The Austin Chronicle

How to Handle Your (Very Nice) Family This Holiday Season

Where, oh where, have all the hideouts gone?

By Emily Beyda, December 14, 2018, Food

Dear Glutton,

With Thanksgiving over and the first round of holiday visits drawing to a close, my wife and I have realized we are in dire need of a good "alone time" spot. Between her parents visiting, my parents visiting, and a whole host of aunts and cousins and uncles coming through town to pay their respects, we just need somewhere to hide out for a few hours and not worry about running into anybody we're related to. Ideally with an interesting menu and flexible hours, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, and honestly, I just need to get away from all these (very nice) people.

– Spaced Out

How is it, Spaced, that family manages to be both the best and worst part of the holiday season? I mean, on one hand, it's great seeing all these people who you've known since you were a babe in arms. But even the loveliest, most supportive family can be overwhelming when taken in the midst of the holiday crush. There are just so many people. And all those people have needs, which may or may not conflict with your own – the cups of coffee they might leave scattered throughout your house like Hansel and Gretel and their breadcrumbs; their tendency to hog the best parts of the newspaper; the special way they leave the volume on when typing on their cell phones; the forever-lingering, strongly scented perfumes – individual quirks that, while harmless or even charming on their own, are panic-inducing when taken in aggregate. All this to say, I thoroughly sympathize with your desire to get out of the house, and I have two magic words for you: room service.

I know, I know. You were looking for a restaurant. But I think (and trust me, I'm a totally unlicensed professional) what you really need is a hideaway. I have a friend, one of the hardest-working people I know, who occasionally takes a break from her work teaching in underserved communities throughout Austin and providing PTSD counseling for transgender veterans to check into a Downtown hotel and eat Whataburger and watch reality TV. And you know what? It works. She returns refreshed and ready to re-engage with her rewarding but emotionally draining career. Hotels really should have a holiday side hustle renting rooms by the hour to young adults seeking to escape real-life stress and visiting family because, dear reader, there is no better way to feel temporarily unmoored from the quotidian stresses of your own life than to disappear into the plushly anonymous beigeness of a nice hotel.

So consider this your prescription – it's doctor's orders to check into a nice hotel. You can't go wrong, really, anywhere with luxurious duvets and premium cable, but in your shoes I'd spend an afternoon at the Hotel Van Zandt. It's non-threateningly hip, has great views of Downtown, and even boasts a rooftop pool bar if you somehow have enough energy to swim. And most importantly, their room service menu is prepared by the chefs at Geraldine's, their in-house restaurant that just happens to specialize in kicking comfort food up to the next level. Think fried egg rolls stuffed with short ribs, Marsala mushrooms, hibiscus cucumber, and carrot; or steak and eggs served with coconut creamed spinach, sweet potato fritters, and bacon vinaigrette. This is the kind of food that feels fussy enough that you wouldn't want to make it yourself but still conveys the carb-loading comfort of home cooking. Wrap yourself up in a soft robe, stuff yourself into that comfy bed, don't worry about getting crumbs on the sheets, and veg out. You'll have to get back to entertaining family soon enough.

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