4.11.17 BBQ, Beer, and Bluebonnets: 4 Days in Austin, Texas
Last year, my parents retired, and rather than spending their retirement lazing around doing nothing, they've instead become some of the busiest people I know. One thing they especially love to do these days is travel. Which is how they ended up renting a house in Austin, TX for a month this spring, and how we found ourselves planning a trip to go visit them there.
Forrest and I had been Austin a few years ago to visit some friends and for some reason, we ended up going there during August, which was miserably hot. Consequently, we spent most of that trip laying low, drinking Topo Chico, and swimming at Barton Springs by day, and forgoing sleep to visit many of Austin’s fine drinking establishments by night. It was a blast. This time around, with Leo in tow, we knew things would be a little bit different. But as it turns out, not the lack of sleep part, as this trip happened to coincide with a wicked bout of teething for Leo (damn you 1 year molars!). But I digress.
We arrived in Austin late on Friday night, too tired from the flight to do much more than say hi to my parents and head to bed. Saturday morning though, we got right to work making a plan for the upcoming days. Luckily for us, my parents had already been in town for over a week, during which time they had been hard at work scoping out the local barbeque and brewery scenes. So as you can imagine, they had plenty of great suggestions on what to do. First thing though, we needed breakfast. We walked over to Torchy’s Tacos and kicked off the morning with plenty breakfast tacos and Topo Chico.
This was followed by a walk to a nearby park so Leo could climb on everything, after which we loaded into the car for a trip out into hill country to visit the Jester King Brewery. This place was fantastic. Loads of outdoor tables under a grove of oak trees, seriously drinkable farmhouse ales, and a barn next door that made wood fired pizzas in a converted horse trailer. After plenty of pizza and beer (or pizza, milk, and cheerios, depending on who you ask), we piled back in the car and headed for the nearby Treaty Oak Distillery for some afternoon cocktails. We sipped our drinks while Leo danced to the live band that was playing, made a total mess of himself playing in a giant sandbox, and said hello to the remarkably tame peacock that wanders the grounds. Tired, but happy, we made our way back to the house to relax the rest of the day away.
Sunday morning brought with it plenty of strong thunderstorms so we scrapped our original plan of visiting the farmer’s market, and instead headed out to nearby Lockhart Texas for some BBQ at Black’s BBQ. Of course, we had to do our best to sample as much as we could here; we ended up with baby back ribs, brisket, garlic sausage, and an enormous Flintstone-sized beef rib. It was all seriously wonderful - super smoky, and basically falling off the bones. We all probably could have used a nap at that point, but we decided to soldier on and stop by Blue Owl Brewing on our way back to the house. This brewery specializes in sour beers, which are my favorite, so we opted to go with small tasting glasses, and sampled the lot.
That evening, Forrest and I took an evening stroll around the neighborhood, stumbled upon Contigo's lovely patio, and pretty much had to stop in for a happy hour beverage. Then we headed back to the house where my parents had cooked up a delicious dinner of crawfish and key lime pie (did I mention they’re the best?)
I have to say that despite all of the driving we did and breweries we visited, Leo was an incredibly good sport. Which is why on Monday, we decided some Leo-centric activities were in order. As luck would have it, Austin’s Children’s Museum, The Thinkery, was just a short walk from the house, so we spent the morning there watching Leo do some serious playing (and okay, we did some playing too; it was a really cool children’s museum).
After all that playing though, we knew we needed to buckle down and eat some more BBQ. Because when in Texas, right? Leo napped in the car as we drove out to Salt Lick BBQ, and proceeded to eat plenty of ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. We also couldn’t help but check out Salt Lick’s impressive, giant open BBQ pit (Leo’s not much of a talker yet, but upon seeing this BBQ pit, he declared to us all that it was “hot”). And after BBQ, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, we decided to check out another brewery. This time we stopped by Live Oak Brewing, which also had a really great outdoor beer garden, shaded by a copse of live oak trees, and surrounded by plenty of space for Leo to run around and get really dirty. So needless to say, we all had fun.
That evening, we left Leo with this grandparents, and Forrest and I headed to East 6th Street to grab some happy hour drinks at Whisler's. We had decided to start the evening off there because a.) it looked like a pretty awesome bar (the atmosphere there is just so...Austin), and b.) the Thai-Kun food truck is located out back. After sampling their pork wontons and cabbage, I can assure you that this was definitely the right decision.
But with so many other great bars in the vicinity, we knew we couldn’t spend the whole evening in just one place, no matter how awesome. Luckily, at this point, we met up with our friend Jesse, who took us to the nearby Yellow Jacket Social Club, where we sipped beers on the patio under a canopy of crepe myrtle trees. This was followed by more beers and Topo Chico at The White Horse, a honky-tonk with live music and a taco truck on the patio. It was a great night.
The following morning was our last in Austin, and as such, we decided it was time to take full advantage of the beautiful weather and blooming wildflowers by spending some time in the great outdoors. The entire trip, I’d been noticing copious amounts of bluebonnets, indian paintbrush, blanketflower, and all sorts of bright wildflowers pretty much everywhere, so we knew we were going to see a pretty stellar array at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We were not disappointed. We spent a lovely morning walking the grounds, and with plenty of open space for Leo to run around and tons of things for him to climb on, everyone was happy.
Our flight back home left that afternoon, and so we decided that our last activity in Austin should involve eating more BBQ of course. We swung by Micklethwait Craft Meats and picked up all manner of tasty things - brisket frito pie, sausages and jalapeno grits to name a few - and finished out our trip in the most delicious way possible.
With our wild 16-month old in tow, this trip was a little different than the last time we visited Austin as young, childless 20-somethings. But many things were also the same. Just like last time, we had a blast. And just like last time, we returned home happy, exhausted, and ready to eat mostly vegetables for the foreseeable future. I already can’t wait to go back.