Thank goodness for girl scouts, facebook, and the adventurous spirit. Without them, my recent weekend in Austin would not have been possible. In April, an old friend from Camp River Ranch put out a message on facebook that she was thinking about relocating and wanted to check out Austin. I mentioned to her that I love Austin and wouldn’t mind giving her some tips or even being her tour guide. A few messages later we decided to talk on the phone and I offered to meet her in Austin, or, if she wanted, she could fly to Houston and we could take a weekend road trip.
For me, Austin is a dreamy place. I got engaged in Austin at Laguna Gloria Museum at Christmastime. I love every restaurant there. I went to my first (and only) multi-day concert there. It reminds me of parts of Stillwater and Tulsa and Seattle and every other lovely village area with artists and funky stuff. “Keep Austin Weird” is the unofficial motto of the city. It’s the kind of place all liberal-educated humanities majors go to die. It’s also been called the live music capital of the world, or, as the t-shirt says, “A sleepy little drinking town with a Live Music problem.” It’s warm, lively, political, and just plain fun.
From the beginning, our trip was full of great food and new experiences. Last Thursday M. flew in and I picked her up from the airport. Several people had recommended Alamo Drafthouse Theater to her and we happen to have one near our home. They were presenting a special dinner viewing of Interview with a Vampire the day she arrived. Alamo Drafthouse is a restaurant/movie theater, but it is also so much more. They hold special events and viewings each month and seem to be community-oriented in a way most franchises are not. This event, for example, was scheduled the week before Eclipse came out and geared towards a more grownup audience. Also, the food is actually good. We paid $50 a person for a delectable five course creole feast, a wine pairing with each course, and a great movie. We had a blast and a couple of us got quite drunk, not expecting “free” drinks with everything! But it was good, oh so good. It was our first time to the Alamo and we will be back just as soon as we recover from the alcohol poisoning.
I couldn’t take photos in the theater, but here is the incredible menu:
Creole Feast Menu
- Steamed Oysters with Crawfish and Mushroom Mornay— paired with Turning Head Sauvignon Blanc
- Fried Green Tomato with Shrimp Remoulade— paired with Ventikali Riesling
- Chicken and Andouille Sausage— paired with Vampire Pinot Noir
- Pork Loin Stuffed with Duck Boudin accompanied by Stewed Okra— paired with Myrtle Grove Shiraz
- Creole Bread Pudding with Vanilla Porter Sauce— paired with Dow’s Tawny Porto
The drive from Houston to Austin on Friday was pleasant and not too long at 2.5 hours. My Seattlite friend was amazed at the short rainstorm we drove through while the sun was shining. We arrived around 1:00 and went straight to Magnolia Cafe for refreshment. Famous for being open 24/7 and being a staple of the Austin food scene (a scene that seems dedicated solely to feeding throngs of partiers, musicians, and roadies), Magnolia cafe was the first place I ever ate in Austin. The menu is extensive, the people watching is choice, the vibe is funky. “Sorry, We’re Open” is displayed proudly in the window. We ate “Mud,” a yummy dip with seasoned black beans on the bottom, slices of avacado on top, covered in velveeta-like cheese, and topped by pico de gallo. Mud is to die for– hearty and healthyish. I also ate half of a very pretty salad (we sat outside and the heat ruined my appetite) and M. had the chicken salad sandwich. We then collapsed at the hotel and did not revive until dinnertime.
What do you do when you’re not up for clubbing all night and happen to like a reasonable bedtime but still want to do something fun and different, maybe even meet some locals? Queer Open mic night, of course! Well, anyway, that was what we tried to do. Monkeywrench Books was holding the reading according the Austin Chronicle. The bookstore is on North Loop, an area not unlike South Congress, but in miniature. We arrived early for the reading to eat dinner and explore. After saying “no, thanks” to Counter Culture, the vegan food truck across the street, we ended up at Phara’s Mediterranean restaurant. The atmosphere inside was cozy and mostly taken up by a family of 12, but we managed a table by the window and ordered shish-kebab and the aloo channa, a curry dish with chickpeas and potatoes. Phara’s was cute, not terribly remarkable, and probably has an awesome night-time scene with belly dancers and hookah later in the evening. After dinner we wandered over to Monkeywrench only to discover that the open mic was cancelled and no, for all their alternative and radical texts, they didn’t have any Judith Butler books. But we still had time before the sun set so we were off to see the bats!
Yes, Austin has a semi-famous bat colony, being the largest urban bat colony in the world. They live under the congress street bridge and attract thousands of tourists every summer who stand around in ugly shorts and buy their kids glow necklaces and wonder, “Where are the bats?” Unlike in the movies, the bats don’t normally rush out from under the bridge in a giant swarm to suck your blood. They just meander out about 15-20 minutes after sunset, eat some mosquitoes, and fly around daintily. It’s still pretty cool and I like to go watch them and the people who have gathered around to see these little guys. M. and I decided to get Amy’s Ice Cream to enhance our bat-watching experience and console our hearts broken by the lack of queer teenage poetry. Amy’s is a must-eat when in Austin. It’s rich and satisfying and convenient and whimsical. It’s like Ted Drewe’s in St. Louis, it’s a local phenomena that makes where you live taste more like home. Our bat watching mostly involved eating melty ice cream and taking sunset photos of the city. The bats arrived after dark to eat and say hi. It was a lovely introduction to the city.