The Austin Chronicle

Dear Glutton: Where to Go for a Goodbye Dinner

You say goodbye, I say buon appetito

By Emily Beyda, July 14, 2017, Food

Dear Glutton,

All my friends are leaving Austin. I thought the New York/Los Angeles to Texas pipeline only flowed one way, but, sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case, and they're leaving me behind. Where's a good place to take everyone for a nostalgia-inducing goodbye dinner they'll remember in a few months?

– Farewell Tourist

Those readers who have the singular misfortune of knowing me in real life (which probably accounts for a lot of you, doesn't it? It's a small town) have probably heard my rant on the migratory patterns of what we like to call the creative classes. For those of you not so blessed, the condensed version goes like this: Austin is the new Los Angeles for a generation of would-be Joan Didions ready to say goodbye to all that and leave behind the ballooning rental markets and bad weather, to kick off the shackles of public transportation and get really into podcasts behind the wheels of their brand-new hybrid cars.

Riding the wave of 1970s nostalgia, we all want the same things those West Coast pioneers wanted: bungalow houses and sunshine, and somewhere reliable to swim. Austin has all that and more. The beer's cheap and the parks are plentiful. The cultural landscape of the city is friendly and accessible, with none of the hipper-than-thou barriers to entry that can make fitting in to a new place so hard. All things considered, it's a pretty good place to adult.

But our ideas about what it means to be a successful, grownup human being are changing fast. And for some of us, what we want is mutable. It's possible, now, to have a job that allows you to work from anywhere in the world, or to not have a job at all, stringing together whatever combination of freelancing and gig work keeps a roof over your head and allows you enough free time to pursue your less lucrative passions. More and more, we don't want to be tethered to those signifiers of the American dream: the house, the job, the marriage, the kids. We don't live under the illusion of stability that anchored our parents' generation to their hometowns and their family businesses. Life moves fast. Things change. Your friends move away. Celebrating this change with a good dinner seems like the only sane option.

But the question of what to eat for dinner remains. The answer, to me, is obvious; you need to organize a queso crawl. Have each of your friends who are moving away, and some of your favorites who are staying, pick a spot for queso and margaritas. Take a RideAustin from restaurant to restaurant, supporting local Austin charities on your way out the door, hitting old favorites like Matt's El Rancho and trying a few new spots like Grizzelda's. My ideal queso crawl would definitely include El Alma, where the constantly rotating queso options are just a little more interesting than your standard molten hot Velveeta pool, but you do you, boo. And at your first stop, make a pledge to set up a flight alert; as soon as ticket prices dip they'll be back for round two. Change is constant. Life is complicated. But one thing is certain: Cheese will always be a compelling motivation.

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