Wanderlust: Why Carrie loves Austin, Texas
Howdy. In continuation with the interview series, today my friend Carrie shares some insider info on Austin, Texas. Carrie and I met in the early 00′s when I was spending a lot of time up at Bates College, where she was in school with my boyfriend at the time. We knew we’d be friends for a long time when we realized that we shared a love for the word (and Spanish verb tense) “pluscuamperfecto” and furthermore when we were able to cohabit what was technically a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 dudes. Today, Carrie is still in my phone as “Pluscuam.”
I’ve always wanted to visit Austin, but Carrie’s insight has sealed the deal for me. After she had sent her answers to the interview questions, she wrote back twice with other bits she felt she had left out, saying ”Sorry, I just adore this city so much that I want to give credit where it’s due!.” If you’re planning a trip, be sure to take down some notes on her favorite spots!
How did you end up in Austin? How long have you lived there? Will you stay forever?
I visited Austin for the first time in 2006 for a work conference and had an incredibly good time. Austin has heaps of personality, and it shows right away. Over those three or four days, I ate my weight in mexican food, drank countless margaritas, bought a cheap pair of cowboy boots, took in all types of live music, and talked to a bunch of notably interesting and friendly characters. My final hours in Austin were spent at Pete’s Piano bar on 6th street (this section known as “dirty 6th”, which I avoid now that I live here), requesting songs via cocktail napkins while dueling pianists played them and patrons danced.
After that work trip, I returned to DC, hungover and intrigued. About a year later after having moved to Boston, I decided to go back to school to get my PhD in Psychology. I was invited to interview at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in February. This second trip to Austin was just as grand as the first (see: food, music, people, weather, soul), and thankfully I was accepted. I’ve been living here in Austin since the summer of 2008, for over four and a half years.
Forever is a big, mythical word, but I would like to settle down here.
Describe Austin in 3 words.
weird, music, tacos
If someone were to take you out to dinner anywhere you wanted,
money is no object, where would you go?
My top 5 in order of how often I’ve eaten there:
Foreign and Domestic
I haven’t been to Franklin’s, but folks say it’s the best BBQ in town. It’s some serious soup nazi shit though, such that you have to get in line before 10am, and meat will usually sell out by noon. You wait in line for at least an hour, so bring beer.
Where are you a regular?
Not to be a hippie, but I am at Wheatsville Food Co-op a few times a week. It’s got delectable pre-made food, as well as affordable, mainly local and fresh groceries, and the nicest staff you have ever met. It weirded me out at first how nice they were, but now I absolutely love it and feed into it (this statement goes for the south in general). For drinking, I’m at Hole in the Wall (dive, live music) and the Draught House (beer and truck food) pretty often. And how could I forget the White Horse, which has honky tonk bands every night, usually for no cover, and a wonderfully diverse clientele.
I also have to give a shout out to East Side King. It’s Paul Qui’s brainchild (the dude who won Top Chef in Texas) food truck that is at a few bars in Austin, including Hole in the Wall. My faves off the menu:
Poor Qui’s Buns (2 pcs) $7
Roasted pork belly in steamed bun, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi, green onion
Beet Home Fries $7 (can be vegan and/or gluten-free)
Deep-fried roasted beets, kewpie mayo, schichimi togarashi, green onion
For swimming, Barton Springs pool is a frequent spot all summer for me, at least once a week. It’s a huge, spring-fed pool where young and old flock. It’s $3/day and free after 9pm. Summer night swimming is a must-do. The Green Belt is another great place to swim, hike, and jog – it’s a circuit of trails and rivers around Austin, and rope swings abound.
What are Austin dudes like?
As long as you avoid musicians and artists for anything more than a fling, I have loved the menfolk here. They are the handsomest of any city I’ve ever lived, often tall enough for a tall girl like myself, will geek out about music with me, and tend to be outdoorsy. Beards, flannels, bikes. I dislike skinny jeans on dudes, and am not a fan of full blown hipsters, and that’s been just fine. There is a critical mass of techie guys here (read: nerds), so if that’s your thing, you should come on down. Southern men tend to be chivalrous, and the drawl is also adorable. If you turn around, you will more likely than not find a man who fixes bikes, has deer sausage in his freezer, and runs his own tech company.
I have time to visit 3 stores – where would you send me?
Take a walk down South Congress street and you’ll pass a lot of fun vintage, second-hand stores. Parts and Labour is a good place to find clothing, trinkets (i.e., a record that has been shaped into a bowl), and jewelry made by Austin-made artists. For the first couple years I lived here, I bought all my out-of-town family and friend gifts at Parts and Labour. Wildflower is a badass home goods/furniture store that I can’t afford to shop at. End of an Ear and Antone’s are great record shops. Both have in-store music performances and have hilariously eccentric staff (see High Fidelity).
Where can you visit for a weekend roadtrip departing from Austin?
So, Texas is huge. This is probably my least favorite thing about Austin: it is far from everything. It’s not like the east coast, where 6 hours of driving takes you across 3 states and 2 major cities. That said, here are some great getaways: Enchanted Rock, Wimberley, Big Bend National Park (least amount of light pollution of any national park in the lower 48, so awesome stars), Marfa (Jessie Fisher you would love the shit out of Marfa). Oh and Jesus, you also have to head to Lockhart, Texas to eat some of the best BBQ you have ever faced in your life at Smitty’s Market or Black’s Barbecue. The brisket is especially amazing.
What do you love most about your city?
People are really nice and down to earth, more so than any other place I’ve lived.
It’s OK to be weird and quirky here.
People are generally liberal and accepting. It’s completely informal. I go weeks without seeing someone in a suit. There is music everywhere, all the time. It’s the live music capital of the world. Tons of music festivals. The weather is amazing, especially if you are cold-blooded snake like me who can withstand the heat way more than the cold.
What is one thing you must pack in your suitcase if you’re visiting Austin?
What was your favorite thing you did/event you attended in Austin
in the last year?
South by Southwest