Tuesday, June 19, 2012

24 Hours In...Austin, TX

Austin City Limits
So you have nary a day to soak up one of the country's most electrifying cities? Well let an experienced guide..umm, guide you with our exciting new report that--in a spirit of unbridled originality--we have elected to call '24 Hours In...'

Austin, TX

Home to the most liberal population within a 2,785 kilometer radius, Austin, Texas is commonly regarded as an isolated bastion of sensibility submerged amidst an endless sea of card-carrying lunatics. This is incontrovertible truth. But to me, that doesn't make the city any more endearing. In fact, it makes it all the more terrifying. If I per chance stumble beyond these friendly confines with California license plates firmly affixed to my eco-friendly hybrid (I don't actually own one, but it is implied) I'll almost certainly be chainsaw massacred in seconds flat. Nobody will come to search for my bloodied remains.

Nonetheless, if you are traveling across the country via the traditional southern route--typically involving unsavory swaths of i-10--you are bound to traverse endless miles worth of Texas, and so you owe it to yourself to spend at least a day in this unexpected outpost of hip bars, great BBQ and most importantly, incredible live music.

For me, the only way to bare the sweltering climate (meteorological and cultural) of this part of the country is to drink...heavily. Thankfully Austin is home to some of the best microbrews in all of Texas. Skip the rest and head straight for the best: Independence Brewery (3913 Todd Lane). It's here in this unassuming, industrial part of town that owner Rob Cartwright and his wife Amy produce their tasty-ass craft beer for the lucky people of southeastern Texas. They opened the warehouse in 2004 and
Rob Cartwright of Independence Brewery

their artful array of ales, lagers and stouts have been getting more and more refined ever since. You can snag bottles of their sensational Stash IPA or crave-worthy Convict Hill Stout from most package stores around town. But on the first Saturday of every month, Rob and Co. open the doors to the brewery, offering free samples while supplies last. Live music and local food abounds and well-behaved pooches are welcome to join in on the fun. This is the ideal venue from which to get your hands on some of their limited edition seasonal suds, like  Lupulust Tripel--a heavily-hopped Belgian  clocking in at 9% ABV. If you are looking for something a little more suited to continued consciousness, I highly suggest Independence Pale Ale. It's an intense, rusty blast of bitterness yet still session-worthy with a sensible 5.6% ABV.

All of this beer drinking is bound to build up an insatiable appetite for a bountiful daytime feast. And when you're in Texas there's really only two dining options at every meal: Tacos or BBQ. Since you're already in the general neighborhood you might as well check out the innovative fare that's cooked up on the daily at Torchy's Tacos (1311 South 1st Street). This is not your mom's Mexican eatery. The menu here is chock full of insanely Gringified delicacies like the famous Trailer Park featuring sumptuous southern fried chicken, green chiles and poblano sauce. And when in Rome...you might as well get it 'trashy,' which means removing that menacing green lettuce and replacing it with copious amounts of greasy queso. Torchy's also rewards its loyal patrons with a slew of off-menu specialties like the unearthly Ace of Spades taco. You have to eat this multi-meated monster to believe it, so I'll just hold off on the description and assure you to order it...NOW.

Torchy's Trailer Park Taco
If all of this lusciously-larded lunching somehow doesn't activate your appetite or your type-II diabetes, perhaps it's BBQ that floats your boat. Well sail away my friend, you've arrived in one of the galaxy's premiere destinations for slow-cooked carnivorous cravings (I can't vouch for any meat prepared beyond the confines of the Milky Way). If it's still early enough in the afternoon--and you are blessed with pristine Karma--perhaps you'll be fortunate enough to scarf down some pulled pork and life-altering beef brisket from Franklin Barbecue (900 East 11th Street) before they run out, as they usually do, seemingly before noon. This unforgettable, finger-licking affair is notable for the juiciness of their fare and their sizable portions. Come hungry and be preferably several pounds underweight because I don't see how you could avoid obesity if you lived within 10 miles of this place. They recently received a huge heaping of hype from famously-fancied idiots who have even larger followings than the Revolting Blog, so be prepared to line-up and wait. It is after all only fitting that you should be herded like cattle before gorging yourselves on unsustainable amounts of cooked cow.

Stubb's Bar-B-Q
By this time of day, if you have any common decency whatsoever, you're clearly craving some big-time cocktails and live, local jams. And if you don't know, now you know: 6th Street is the place to be when you wanna keep it weird in Austin. The epicenter of any bar crawl, this thoroughfare is closed down most nights of the weekend creating a promenade of drunken revelry underpinned by the thumping array of diverse music wafting out the doorways of each and every establishment. If its rock or blues-related, there's a band playing it somewhere on or around 6th Street. But there's perhaps no more eclectic a mix of boppin' beats than what you'll find on stage at Stubb's Bar-B-Q (801 Red River Street) The self-avowed home of 'cold beer and live music' continues the proud tradition of southern rock that was once pioneered by the licks of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely and John Lee Hooker. While you're enjoying the tunes, be sure to sip on one of the most beloved local libations: the Mexican Martini. Described as the Margaritas more sophisticated older sister, it basically takes those classic ingredients and embellishes the flavor with a little bit of Sprite and some jalapeƱo-stuffed olives.

The Salt Lick

If you're anything like me, you'll probably be chased out of town sometime before downing your final 6 cocktails but just slightly after descending into a foggy haze of unforgivable debauchery. But prior to your designated driver questioning his/her friendship with you on a very fundamental level, make sure they bring you to the most obligatory pitstop in all of Texas: The Salt Lick (18300 Farm to Market Road 1836). This cafeteria-sized eatery features one of the most-photographed BBQ pits in the Western Hemisphere. Please post it to Facebook ASAP so you can make all of your friends jealous of your insurmountable originality. Located on the outer periphery of the metropolitan area, the Lick prides itself on unabashed Hill Country hospitality. And by hospitality I'm not suggesting that they'll be pleased to have you. Heavens, no. I simply mean that they'll actually let you bring in your own beer and will even ice it down as you go to town on $20 all-you-can-shovel-into-your-mouth smoked meats. The brisket is good, and the pulled pork more than serviceable, but the ribs are the real stand out here. Fill up a hearty plate of leftovers for you to take on the road with you because you're not going to find anything this good for hundreds of miles in any direction. Unfortunately there's no hope of you leaving this place feeling even remotely comfortable in your waistband, even if you're wearing sweatpants--especially if you're wearing sweatpants--everything is bigger in Texas, as they say. But have no shame; you just fucked the shit out of this city in less than one calendar day. Now quickly get the hell out of here and don't even consider coming back until it's time for Austin City Limits.

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