Last weekend I escaped the cold weather and snow flurries in Washington, DC and headed to Austin, Texas to visit friends. I had heard many great things about Austin and was excited to check it out. I flew down on United’s daily non-stop service from Washington Dulles. The flight was a quick 3.5 hours and only half full, so I scored a complimentary United First upgrade thanks to my new-for-2013 Premier Gold status.
The first night I stayed with friends and we checked out several local Texas cowboy bars. My favorite was the Broken Spoke, the self-proclaimed last of the true Texas dance halls. It was great fun and provided the quintessential Texas country music/line dancing experience. We enjoyed lots of Texas Shiner Bock and Lone Star beer.
On Saturday, the weather was 75 degrees and we made plans to spend the whole afternoon outside. We headed south of the city to the famous Salt Lick BBQ restaurant. This place is huge, set among the rolling landscape of Texas hill country with two restaurant buildings and plenty of outdoor seating. It is also a bring-your-beverage establishment, so we packed a cooler full of more Shiner Bock and Lone Star beer. Because we were seven total, we opted for the family style menu option. For $19.95 each, we enjoyed unlimited platters of barbecued pork ribs, beef brisket, and smoked sausage, along with potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, and beans. I was stuffed.
After eating, we moved from the dining area to picnic tables near the restaurant’s small outdoor stage. We parked ourselves there for four hours, drinking beers, listening to the band play, and watching the sunset.
Following the Salt Lick, we headed back into Austin and checked into the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown. We chose this hotel for its location and relatively low price of $207/night. The property was a standard Hampton Inn and Suites experience, but the rooms and bathroom could have been cleaner. Once we dropped our bags, we made our way to the trendy Rainey Street area. This once residential street has been revitalized, with each of the old bungalows renovated and transformed into a bar. It’s a really interesting concept. Check out the July 15, 2011 New York Times story about Rainey Street.
On Sunday, we woke up and headed to brunch at Second Bar and Kitchen down the street from our hotel. After eating so much barbecue the day before, we were ready for a traditional brunch with egg options. The place was outstanding. We sat outside in the 73 degree weather and worked our way through the menu. Highlights included the buffalo fried pickles, truffle oil grits, the Texas benedict (with poached eggs, pulled pork shoulder, jalapeno biscuits, and chorizo gravy), and the SBK benedict (with poached egg, hashbrown potato cakes, tomato, spinach, and brie cheese). They also have an assortment of brunch cocktails, which were delicious. I definitely recommend checking it out.
After brunch, we wondered down Congress Street and through the small shops along this well-known street in downtown Austin. We ended our trip before heading back to the airport at the Draught House Pub and Brewery. The bar, famous for its extensive beer list, has a large outdoor patio and feels like an authentic English tudor-style pub.
It was hard to leave Austin’s great weather for the cold DC winter. I can’t wait to plan another trip back soon. Next time, I want to explore Austin’s many outdoor recreation activities, like hiking its vast network of trails and kayaking on its big lakes and waterways.