Posted: 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Canes' fans, please step into my humble abode. And by abode, I mean my new city, Austin. The ATX. A place where people feel the need to make sure you know that it's WEIRD here and they want to keep it that way.
But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it's not that weird. I've seen stranger things between 5th and 21st on Ocean Drive in an afternoon than I've seen here in a year. I saw more in an hour of tailgating at the Orange Bowl (R.I.P.) than I do in an average night out on the town. But by Texas standards, this city might as well be a commune from 1967. And if you tell someone you live in Austin you will: 1) be called a hippy, 2) moaned to about the traffic, 3) be told how much they would hate to live there but ho great it is to visit.
Do numbers 2 and 3 sound familiar? Thought so. But you don't care about any of this. You only care that the Canes are playing in Austin for NCAA Tournament and that you need to know how to fill those other 42 hours where you won't be watching Hurricane basketball. So I've mapped out a whirlwind tour of food and booze to enjoy while you're here.
Austin is cheap compared to Miami. CHEAP. You can drink for a whole night for under $30. You and a date can have a great dinner (with wine! And dessert!) for under $100. Hell, for under $80. Take out the wine and it's under $50. You can drop $400 on dinner just as easily, but you're talking best meal of your life territory there.
Disconcertingly so. They will say hi. They will start conversations if you make eye-contact. Do not be afraid. Be polite back and maybe they'll buy you a drink. Or BBQ and queso.
At 2 a.m., no more drinking for you. Every bar will kick your drunk-ass out into the street to find a cab. There are no "after-hours" bars (that you'll get into) where you can veer into black-out territory. There are a few late-night clubs that turn BYOB, but those are few and far between.
At stores that is. So go out for a Booze Brunch instead.
Get ready to stand in line. A lot. Most places don't take reservations, so check the website or call ahead to make sure. It's not unheard of to wait around for an hour to get into a place for dinner because they don't take reservations. It's egalitarian and if you think you can slip a $50 into somebody's hand to by-pass the wait, have fun eating at Taco Cabana when you get turned away.
Now, onto the show.
You've landed, passed through Texas customs, been handed your obligatory revolver, and the City of Austin stretches out before you. How do you tackle all of this gloriousness? Follow along and know that I've tried to keep everything within a cheap cab ride of downtown and the arena.
Been here before? Ignore me. Have suggestions, drop them in the comments. Hate what I say? Write your own guide to ATX as a Fanpost, Mr. Judgy.
The Canes play at 1pm here (you've slipped into another time zone, remember that,) so you don't have a ton of time before the game if you've just landed and checked into your hotel, so you might want to swing by Fricano's Deli just off the UT campus for a great sandwich. It's pretty close to the arena and you can catch a glimpse of coeds if you're into that thing, you sick, sick person.
When you're done, head on over to the arena. Cheer. Clap. Pray that the Canes win. But do you know what you can't do? Get a drink. No booze in the arena. So save yourself and then go celebrate the win over on Rainey Street. Happy hour will just start popping then. What looks like a residential block with little cottages is actually a neighborhood of bars that are converted houses.
Try out Lustre Pearl for a laid back vibe, Clive for a big patio and good cocktails, Bangers if you want to eat some great sausage and drink 1 of 100 (or all 100) beers on tap, or Craft Pride, the new kid that serves only Texas Craft beer. Which, by the way, is great. Drink local, especially Austin beer, because many of them you can only find here. Want to drink local AND support a fellow Cane? Ask a bartender for a beer from Circle Brewery. Ben is a UM Alum.
What's that? You want to watch the USMNT play against Costa Rica Friday night? Go to Cuatros and no place else for soccer. It's the official home of Austin's chapter of the American Outlaws and they ALWAYS have a huge crowd. Kinda drunk and want bar food? Get the mini-corn dogs or the queso. You know what, always get queso. More often than not, it'll be good and miles better than any you get back in Florida.
The Canes don't play until Sunday, so all of Saturday stretches out before you. But not really. Because you have to get up and go get in line for Franklin BBQ by 9:30 am. Why? Because they open at 11:30 am and are usually sold out by 1pm. Don't argue with me or complain you don't want to wait in line for over two hours. Take a sixer, make friends with those around you in line and do it. This is life-changing BBQ. Look it up. Get some of everything on the menu. JUST DO IT.
You've now eaten half of a steer and need to keep moving. So head over to the Texas State Capitol and wander around. It's historic, grandiose, enormous. Exactly what you would expect of Texas. And worth the time.
Want to continue being outdoorsy? Go to Lady Bird Lake (which actually looks like a river) and paddle board or kayak. It runs right beside downtown, so you'll get to see the city from a different view.
Night is closing in now. What to do? Do you want to relive your college days? Reminisce about drinking in Coconut Grove and leering at coeds like the creepy person you are? Head to Sixth Street. Just blocks and blocks and blocks of bars. And they shut it down to cars so you can stumble wherever you want. Try Casino El Camino or any of the other bars that line the streets. Think of it like Bourbon Street minus open containers and more music.
Do you want to see live music, beyond what you can hear as you stumble around? Check out Mohawk or Red 7. Want to do a little more planning? Take a look at Showlist Austin for about every show going on this weekend.
Do you have a waxed mustache, wear spats, and painted on jeans? Head to East 6th and hang out at Cheer-up Charlie's, Shangri-La, or the Violet Crown Social Club. If you're on that side, grab some food at the trucks, especially VIA 313 or East Side King.
Want to be an adult and take your significant other to something more sedate and mature? Try Lenoir, Foreign and Domestic, Drink.Well, or Barley Swine. Show her (or him) how classy you are for a change. Maybe grab a reservation at Midnight Cowboy, a speakeasy mixology joint that took over an old Asian "Massage" Parlor for something different
Booze and Brunch time. Want a major buffet? Moonshine Grill all the way. Or maybe try Bacon, the restaurant. They make their own in house. By that time, it's (hopefully) game time again. Repeat what you did during the last game to make sure the Canes win. Same shirt, same cheering pattern. Rejoice, because we just made it to the Sweet 16.
I'm amazed you made it this far. And you're still looking for more? Twenty-six recommendations weren't enough? Well, take a look at Eater Austin for more food and drink happenings. Want to go beyond gluttony? Check out Do 512, The Austin Chronicle (ATX's version of the Miami New Times), or Austin 360 for events, shows, or whatever else you're looking for (and I'm serious about using Showlist Austin for live music.)
If all of that isn't enough, then just move here already. But if you're not staying indefinitely, check out any or all of what's up there, I guarantee you won't be disappointed. And hit me up @Apdirtybird if you want to grab a beer, cocktail, or queso. Preferably all 3.