Where in the hell am I?

May 19, 2014

My SAA 2014 talk summarized

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , — John @ 9:42 am

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while, although long-time readers aren’t surprised.

Anyway, I was asked by the people behind Maney (Publishing) Archaeology social media and promotions to write a guest blog post about my SAA 2014 talk “Building a Community of Archaeologists through Social Media”. It was published today, and you can read it here:

http://c-u-d-i.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/building-community-of-archaeologists.html

It was an honor to be asked to write a guest post and summarzie my work, and I thank them for letting me be a little wordy.

I hope to get the text of my talk cleaned up and then uploaded to academia.edu, along with the Powerpoint. When I do so, I’ll post a link here

April 23, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: My Favorite Things

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , — John @ 10:42 am

This is the last post in this series, as people are arriving and the meetings (and socializing) begin in earnest this evening. I’ve gotten a lot of views and social media response to this series, which please me and I do hope people find it helpful!

Today I’m going to talk about some of my favorite places in Austin; a few of these have already been mentioned. If you’d like some musical accompaniment, click this for John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, or this for a live set by The Men, my favorite current band who are playing in Austin on Saturday.

Bars:

My regular spot is The Liberty. I’ve been going here almost since it opened back in July 2009, and have gotten to know the owner and most of the bar staff (and now play on their softball team in one league). Just a nice, comfortable, homey dive bar that turns into a lively, packed place where I’m almost certain to bump into a few friends. Nice big back patio, great jukebox, cool bartenders, usually a fun movie on the TV. It’s also where I’m hosting the #blogarch social and tweet-up on Thursday evening, starting at 5.

Another favorite place, but not my regular, is Yellow Jacket Social Club. Also a nice, comfortable, homey dive bar where I’m almost certain to bump into someone I know. They also make good sandwiches and I hear they have a great Sunday brunch.

One last place, just down the street from Liberty, is The Grackle. Like the rest, a nice, comfortable, homey dive bar, with a good bourbon selection. Not as much outdoor seating, but it’s fun to sit in the “cage” (their fenced in patio). They have trivia on Thursday nights. Also, Veracruz All Natural taco truck is in their parking lot.

As for downtown, it’s Sidebar and Chicago House (see yesterday’s post).

Food:

I’ve already covered BBQ and tacos and mentioned my favorites there. I should add, however, that I did try Veracruz All Natural last week and it is as delicious as people say.

PizzaHoboken Pie is far and away my favorite pizza in Austin (and therefore the best). I actually grew up in NYC, and Hoboken is the closest to my favorite NY slices growing up. Whenever I’m in that area (usually for a show as I will be on Saturday) I stop by and grab a slice or two. You can easily walk here to grab some lunch between sessions. As for other places, I’m not a fan of any of the slice joints on Sixth Street. The Stoney’s pizza trailer is pretty good. And if you’re on south Congress, you can get a decent NY slice at Home Slice Pizzeria.

Burgers – For big, fat, juicy gourmet-type burgers, Casino el Camino is easily my favorite. These are 3/4-pound burgers, made to order, and can easily be a meal for 2 with some fries if you’re not super hungry. My favorite is the Buffalo Burger with medium spicy sauce, but they’re all delicious (well except ones with mushrooms which I haven’t/won’t eat). The chili dogs and green chile cheese fries are also well loved. Lots of my veggie friends love The Blackjack (an eggplant sandwich/burger). Note that your order will take at least 20 minutes, and as long as 60-90 minutes when they’re super busy (ie Friday and Saturday evenings/nights) so plan accordingly. Casino is also known for fantastic bloody marys!

For more traditional burgers, Austin has two good chains serving premium burgers and fries: P. Terry’s and Mighty Fine. These may not be close to downtown, but likely close to some of the outlying hotels. There’s also our famous Texas burger chain Whataburger, probably the best fast food burger there is (also spicy ketchup and good breakfast). You also can’t beat a classic flat-top burger (like the OT special) and a cold Lone Star pint from campus area legend Dirty Martin’s.

Other food:

The Backspace is a great place to enjoy wood-fired pizza, antipasti, and drinks, especially during happy hour. It’s a small place (only 3 seats) and while there’s always open bar seating, you might consider making a reservation for a table. You can also try their bigger, fancier (and more expensive) gastro-pub sibling Parkside.

As long as we’re talking upscale, there are Uchi, Uchiko, and Qui (haven’t tried Qui yet). Some of the top gourmet restaurants in Austin, but quite pricey as well. Paul Qui, however, is one of the folks behind the East Side King trailer (and now brick and mortar) empire for cheap, delicious Asian/fusion. Everyone loves the Poor Qui bun (pork belly) but I suggest the beef tongue bun, and an order of brussel sprouts. Their beet home fries are also legendary (I can’t stand beets).

A newer place I like is Easy Tiger bakery and beer garden. There’s breakfast and coffee in the mornings (haven’t had, and should’ve mentioned that yesterday!) but the food here is the big draw for me. They make their own meats, with amazing pastrami and corned beef. There are also house made sausages. Oh, and the pretzels and homemade beer cheese! Great to go with a few people and order some of the meat and cheese boards to share. There’s also an ample beer and cocktail menu, all of which can be enjoyed on a large back patio area. I’ll probably be here tonight (Wednesday) after the opening session.

Another gastropub, more in the dive bar tradition and farther from downtown (on Webberville Road) is Gourmands. Soup in a bread bowl, need I say more? Good sandwiches too.

Comfort food means different things to different people, but for me it’s southern-style/homestyle/soul food. My favorite place for this is Hoovers, just east of campus on Manor Road. I also like Hills Cafe, a classic Austin/Texas joint on far south Congress (and featured regularly in Friday Night Lights). Closer to downtown on south Congress (as well as a new location on Burnet Road is Lucy’s Fried Chicken. If you go, get the deep-fried deviled eggs. I also enjoy the chicken and waffles at 24 Diner.

Shopping:

For books, start with Bookpeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas (and employer of many of my friends and softball teammates). Not the best archaeology selection, but I assume most of you like to read other things too :) Other local bookstores include Farewell Books (where Schmaltz is located) and Malvern Books, near campus.

Music: you won’t find a better record store anywhere than End of an Ear. If you’re a music fan and/or collector, make a trip down there. They also have a great selection of cult movies on video tape. More mainstream and Texas-y stuff, as well as used and indie and other genres, can be found at Waterloo Records, across the street from Bookpeople (and near Whole Foods and 24 Diner).

Other: if you’re on south Congress, check out Parts and Labour for locally made clothing and accessories, Yard Dog for folk art, Big Top Candy Shop for candy and an old fashioned soda fountain, Monkey See Monkey Do for collector vinyl toys and other fun stuff, and Uncommon Objects for antiques, vintage, and miscellany. However, my favorite vintage place, up on North Loop, is Room Service.

Whew! I’m sure I’m still forgetting plenty of things, and neglecting lots of other people’s favorite places. Hope you found all this useful, and please feel free to ask questions in the comments or tweet me a question!

April 22, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Coffee and Booze

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , — John @ 9:25 am

I intended to only do one more guide entry, called “My Favorite Things” but I got to thinking that I had neglected a couple of important topics, namely the fuel of champions! So here I’ll do a quick survey of coffee options downtown/around the convention center, and then a few of the more notable drinking establishments in the area that haven’t been mentioned already.

I should mention that I am not a coffee aficionado. I mean, I like a nice medium roast Latin American or African coffee, which I brew at home. But years in the field and a raging caffeine addiction mean that I can swill the worst hotel and gas station coffee to jumpstart my day if needed. I don’t know much of anything about baristas and cold pressed and what not; I’m that dude who orders a medium cup of house blend and goes about his day. With that said…

Let’s start with a place not far from the Convention Center and run by an acquaintance of mine and his brother: Wright Brothers Brew and Brew, on 5th street 2 short blocks east of I-35. In addition to a full espresso bar that opens at 7am, they also have 38 craft beers on tap for afternoon and evening enjoyment. There’s also breakfast available to get your day started, and sandwiches for later in the day.

A little further east, on east 6th between Attayac and Navasota, is Rio Rita. They open at 8am and don’t have much in the way of breakfast, but there’s a number of espresso and coffee drinks available. Even better, stop by later in the day for happy hour or evening drinks and try one of their cocktails featuring a variety of infused liquors.

If you’re south of the river, drop by Jo’s Coffee Stand on south Congress, (they also have a location on west 2nd Street) or Dominican Joe at south Congress and Riverside (near hotels and not far from Convention Center).

Houndstooth Coffee is a favorite of a friend of mine, and they have a location at 4th and Congress, not far from the Convention Center and close to some of the hotels. Also on Congress, at 2nd Street inside the Austonian, is Caffe Medici.

For those seeking something more familiar, a certain world famous coffee chain has a spot on 6th and Congress, two other locations closer to the Convention Center, and I think they also have a stand inside the Convention Center itself.

Finally, an unlikely place that I’ve heard has the best coffee in town: Frank, on 4th and Colorado. Frank is a fancy (and delicious) hot dog and sausage restaurant, but they open at 8 am daily with breakfast and coffee.

Now, something I know a bit more about: BOOZE. I already covered Rainey Street, so we won’t mention that again (but you can click on the link to read the post). Downtown has numerous restaurants and bars, ranging from gross college shot bars with doorguys trying to reel you in with $2 wells, to upscale craft cocktail places where mustachioed mixologists with arm garters and porkpie hats will tell you about their custom bitters.

First: for happy hours and general social drinking, just avoid Dirty Sixth street (the stretch between Congress Avenue and I-35). In fact, outside of eating at a couple of places I’ll mention tomorrow, just try to avoid that stretch entirely (use Red River). BUT, tucked away on Trinity St, between dirty 6th and 7th, is Chicago House, an excellent and quiet craft beer bar (with a booze menu as well). A rotating menu of local and national craft beers, mainly seasonal, catering to all tastes. I fell in love with sour beer here.

Mugshots, just west of Red River on 7th, is part of a local chain known for their heavy pours. In general, this is a pretty chill dive bar with cheap drinks, pool and foosball, a decent jukebox, and a photobooth (hence “Mugshots”). Worth dropping in if you’re in the area.

On the east side of Red River on 7th is Sidebar, my favorite bar west of the highway. It’s also a pretty chill dive bar with cheap drinks and pool, and really nice bartenders. They are also notorious for their heavy pours, so much so that the “Sidebar pour” has an Urban Dictionary entry. This is definitely a good place to grab a happy hour drink before eating or evening sessions, and I suspect some of my readers will be there on Thursday for the potlatch.

More upscale drinking can be found and Congress and west, between Cesar Chavez and 6th. I generally don’t frequent this area, as I’m a lowbrow guy. Also, like most archaeologists, I’m not wealthy and would prefer to get 8 beers for $20, rather than one cocktail. THAT SAID, I’ve enjoyed fancy cocktails at Peche, and they have good food too. Several other good bars are also along that 4th St. strip, and Frank is nearby with their delicious dogs and signature cocktails, like The RedHeaded Stranger featuring bacon-infused Tito’s Vodka.

East of the highway is a mix of upscale and lowbrow, and considered to be the “hipster” bar and dining area. There are too many places to list over here, with so many bars and food trailers and more opening weekly it seems. Some spots were already mentioned under BBQ, tacos, and live music. Here are a couple more:

Violet Crown Social Club is a relatively quiet, dark bar that mixes upscale and lowbrow nicely. Not as hipster as other places. They also have the Via 313 cheesy bread Detroit-style pizza trailer out front, and you can order from there and have it delivered inside to enjoy with a nice cold beer.

Shangri-La is the original east 6th hipster bar, with cheap beer and drinks, a good happy hour, and a nice back patio area. They also have a food trailer called Royale with Cheese.

East Side Show Room is your closest craft cocktail place and gourmet restaurant.

Wonderland took over what used to be Cheer-Up Charlies, but maintains a dive-bar attitude. They also house the East Side King Thai-Kun trailer. And speaking of trailers, one of the main food trailer parks is located next door.

Finally, there’s The Brixton, which was also known as Rocket Room 6 for one weekend thanks to Bar Rescue. I actually haven’t been here since the remodel but, like many of the places I’ve mentioned, it’s a nicer dive bar with cheap drinks, a good happy hour, a good jukebox, a nice outdoor area, and a good crowd of regulars. They have local beers and seasonal cocktails to go with the tallboys and shots of Jameson and Fireball.

That’s enough for now. One last blog post to come, featuring my favorite places to drink and eat! There will be pizza, burgers, food trailers, and dive bars. Click the words above for a sneak preview :)

April 21, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Live Music

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , — John @ 11:02 am

This is probably my most strongly opinionated post to date. As I mentioned in my Introduction to the series, “My own musical tastes tend towards punk and indie rock, with a healthy dose of old soul and hip-hop. I hate Stevie Ray Vaughan and the whole Austin blues thing. I love old honky-tonk country but don’t know or care much for most of what is Texas country music.”

Hopefully I don’t offend anyone with some of what I saw here. I’ll try and include links that will cover things that I don’t know or care about (as I’ve tried to do with the food guides).

As some of you probably know, Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. A lot of this reputation was built on the outlaw/progressive country and “cosmic cowboy” scene of the 1970s highlighted by the great Willie Nelson. Another well known scene is the Texas blues guitar wankers spotlighted by the dreadful Stevie Ray Vaughan (seriously, please don’t assume that everyone in Austin loves SRV and Texas blues). More recently, bands like Spoon, …Trail of Dead, and White Denim have been indie rock darlings. But the real reason that we’re the Live Music Capital of the World is that there is music in every genre, almost every night, with clubs catering to all tastes.

I would guess that many people have heard of Sixth Street, and assume that this is the live music district. At one point it was, and there are still some live music venues on Sixth, but these days the clubs on Sixth are more shot bars playing shitty club music and pop (one of many reasons it’s now known as Dirty Sixth). And even those clubs with “live music” are as likely to have cover bands/artists as original music, or SRV wannabes. A quick browse through the Austin Chronicle music listings for this weekend bear this out, as very few clubs are listed on Dirty Sixth (addresses roughly 100-800 East Sixth Street). One place that does have regular music is Flamingo Cantina, our local reggae/world/Afrobeat (and some hip-hop) club. One of the other places, The Parish, has nothing booked during SAA weekend so never mind there.

Most (and the best) live music downtown is found along Red River Street, in what the city has designated as the Red River Cultural District. Unfortunately, many of you may have heard of this area because of the SXSW tragedy earlier this year. There are more than a dozen clubs running along Red River from 6th to 10th Streets, although the iconic Austin punk club Emos is no longer among them, having moved to east Riverside Drive and bearing almost no resemblance to the original. These range from small dive bars specializing in local punk, garage, metal, and indie (notably Beerland Texas, also including Red Eyed Fly and Metal and Lace) to large outdoor venues hosting big name touring bands (Stubbs Austin). Note that outdoor shows must end by 11 pm on weeknights, and midnight on weekends, while indoor shows typically end at 2am, which is bar closing time.

My two favorite venues along Red River (and in general, with Beerland being #3 fwiw) are The Mohawk and Red 7, both booked by Transmission Events. Mohawk has a large outdoor space for big shows, and a smaller indoor space for small shows (and late night shows after the outdoor shows), and covers mainly indie rock and pop with some punk and metal. I’ll be there on Saturday night to see The Men (my favorite current band) and Cloud Nothings! Red 7 has a covered open air back porch that isn’t considered outdoors by noise standards (thus able to play music until 2) and a smaller indoor space, and sometimes a separate ticket is required for the back patio area shows if both stages are active. They’re hosting the awesome Karaoke Underground 10th anniversary party on Saturday night, which I highly recommend (and might go to after the Mohawk show).

We’ll move away from Red River but stay on the punk/garage/metal/indie track for a newer venue, Hotel Vegas, on the “trendy” “hipster” east side. Mostly local and Texas bands, but they will host lesser known (and sometimes reasonably well known) touring bands. There’s also Trailer Space, primarily a record store.

It’s a lot to keep track of, fortunately my best friend Dan does a wonderful public service for us by compiling, curating, and maintaining Showlist Austin, a calendar of (mainly) live music. Much like me, this site is not solely limited to Dan’s taste, but does stay “within certain boundaries”.  There are links to the various clubs next to the listings, so you can find out location and ticket info. Also, a quick tip: record store shows are always listed first!

Venturing beyond my familiar, let’s talk about country music (specifically honky-tonk/outlaw), roots/rockabilly, and singer-songwriters.

The Broken Spoke is THE place to go to two-step to classic Texas country music (and eat chicken-fried steak), although it’s not close to downtown. There’s dinner music from 6-8 pm, then dance lessons from 8-9, and then the party starts. Closer to downtown just off east 6th is the “hipster honky tonk” The White Horse, with live music and dancing every night, and two-step lessons on Saturdays at 6pm. One more place to get your two-step on is the legendary Ginny’s Little Longhorn, also home to chicken shit bingo (on Sunday). This is on 54th and Burnet Road, north of the main central city area, but worth checking out to hang with some locals and drink some cold Lone Stars.

Another legendary Austin venue is The Continental Club, one of the joints associated with the Vaughans and the Texas blues scene, but also roots rock, rockabilly, soul, and country. It’s located on south Congress, one of Austin’s most noted shopping districts and also home to many restaurants. Continental has happy hour shows nightly, at 6:30 or 7, a Saturday 3:30 matinee show, and then late shows starting around 10.

Finally, a couple of signer-songwriter spots. The Cactus Cafe is on the UT campus in the student union building just off The Drag, and has hosted a wide range of locals and touring acts for many years. Their shows start around 8 and end reasonably early. Lastly, The Saxon Pub, on south Lamar, is a little louder and runs a little later.

Obviously, this isn’t nearly everything. Check out sites like the Austin Chronicle (and pick up a hard copy on Thursday!), Austin 360 (part of the American-Statesman), and Do512, or any of the many other resources a quick search would turn up

 

April 18, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Places to go and family fun

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , , — John @ 11:19 am

With the Easter weekend upon us, I figured it would be a good time to post about some of things to see around Austin, especially if you’re bringing your family with you to the meetings. After this, we’ll delve more into the seedy world of bars, bar food, and live music.

Some of these places are easily reached by public transit (capmetro.org) or a (relatively) cheap cab ride, while others will require a car. We’ll start with those closest to downtown Austin, and work our way further afield. Some will require a swim suit, others might call for comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots.

One of the major attractions downtown, and Austin in general, is the Texas State Capitol building. I’m ashamed to admit I have yet to do a tour of the building itself! In addition to the Capitol building itself, the ground are beautiful and there are other government buildings in the area to see and maybe visit, including the Capitol Visitor’s Center, The Governor’s Mansion (tours Tue-Thurs only, from 10am to noon), and the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives Building (which is gorgeous).

Several blocks to the north is the Bullock Texas State History Museum. I won’t go into museum criticism here, other than to say that there’s not much about Texas prehistory here. Texans are proud of their state and their history, and it shows in this museum. And while the full exhibit isn’t ready, you can see hundreds of objects recovered from the shipwreck of The Labelle, one of LaSalle’s ship. Plan on at least 3 hours here. I would also recommend buying tickets for at least one of the presentations at the Texas Spirit Theater, especially if you have kids with you. It’s a little cheesy, but fun and informative. There is also an Imax theatre at the museum.

East of the highway, off of 8th Street, is the French Legation Museum, the oldest standing home in Austin. There are tours (40 minutes long), and the grounds are very nice (a great picnic spot, along with the Capitol grounds).

There are a number of museums and places to visit at the University of Texas Campus (Hook ‘em! \m/ ), and the campus is an excellent place to just walk around, look at sculptures and statues, and people watch. The South Lawn features a great view of the UT Tower and the State Capitol and is a lovely place to sit.

The Blanton Museum of Art is the closest Austin has come to a world class museum, and they are currently featuring an exhibit on Arts of the Ancient Andes (which I would love to hear about from my Trafficking Antiquities friends) curated (I’m almost positive) by one of my former classmates, Dr. Kimberly Jones. There will be a presentation by archaeologist Dr. Steve Bourget the afternoon of April 26th.

The Harry Ransom Center is an amazing museum and archive devoted to the arts and humanities, and UT has received the archives of a number of prominent writers and artists (some of whom are pictured on the windows). Among the permanent exhibits are a Gutenberg bible and the world’s first photograph. This is one of my favorite places to visit!

The Texas Memorial Museum seems to still be open, and is now part of the Texas Natural Science Center, which I assume means they’ve taken out all the archaeology and native Texan stuff they used to have. Side note: I had a work study here back in 1994, they had a storeroom full of amazing things. Anyway, this musuem is now focused on geology, wildlife, and dinosaurs, which are all cool things that kids love.

Finally, The LBJ Presidential Library, another one of my favorite places to take people. You learn a lot about LBJ’s life, which provides a fascinating window into early and mid-20th century Texas life (he grew up poor in a tiny town in the Texas Hill Country) as well as US history in the mid-twentieth century.

One last (indoor) place to take the family, at the new Mueller development on the NE edge of the central city, is The Thinkery. Yeah, it’s a bit of a Simpsons-esque name for what was once the Austin Children’s Museum, but my friends with kids LOVE this place. A great hand-on spot for children of all ages.

After all that fun indoors, I hope you save some time and energy to enjoy the amazing outdoor places in and around Austin!

Zilker Park and the Barton Springs pool are a must-visit, especially for families. The weather during the SAAs looks to be in the mid-to-high 80s, perfect for swimming. Barton Springs is ~70 degrees year round, which is a little cool for me but likely warm for Yankees and those who swim in the Pacific! The Zilker Zephyr is a fun train ride that takes you on a small tour of part of the park. There is also the Austin Nature and Science Center, the Zilker Botanical Gardens, and the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens. Outdoor enthusaists can rent canoes or kayaks, or hike the trails (click here for a link to all public trails in Austin).

Another swimming hole, and one that is more toddler-friendly, is Deep Eddy Pool, just west of MoPac and the downtown area. In addition to the historic pool there’s a play area and a hike-and-bike trail. The pool is fed from a well and not chlorinated, with water temperatures between 65-75 degrees. And, to cool down or relax after, pop in to Deep Eddy Cabaret (just north of the park) for a beer (cash only).

A little farther afield, but still within Austin city limits, is McKinney Falls State Park. This little gem is on the southeast edge of town, and would likely need a car or a cab. There are two small falls here (the Upper and Lower Falls), and some areas for swimming and fishing. The ruins of the McKinney homestead are on the property and can be hiked to, along with another historic structure. Unfortunately, a major flood struck McKinney Falls on Halloween 2013, severely damaging the Smith Vistor’s Center (still closed) and the Smith Rockshelter (which may still be closed), but there are several other trails to hike on.

Northwest of town (definitely needing a car) are Hamilton Pool and Reimer’s Ranch, both former private ranches now operated as parks and preserves by Travis County. Hamilton Pool is a sinkhole/collapsed cave into an underground aquifer, which now serves as a swimming hole. Capacity of the park is capped, and depending on the weather (rains) the pool may be closed due to bacteria from runoff, so call ahead if you plan on going. Note that the water is also very cold right now! Reimer’s Ranch is more for hiking, climbing, and birdwatching. There are also a number of other Travis County parks, click here for a list.

Finally, for those with a car and some time, there are a number of State Parks and Natural Areas within an hour or two of Austin, each offering a unique experience. Click here to see a map. Enchanted Rock is probably the most popular, and might best be visited during the week. This is a massive granite dome, over a billion years old. Great for climbing and hiking. Bastrop State Park is one of the many CCC parks in Texas, and is a remnant pineywoods setting. It was severely damaged by wildfires 3 years ago, but is recovering. Please browse the State Parks homepage to see which might offer what you’re looking for.

OK, that’s easily a full long weekend’s worth of activities for you and yours, combining history, nature, and fun!

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Rainey Street

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , — John @ 7:50 am

So far, I’ve focused on some basic details about Austin, the Texas essential cuisines, and a guide for vegan and veggie eats. This post will be a switch, as it will be about an “entertainment district”, and thus includes food, bars, and other entertainment (music, dancing, etc).

This particular entertainment district is known as Rainey Street, and it is just south of the Convention Center, so convenient for lunch, happy hours, after session drinks, and socializing. I’ll also add that it’s not a place I hang out. Basically, I find it a little expensive and full of yuppies. I also don’t know how it gets a pass on gentrification, considering that it’s a traditional, historic working-class neighborhood that was rezoned as a bar district by the city (read this slightly biased – but in a way I agree with – Wikipedia entry for details).

However, there are several places that have gotten rave reviews from my friends. Futhermore, I would not be doing this guide properly if I ignored one of the closest places to socialize, even better for most SAA attendees with no worries about the horrific parking situation.

By far, the top recommendation is Bangers, which is a place I’ve been meaning to check out (even if it means going to Rainey). As my British and Anglophile readers might have guessed, Bangers is a sausage house and beer garden. The sausages range from traditional to exotic and include veggie options, with a seasonal and rotating menu. There are also many other food options (one friend mentioned the beet and goat cheese, and the creamed corn) including poutine for homesick Canadians. There is also a huge beer garden, which goes well with the fact they have 100+ beers and ciders on tap, plus more in bottles and cans, with a huge selection from Austin and central Texas breweries. It apparently can get crazy over the weekends, but they handle crowds well.

Another place with several votes is Craft Pride, which as might be expected specializes in craft beers. Specifically, they specialize in Texas craft beers, with “54 taps and 2 casks representing over 20 breweries”. They look to have some outdoor space too. Another thing they have is a Via 313 trailer serving Detroit Style cheesy bread pizza starting at 5 pm. I’ve had Via 313 at their other location and while my New York self won’t call it pizza, it’s really really good, and it looks as if they have dairy-free options as well.

One friend mentioned Javelina (great Texas name there), on the south end of the Rainey Street district. Having not been there, it looks to have a decent bar area and outdoor space, a number of Texas beers on tap, some local and some lowbrow (my style) can beers, and some cocktails on the menu that look well suited for warm weather drinking. They also serve food, which they call the best bar food in the Rainey district. For the late-night sweet tooth, there’s a mini-donut trailer across/down the street called Little Lucy’s that my friend also recommends.

Someone else (an architectural historian who works for a CRM firm) mentioned seeing a show at Blackheart, a place she called just OK, saying “Too crowded inside, but the back patio has potential- you can see the skyline behind.” The bar area looks nice, tried to capture something of the historic idea of the district.The concept is a New Orleans brothel theme, and the bar is a whiskey bar, with numerous options. Anyway, if that’s your kind of thing, there you go. They also have live music over the weekends.

One last recommended place may not be for everyone, although they certainly welcome everyone: Chain Drive, Austin’s oldest LGBT nightclub. Not strictly a leather bar, but one of the main clienteles. They have a great patio and backyard spot with a view of the skyline, and dancing Friday and Saturday nights.

After this, no recommendations, but a couple other places that are down there:

G’Raj Mahal Cafe was an extremely popular food trailer that has now moved to a brick-and-mortar spot. They do Indian food, they now serve beer and wine, have a big patio. I went to the trailer once, didn’t want to wait 90+ minutes for food, and split. They have an pretty extensive vegan and vegetarian menu.

Bar 96 is an upscale sports bar with a taco trailer (Bomb Tacos). Clive Bar is, now that Lustre Pearl closed, the quintessential Rainey Street bar, with a wide cocktail selection and craft beers thrown in with low brow cans and bottles. There is some outdoor seating and a fancy indoor bar. Finally, Container Bar is a two-story bar and dance club built from shipping containers (perfectly in character with early 20th century bungalows), that’s only been open for a little over a month. They apparently have a tree-lined courtyard and are contemporary-yet-casual.

So that’s Rainey Street, or what I was able to suss. I apologize if I was overly negative and snarky, please feel free to avail yourselves of other review sites for more details and less bias!

April 17, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Vegetarian and Vegan eats

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , , — John @ 11:37 am

At this point, I feel like I should repost this link to my introduction to this series, written back in January, to remind y’all of my perspective (especially if you’re reading this post without any familiarity with me).

As I mentioned there, I’m an omnivore, and while I certainly eat vegetarian and sometimes vegan meals, I don’t generally seek out these places, nor do I pay much attention to the menus at my normal places to see just how veggie/vegan friendly they are. I should note that most places in Austin will have some sort of veggie (if not vegan) option, although you might want to ask about how things are cooked (like beans and tortillas, sometimes cooked with lard), and if there are separate grills, if these things are important to you.

Anyway, I decided to crowdsource on Facebook, and got a lot of helpful answers.

First, the overwhelming favorite place was Schmaltz(or Shhmaltz as their Facebook page says). This is a Austin’s only vegetarian/vegan Jewish sandwich trailer, and is just across the highway from the Convention Center, on Cesar Chavez, behind Farewell Books. They appear to only be open for lunch, 12-4 pm, so plan accordingly. This review from the Austin Chronicle seems to sum up the menu nicely.

A little ways further down Cesar Chavez, but open for dinner (and Saturday and Sunday brunch) as well, is vegan restaurant Counter Culture. This might be a bit of a walk (1.4 miles according to the map), but there is also a bus that runs that way (the #17, capmetro.org for schedule. I’ve only eaten here once, back when it was a trailer, but I enjoyed the Meltdown (“tuna” melt), and I’ve heard numerous rave reviews of the jackfruit BBQ. They also have gluten-free options, soy-free options, and some raw options.

Yet another place on Cesar Chavez, in between Schmaltz and Counter Culture, is Mr. Natural, which is 100% vegetarian. They are open 8-8, so a great option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They focus on Mexican food, but also have sandwiches, veggie burgers and hot dogs, salads, and smoothies. I’ve had their tofu enchiladas and they were delicious. There is also a bakery for muffins, empanadas, and other goodies to go!

One last spot on Cesar Chavez, although more of the “treat yo self” persuasion, is Capital City Bakery, a 100% vegan bakery. I say treats because this is a dessert bakery, with a selection of cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and cheesecakes. They’re open 10-7, but do sell-out early sometimes (much like a good BBQ place).

One friend recommended Cazamance, a place I’m totally unfamiliar with. Sounds like an interesting mix of African and other cuisines, and has meat options along with veggie and vegan. They’re not far from the Convention Center, but seem to only be open for dinner and late meals (6pm to midnight). To quote my friend: “they have weird hours. although totally worth it!”

A couple of people mentioned Baton Creole, which is just across the highway on east 6th Street, right before you get to all the bars. They have one vegan option and several vegetarian options, but it should be noted (as they did on their Facebook page) that they use a communal fryer for their tofu (as in same fryer as the meats). I haven’t tried this place yet, but Tofu Jambalaya sounds yummy.

Over on the west side of town is Beets Living Foods Cafe, open at 10am. As their name suggests, they are a raw “living” foods restaurant, with a selection of breakfasts, entrees, salads, and smoothies. I’m unfamiliar with this place as well.

As long as you’re over to the west, you can drop in at the flagship Whole Foods grocery for a quick meal. They have a wide variety of sandwiches and salads, a juice bar, a raw foods bar, and of course lots of produce and groceries.

As I mentioned above, many places downtown that aren’t veggie or vegan specific still have great options. These include Koriente, Chi’Lantro BBQ trailer, Yellow Jacket Social Club (the Frito Pie in particular), East Side King (which is at Liberty, the bar where my party is), and Hoboken Pie (although you would want to call an order a whole pie as they don’t usually have vegan slices). I’ll be talking more about most of these places in future posts.

Ranging further from downtown gives you many more options, including one of my favorite places: Bouldin Creek Cafe. I love going here for brunch (The Oven Cake Breakfast or El Tipico), and it’s generally pretty crowded then but open for all meals of the day. They do omelets (with Tofu Scrambler as a Vegan option), tacos, salads, sandwiches (a lot of people rave about the Wanna-BLT), and other hot foods (love the soul food plate). As far as a destination place to go to for veggie/vegan food, Bouldin Creek would be my recommendation, followed by a stop at End of an Ear to buy some music!

Another place south of the river, on South Lamar is Wasota African Cuisine. As they note, most of their dishes are vegan, with no dairy. They have an amazing homemade veggie burger, and the food overall is delicious and can be very spicy!

One friend mentions a food trailer park on North Loop with several vegetarian and vegan places. These include BBQ Revolution (vegan BBQ so you’re not left out!), Unity Vegan Kitchen,Taco Bout It (ha!), which does have some meat options, and Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery (which also has products at some other places around town, including Houndstooth Coffee on 4th and Congress, not too far from the Convention Center, which I also hear is amazing coffee).

Finally, some places near the University of Texas (Hook ‘em!) campus. First is Veggie Heaven, a campus area standby. They specialize in Asian veggie and vegan cuisine, ranging from stir fry to curry, with lots of vegetables to go with the various veggie proteins. Madam Mam’s is one of the best Thai places in Austin, and offers tofu as an option with almost everything on the menu.

The Vegan Yacht has docked (sorry…) at several locations around town recently and is currently at Spider House Ballroom, on 29th and Guadalupe, and open from 6pm to midnight.

Lastly, another destination place up by campus (I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, and I’ve edited the post because it needed to be added): Wheatsville Co-op! An amazing grocery store and very very veggie and vegan friendly. The deli and prepared foods area has a great selection of sandwiches, tacos, veggie chili and Frito pie rice bowls, salads, and POPCORN TOFU, which is one of the most ridiculously delicious things you will ever eat (by itself or on a po-boy).

Well, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be! As you can see, there are many options for vegans and vegetarians in Austin, so that you can easily enjoy our city, cuisine, and nightlife without much trouble!

April 15, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Tacos and Mexican food

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , — John @ 4:00 pm

In my last post, I introduced the concept of tacos, and what a “taco” is in Austin, then proceeded to ramble on about breakfast tacos to the point that lunch/dinner tacos is now being dealt with separately, in this here post. And, I figured I would go ahead and cover Mexican food in general here, because if you like tacos you may well like enchiladas and tortas as well.

A quick recap: tacos are “soft” flour or corn tortillas wrapped around fillings; burritos are bigger and “crunchy tacos” are fried corn tortillas. And a note: I’m trying to focus on places within walking distance (a mile or so) from the Convention Center, with notable exceptions (generally places I personally love or iconic joints).

And with that note, let’s start with the place that you’ve probably had recommended to you by someone who visited Austin within the last couple of years: Torchy’s Tacos. They went from one trailer to places all over town and other Texas cities, which gives you an idea of how popular you are. I’ll be damned if I could tell you why…actually, I take that back, Ask almost anyone and they’ll mention one of two menu items; The Fried Avocado and/or the “Trailer Park” which is a fried chicken taco. Both are perfectly okay twists on a taco, although nothing I wanted to have again. Nothing else stood out as special or worth the price. Obviously, many many others disagree, including my co-worker who likes the green chile pork. None of their locations are super close to the convention center, but the closest are near campus and on South First, both places you may well be visiting anyway.

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about my favorite taco place, which also happens to be relatively close to my house and not close to the convention center: Papalote Taco House. Now we’re talking tacos, not gimmicks, although they smartly offer a fried avocado option. The menu includes an array of traditional “street” taco tastes, as well as a number of delicious interior Mexican options. I have had everything here that isn’t mushroom or cauliflower-based and it’s all really tasty. My love of mole generally leads me to the Guajalote en Mole (turkey) and Puerco en Pipian tacos, or a torta (taco fillings in a sandwich) when I’m really crazy. If you are up for travelling a couple of extra miles for the best tacos in Austin, Papalote is my spot. And if you’d like to read the opinion of another Austin archaeologist who is actually an occasional professional food writer, here’s Rachel Feit’s review from 2011.

OK, now to get you closer to the Convention Center. We’ll start with a place that has been getting a lot of buzz both among my taco-loving friends and in general: Veracruz All-Natural. I haven’t had it yet, although I plan on fixing that this week, but here’s what Yelpers have to say. Taco Journalism gave them 4 stars, here’s their video review. They have a location on east Cesar Chavez, not too too far from the Convention Center. Even better, they have a second spot at The Grackle bar, which is across the street from The Liberty, which is where my blogarch and tweet-up party is!

One other chain jumps to mind, in the vein of Torchys: Tacodeli. There’s a lot to like about Tacodeli’s commitment and history, but (in my opinion) not quite so much the food, or at least the limited times I’ve had it. Again, nothing terrible (with the exception of the Mexican mashed potatoes) but the only really good taco I’ve had there is the Frontera Fundido Sirloin. All that said, you might feel otherwise, as many Austinites do.While none of their 3 locations is close to the Convention Center, their breakfast tacos are available at a number of stores around downtown, Central, and south Austin.

Another series of chains you’ll find around town are Taqueria Arandas and Taqueria Arendinas. Both are pretty basic taquerias done in the Jalisco style, which is explained by one of the TacoJournalism guys here. Actually, there are numerous Jalisco style places (it’s often in the name) that would be similar. These aren’t fancy places, are primarily a Hispanic clientele and staff, and are cheap and delicious (with the exception of the East 7th Arandas, apparently, which is an avoid). You can order individual tacos, or a “plate’ that has meats, fixings (generally cheese, lettuce, and tomato, avocado usually extra), beans, rice, and tortillas. I’m a pastor and barbacoa guy myself, but there’s a variety of options.

While I’ve hit the highs (and lows IMO) of taco places, I would say that there are taquerias and taco trucks everywhere. If something smells or looks good that’s near to your hotel, ask the staff if they’ve heard anything, or just try it.

Now, for Mexican food. I’ll try and make this shortish and sweet, and we’ll start with Tex-Mex.

I don’t really eat Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex is things like crispy tacos, cheese enchiladas with beef enchilada sauce, fajitas, and the like. Most people go to them for comfort food, because they like a particular place’s margarita or Mexican martini, or for chips and queso. Now, I love queso, but I can’t drink tequila due to a teenage misfortune, so I’m the wrong person to ask on that.

When I do, it’s with other people, and it’s something like Maudie’s, Chuy’s, or Trudy’s. These are big, well known and loved local chains. Both Maudie’s and Chuy’s have what I think is okay and what others will say is great food. Given the choice, I’d go to Chuys. Neither has places close to the Convention Center though. Trudy’s is extremely popular for their Mexican Martinis and their queso, and a lot of people go there just for happy hour to enjoy those two things, which might be the only good things they have (although I can’t personally speak on the Mexican Martini).

One of the most famed Tex-Mex joints in Austin is Matt’s El Rancho, in south Austin since 1952. I know people who go there specifically for the margaritas, and for the chips and queso. I’ve never been there myself. It’s also not close to the Convention Center, but could be considered a destination stop if Austin icons is your thing. Another iconic place, near campus, is El Patio. It’s been around since 1954 and was said to be Lady Bird Johnson’s favorite place. I love her, but I really disliked this place. Just don’t, unless you’re going for icons.

Speaking of politicans, Democrat and Republican presidents alike have said that Guero’s Taco Bar is their favorite Mexican food in Austin. It’s in a great location on South Congress, pretty close to the Convention Center and in an area you’ll probably want to check out. THAT SAID, I think it’s super bland and overpriced, and usually really crowded as well. They do have a large vegan selection (which I suppose we’ll revisit later in that post).

So where do I eat Tex-Mex? If I were to go on my own, it would be El Azteca, partly because it was the first place I ever ate in Austin, partly because of the kitsch, and partly because they have amazing, spicy salsa. It’s not super close to the Convention Center though.

Interior/traditional Mexican cuisine is more my style, as evidenced by my taco recommendations. This one is easier for me.

First, a place near the Convention center I’m familar with: Manuel’s. This is an upscale, gourmet place, so if you’re looking to impress or on a big expense account, this is one option. They have a really unique, very spicy and savory tortilla soup that might be worth the trip. I honestly don’t have a strong recollection of anything else there.

La Condesa is on the far west edge of “near the Convention Center”, and I wasn’t impressed, but it’s been ranked by among the top 10 Austin restaurants. Another upscale place, with a wide menu.

A new spot that is close to the Convention Center is Licha’s Cantina. It’s a mescal and tequila place with a mid-range priced menu, located in a former house on east 6th street in the East Side bar district. Reviews have been positive and I’ve been meaning to check it out (and might do so tomorrow). Also, a friend of mine bartends there, often during happy hour, and she would love to have some intelligent, worldly customers.

AND NOW, FINALLY, TWO PLACES I LOVE!

First is Curra’s, one of my favorite places to eat. It’s not close to the Convention Center, but will be pretty close to the hotels on south IH-35 and is worth traveling to! One of their signatures is the Avocado Margarita, which tastes like slightly sweet, tequila-y guacamole (I HAD to try a sip). Their salsas are delicious. And basically everything I’ve had on the menu is delicious. I struggle to choose between carnitas, pastor, cochinita pibil, and the chile colorado. There’s also an amazing brunch. However, this place will get crowded! A willingness to sit inside (tough to want to do in the gorgeous Austin weather) can speed things up.

And last, a hipster favorite and becoming an Austin legend, is Polvo’s. Also not close to the Convention Center, but close to a great place (my favorite place) to buy records. Popular with families, 20 and 30 something hipsters and grad students, easy to find a seat at 5:00 but not at 8:00. Famous for incredibly strong Mexican Martinis, notorious for poor (but not rude) service. Their smoky salsa is to die for, and you can serve yourself from the salsa bar inside. Interior Mexican food that’s admittedly not amazing, but very good. There are a variety of sauces and meats to choose from to build your own enchiladas, as well as their specials. The fajitas are good (see, I eat them sometimes!), although my go to is a Goliath burrito with guisado de puerco or pastor.

Typing all that has made me very very hungry, and hopefully you as well. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, add your own recommendations, or tweet at me!

 

April 13, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Breakfast Tacos

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , — John @ 1:03 pm

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are two things that you pretty much have to eat while you’re in Austin: BBQ and tacos. BBQ is relatively straight forward, as discussed in the last post. Tacos are a little more complicated, for a number of reasons.

First of all, what we call “tacos” in Austin (and most of Texas) isn’t what other places call “tacos”. Tacos here are made with corn or flour tortillas wrapped around the fillings, or what other places might call “soft tacos” or “street tacos; whereas we call fried corn tortilla shells “crunchy tacos.” There’s also something called “puffy tacos” which is more of a San Antonio thing. Also, what we call “burritos” are the large things like Mission-style burritos, or what you get at Chipotle.

So, when I talk about tacos, I’m talking soft tortillas. The crunchy kind are more of a Tex-Mex thing, and while I enjoy them very occasionally, it’s not something I really seek out or crave. So now that we have that down, there are two kinds of tacos: breakfast tacos and lunch/dinner tacos, which you can usually get at breakfast too, to make things a little more tricky :)

This post will cover just breakfast tacos, as it’s gotten a little long. A subsequent post will cover lunch and dinner tacos.

Before I get down to my opinions and recommendations, do yourself a favor and click over to Taco Journalism, bookmark it, follow them on Twitter (while in Austin anyway), and spend some time reading their reviews. These guys literally wrote the book on breakfast tacos in Austin.

Speaking of, I was asked on Twitter for a tutorial on breakfast tacos. One question people always ask is : Where can I get the best breakfast tacos in Austin? That’s easy: my house! I make the best breakfast tacos in Austin. But I can’t cook for all y’all and I’ll be staying downtown, so we’ll move on.

Breakfast tacos are both simple and complicated at the same time. You take a flour tortilla (rarely see them with corn), throw in some breakfast ingredients, and enjoy! Most places will start with a a list of two or three basic ingredients: egg and bacon, egg and sausage, egg and chorizo, egg and potato, bean and cheese. From there, you can add on fillings for a little extra. So, you can get egg, chorizo, potato, and cheese. Your basic 3-4 ingredient should run you around 2 bucks. Some places have 3/$2 tacos, but usually this is for 3 of the same kind with no extras. ALL PLACES should give you some salsa to put on the taco, and many will have at least two (red and green, with green often the spicier).

And here’s where I let you in on a little secret: most breakfast tacos taste the same. Most places use the same sausage (more or less), the same chorizo, the same eggs, the same cheese. There’s generally no seasoning in the eggs or potatoes. What distinguishes one place from another are two things: tortillas and salsa. Some places have fresh, homemade tortillas while others get them from a bakery (which isn’t a bad thing, but it makes a difference). Salsas can be a matter of taste, depending on your preferred levels of spiciness, garlic, onion, tomatoes, etc.

And for a second little secret: I don’t really go out for breakfast tacos! Usually, when I go out for Mexican breakfast or brunch, I order migas (cheesy scrambled eggs with tortilla chips and salsa) or some variation of spicy scrambled egss. I then wrap those in tortillas to make tacos.

I used to sometimes go to Tamale House #3, which isn’t that close to the Convention Center. But that was mainly because they were big and cheap, and I liked the salsa. Tamale House East is from the same family, and follows the same pattern, and is close to downtown, on east 6th (and near The Liberty). They also are open late on weekends.

Another place a lot of people like to go is Juan in a Million, on east Cesar Chavez. It was featured on Man vs. Food for the Don Juan Taco, which is a giant mound of eggs, cheese, potatoes, and bacon. It comes with 2 tortillas but I usually order two extra, because one Don Juan plate makes 4 tacos. It’s pretty tasty and VERY filling, and you also get the best handshake in Austin from Juan himself.

And then there’s Cisco’s, an Austin legend and place where a lot of politicians like to eat. I ate there during SXSW and was unimpressed, so take that as you will.

In conclusion, enjoy some breakfast tacos while in town, and browse the Taco Journalism blog for the best options nearest to you!

 

April 10, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: BBQ

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , — John @ 8:45 pm

Well, the SAAs are only 2 weeks away, so I assume everyone has made their travel and lodging arrangements and is thinking about eating and parties. I know I am, and I live there! So we’ll ramp this blog back up and try and cover all the food and drink and entertainment basics in time for you to enjoy the SAAs in Austin to their fullest!

When you come to Austin, there are two things you pretty much have to eat at some point: BBQ and tacos. These are the things that everyone has already probably started telling you about. The things where, if you go back and tell people you were in Austin, they’re gonna say “Oh, did you have BBQ and tacos (maybe even breakfast tacos)?”, and you’re going to want to say “hell yes I did!”

Of course Austin is a big city now, covering a lot of area, so I’ll focus on options pretty close to the convention center, As in a mile or so walking distance, after all we’re archaeologists, we’re used to walking!

For now, let’s start with barbecue. As a note, Central Texas BBQ focuses on the “Texas Trinity”, which is brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. They should be slow smoked, and sauce is considered something that is an add-on, not a part of the BBQ. Brisket (in my ideal) comes with the bark on (the crusty exterior where the seasoning is), and can be ordered lean/dry or fatty/moist. Try some by itself, and then make a fold using the pickles, onions, and white bread that comes with it.

Lucky for you, four of the best BBQ options in Austin are within walking distance! Don’t take my word for it, check the BBQ Snob’s Top 50 in Texas list (although technically Mickelthwait is #51).

In no particular order:

Franklin Barbecue- 900 E. 11th

aka #1 on the list, winner of many awards and accolades, the best brisket in the world. Seriously amazing, and my favorite (sorry Tom and Mark), but it comes with a price: THE LINE. If you want to eat Franklin BBQ, which opens at 11 am, you will need to be in line by 9 am, and maybe as early as 8 on the weekends. If you’re not there by 11 at the latest, you probably won’t get food (or at least brisket, which is the whole point). If you are near the back, you might not eat until 1 or later. Yes, 4-5 hours in line. You can BYOB, bring a chair, and they also sell beer in line. It’s a nice place to meet people. BUT, you will basically be sacrificing a good chunk of one day of the SAAs to eat there.

Mickelthwait Craft Meats – 1309 E Rosewood Avenue

Down the road from Franklin, one of the many great food trailers we have in Austin. There is sometimes a line around opening (11 am) to noon, especially on weekends, but not long and moves pretty fast. Tom has the best beef rib in Austin, great brisket and pulled pork and amazing ribs. The sausage, however, is their specialty. They’re handmade from Tom’s recipes, and may include things like lamb, duck, and pork belly. You won’t usually know until you get there. They also have my favorite sides, including jalapeno cheese grits! Finally, have a homemade whoopie pie to finish your meal. They’re BYOB, and there’s a convenience store practically next door. Also a great outdoor seating area of picnic tables on a nice day. Last, but not least, they stay open later on Wednesday through Saturday (as late as 8, or until they sell out) so dinner there is an option.

John Mueller Meat Co. – 2500 E 6th St

John Mueller is a legend in Austin BBQ, both for his meats and his brusque demeanor. His BBQ trailer is on east 6th, closer to the bars (but past them). He’s also well known for his beef rib (and refused to enter the Austin Chronicle Beef Rib competition) and brisket. I have to admit, I’ve only had his food once, and that was catered at a tailgate so not the way it was intended. But he has his devoted fans and consistently ranks among the best in Texas. Also note that John Mueller stays open until 6 (or until sold out), so they are a late afternoon option as well. I think they sell beer there?

la Barbecue – 1200 E 6th St.

They call themselves “Cuisine Texicana” (see the webpage). They are the closest place to the Convention Center (worth eating) and right in the middle of the EastSide bar crawl. There is an interesting history here: La is owned by John Mueller’s sister LeAnn, and John was the original cook (he doesn’t want to be called pit boss) at what was called JMuellers. At some point, they stole (my words) John Lewis from Franklin, and then LeAnn fired John, which lead to this place being called la, and John opening his trailer. Then, la moved from their South First St location (closer to my house) onto East Sixth. ANYWAY, I’ve actually only had La once, when it was JMueller, and I don’t know who was the cook that day but it was excellent but not amazing and maybe a little overseasoned. Another place constantly ranked high with diehard fans, and also a close lunch option during the meetings (another place open 11 am till sold out).

And a place I’ve heard about and gets good buzz, but haven’t been at all is Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, on 600 West 6th Street behind Star Bar. One nice thing about here is that they’re open late (mostly bar hours to feed the hungry drunks of west Austin). Another is that you can enjoy BBQ, or tacos, or both (they have a brisket taco). Looking at the menu, I might even try this by the time the SAAs roll around, even if it means going into yuppie bro-ville. And, speaking of tacos, the next entry (hopefully on Friday) will cover the other favorite food of Austin: TACOS.

Some final notes on BBQ.

People might mention Salt Lick. If you have a car and want a Texas-y place in a beautiful Hill Country setting (and BYOB) then you might consider a dinner at Salt Lick. But the food there is average. It’s an experience place, not a gastronomical delight.

The Iron Works is right by the convention center. Convenience is the only thing it has going. It’s not good.

Stubb’s is a huge place on River on the edge of the entertainment district, and has a huge outdoor music venue and smaller indoor place. They sell great sauces at the grocery store, and you might stop by HEB and pick up a bottle of theirs, and some Franklin sauce too. But the barbecue is average at best. You can do better nearby, especially at lunch.

There are BBQ trailers set up around downtown catering to the bar crowds. I’ve never had any. The smoke smells good, and if you’re out at 11 pm and craving a chopped or sliced beef sandwich you might give them a try. But no guarantees.

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