THE KALEJUNKIE DISH: MY TRIP TO AUSTIN, A TRAVEL GUIDE
THE KALEJUNKIE DISH: MY TRIP TO AUSTIN
a travel guide
Austin is one of those cities that, visit once, and you’ll find yourself plotting to come back. Or who knows, maybe you’ll be super gutsy, and pack up your bags, and actually move to Austin. In fact, I’ve officially lost count of the number of my fellow Californian’s that have done exactly that--trading in their plush, more expensive LA and SF city lives, in favor of a city packed with a rich history, culture, artsiness, incredible dining and drinking spots, no state sales tax, and a much lower cost of living. If only I could convince my husband to move us, but I digress...
I first visited this magical city on a trip last year with one of my favorite food brands, Siete Foods. It was on this trip that I fell in love with the midwest charm, the people, and of course, the FOOD. From hearty bone broth, to loaded toasts, adaptogenic lattes, dim sum, vegan desserts, TACOS, ice cream, craft coffee, and more TACOS, you can find it all here.
So when my girlfriends (Jaime Foster, the Founder & CEO of Georgia Grinders and Jessica Luengo, Founder & CEO of Naturally Clean Eats) and I were trying to pick a place in the U.S. to meet for a much needed girls trip, you better believe I was the first one to say, “AUSTIN, BITCHES. WE NEED TO GO TO AUSTIN.” Thankfully, they were on board, and over the last few days, we spent our time here eating and drinking at as many places as we could, shopping, and exploring. We even managed to sneak in a workout.
I’m definitely not an Austin expert; I’m quite the NEWB. So I’m not writing this article with the intention of coming off as a self-proclaimed Austin expert. But I do know what I like, and since I loved every single spot we went to on this trip, along with the places I went to the last time I was here, I thought I’d put together a little trip recap for you.
I give full credit to my friend Jessica, the owner and founder of Naturally Clean Eats, for planning the itinerary for this trip. Because if there’s something you should know about me, it’s that I’m not a planner. I like to fly by the seat of my pants, and because of that, I’ve been known to waste a lot of time. I’ve learned that some planning is good, while leaving room for flexibility in between, and in this case, it was perfect. So here it is - the KALEJUNKIE Austin trip recap, along with a few of my favorite places from my last trip here.
Arrive in Austin, Texas
Take an Uber and check into the South Congress Hotel. Note, when we were researching hotels, the decision came down to the South Congress Hotel and The Line Hotel. We chose The South Congress because of its location and because it’s a smaller, boutique hotel with lots of character, and personally, I like smaller hotels more than the larger ones. It’s in the prime entertainment district of Austin, and walking distance to a plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, and local shops. And because I’m one for rating the customer service, I thought it was perfect. The people that work at the hotel were super friendly and accommodating, and indulged all my requests to take pictures. And as a blogger, you know that’s important. There’s also a fabulous bar inside the hotel, Cafe NoSe, and Manana Coffee sitting just outside the hotel. Basically everything I need within a few feet from one another. I highly recommend staying here.
Late lunch at Cafe No Se. Cafe No Se is located in the hotel, and it’s an all day cafe known for their seasonal menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sunday brunch. It also happens to be super cute inside, and very Instagrammable. We started with the Cafe Spread appetizer, which was a blend of hummus, tabbouleh, israeli salad, and warm pita bread. I thought it was OKAY. It wasn’t my favorite thing, but I did enjoy my entree! I ordered the Shredded KALE salad, which had kale, cauliflower, crispy rice, currants, dill cucumber, and a sherry vinegar vinaigrette; super light and super refreshing. We also may or may not have had a spicy margarita (or two), but I guess you’ll never really know.
Freshen up and get ready for drinks at Midnight Cowboy. If you like craft cocktails, this is your spot. And take note, you need to make reservations or it isn’t happening; don’t even try. To be honest, I’m not a cocktail person. So while this place was certainly top notch when it comes to creativity with the drinks (I mean, hello, the menu is a Passport with drinks inspired by different parts of the world), it’s not a place I would come back. I’d go grab a glass of wine somewhere or a plain vodka martini.
Dinner at Licha’s Cantina. If you are craving authentic and insanely delicious, casual Mexican food, I definitely recommend this place. It’s a restaurant in an old home, serving up the best TACOS I’ve had. Note, we ordered a side of guac for the chips, and it was totally underwhelming. Margaritas were pretty good. I ordered the special beef brisket tacos, and I’ll be dreaming of them for the next year. It’s pretty cheap too!
We are all pooped out from a long day of travel. Instead of going out on Rainey Street, all three of us traveling Grandma’s decided to turn in, get a good night of sleep, and get ready for our workout the next morning.
Wake up and get coffee!
I walked over to Manana Coffee, which is attached to our hotel. I absolutely love this place, and discovered it on our last Austin trip. If you have some work to do, bring your laptop, order a latte, a fresh pastry, and plop yourself down at a table. One of the yummiest drinks there is the Golden Milk Latte, it’s packed with turmeric and ginger! They also have a frige filled with local kombucha, water, nut milks, coconut based yogurts, granola, and more. It also happens to be a very Instagrammable spot.
Go get more coffee, this time at the famous Jo’s Coffee, because you can’t come to Austin without visiting the famous “I Love You So Much” wall and take a picture there. I did order an almond milk latte just because we were there, and it was okay. I’d say go for the photo opp and move along your day.
Time to workout! I’m sure there are some great, local workout studios in Austin, but we decided to sign up for the Soul Cycle Activate class. And hot damn, it was 60 minutes of interval training. We busted our asses, worked hard, detoxed our system, and felt like a million bucks. And please note, I’m not a huge Soul Cycle person, but this Activate class might have just made me one. The time passed fast and there wasn’t a ton of bopping up and down.
After our sweat sesh, we got back to the hotel, showered, and decided to head to Josephine House for lunch. Note, I had peeped the menu in advance, and was heart set on the toast piled high with avocado, smoked salmon, egg, and lobster, but because we went on a weekday, they didn’t have it. But not to fear, I ordered this Rice Bowl, filled with wild rice, poached egg, guacamole, corn, tomatoes, grilled asparagus, and wild shrimp. It was out of this world. The ambiance is also super cute, and they have a cute little area filled with all the baked goods you could ever want. I highly recommend this place.
After lunch, we decided to be adventurous and walk around, popping into a few stores here and there, but nothing too exciting. But on our way back to the hotel, we came across designer boutique By George, and yes, I got sucked in, and purchased my very own black leather jacket. Talk about a splurge, but I’m ok with it. After doing some damage here, we went back to the hotel, each got on our laptops and did some work (the entrepreneur life!), while plotting our next stop, Feathers Vintage Store. Feathers is literally across the street from our hotel. Feathers is one of the best vintage stores I’ve been to in a LONG time. The prices were fair and the quality and selection of good was top notch. Jessica found the greatest vintage Texas t-shirt, and I walked out with vintage Levi’s bell bottoms, which I guarantee you’ll be seeing a lot of on Instagram, so get ready for it.
Freshen up and get ready for drinks! I have to hand it to Jess for doing all the planning, because knowing me, I would have skipped all the bars all together, opting instead to sit in my room with a smoothie. But getting out sometimes is fun and it’s much needed. So off to the Boiler Nine we went. We walked inside the restaurant and were directed to a downstairs, dark bar, where we were the only ones there. We shared some roasted brussel sprouts, each had a glass of wine, chatted about our kids and all that jazz, and then took an Uber to dinner. Would I go back here? Maybe if I was with a group, but bars really aren’t my thing in general, so maybe not. But it’s super cool, unique, and worth checking out if you are into that scene!
Time to eat, and get ready for it, because Emmer & Rye was the best meal I’ve had in YEARS. Note, when Jessica told me about this restaurant, she described it to me as dim sum. So there I was thinking we were having dumplings and potstickers for dinner. But nope, it’s a true farm-to-table restaurant, with a sharing menu (everything is family style). The “dim sum” that people talk about is the fact that in between your courses, a push cart will come around and waiters offer up special items that are not on the menu, for an additional charge, of course, and you either say yes or no. I think we said yes to everything, and YES, it was heaven on earth. The waiter did ask if we had specific dietary preferences, and although I try to keep my diet dairy and gluten free, I didn’t want to kibosh this experience in any way, so I just went for it. My favorite dish was a house made ravioli, and a red snapper crudo. Oh, and let’s talk about the bread. Normally I’m not into bread that much. This was the best F’ing bread I’ve ever had in my entire life, and that’s because they mill their own flour, make it in small batches on the premises, etc. It’s just heavenly. Would I go back? Probably not, but only because decadent meals aren’t really my thing, and Austin has so many amazing places, but if someone invited me, I certainly wouldn’t say no. It’s an experience.
The plan for after dinner was to check out either Holy Roller, a funky punk rock diner with craft cocktails, or Firehouse Speakeasy, a bar serving craft cocktails in a circa 1885 firehouse station. However, being the Grandmas that we are, we nixed both ideas, and went back to the hotel and slept!
We planned to go to Epicerie for breakfast, but since it wasn’t as close to the hotel as we thought (20 minute Uber ride from South Congress Hotel), and two of the gals had flights to catch, I suggested we go to Picnik, one of my all-time favorite Austin spots. The only “problem” is that instead of taking us to the main restaurant, we ended up at a Picnik air stream, where they had a limited menu or drinks and small bites. This was entirely my fault because I didn’t know there were multiple locations, and when I plugged in Picnik into the Uber app, that was where we went. But it’s ok. I ordered a large cup of piping hot chicken bone both, and the gluten free avocado toast, which was absolutely delicious. But don’t make the same mistake. Make sure you go to the actual restaurant for the full selection of inventive drinks and delicious eats.
After breakfast, we went over to Central Market. In San Francisco, we don’t have a Central Market, so I was excited to check it out. They had a fab selection of health food items, including both bigger and smaller brands, some healthier than others. The only thing I bought here was a few bars of Hu Kitchen Almond Butter Puffed Quinoa Chocolate.
After the girls went to the airport, I was craving a smoothie, so I had to check out Juice Society. And I am so glad I did. Not only is this place super Instagrammable, my smoothie was actually insane. I ordered the Purple Haze Smoothie, packed with antioxidants from the blueberries, and made nice and THIQ, just how I like my smoothies. Next time I will also order one of their yummy toast selections!
Next stop, yoga. I google searched ‘hot vinyasa yoga’ and Modo Yoga popped up. When I lived in LA, I used to go to Modo all the time. So I was super pumped for this class. But honestly it wasn’t great. But when it comes to exercise in general, some exercise is always better than none. So I broke a little swaet and called it a day.
After yoga I was starving, and I knew if I went home without visiting the Whole Foods Flagship store, I would regret it. So I ubered over there, and HOLY SHIT BATMAN, this is the biggest and best Whole Foods I have ever seen, from the rows and rows of salad bar items, a huge hot bar, fresh pizza, soups, plke bar, and even a fish market inside, where you can order a drink and pick out your fish from the case and they cook it up for you. The bulk section was unreal. There isn’t enough praise that I can give this place, because it was just amazing, and if you are going to Austin, it’s absolutely a MUST.
This concludes my Austin trip, and I’m already plotting ways to get back again soon. Any one want to go with me? I’m actually serious.
Here are a bunch of places recommended by all of you that we didn’t get to visit, but are on the list for next time.