Monday, September 27, 2010

My Trip to Austin

Well, having returned yesterday from Austin, Texas, I am officially done with all of my summer travels, and although I had a phenomenal time in all the cities and weddings, I am happy to now be home, with no need to pack a suitcase any time soon!

This past weekend was my yearly (or sometimes more often) UCLA Reunion, where my college friends and I organize a trip somewhere in the U.S. to watch a UCLA sporting event. This past weekend's destination - Austin, TX for the UCLA vs. Texas football game!

For those of you who hid under a rock this weekend - UCLA pulled off this season's upset of the year by thrashing the #7-ranked Texas Longhorns 34-12! I can tell you that my friends and I went to Austin with the intent to have a great time, see a great football town, watch a game, and enjoy each other's company. You will notice that list didn't include UCLA winning anywhere. But nonetheless, there we were, leaning over the railing of the stands, high-fiving the UCLA players as they celebrated their shocking victory.

We were all stunned. We couldn't believe it. We not only beat them, we beat them convincingly. They made the mistakes, not us. We made the big plays when it mattered, not them. They dropped passes, fumbled the ball, and never had an answer for us. It was, in a word, perfect.

But the most shocking part of the whole game was what transpired as we left the stadium. As we trekked back to our hotel, we had to walk through about 15-20 blocks of Texas post-game tailgates. We readied ourselves for the constant berating, cat-calls, boo's, and anything else expected from fans of a team who just had their butt handed to them on a platter. So we began our victory lap, proud to have won, but not wanting to be the overly-boisterous fans who rub it in after the fact...

And then we got killed with kindness. We didn't know what hit us. We walked through a graveyard of defeated souls, and they had nothing but praise and compliments for us.

"Great game, you played great."
"Man, y'all kicked our butts out there today."
"You folks enjoy Austin tonight, you earned it."
"This is your town tonight."
"Make sure you go to this bar, you'll have a fun time."

HUH?! We were floored. We went from being ecstatic about our stunning victory, to feeling guilty about winning because these amazingly nice fans lost. We tried to come up with responses to their hospitable attitudes. We wanted to tell them their running back was good for about 3 minutes in the 3rd quarter. We wanted to tell them we respect their coach. But all we could utter was "Thank You", because we didn't know what hit us.

But I digress...let's get to the good stuff...

If you have a weak stomach, or would prefer not to hear about the unconscionable menu of food I ran through during my 2-day stay, you should skip down to "THE TOWN" section of this post. If you want to hear my legendary ravaging of the Austin fare - enjoy my friends!

When we arrived Friday, it was time for lunch, and we figured we'd start with some Tex-Mex. After walking 6th Street (the central hub) for a bit, we settled on a place called Chupacabra Cantina. Now, in retrospect, we did not select the finest Tex-Mex dining in Austin to kick off our weekend dining experience, but we were starving after our flights and time changes, and we knew we had many delectable meals to come.

The menu at Chupacabra was filled with your stereotypical tacos, burritos, enchilada type place, with one exception - the Tijuana Dog.

Tijuana Dog - my choice of the day...1/4 pound all beef jumbo dog, wrapped in bacon and deep fried, served on a hoagie roll and topped with cheese, jalapenos and spicy mayo. Yep, read it again. Deep fried hot dog. I ate it. I liked it. Let's move on.

Friday dinner, on a recommendation from my buddy's Dad, we went to "Dirty Martin's Kum-Bak Place". This place was my weekend winner. I ordered the Frito Pie, which consisted of Fritos, chili and cheese in a bowl. Best meal of the trip. Hands down.

For Saturday Lunch, we decided it was time to get some good ol' Texas barbecue, so we made our way to Iron Works BBQ, where I ordered the sampler platter that included beef brisket, beef rib and sausage (complete with potato salad, beans, pickles, onions and $0.07 bread). EXCELLENT BRISKET!

After the game, we stopped for a quick snack and slice of pizza at a random trailer. Help me out UCLA people, what was the name? It was GOOOOOOOD.

Saturday's dinner, we went to Zax, a nice low-key place to celebrate our victory (and a birthday). I had the shrimp, pesto, fontina and tomato pizza. Then we shared a chocolate torte, tres leches cake, and mint cheesecake. Excellent food. Not exactly Texas stereotype, but good nonetheless.

Sunday breakfast we went to a food trailer park where we all got breakfast tacos at Torchy's Tacos. I had a Migas taco and a bacon/egg/cheese taco. Very,very, very good.

Sunday snack, about 30min after tacos, Branden and I stopped at Sandy's Hamburgers for a frozen-custard root beer float. AMAZING.

Sunday snack #2, everyone else went to Gourdough's Doughnuts. I don't even know how to describe this, but I'll try. It's a deep-fried doughnut, filled and covered with anything you can think of, including brownie batter, peaches, yellow cake, bacon or chicken....yes...chicken. My gang went for the sweet stuff, and those doughnuts looked and smelled incredible. Julie was in hog heaven...chocolate and brownie batter on a deep-fried doughnut? CHECK!

As mentioned earlier, the people could not have been nicer or more hospitable. Everywhere we went we had excellent service, helpful locals and lots of smiles. Austin is definitely a wacky, funky town. 6th Street is an animal of its own, with every type of bar imaginable, from old school country to upscale ritzy to pubs to clubs...they had it all.

If you are looking for a unique experience, make your way to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset. This bridge is home to over 2 million bats, and at sunset they all fly out from underneath and go out to hunt and find food. So about 15 minutes after the sun goes down, this bridge (which hangs above a river) spews out 2 MILLION bats into the night. It is quite the spectacle. (*note here - 2 million bats don't smell good).

On Saturday, the town is all about football. Tailgates everywhere you look. Every person is wearing burnt orange for their beloved Longhorns. Mack Brown is a God. Lots of Miller Light, cowboy hats, BBQ and music. We had a great time walking around the area to see an entire town with a "football culture."

All in all, I give Austin two, overly-pudgy-due-to-food thumbs up.