Architecture & Lodging
1997 Readers Poll
1997 Critics Picks


Best Act Of Senseless Beauty

Master Kinetic artist Richard Heinechen made the ever-changing fork in the road, and Hyde Park B&G owner Bick Brown has various new art pieces added to the top regularly. This summer, it featured a tropical Mr. PotatoHead. Who can guess what the autumn will bring?

Hyde Park Bar & Grill
4206 Duval, 512/458-3168
4521 Westgate Blvd., 512/899-2700

Best Architectural Orgasm

Will somebody please fix the LBJ fountain? An entire generation of temporary Austinites (UT kids) stands to miss the frothy majesty of our city's only water-based tribute to our nation's 36th president. And we old timers miss the 120,000 gallons of water pumped at a rate of 75-80 psi. The tension is killing us.

LBJ Library, 2315 Red River, 471-4962

Best Bathroom Gallery

At Mojo's, they've solved the problem of kids hopped up on caffeine filling the bathroom walls with impish graffiti. Artist Nicole Labry has transformed both the cafe's bathrooms into full-on installation pieces, and suddenly, we have a lot less desire to bring reading material in because there's just so much to look at. Both installations employ an intriguing juxtaposition of spliced-up magazine photos of models, found objects, and the occasional shard of text.

Best Down-Homey Hosts

Live Oak Inn owners Kevin and Renee Buck (and their Simpsons look-alike dog Molly Brown) live in a veritable, old mansion but exude a hospitality that's downright homey. Opened last September, Live Oak Inn, with six rooms, has already seen more than 1,000 guests. Internet advertising has brought them guests from as far away as Tokyo, and recently a British film crew doing a documentary for BBC on human sexuality were guests. Hell, with guests like that, you've got to wonder precisely what it is the Bucks bring to the table to interest and charm their guests, but our sources tell us they have that role down pat.

211 W. Live Oak, 447-8873

Best Downtown Sunset View

Downtown truly shines around sunset from this vantage point. An incredible glow reflects off of the re-done Bank One building when standing outside the post office's upper ramp. Fridays when we take the office mail for the weekend, we can't help but stop and savor this amazing display.

United States Post Office
510 Guadalupe, 512/494-2200
1914 E. Sixth
3903 S. Congress, 800/275-8777
9001 Tuscany Way, 512/342-1355
2883 Hwy. 71 E., Del Valle, 512/385-7902

Best Dr. Seussian Mix-Master Interchange

One day, making tracks/In the prairie of Austax/Came North-South Going Traffax/And East-West Going Traffax.//The East-West Going Traffax puffed its chest up with pride./"We never," it said, "take a step to one side."/"Well, we live by a rule," yelled the North-South Going Traffax/"that we learned back in North-South Going School./Never budge! That's our rule. Never budge in the least!/Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!/We'll stay here, not budging! We can and we will/If it makes us and all of Austax stand still!"//Well.../Of course Austax didn't stand still. Austax grew./In a couple of years, the new highway came through/And they built it right over that Lakehills Cinemax/And left the Traffax standing, un-budge in their tracks.

2428 Ben White, 416-5700

Best Entrance

Not since Ray Liotta whisked Lorraine Bracco through a nightclub in one fell shot has there been such a thrilling bar entrance. Impossibly tucked behind Fourth & Congress, Speakeasy's is a drinker's lush fantasy in the midst of the greyish, derelict downtown alley. While the distant martini clinks may be a siren song for some, it is this bar's entrance - replete with shiny brass knobs, sharp-dressed doormen and carpet crushing under your stilettos - that begs for a glimpse inside.

412-D Congress

Best Grasshopper

Neither we nor our bush beans are great fans of plague-type insects, but the giant wooden grasshopper at the Wildflower Center is a gentleman among pests. See this harmless hopper and more big bugs (ants, dragonfly, praying mantis) created by sculptor David Rogers through November 30, 1997.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse

Best Highway Development Project

The restoration of the final resting place of confederate soldiers and distinguished Texans was completed in February of this year for $4.7 million. Where'd the money come from? Ever hear of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act? It provides funding for development along state highways. State highway? What state highway? It's State Road Spur165, the shortest highway in Texas at a mere eight-tenths of a mile, which runs its cobblestoned length through the middle of the cemetery.

Texas State Cemetery
909 Navasota

Best House To Dream On

Have you seen this house recently? Damn. The neigborhood may be a little crowded, but architecture like that fires the imagination. Oh the breakfasts we would have, tucked into a well-lit Victorian cranny. Oh the parties we would have, drinking rum madras on the second story porch. Oh the trysts we would have, squeezed into the delicate cupola- Now if we could only move it to Barbados.

The Littlefield Home
24th & Whitis

Best Lobbyist Holding Pattern

During the Lege, you can see every type of digital and cellphone known to human (with a lobbyist attached) in the Open Air Rotunda. Power suits and ties now aren't complete without the technological power tools. Wheelin' and dealin' is the bidness here as each step taken in both houses creates a surreal electronic flurry of activity.

Capitol Visitors Center
112 E. 11th

Best Neighborhood Guardian

Every Austin neighborhood enjoys the protection of the city's men who wear blue, but only one is under the watchful eye of a man who is blue. This year, the Bouldin Creek neighborhood got its own super-size supernatural security guard, an azure-skinned genie - Shazzan, if we remember our Sixties Saturday morning cartoons right - perched atop the studio of "them crafty hobos" Rory Skagen and Billy Brakhage. The Skagen Brakhage team has gifted our town with lots of witty, whimsical art - the "Blue Ribbon" mural at W. Fifth & Colorado, the cowpoke and flying steer at GSD&M's Idea City, the Austin postcard mural opposite their studio at South First &Annie - but Shazzan is special, a benevolent sentinel whose broad smile and strong oustretched arms promise safety and reassurance.

1800 S. First, 443-7045

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Office Foyer

Known around the Capitol Complex as the Jukebox building or OCS (One Capitol Square), the Clements building was home to the Lege when the Capitol was under restoration. Now housing various state agencies, it's a shame not as many people get to walk through this elegant foyer. Surrounded by a glass front, the marble floor's pattern guides one's eye to a classically styled free-standing clock. It's a great respite from the traffic and noise outside on Lavaca & 15th.

William P. Clements Jr. State Building
300 W. 15th

Best Place To Get High &/Or Re-Enact A Scene From Rear Window

The Omni's glass elevators are not intended for pregnant women, those with heart conditions, or children under 4'. The ultraswank elevators overlooking the lobby are Austin's closest approximation to a carnival thrill ride. "Stop this thing... I feel sick!" For a different kind of thrill, sit at the Omni Hotel's lounge, and the friendly bartenders will relate harrowing tales of couples, trios, and beyond who don't realize (or do realize, and enjoy) that their room windows allow for two-way viewing. Patient voyeurs may catch a glimpse of the intrigue themselves.

Omni Hotel
Omni Hotel Downtown, 700 San Jacinto, 512/476-3700
Omni Hotel Gift Shop, 701 Brazos #130, 512/320-5950

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Place To Rubberneck

Chronicle sources (our eastward facing windows) claim that Friday afternoons are the best time to watch the overheating (in the summer months) urban hordes rend bumpers, hoods, and tempers as they flee northward. In the winter, our sources suggest, foggy windshields provide an even grislier more slippery spectacle of internal combustion implosion, any day of the week. Best times to watch: 8-10am for the southbound lanes; 4-6pm for the northbound.

I-35, between Airport & Manor

Best Replacement For The Terminix Bug

Ever since the giant rotating cockroach at 12th & Lamar crawled off to North Austin to make room for yet another center city coffeehouse, the cityscape has seemed somehow empty. Robert's Pest Control on S. Lamar has come to the rescue, installing a huge neon cockroach that is almost as beguiling as its predecessor. Crafted by Evan Voyles of Neon Jungle (CHECK THIS!!!) and stuck firmly on a 15-foot pole, this happy critter with the elegant tentacles and scurrying legs is a roach that is fast on its way to nowhere. Let's hope it stays that way.

Roberts Termite & Pest Control
1800 S. Lamar

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

photo by Cultivate PR

Best Restaurant Transformation

Restaurant builder par excellence Frank Seely garners our kudos for his skills in turning a plain American sow's ear, CoCo's at Shoal Creek & Anderson Lane, into a very classy Chinese silk purse, Suzi's China Grill. Seely and restaurateur Suzi Yi chose a subtle, non-traditional Chinese decor for her second Austin location. The interior features sponge-painted walls in soothing greens and muted golds, forest green booths and chair seats with black tables, a stained concrete floor and an open kitchen revealing a row of blazing woks. No vestige of the generic former chain restaurant remains.

Best Streetside Icon

Nothing brightens our day like a drive past Walker Tire's tautological "If It's in Stock, We've Got It" Man. Sleeves rolled up, cap tilted just so, spouting that absurd slogan, this smiling wooden cutout is an eager and innocent hero for jaded times. Meaninglessness has never been so refreshing.

Walker Tire
6926 N. Lamar

photograph by John Carrico   John Carrico

Best Use Of The Commerica Bank Building On Congress

We should have known that any play that starts with a spiel about gravity-free blueberries would be a little unusual. But when that play is produced by Frontera, a company that has just begun to explore all of the unique, found spaces in this town, we should have known that Deviant Craft would be an aesthetic coup as well. The production's power could not have been experienced without the character of this raw, unfinished space and Frontera's commitment to finding it.

Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre, 302-4933

Best Wistful Transport To Veracruz

Heading out south on Airport, toward the 183 interchange, we notice this handpainted wonder. "Mexico Chiquito, Frutas y Tacos lo Mejor en Comida Mexicana con Sabor Casero" it reads, highlighted with little fruits on the bottom and etched in that handmade style gracing so many of the beachside cantinas of Veracruz. This place isn't even open yet and we can taste the salt of the sea and the salt of our lover's neck on those quiet nights on the gulf. Or maybe that's just the salt from the many shots of tequila savored then to toast the future and now to forget the past-.

817 Airport

photograph by John Carrico   John Carrico

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