Five days in Austin (visit #2)

running over town lake austin

bugsy at town lake austin

This was our second stay at our favorite urban campground, Pecan Grove, smack dab in the middle of one of our favorite cities, Austin. Read about our first stay here, and be sure to follow the links to the eating, drinking, and exploring posts if you want all the goods. We revisited many of our top choices from last time, and added a few more to our list of greatest hits. I’ll be doing a roundup of our Austin favorites soon, so stay tuned!

Campground

pecan grove rv park austin

Like I said last time: reserve way ahead and get a spot at Pecan Grove. Just do it. You’re welcome.

Drinking

dog on patio at opa austin

I enjoyed drinking coffee with Bugsy at Opa! near the campground. (Austin Java, a block from the campground, is also a fantastic option for coffee and wifi.) But let’s get onto the beer talk.

Breweries

Good news: J has finally had enough inspiration to start writing about beer again! Remember how good his write-ups were? Here are his thoughts from our most recent Austin beer research:

On this trip to Austin, we revisited the ABGB (Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company; twice!), Lazarus, Hops & Grain, Zilker, and St. Elmo and we went to Independence Brewing for the first time. We liked the layout of Independence and really wish the weather had been warmer as the patio just outside their warehouse-like brewery looked super cozy. Unfortunately, neither of us loved the beers that we tried. We were hoping to hit nearby South Austin breweries (512) Brewing and South Austin Brewery, but the former is only open briefly on Saturdays and the tasting room for the latter seems temporarily closed.

On our first trip to Austin, we also visited Adelbert’s, 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, Oskar Blues‘ Austin location, Uncle Billy’s, and Jester King. So, we feel pretty good about presenting our personal Austin-area brewery ranking:

music at abgb austin

1) Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company – ABGB is our favorite brewery despite neither of us being obsessed with any of their beers; for us, they are solid, but unspectacular. What makes ABGB so special is the atmosphere, the live music, and the food. It was too cold for the garden on this trip, but we prefer the somewhat sprawling yet still intimate inside (pictured above) that feels more like a country music hall than a brewery anyway. On both of our trips to Austin, ABGB was the only brewery we visited two times. Check their website for the live music schedule.

2) Jester King – Located about 25 minutes from town, Jester King is one part farm and one part brewery. Specializing in farmhouse beers, it has a reputation among beer aficionados that extends well outside of the state of Texas. It’s definitely worth a drive to Jester King on a nice day to take in the scenery and spectacular beers.

3) Lazarus Brewing – We often don’t like breweries that seem to be as focused on being a restaurant as they are a brewery. Lazarus is a clear exception. They have painted script on the outside of the building that says “Coffee — Beer — Tacos — Joy” and as near as we can tell they excel in each; it’s a really great atmosphere and tasty beers.

beer flight hops and grain austin

4) Hops & Grain – Hops & Grain is the only one on our Austin list that fits our typical brewery tastes–warehouse/industrial setting with no restaurant. Their Pellets & Powder IPA was both of our favorite beer on this trip.

5) Adelbert’s – Adelbert’s specializes in Belgian beers and the tap room in northern Austin feels almost like you’ve stepped into Belgium.

Cocktails

driskill hotel austin

If a city has a beautiful, historic hotel, you should go have a cocktail there, right? We agree, and so strolled through the lovely Driskill Hotel lobby (pictured above) after a drink in the borderline-cheesy Western-themed bar.

Repeats from last trip, because we liked them, were cocktails at Cedar Tavern on our walk home from a sushi dinner, and a nightcap at the pretty bar at Juliet, next door to the campground, literally like 25 steps from our front door. Have I emphasized enough how amazing it is to be able to walk to so many wonderful locations from Pecan Grove?

Eating

fish tacos turf n surf austin

One problem with planning a trip to Austin is that are not enough mealtimes to fit in all the required restaurant eating. Last time in Austin we ate so much amazing food that we knew we’d have to get back to a few places, but we also wanted to eat new food. We returned to our top three favorites, G’raj Mahal for Indian food (get the saag paneer) combined with a funky country-music atmosphere, Uchi for creative and beautiful sushi, and Turf ‘n’ Surf for THE BEST FISH TACOS. We also repeated our enjoyment of pizza at ABGB (Brussels sprouts on pizza!!!) and overdosing on Voodoo Doughnuts.

Even with all that eating, we were able to fit in several new-to-us restaurants:

We arrived in Austin on New Year’s Day, and unwound with beer and college football bowl games at CornerBar, just down S Lamar from the campground. It’s a great neighborhood hangout, and gets big bonus points for being dog-friendly inside and having a taco truck out back that makes, among a variety of meaty delights (J had brisket tacos, which had french fries stuffed in them!), delicious shrimp tacos for fishy people like me.

franklin bbq austin

franklin bbq austin

J thought it would be good strategy to make the next day, a dreary, 30° Tuesday, his Franklin Barbecue day, hoping everybody else would stay home. They did not stay home. He was at Franklin by 10:30, and luckily, he bundled up, because he was in line for two hours… and then had the best brisket of his life. Franklin’s doors open at 11:00, and once the meat’s sold out, they close for the day–typically no more than a few hours later.

We had a phenomenal modern Mexican meal at ATX Cocina, a gluten-free kitchen with lots of pescatarian options, and a Brussels sprouts dish that J proclaimed as the best Brussels sprouts he’d ever had. (Yes, I am obsessed with Brussels sprouts.)

Running

running over town lake austin

playing in zilker park austin

barton springs violet crown trail austin

It is nigh impossible to beat this city for running options accessible from downtown. Our campground is about a half mile from two different access points for the running path around Town Lake, which has options for longer or shorter loops depending on which bridges you use. We ran around the lake a few times this trip, but also did a true trail run nearby on the incredibly scenic and peaceful (at least, on a freezing weekday morning) Violet Crown Trail, part of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It starts from the enormous Zilker Park (where B is smiling in the skyline picture above) and runs south along Barton Creek for several miles, where you can hook into other parts of the Greenbelt and keep going. Much of the Barton Creek streambed is dry seasonally, and was a fun lunarscape to explore. Next trip we plan to explore the Greenbelt much more.

Cultural Stuff

We returned to Art on 5th for its magical and rare Dr. Seuss collection; it’s really wonderful.

history of texas museum austin

We also really enjoyed the Texas State History Museum and wished we’d planned for more than an hour there. We had to make time to cross the street to the Blanton Museum of Art (free on Thursdays!) for a temporary exhibit on Photography and the American Road Trip; the permanent contemporary art collection ended up being our favorite part of the museum.

mt bonnell austin

An easy drive from town, Mount Bonnell is the highest point in Austin, offering big views of the the far-off Austin skyline and the Colorado River (and fancy waterfront houses) below. It’s dog-, but not stroller-friendly, with access up a short but steep flight of stone steps, and is a really fun field trip that we recommend.

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