We are about to head out of Austin having spent the weekend here. In short, we ate a lot and had a lot of fun. We drove from Marfa to South Llano campground, a very well maintained campground a few miles off of the I-10. It was situated by a beautiful river, replete with wandering deer herds and wildflowers on the banks. The next day we drove on in to Austin. We didn’t get the earliest start and hit the outskirts of Austin around 3:30pm. This, as was made quickly made apparent, not a good idea. We hit rush hour traffic and by the time we made it to the I-35 which bisects the city on a North-South line, we were going at a crawl. It took us a good hour to clear the 9 miles to get to our hotel. Driving a truck with manual transmission and a heavy clutch in stop-and-go traffic is not much fun. This single experience reminded me why we’ll probably never live in a city this big. Of course, you can avoid this kind of traffic with a bit of planning, but still…
The first evening we found a South Indian vegetarian restaurant, Swad, not too far from where we were staying. I love South Indian food: pakoras, dosas etc. This place did not disappoint on the food front. After dinner we called it a night in order to try and see as much of Austin as possible on Saturday.
Luckily, Austin is just about walkable as a city. We spent most of the day on foot, but covered all the ground we wanted to (about 10.7 miles in the end.) We got an Uber ride (an online taxi service staffed by ordinary folk with cars) down to North Loop, a hip little neighborhood with a vegan taco truck, the Vegan Nom. A vegan taco truck is almost reason enough to entice us to visit a city. In fact, we just had breakfast there again today, it was that good. Surrounding the taco truck are vintage stores and graffiti/mural covered store fronts. It’s a fun neighborhood and I love the way that the residential streets around here feel tucked away and private, with cute (but expensive) houses of the non-cookie-cutter variety filling the lots. The motto for this city is “Keep Austin Weird” and with the lack of chain stores (at least in the central areas) and emphasis on unique bars, restaurants and houses, it seems like Austin is staying true to itself.
After tacos, we walked down a few blocks to a vegan ice cream store, Sweet Ritual. This was not a regular ice cream store with a couple of sorbets for vegans, but a fully-fledged and singularly-dedicated vegan ice cream store with a bunch of imaginative and traditional flavors and toppings. I had a coconut-based salted caramel scoop in a cone and Melissa opted for a cashew-based coffee cinnamon mix. Mmmm.
Luckily we had a few miles to go before hitting downtown to walk off the sugar rush from the ice cream (it may have been vegan, but it sure didn't skimp on the sugar.) We walked past the impressive and imposing Capital Building and on through downtown. Most of the bars are situated around 6th street, and we found one nearby that was a fully vegan bar with kombucha on tap. We’re not usually too bothered about if alcohol is vegan or not, but it sounded fun, so we went by and sat in the cool AC for a while and sipped kombucha. The weather was overcast all day with thunderstorms threatening but never breaking out. The humidity was high and when the sun peeked out from the clouds, it soon got very hot! Outside the bar was another vegan food truck, Arlo’s, renowned for its vegan bacon cheese burger. It was, perhaps luckily for our still somewhat full stomachs, closed until later in the evening.
We then left downtown and crossed over the Colorado River (who knew there were two of them?) towards SoCo, or South Congress. This area along the North-South Congress Avenue is packed with tourists visiting the bars and stores. It was reputedly a more Bohemian area that became more touristy. But as we’re tourists, we figured we’d take it in. I wouldn’t especially recommend it though, it was maybe the least interesting part of the city we saw, at least the bit we saw directly along Congress Avenue. We headed west and hit another veggie restaurant, the Bouldin Creek Cafe. We were pretty foot-tired by this point, so we stopped and sampled some local beer and ate some enchiladas. The food was pretty good and it was a fun place so well worth a visit. It is an all-day cafe where you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as coffee, smoothies, beer and wine.
The last stop on our tour was SoLa, or South Lamar Blvd. This was meant to be the “new SoCo”. We walked past a large brewery that had live music later in the evening on on down the road. We stopped at a British-style pub (I don’t know why these places draw me in so…) and had a drink while every sport but soccer played on the screens, unfortunately. We then just about had the energy left to walk back to the brewery, ABGB to watch a bit of music. I guess we didn’t pick a good ‘un, alas, as the music was pretty bad. There was a Psychedelic music festival going on in North Austin, just out of town, with bands from my teenage years like Primal Scream and Spiritualized playing. That would have been great but we wouldn’t have seen the city if we’d gone. To make amends for the unsatisfactory musical experience, we went back to find solace in our old friend, vegan junk food. We got an Uber ride back to Arlo's and shared a vegan bacon cheese burger with a side of tater tots (fried potato dumpling type things, for any Brits reading) before getting yet another Uber ride back to the hotel. Uber is the perfect service for a city like Austin. It is affordable and we never waited longer than a minute or two. In fact, the driver at the brewery was already there having just dropped off someone else!
As mentioned, neither Melissa or I are too keen on big cities, but as they go, Austin is a pretty awesome one, and I could image living here in one of the green leafy streets not too far from a certain vegan taco truck…