Where in the hell am I?

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.


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).


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.


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!


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