One of my favorite things to do when I have friends visiting from out of town is showcase the best food in Austin. Last year when my best friend Jackie visited, we had fantastic burgers at Javelina on Rainey Street, saw a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, enjoyed a bacon Bloody Mary brunch at Frank, and explored downtown restaurants on the Austin Eats Food Tour. After packing our schedule pretty full in 2013, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me while she was in town this year.
Torchy’s sets the bar pretty damn high when it comes to tacos. I’ve talked about their Secret Menu before, but the regular menu has a ton of great options as well. If spicy food is your cup of tea, you’ll love the Brushfire. Or go for the Independent if you’re a vegetarian. There’s really something for everyone. In my book, their Green Chile Queso is tied with Kerbey Lane’s for the best in town. Their guac is pretty killer too. They opened a new location just around the corner from my house so we had lunch there on Friday.
Brad and I hit up up the happy hour here fairly regularly. They have a solid beer list for a high-end restaurant, delicious apps, and it’s one of the only places I know that has HH on the weekend. If you’re stuck on what to order, the Kettle of Green Chile Pork is a great choice. Since it’s only one block from 6th Street, it works as the perfect spot to stop before a night out. I didn’t take a single picture because my other best friend from NJ, Ashley, happened to be in town for a conference and joined us for the night. We were too busy downing dirty martinis and catching up to pull out a phone or camera. There was a quick stop at Maggie Mae’s for a drink before our reservation at the next bar and the three of us jumped in a photo together for the first time since 2010.
This is the first bar I’ve ever been to where reservations are encouraged. It’s hidden on 6th Street and you need to use an apartment-style buzzer for Harry Craddock at the door to be let in. The host will ask for your name and then usher you quickly inside. The bar is dark and lined with plush leather booths, definitely a change of pace from the normal bars on 6th. There’s a two-drink minimum per person, so you’ll be feeling nice and toasty when you head out of there. Our favorites of the night were the Rusty Peach and Byrrh Cocktail: both whiskey drinks, both strong and perfectly balanced. They discourage pretty much all photography in there but I snuck a shot of the bar cart while our server made our drinks tableside. And one of our first round of drinks. [with a flash. pretty sure I got yelled at for that. can’t take me anywhere!]
Turkey Creek Trail
The next morning required a fair amount of coffee before we made our way out to Turkey Creek for a hike. The trail isn’t as lush and green as usual since it’s “winter” here in Austin, but it’s still one of our favorite spots to escape the city and get a few miles in. The dogs love the 3 mile loop too since it’s off-leash and they have free reign of the area.
After dropping Ashley off at the airport to head back to snow-covered NJ, we had an early dinner at Chuy’s. The North Austin location has horrible parking, which keeps us from eating there as often as we’d like – and at Brick House next door. Having dinner at 4:30 meant up front parking and actually sitting down without a wait. Pretty sure that’s never happened to us. Chips & salsa [request the creamy jalapeno – necessity!] hit the table and we ordered beer, margaritas, burritos, fajitas. You know, all the basics.
Texas Stars Game
Fun fact: we’ve never been at a game that ended in a win for the Stars. The venue is less than five minutes from our house and the tickets are really cheap, so we try to make it to a few games every season. But seriously, it would be awesome if they could come out on top for once. For the record, they’re currently in first place. Obviously we’re just bad luck. Brad sprung for center ice seats and we had a great view!
I bought us each two hockey pucks for the “Chuck a Puck” contest. Sadly we didn’t come even remotely close to hitting the target. Another fun fact: this was my first hockey game sans beer. The margaritas from dinner held me over and I didn’t want to be too hungover to drink at brunch the next morning. <— LOL
This restaurant has been on my Explore Austin list for awhile and I was excited to finally check it out. We arrived a little late [their brunch is known for long waits] but managed to snag the last table inside. Gah, this menu. Man, I could probably eat brunch for every single meal of the day. Especially if it meant each meal came with $2 mimosas… We went back and forth on so many items and eventually decided on three dishes to share. Except we ended up keeping our own meals, so that didn’t exactly work out. The food was fantastic! Jackie ordered a pork belly and butternut squash frittata, Brad had banana-stuffed french toast with blackberry compote, and I went with the brisket hash with poached eggs and hollandaise. And then we ordered dessert, beignets with cappuccino sauce.
Austin Beer Works
We could hardly breathe after brunch so we did a few laps around the Domain in attempt to burn some calories before hitting the brewery. Austin Beer Works does tours every Saturday & Sunday from 1-6pm and for $10 they give you a pint glass to keep + 3 full-sized samples. We chatted with the bartender, who was super knowledgeable and helped us decide on what brews to try. They weren’t stingy with samples so you had the opportunity to try a few before committing to the full pint.
I’ve always been a big stout lover [my fave is Independence Brewery’s Convict Hill] so the three beers I chose were a bit on the darker side: Black IPA, Black Thunder, and Sputnik. My favorite sips stolen from Jackie and Brad were Fire Eagle and Battle Axe. They even had a beer with glitter in it, Mr. Sparkle. Austin Beer Works had a more personal vibe to it than Independence and I loved being able to learn so much about the different beers they offer.
How Do You Roll?
And last but not least, HDYR. They’ve been around for several years and were recently featured on Shark Tank. They’re a fast-casual sushi restaurant known for their made-to-order custom rolls. I’m one of those pain in the ass people that changes every sushi roll because there’s something in it I don’t like, so this place is basically made for me. We’re definitely going back in March after the dining-out ban has been lifted.
We started with dumplings and then ordered the Funky Fresh Chicken Roll, Crazy Cajun Roll, and 3 Alarm Spicy Tuna Bowl. The wait was a little longer than expected, especially since we were one of two tables in the entire place but the food was well worth it. Everything was fresh and delicious.
So yeah, if you have any vacation days you need to burn, come visit me in Austin. And bring your best spandex pants – you’re gonna need ‘em.