Austin is where the Whole Foods Market phenomenon started -- the Starbucks of health food stores. I much prefer Central Market up on North Lamar, which I can walk to from my favorite neighborhood, Hyde Park (it's got a moon tower, man). You see a lot more locals, and then some. I was eating some chili outside and some weirdo walked by and said "Wow, how much does that chili cost? That looks like a good bowl of red." I didn't really want to be disturbed, or hit up for money, so I said "$4.99 . . . son" and he walked away.
At Whole Foods it feels like they have plain clothes security guards to keep reality at bay, as if they're going after that Utopia dollar, as Bill Hicks would say. But it makes a nice place to grab a bite after an hour at the cool, non-chain book store next door, and a visit to REI.
Stopped by Tam Deli & Cafe (8222 North Lamar Blvd.) for banh xeo, a Vietnamese crepe. OMG, one of the best things I've ever eaten! I was doing some "research" on pho, which meant that I watched Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Vietnam episode yet again, because no one describes a bowl of pho as well as he does. In that episode, there is also a great bit about banh xeo. I don't care what anyone says about Bourdain, the guy can WRITE when he wants to. I just had to try one of these.
I got thinking about these pictures on the wall and it made me humbled and sad to think that these ladies running the cafe, probably sisters, had to leave their country to escape communism. Their family gave up everything to seek a better life. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever have to leave this country at the rate that it's going. Vietnam would definitely be one of my stops along my journey.
I spent hours at Zilker Park in the sun, walking barefoot on the grass and watching all the volleyball games, frisbee, soccer, football, and everything else. Happy dogs and happy people everywhere. Zilker reminds me a lot of Sheep's Meadow in Central Park back in NYC but without the commerce. It's much more chill. Sheep's Meadow on a weekend buzzes with entrepreneurialism. Don't feel like lugging a cooler 5 blocks? No probs. People sell water, beer, sandwiches, cigarettes by the stick, hand-rolled contraband, sunblock, and more. Even when you rent a rowboat from the Boathouse, you can get a beer from the shore from some enterprising person. Zilker was much more Zen. A great setting as well with the gleaming glass towers in the background.
Later that night, I headed over to Austin's East 6th Street which also reminds me of NYC -- Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. Being Saturday night everything was packed. I rarely dine at actual restaurants when I'm here, but two that looked great were Buenos Aires Cafe and Papi Tino's
I wanted to go to East Side King because I loved going to it the last time I was here for their Asian-influenced, grilled pork belly slider known as Poor Qui's Buns. You enter through The Liberty, a really cool and gritty bar, and the first time, it's like whoa, where the hell am I? Along the way I started chatting with a nice couple from Austin who were also headed there. But we were thwarted by the Bourdain effect. Apparently Tony's been by and really loved it. It was mobbed and had a 45 minute wait. Here's what the scene is like (RIP Adam Yauch).
So my new friends and I walked back up the street and had dinner at another "trailer park" -- one with authentic fish and chips . . .
. . . and some dynamite tacos made by a mom, her daughter, and her son. They were kick ass.
The next evening I went back, earlier this time. I was not going to be denied. And I wasn't. I got there so early that it wasn't even open. In fact, there was a note that said they'd be opening late. I looked around at all the people hanging out in the patio area and suddenly realized I'd gone out dressed white on white like some slumming tennis pro. I was the only one there without tattoos or piercings or a mohawk or facial hair or cigarettes or sunglasses or anything even remotely "cool."
East Side King. "Opening late today."
A female Marilyn Manson look alike kept eying me as if I was horribly lost. "Dude, why are you here?" she seemed to be saying. Then I saw this umbrella and figured I'd start doing some responsible day drinking myself while I waited, because I wasn't leaving.
Austin is also home to several independent distillers now. I've heard about some great tequila here, so that's what I had. Republic Tequila neat with limes and a can of Modelo. Done. It was excellent tequila! Smooth as silk. It seemed to make Marilyn a lot more relaxed, too.
Calling card of the International Pork Brotherhood, I guess.
Fuzzy dice hanging from the food truck rear view mirror.
Hey, isn't that Richie's brother from La Bamba?
Reminded me of this tune.
Well worth the wait. Poor Qui's Buns from East Side King. Very very tasty. And look at that great late day light for the food shot!
More assorted antics from East 6th Street. Detroit pizza? I learned that it's served square.
Feed the 8 tracks! It was munching the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Shouldn't we all be dancing?
And then relax and eat in these super cool seats?
Chicks in cowboy boots and sundresses here.
A red, white, and blue Harley always screams Evel Knievel to me.
Classic Honda four with custom paint.
Owned by a romantic.
Saw these drawings outside of Sputnik. Sputnik rocked her world.
Actually, they're called "color a pinup" and can be printed from Sputnik's website.
Handshakes. Handmade milkshakes from the window of a 1974 Chevy Argosy.
Cool "sand" on the ground at the "trailer park." It was ground up bottles. Great idea.