This is the true story, of 3 couples, who traveled to Austin for 72 hours to eat and drink, and have their lives blogged. Find out what happens when they stop being polite, and start getting…weird.
Talk about being overwhelmed with options. I’ve never had such a hard time deciding what to do, where to eat, or where to drink. I read reviews online, in Facebook travel groups, and my favorite blogs. Talked to friends and locals. Watched YouTube and tourism videos. I kept an excel file to track all the recommendations (and anti-recommendations). In the end, all the information I compiled contradicted itself.
For example, who has the best tacos?
Half the people I talked to emphatically said “TORCHY’S”! The other half warned, “Anything BUT Torchy’s”.
So what’s an over-planner to do when she can’t seem to get her recommendations in a row? Just wing it.
Just kidding. I don’t “wing” anything, but I didn’t micromanage the entire trip, which is progress for me. It paid off in some ways, but back fired in others. Keep reading to learn what I would do differently.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, here’s a brief overview of the trip. We arrived late Thursday morning, and departed late Sunday morning. So a full 72 hours. We pretty much just ate and drank our way through the entire weekend, except for a 30 minute pit stop to go kayaking. After all was said and done, we spent ~$3,000.
|Flights (for 2 people)||$896.00|
Can you see where our priorities lie?
AUSTIN LODGING AND LOCATION
The Airbnb Option
In an attempt to make this a cost effective trip for our group, I originally planned on booking an AirBnb. I narrowed down my search to 3 beautiful new/recently renovated houses, all with pools and outdoor patios. The write up’s all said they were “within walking distance” to the hustle and bustle.
PRO TIP: “Walking Distance” doesn’t mean its safe to walk. Do your research. Reach out to friends from the area or who have traveled there. Join a travel Facebook group and ask those community members for advice (one of my favorites is “Girls LOVE Travel“). Turns out, the Airbnbs I was considering were all in sketchy areas, and I was highly cautioned NOT walk anywhere. Suddenly it made sense why these gorgeous homes were so cheap. I decided to cut the bull shit and just get a hotel. I feel inclined to note that I have had many great experiences in Airbnbs. It just wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Also, here’s a website with a detailed description of all the Austin neighborhoods.
The Hotel Option
After asking around for hotel recommendations, the choice became simple. The Fairmont Austin had glowing reviews on Booking.com (one of the few booking sites with trustworthy reviews) and was confirmed to be in an area that was actually “walkable”. Located on Rainey Street, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the famous strip of bars and restaurants in the Rainey Street Neighborhood.
Holy shit it did not disappoint!
The brand new Fairmont exceeded all my expectations. It was sparkling clean and beautifully designed. The bar was gorgeous and grand, with an expansive wine/beer/liquor selection. Even the glassware was impressive. I had a moral dilemma about whether or not to take one of these glasses home with me…
The bed was comfy AF, and the floor to ceiling windows gave us an panoramic view of the city. The bathroom was stocked with Le Labo products that I definitely smuggled home in my suitcase.
Even though the hotel was within walking distance to all the hot spots, we quickly learned that a short walk in August wasn’t a pleasant experience. I felt like Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. Except, instead of wax wings, my makeup was melting off my face.
In order to save face (literally), we would occasionally take advantage of the electric cabs that were always on the ready at the entrance of our hotel.
Unique Transportation Options
If you’re lucky, you might step into your own personal disco party. Be warned though. It’s a $5 minimum per person, so we were paying $30 plus tip to go less than a mile at times.
Before you pay for a ride, check with the concierge to see if the complimentary Escalade is available. That’s right. The hotel will drive guests for free, anywhere within a one mile radius of the hotel. Best part? That sweet, sweet conditioned air blasting out of the vents.
Another option for getting around the city is not one I can recommend. Our Uber driver from the airport said the electric scooters were an “epidemic”, and we thought he was being dramatic. He was not.
BEWARE THE FUCKING SCOOTERS.
They look dangerous and dorky at the same time. The guys in our group loved riding them, but the ladies weren’t feeling it. It was too crowded both in the streets and on the sidewalks. Other scootee’s were not following basic traffic laws and would drive into oncoming traffic without flinching. I kept having to stop because there wasn’t enough room to scoot my ass between the pedestrians and other scoottees, which was just annoying. Plus, it cost us more collectively to ride our own scooters that it would have been to just take an Uber.
As soon as we checked into our rooms, we changed and went straight down to the pool to start drinking overpriced (but delicious) frosé.
The pool was poppin’ even on a Thursday afternoon. Friday and Saturday were much more crowded, but kudos to the Fairmont for creating a pool chair wait list. Finding chairs at a crowded pool is a major source of anxiety for me. I’d rather just play in a puddle than race another stalker to a newly opened chair.
After drinking enough frosé to feel comfortable running around in my bathing suit in public, it was time to get ready for dinner.
Thursday Night Dinner – Banger’s
Banger’s was the most highly recommended food/drink spots. If you’re like me and can’t put two and two together, Banger’s is a sausage joint. I got the classic bratwurst, and it wasn’t the sausage that blew me away, it was the bun. It was so fresh and soft on the inside, crispy on the outside. They had something like 200 beers on tap. And boy did we tap, tap, tap like a bunch of drunk Fred Astaires.
Thursday Night Out – Roosevelt Room
This is where things get a little fuzzy. The day drinking and dinner drinking, mixed with a little bit of jet lag was kicking us into high gear. I don’t remember how we got there, but I vividly remember walking into a Great Gatsby style bar that made me want to dance the Charleston.
My husband was impressed with their liquor selection, and I was impressed with the gigantic portraits of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt that framed the bar. And that’s where my night pretty much cuts out.
We woke up with a banger of a hangover. We were supposed to join our friend Dan at 8:00am to wait in line for the infamous Franklin’s BBQ, but when that time came I would have rather stabbed my eye with a fork. Back to sleep we went.
When we came to at about 11am the next morning, Dan had been standing in line for 3 hours. By then, his wife Gina had joined him. He said he still had about 2 hours to go and was starving, so Drew and I went on the hunt for some breakfast tacos as consolation for abandoning him that morning. The concierge recommended a taco truck just around the corner from Franklin’s, and offered to drive us in the complimentary Escalade.
Friday Pre-Breakfast – Cosmic Tacos
I need you to listen to me carefully. Run, don’t walk, to Cosmic Tacos and get yourself a breakfast taco. The taco truck is located inside one of Austin’s many food truck parks, surrounded by 4 other food stands. It took about 15-20 minutes to prepare the tacos, but it was totally worth it. Besides, we couldn’t complain when our friend had now been going on 4 hours of waiting in line for BBQ. We then walked 100 feet up the street to Franklin’s BBQ to join our meat soldiers in waiting. Yes, we got food to eat in a line to get more food. ‘MERICA!
Friday breakfast/brunch/lunch – Franklin’s BBQ
Oh yes. The famous BBQ spot. Franklin’s can be a controversial topic among Austinites. Many claim it’s the best BBQ IN DE VORLD. Others will slap you across the face and say the best BBQ is being made by their cousin Steve in a van down by the river. I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’ll just say, it was definitely worth my friend Dan’s 5 hour wait. There is nothing I want bad enough to wait 5 hours in the hot Austin sun, but Dan did it, and said it was worth it. I trust Dan’s BBQ knowledge. Pro Tip – you can skip the line by ordering ahead, but you need to do so at least a week in advance. We tried putting an order in the night before, and learned what a rookie mistake that was.
We Uber’d our overstuffed, bloated bodies back to the hotel, and laid by the pool for a few hours looking like a bunch of beached whales.
Should have known better…
Now we are at the part of the weekend where my micro-managing ways would have been useful. The Fairmont is 2 blocks away from the highly recommended Moonshine Grill, so our group of 6 walked over there for dinner but it was a 2-3 hour wait. We didn’t want to wait that long so we walked all over the downtown trying to find a restaurant with an opening. No one could get us in right away. In hindsight we should have just waited at Moonshine Grill, but we ended up putting our name in at Red Ash Italia, where they told us they may or may not have a table for us around 10:30pm.
Friday Night Pregame – Corner in the JW Marriot
While we waited for our table to possibly be ready, we grabbed apps and drinks at Corner in the JW Marriot. It was a cool little spot, but the music was really loud, and the seating was super low and spread out that you couldn’t hear anyone but the person directly next to you. It’s great if you don’t like the people you are with, but I happen to enjoy talking to my friends. Corner gets a thumbs down from me.
Friday Night Dinner – Red Ash Italia
We finally got the call from Red Ash around 11p. Despite not being our first choice for dinner, it was on my list of recommendations and by no means was a last resort restaurant. Although, I wasn’t sure about eating Italian in Austin. It felt somewhat sacrilegious. Then I saw the crispy Italian bread and I was like, Austin, who? Give-a me-a a piece-a de italiano bread-a. Our friend Gina comes from a long line of Italian cooks, and is hard to impress when it comes to the mother land’s food, but Red Ash got her stamp of approval. We were so stuffed from our late night feast that we ended up calling it a night after dinner.
Saturday Breakfast – Random Uber Eats Restaurant
When Drew and I woke up the next morning, we ordered breakfast tacos from the first restaurant that came up on the Uber Eats app. We wanted to get our day started at the hotel pool, but didn’t want to pay for overpriced hotel food. So we suit up and bring our tacos to the pool where we planned to enjoy our feast on lounge chairs and live our best lives.
The fun police (security guard) soon foiled that plan when he stopped us from entering the pool area with our food. I shit you not, he made us eat our tacos in front of him before he would let us outside.
Saturday (non-alcohol related) Activities
We were feeling guilty for not doing anything besides eating and drinking all weekend, so we went to Lady Bird Lake to get our recreation on. Pro Tip – You must present your ID to rent paddle boards or kayaks, no exceptions. Not everyone in our group brought their ID’s (because who wants their wallet to fall into a lake?) so they wouldn’t let us rent our own individual paddle boards. However, they let us double up in two-seater kayaks because only one ID is needed per kayak. We paddled down to the bat bridge, heard the bats making their bat sounds, and made our way back to the dock. After about 30 minutes we were kayaked out and ready to move on to the next activity.
We made our way to the strip of eccentric boutiques on South Congress, and once we got there, I was pissed we didn’t go earlier. We could have spent the entire weekend in this area and got our fill on unique shops, live music, food, and drinks. Austin is a very inclusive city, and nowhere was it more apparent than in the South Congress area. If you’re in the market for an authentic pair of cowboy (or is it cowperson?) boots, check out Allen’s Boots. You’ll spend a pretty penny – prices range from from $300-$2,500 – but the street cred you’ll gain at Stage Coach will be priceless.
Saturday Lunch – Guerros Tacos
We stumbled upon this spot as we were souvenir shopping on South Congress, and it was EXACTLY what I expected out of an Austin bar. Tacos, Margaritas, beer, live music, and the pièce de résistance…water misters. They are the best invention since Spanx. If you’re looking for a chill spot to sit back with a margarita and listen to live music, this is it. If I lived in Austin, I’d be a regular here.
Saturday Night Pregame – Lambert’s
Lambert’s is an iconic spot in Austin. It has the aesthetic of a modern upscale diner with rock and roll vibes. Our drinks were FANTASTIC. Try the bright magenta Prickly Mule. Head upstairs for live music. While we only came for drinks, the restaurant is well known for their brisket, and you won’t have to wait 5 hours in the blazing sun to eat it.
Saturday Night Dinner – La Condesa
After asking every Uber driver for their favorite Mexican food restaurant, we finally decided on La Condesa. Not necessarily because of the critical acclaim, but because they actually had availability same day. The space is bright and colorful, taking inspiration from Mexico city. As the server suggested, we shared a bunch of dishes instead of ordering our own entree’s. I don’t like seafood, but everyone who did loved the ceviche. The guac was great. The quesadilla was okay. The Carne Asada wasn’t impressive. I’m a little picky about meat, and the beef was tough and chewy. Overall, I wasn’t a big fan, and wouldn’t go back for more than drinks. Moving on to the real star of the evening…
Saturday Night 2nd Dinner – Craft Pride/Via313
After some post dinner bar hopping on Rainey Street, Craft Pride drew us in with it’s live music and craft beer selection. We made our way to the back patio and posted up on one of the picnic tables. To our delight, there was a Via313 pizza truck permanently parked on the property. I didn’t know Detroit-Style pizza was a thing, but HOT DAMN is it delicious. Honestly, Detroit should start making t-shirts that say “At least we aren’t Cleveland”, because that pizza broke my heart and put it back together all in the same bite. You must try this pizza. I cannot emphasize it enough.
That was the perfect ending to a long weekend in Austin, TX. In summary here are my do’s and don’ts:
|Stay at The Fairmont||Ride the electric scooters|
|Eat, drink, and listen to live music at:|
Banger’s, Gueros Tacos, Red Ash, and Craft Pride/Via 313
|Skip Corner at the JW Marriott|
|Have a drink at Roosevelt Room and Lambert’s||Skip La Condesa|
|Get a breakfast taco from Cosmic Tacos food truck||Plan on walking everywhere. It’s hot as hell.|
|Order Ahead at Franklin’s BBQ|
|Shop on South Congress|
Now that my friends was a thorough AF Austin, TX Travel blog. I’d love to hear your do’s and don’t of Austin in the comments below!