A bit of blog-keeping: I meant to post this earlier in the week, but life ran away from me and I’m a little behind on the blog. So, come back next Friday for part 3 of the Art of Engagement to learn about how Great Lakes Theater is engaging Northeast Ohio audiences and a chance to check out free theatre!
One of the loves that Scott and I share is roadtrips. If we can get someplace by driving, you’re more likely to see us clocking time in our car than on a plane.
Of course, the destination has to be worthy of the trip. I’m not going to drive over 20 hours for just anything. And after my experiences in Cleveland, the bar has been set high to qualify as a destination I’m going to go out of my way for.
Well, Austin, Texas has just secured its spot on that list.
A few weeks ago, Scott and I hopped in the CRV and began our two day journey to Texas. After stopping overnight at a very nice, reasonably priced Hampton Inn in Searcy, Arkansas and checking out a few Texan roadside attractions like the Dr. Pepper Museum and the World’s Largest Caterpillar, we finally arrived in Texas’s state capital.
So, why Austin? Last year, our friends Jodi and Rusty moved from Cleveland to Austin to get a change of scenery. And after being told by a lot of people that Austin is the type of city I’d love, Scott and I figured we’d start off 2012 by visiting our favorite classic-movie-and-brunch pals.
Anyone who recommended Austin to me apparently knows me very well because I fell in love with the city. Don’t worry - I’m not going anywhere, but if I had to come up with a shortlist of other places I’d like to live, Austin would be on it.
If you’ve read my blog for a while you know there are two things I love: good eats and good arts. And like Cleveland, Austin has them both in spades.
I felt like I had put on a ton of pounds over the course of only three days because Jodi and Rusty took us on a foodie tour of the city.
We stopped at Freddie’s Place to lounge on their patio and taste the Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie and amazing greenbean casserole:
At the French-inspired brasserie Justine’s, we enjoyed the candlelit ambience, Escargot, Onion Soup and Steak Tartare.
Favorite place to grab a drink went to Polvos. They have a large selection of housemade margaritas, but at Rusty’s encouragement I ordered their Mexican Martini. The margarita paired with olives was a good choice. Plus you only need to order it once since it comes with a full shaker – I got 5 glasses out of one. This was coupled with many stops at their salsa bar, made from fresh vegetables daily.
The best stop, though, was Salt Lick Bar-B-Que. A short drive into the country and you’ll discover this heavenly barbeque ranch. Sitting at their picnic tables, we savored a feast of brisket, ribs, sausage and turkey.
I am not a fan of turkey – it’s my least favorite part of Thanksgiving and I tend to avoid it throughout the rest of the year. However, after much coaxing, I tried their smoked barbeque turkey. It was the most succulent and flavorful barbequed meat I’ve ever had. I’m glad you can order their food online, because I’m thinking that’s what we’ll have for the holidays this year.
The only dish at Salt Lick that the turkey was second to was their Prime Rib. The cut was as large as Scott’s head, as thick as the length of his thumb, juicy and tender — a true Texas steak.
Between all of the eating, we did squeeze in some time for other parts of the city. Highlights included shopping on South Congress Street and at the Saturday Artists’ Market; enjoying the 60-degree temperatures in Zilker Park, home to the Austin City Limits festival and an incredible dog park; and catching a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse.
I know we could have checked out a tourist attraction or museum instead of seeing a movie. But to understand how awesome Austin is and why it’s made my shortlist, you need to visit the Drafthouse. It’s dinner, movie and drinks all under one roof. When you take your seat for the movie, you get full restaurant service — Scott and I enjoyed a dinner of green chile mac and cheese, creme brulee and a bottle of bubbly.
The unique experience the Drafthouse offers doesn’t just extend to their food. We enjoyed 30 minutes of pre-show entertainment including an interview with Joel McHale, episodes of Childrens Hospital and — I’m completely serious — an episode of The Baby-sitters Club. And, of course, this hilarious Jason Reitman-Patton Oswalt PSA about their strict no cellphones policy.
There are a bunch of Drafthouses in Austin that run special quote-along and cult classic+dinner series and their newest theatre is going to feature a tequila bar for pre- and post-movie libations. It’s a lot like Cleveland Cinemas but on overload.
When we were down in Austin, I even found a little bit of Cleveland in all that Texas. At the South Congress Artists’ Market, Jodi and Rusty introduced us to Warren Sawyer and Gretchen Grimm of Black and Bluebird.
These two artists from Kent State now call Austin home, where they make beautiful jewelry from upcycled and repurposed items. To commemorate our visit, I bought 2 necklaces, one featuring an old clipping from an Austin paper and the other an owl – an Austin symbol and my favorite bird.
I love both pieces and don’t have to worry about driving right back to Austin to pick up more since their jewelry is featured right in our backyard — at Ohio City’s Salty Not Sweet.
One of Austin’s unofficial slogans is Keep It Weird, which speaks to why my new-found love for the city goes beyond the food and fun times we had. The city’s personality reminded me a lot of what I love about Cleveland’s quirks and passion. There was a sense of embracing individuality that you don’t find everywhere. Knowing Jodi and Rusty and how much they loved living in Cleveland, it was nice to see they had found a place with a similar mindset.
Oh, and if you’re asking yourself whether I picked up a pair of cowboy boots in Texas, I think this answers it: