladas chicka chicka boom boom (fantastic) and the tortilla soup (OK). After Chuy’s we went to Rainey St. and met up with a friend of Sam and Kaitlyn’s for a drink. He was super friendly and had given us lots of tips on what to do in Austin, and Rainey St. is such a unique place. With Austin rapidly expanding, they turned this residential street into a row of really funky bars and restaurants all built in these former residential homes. They have backyards you can hang out in, play cornhole or watch live music. This is also where G’raj Majal is located (massively successful Indian food truck that is now expanding into one of the houses on Rainey St.). We were very impressed with the young working professionals’ scene in Austin, and I can imagine this is a really nice place to live for people in their 20s and 30s as there are several areas around town with great bars and restaurants.
On our way out of Austin we went to the barbecue mecca of Franklin. We’d been told you’re fine to get food if you arrive by 10:30am (they open at 11am and people line up in advance). Well, we arrived at 10:10am and Alan dropped me off to get in the LONG ASS line while he found a parking spot. He was devastated to return and see me standing right behind the guy with the “Last Man Standing” sign in hand, meaning he was the last person guaranteed food. We were told we could wait around and see if there was food left, but it would be close to 1pm by the time we knew if that was the case. We were so bummed, and talked with the woman managing the line about how we were on an epic road trip all the way from LA. Alan considered bailing (blaspheme) but luckily he is so slow at making decisions that before he could pull the trigger, she came back and pushed the last man standing card back based on a reevaluation of the availability of food. Still, we were told that it was a long shot that we’d get any ribs (and they wound up selling out a few people ahead of us). Settling in for the three and a half hour wait, the boat chairs came in clutch again. There was a girl walking around selling beer and cold drinks which we took advantage of for one round. Note that you can also BYO, which a number of the fellow waiting diners did. Finally at about 1:30 we ordered our food. Aaron Franklin himself cuts the meat for you, and he gave us a nice free sample of the brisket, which confirmed the three plus hour wait was worth it. I never thought I’d say that about meat, and especially barbecue, but mmmmm mmmmmmm mmmmm. Maybe you’re just so deliriously hungry by then? No, no. It was that good. The brisket at least. I personally wouldn’t wait for the turkey or pulled pork. On another recommendation we also got the banana crème pie, which was a crusted bowl of melt in your mouth happiness. So if I ever went again I would get only the brisket (maybe try the ribs if available) and a pie. Also, they had blueberry soda, which we mixed with regular soda and it was really tasty. I would also get there at 8am. You wait three hours no matter what, so may at least guarantee yourself a shady spot to sit and your choice of meat. All of the guys working the counter were friendly and struck up little conversations with us. I loved that the last guy heard us say we were from LA, and he told us about how he ordered a salad from a Whataburger in Oklahoma and the cash register attendant asked, “Are you from Los Angeles?”