The time has come (and gone). I celebrated turning 40 last week with a trip to Austin, TX with the hubs. We figured BBQ, Bands, and Craft Beer were the right combination for a birthday celebration! We spent four days (really three if you account for travel) exploring downtown primarily and putting ourselves into a food coma with all the great food we ate! Here are some highlights from our trip.
Day 1 – Really this was a partial day since we didn’t get to the hotel until about 4 p.m.
We were staying at the JW Marriott Downtown, which was a beautiful hotel, fairly new and in a great location downtown at the corner of 2nd and Congress. Todd felt the need to tell everyone it was my birthday, so they upgraded us to have access to the Executive Lounge.
Lamberts – We pretty much got off the plane, checked into the hotel and walked down the street to Lamberts Barbeque. We didn’t have a reservation, but a spot opened up at the bar after a 20 minute wait. We had a chance to talk to one of the cooks while we were waiting, so we got the scoop on the best items on the menu. Todd had the Beef Short Rib (I’ve never seen anything so big!) and I had the smoked half chicken. This was some of the most tender bbq ever! They often have live bands upstairs, but unfortunately they had a private event the night we were there.
One of the people we were sitting near at the bar at Lamberts recommended we go over to 4th Street for some good rooftop bars. It had been nearly 80 degrees on Wed., so it was still really nice out. 4th Street is a little calmer than the infamous 6th Street and we loved all the rooftop bars. Wed. was Veteran’s Day and rain had been predicted throughout the day (none ever came), so it was pretty empty downtown.
Day 2 – this was my actual birthday and we took the opportunity to sleep in, which we don’t get to do very often! Todd had booked a massage for me at the Milk + Honey Salon and Spa. It was right across the street from the Lady Bird Lake Bike trail, so we explored the trail for about a half hour before my appointment.
After an hour long massage, we decided to eat at Manuel’s which is a Mexican restaurant not far from the hotel and on our way to walk to the Capitol. We were a little later than the normal lunch crowd. The guacamole was a bit blah, but our entrees made up for it. Todd had shrimp tacos and I had chicken enchiladas with a salsa verde sauce recommended by our server. It had a good kick to it. Todd mentioned my birthday (again!), and they brought out a warm chocolate cake with ice cream. I was stuffed, but we still managed to eat it (all).
We walked up to the Texas State Capitol grounds, which are massive! I’ve been to several state capitols and this one was by far the biggest (confirmed by one of our Uber drivers when I mentioned it). There are Texas stars all around the city and especially at the capitol. We did a self guided tour instead of a formal tour.
For my birthday dinner, we made a late reservation at Trulucks. I wasn’t overly hungry going in, but I made room for crab cakes (some of the best I’ve ever had!) and then I ordered the Miso Chilean Sea Bass for dinner. Todd had a filet that was topped with seafood. He looked like he had died and gone to heaven. Just when I thought I was going to pass out from being so full, the server brought out a chocolate cake and carrot cake on a beautifully decorated plate. It would have been rude not to eat them!
After dinner, we decided to check out Rainey Street which we had heard was a great place to go. It’s a really cool little area about a mile from the heart of downtown. It’s made up of bungalow houses that have been converted into bars and restaurants. They each have their own vibe and most had live bands. We started out at Craft Pride, a craft brew house.
Next, we moved on to Lucille’s which had an amazing patio area out back. It was a little chilly that night, so thankfully they had their outdoor heaters on.
Last, we hit up Icenhauer’s which had a band playing 80’s music. so much fun! Rainey Street is a great concept. We loved the vibe there, and we would have gone back again during our trip if we’d had more time.
Day 3 – again we slept in and were too full from the night before to even think about eating breakfast! We planned to get in line early at la Barbeque which came recommended to us after we were hesitant to stand in line for 3 hours at the infamous Franklin’s Barbeque. They started serving at 11:00 and we got there about 10:40 and there was already quite a line. It was a great atmosphere. They serve free beer while you’re waiting in line on the weekends. Some people had brought their own coolers full of beverages for the wait (almost like tailgating). We waited for about an hour.
It was certainly worth the wait. I had the smoked turkey and Todd had pork ribs and brisket. I have to say though, as much as I enjoyed Austin BBQ, I have to say I’m not a big fan of the Texas style BBQ sauce. It was a little too vinegary for me. I much prefer the Kansas City style sauce which is thicker with some molasses. The meat was so good it didn’t need sauce though!
From la Barbeque we went to the South Congress (SoCo) area. I loved seeing the differences in all the neighborhoods in Austin. South Congress is very eclectic with lots of random little shops with random things inside.
After a treat at Amy’s Ice Cream in SoCo, we went back to the hotel for a little relaxation and to let the food settle!
We had tickets that night to Esther’s Follies which is a music and magic show and paradies a lot of current events. It was a fun show, even if we didn’t understand all the Texas humor. the magician/illusionist was amazing!
After the show, we went to Stubb’s BBQ (not to eat this time). We had walked by it the day before and it looked like it had a great outdoor concert venue. They had JJ Grey and the Mofro playing. We didn’t have tickets, but the guy working the door took pity on the out of towners since the show was half over and gave us one comp ticket so we only had to pay for one. Turning 40 has its perks!
We had been pretty stuffed from lunch, so we skipped dinner, but stopped at some food trucks outside of Stubb’s after the show. I’m so glad Des Moines is embracing the food truck concept. It will take a long time to get anywhere close to what Austin’s scene has though! We walked through the 6th Street district on the way home. There were a lot of college kids there having a great time! It wasn’t quite our scene (at least for that night) but it was great people watching as we were walking through!
Day 4 – again this was a travel day for us, but our flight didn’t leave until the afternoon. We had brunch at Jo’s Coffee down the street from our hotel. I love that almost every restaurant downtown has outdoor seating options. If only the birds didn’t dive bomb me every time! (they sense my fear). We toughed it out though and enjoyed a great brunch. We walked around downtown for a while before heading back to the hotel to get packed up.
While it was a fairly short trip, we had a great time, and it was a great place to celebrate my 40th birthday! We considered some of our favorite previous vacation spots, but I really wanted to try someplace new. Austin didn’t disappoint. We’ll definitely go back! We packed a lot in, but we didn’t even get close to hitting all the places that had been recommended to us by friends and family.
Until next time Austin… Keep it Weird! (that’s their tagline if you didn’t know).