Thursday, May 26, 2016

Patio Drinks, Anyone?

There's something about spring weather that screams, "Go have a drink on a patio!" 

Who am I do argue with that?

We've spent many-a-weekend afternoon sitting on local patios recently, sipping craft beers or cocktails and soaking up the Oklahoma sunshine. Below are a few of my favorite spots and a good go-to drink at each.


Power House
This place. I loooooove it. A part of the Historic Farmer's Market District, it is almost hidden and rarely crowded. It has a New Mexico feel to it; pueblo-ish decor with lights strung each and every way, succulents and cactuses planted all around and the occasional acoustic band playing in the corner. They are one of the few places in town that serves Casper White Stout, my all-time favorite beer. I've heard they have great margaritas and craft cocktails, but I wouldn't know.....I mean, I can't not order Casper.

Sidecar
The tiniest of bars right off Automobile Alley, Sidecar Barley + Wine Bar is open the street-side patio to give it an open air vibe. It has a more upscale feel to it, but shorts and flip flops are welcome. They serve delicious hor d'oeuvres along with upscale beverages (the smoked salmon is great). If you're in a wine mood, Love Drunk Rosé is the way to go (so classy). You also can't go wrong with the Cucumber Cutie cocktail, it is very refreshing, goes down way too smooth, and even uses frozen cucumber pieces as ice! For a desert drink, try the Toasted Marshmallow. It doesn't disappoint.

Pizzeria Gusto
Behind the restaurant you'll find a little courtyard complete with a fireplace and a vine-covered fence. It feels so private and hidden! The prices are stern but the cocktails are strong. If you like fresh-tasting drinks, order the Italia Mia - gin, lemon, mint, blackberries & simple syrup. Yes, please.

Sauced on Paseo
If you want to bring your dog / pet other people's dogs, this is the place to do it. It is super chill - cut offs and tanks are a-ok. FYI, some people here might not wear deodorant or wash their hair on a regular basis, but hey, to each his own. I always order the Woodchuck Pear Cider (on tap) which seems to go down way too easily on sunny afternoons. Also of note, their pizza by the slice makes for a tasty snack.

Other places of note:
Guyute's - full blog post here
Pump Bar - hipster heaven, dogs welcome, order the Milk Money or Black Betty
Oak & Ore - the best beer selection this side of the Red River (but very limited outdoor seating)
Pink Parrot Quail Creek - $3 Margaritas, FTW (but no patio)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ATX Part 2: The Adventure

As promised, I'm back to tell you about what we did in Austin outside of stuffing our faces with delicious food.

Let me start by saying it was a long drive with two fur balls in the back. One in particular has a lot of anxiety when riding in the car ever since being involved in a fender bender.......insert 6+ hours of panting in our ears. The other, to our surprise, was perfect. I guess those puppy training classes are paying off!

We stayed at a little "Hacienda" apartment via AirBNB. It was super cute (on the inside) but a little dated. However, it was conveniently located (right of South Congress), allowed dogs of all sizes and was much bigger and cheaper than a hotel room. Win.


After spending all of Friday morning waiting in line/talking to Kylo's fan club/devouring Franklin BBQ, the pups were ready for some down time and we were ready to be away from them for a bit.

Puppy parenting, man...it's exhausting.

We dropped the babies off at our AirBNB and headed to SoCo for some coffee and retail therapy. We walked all the way up and then made our way back down. There are some really cute shops (obsessed with The Gypsy Wagon) and some not-so-cute shops. I found these heart shaped floral sunnies and couldn't live without them!


We stopped for Happy Hour Moscow Mules and picked the dogs back up to head to Zilker Park and let them stretch their legs for a bit. We strolled down the running trails at Ladybird Lake and loved them - it amazed me just how many active people their are in this city! Props to you, ATX. OKC folk can learn a thing our two. 

Watching the Austin Bats emerge from the SoCo bridge was next up on our itinerary (yes, I make vacation itineraries; insert nerd emoji). I googled the heck out of their emergence times....we even called the Bat Hotline (yes, that's a thing). The only information we found said they come out right before sunset. Sunset was supposed to be at 8:21, so I assumed they would emerge around 8:15. Wrong. We waited and waited and waited until we were about to miss our dinner reservation and didn't see a single bat. Bummer. Maybe next time.

The next morning, we needed to work off the copious amounts of food we had consumed, so we put on our Nikes and LuLu and headed to Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin. The "hike" to the top took all of two minutes. It wasn't so much of a hike as it was a long staircase (maybe 6 or 7 flights), but we still enjoyed it!

The view was fantastic; Austin's downtown skyline, the Colorado River, and miles of Texas Hill Country. Yes, please. Once at the top, we discovered plenty of small trails to explore that made the word "hike" a little more realistic.



Next up, SUP ATX! I have begged Cole to take me paddle boarding every summer since we met and it FINALLY happened! It was a lot harder than I anticipated. The first 10 minutes were basically me hunched over trying not to topple my board, but once I got the hang of it I really enjoyed myself. We paddled down Ladybird Lake towards downtown, floated down the Barton Creek turn off, and then made our way back. SUP is not something I'd do on a regular basis (or in OKC where there is nothing pretty to look at...), but I'd definitely do it again in the right location!


Our afternoon was blocked off as "patio time." Upon the recommendation of our Franklin BBQ line friends, we hit up Rainey Street, a block of historical bungalows that had all been converted to open air patio bars.

We planned on relaxing and enjoying each other's company over a few beers. It didn't happen. Let it be known that if you take a cute puppy into public, you will have a constant flow of people wanting to talk to you every where you go. Thanks, Kylo! It was mentally exhausting! We patioed and we beered, but we did not relax.

The dogs certainly enjoyed themselves, though. Every bar was dog-friendly (even inside!) and some went so far as to provide cucumber water for our four-legged companions. Kylo always drinks more than his fair share of H20, but he downed that cucumber water like nobody's business. I guess he is more high-class than I realized.


That being said, if any single friends want to borrow Kylo for an afternoon, we guarantee you'll have a group of guys or gals waiting in line to talk to you. His starting rate is $10 an hour.


We had so much fun in Austin and ate so much way too much food. Check out my Vlog recap on YouTube!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ATX Part 1: The food.

Fact: one of the main reasons that Cole and I travel is to eat our way through a city.

We are self-proclaimed food critics. Food snobs. Foodies. Whatever you want to call it, we pride ourselves on it. We know good food when we see it (or taste it, if we're being technical). As mentioned previously, we went to Austin, Texas, a while back and fell so head over heels for the food scene that we planned a return trip. 

Below are the places we ate and the dishes we ordered in chronological order. In hind sight, we ate way too much rich food and felt miserable by the end of the trip, but hey.....it's vacation..... I'll be back soon to tell you about what we did in ATX outside of stuffing our faces!

Veracruz All Natural @ Radio Coffee & Beer
We cruised into Austin just in time for dinner on Cinco De Mayo - basically a universal sign that we had to get a tacos from a food truck. We headed to Radio Coffee & Beer where the Veracruz All Natural truck sets up shop before we even checked in or unloaded the car. We ordered the following:
  • Migas Tacos (what they're famous for)
  • Fish Tacos
  • Chicken Mole Tacos
  • Al Pastor Tacos
The verdict: Delicious with a capital D. Amazingly fresh tortillas. The fish tacos were my fav - they had a great mango slaw (light on the mango) and a chipotle mayo sauce. I'm not a huge mole fan, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The migas, though their most popular item, were my least favorite. Delicious, yes, but definitely not as good as the others. Radio Coffee & Beer also gets two thumbs up. The tiny food-truck park was the perfect setting to sit on the patio and watch the Texas Sunset.


VooDoo Doughnuts
I wrote a whole blog post on this place...if that doesn't say something, maybe this will. We went to not once, but twice on this trip because I literally cannot get enough of it. It is my second favorite donut shop in the entire world next to Doughnut Plant in NYC. Nom. Nom Nom. We ordered the following* (and ate every single bite):
VooDoo
  • Blueberry Cake Donut
  • Buttermilk Bar
  • VooDoo Doll
  • Old Fashioned Maple 
  • Memphis Mafia
  • Cinnamon Sugar Cake Donut
The verdict: 100% fantastic. Most donuts are pretty self explanatory, but I want to note that the VooDoo Doll is a chocolate glazed donut with raspberry jam filling. The chocolate and raspberry pairs so incredibly well I can't even put it into words. The Memphis Mafia is a conglomeration of banana, cinnamon, peanut butter and chocolate - basically like an old fashioned PB & Banana sandwich on steroids.

*In order of my preference



Franklin BBQ
Would you wait 4+ hours in line for the most highly rated BBQ in the state of Texas? I dropped Cole off at 7 a.m. to get our spot in line. There was a good 20 people ahead of us. I'm very curious as to what time the first person in line got there..... I ran a few errands (think: donuts, dogs and coffee) before returning between 9 and 9:30. At this point, the line literally wrapped around the building through the parking lot and down the street. It was basically a BBQ tailgate - people had coolers filled with beers, mimosas, you name it. The joint opened at 11 and we finally sat down to eat around 11:45. We ordered:
  • Brisket
  • Ribs
  • Turkey
  • Coleslaw
The verdict: Worth it. Glad we did it. Although we wouldn't do it again. Easily the most moist brisket I've ever encountered. The ribs gave a new definition to "fall off the bone." The turkey was meh, but it allowed us to sample their special espresso bbq sauce without dousing the brisket perfection. All the meats were seasoned with S&P only, so if you're the kind of gal like myself who likes sweet, spicy or saucy BBQ, prepare to be slightly disappointed but still in love with the quality and texture of the meat.


The Peached Tortilla
I'll be honest with you, we were not very hungry for dinner after indulging in Franklin BBQ. However, we didn't let that stop us. We headed to The Peached Tortilla, an Asian-fusion restaurant. We had terrible service, but the manager made up for it by giving us our entrée for free. We ordered: 
  • Mom's Toast
  • Bacon Jam Fries
  • Okonomiyaki
The verdict: Mom's Toast was AMAZING. Like, I died and went to heaven. I don't even know how to describe it to you, but think bite sized shrimp flavored toast in a sweet and sour-ish sauce topped with fresh herbs that has multiple layers of flavor in every bite. Yes and amen. The Bacon Jam Fries were equally as delicious; perfectly fried fries that tasted like bacon covered in egg yolk, cheese and chili ailoli. The okonomiyaki.....let's just say Cole ordered this and ate 87% of it. He gave it 5 stars, though. 


Hey Cupcake!
Hey Cupcake! has a location next-door to The Peached Tortilla so we had to try it for desert. We ordered:
  • Red Velvet
  • Lemony Snicket
The verdict: meh. Very average. Basically rivals a boxed cake mix. The cream cheese frosting was surprisingly fluffy, but nothing to write home about. I almost didn't include it in this post, but I don't want you to waste your time if you're ever in the area. 

Elizabeth Street Cafe
The cutest of little cafes tucked away off 1st Street. Elizabeth Street's menu is a mixture of Vietnamese Cafe and French Bakery - a strange combo, but a good one. We dined on the patio and enjoyed the colorful decor, perfect weather and the 1950s resort-style outfits that the staff sported. We ordered: 
  • Kouign Amann
  • Vietnamese Coffee
  • House Baked Brioche French Toast
  • Breakfast Bahn Mi
The verdict: Great setting, good food. The Kouign Amann was the highlight the meal. Basically a denser croissant with more layers of flakes that literally just tastes like it is infused with butter. I don't know about you, but I freaking love the taste of butter. The Vietnamese coffee was interesting: extremely strong coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. I wouldn't order it again, but it was fun to try. The french toast was so pretty. It was topped with blueberries, brown butter syrup and a tiny bit of fresh ice cream that tied the flavors together perfectly. The Bahn Mi was good, but was basically served Jimmy John Style (all bread, no meat) which was a little disappointing.



Noble Sandwiches
Noble Sandwiches came highly recommended by many-a-food blog. Unique sandwich toppings always speak straight to my soul, so I was excited to give it a try. We ordered: 
  • Seared Beef Tongue 
  • The Noble Pig 
The verdict: Not worth it. Though the sandwiches were good, per say, they were not worth the hype nor the price. The beef tongue sandwich was much more flavorful than the noble pig, but neither were very impressive to me. They must have hired the best food photographer in the metro because the photos on their website were much more impressive than real life. 

Olamaie
We saved our "fancy" meal for our last night. My only regret is that we were pretty darn full and tired of eating rich food by this point, but we didn't let that stop us! Olamaie was easily the best meal of the trip. They specialized in upscale southern food and man, it embodied everything that southern food is supposed to. We ordered:
  • Hoppin' John
  • Country Fried Cornbread
  • Salad of Smoked Potato 
  • Some kind of fancy fish that I can't remember the name of
The verdict: Ohmytastebuds. The hoppin' john had a soft boiled egg on top (I'm a sucker for anything with an egg) that gave it the most creamy texture to balance out the smokey flavor. It also had crispy bites of ham that were to-die-for. The cornbread was swimming in a bowl of ham juice and butter and exploded with layers of southern flavor. If Paula Dean had a flavor, this would be it. The potato salad.....I can't even. It was little balls of crispy potatoes covered in cheese and infused with smokey campfire flavor. Speechless. The fish was good, too, but everything else was so unique and full of flavor that it doesn't even compare. I HIGHLY recommend this place to anyone in Austin wanting a nice night out! 


Shake Shack
Last but not least, ever since trying Shake Shack in NYC, I can't visit a city with a Shack location and not stop in for a burger. It's really nothing special, but the high quality beef, ooey-gooey cheese and the not-too-soggy not-to-stiff bun make the best burger combination known to man. We ordered:

  • Double Shack Burgers
  • Fries
  • Pooch-ini
The verdict: Just as good as it always is. So much quality for a fast food joint; it keeps me coming back time after time. Of course, we had to get a pooch-ini for the pups to reward them for being so well behaved over the weekend. They both gave it two (or would it be four?) paws up. 



As I mentioned earlier, I'll be back to give you a run down on all the activities we did in Austin when we weren't in food comas. Stay tuned! There might even be a Vlog along with it. Maybe. TBD.