June 3, 2013

Austin: Tacos, Beer and Bats

We weren't the only ones who thought about paying a visit to Austin, Texas. The President was also in town. Obama's presence killed our barbeque buzz, only the scent remained. Some may like the fragrance eau de toilette, but you could say we prefer eau de barbeque. We were giddy as can be until we were stuck in traffic. By the time we had arrived at our hotel - it took us longer to drive to Austin from Lockhart than it did to fly to San Antonio from Las Vegas - we were beat and napped at Extended Stay, our home for the night.

A couple hours later, we woke refreshed; we were still smelling like BBQ, and it must have worked up a appetite because there is no other reason we should be hungry. We set off for Torchy's Tacos. On the way, we were fortunate to see the emergence of the Mexican free-tailed bats at dusk from beneath the Congress Avenue bridge. The bridge spans the Colorado River. No, not that Colorado River. It is home to the largest urban bat colony, they are migratory and spend the summer in Austin. It is an amazing sight to see. I wish I would've captured a photo. A quick google image search will turn up photos of what we experienced. It's definitely not something you see everyday (well, outside of Austin).

Torchy's Tacos began in Austin as a food trailer. Today, it has several locations in Austin, Houston. Fort Worth and Dallas. We dined at the original, which funnily enough it is a trailer park. Frank and I were taken by it immediately. The food truck culture is strong in Austin. It's wonderful to see entrepreneurial spirit alive and well. We wanted to try a bit of everything, but settled on guacamole, and green chile pork, brushfire and kingpin tacos. We were given a number, and our food was brought over to us at the picnic table where we were seated. The guacomole had some kick, it was delicious.

The tacos were quite good, if San Diego wasn't a regular getaway these probably would've been among the best tacos I've had outside of Mexico. The green chile was your standard carnitas, but the tomatillo sauce was outstanding, with a fair amount of heat and not too much acidity. The brushfire had jerk chicken with mango, jalapeno and diablo sauce. The kingpin was a special with carnitas, plantains, black beans and avocado sauce.

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We couldn't possibly eat anymore so we opted to find a bar to belly up to, The Ginger Man, was the perfect spot. They have a stellar beer selection. Plus, seating outdoors. When the rain stopped we went outside and watched the storms form above. Prices were pretty good, five bucks for Texas brews, other microbrews and imports were a buck or two more. I had Shiner Wild Hare and St Arnold Amber. We could have stayed longer but Frank was itching to check out a cigar bar that we had passed on the way called Halcyon.

We spent hours on the patio at Halcyon. I was drinking Real Ale Fireman’s #4, while Frank enjoyed Crown Royal on the rocks and a smoke. We had a killer lightning storm to keep us entertained. Storms are the one thing I miss from living in the midwest. Lightning makes this desert girl unbelievably happy. There were even some rumblings of thunder.

The rain kept us from walking around the city. I caught a couple snapshots while driving around before we hit the bars. The Capital Building is really beautiful and the Frost Bank Tower is interesting since it resembles an owl.

The following day, we had an early lunch at Habanero Mexican Cafe. We were seeking Tex Mex and supposedly it's the best. There was a wait, but tables turned over quickly. They have excellent salsa to get you started and we also had the chile con queso. It too was tasty. Then, we dug into Nachos Habanero and Fajita Ranchera, same as regular fajitas only with jalapenos. The beef fajitas were a bit tough, I didn't care for the corn tortillas, but aside from that is was a tasty lunch for $25. However, we'd likely call it quits with Tex Mex from here out.

After lunch, I wanted to go to Ladybird lake for a nice photo of the skyline. I must have kept bad notes because it did not offer a good photo opportunity.

We bailed on Ladybird Lake and drove up to Travis Lake. I had seen stunning photos of the Oasis and wanted some of my own. Little did I know that the Oasis is a lot like Lake Las Vegas. It was planned by someone with big dreams that were never fully fulfilled. The place was a ghost town. Two shops were open and one restaurant. The rest was shuttered. We stayed for signature margaritas; $19 later we were on our way.

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We saw that we were near Mansfield Dam so we stopped to have a look since we have a mild facination with dams. The dam is on the Colorado River it is 278 feet high, 7,089 feet long, and 213 feet thick at the base.

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From there we headed back to Lockhart via Austin. We had to get another fix of barbeque. With the lingering scent in the rental car, we couldn't have it any other way.

Our time in Austin was far too brief. Aside from Oasis, Austin is booming. I love to see a city thriving. Seeing all the cranes spread across the skyline reminded me a lot of Vegas a few years ago. I hope the future holds good things for the city of Austin. We'll be back! Keep on, keeping it weird.

Torchy's Tacos on UrbanspoonHabanero Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

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