If you had a perfect 24 hours in Austin, what would you do?
Perfect…hmmm. Not to dodge question one, but I’ve had plenty of perfect days not leaving the house. And I’ve had jam-packed perfect days I couldn’t hope to repeat even if I made stops at all the same spots. I suppose the only truly successful routines I have are food-oriented. Indulge me while put on my food critic hat?
Breakfast – The Clarskville location of Galaxy Café for the French toast or Mexican Breakfast. (We eat here a couple time a week…don’t miss the whipped sweet potatoes and chicken bowtie pasta for dinner). Galaxy’s quick, but if we needed even faster, the migas breakfast taco at El Chilito would be a solid second choice.
Late Morning - A trip to the 2nd Street District. I’m a fan of the “new” downtown. I wouldn’t live there – and wonder who’s actually inhabiting all those new condos- but it’s an excellent place to visit. The new Jo’s is a must-stop, the whole strip is pedestrian and dog friendly, and the window-shopping/people-watching is getting good.
Lunch - South Congress. A slice at Home Slice or a sausage Panini at Enoteca Vespaio. As another South Austin alternative, there’s Baby Greens…the drive-thru salad concept is downright genius.
Dinner - If it’s a special occasion, you can’t beat Hudson’s On The Bend. Start with the rattlesnake cakes, follow with the chocolate-espresso rubbed elk and you’ll have a dinner to talk about for the ages. Less expensive favorites include the perennially popular (and well deservedly so) Vespaio and the new Daily Grill at the Domain (the chicken pot pie is literally the size of your head).
After Dinner Drink - The Four Seasons. There’s no better bar in Austin for people-watching and star-sighting. Sure, drinks are expensive, but first-class atmosphere and service ain’t ever been cheap.
Dessert - The Driskill. Their 1886 Café & Bakery is hands-down the best pastry/desert spot in town – so good it’s worth fighting Sixth Street for.
You've seen and interviewed rock stars at most of the venues in town. What resonates about a venue with you, and do you have a favorite?
Great venues feature bookings and performances that perfectly balance artist-friendly and fan-friendly concerns, the interests of art and commerce, and acts that are local and touring. Great sightlines, good sound, and adequate space to move around are bonuses. The examples of those who do it right are endless, but start with Antone’s, Stubb’s, Emo’s, The Continental Club, The Cactus Café, Threadgill’s World Headquarters, La Zona Rosa, The Saxon Pub, Momo’s, The Parish and the Mohawk. These are all big-name, well-known clubs for a reason. I spend the bulk of my time between Antone’s and Stubb’s, but that’s a personal preference; as much as it sounds like a cop-out, if you’re presenting live music and can get people out to see it, I’m loathe to say any one venue is a bad choice.
Where would you take someone from out of town? What do you consider uniquely Austin?
Most of my guests end up at the grocery. I much prefer the original Central Market to the fancy flagship Whole Foods, but either will impress even the most-jaded out-of-towners. They enter skeptical and leave overwhelmed and jealous. Supermarket Capitol Of The World might be a good city slogan if the music well dries up. As for other uniquely Austin spots, most of my out-of-town guests at some point wind up at some combination of the Hotel San Jose bar, Las Manitas, Guero’s, Vespiao and Waterloo Records.
Is there a spot you would prefer to keep undiscovered?
The super-tiny upstairs bar at Starlite (I like to call it the “Anne Frank Suite”) is intimate and quiet. Dinner reservations aren’t required. I’d love for it to succeed, but secretly I’d prefer if the Triangle location of Flipnotics stayed as low-key as it’s been…the coffee is excellent and the lack of lines makes it Central Austin’s easiest in-and-out coffee experiences.
Do you have a favorite spot in your neighborhood?
Two. First off, Genuine Joe’s coffee. Great coffee, good muffins, and nice stay-all-day atmosphere. Plus, a dog and cigarette-friendly porch. What more could you ask for? Second: Little Deli. Absolutely unbeatable handmade sandwiches in what looks like the shopping center that time forgot.
Brunch or late night eats? Compare and Contrast.
I’ve already mentioned the Galaxy’s brunch, but I also darken the doorway of Manny Hattan’s on occasion – never has a bad day begun with an omelet and a bowl of matzoh ball soup. As for the great late-night debate, I’m partial to Kerbey over Magnolia, although not by a wide margin. The short stack at Kerbey has always struck me as just a little more consistent.
You're not much of a drinker, but where would you recommend someone go for a good pour?
The places I like – primarily Club De Ville, the original Opal Devine’s, and the Longbranch – tend to be easy, low-frill hangs. They’re bar’s bars built around lounging and talking – not hustling drinks. Lovejoys also fits the bill, although I get there less often than perhaps I should. I’m also a long-time fan/friend of Fourth Street impresarios Matt Luckie and Will Muntz; Matt’s Belmont and Will’s Lucky Lounge aren’t like the bars mentioned above, but definitely make the cut for quality, consistency, and friendliness.
What's a spot that you warn people away from?
As a whole, Sixth Street just isn’t what it used to be – nor is it terribly representative of nightlife in Austin. Maybe it’s that I’m not in college. But have you ever waited in line for the Parish and seen the kind of folks that consider Sixth Street fun? Most of em’ have fake-ID’s or are brides-to-be plastered in sex toys, celebrating their last night of freedom. Post-Steamboat, post-Black Cat, there’s exactly four reasons to be near anywhere Sixth –Best Wurst, Casino El Camino and yes, The Parish. (Lovejoys and the side-door of Emo’s don’t count). I’m not much of a South Austin guy, but there’s more soul in a half block of South Congress than the entire run of Sixth.
Above: Andy interviewing Los Lonely Boys.