Traveler: Mike Ramsden
When: October 2018
I’ve traveled to Austin once before with a couple friends and thoroughly enjoyed it then due to its seemingly endless options of bars & incredible texmex/bbq food scene. However, this time around I had an opportunity to experience Austin for my bachelor party along with 17 friends & family members. Needless to say whether you’re going with a few folks or a small village; Austin is a great landing spot for a long weekend. To me, Austin is a perfect blend of city & country. If you’re a city slicker there is a hip bar scene on 6th & Rainy St. to enjoy. If that isn’t for you then check out the picturesque rolling hills along Lake Travis.
Austin-Bergstrom Airport is only 7.5 miles away from downtown. So roughly a 15 minute car ride to get to most locations in the city. From there you can take all your typical means of transportation (bus, taxi, uber, metro etc.). The bus line in Austin that runs to the airport is called Capitol Metro. At the airport the stop has a huge neon blue guitar, so you can’t miss it. There is a bus every 15 mins and it runs 7/365. It costs $1.25 for a single ride or $2.50 for a day pass. Lastly, you can get info on rail options here.
With such a large group we opted to stay in an Airbnb. We found a nice little rancher on Baylor & 10th st. just a mere 10 min walk from west 6th street. There are obviously countless options on Airbnb if you’re looking for a house instead of hotel rooms. I will caution that throughout the year Austin has many festivals & sporting events that may limit your options. So I strongly recommend booking well in advance of your stay depending on the time of year. Our house had 4 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, living room, kitchen, a front porch along with a large back porch and shared back yard. It was perfect for such a large group. There were 4 double beds and 4 sets of bunk beds. Yes grown men shared some bunk beds.
Graffiti Park @ Castle Hills- Conveniently enough our Airbnb was actually a block away from the Park. If you’re any sort of an art fan this is a must see. It is located at Baylor and 11th st. The park started as a temporary exhibit during the 2011 SXSW by famed street artist Shepard Fairey (known for the Barack Obama “Hope” posters). Since 2011 there have been over 300 street art festivals at the Park. However, a recent Historic Land commission vote confirmed that the park will be demolished to make way for condos. The good news is the foundation that helped fund the exhibit (HOPE Outdoor Gallery) has secured a new location for the park in East Austin on Carson Creek Ranch. Interestingly enough the park has lasted this long thanks to Dick Clark & Vic Ayad. The pair invested 75K each year to keep the park running. Once Clark passed away Ayad sold the land to Mid-City Development but the group agreed to keep it a paint park until they could secure a new home in East Austin.
Lake Travis – One of the highlights of our trip was heading out to Lake Travis. It is a reservoir on the Colorado River. The reservoir was formed in 1942 during the construction of the Mansfield Dam. It’s located just 30 minutes west of Austin. But literally feels as if you teleported to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. We experienced unseasonably cold weather during our stay, so we were unable to go out on the water. In the event it’s too cold to go on the water I strongly recommend the Oasis brewery. It has amazing views and food options. They’ve essentially created a small village on the banks of Lake Travis. So there is plenty for all, even if you’re not a drinker. Typically anytime from March through October you can find large party boats, jet skis, wave runners and swimming taking place out on the lake. If you book a party boat, I would recommend at least 2 months in advance. Obviously in the summer months it is one of the most popular activities to take part in. Prices range anywhere from $500 to over $1000 depending on the type of boat you want. I will caution that unless there are unforeseen weather issues the deposit of the boat is non-refundable.
Lady Bird Lake – If you don’t have the time to travel out to Lake Travis or just prefer to stick to the city limits then LBL is a fantastic alternative. Similarly to Lake Travis it is another reservoir on the Colorado River. The City of Austin actually created the reservoir for a power plant back in the 60’s. Nowadays it’s only used for flood control and recreational use. You can fish, paddleboard, kayak or canoe on the reservoir. What makes it so convenient is it runs right smack through the center of Austin. Pricing structure may vary depending on your boat of choice.
Uncle Julio’s– Opened in 1986 in Dallas but now has grown to 29 locations in 7 states including Georgia, Florida & Tennessee. They specialize in “made from scratch” Mexican ingredients & you’ll be hard pressed to experience the flavor that Uncle Julio can provide. The dinner menu is broken into several sections. The Tex-mex classics includes Tacos & Enchiladas while the Mesquite Grilled includes Fajitas. I enjoyed the chicken & steak for my fajitas. You get a choice of those plus chicken, carnitas azteca, grilled vegetable, or fajita skirt steak. In the event you’re in a large group they can accommodate you as our group of 17 was seated comfortably with a reservation.
Located on 301 Brazos St.
Max’s Wine Dive: We had brunch at the Wine Dive our 2nd day and it was probably my favorite meal. They’re known for their fried chicken, grilled cheese & wine selection. So I went with the Famous Southern Fried chicken and it was phenomenal. The chicken is marinated in Jalapeno buttermilk before being fried then topped with chipotle honey over mashed potatoes and greens. Some of their other popular items are the smoked salmon benedict, wings & waffle, chicken fried steak poutine & honey butter benedict. With over 100 wines to choose from it’s a great spot if you’re in the mood for something other than beer while hitting the town. It’s just a short walk to 6th as well.
Located on 207 San Juancita Blvd.
24 Diner– I have eaten at the 24 Diner both times I’ve visited Austin. It’s always packed and has limited seating both indoors and outside. So you’ll generally have a 30-40 min wait; especially if you try going over the weekend. It is a farm to table restaurant serving comfort food 24/7 hence the name “24”. I went with the Fried chicken biscuit. Once I saw that it would be topped with honey & brown sugar butter…. the rest of the menu just went blank for me. I am a sucker for some good fried chicken and 24 didn’t disappoint in that regard. If you’re not a fan of fried chicken no worries their eggs benedict, Belgian waffles & biscuits w/ gravy are all very popular. A couple of my friends had each of those options and they too were raving about how good it was. So I don’t think you can go wrong here.
Located on 600 N. Lamar Blvd.
Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden: With over 100 beers on draft and 25+ sausages this is a great spot for meat & beer lovers alike. There are 5 sections of sausage to choose from; traditional which features andouille, hot dogs or bratwurst. Then you have the Poultry which includes drunk chicken, buffalo chicken & chicken apple sage. After that it gets pretty interesting as you start to venture into the exotic game portion of the menu including duck, rabbit, boar & even Antelope. I decided to go with the antelope. It was called the South Texas Antelope Merguez topped with baba ganoush, honey sesame yogurt, feta & torn mint. I paired it with the Jalapeno creamed corn & onion al gratin. Although a bit spicy it was really damn good. They have veggie options in addition to specialty composed sausages which included: currywurst, banger & mash & Italian sausage.
Located on 79 Rainy St.
Oasis Texas Brewing Company- Hands down a must visit. Located up on a hill overlooking Lake Travis you’ll experience unbelievable views and sunsets if you happen to be there at night. Its 30-40 mins away from downtown Austin. Considering we had such a large group we took a party bus via ATX Party Bus. Oasis has 11 beers total, 5 seasonal and 6 year round. The London Homesick Ale made with English challenger hops received a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The other award winner was the Luchesa Lager which is a 4.8% Pils it received a silver medal. Many of my friends really enjoyed the Ca Phe Vietnamese coffee stout which packed a solid punch of 6%. However, my personal favorite was the Slow Ride Pale Ale. As for food they have full menu with sandwiches, bowls, appetizers and more. I ordered the Bibimpap chicken bowl. It had hoppy coconut rice with mushrooms, fried eggs, carrots, cucumbers & onions. In addition to the 3rd level taproom there is another bar and seating area below on the 2nd level. So the place is enormous with plenty of space. On the 2nd level they have indoor corn hole with a separate balcony to drink/eat on.
Located on 6550 Komanche Trail, Austin, Tx
Infamous Brewery- Between the view and overall scale of Oasis it is a bit overwhelming. So if that isn’t your style then you should check out Infamous. It is nestled in a quiet corner off the beaten path. They were recognized “best brewery Austin A-list” in 2013. Infamous has more of an intimate setting. Inside there is limited seating with a small bar. The taproom has a few picnic tables with kegs & pallets along the wall. There are a couple crates with large wood jenga pieces to play while boozing. Outside there is usually a hot dog or taco stand if you get the munchies. In addition to the outdoor seating there is an old school flatbed truck. I was told the truck works as their stage for any musical guests stopping by to perform. Their most recognized beer is the HiJack unconditioned cream ale. The HiJack is 5.5% and brewed with pils malts. In all they have 3 year round brews along with 5 seasonal beers that rotate on tap.
Located on 6502 Welletka Dr., Austin, Tx
In Austin there are two popular streets where you can find the night life. Either 6th or Rainy St. Sixth Street was originally named Pecan Street under Austin’s old naming convention. Which had east-west streets named after trees and north south streets after Texas Rivers. East 6th is actually known locally as “Dirty 6th”. Many of the bars, restaurants & clubs are located between Congress & Interstate 35. Dirty plays host to many music festivals throughout the year in addition to SXSW, Pecan Street Festival & film festivals.
Some of my favorite spots along 6th Street included:
Green Light Social: Located on West 6th it is a popular patio bar with craft cocktails & beers. Its name comes from the prohibition era “green door” which was a common pseudonym for speakeasy location. Lit or un-lit green lights were used as indicators for a speakeasy’s accessibility. Typically Friday & Saturday night there is a DJ. They actually serve capri suns with alcohol as well. So be sure to grab one if you stop by.
Maggie Mae’s: Located on East 6th. The bar opened in 1978 influenced by “Maggie May” of Liverpool, England. She was a lady of the evening back in the 1800’s. Maggie was notorious for sleeping with sailors then robbing them of their clothes & valuables. There are 7 bars and 3 separate stage areas for concerts or events inside. It has a max capacity of 1,000 people so the place always has something going on. They have a really nice rooftop worth taking advantage as well.
Kung-Fu Saloon: Located on West 6th Kung Fu is an open air full bar with skee ball & old school arcade games lining the perimeter of the bar. It’s a great spot to start out your night or to wind down. We had a fun time playing NBA Jam and NFL blitz for all those 90’s sports fans out there. They serve up sake bombs as their signature drink.
Firestone Lounge: Firehouse is actually connected to Firehouse Hostel. You walk into a seemingly small hostel only to slide a bookcase door open and find yourself in a dark lounge cocktail bar. It is like straight out of a bond movie. I was there on a late Saturday night, but it was plenty packed and a great chill spot if you’re not looking for a club scene. The lounge can be found just off 6th street at 605 Brazos st.
Easy Tiger: Probably my favorite Austin bar. It’s a bakery/café connected to a Creekside beer garden, what more could you possibly ask for? They also have 4 ping pong tables for those that need some sort of competitive game to play while drinking (this guy). It is located on dirty 6th (east). They have 33 beers on tap and the food menu includes sausages, sandwiches, pretzels & snack boards. It’s a really fun spot that I made sure to visit upon my return to Austin.
Container Bar: I’ve made a stop at container during both my trips to Austin. The first time I went it was relatively crowded but it has an open outdoor area literally surrounded by shipping containers where you can play corn hole. So we did that for about 4 hours while sipping on brews. However, on this trip we went there late night around 10PM Saturday night and it was a full blown club scene with a DJ and flashing lights. Still a really fun spot but a totally different vibe from during the day obviously. If you make it down to Rainy I strongly advise to swing by container it is one of the first bars on Rainy. Unfortunately, if you try going any time after 10 you’ll be waiting in a line. So be sure to arrive a little earlier.
Clive Bar: Located across the street from Container. This is more my speed as it’s a pretty chill saloon with plenty of solid beers & bourbon to choose from. Clive’s was actually the first bar on Rainy St. They even have what I’ll call a secret bar out back. It’s a small shack where they serve Mezcal. So be sure to check it out if you have a chance.