Friday, November 30, 2012

Austin, TX

It had been awhile (or at least it felt like it had been awhile) since I went out of town, so last weekend, Matt, Spenser, and I went to Austin, Texas, for some warm weather and fun.

We took off early on Friday and made the quick flight - with a short layover in Dallas - in to Austin. 

Of course I had to get my favorite liccorice at the airport in KC.  I'm so addicted to it that I had to limit myself to eating it only when I travel.  I ate the entire bag in less than 10 minutes.  No joke.

When we got to Dallas, we had almost an hour lay-over.  There weren't many good dining options near, so Matt and I shared a sandwich from a little pizza shop.  Spen held out in hopes of finding better food in Austin.

Airport dinner.  Yum.                    Hanging out at McD's in Dallas airport.

We didn't land in Austin until 8:15, and went straight to the Hertz rental car desk to get our car for the weekend.  The one guy working was helping someone else, so he pointed us to a little kiosk thing and told us to picwait for the phone to ring. 

Technology is amazing.  A girl, Kayla, in Oklahoma City, picked up and walked us through the rental.  We had way to much fun with the whole process, including picking up the phone and talking to another girl on the kiosk next to Kayla (who I think Matt was hitting on).

 Spenser worked his magic on Pricline and got us a deal on a 4 star hotel in downtown Austin, Omni Hotel, 2 blocks from 6th Street.  Close enough to the party madness to walk to, but far enough away to not have to listen to it all night. :)

Once we checked in to our room, we went straight down to 6th street to check it out.  We pretty much walked the entire strip of after bar after bar.  I don't know how you would ever choose which one to go in, but there has to be one for every person.

This was still early in the night.  They shut the streets down later and let them fill with people!

We were really out for the adventure of finding the famed food trucks that apparently got their start in Austin.  We stopped at one, with another small group of trucks nearby, but they weren't what Spenser (the foodie) was looking for, so we hopped in a cab.  The nice driver, from Morocco, convinced us to not go to the food trucks we told him to take us to, but to instead go to yet another group of food trucks off of Congress Ave.  We listened and went there instead.

There were a lot there of food trucks there, but unfortunately, most of them were closed or in the process of closing at 10pm.  Nothing really caught our eyes, so we decided to just walk along the street full of bars and restaurants, still looking for food.  A taco joing, next to a burger bar, caught our eye.  Upon reading the menu at Hop Doddy, the burger bar, we were sold and skipped out on the tacos.

It's a really cool "farm to table" place.  Everything is made with local stuff - I mean even the eggs and stuff in the salads.  They had a big chalk board with the farmers names on it.  I just loved the whole concept.  The set up was cool, too.  While the line was literally out the door, while you're waiting, they walk you right by the bar.  A nice drink in your hand - from a local brewery - makes the wait much more manageble!

And the food.  Oooohhhh the food.  We all LOVED it.  Best burgers ever, easily.  The fries were good, the milk shake was to die for...  If we ever make it back to Austin, we will definitely be at Hop Doddy again!  (It was kind of dark, so the pictures are no good.  But trust me, the food was.)

With full STUFFED bellies, we decided we needed a walk to keep us out of a food coma.  We set off for about a mile long walk down Congress Avenue back to 6th Street.  The weather was great, and it actually was a very enjoyable walk!

Sixth street was definitely happening by the time we made it back.  The roads were blocked off from cars, and were full of crazy people.  That is a good place for some people watching.  Characters galore.  We watched a guy put on makeup (mascara, eyeshadow, etc) for at least 20 minutes, while he sat on the street.

We walked all the way to the end of 6th again, and could not for the life of us decide which bar to go in.  We had to use the bathroom though, so we wandered in the closest one, which happened to be a shot bar.  Once inside, of course we decided to stay awhile for a drink.  They had a serious menu, and for once, there were multiple drinks I actually thought sounded good.  I ended up with a watermellon jolly rancher shot, which I sipped on for quite awhile while the boys had a drink.  It was delicious.  Just like a watermelon jolly rancher!  The music consisted of boy bands and Brittany from the early 2000's.  I sang along to 98 Degrees and Back Street Boys like they were going out of style. :)

We didn't stay at the shot bar for long, and eventually wandered in to another bar that had live music.  Once we sat down with our drinks, they said they were "taking 5."  30 minutes later, when they hadn't showed back up, we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel for a good nights rest.


Saturday morning, after sleeping in, we decided to go out and see what the big city of Austin had to offer. 

As soon as we stepped out of the hotel room, we noticed a parade going on just a block or two away.  It was some sort of country Christmas parade I think?  (And can I just say how weird it is to be celebrating Christmas in 80 degree weather?  I don't think I could ever get used to that.)

We wandered around the area looking for somewhere to eat brunch/lunch, but wound up in the car driving towards the University of Texas campus looking for more food options.  It took some maneuvering to get around the parade, and parking/traffic in general was a disaster, but we finaly found the spot for lunch:  Torchy's Tacos(I don't know what we would have done without the AroundMe and Urbanspoon apps on our phones!)

Those tacos really hit the spot.  The boys absolutey loved the different ones they tried.  They were a little on the spicy side for me, but anything drizzled in queso is going to be good. 

We bought entirely too much food.  Look at those two big pots of queso!!

Again, we ate way too much, and had to do some serious walking to avoid falling asleep.  Luckily for us, there was plenty of walking to be done through the UT campus, the Texas state capitol building, and lastly, the Texas Museum of History (where we found our Christmas ornament for the trip)!

UT Campus


Walking through the capitol building

Texas State History Museum - which happened to be free the day we were there!

We were exahusted from walking all afternoon, and went back to the hotel room to take a break.  Which turned in to an hour and a half nap for me. :)  The cleaning lady woke us up when she brought us towels, so we showered, changed, and got ready to go out.

(So, the real reason we went to Austin was because Spen really wanted to see Sufjan Stevens Christmas sing-along concert, and this was one of the few weekends we could get away to a city that wasn't too far.  Matt and I are always up for traveling, so we jumped on the opportunity to get away for a weekend.)

On the radar for dinner was more food trucks.  This time, THE FIRST food truck ever (supposedly): Liberty Bar.  Well, the food truck is out back - behind Libety Bar.  While the atmosphere left much to be desired (it was a sketchy place in a sketchy part of town), the food was off the charts!  We had pork buns, similar to the ones we had at Momofuku in NYC last December, and they were equally as good. 

We didn't order much, because we wanted to try some food at some other nearby food trucks, but that turned out to be a mistake.  I could of eaten four more of those pork buns at least!  The other food trucks didn't have anything that even sounded good to me, so I held out in hopes of finding something else after the show.

We hopped back in the rental and followed Siri's directions to Emo's East.  Thanksfully we weren't far away, and pulled up right at 7.  They were just opening the doors and letting the people in line - which was wrapped all the way around the building - go in. 

There was a Long John Silvers right across the street, with an open parking lot kind of to the side and behind the building.  No one for the restaurant was going to need it, so we quickly took one of the open spots and ran across the street.  Score for good parking, right!?

The line moved quickly and we were inside the 'warehouse' type building shortly after 7.  One open room with cement floors - no seats/chairs - and the craziest decorated Christmas stage you can imagine.  It even had a giant "Wheel of Christmas" with Christmas Carols on it.  I hadn't even heard of Sufjan Stevens, let alone heard any of his music, so this got me really curious as to what was in store for the night. (That, and all the people dressed up in crazy Christmas outfits/unicorn heads!)

We quickly staked out our standing room spot for the night.  We were pretty close to the front, and were happy with our area.

So the show was supposed to start at 8pm.  We had a little less than an hour to wait.  Not bad.

8:00 turned in to 8:30, when a girl (who turned out to be part of the band) came out and told some jokes for about 5 minutes.

8:30 turned in to 9:00.  I was not a happy camper anymore.  Standing for two hours in not very comortable shoes to hear some guy I'd never heard of was not my idea of a fun Saturday night.  (And I had to pee, too, but we were so jam packed in there was no way I would get my spot back.)

They were playing Christmas songs during the long wait, and after each song, we thought surely he was going to come out. 

And then he did.  At NINE-FREAKING-THIRTY.  Yes, that is two and a half hours of standing - waiting.

 It's a good thing he put on a really fun show, or I would still be mad about that... ;)

His last song was the craziest, longest song I've ever heard.  The Christmas Unicorn.  And he was even dressed up in a unicorn costume!  Hilarious, and totally made the long wait worth it.  Really was a fun show.

And now for the best part of the trip to Austin.  Or NOT....

So remember how we found that awesome parking spot right across the street?  Well, upon leaving the show and walking across the street, THIS is what we found:

Yes, that is a very empty parking lot.  Our rental care got TOWED during the show! 

At least we weren't the only ones who made the mistake of parking there.  There were several other people standing there bewildered, trying to figure out what to do next. We eventually found the tiny little towing company sign...hidden in the corner of the parking lot behind a tree.  What a crock!

Oooohhh the boys were SO not happy.  And the person on the phone at the towing company was a complete jerk, which didn't help.  We didn't have the rental agreement with us - it was back at the hotel.  And he made us go all the way back downtown to our hotel and then all the way back out to the junk yard to get the car back.

Calling the towing company...

We walked around and down the street, and couldn't for the life of us find a cab.  I called a couple of companies, and decided to walk back up to the spot where the show was.  Of course there were a couple of cabs there.  And when we hopped in one...the driver was the same guy who had picked us up off 6th Stree the night before!  What are the odds!?  It was a little wild...

He took us downtown to the hotel, waited on us to get the rental agreement, and then took us to get the car...which happened to be literally in the middle of nowhere outside of Austin.  Such a sketchy little place!  And to top it off, it was TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS to get that car back!  Outrageous!  I can't even imagine how much money they made that night just off one parking lot!

Trying to find the car in the impound lot

Needless to say, that kind of put a damper on the rest of the night.  And it was already late by the time we made it back - WITH our car - to the hotel.  I went to bed, while the boys went down to the hotel bar to drink their sorrows away.


The next morning, we slept in a little, but had to check out of the hotel by 11.  And we had to meet Matt's Aunt Mimi for lunch at 12!  (She's the sweetest, most fun Aunt ever!)  We decided to have her meet us at The Salt Lick.  It is supposedly some of the best barbeque around, and it's south of Austin so it was a shorter drive for Aunt Mimi from San Antonio. 

Leaving the hotel.  The boys weren't happy to be up that early...
Getting to / finding The Salt Lick wasn't as easy as you would think.  We had the address punched in to my iPhone, but somehow we drove right by it.  Turned around, went the wrong way on a highway, etc.  Turned out the address our iPhone gave us wasn't quite right - it took us to some persons big Texan ranch in the middle of nowhere - but near The Salt Lick (also in the middle of nowhere).

 Left:  The road we drove on forever.         Right:  The private residence my phone took us to.

I don't know how we missed it the first time.  I mean, it was a little sign out front, but it's a giant series of buildings, a giant parking lot, tons of cars turning in/coming out.  I had no idea it was going to be that big!

 Left:  The sign on the side of the road.              Right:  The massive parking lot.

 Left:  Walking up to eat.                  Right:  Eating area outside.

Luckily we got there early enough that we didn't have to wait in line at all.  A hostess walked us right by the open pit bbq and in to a large, open room full of big picnic benches.

The open pit bbq where all the meat was cooked

Aunt Mimi and Matt
Me and Spen

They had an "all you can eat" special that of course both of the boys had to do.  Mimi ordered sausage and had half ribs/half brisket.  None of us were disapointed.  The food was amazing, and the sauce was nothing like I'd had before.  (And we have lots of bbq sauces in KC!)

Needless to say, we ate until we were sick.  (I snuck a little off the all you can eat plate, too...)  And what was left over, we wrapped up to bring home with us.  It was just too good to waste!

Mimi took off back for San Antonio, and we had the whole afternoon to spend in Austin still.  Not wanting to fall asleep from our food coma, we went for a walk through a dog park along the river in Austin.  It was such a beautiful, warm day!

We still had several hours before we needed to be at the airport, so we decided to hit a movie.  None of us had seen Lincoln yet, and we all wanted to, so we found a movie theater nearby.  Of course everyone else in the area decided to do that, too, so we got the last three seats the front row.  Ugh.  Not cool.  I was a little disapointed with the movie, but the boys loved it.

Once we got out, we decided to just take our time and head back to airport, gas up the rental car, and drop it off. We were a little early once we got checked in, so we walked the entire Southwest terminal from one end to the other, and eventaully ended up sitting down at a little bar and watching some football to kill time.  Still stuffed from lunch, Matt and I decided on just some ice cream for dinner.  Talk about an unhealthy day of eating...

                                   Killing time at the bar in the airport                         Ice cream for dinner!

Our flights to Dallas and then on to KC were quick, and we were happy to be home (minus the cold).  Chris picked us up, and was thrilled to have the left over meat from lunch, as well as some cookies Aunt Mimi made for everyone.

Another solid weekend trip!  Check Austin off the list!