Category Archives: Austin, TX

Awesome Austin: Part 3 – Things To Do

Last Austin post…so sad!  So while in Austin, while we weren’t eating, we made our way around town and made the most of my short trip!  With all the things I did and saw I feel like I was in Austin for much longer than 3 days, which is awesome, but it also makes me wish I was able to stay for much longer because everything was so amazing!  Here’s all the cool stuff we were able to cram in!

Central Park:  Right when I got to Austin, Carrie took me on a nice walk through Central Park which is about a block from where they live.  The park had a very nice walking/running trail, which Carrie runs on frequently, and also a playscape and empty grass areas where trainers run outdoor boot camps!  Awesome!  I love bootcamp classes and thinking of doing one out in a park like they do in Bridesmaids sounds awesome!!  We passed by this HUGE oak, which apparently was Austin’s Tree of the Year, 2008!  While in Central Park, we grabbed lunch at Central Market, and it was delicious!

Austin Tree of the Year 2008

Austin Tree of the Year 2008

Tree Plaque and Lupe at Central Park!

Tree Plaque and Lupe at Central Park!

The one thing that is very odd, yet kind of spectacular, about Central Park is the bird…there are these black birds (HEB Birds) that reside there that look like miniature crows, but also have “spider-like” qualities.  Apparently at night, there is one that sits in the middle of the pond on a rock and all the others swarm around it and eventually land in the nearby trees…creepy!  I wasn’t there at dusk to see it, however, I think Carrie’s description is enough for me! Below is a quick video that I found on YouTube…Carrie is right!  Their sound does kind of make you feel like you’re in a bad horror flick!

Hops and Grain:  Also on my first day, Doug and Carrie brought me to Hops and Grain where we met up with Carrie’s brother, Dan, and their friend, Austin!  Hops and Grain is a World Beer Cup Gold Medal winning craft brewery and they do brewery tours and tastings!  You go in and you get get either an oversized shot glass for $5, or a “beer-can-shaped” glass for $10, and you can keep the glass.  With the glass, you actually also get more beer in each sample…so if you like beer, and I do, the glass is the way to go!  They had a lot of interesting brews!  I tried one called the “Funky” something…I can’t remember the actual name, and I can’t find it online, but it tasted like a sour apple and beer mixed together.  It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but then again it was beer, not tea, so I drank it anyways!  Don’t get me wrong, though, there was a ton of other beers that were amazing!  The brewery itself had a great feel.  The tasting room was pretty small…maybe 13×15, but then there was a large concrete corridor where people, and their dogs, were able to hang out and stand/sit and chat!  It was a great way to spend the afternoon!

Hops and Grain!

Hops and Grain!

West Austin Park:  We headed down to to West Austin Park mainly because they had a fenced in dog park and we wanted to bring Lupe to get some exercise and socialization time with “his kind”.  Let me tell you.  He was a STUD.  There wasn’t a dog in the park that wasn’t intrigued by his sweet alligator elegance!  Being a new experience for him, the 2 times we brought him there he faded after about 15 – 20 minutes, but he seemed to really enjoy himself!  I guess it’s easy to have a great time when you’re the most popular guy around!!

West Austin Park - Dog Park!

West Austin Park – Dog Park! As you can see, Lupe is no where to be seen because he’s way to busy being popular!

Barton Springs:  Barton Springs Pool is a spring-fed swimming hole in Zilker Park which was voted the “Best Swimming Hole in Texas”.  I could easily see why.  There was two different parts to the springs:  the “free part”, which is cool because you can bring your dog and have them swim with you, and the “pay part”, which is pet free, and apparently pretty difficult to get into.  No surprise there!  Seeing how Austin thermometers frequently top the charts over 100 degrees, people without pools would certainly be looking for clean cool-off spot!  It wasn’t exactly warm enough for me to jump in, unfortunately, but if it was, I would have been in the water in a heartbeat!

Barton Springs

Barton Springs.  In the top pic, the majority of the picture is the “free part” the “pay part” is on the right.  You can see a little bit of it in this picture.

Shopping:  Carrie and I were able to sneak away for a little while and do our “Girl Thanngg” for a while getting down and dirty with the shops around her apartment!  We started out with the Buffalo Exchange, which I was SUPER EXCITED for!  One of my blogger friends, Erika Tapia Schrieber of The Fab and Frugal, blogged about the Buffalo Exchange months ago, and ever since I have been dying to check it out!   The Buffalo Exchange has all vintage and used clothing, and essentially is a well maintained, upscale thrift store!  Honestly, I could have spent about 6 hours in there, but really, who has the time for that?!  So I picked out a cute on-trend aztec patterned sweater for $14 and called it a day!  She also showed me to this cute boutique, Strut, where I was able to get an awesome statement necklace for half off!

On our second day of shopping we went to an Austin staple, Tyler’s, where you can find all the awesome and loud Austin gear you can handle!  This is where I learned the importance of “Keep Austin Weird!”  We also hit up Urban Outfitters, where we surprisingly found some awesome deals, and finally Francesca’s!  We have a Francesca’s here in CT, however, since I’ve never been there before it was a first time for me!  Amahhhzing!  I will definitely become a regular at out Francesca’s asap!

Just out and about shopping our pants off!

Just out and about shopping our pants off!

The past three posts are only the tip of the iceburg as far as Austin goes!  There is SO much more to see and to do, however in the short 3 days I was there, that was all I was able to fit in!  I’m happy with it, though!  It was a healthy mix of spending money, trying new things, and sight seeing!

I hope you enjoyed my TX posts as much as I enjoyed being there! xo

Awesome Austin: Night Life

From what I’ve been told, there are two places you MUST go to in Austin to get the “night life experience”:  6th Street and Rainy Street.  6th Street is located in downtown and is a one stop areas for live music, clubs, events, dining, lodging, entertainment, art, bands and more!  It’s one of the most well known party districts in the county and is a huge hotspot for University of Texas students, vacationers, and Longhorn fans from all over!  Rainy Street, on the other hand is a bit more subdued, but not to be mistaken for boring!   Rainy Street is SO cool because it’s basically a neighborhood with small Cape Cod homes that have been transformed into intimate bars.  These bars have backyards with fireplaces, picnic tables, and small performing stages for live bands in the warmer months.  I was lucky enough to get to experience both.  Remember both…not so much, but experience both, yes! all the way!  But, it is my understanding from my red eyes and tremendous hangover that both were a really great time!

Buffalo Billiards: Located in the heart of 6th Street, Buffalo Billiards (BB) is a one stop shop for food, beer, and games such as skee ball, pool and darts.  I do believe at one point I was “playing darts” (as is evident in my picture below), however, for the safety of others that privilege was taken away.   We were able to take the city bus right from Carrie & Doug’s apartment to Billiards, which is awesome, and then ended up taking a cab home!  That’s one that I don’t have where I live:  amazing public transit!  It was also at Buffalo Billiards that I got my first taste of the official beer of Texas:  Lone Star Beer!

Blurry pic of me and Carrie (completely appropriate) and Doug, Me and Ayumu on the bottom right.

Blurry pic of me and Carrie on a Texas Star (completely appropriate) and Doug, Me and Ayumu on the bottom right.

Black Heart:  Located on Rainy Street was a lot more under the radar.  In fact, when we parked, I actually had to ask “Is this a bar”?  Black Heart is set in a small white house built in 1889 and decorated in several pictures of “hard-working women” of Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans, Louisiana from 1897-1917, hence their motto “keep the red light on”.  The house was transformed into a bar with all reclaimed wood and materials that were already part of the property.  Its a really cool on the inside with all exposed wood and those old light bulbs where you can see all the coils (no, not the coiled energy efficient bulbs, the OLD energy non-efficient ones).  You walk into the house and there is a long bar.  To the right is 2-ish rooms.  Its really one big room, but part of it is a step up.  On the raised portion sat a HUGE Great Dane.  At first I didn’t even know it was real, but turns out he was! Gentle giant to say the least!  He barely moved and didn’t make a peep, but was very handsome to look at!  On the lower part sat long couches and high-backed chairs.  The lights were dim and the beer was good (I had a local brew:  Fireman’s #4).  It was a great atmosphere to sit and talk with friends.  Out in the backyard there was a bar, multiple tables and a small stage used for live music throughout the spring, summer, and fall.  It was cold when I was there so I didn’t get to enjoy any live music, but I still loved the bar!  One of Doug’s Habitat coworkers, Katie and her boyfriend, Lucas, met up with us there and it was a lot of fun to sit and chat the night away!


Icenhauser’s: Also on Rainy Street, actually right across the street from Black Heart, is Icenhauser’s.  Like Black Heart this is also a renovated home (but this one actually had a family living in it until a couple years ago!  The feel to this bar was a bit different that Black Heart.  There were leather benches and what appeared to be office chairs to sit in, which were all kind of thrown into a room with no rhyme or reason.  Their specialty drink menu featured drinks named after women.  Though these drinks were much more expensive that what I normally would get at a bar and closer in size to a shot than an actual mixed drink, I thought “I’m only in Austin once” and decided to go with “The Jennifer”:  cucumber-infused Hendrick’s Gin with lime juice.  This is partially because I like Gin, and partially because I thought cucumbers don’t taste like anything so I had to try this.  Turns out cucumbers actually do have a taste:  cucumber.  It’s hard to describe, but it was delicious.

Awesome chandelier at Icenhausers made out of wine glasses!   That glass has class!

Awesome chandelier at Icenhausers made out of wine glasses! That glass has class!

Flix Brewhouse: “America’s Cinema Brewery”!  CT does not have this, and I really wish they did!  Flix is actually a brew house where there is a full dinner menu…the best part is that you order said brews and dinner while you’re watching a movie in the movie theater!  We went to see So This is 40, and it was hysterical.  I LOVE Paul Rudd, and of course he was a crowd pleaser, per usual.  So anyways, back to beers and food:  how does it work?  OK, well you go in and it looks like a normal movie theater, but the tiers of rows are a little more spread out and higher than a normal theater.  Once you sit down, there is a table that you can pull out from in front of you and pull right up to your movie theater seat!  In front of the table is a little blue button.  In order to order anything from beer and soda to dinner and snacks  you just push that blue button and a waitress comes over in a jiff to take your order.  But you don’t even have to talk to the waitress, you just hand her a piece of paper with your order and before you know it, she comes back with said items in hand!  Think Fancy TV dinner…that is served to you…while you’re watching a movie in a movie theater.  I’m sold!  After having been once, I will say one thing:  be careful what you order because since its obviously dark in the theater, some things may be difficult to eat!  At any rate, I really got a kick out of this:  movie, service, the whole shabang!  Annnddd it was cheaper than movie theaters in CT (to watch the movie anyways)…I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to just a regular old dingy theater!

Clearly I was excited for the movie! :)

Clearly I was excited for the movie! 🙂

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Austin Part 3!

Awesome Austin Part 1: Where to Eat!

I recently took a trip down to Austin to visit my friends Carrie and Doug, and it was pretty exciting because I’ve never been to Texas before and I love exploring new places.  They moved down south over the summer so Doug could volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (whata guy!) and I was lucky enough to get to go visit and have them show me around!  They live in an awesome area right near the University of Texas, so there is lots of fun stuff to do…especially a lot of cool and unique places to EAT!  Pretty much the entire time I was in Austin, Carrie and I joked about how looking at our pictures it looks like all we did was eat.  I swear we did other things too, but since it was kind of an ongoing joke, I thought it only appropriate to have my first “Austin Post” be about Texas’ culinary hot-spots

This mural is painted on a building across the street from Carrie and Doug's apartment!  Much different than the things painted on buildings in CT!

This mural is painted on a building across the street from Carrie and Doug’s apartment! Much different than the things painted on buildings in CT!

Central Market:  Central Market was the first stop for me, Carrie, and Lupe (their new puppy) once my plane got in!  We walked right over to it from their apartment and got some great sandwiches!  Central Market is located within Central Park and has a cool outdoor seating area where you can eat, play on the play scape, etc.  And dogs are allowed, which in my book makes it about 100x better!  I got a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich and Carrie got an Asian chicken sandwich.  Both were delicious!  Of course we shared some fries and fruit with the lunch…it was very well rounded and delicious!

Lupe while I we waited for our food to come!

Lupe while I we waited for our food to come!

Pinthouse Pizza: Pinthouse Pizza is not only a pizzeria, but they also brew their own beer, which is awesome!   Who doesn’t love pizza and beer?!  We got the Man O’ War IPA.  I’m not a very good “beer describer”…you ask me how it is I’d tell you what I thought “it tastes like beer…it was great!”, but for you beer connoisseurs out there, here’s a little description right from their website:  “Bright tropical fruits and juicy citrus in the nose are followed by a mouthful of resiny citrus and just a wee bit of clean bitterness to balance it all out. Much less bitter than many IPAs out there, yet so much hoppier.”   I love IPAs so I thought it was delicious.  We got dinner with Carrie’s brother and a couple of their Austin friends, including their friend named Austin…talk about getting confused! The pizza and beer were both great!  And even better because both were made in house! Wayyyyy better than a bud light bottle and slice of Dominos!

Top (starting from bottom left and going clockwise):  Lilybeth, me, Dan, Carrie, Doug, Austin, and Drew

Top (starting from bottom left and going clockwise): Lilybeth, me, Dan, Carrie, Doug, Austin, and Drew
Bottom Left: Me and Carrie outside
Bottom Right: Me vs. the Man O’ War IPA (no I didn’t drink the whole pitcher…just most of it 😉 )

Carrie and Doug’s Kitchen: Every morning while I was visiting, Doug got up and spoiled us with a delicious homemade breakfast! One day we had bagels with eggs that had chipotle peppers, onions, and cheese on them…it was super delicious, however unfortunately I couldn’t stomach the whole meal thanks to the prior night’s party. The next day we had sausage egg and cheeses made with venison sausage. It was delicious, especially because we know how much Carrie lovvvvvvesss sausage!

Austin JavaWe stopped at Austin Java for a mid-afternoon ice coffee located in….you guessed it!  Austin!  I got a toffee crunch ice coffee, and besides it being probably the most expensive ice coffee I’ve ever purchased, it was delicious.  Hey! I was on vacation! But if I lived in Austin I’d probably have to make coffee at home or find a slightly less expensive java-joint!

Deliciously Tasty Austin Java

Deliciously Tasty Austin Java

Chuy’s: Apparently there is a saying “If you see one Chuy’s….You’ve seen one Chuy’s”.  And let me tell you…I believe it!  This is the kind of place that is decorated with everything from a street signs to sports apparel to even a car sticking out of the wall (which is actually the booth we sat at).  And of course is complete with a shrine to the king himself, Elvis that is!  This place has some cool history too!  Founders Mike Young and John Zapp started the place in 1982 with nothing but an old abandoned BBQ joint and $20.  There was a women’s bathroom about the size of a broom closet and a men’s bathroom…uhh in the dirt parking lot, where else?!  From there they took their eclectic charm to a new level and came up with their reknown decorating style and some famous dishes that include “Burritos as Big as Yo’ Face”.  It was easy to tell this place was going to be a crowd pleaser from the moment we walked in the door because as soon as other customers found out we had never been there before they were eagerly offering their expert opinions on what we just HAD to eat!  I got enchiladas, rice, and beans, and it was all delicious.  In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it, but unfortunately, it’s too late to eat…and I’m in CT again…damn!

Chuy's Tex  Mex!

Chuy’s Tex Mex!

Ruby’s BBQ: We went to Ruby’s for a BBQ lunch my third day in TX.  I was left to choose between this and a local taco place, and was having the WORST time deciding.  What can I say, I’m a fat kid at heart (and maybe a little on the outside too :P)  so I ended up choosing BBQ because I don’t eat it as often and it seemed delicious, and I’m glad I did!  Everything at Ruby’s is authentic pit smoked BBQ slow cooked on oak wood in brick and mortar pits. Ruby’s has been family owned and operated since 1988 when they opened and they use only hormone and steroid free beef.  I got the spicy chopped BBQ beef sandwich with homemade potato salad. My sandwich definitely had a kick to it and was complimented by the crisp potato salad and fresh ice tea!  It was a really cool place to eat too because there was an “indoor-indoor” seating area, an “indoor-outdoor” seating area, and an “outdoor-outdoor” seating area.  We sat in the “indoor-outdoor” seating area, where Lupe was able to join us, and we were also joined by the restaurant’s cat.  Now, if you know me, you know my feelings on cats…but I am a sucker for businesses that have animals, what can I say!

Doug, Carrie, and Lupe outside Ruby's. Then me inside after we ate.

Doug, Carrie, and Lupe outside Ruby’s. Then me inside after we ate.  It was awesome, we were able to bring Lupe inside while we ate!

Sandy’s Frozen Custard:  Normally I’m not a huge ice cream or frozen yogurt fan, but in Texas frozen custard is a big thing, and I’m not talking about the “frozen custard” you can get at Rita’s here in New England. This is Real Deal! I opted for chocolate in chocolate dip, which I immediately regretted.  Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but the custard was melting under the dip faster than I could keep up (like it always does with “dips”, yet somehow I never remember this until I’m in the moment!).  Whats the difference between Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream and Custard?  In addition to ice cream’s cream and sugar, custards also use eggs as one of the main ingredients.  It was so creamy and fattening, I’m glad they only make it down there in the south!

Sandy's Frozen Custard!

Sandy’s Frozen Custard!

 Stay tuned for Austin Parts 2 and 3!

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