Architecture & Lodging
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best Club Peekaboo Portals

We love this snazzy Pedernales bar, with its rich blue-green interior that screams "Better Homes & Gardens Decorators Annual gone terribly terribly right." We adore Slim & Co. slamming the libations behind the bar. But our favorite thing about the Eastside neighborhood hangout is its ample outdoor patio, enclosed from the outside world by large, concrete block walls. A design element of this boundary is a row of portals that allow a peekaboo view to anyone wanting to venture up to it and make a complete fool of him/herself sticking their faces in it to spy on the scene within.

Best Hearts in Stone

It's subtle. It's sweet. The blue-and-white striped pole is the first indication that you've happened upon something very special. But if you don't stop to look, you might miss this loving memorial to artist Tre Arenz. It is but one of the many watering stops for humans and their four-legged friends along Town Lake's Hike and Bike Trail, which is fitting, since Arenz was such a dog lover. Friends of the artist, collectively known as ARFF, the Arenz Rememberance Fountain Fund, pulled together this fitting tribute of brightly tiled, serpentine wall embedded with heart-shaped stones, items the artist used to love to collect. So the next time you are on your scheduled jog, take a moment, take a sip, and tip your headband to Tre Arenz!

Emily Little
Clayton Korte
2201 N Lamar Blvd.

Best New Club Design

Retro-chic without a hint of mustiness, the thoroughly modern Belmont is the most happenin' restaurant and bar in town. Brought to us by Matt Luckie and Daryl Kunik who, between them, have brought us Lucky Lounge, Uchi, Mercury Hall, Betsy's Bar, Hi-Lo, Red Fez, and the Lavaca Street Bar, the Belmont is a classic American restaurant and bar with a Vegas-meets-Palm Springs circa-1963 theme. The luscious interiors by Michael Hsu and Joel Mozersky include period furnishings, vintage fixtures, dark woods, and thoughtful design touches throughout that evoke the glamorized era of Kennedy, Sinatra, and Monroe.

The Belmont
305 W. Sixth

Best Place From Which to Wave to the Masses

So you're not Eva Perón. You don't have a full orchestra to accompany your spontaneous operatic outbursts; your last presidential proclamation was to your sixth grade Spanish club (that time both members were in attendance), and your delicate wrists haven't taken well to repetitive motions. Well, you still may not be able to resist the urge to wave magnanimously when you step out onto the second-floor balcony over Sixth & Brazos. LBJ wasn't close to becoming president when he met Lady Bird at the hotel's dining room for their first date in 1934; going by his example, you still have plenty of time after a visit to the Driskill to work out your presidential aspirations.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos

Best Place to Park Your Rucksack

The price can't be beat ($19.75/night), people are friendly, and the sheets are clean on the 42 beds at the newly regussied HI-Austin. Check out the fresh coat of bright colors and fun design, and keep them in mind when you have last minute guests. Bunk-bed appreciation is a must, though, and earplugs are encouraged by the staff since as many as 14 people can fit into one of the four rooms. Also, if you bring beer with you and leave it in the 24-hour kitchen, the staff will confiscate it and laugh at you because alcohol is not allowed. Bottom line: Do your drinking elsewhere, and try not to get stuck sleeping next to someone who snores.

Hostelling International–Austin
2200 S. Lakeshore

Best Public Artwork

The vivid graffiti panels painted by the mysterious and brilliant Federico Archuleta are mesmerizing works that are part Mexican pop culture and part Wild West Americana. With a look back to commercial art of bygone eras, Federico turns his images into crisp, modern statements that are as haunting as they are evocative. As he says, "Mad Mexican Culture got under my skin and Big Daddy American Pop got into my hair." His freshly retouched musical heroes' homage alongside the old Tower Records mural breathes new life into that iconic wall, and his Eastside Madonnas are so beautiful you could cry. Federico calls it "Tex-Mex-Sexy," and we call it divine.

Arte Federico

Bret Brookshire

Celesta Danger

Best Shrine to Planned Obsolescence

What is a cathedral of junk? An oxymoron – all at once a sacred space and a scrap heap. It's everything old that has been discarded, transformed into something new and imaginative. It is exploration and Dada. Hiding in the back yard of the unassuming house of the equally unassuming Vince Hannemann, if you don't know what to look for you're bound to miss it. Hannemann has built the structure over the course of nearly two decades, and it is exactly what its name indicates: a Gothic-style structure made entirely out of bits of junk. Lawn mowers, car grills, umbrella innards, and old telephones are just the beginning. And just as the cathedral transforms trash into treasure, it transforms grownups into delighted children. Explore all the nooks and secrets of the space and climb the spiral staircases and finding yourself on unexpected treetop landings.

Cathedral of Junk
4422 Lareina

Best Way to Get Drunk With a Genius

Head East on MLK, past the dump and the jail, 'til Martin Luther King morphs into 969. There, on the top of the hill to the left, resides Pliny Fisk III, the man who the Pentagon turned to (after it got rammed with a plane) in the hopes of making the building green. The Pentagon! Trust us, you want to have a glass of wine with this guy, and you can: The first Friday of the month, Pliny opens his home and workspace to Austin's curious (usually architectural students and professors) to give a tour, offer wine and snacks, and talk your ear off. You'll love every minute of it. Open house first Friday of every month, 6:30pm.

Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems
8604 FM 969

Mary Sledd

Most Eagerly Anticipated Development

While city planners struggle to keep apace with the buzzword brigade – "mixed use," "urban pioneer," "new urbanism," and the like – we're cautiously optimistic the Mueller redevelopment will be that exemplary, shining city on a hill … or here, in an airport. The transformation of the old space into a housing, shopping, and industry hot spot is promising enough, as is the lure of proposed transit-oriented development running through the area. We'll know for sure when the new Mueller opens next year.

Robert Mueller Airport
3600 Manor Rd.

Most Improved Venue for Rent

Come revel in the simple beauty of a turn-of-the-century small-town church relocated and renovated into one of the most interesting and desirable event and performance centers in Austin. Nestled among towering oaks, green lawns, and wildflowers, Mercury Hall is a 4-acre bit of heaven on earth, right in the middle of South Austin. Weddings, meetings, luncheons, dances, parties, performances – Mercury Hall is an ideal setting … and has plenty of parking.

Mercury Hall
615 Cardinal

Mary Sledd

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Critics: Arts & Culture

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