Just back from… Austin, Texas

Natalie NicolsonEDIT

Natalie (right) and her cousin catching some rays on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin © Natalie Nicolson

Natalie Nicolson, US PR manager at Lonely Planet, is just back from an extended weekend in Austin, Texas.

Tell us more… My cousin, who was living in Austin (and started an online magazine – thefoolmagazine.com – about local artists in Austin), suddenly got a job in New York City. So I immediately booked a ticket with some of the rest of our family to celebrate her last hurrah. We stayed at a new hotel in East Austin and experienced as much of the city as we could in four days. It was right after SXSW wrapped up so prices weren’t exorbitant.

In a nutshell… So much Americana. So many food trucks. So little time.

Defining moment? Listening to live music on a sunny afternoon at Guero’s Taco Bar. Free chips and salsa, a front row seat and a beer – there was no better place to be.

Fridge magnet or better? There are lots of boutiquey shops everywhere, especially on South Congress, that all have a distinctly Austin feel (no big chain stores in sight). Lots of handmade jewelry, local art and upscale clothing. They tend to be on the pricey (albeit adorable) side, but it’s worth getting a souvenir. If you want to go all out, stop in at Allens Boots and pick a pair from the rows of hundreds of just about every kind of cowboy boots you could possibly imagine.

It’s all about the tacos in Austin, Texas © Natalie Nicolson

Good grub? There’s altogether too much good food in Austin… and most of it is cheap. While the city is home to what’s been called the world’s best barbecue, I was running with vegetarians. But even though I may have missed out on the meat, our culinary experience wasn’t in the least bit limited. Tacos are perfect just about everywhere, but a surprising stand-out for me was Vespaio, some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Blue Dahlia (bluedahliabistro.com) was a perfect brunch spot, and I’d be remiss to leave out Gourdough’s (gourdoughs.com), the famous doughnut food truck and restaurant, which features items like the Fat Elvis (grilled bananas and bacon with peanut butter icing and honey).

If you do one thing… No surprise here: listen to live music. Not that you could avoid it if you tried. It feels like every other bar, day or night, has a great outdoor space and a probably-soon-to-be-famous band playing. The aforementioned Guero’s is great during the day, but a few nighttime options on Rainey Street include: Icenhauer’s (great soul and funk bands), Banger’s (classic country) and Blackheart (alternative).

Bizarre encounter? A bar bathroom with American flags in lieu of doors (there’s a photo to prove it, but I won’t share that one). It can be found at the Broken Spoke, an authentic, honest-to-goodness honky tonk. Lined with photos of pretty …read more


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