I’ve been getting a lot of comments offline — while the Junction House was an interesting stop outside of Austin, it just didn’t jibe with them. Yes, it is a horror movie but I did I really have to use screenshots from the movie??? While I’m in full agreement that horror movies are not my thing, I’m moving on to other highlights from our trip to Austin.
Our two-and-a-half days wasn’t enough time to fully explore the sights. And if you’re anything like me, trying to fit in everything food-related is a monumental task. I jotted a list of must-see things while leaving a lot room to just explore. Turns out it was a perfect pace: relaxing but full of good food.
One thing on my list was to visit Whole Foods which is headquartered in Austin. It’s easy to find. Right on the main drag of Lamar Boulevard is the corporate headquarters with a massive 80,000-square-foot flagship store attached.
Even Paul who refers to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck” was impressed with the layout. There are several stations, each specializing in a food, sometimes with stools around the area if you wanted to have it right there: beer, wine, cheese, tea, chocolates, BBQ, gelato, etc. In addition, there was a make-your-own trail mix bar located in the mind-blowing spice section. In keeping with the Austin vibe, live music can be heard some days from their double-deck outdoor patio. It’s easy to spend an hour in the store just exploring.
I went there every day to stock up on snacks and drinks and even picked up a few edible souvenirs like chocolates, flavored sugars and coffee.
We spent our mornings before the show filling up at various food trucks in Austin. Much like Portland, there are food truck stations around the downtown area. At the top of my list for food trucks was donuts from Gourdough’s.
There’s a daily menu posted outside of the truck. Unfortunately, not all the donuts on their website are available all the time.
On our first visit, we tried the Naughty & Nice (a cinnamon sugar donut with a honey butter dipping sauce) and the Flying Pig (a maple-iced donut with a generous serving of bacon). We repeated it the following morning to try the Mother Clucker (plain donut topped with breaded, boneless fried chicken with a side of honey dipping sauce), this time shared between the two of us. Their donuts are certainly HUGE and lived up to its motto “Big. Fat. Donuts.” I also appreciated the word play on the Spanish word “gordo” for “fat.”
The donuts were a little more than what I was used to paying (over $7 with tip for the Mother Clucker!) and the 45-minute wait for the chicken to be fried for the Mother Clucker tested my patience for a delicious donut. It’s not often you have a donut fresh from the fryer and made-to-order.
As much as I try, I can’t start my day off eating sweet foods. Breakfast tacos from Zagat-rated Izzoz Tacos at the next truck over preceeded anything sweet.
While breakfast burritos are always too big for me, one taco is the perfect size. Breakfast tacos from Izzozz come with a choice of corn or flour tortilla and two toppings (eggs, sausage, bacon, chorizo, potato or cheese). While it’s really hard to screw up a breakfast taco, what really sets Izzoz apart was their amazing pepper-laced hot sauce which was not spicy but added the perfect amount of seasoning. At $1.89, it’s appropriate priced (I saw similar tacos sometimes over $3 each).
Gourdough’s and Izzoz are located in the hip part of Austin right off Congress Street. This artery is a straight shot from Austin’s capitol building – the largest capitol building in the union. Congress Street has places for custom made boots, more food truck vendors and very cool shops to explore some with hilarious shirts for sale.
Congress Street is also known for having one of the largest populations of bats in the world. Every night at dusk, millions of bats fly out from under the Congress Street bridge and go hunting for food. While we didn’t see any bats from the Congress Street location (we saw another bat swarm on the way to Roundrock), there’s a statue to commerate the bats.
The capitol itself was beautiful with an ornate rotunda with portraits of past governors posted along the wall — one you may even recognize. Since Texas is known as the Lone Star State, stars were an ongoing theme and seen everywhere from the top of the building itself to the fence.
We were warned by several people at Staple! about the long wait times at The Salt Lick for Saturday night but nothing prepared us for an almost two-hour wait just to be seated. Instead, we opted for takeout which took a bearable 20 minutes.
The Salt Lick has been profiled several times on the Food Network and other travel cooking shows. But even without seeing any of the shows, watching the indoor BBQ pit was a show in itself. Everything happens right before your eyes: ribs cut, sausages smoked and trays prepped to serve the hordes of BBQ lovers who are seated in the picnic-style tables.
We ordered the four-item plate (one pork rib, turkey, sausage and brisket, with beans, coleslaw, potato salad and bread) with a side of ½ pound pulled pork was more than enough to fill two ravenous people. Even Paul, who is not a ribs fan, admitted the rib was incredibly tender. The plate came with a small side of their famous, slightly sweet, mustard-based BBQ sauce to dip our meat and bread into. I feel sorry for the housekeeper who cleaned up our room the morning after our impromptu picnic on the bedspread.
With all that good eating, I missed one item on my list: Tex-Mex food. It’s all the better the reason to return to Austin.