Here we are again, jotting down our thoughts on our most recent exploration. Well, we weren’t really there for business, more for just a lot of fun. We flew out to Austin, Texas for the weekend to see how (and why) this big time city has gotten a reputation for the best live music, the friendliest folk, and the best barbecue in all of the U.S. (we can vouch for this one, it’s totally true).
Though we landed in the beautiful city of Austin after the reddest of red eyes, we were too excited to think about sleeping because there is just so much to do. Jam-packed with restaurants, shopping, tourist attractions, bars and clubs, live music venues, and a beautiful landscape, Austin is easily one of the most well-rounded cities we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. We only had the weekend so we did what any tourist would do in a time crunch: ask the locals for some recommendations. With several friendly conversations about their beautiful metropolis (complete with all of the y’all’s and howdy’s you could ever want), we had a game plan.
Stay: Aloft at The Domain
In the family of elite Starwood Hotels, the Aloft is the cool, fun cousin. Under the same hotel roof as the St. Regis and W hotels, the Aloft was unique, inviting, and fun. With a snack cafe at the lower level, you can grab a sweet or salty treat whenever the craving strikes, and then take a seat at their WXYZ bar for an Austin-themed cocktail. The fun, retro decor and super friendly service makes this boutique hotel the perfect place to lay your head if you’re on a weekend trip. Plus this lodge is situated on a block that is known for their amazing brunch and shopping, but more about that a little later.
Dine: Food Trucks
Yes, the phrase “food trucks” is a bit broad in terms of where to dine, but when you’re in Austin you could throw a rock anywhere you are and hit at least three of the best food trucks you’ve ever encountered. Some have been featured on the Food Network for their Texas-sized portions or crazy secret sauce that is both too spicy and too good to put down. With that being said, nearly every yummy bite we consumed came from an Austin food truck and we are not disappointed with that in the least. We started out on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon at Aldebert’s Brewery, a local hot-spot for beer tastings and interactive brewery tours inside a warehouse decked out in twinkly lights and vintage barrels. Sitting on the property is Gibroni’s Texitalican Kitchen. Yes, Tex-ital-ican, the best possible mash-up of Texan eats, Italian cuisine, and Mexican spice, aka our new favorite type of food. While we dined on their famous Drunk Chicken sandwich, a heavenly slab of lime-chicken, perfected pesto, pineapple, and spinach hugged by a soft, warm roll, we tasted a few of Aldebert’s brews and fell in love with the atmosphere. Solid start to the day. From there we moved on to the shopping, further detailed later in this posting, and afterwards made our way to the infamous Rainey Street for dinner and drinks.
Rainey Street is unlike any district you will encounter probably anywhere else on your travels. A stretch of bungalow-style, historic homes have been converted to restaurants and bars, so it feels like you’re popping into your college buddy’s house party for a sip and a bite and then bouncing to the next bash. Each house has a different vibe, from smooth jazz wine bars to Mexican fiestas complete with tequila tastings and tasty tacos. With their close proximity to each other, it’s common to have food at one house, a drink at another, another bite at the next, and so on and so forth. This area is also filled with food trucks, particularly an entire “food court” lot dedicated to their most famous trucks, home of some pretty awesome Thai noodles, giant pizza slices, mini tacos, and delicious doughnuts. Yes, you can have chicken pad Thai and then walk across the way and get a Texas-sized doughnut in a matter of 10 minutes. We recommend Javelina’s, Lucille’s Patio Lounge, and Icenhauer’s for some of the best food and drink combos you could imagine.
You would think after a night of food truck fun the next day would be filled with snoozing. Not in Austin! Bright and early the next morning we hit the brunch district, happily located next door to the Aloft hotel. An outdoor-patio restaurant called Park is home to Austin’s famous Bloody Mary bar and all-you-can-eat Texas-style buffet. Trust us when we say you’ve never had a Bloody Mary until you’ve concocted one yourself using their plethora of ingredients, from the Pickle Mixer to the Jack Daniels bourbon sauce and house-pickled asparagus. Mm-mmm. Oh, and the food? When they say everything is bigger in Texas, that is in fact, a fact. After a few rounds of rum-soaked French toast, spicy Applewood sausage, and lasagna (yes, lasagna was served at brunch, brilliant idea), we were stuffed. We mean it when we say Austin might have some of the yummiest, heartiest food in all of the land.
Do: Domain Shopping
At the Design Lab, we’re shoppers. Whether it’s for home decor, fun new clothes, or sometimes even grocery shopping, we’re big fans of perusing the latest and greatest stores, and Austin was no exception. With a beautiful new shopping area known as The Domain, Austin captivated our hearts (and our wallets) with some amazing big-box stores as well as adorable boutiques. Because it’s considered the “live music capital of the word”, you better believe there were bands, singers, and musicians on every corner adding to the excitement of the crowds. If you do decide to go to Austin, we highly recommend visiting the Domain for its one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
The only disappointment? We had just two days to pack our schedule with all of the fun Austin had to offer. We’ll let you know more about their music scene and famous bat caves next time we go exploring the great state of Texas!