Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping Keep Austin Weird

Not a Banksy

I take so much time off in-between blogs that one can start and stop a presidential campaign between posts. Since my last post, which was based on events that occurred in February (can you believe it’s September already?), the movie “Thor” has been aggressively marketed, released theatrically, and now been released on DVD. I lag.

For those who do not know, I’ve been freelancing for and KGTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego. But prior to all that, which in real-world-time, happened in March and July (I tell you I lag). Also in March, I went to Austin at the last minute for my old buddy Bryan Liu’s bachelor party, as well as my old roomie Justin Terry’s birthday. Shout outs! Because I don’t have my meticulous notes next to me, I will describe Austin in reader-friendly, fact or fiction headlnes. (It also helps my Texas readers follow…. SNAPZILLA!!!!)

Orange is like oxygen there. Needed for survival.
Fact: Everyone who has visited Austin raves about how fun and awesome the city is. It’s as if they’re all getting paid by the local chamber of commerce. Seriously, I challenge you to find someone who has visited to Austin… nay – find someone who knows someone who has visited Austin – and see if they have anything bad to say about the city. It’s impossible.

It’s also totally random for Texas, it’s 100% the Berkeley of the state. They advertise to “Keep Austin weird.” There are food trucks everywhere selling the unhealthiest creations imaginable – I ate a donut with extra artery cloggage. People seem to be friendly, especially at the bars. Even University of Texas haters, like my boy Mike Rockwood, find the city to be awesome.

Getting a table on Muesday is a bitch
Fact: The BBQ is as good as advertised. My boy’s BP was practically a gastro-tour of Austin’s finest cue. After all the fellas met up at the hotel, the first destination was Black’s BBQ in Lockhart about 40 minutes outside of Austin. On the drive to Randomville, we saw a million freeways to nowhere being built. I’m talking massive spending on infrastructure to nothing!! I gotta give it to Rick Perry for having enough money in the budget to blow on 3-lane freeways to Auntie Jane’s country farm. And if these are federal dollars…. What the f??? 

This be beef
Black’s BBQ is located next to what looks like a cross between Notre Dame and the Clock Tower from Back to the Future. I would like to get technical about the meats they had, but everything – ribs, brisket, sausage, everything was on point. Their sides, as I recall, weren’t amazing, but the meat more than made up for it. If I remember correctly, I think their brisket was the strongest of all, but again – this is nitpicking. Just like the traditional BBQ places, all your meat is served with white bread. 

BBQ in one room. Flashdance in the other.
About a two-minute walk from Black’s is Smitty’s BBQ, where we went after just eating. Despite not having much room for food, we all ordered a cavalcade of meats. Talk about simplicity, I don’t even remember seeing a sign on the outside of the building. We just walked into this seemingly abandoned spot, down a dark hallway, into a room with a smoker the size of a submarine. The meat is wrapped in butcher paper five times over and served. No plates. No utensis. No napkins. They make you use your shirt and if you ask for a paper towel they brand “Don’t mess with Texas” on your forehead. 

The smoker at Black's. It was big.
The following morning, after a late night out, some of the guys headed to Snow’s BBQ, which evidently was even more simplistic than Black’s. This place was literally some dude’s house renown for its BBQ. Apparently it was amazing, but the thought of getting up after a few short hours of wonderful slumber to eat 6 LBs of BBQ in the AM didn’t sound F-U-N to me. I did try some of the leftovers the dudes brought back and it was yummers.

Another famous BBQ spot is a chain called Rudy’s, advertised as the “worst BBQ in Texas.” Good but not quite the royalty of the other joints.

Fiction: Austin is the live music capital of the world. That’s impossible to measure! Albeit, there was some solid live music at the airport.

Fact: The nightlife rules. There are two marquee spots to hang in Austin: the Warehouse District/4th Street and 6th Street. My boys went to Hangar Lounge, a nice 3-story club with nice rooftop bar. Great place, friendly and attractive people… always a good combination. 

Play "Spot the White Guy."His name is Cary too!! Wha??
The Iron Cactus has a great rooftop bar that overlooks 6th Street. Considered the 6th best tequila bar in the country by some snobby magazine, it also happens to have some of the best fresh guacamole I’ve ever had. I would go so far as to say it’s a must-try when visiting. Made right before you, you can tell the server whichever ingredients you want. The food is decent, but I would suggest heading to the Cac (probably can come up with better nickname), to sip on some drank while just eating chips and guac. Among the tequilas we tried, all smooth and tasty, were: 100% blue agave, orange, and a cucumber and jalapeno mix.

Fiction: 6th Street rules. It does if you’re a college kid, Van Wilder, or Tommy Boy, otherwise, it’s a little young. One night we went to some low-key bar with shuffleboard, skeeball, and air hockey. Think it was called Chuck E. Cheese.
Iron Cactus. Sadly. Guacamole not shown.

The other place we went to was the poorly-titled Trophy Room, which should’ve been called the Participatory Trophy Room. We went inside because it had a mechanical bull. Despite having the back and spinal conditions of Quasimodo, we decided to jump on the bull for old times sake. While I emerged from the 4-second ride injury-free, the experience still came with consequences. I emptied out my pockets for the ride, when it was done, my cell phone was gone. Yoink! Mind you, this was an insurance phone for a phone that recently stopped working. Two phones gone in a matter of two weeks – and this wasn’t exactly a nice phone. It’s somewhere between Zack Morris’ cell phone and a Styrofoam cup with string. Why anyone would steal that is beyond me. Dang college kids.

From Gourdoughs: donut with pork, potato salad, and gas
Speaking of college kids, a group of girls who just turned 21 were crazy sloppy at this place. Hot mess would be a compliment. The birthday girl was so drunk, she managed to look in three different directions at the same moment when talking. How she did that with two eyes is worth a Ripley’s investigation. (BTW – when did I turn into Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau? I’m a grumpy old man right now!!!)

At the same bar, my digital camera randomly stopped working. Considering these technological failures happened towards the end of my trip, it says something about a town when you still leave there with a positive impression, which leads me to…

Fact: Austin is badass.

By the bullets:

Eats: Black’s BBQ, Smitty’s BBQ, Snow’s BBQ, Iron Cactus. Torchy’s Tacos ($2 breakfast tacos).

Drinks: Iron Cactus, Baby Acapulco (a killer purple margarita, aka – purple drank), Hangar Lounge.

Visits: University of Texas campus, including Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium; Red River – nice spot for cycling, crew; LBJ Presidential Library – on UT campus, 36th president passed an impressive amount of bills (can’t help but think national/political climate factored in), also puts myth to rest that all presidents must go to Ivy Leagues (LBJ went to Southwest Texas State College).
Still upset they beat SC in 2006.
This is a Banksy.
The Red River is not red.
Yep, that's the Capitol.

Next episode (due in 2013!): Hawaii!

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