There's a Yellow Rose of Texas


...that I am going to see (well, actually I went and saw it this weekend).

That's right - spent the weekend in Austin, TX and really enjoyed it. To sum up Austin in one sentence, "It's like Madison with a southern accent."

Took off from NW Arkansas at around 4pm on Friday, and the first order of business was to stop at the McKinney, Texas Culver's. Nothing like a good burger, some curds, and some fries at 9:00pm.


That's not really on the diet, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to cheat a bit this weekend. I've been increasing my run distances in preparation for doing a 70.3 (or "half-IronMan" as some refer to it), so consuming a few additional calories wasn't going to hurt too much. ...or so I try to tell myself.

Rolled in to Austin at around midnight, and stayed at a favorite hotel, the Hyatt Place. For those not familiar, the Hyatt Place is a "younger" Hyatt - the rooms feature a 42" LCD television with a media center, free wireless internet, and a big sectional couch with a big leather ottoman. The rates are reasonable to boot, and they've got 24 hour food service - you can stroll down to the lobby at 3:00am and order anything from a Caesar Salad to a Chocolate Chunk cookie with milk. Since they're relatively new, the rooms are fresh, and that's always a bonus.

I went for a run on Saturday morning - it was brisk to say the least - about 45F and extremely windy. The weather channel showed wind gusts of around 35mph; that'll slow you down a bit... after working up a great appetite, it was over to the infamous Magnolia Cafe for some breakfast.


Their slogan is, "Sorry - We're Open" because they're open 24/7, and it seems like they're busy 24/7.... there was about a 30 minute wait at 9:00 in the morning. People were lined-up everywhere, but the Magnolia makes it easy to wait because they've got an agreement with a boutique store next door - when they call your name for a table, the store has a speaker in it so you can shop at the store and still hear them call you for your table. It's a great idea if you ask me. While at the store, I stumbled across a book called "The Fearless Critic" - it reviews the majority of Austin's restaurants, and it's brutally honest. Not terribly accurate in my humble opinion, but brutal.


After spending time at the store, the table was ready and it was time to chow down. With my tummy rumblin', I ordered the breakfast tacos - a toasty flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, a little cheese, some Canadian bacon, and some red potatoes. Thanks to some confusion on my part, I only received one taco, but it was just enough to fill me up. To say it was delicious would be doing it a disservice - it was far better than delicious.


While at the cafe, there was this little guy who posed for a picture - one of the great things about Austin is how informal and "down to earth" it is. No one dresses up for anything, and it seems to be perfectly acceptable to bring your dog into most places. Talk about cool.


Breakfast was great, but I was still a tad hungry, so from the Magnolia, it was over to Ken's Dougnuts. Ken's was identified as "the best" doughnut shop by the Fearless Critic book, so it was worth a try.


Looks good, right? Well, don't always judge a book by it's cover. The place had promise - it was small, located in a horrible location, had terrible customer service, yet earned rave reviews... unfortunately, Ken failed to deliver the goods. The doughnuts were greasy and had an "old grease" taste to them. The dough wasn't light and fluffy - it was damp and icky. What a disappointment. :-(

But, recovery was just around the corner - from Ken's, it was off to tour the various triathlon and bike shops in Austin. Austin is extremely tri-friendly thanks to the Barton Springs pool, Town Lake Park, and harboring an "outdoors-friendly" attitude. It doesn't hurt that Lance Armstrong makes his home in Austin, either...

First stop was at the infamous Jack and Adam's Bike Shop on Barton Springs Road. I've read about this place quite a bit online, and have heard a lot about it on the message boards, so it warranted an in person visit. It's a small place for sure, but they seem to carry a lot of great stuff.


From Jack and Adam's, it was over to the Austin Tri Cyclist or "ATC" as folks refer to it. ATC is nothing to look at from the outside - in fact, I drove clear past it without even noticing it. How I missed this place is beyond me:


I really liked the ATC. They had a ton of gear there - more carbon wheels than you could shake a stick at, tons of high end frames, a great selection of clothing and accessories, and a bunch of stuff you wouldn't normally find at any 'ole bike shop. I bought a few shirts and they even threw in a freebie t-shirt just for stopping by. That was pretty cool. While in the store, I watched as a guy spec'd out a new bike - a Cervelo P3C (which is about $4500 for the frame alone) and judging from the components he was looking at, I'm going to say his total bill was going to easily approach $10k.

From ATC, it was back to the downtown area for some bumming around and then I spent some time on the SW side of Austin. With dinner fast approaching, the locals suggested a place called Z Tejas. It's grown from a small house on 6th Street in Austin to a nationwide chain of restaurants.


Once again, "Z" didn't disappoint - the little house looked, well, "little" from the outside, but it was quite expansive on the inside. They even have a "breezeway" that connects the original house to a larger, newer addition that's located next door. After a quick wait, the hostess called with a table. The margaritas were awesome - I'd highly recommend them:


I'd also recommend the queso trio appetizer - wow. It was absolutely fantastic:


And finally, the main course, a seared tuna steak with fresh veggies, was capital I-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. Oh so good.


The tuna was supposed to come with a mustard/bbq glaze, but I asked for it on the side - I loved how they wrote "Z Tejas" with the mustard in the glaze. :-) The whole dinner experience was fantastic - there wasn't a single thing that could've been any better. The only regret was that dinner was over too fast.

The meal was so good in fact, that the cornbread, which looked amazing, went largely untouched - it wasn't until the end of the meal that I tried a piece of it. And, surprise - it was yummy!


From Z Tejas, it was over to one of the most spectacular grocery stores on the planet - Whole Foods. For those not familiar with this grocery chain, there's no possible way that I can do it any justice by describing it. It's such an experience - they have everything imaginable at the store, from top quality meats and fair trade organic locally grown vegetables to Earth shoes, wine, and gourmet pastries.

The Austin store is the "anchor" store - you can go to cooking classes, eat a 5-star lunch/dinner, and shop for tons of kitchen gadgets at this culinary Mecca. I could only get a blurry shot of it, so apologies for the poor photo:


After a busy day, it was time to hit the rack. Got up fairly early on Sunday morning with the intention of visiting the walking trails, but the weather was still chilly and breakfast sounded a lot more inviting than a walking trail. Back downtown, this time to Jo's Coffee for some grub:


Got there just in time - a crowd assembled and people were waiting for a table immediately after breakfast was ordered. What was ordered?


Migas! Migas are scrambled eggs, with tomatoes, corn tortillas, peppers, and onions. They're served with flour tortillas, black beans (these had cheese as well), and a side of potatoes. Yummy!

As filling as Jo's was, I still had a craving for a good doughnut, so it was time to consult the Fearless Critic. This time, the Critic suggested Mrs. Johnson's Bakery, and I must say, Mrs. Johnson, whoever she is, knows how to make a good doughnut. Ken - pay attention - Mrs. Johnson has got it goin' on.


The place is open from like 9pm through about noon, and I got there at about 11:30, so they threw in 2 free doughnuts. I didn't complain, nor did my fat cells - they said, "Hey, thanks!!"

On the way out of Austin, the Jetta made a quick stop at IKEA - just to browse. IKEA is another one of those awesome stores that "does it right" - their store is well organized, the prices are fantastic, the quality isn't bad, and they've got tons of cool gear.


It wasn't fun to leave Austin - the city was great, and the prospect of an 8 hour drive wasn't real attractive. Especially when you're cruising the open road... with nothing to see or do...


So, to break the monotony of the highway, there was one more stop at:



That made things a little better. Here I am, cruisin' down the road. Hope you all had a good weekend.


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on March 2, 2009 9:10 AM.

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