Once a lone outpost in Downtown Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse's initial experiment in moviegoing has grown over the years into a thriving enterprise, multiplying many times over within Austin and across America. Yet rather than seizing on a winning formula and engraving it in stone, owner Tim League and his colleagues keep tweaking the model and pouring what they’ve learned from each theatre into the foundation of the next venue. Each movie house improves on the one that came before, which makes the newly opened Lakeline multiplex the apex of the Alamo line … that is, until the one that’s under construction on South Lamar is finished next year.
Idle hands don't have anything on this scenic playground. This drive snakes through Wimberley and Blanco, offering picturesque views of the 400-mile-long Balcones Fault (and some pretty lavish homes). But watch out for deer ... and hitchhiking ghosts who have been reported to take the forms of Confederate soldiers and pioneers. Don't believe us? Stop by the Devil's Backbone Tavern and hear the stories straight from the horse's mouth. Oh, did we mention that there are tales of ghost horses, too?
Before you shriek in terror, don’t run away from this adorable Victorian house just yet. It may look exactly like the home of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it’s actually its architectural twin. Both houses were built in Round Rock in the early 1900s in the “pattern book” style, and Burkland-Frisk was taken down and restored in Georgetown in 2006. With its embellished eaves and retro paneling, it’s like staring at an eerie gingerbread house – definitely worth a visit whenever you find yourself a bit to the north.
Through a series of abstract yard sculptures, Austin-based artist Bobby Pearl re-creates the stories her grandmother told her about life in the shtetl through bronze abstract figurative work. "Pogrom!" interprets her great-grandmother's escape from the Cossacks, with a female relief hunched over a dangerous-looking, barren ground. Pearl created the narrative series, which traces her grandmother's courtship, marriage, and escape from Russia to the U.S., as a way to preserve and honor her family's history. She propels viewers through space and time with her art, creating work that also functions as living, breathing history lessons that gain nourishment from the small surrounding naturescape. Pearl's tinkling Bone Tree Sculpture Garden may honor the dead, but her bronze abstract figurative work honors the living; you can see fragments of yourself reflected in the faces of Pearl's sometimes faceless sculptures, and it's this intimacy that's inviting enough to get you out of your comfort zone and take a peek into someone else's private property.
The concrete gorilla of West Lynn could put even the most die-hard fashionista to shame. This sexually ambiguous, inanimate piece of yard art always appears dressed to the nines in accordance with the upcoming holiday or local event – a UT win, a wedding, a tiki party. We salute you, West Lynn Gorilla, in your efforts to keep the neighbors' calendars and simian awareness in check.
Sure, the name Gourdough's is synonymous with overabundance, but who knew that their almost religious adherence to the ethos of excess extends to their ... ahem, royal residence? Go ahead, and sit on the throne in the ladies' loo. (You don't actually think we had the energy to pop a squat once we began to digest that "Big Baller" doughnut burger, did you?) There it is, right in front of you, a freakin' barge of toilet paper. Seriously, it's a case lot of rolls stacked as if to say, "Friend, we will never leave you wanting. Ever." The fluffy white cylinders luxuriate on a long-ass basket worthy of floating Moses down the Nile or keeping the Christ child warm in the manger. Which is exactly what they are concocting just on the other side of that wall: infant-sized mounds of masa and sugar served perchance with a wedge of lettuce? Some deep-fried bacon? And dared to be called a "salad"? Bastards. But don't hold it against them. Gourdough's only wants to keep you satisfied. And if the doughnuts the size of your face don't prove it, the bulk pack of TP will.
Austin's latest alternatel is located right smack in the middle of the Dirty Sixth vortex, with some surprising upgrades for the budget-conscious traveler. Though outfitted in a clean, modern style, the features of its eponymous 19th century building are cleverly showcased throughout. With on-site laundry and breakfast included, this hostel gives travelers walking-distance access to all sights from Clarksville to the East Side. Just add bicycles, and it will give them the key to the city.
Next time you're stuck on southbound Airport Boulevard near 183, look to your right. You may catch a glimpse of Draka the Dragon, a 100-foot-long art car built on a Ford Econoline van and two flatbed trailers by artist Lisa Nigro and a team of metallurgists in 2000. Once a fire-breathing, wing-flapping titan, Draka, who is also furnished with a full bar, mirrored mosaic ceilings, and a trailer for music equipment in her tail, won art car competitions and traveled to Burning Man multiple times in her heyday. Now moldering impressively in the Brother's Produce parking lot on Springdale, her scales are rusted and her carpet's half rotted away, but the propane tank in her open maw connected to a giant red button on the dashboard recalls more glorious times. Draka appears to have retired from active service, but she keeps on giving: a beautiful, surreal piece of sculpture in an otherwise blighted landscape, she also appears to be the perfect locale for amorous stoners to get handsy in the middle of the night. Not that we would know.
Two parking spots. That's it. It took two parking spots, a couple of gutsy visionaries, a brilliant planting plan, and the idea that Congress Avenue should be put on center stage to make the pocket park at Royal Blue one of Downtown Austin's premier business and social hotspots. The very best place to pull up a chair and watch the reinvention of the avenue. The craft beer, bottles of bubbly, and smorgasbord of gorgeous nibbles are just lagniappe.
When Charles Moore came to UT-Austin in 1985 to chair the School of Architecture, our city also became the beneficiary of a late, great work by the (still) undervalued postmodern architect. Take a tour, and you'll witness diverse materials shimmying playfully up to one another, bookshelves and walls displaying significant architectural tomes and folk art. Queerly patterned Moosehead capital columns, a hyper-masculine horny chair, and the bright blue gabled breezeway are only some of the masterful flourishes that make this compound a home only a true postmodernist could enjoy. A cause for envy: Today the compound plays host to artists, architects, and scholars in residence who get to live in situ.
Devotees of the storied Airport Bar & Grill and the beloved Bernadette's may be in for a shock. While business owner John LaTouf completely stripped down and built back up the old building that housed both of those watering holes, he's managed to maintain the mysterious character that kept folks loyal. We're not talking some cheesy TV show makeover that ignores the context of Austin, either. LaTouf insisted on retaining the bar's feel by reupholstering many of the original booths and bar stools and appointments while upgrading it into a viable live music venue. There are some new touches, but the color scheme is the same, the little paper lanterns still light the bar, and the backyard is still cozy and a smoker's delight. However, now words like "ventilation," "sound system," "air conditioning," "structural integrity," and "no possums" are not just dreams, they are reality. And the new reality is grand, as every time we've visited the Skylark, old regulars from both the Airport Bar and Bernie's seem to coexist peacefully with new neighbors and live music lovers. The only things we recommend? Bring back the weekly Lizzy Caroloke nights, and don't completely rule out some sort of undergarment as ceiling decor.
Nic Patrizi serves up a powerhouse of homemade Italian recipes (culled from his family's brick-and-mortar in Beaumont) behind the Vortex Theatre. Pastafarians have been flocking to this hidden gem like a moth to a flame, but the truck itself is a surprise gift to the sense of sight. Local artists decked out the exterior with an assortment of kitschy pieces à la Claes Oldenburg – abstract paintings of a zombie JFK, cockroaches, and the characters from Ghostbusters, to name a few. One intent loop around this unassuming gallery should take just enough time until your order is filled and your other senses start kicking in.
One of the most distressing facts about a city that so proudly touts its state of funkified whackadoo weirdness is its lack of original motor courts and roadside motels still in operation. There are the odd flophouses here and there, but let's not go there. We can point to the twin beauts of SoCo, the Austin Motel and Hotel San José, but those have each undergone such extensive remodels as to render their status as travel courts moot. Down the road a piece, the St-Elmo-Tel sign marks the spot of an old mom-and-pop that dutifully stood at the corner of St. Elmo and South Congress until it was mowed down a few years ago. Some midcentury angel deemed to leave the sign in place, heralding days gone by, when the avenue was the yellow brick road to the violet crown.
One steep hike up a grassy knoll on the east side of the Capitol grounds lands you in a 19th century "castle" that once housed the Texas Land Office. The function of the old girl now is as a de facto visitors' center for the complex, if not the entire state; the Texas Department of Transportation's tourism center and an entire room dedicated to travelers' info for Texas Parks are both housed here. And for those who want to export some of this fine Lone Star shine to those unfortunate enough not to live here, one of the best Texas-themed gift shops in the city can be found on the second floor.
Once upon a time, the two-story house at the corner of East 17th and Alamo Streets in East Austin was nothing to write home about. Brown with darker brown trim and a line of half-dead bushes along the chain-link fence. But that was before Joe and Grace got their hands on the place and transformed it into an art piece extraordinaire: a bright green house accented by pops of red, a private skate park in the backyard (available for parties!) and, the icing on the fencing cake, so to speak – a large metal driveway gate shaped like the quintessential Eighties boombox, complete with knobs and cassette-tape-player buttons. No, you can't put it on your shoulder, and no, it won't blast Grandmaster Flash, but it does add a unique blast of personality to this increasingly eclectic neighborhood.
It popped up just over a year ago, on the side of the brick building on East Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard that houses the United Way for Greater Austin: a bright blue/green mural with a slice of white bread and a pat of melting butter with the message, written on each element, respectively, "You're My" "Butter Half." And, as if on cue, the couples came: from the neighborhood, from across town, out of the coffee shop just across the street, out of cars merely passing by. Created by website and graphic design agency, Creative Suitcase, and led by designer, now Creative Art Director John Rockwell, the Butter Half mural, as it's known, has, in short order, become a part of the ATX landscape: tweeted and blogged about, made part of a scavenger hunt and painted onto nail art. And, of course, has become the backdrop for countless expressions of love. What's butter than that?
Owners Woinee Mariam and Solomon Hailu serve up their Ethiopian fare with tons of love and care, and bring all that authenticity and attention to their coffee ceremony as well. Guests are taught the history of this sensory stimulating ritual with frankincense and roasted beans wafting in the air. The coffee is lush, rich, and earthy – a most relaxing and delicious way to end your meal.
The funk of yesteryear never smelled so ... eclectic. Its remains lie in the Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata, a place that harkens back to the days of dime museums and traveling carnivals. Touted as one of the few remaining in-home, family-run museums in the nation, Ephemerata first began in Tucson, Ariz., in 1921, before being moved to Austin by the original co-founder's great-grandnephew. Community themed shows and traveling exhibitions supplement the museum's impermanent collection, which includes the human "horns" grown on the head of a New Jersey woman. Were the horns caused by Satan or scar tissue? You be the judge, and let co-curators Scott Webel and Jen Hirt be your guides.
Everything about this venue is so right: the film selection, the cozy theatres, the food, and the drinks. Watching movies here is so sublime. Then nirvana gets interrupted by the sweat of the ice cubes in our drinks dribbling down our arms or the sound of a highball glass sliding off one of those collapsible tables and shattering on the floor. But now: cup holders! Permanent cup holders were smartly retrofitted into the seats and we couldn't be more thrilled. Detroit’s next best invention after Motown, the lowly cup holder, is now the crown jewel in the Violet Crown experience.
It only took AMODA 16 years, but their first legit conference, Protos Digital Art & Prototyping Festival, entered the Austin festival world in May 2013. Electronic artists from all over the globe flocked to the Long Center, demonstrating and experimenting with new art forms in the digital spectrum. Some local gurus teamed up with performers from overseas, and the result was a conglomeration of transformative sounds and images worth spending money on. Four days and nights of panels, showcases, performances, and general badassery solidified Protos as one of the best this year.
Feel free to condensate all over iconic city imagery with South Austin Gallery's ceramic coasters. Co-founders Jennifer and Joseph Worth began creating functional art pieces after a 2005 trip to Europe, where the couple collected more than 5,000 photographs. While those photographs have yet to be edited, the Worths have spent their time documenting city life worldwide. The gallery also sells cutting boards in the same vein as the coasters that are sold at numerous Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio locations. If photography just ain't your thing, the gallery also sells canvases, vintage clothing, vinyl records, and offers framing and photo booth party services.
The way Austin’s literary scene is booming these days, you could find an event at a different indie bookstore practically every day of the week. May we suggest you reserve Fridays for Write Bloody, the tiny but colorful bookstore tucked away in the parking lot next to Juan in a Million on East Cesar Chavez? Brought to town by formidable slam poet and performer Derrick Brown at the turn of the year, Write Bloody stocks a bevy of titles from his successful indie press alongside mugs, T-shirts, and retro-quaint writing supplies that make great gifts for the versifier in your life. Between the impeccably designed volumes that crowd the shelves and the local poets who hang out there, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fun or friendly entrée into the world of poetry. But if you're still feeling shy, Free Beer Friday, an afternoon of free brewskis and spoken-word ballads, will loosen you up. Hey, around the sixth beer you may discover you're a slam poet, too.
For three years running, HONK!TX has staged all-out musical warfare on the streets of Austin. Bringing the best community brass bands in the country (think klezmer, New Orleans brass, samba) together to collaborate and perform on stages and in both organized and spontaneous parades across these city streets. This volunteer-organized event, hosted by Austin's own Minor Mishap Marching Band, celebrates the street band movement, and the end result is a party that truly gives life to the harmonious cacophony of the power of the people. It's loud, it's exciting, and it's impossible not to dance along.
The closest we ever got to a screen printer as children was homemade iron-on decals depicting the members of former boy band 'N Sync. We're still reppin' the Lance Bass T-shirt, but the teens enrolled at the Mexic-Arte Museum's Screen It! program have created unique calavera de azúcar (sugar skull) designs, among others, using Adobe Photoshop. Youth ages 10-17 learn screenprinting techniques from practicing art educators and have the opportunity to sell their goods in the museum's gift shop.
When the Hidden Room makes theatre, you'd best be prepared for either a blast from the past or future shock – Original Practices Shakespeare, staged with all-male casts in Elizabethan dress (and dresses), or experimental new plays with actors on different continents performing together via Skype, or audiences scanning QR codes to learn plot details. But we'll gladly suffer the time-travel whiplash of the company's split personality when the results are as captivating as the marathon mounting of the Bard's Henry VI plays, Rose Rage; the transatlantic romance You Wouldn't Know Her, She Lives in London; or the history-warping mystery The Girl With Time in Her Eyes. No matter what era Artistic Director Beth Burns is working in, she always makes it feel like the present. The action is happening now, and we are there.
Of all the Peanuts gang, Schroeder was the most dedicated; his devotion to Beethoven and the piano outshone even Charlie Brown's unflagging commitment to baseball. We see a lot of that comic-strip prodigy in Michelle Schumann, and not just because she plays a mean toy piano (as she's shown at her annual Happy Birthday, Mr. Cage concerts). As artistic director for the Austin Chamber Music Center and its yearly summer festival, she's shown a Schroeder-like enthusiasm for music of all kinds, from Bach to the Bad Plus (including Beethoven, natch), and sought to share its beauty with everyone. Listening to her effuse about Brahms or play a Schubert sonata is to be won over to the classical cause. And Schumann went full Schroeder last December, playing the entire Vince Guaraldi score to A Charlie Brown Christmas (a treat she'll repeat this year). Her joyful, jazzy performance had our inner Snoopy dancing.
Once the 20th century started, the clock pretty much stopped on what we had to look at besides buildings on UT's campus – realistic statuary (chiefly of dead white guys) and little else. Since 2008, that's all changed as Landmarks, the public art program directed by Andrée Bober, has been seeding the 40 acres with abstract and conceptual artworks from the last 65 years. The dynamic shapes and colors of the pieces – which include 28 sculptures on long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mark di Suvero's huge, red Clock Knot, a Sol LeWitt wall painting and sculpture, and Ben Rubin's luminous textual tribute to Walter Cronkite – transform the spaces they're in and open our eyes to the campus in new ways. The October debut of a James Turrell Skyspace on the Student Activity Center rooftop has us looking forward, much as Landmarks does all the time.
Losing is just half the fun in Austin-based Despair, Inc.'s "Lose Your Own Adventure" adult parody series. Let author Justin Sewell guide you through your homecoming in Dallas in the series' first book installment, Who Killed John F. Kennedy? Even though you're destined to fail, it's all about the journey, not the numerous destinations, which all lead to dead ends. No pun intended.
When they set up camp this spring in the underused Marchesa Hall & Theatre in Lincoln Village, the Austin Film Society made a sanctuary for the movie-mad to congregate and celebrate a shared passion. Whether it’s a visiting director giddy to show her film on 35mm, a sharp-as-a-tack programmer introducing an underseen gem, or the super-savvy audiences who lap it all up, everybody gets a holy kind of feeling at the Marchesa. Amen to that, our brothers and sisters in cinephilia.
A refurbished, historic stone cottage (former home of biker favorite Beverly's) houses this neighborhood bar that really captures what's left of the relaxed and funky old South Austin vibe. It attracts an eclectic crowd – from nearby junkyard workers and former Beverly’s regulars to lesbians, hippies, and neighborhood locals – thanks to its fantastic jukebox, dog-friendly patio, outdoor stage, pool table, and pinup girl decor. Drink selection goes beyond hipster dive bar to include things we really want to drink, like good cocktails and craft brews. Kickass.
If you don't know Becca, Paige, Kathi, or Janie then, frankly, you don't know where to find the best time in town. These are the women of Quality Seafood – and, more to the point, perhaps, the women who make the experience of dining (and drinking) at the Quality Seafood bar the best way to feel right at home while dining on oysters or lobster or a bowl of chowder. In fact, it's the interaction among staff and the large contingent of regulars that make this bar scene a real treat. Come in a stranger, and you'll almost certainly leave feeling like a regular.
As hard as it is to believe, not every Austinite is a beer expert, though many may think they are. So, handing over the reins to the genuinely cool servers at Hopfields down on the Drag can be a lesson in trust. With a menu of what feels like infinity – everything from Big Bear Black Stout to Green Flash IPA – it’s easy to pick a beer at random and nurse a couple over the course of the evening. But our evening was measurably improved by asking our server (a gentleman with an impressive mustache) for recommendations. The biggest trouble in the evening was remembering what he’d ended up bringing to the table. It got us all mixed up. It had nothing to do with the beer, of course.
Cinemas featuring full menus and adult beverages are kind of an Austin tradition, but Flix is a worthy contender up north with one very important trick up its sleeve. These guys serve up some awesome in-house brews, including a Luna Rosa Wit fragranced with coriander and blood oranges. Sink into your movie seat, pull up your personal food tray, and sip on bevvies for fun events like Bros & Brews and the Pajama Party.
Vacillating between up and at 'em cumbia and slow and low Afro-Caribbean jamz (or, depending upon the crowd, vice versa?), Chorizo Funk makes good on his moniker. A creature of collaboration, Chorizo Funk (née Eddie Campos) is a member of DJ/artist collective Peligrosa and works regularly with Riders Against the Storm for the monthly frenzied fiesta called Body Rock ATX. Dude digs deep in his preferred sonic wells, and the rewards are reaped by all within earshot. Boom!
Dun dun dun, du dun dun, du dun dun. Um, is there anything better than the "Imperial March" theme to get you pumped up for a wild night? This aspiring Sith of a pedicab brings the dark side to drunks and assists young Padawans on their very own quests in a galaxy far, far away (like campus). Honestly, sometimes we flag this guy down even when we don't need a ride. The force is strong with this one.
Oh dear glob, this summer’s group show featuring art inspired by the Cartoon Network series beloved by adults and children alike was totally mathematical! More than 30 artists showcased their interpretive tableaux of the postapocalyptic cartoonscape, from the agony of Lemongrab to the sinister beauty of Marceline and the bathetic joie de vivre of heroes Finn and Jake. Mondo Gallery, the poster and art space arm of the Alamo Drafthouse juggernaut, illustrates again and again that when it comes to smash-ups of popular and material culture, they’ve got the market cornered.
It's the end of the work day, and you've got a lot to shake off. Of course, great crab cakes, crunchy shrimp, and deals on wine are a sure allure, but Truluck's has something else to make its happy hour stand out: Mike Miller, crooner extraordinaire, tinkling the ivories four hours a day, three days a week. He's a one-man wonder, so smooth on the keys with a voice you could serve on toast. Catch his show Tuesday evenings at the Arboretum location (then back Downtown, when they reopen this October). Across town in the little reclaimed dive bar on Airport, the legendary Margaret Wright rules the roost, jammin' on some ivories of her own at the intimate Skylark Lounge. With a legacy of residencies that stretch from the Seventies and include the Driskill, 1920s Club, Rusty's, et al, the beloved cabaret diva whips out standards with her signature panache and charms the friendly crowd with warm and sloshy wit every Thursday and Friday, 6-8pm.
With only a handful of games under his belt, Ayles has established himself as a rising star in the independent game world. His free-to-download, arcade-style releases like Punksnotdead and Sake Express Pro Wrestling added a dash of anarchy to the art-game genre. Trailers and demos for upcoming titles focus largely on art, but retain a sense of the unexpected. Take for example the AMOA-Arthouse exhibited Catering to Birds or the recently Kickstarted Lioness, the latter of which will be his first "full-length" game and received almost four times what Ayles asked for. How's that for a vote of confidence?
Forget LGBTQ and so forth. Jeremy has got the entire gay alphabet down. A is for the Alamo Drafthouse, which now hosts Homo Arigato!, a monthly film series created by von Stilb. M is for Mouthfeel, von Stilb's DJ project magnifique for those who like their parties rated X. Q is for the Q, local queer hub for all sorts of queer hubbub, to which von Stilb is bringing his crowd and marketing expertise. T is for Team ProHomo, hosts of the weekly Queer Ride and more, of which von Stilb is an active member. H is for how does he do it all? With style, flair, and care.
What konstitutes a krewe? The definition is fluid, but the Krewe du Bisoux (that's "kisses" in Fraaanch), organizers of 12th Night Austin insist that, "Whatever brings your community together, decide what you are kings and queens of, and take the costuming from there." Whether that's a passion for the Passion, Cats, or a love of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, your participation in the holy day procession that winds its tentacles all over East Austin is not predicated on entrance fees or fancy forms. Improvisatory and ephemeral, 12th Night arrives and departs, marking the beginning of king cake/Mardi Gras season and the Epiphany, not to mention all of your epiphanies to come.
Imagine all the people – over 92 entries, 2,000 paraders, and 70,000 viewers, by all estimates and accounts – at 2012's Austin Pride Parade. The route emerges from San Jacinto east of the Capitol, onto 11th, then down Congress Avenue, a rollout of rainbow carpet headed down to the Fourth Street gay bar district. In years past, the parade boasted then-impressive numbers of 10-30,000, but the great leap forward happened last year. And this year? Hold on to your chaps: 128 entries, 3,000 paraders, and spectators that numbered in the six figures. Imagine sharing all the world (let alone that space!) and living life in peace. Imagine! We hope next year you'll join us, and Austin will roll as one.
If the bustling bars of the once-upon-a-time neighborhood of Rainey Street or the once-not-entirely-bars-and-music venues of West and East (of the highway) Sixth are just too much to face, why not get away from the madding crowd and head just west of I-35 to the historic area known as "Dirty Sixth"? Sure, a recent visit was shared with a few disoriented tourists wandering out of El Sol y La Luna, but the sidewalks are wide and refurbished, the streets are blocked off on weekends, and there is ample parking if you are willing to pay. And did you guys know there are a bunch of bars there?!
Austinites love their dogs, and one of the most fun places to take them is this Rainey Street outpost. Everyone knows the food is above your average hot dog, and the ample list of brewskies is epic. But what rules is the convivial vibe that includes our four-legged friends. Dogs are welcome anywhere in the biergarten, and well-behaved pups can go off-leash in the special fenced-in play yard. If you don’t want to share your antelope sausage, you can spoil Fido with something from the special dog menu. Don’t miss Mutt Mondays, featuring 50% off pints, 5-7pm, and free dog training courtesy of Dog School Austin.
For those of you who have spent many sleepless nights figuring out how to form your own Grumpy Cat keychain, customize an apothecary table, heck, even sew up a wild animal onesie, the search to cure your insomnia is over. TechShop in Round Rock opened up last October and is happily serving the needs of all the creatives, inventors, and mad scientists in town. Members are welcome to take classes and use state-of-the-art technologies for welding, woodworking, painting, T-shirt making, 3-D printing, and laser cutting, to name a few disciplines. Get out there and build your dreams!
West-Coast transplant Gina Dominguez does dongs right, and with the various models given nicknames, like wigs in a wig shop, you can ride your Vixen Creations' Goodfella or Outlaw or Maverick (What? No Goose?) all the way home. Although, seriously, safety first: This vixen's creations are recommended for advanced players only. So hey, post-feminist, liberated Don Juan, pick up some of their patented Gemstones to match your honey's jewels, and let the graduated, hand-dipped, silicon spheres send y'all out of your celestial bodies. For polychromed pleasure projectiles, you now know how to buy local. Available at Forbidden Fruit and Q Toys.
Even though some may argue that it's gotten too big, or lost its indie edge, it's hard to argue that South by Southwest isn't fun. That said, even the most hardcore of us are ready to have our town back by Sunday. For the past few years, Uncle Doug's Chili Dog Fest has been making that transition a little smoother, hosting local (and local-ish) bands at the Side Bar for local music fans who didn't leave their manners on a plane getting here. And there are allegedly chili dogs, though we have always been a bit too spent to search them out too hard.
In just one short year, Austin's new COTA track ranks among the most popular circuits in the world. Built in time for the inaugural Formula One race here last November, the track – from its wild elevation changes to chicanes and switchbacks – is something to behold. Since opening, the site has been host to many high-powered events – from F1 to MotoGP, from races on bicycles to races on foot. Even though the COTA has been named by the city of Austin as a Green Business Leader for 2013, concerns linger about bringing motorsports to environmentally conscious Austin. But consider this: Developing a world-class track attracts not only the racing of today, but the industry innovators looking for a greener tomorrow.
Tucked between the frat houses and overpriced apartments, there lies a smattering of historic buildings, but one in particular caught our eye. Now a bar named Freedmen's, this landmark dates back to 1869, when it was built by former slave George Franklin. Throughout their storied past, these walls have hosted everything from a church to a publishing house for one of Texas' first black newspapers, The Gold Dollar. Little touches, like an old-fashioned fireplace repurposed to showcase liquor display or an antique iron sitting in the window sill, pay tribute to those intervening centuries. And as we sip our phosphate fizz and revel in the cool, cozy atmosphere, we can't help but hope this incarnation is here to stay.
Strangely, in a town bursting at the belly with Tex-Mex cuisine, the two most important criteria for optimal fajita enjoyment are rarely found in the same place at the same time. Most restaurants have fajitas, but often the best ones strain the wallet, while the cheap ones cause indigestion. The exception is Taquerias Arandinas, which in addition to supplying South Austin with authentic corn tortillas, balances the concerns of both stomach and pocketbook when serving up their fajitas. They’re excellent with lechuga y tomate, and top ‘em off with a few spoons of salsa. Also, practice your Spanish with the patient staff.
Plopped amidst the raucousness undergrad haven of West Campus is one of Austin’s newest food truck collectives, Rancho Rio Eatery. The spot revived favorites like Mighty Cone and Wurst Tex after their uprooting from the legendary SoCo spot, and included newcomers like Thai of the Town and Cow Tipping Creamery. Battling the lunch-rush parking pandemonium may not be worth it unless you're already in the area, but the amenable hours and plentiful seating make it a great evening spot.