Five days in Austin (visit #3)

You're my Butter Half mural in Austin
Bugsy and the atx sculpture

Austin is our favorite big-city Airstream destination! The campground is more conveniently located than any hotel, and the running, eating, and drinking are top-notch. Give me a scenic run along a river, a fish taco, and a beer, and I am a happy girl.

This visit we hit most of our favorites from previous stays (visit #1, visit #2) and checked out a couple new spots, for fancy dinners and exploring the city.

Campground

We always stay at Pecan Grove RV Park, the best urban campground in our Airstreaming experience. If there’s a better one out there, please tell us in the comments and we’ll happily do a comparison trip!

Pecan Grove is quiet and the location cannot be beat: it’s a short walk to numerous food trucks, and a slightly longer walk to cocktails and fancy restaurants. We’ve walked across the river into downtown for shopping and eating, and we’ve ridden our bikes beyond downtown to the breweries in the East Side. Be sure to reserve at Pecan Grove far in advance.

Eating

Fish tacos, food trucks, bbq, burgers, and doughnuts

Turf n Surf tacos in Austin

We went to Turf ‘n’ Surf twice. Yes, with all the amazing food to eat in Austin, we ate at one place twice. It’s that good! I think the blackened sea bass taco is the best; J liked the sirloin (that’s not a fish taco!!), and I’m a fan of the hushpuppies. If it’s a nice day, sit outside with your dog!

Veracruz All Natural taco in Austin

In other fish taco news, I had a fantastic experience at the Veracruz All Natural food truck in East Austin. The tortillas are a bit thicker than average, which I loved, the grilled fish has a little kick, and the mango salsa pulls it all together. Delicious. Don’t go during the lunch rush expecting to grab a quick bite.

Food trucks are the best, and Austin is loaded with them. We tried a new-to-us truck across the street from Pecan Grove, started by a vegan cardiologist: ATX Food Co. They serve healthy breakfast and lunch; our vegan lunch bowls were the ideal replenishment after a hard run around Town Lake.

A block farther along Barton Springs is the Barton Springs Picnic food truck court. Despite the convenience, we haven’t gotten food there because it’s mostly treats, with few meal options. This trip, J tried the Venezuelan truck, Four Brothers ATX. His sandwich was messy, a little spicy, and gooood.

Franklin BBQ meat

Of course J went to Franklin Barbecue. Of course! His strategy: arrive at 8:45am, take a book and a chair (Franklin supplies some chairs), consider sunscreen and/or a blanket, depending on the conditions. When I dropped him off (yeah, I’m not waiting in that line) a group was playing beer pong on a folding table. At 8:45. The doors open at 11 and close when the meat sells out, and it WILL sell out. Good luck!

One night we planned for an easy food truck dinner, but strangely all the food trucks in the neighborhood were closed. Fortunately, there’s a P. Terry’s a block from the campground–it’s actually the original store in what is now a regional chain that Southern Living Magazine declared as America’s best burger chain. They use hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, and they make a killer veggie burger! Beef burger, veggie burger, fries, shakes: we had the full experience and it was worth the ten million calories.

Voodoo Doughnuts in Austin

Speaking of millions of calories… one of our Austin traditions is getting a box of beautiful, unusual-flavored doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts and eating them in an embarrassingly short number of days. We don’t want them to get stale, do we?

Fancy food

There are many, many lists of the supposed best restaurants in Austin. How do you know whom to trust? The answer is: you don’t! Read reviews and look at pictures and pick a place (and tell us if it lands on your personal Best Of list). Using that technique, we tried two new-to-us restaurants this trip, and one old favorite. Apparently I didn’t take any photos because all the food was fantastic and I was busy stuffing my face.

First new dining adventure was at Odd Duck and it was a delight! On a busy night (maybe that’s every night there), plan for a slow pace and enjoy sharing small plates made exclusively with local ingredients. The owners started with a food trailer (a Fleetwood Mallard which they called Odd Duck, get it?), so it sort of fits our food truck theme for this visit. Also of note was a tasty fig saison from Jester King, a farm/brewery outside Austin worth the drive for day drinking in nice weather. (Read more about it on our list of favorite breweries in Austin.)

Looking at dinner options in East Austin (because we wanted post-dinner beers at Lazarus) we noticed Suerte, and then saw it on this 2018 Eater list of the 18 best new restaurants in America. It was wonderful, in large part because of their homemade masa ground from local heirloom corn. This sums up the masa, from Eater: “If the Texas sun had a fragrance, it would smell like the small, speckled tortillas…” And hey look, Suerte has ties to Odd Duck!

And finally, we returned to Uchi for sushi. So good, but so expensive. But so good. And walking distance from the campground!

Drinking

Beer

Lazarus Brewing in Austin

Lazarus is one of our favorites in Austin. It was crowded after work, but a cool scene and the beers are fab.

We also returned to ABGB, another favorite, for good beer, live music, and tasty food. Best part: we stumbled upon a craft fair on the patio and commissioned this portrait of Bugsy from Sprayed Expressions!

Pinthouse Pizza Austin

We ventured way down Lamar to Pinthouse Pizza because we’d heard good things… and while we loved the Electric Jellyfish IPA (apparently voted Austin’s best beer for the last three years) we didn’t enjoy the setting. The restaurant had a sterile strip-mall feel and was packed with lots of kids. No offense but I prefer my beer without children. Dogs, however… 🙂

Cocktails and coffee

We had cocktails at a couple bars we’ve gone to before: Juliet, right next door to Pecan Grove, and Eberly, several blocks down South Lamar on the way to Uchi. They’re both reliable places for a solid, if not spectacular (we’re spoiled by the drinks at our favorite bar at home) cocktail.

Before dinner in East Austin we hit Weather Up for cocktails. Drinks were good, but the place was very dark and very dead. We were probably there too early; we tend to be!

Gibson Street Bar is on South Lamar, in our general neighborhood, and I swear I saw it on a list of cool places to go, which I can’t find now. It was crowded with gussied-up 20-somethings, which made for top-notch people-watching. That’s a lot of hyphens in one sentence. I noted that my cocktail was yummy but I only remember the entertainment from our fellow patrons.

Coffee: returned to Stonehouse (which is now Merit Coffee) to sit inside with a laptop, and Opa! to sit outside with a Bugsy.

Exploring

Running

Bugsy in downtown Austin

I love running around Lady Bird Lake. You can assemble loops of different lengths, starting from the campground, and there are numerous places to make your dog pose for a photo. This particular spot is in an off-leash section of the path!

Patrick Swayze pillow

We’re not super into shopping, but for variety we took Bugsy strolling through the 2nd Street District and down South Congress where most (all?) shops are dog-friendly, and scored the amazing pillow above at wacky cool Triple Z Threadz.

Bugsy in Austin

While J was waiting in line at Franklin, B and I walked up the Shoal Creek Trail and came upon this Stickwork sculpture in Pease Park Conservancy. What made this discovery even more exciting to me was that I recognized it immediately: I’d seen another Stickwork sculpture a year before while walking a trail in Hillsborough, NC, with my family.

Bugsy and I wanted to see some of Austin’s famous murals (more like I wanted Bugsy to pose in front of said murals), so some of our walks and runs were designed with mural stops in mind.

You're my Butter Half mural in Austin
I like you just the way you are mural in Austin
Merry Christmas ya filthy animal mural in Austin

Holy cow, we’ve hardly scratched the surface of walls to stand Bugsy in front of! I know what the theme of next visit will be!

Day Trip

Altstadt Brewery in Fredericksburg

Austin was originally part of the itinerary for Big Trip #1, until we discovered we’d be there during SXSW. Steering clear of the chaos, we spent a few days in Fredericksburg instead. It’s a charming little Hill Country town with German roots, and well worth a day trip from Austin.

This trip, we stopped by Fredericksburg for a couple hours on the way from Alpine to Austin. Lunch was at an enormous new brewery, Altstadt, with good food, ok German beer, and weirdly huge interior spaces. After lunch we tried to walk around town, but it was pouring rain, so we bought some pecans and pecan-related goodies and hit the road. Parking the Airstream in a lot a block off the main drag was not a problem on a rainy weekday, but you may not want to try that on a pleasant weekend day.

Hopefully you understand after seeing this loooooong post why it took me so long to finish writing about Austin. We love it there and try to pack in as many eating, drinking, and exploring activities as possible! We’ll try to have a more boring trip next time so the post will be shorter 😉

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