It’s cute how Austin calls these speedbumps “hill country.” Pittsburgh should show ’em how it’s done.
Flat land aside, day two of Austin was much like day one: I DO WHAT I WANT. And what I wanted was food & shopping.
Mr. Beez and I kicked the day off with breakfast at the acclaimed South Congress Cafe. I was HUNGRY. So hungry that I didn’t even wait until Mr. Beez was ready to order, I needed to put my order in post-haste, or there would be problems. The waitress was kind and attentive, despite my appetite induced impatience. She even called me “Mama,” in that endearing, “sweetie” kind of way (not the “you’re so old you can be my mama” way). Calling me nice things is a winner.
Mr. Beez had a roast pork dish, and with every bite he exclaimed its deliciousness. Mr. Beez can be picky at times, but this dish was everything he loved all at once. The pork was tender, the rice was cooked to perfect texture and full of flavor, and of course he had fresh tortillas too. There is pretty much nothing in the food universe that Mr. Beez loves more than fresh tortillas.
South Congress Cafe was in every way a perfect brunch location. Their bar is generously stacked, their menu varied, their food amazing and their service attentive. I would like to bring this cafe home with me, thank you.
For obvious reasons, I needed to do a little walking after that meal. Lucky for me, Congress Ave is full of amazing shopping opportunities. Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually prefer shopping for clothes when I’ve just eaten a huge meal and feel enormous. If clothes feel OK on me when I’m feeling enormous (which is not an unusual occurrence, because I like me some restaurants), they’ll feel even better on me when I feel good. And I like knowing that after I’ve hit the feedbag, I still feel comfortable in my clothes.
My opportunities to just wander and shop are so incredibly rare that this was a lovely solitary afternoon outing (Mr. Beez had returned to the conference by then, so I had plenty of time to explore the city solo). The SoCo neighborhood is full of adorable boutiques, many very reasonably priced, and thrift shops. For the first time in ages, I got my thriftin’ on, and picked up a couple cute shirts for dirt cheap. I also picked up a few cute casual outfits in the boutiques. Shopping success!
Chilling with a cup of coffee was the next order of business. I wandered to the main part of downtown and parked myself at The Hideout Coffee House. The Hideout is super cool because it doubles as a coffee shop and an improv theater. The improv is only at night, so when I was there the place was full of people hanging out with their laptops, making cardboard cutouts for a street art project, and collaborating on a business startup project. It was so very Austin.
A local artist had her works on display there, and I bought for Baby Beez what I am convinced is the coolest thing ever: A paper cutout bug. I’m always fascinated with the enormous bug collection at the Carnegie Museum, and I even have a mounted/framed butterfly, but this is a PAPER bug. It’s awesome, and I’m sure Baby Beez is going to LOVE it. I can’t wait until she sees it!
What I liked best about the Hideout was its ambiance. It’s very artsy, but not obnoxiously pretentious. The coffee was good, but has some room for improvement (I was craving a pour-over, which they tragically did not offer. Also, they had CoffeeMate at the coffee fixin’ station, which just seemed strange to me). I had an iced coffee, and the drink was potent but refreshing.
I was starting to feel a little snacky, and a trip to Texas would not be complete without some chili, so my next destination was the Texas Chili Parlor. The clientele was half regulars, half tourists, but welcoming to all. It’s a dive with, of course, a great bowl of chili.
I walked in and immediately thought “This is the kind of place where you have to drink beer.” My thoughts were confirmed by the revulsion in a waiters voice, when he called out to the bartender one diner’s order of chardonnay. (Chardonnay and chili sounds awful, anyway).
Although I was hesitant to miss out on the “Original” red, brisket chili, I ended up selecting the white chili. It’s a green chili with pork and white beans, and was hands down delicious. When ordering, I cautioned the waitress that I was not starving, and she suggested the white chili as a “lighter” option. It was awesome, but I really don’t think you can characterize any chili as “light.” The chili had plenty of flavor and was not too spicy. The massive helping of sour cream also helped to cool things down a bit for this wimpy eater.
Austin is a huge food town, but what surprises me is that the foods they are famous for are so heavy. They’re big on meats and starches– BBQ, chili, tacos, etc. All of these come to mind as cold weather comfort foods. It doesn’t get that cold in Austin, even in winter, and I find it so strange that Austinites would go for such button-bursting comfort food fare in the Texas heat.
I don’t feel so terrible about this multi-day food fest, because boy have I been walking. My ActiveLink (a WeightWatchers device, very similar to a pedometer) has been zooming up the Activity Points because I’ve been walking-walking-walking. Despite the heat, Austin is very flat, has lots of sidewalks and walk signals, and is generally a very walking-friendly city.
For the final outing of the day, Mr. Beez and I went to dinner with his Co-op companions at Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s had been on my list well before we even stepped on the plane. I read in Bon Appetit about their deep-fried avocado tacos, and immediately decided I MUST GO TO THERE.
Torchy’s lived up to the hype. The avocado taco was beautiful. These are the things more delicious than deep-fried avocado: __________. But the taco wasn’t even the most delicious thing we ordered. Mr. Beez got an order of the grilled corn. It was basically a cup of grilled corn kernels, rice and a sauce. IT WAS BRILLIANT. It was so sweet and so tangy and so smoky and so everything. I took a bite and fell in love, and really wanted to get my own order of it, but by this point in the day I was SO STUFFED that this was an impossibility. At Torchy’s you’ll get great tacos, but do NOT miss the corn.
Following dinner, walking was again a must. We made our way back to South Congress for some window shopping and wandering. Finally, we wrapped up our night with some champagne cocktails at Snack Bar.
Snack Bar is straight-up ’70s lounge decor (Megan Draper would be in love). The cocktail list is kind of a strange one, it doesn’t have the usual types of cocktails you would expect. It did, however, offer a long list of champagne cocktails as well as sparkling wines by the glass, so I was sold. Also, they were projecting TRON on the wall. Love it. We didn’t order any food because did you SEE the entirety of my day? But a champagne cocktail was a lovely way to wrap up the evening.
BlogHer Food begins this morning! I’m very glad I’ve had 2 days of vacation before starting the conference, because I’m feeling refreshed, excited and totally ready to meet new people! Happy Friday, yinz (or should I be saying, y’all?)