A much needed holiday delivered on every level with friends in Austin and family in Houston. Hope you enjoyed yours as well!
As you know, I’m a huge fan of Austin, so we spent a few days there knocking around, partying on the lake, exploring new restaurants, seeing some live music, playing golf, etc. Instead of staying at a hotel, we rented a casita from AirBnB. You can see the place here. I’ll be writing more about the experience later. We loved it!
Below are just a few pics of me and friends. Of course there’s commentary too :)
I have to interject here. Franklin BBQ, said to be THE BEST by most food critics including those at Bon Appetit (read their article here) did not meet my expectations. Admittedly, we did get the short end of the stick because we go there so late in the day; they were out of all things pork. The owner himself, Aaron Franklin, prepared his famous Texas Tipsy sandwich himself for us, but the brisket wasn’t as good as that at Salt Lick or Goode Co in my native Texas opinion.
Foreign and Domestic is another critic favorite that didn’t live up to our expectations. The menu sounds interesting, but the food doesn’t deliver for a sit-down meal. If it was served out of a food cart as it had been originally, I would have been impressed. But I’m guessing they weren’t charging $17 a pop for a warm salad back then.
Below is a pic from the back patio of Easy Tiger – a bakery and beer joint downtown that packs in a local crowd regularly. With 70+ beers on tap, solid food, good music under the stars, and a ping pong table all in the open air, what’s not to like!
Per usual though, the breakfast tacos were my fave. We found this little truck outside Once Over Coffee Bar. Their cappuccino blows away Bouldin Creek cafe where there is something fishy about the water and the baristas have a tendency to over-steam the milk.
After all of the eating and drinking, a little exercise was much needed. I decided to go out of my comfort zone and ride a bike like it’s supposed to be ridden on the road. An outdoor ride in the relentless heat was out of the question. Mellow Johnyy’s, Lance Armstrong’s bike shop, has a training facility in the basement where pros teach you how to improve your ride. Totally different than my spinning class and mentally very challenging.
At home it was nice to have Leven back in town for a couple of days. Right now she’s shooting a kid’s movie in New Orleans. Since she’ll be back next week, she left her dog Sookie with me. He’s such a lover. I’ve missed cuddling with him like we used to in LA!
That’s about it. Totally relaxing and fun. Now it’s time to get back to work. I’ll have a video tomorrow for you explaining what’s going on with the blog.
I am a HUGE fan of group fitness classes these days because I just can’t motivate myself to go to the gym. I never thought I would feel that way, but here I am, looking for excuses every day. So, to combat this and get in a solid 1 hour workout, I carve out the time in my schedule for my trainer or a class.
GoRecess.com is a new site that instantly locateds the kind of workout you’re looking for near you. You put in the type of exercise – yoga, cardio, bootcamp, spinning, etc – your location, and the radius you are willing to drive (or even better jog or bike!). GoRecess then creates a detailed list like you see above. Such a great concept because I’m always looking for a way to change up my workout.
Also, most studios will offer their first class for free, so if you’re on a tight budget, you can jump around for a while while you save up some cash and settle on your favorite.
If you’re in one of the cities I frequent, I reccommend these studios and gyms:
- SoulCycle - where I used to teach spinning
- Equinox - take the 30/60/90 class
- Physique 57 - Total body toning. Will get your booty tight!
- Soul Cycle - just opened in WeHo!
- Equinox - group classes are totally worth the membership
- UpDog Fitness - for spinning and yoga. Take classes from Colin and Reilly. Meredith for yoga.
- Fitness Factory - “garage” style hideout where celebs train. Sam Upton is the best!
- Fit Gym - where I teach spin
- Next Level Fitness - smaller and more affordable gym. I train with Cederick and box with Jason
- Joy Yoga - my favorite yoga in Houston!
- Yoga One
- Cura Yoga
- Define - like Physique 57/barre method. Great for toning.
- Blast900 – most intense full body workout you’ll ever have
- Eclipse 1 on 1 – training only. I love Jeff and Julius.
- Stellar Bodies - SPX training
- Urban Active Gym
I know I’m missing some; I can’t hit them all! Please share your favorites in the comments below. If you use GoRecess.com, let us know if you were pleased with the class you attend.
(P.S. Sorry for the blurry picture. PC’s just don’t have the same quality of screen grab as a Mac. I’ll replace it tomorrow!)Tweet this!
After my last handful of trips to Austin, here’s what I’ve realized: you can’t go wrong wherever you go, whatever you do in Austin. I can’t say that about many cities I’ve been to. It’s really the perfect vacation city. Others I might put in this category: Charleston, Newport Beach, and San Francisco.
Every time I go, I do something new and love it just as much, if not more, than the classic spots. For example, on this last trip for SXSW, I discovered a whole new row of restaurants and cafes that is only a stone’s throw from the area I know well (South Congress).
Here I’ll offer you a little insight on how to tackle all Austin with your eyes, mouth, and heart wide open! Also check my Austin City Guide for a more extensive list of hotels, restaurants, and activities.
HIT UP THE FOOD CARTS
I won’t go as far as saying my favorite meals come from food carts, but they are absolutely exceptional. Every time I try a new one, I’m shocked at how well-rounded and flavorful the meals are. The creators put a lot of pride in their food. Above, I’m waiting in line for a super delicious Kebab at a cart in the 2nd Street Parking Lot downtown. The cart had no appeal from the outside so I wouldn’t have just walked up to it on my own without a referral. What I’m telling you now is to try them all. Don’t be afraid!
As you would expect, a lot of the food is bad for you but oh so yummy. You can try to imagine how good Gourdough’s (S 1st Street) made-to-order donuts are on the left, but you wouldn’t be close to understanding how sweet and savory each bite is. On the right, is the total opposite extreme. My super light and fresh fish tacos from Turf and Surf Po Boys (2nd Street) hit my healthy spot one night.
My favorite food cart spots:
- South Congress
- 2nd Street downtown (where you’ll find a perfect cappuccino at Patika like I did above)
- 1st Street (Bouldin Creek)
Beware: the food carts lined up downtown at night have not been as good in my opinion. Go here for a more detailed list of quality carts. You can download a free app that will help you while you’re in town too!
TABLE HOP AROUND TOWN
Following your belly really isn’t a bad way to explore Austin. Each restaurant takes you to a different neighborhood.
As much as I love food carts, there are some amazing chefs in Austin you absolutely should try. There’s a great place for every single meal, so it all depends on what you’re in the mood for. Again, I’ll refer you to my Austin City Guide for lists broken down by cuisine, and then point out a few favorites here:
- Uchi & Uchiko - home of Tyson Cole and Top Chef winner Paul Qui (respecitively). Both offer one of my favorite meals in the world. Japanese food that will blow your mind. You’ll need a reservation and a serious budget. For an easier and more affordable option, try out Uchiko’s social hour from 5-6:30pm where dishes are ridiculously cheap.
- Eddie V’s (Downtown) – hands down my favorite crab cake on the planet. Sit at the bar!
- Bouldin Creek Cafe – While I love Magnolia and Kirby Lane, this place serves up a healthy breakfast AND perfect lattes. Plus, they don’t usually have a wait.
- Elizabeth Street Cafe (S 1st Street) – Solid Vietnamese food in a cozy, eclectic cafe setting. Exceptional bahn mi. Great patio for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You’ll also see Gourdough’s is right next door as well as new BBQ place across the street everyone is raving about.
- Stubb’s – the only place for great music AND late night BBQ.
- HEALTHY!! – If you’re looking for quick and healthy food downtown, hit up Whole Foods which has a massive food court inside or Snap Kitchen that provides organic meals on the go.
- Tex-Mex – I’m sorry to say I have yet to find a place I LOVE for Tex-Mex in Austin. But I know you’ll be jonesing, so try Maudie’s, Guero’s, or Polvo’s.
- Haddington’s - This large tavern serves up really good food in an old school atmosphere. Mixologists rule the bar so be adventurous.
WHEN IN DOUBT, SOUTH CONGRESS
In my opinion, this drag of restaurants and shops south of the river is the place to go when you have no clue what to do. There are food carts galore, several great restaurants (Perla’s, Guero’s, Home Slice, Vespaio), and the Continental Room which always has awesome local bands playing.
The other area I would recommend, especially at night, is W 6th Street where you can eat at Ranch 616, Star Bar, Kenichi, and the Belmont. You’ll find more bars and live music around here.
If you’re over the age of 25, I’m going to tell you to pass up central 6th Street. It’s full of college kids and drunks. However, if you’re in the mood to get into trouble, that’s your spot.
ROCK OUT Y’ALL
There are countless local bands and visiting artists playing around town, you really can’t go wrong trying out a few you don’t know. So don’t hesitate to just walk into a bar and see who’s playing! Zeale is a local I discovered at SXSW. His pop hip hop will blow your mind and get you moving! Venues I’ve enjoyed: The Parish, Stubb’s , 311, The Continental Club, and several more we just stumbled into.
The new W Hotel downtown supposedly has the best venue in town. As the new home of Austin City Limits, it was strategically designed to have amazing sound and apparently there isn’t one bad seat in the house. Make sure to see who is playing there.
Check out Austin360 for concert calendars and events.
LOVE THE LOCALS
The locals fuel the energy in town so take advantage. Ask anyone their opinion if you’re wondering something and they’re happy to send you in the right direction. Plus they’re a young artsy bunch (those that live in town) so keep your eyes open for great people watching.
You’ll find all kinds of hotels and motels (see my guide for my favorite), but if you’re on a tight budget or staying for a while, rent a room or an apartment. This last trip the Saint Cecilia was fully committed to Bruce Springsteen, so we rented a townhouse for our extended SXSW stay. I loved it! Use AirBnb or HomeAway as your resources to find the perfect place for you.
Walking is the key to discovering the best parts of Austin, but if you’re not in the mood, hop on a pedicab downtown. You’ll get a local guide and a ride to your next destination.
Forget your usual go-to vodka and order Tito’s. It’s made nearby, cheap, and super smooth for its low price.
You know it wouldn’t be a guide from me if I didn’t offer you notes on exercising. While I prefer golfing or cycling (rent bikes from Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar) while in Austin, I do really enjoy Pure, a gym in downtown Austin (across the street from Whole Foods), for a solid hour of exercise. Their classes are great and well worth the $20 per day fee.
Again, for more on activities and other things to do in Austin, check my city guide here.
The bottom line, what I want you take away from this post, is that you will have fun no matter what you do in Austin!!
Despite the fact I’m a native Texan, I don’t know the ropes in Austin. Although, if you ask my friends who went to UT, they are out of the loop in town because so many new places and neighborhoods have popped up in the last few years.
I love my usual haunts (see my guide here), but my idea of fun in a growing city like Austin is exploring the new places. By places, I mean restaurants :)
Currently on my to do list:
- Download the Austin Food Cart app to figure out what deliciousness is close by so I’m not wandering aimlessly.
- Hire a TaskRabbit to stand in line for me at Franklin BBQ, apparently the best in the world.
- Find a decent yoga studio downtown.
- Browse through Zagat’s free “Flavor of Austin” guide as a starting point for restaurants.
- Check for updates on Austin 360′s Pinterest Board.
- Secure a reservation at the hipster and foodie fave Eastside Showroom.
- Pray I can still get a reservation at Uchi. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the world.
- Rent a van to get all of my friends out to Salt Lick BBQ, my favorite on earth, during the weekend. (Not worth it to go on the week days because they use a gas grill.)
And seek out all of the amazing restaurant and bar recs I found via twitter!
- DasKeyboard created a great Austin guide on Pinterest for all things casual and affordable
- @UncleWeed has been tweeting reputable beer joints (Brew Exchange, Lovejoy, Gingerman)
Alright then. Looks like I actually have a lot of research on my hands!
Hire a TaskRabbit!
It’s like Angie’s list for the digital savvy shopper. Love it!
Ok, well, I can’t say I love it because I haven’t tried it, but it sounds amazing. I miss the days of having a part-time assistant…I suppose I could hire a rabbit for a day or two… I wonder if they do data input….
Of course, there’s a catch. At this point, TaskRabbits are only hopping around these cities:
(coming soon to Dallas)
But it seems like you could hire someone remotely for many tasks other than dirty laundry. If you’re in one of those cities and need some extra cash, you can sign up to be helper too!
Thanks to @Baldwin for the intro. I asked him if he hires someone to stand in line for him @FranklinBBQ in Austin (apparently the best BBQ on the planet) that boasts a huge line and is sold out by 10am. He replied “of course, that’s what @TaskRabbit is for.”Tweet this!
Food-truck-turned-restaurant Barley Swine is one of the most popular eateries in Austin right now. In fact, chef Bryce Gilmore was just crowned one of the Best New Chefs by Food and Wine magazine.
I don’t know who is responsible for designating BS? as awesome. (Coincidence that the initials are BS? I think not.) Whoever you people are, I disagree with all of you.
On many reccommendations I ventured to Barley Swine for an incredible gastronomic experience only to be greated with the smell of grease, a ridiculously hot and bright open kitchen, and food smothered in oil. Granted, it all looked pretty plated, but the food itself was over-bearing. Even the brussel sprouts! Obviously I’m in the minority with my scathing opinion, so take it or try BS anyway.
If you’re looking for fabulous food in Austin try these all-time favorites:
- Ranch 616 – Trendy vibe, southern food
- Franklin’s – In-town BBQ crowned “Best in the USA” by Bon Appetit
- Eddie V’s – Texas-sized steaks, crab cakes, and infamous bar scene
- Uchi – Hands down best restaurant in Austin. Japanese fare that will blow your socks off.
- Perla’s – Trendy, always packed, good seafood
- Salt Lick – My favorite BBQ in the world (outside of Austin, worth the trip)
- Guero’s – Decent Tex Mex on South Congress
- Patika – Coffee truck downtown with amazing cappuccino
- Kerby Lane – Breakfast diner that actually delivers healthy deliciousness whenever you need it
These are “the basics.” If you make it through this list, then head to South Congress or Downtown and stroll around the food trucks. I can’t name specifics, but I’m never disappointed. (In other words, food trucks are awesome because the talent can focus on food and not a venue.)
(Photo via)Tweet this!
I cannot think of a better way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon during PERFECT spring weather than outside on a beautiful patio with a bottle of something delicious in the company of great friends.
When I’m trying to find a patio on the fly, I can never remember my favorite spots. Seems ridiculous, but you’ve felt the same way I’m sure. It’s like when you want to try out a new place, but you can’t think of the 10 places you talked about with friends during the week.
So, off the top of my head here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):
- Central Park (bring a picnic)
- Peninsula roof top – Midtown
- Soho House roof deck – Meatpacking
- Friend of the Farmer – Gramcery Park
- Soho Grand Hotel
- Locanda Verde – TriBeCa
- Pastis – Meatpacking
- Mole – Meatpacking
- Crosby Hotel – Soho
- Elizabeth – Soho
- Dos Caminos - Soho
- Extra Virgin – West Village
- Sant Ambroeus – West Village
- Beverly Hills Hotel pool
- Four Seasons West Hollywood
- Urth Cafe
- Bread – 3rd @ Robertson
- Moonshadows – Malibu
- Anywhere on Sunset Plaza
- The Abbey – West Hollywood
- Tiny Boxwoods (pictured above)
- Houston Country Club (private)
- La Griglia
- Four Seasons pool
- Ruggles Green – City Center
- Tasting Room – Uptown Park
- Cyclone Anaya’s – Midtown
Dallas – I only know the Hotel Zaza – I prefer it’s intimate and small setting over the Houston location
Austin (the few I know):
- Four Seasons
- Hotel Saint Cecilia (private)
- San Jose bar
- Taco Express
- Hula Hut
- Salt Lick
Unfortunately spring hasn’t blown into the north yet, so we feel for you guys up there freezing. I hope this list keeps you strong until Spring comes!
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