Architecture & Lodging
2001 Readers Poll
2001 Critics Picks
Best Architect

This Minority Business Enterprise has been providing Austin with imaginative and stylish designs since 1989. From work at Austin- Bergstrom Airport and UT, to breathtaking private homes, CasaBella is a unique addition to the fabric of Austin style.

CasaBella Architects
3823-C Airport
512/458-5700
www.casabella-architects.com

Best Bed & Breakfast

Ultra-modern amenities surrounded with Victorian elegance make this historic jewel a favorite for out-of-towners, as well as locals wishing to avail themselves of a romantic, yet convenient getaway. The Governors' Inn offers world-class service - intimate wedding packages, complete line of business services - in a down-home atmosphere.

Best Billboard

Despite our daily desensitization to violence and carnage, not many folks have seen real car wreckage as horrifying as the mangled, black 1996 Camaro on the billboard visible from southbound I-35 near French Place, and if they have, most haven't lived to tell about it. It's a striking image, really, and even more striking when drivers realize that it's not just an image, it's the real thing. The Texas Department of Transportation put the car wreck right up on that billboard. The two young men involved survived, but only because they were buckled up. Wow. That message is loud and clear. The billboard was recently taken down and moved to Dallas.

Best Downtown Building

No matter what our readers might think about what goes on under her glowing granite dome, loyalties remain steadfast for this unbeatable symbol of all that is true and fine about the Great State of Texas. Designed in the late 1800s by Detroit architect E.E. Myers, our Texas state Capitol is the largest of all state capitols in the U.S. and second only to the nation's Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Ours is taller, however, by about 15 feet!) From the tip of the shining star held aloft by the Goddess of Liberty atop the dome, to the open rotunda under the north wing's Capitol Extension, every inch of granite, brass, and polished wood testifies to the spirit of those of us who live deep in the heart of Texas.

Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress
512/305-8400
www.tspb.state.tx.us

Best Downtown Place to Park

We're not kidding. That was your overwhelming response. Hmmmm, parking in this town must really suck, or maybe you just don't want to share your secrets. Either way, in the spirit of helpfulness, we'll blow it for those in the know: The second-most-voted Place to Park was the free city garage near the Austin Music Hall.

Best Hotel and Best Restoration Project in Past Five Years

Impeccable service and inimitable style in a magnificent setting, The Driskill Hotel is the veritable crossroads of haute Austin. Restoring our grande dame to the height of her glory gives us a world-class hotel that never forgets her heritage, offering local and international visitors a taste of Texas that they'll never forget. Whether your interests lie in cowboy boots or couture, the Driskill is the most Texan, most glamorous address in town.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos
512/439-1234
www.driskillhotel.com

Best Landscape

This in-town center of bliss features lush winding trails through meticulous displays of flora and the occasional fauna. The varieties of landscaping are stunning: from the traditional Rose Garden, to the Lotus Pond in the Isamu Taniguchi Oriental Gardens, to the native Texas Xeriscapes and cactus beds, it's clear that Zilker is many gardens. Fall is abloom at Zilker with a number of events presented by the Austin Area Garden Center, like the African Violet Show & Sale, the Moon Festival in late October, and Men's Flower Show in early November.

Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd.
512/477-8672
www.zilkergarden.org

Best Motel

"So close yet so far out" are not just words on a marquee for this 1938 landmark. Restored in the mid-Nineties by the tireless Dottye Dean, it has become a destination for everyone from touring musicians to anyone just looking for an alternative to generic freeway lodging. Each room is decorated with its own unique finds, and many regulars have their own favorites. Affordably priced, with a great pool looking out on South Congress, the Austin Motel adds real character to your home away from home.

Austin Motel
1220 S. Congress
512/441-1157
www.austinmotel.com

Best Mural

This mural is the newest addition to public art enhancing the sides of buildings around the university. "Le Bonheur de Vivre," at 24th & Guadalupe, was executed by Doug Jacques and his students at ACC in 1998. Jacques' piece is a very colorful, slightly surreal viewing experience for all who pass by. With depictions of floating coffee cups and pigs playing the violin among its fanciful imagery, it's as if Lewis Carroll has infiltrated the subconscious sleep of the student body and projected it onto the side of the Gap for all to experience.

Best Neighborhood

With all the research that goes into city planning, you'd think that some of Austin's old neighborhood plans might be reviewed. The turn-of-the-century Hyde Park plan would come out a winner today. Wide, clearly laid out streets, 100-year-old trees, convenient, independent retail, and gorgeous homes (that are not drawn from merely four or five look-alike designs) may make the neighborhood a little old-fashioned, but think of it the same way you think of grandma. The old girl may have some funny ideas, but at the root of it all, she knows what you need to make you a bit happier.

Best New Building In The Past Five Years

With elements of neoclassical grandeur and pure-Texan extravagance, all tied up with a pink marble bow, the building is an appropriate repository for so many of the artifacts of true Texas pride. With it's massive columns, magnificent mosaic floor of the rotunda, shining woodwork, and user-friendly layout, this museum is quite the addition to our fine cityscape.

Bullock Texas State History Museum
1800 Congress
512/936-4629
www.thestoryoftexas.com

Best Online Real Estate Info

There are tons of local real estate sources on the Web. But for comprehensive local info, our readers make AustinHomeSearch.com home. And when you check out their constantly updated database, you'll settle in, too. Just pop up a form and describe your dream house (price range, zip code, size, amenities), click "search," and you'll encounter a customized scroll of homes, sweet homes.

Best Public Artwork

Although the plaque on the Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue along the Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail is simply titled "Musician," the man was more than just a musician to countless Austinites who watched him grow up into a guitar hero. The statue by Ralph Helmich is as much a monument to the Capital City's young, creative energy and dreams as it is to one man. Officially titled "Night Wing," the rotating, purple metal sculpture of a bat in flight by Dale Whistler at the corner of South Congress & Barton Springs Road honors Austin's most famous part-time residents. Every evening around sundown from mid-March through October, 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats soar off into the night, in columns that look like wisps of smoke.

Best Romantic Spot

Picturesque views have always had a way of settling the soul, of helping us reflect on the things we love. What makes Mount Bonnell perfect for that special someone? It's the highest point in the area, looking out over Lake Austin and the rolling western Hill Country. Once there, couples can lay on a blanket with sun dissolving softly into the horizon and nuzzle together over a bottle of wine.

Mount Bonnell at Covert Park
3851 Mount Bonnell Dr.
512/974-6700

photo by John Anderson

Best Storefront/Sign

It was only four years ago that Maria Corbalan brought in about $17 a day from selling tacos and such from a tiny trailer in this spot on South Lamar. Now, she and her staff of 18 employees sell about 18,000 tacos each week. We love Taco X-Press because it was birthed from dirt, a woman's spunk, the creative energy of artists and musicians, and fueled by yummy, unpretentious comfort food. The hand-painted murals and signatures on the walls, along with the deeply maternal and archetypal roof-top icon of Maria with open arms for all, just go to show this soul-full haven is of the people.

Maria's Taco Xpress
2529 S. Lamar
512/444-0261
www.tacoxpress.com

 
2001 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle