When I was packing for this trip I wasn’t sure what I should bring with me. It was going to be Spring-like in Hong Kong (it was actually pretty cold), Summer in Australia (steaming hot), cold in the Pacific North West (remarkably not that cold, I had good weather), warm on the West Coast (San Diego love!), and freezing as I went further towards the East Coast. What I didn’t really account for, however, is the fact that Texas pretty much has summer the whole year round. As I left San Diego I packed all of my summer items at the bottom of my suitcase, threw all my jumpers on top and headed to Austin. What a mistake. As soon as I touched down in Texas all I felt around me was intense sunshine and humidity, and what was I wearing? Far too much.
As I waited for Megan at the airport, I started pulling off clothes and stuffing them into my bag, trying to get over just how oppressively hot I felt, much to the amusement of the other travellers around me. Well, these things happen! So here’s my tip to you: if you’re travelling to Texas, regardless of the time of year, it’s hot: don’t wear too much clothing. But, once I’d figured out the clothing situation, I had a great week between Austin and San Antonio, with two fantastic friends: Megan and Andres. You guys were the best – awesome hosts, super fun and made me feel right at home. Thank you both so much! If you head into Texas hit these two up: they know where the hot spots in town are!
Three days to get to know a city is not very much, so it any wonder that I arrived in Austin with a bang? Within hours of arriving at the airport and being greeted by Megan, we were rushing off to pick up the Mini One from school and head over to the Gluten-Free Pizza Party at Parkside downtown. We had our photos taken by the wonderful Annie Ray and her photobooth, sampled some gluten-free pizzas (some were better than others, the bases needed to be crunchier, but they were decent. Only downside? All of my toppings kept falling off! Doh!) and then left the party to eat some more food – three little bits of gluten-free pizza and some salad ain’t gonna do it!
301 East 6th Street
Over to Asti, then, and the biggest, most delicious bowl of carbonara ever. Made with heapings of parmesan and guanciale, it was a heart-attack in a bowl and entirely delicious. I had mine with their home-made pappardelle which was definitely a great choice. I ate it far too quickly to take a photo, however, so snapped Megan’s with the spaghetti, instead. Delicious. I definitely slept well that night.
408 C East 43rd Street
A late lunch the next day with Megan and the Mini One at Snack Bar, and a meal both tasty and hilarious. At one point when Megan was discussing what vegetables the Mini One liked, she mentioned he liked carrots, there was a moment’s silence and then he suddenly leaned towards us and yelled, “WE DON’T GOT NO CARROTS HERE, OKAY?!” Three-year-olds are brilliant.
My Farm Omelette, stuffed with brie and bacon, was filling but perfect, and Megan’s BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado) was fresh and gorgeous-looking. The Mini One had a PB & J, which he seemed to enjoy. He finished the whole thing, anyway!
1224 South Congress Avenue
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop
Megan had sent me an elusive Twitter message earlier in the day, simply asking, “How do you feel about cupcakes?” I responded with, “Pretty on the plate, better in my tummy,” and so a plan was formed. After lunch we hopped into the car and headed over to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop for some cupcakery.
Honestly, the cupcakes themselves weren’t great. The frosting was fantastic, but the cupcakes were a little sad and dry – it was like they were overcompensating for poor cakes with an abundance of sweet frosting. But the shop is adorable – they sell aprons on the wall, the decor is cute, and they even have solo shots of frosting for you to wolf down. Shame about the actual baked goods, though.
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop
1905 South 1st Street
Sad to say, but if we’re going to talk about disappointments, let’s talk about Perla’s. Perla’s had been highly recommended, visited by Anthony Bourdain, up there on the list of places to eat in Austin. And it was such a shame, because the food wasn’t bad (though neither Megan nor myself eat oysters, so we were really just in the wrong place) but the service? Oy. The service.
It began with a mix-up with our table which had us waiting for ten minutes, clutching cold drinks and shifting from foot-to-foot as we’d been turfed from our seats at the bar, then a server who really couldn’t care less about his job if we paid him, and two orders that the kitchen was entirely out of. It really was such a shame, because the food is good. Everything else just combined to make what could’ve been great fun into really below par and thoroughly disappointing for the both of us. Service matters.
Stone Wall; Crab Louie; sturgeon; deep-fried okra, cheesy grits with lobster bisque; fried apple pie.
1400 South Congress Avenue
The Austin Farmer’s Market
A slightly drizzly Saturday morning and I was due to head to San Antonio, but first we headed over to the Austin Farmer’s Market to buy some bits and bobs, and take some photos. Oh, and maybe a little video…? Yes. Why not.
Austin Farmer’s Market
4600 Guadalupe St.
A quick rush back to the house to pack, then, and before I knew it Andres was at the door to whisk me off to San Antonio. Hugs were exchanged (the Mini One refused to hug me – too shy – but he did hug my knee rather forcefully and almost topple me over), then we hopped into the car and were off… to the Salt Lick.
I’ve never really enjoyed barbecues a whole lot. The idea of man burning food is something that is slightly alien to me: sure, we had barbecues when I was a kid, but they mostly evoke memories of waving flies from our cold burgers, lamb chops and burnt sausages, as we struggled to chow down outside in the garden, steadily growing chillier by the minute.
This is not American BBQ, apparently, and it must be the abbreviation here rather than the full word. Salt Lick, located just north of Austin in Driftwood, was featured on Man Vs. Food a while ago, a show I have a slight obsession with, so when Andres mentioned that we could go there I was of course ready to experience my first American BBQ.
It was kind of wonderful. The meat was succulent, the sauce was tangy rather than cloying (I hate barbecue sauce, but this actually didn’t taste at all like the barbecue sauce I’ve ever had), and the sides were very decent. We gorged ourselves on meat, watched the chefs at work in the open kitchen/smoke room and then hopped back in the car to head to San Antonio proper, feeling very full but extremely content.
18300 FM 1826
The Texas Snake Farm
So you know how I said we were heading to San Antonio proper? Yeah, I lied. You see, as we were driving I started asking Andres if there were any really large things in Texas, and after a moment’s thought he said, “actually, there’s this snake farm that has the world’s largest pig… and it’s actually on the way” – of course we had to go.
The Texas Snake Farm is located just off the highway and is actually comprised of a snake farm, ‘exotica’ zoo and petting zoo. There was apparently a fire a couple of years ago that killed off a significant number of the creatures, but they had replaced them with others and moved the cages further away from the building. Sadly, the pig appeared to have died since Andres’ last visit to this veritable wonderland, but that wasn’t going to stop us from looking at the snakes, (free-roaming) animals or buying some feed for the petting zoo.
The rain had by now stopped and it was turning out to be a gorgeous day, so after inspecting the variety of snakes (so many awesome snakes!) we headed into the petting zoo to see the goats, pigs, chickens and the llama. Yes. Llama.
So I’m feeding the goats, having a grand old time, holding my feedbag in my left hand, and out of the corner of my eye I can see the llama creeping up on me. I don’t think much of it, maybe it would spit at me, but the next thing I know, quick as a flash, the damn llama has grabbed the entire feedbag out of my hand and is chowing down on it, happy as can be. I yelp with surprise and a small crowd forms around me, just watching this llama eating my feedbag. I try to wrestle it back briefly, but the llama had clearly played this game with the dumb tourist before, and keeps turning his back on me, resolutely chewing on the bag. I decide it’s not worth losing my fingers over, plus the goats have now started trying to eat my cardigan, so I just watch it eat my dollar’s worth of feed. Stupid llama.
Great fun, though. And the snake collection is awesome!
The Texas Snake Farm
5640 S Interstate 35
New Braunfels TX
I have never had good Mexican food. Ever. Tex-Mex? Sure, and totally terrible, but real Mexican food? Nope. This was something we had to remedy at once, of course, so off we went to Taco Haven for breakfast.
It was huge, it was greasy, it was delicious and I ate nearly the entire thing (which was really quite the feat, as these plates were huge). I was definitely a happy (and very full) girl afterwards. We queued for probably about thirty minutes, but it was entirely worth it.
1032 S Presa St.
San Antonio TX
The San Antonio River Walk
Of course no trip to San Antonio is complete without the River Walk, so after our enormous breakfast we went wandering for a good four hours or so. It was beautiful. My advice is to go further than the tourist path will take you – there are a lot less people and it’s a genuinely pleasant walk once you get to the San Antonio River, rather than the man-made portion.
200 South Alamo Street
San Antonio TX
It seems my trip to Texas was to be plagued with terrible service. Auden’s Kitchen, the sister restaurant to the acclaimed Biga, had been highly recommended by many. Sadly, it was once again a case of great food, atrocious service.
Chicken pasta; signature buttermilk fried chicken; decadent chocolate pound cake; apple and rhubarb crisp; sticky toffee pudding.
The server must’ve been new, but he was dropping the ball all over the shop. It really put a damper on our meal, which was such a shame because had we had any other server it may have been one of my best in San Antonio. Oh well. C’est la vie.
700 E Sonterra Blvd #1117
San Antonio TX
My last day in Texas and it was a choice between more Mexican food or sandwiches and tea. Of course I chose Mexican food.
Tito’s do pretty good enchilada plates which are filling, tasty, good quality and inexpensive. We headed down there for a late lunch and lashings of cheese, which were perfect for our rumbling tummies. I polished off my plate, practically licking it clean: I’m definitely a Mexican food fan now!
955 S Alamo St
San Antonio Texas
Pig Liquors is a fun little place, owned by the ever-gracious Anet. A liquor store with twist, it not only sells alcohol but also one-of-a-kind art pieces, vintage clothing and whimsical goodies for the ever-curious mind. Definitely worth a visit.
1017 S Presa St.
San Antonio TX
So you know how there are certain places where you should just put the damn camera down and walk away for fear of getting mugged and/or shot? Yeah. That was here.
Fiesta Bakery, over on the West Side, is in an area of town that you do not want to linger in. The Juvenile Detention Centre is just around the corner, and it’s really a case of getting in and out as fast as possible. It’s a shame, because the Mexican bakery is wonderful and it apparently does fantastic business. Strange in the area of town where all the gangs are, but I guess everybody loves their sweet baked goods. I snapped a photo of half the sign as we were driving away, which was all I dared to do. It’s okay, though, we’d bought our goods and headed home to eat them.
Empanadas, filled with spiced pumpkin puree; regalos, cake-like and filled with spiced pumpkin puree; pan de huevo, literally a sweet ‘egg bread’; cuernos, doughnut-like sweet baked goods.
903 NW 24th St.
San Antonio TX
We hit up Silo for dinner and drinks that evening, a lovely little bar located just off the highway. It was pretty quiet inside (it was a Monday night, after all) but the service was good and the drinks and food were decent.
Mexican Martini; Berry Martini.
We shared some calamari, dusted with parmesan and served with a marisco sauce, and some duck spring rolls (which were delicious), then ordered burgers for our mains.
The burger was okay, not amazing, but the meat was rather good. This is Texas, after all. Still, not much to write home about and rather unimaginative. The miniature Heinz Ketchup bottle, however, was awesome. Seems Portland’s Killer Burger still wins this battle of the burgers! But to be honest I didn’t really give the Texas burger a chance as I didn’t get to go to anywhere specifically for them, so it’s a little one-sided. Oh well.
Still, Silo was thoroughly enjoyable and a very chilled out, relaxed place for a quiet drink and supper with friends. A good end to my Texas trip, for sure!
434 N Loop 1604 West
San Antonio TX
And so that was Texas in a nutshell! Thanks again to Megan and Andres who were amazing, fantastic hosts – I had so much fun with you both! Texas is somewhere I’m definitely going to have to explore in a little more detail: it’s just so big!
That’s all for now. If you made it this far, go get yourself a cookie: you deserve it. Until next time, peace and love.