“The joke is: If you say you arrived to Austin on Tuesday, an Austinite will always jump in to say, ‘You should have gotten here on Monday, man, that’s when it was actually cool!”
I laugh. I’m getting my hair cut in Bird’s — a hip, little Austin barber shop that I stepped into on a whim. My hairdresser is telling me about the city while I sip a free beer and she does literally whatever she wants to my hair. For me, this is a super odd choice. I’m so nervous about cutting my curly hair that I only do it once a year and am willing to spend any amount of money to not get butchered. So for me to duck into a little rock-n-roll looking barbershop while biking around a city I don’t know shows you just how chill Austin can make a person.
So chill it’ll leave you flippant about your curly hair. And curly hair is serious business.
If you’ve read literally any “liveability” article in the past 20 years, you know that Austin is an undeniably great city. It’s most famously known for hosting South by Southwest — a fest that fits perfectly with its Keep Austin Weird mantra. But just because SXSW is over for the year doesn’t mean Austin has run out of cool things to do. The city is just ramping up for spring and the friendly, charming, active locals are out in full force.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in the city that’s cool whether you get there on a Monday or a Tuesday. Because Austin might not be exactly the same as it was 18 years ago when the phrase, “Keep Austin weird” was first coined, but it’s maintained its status as the place to be for good reason.
Keeping Austin Delicious
There is so much good food in Austin, that on any trip you should watch your back, lest the serial killer from Se7en decides to pick you as his “gluttony” kill. The classic Franklin Barbecue may be hyped with a long, long line, but it’s damn fine barbecue. The restaurant opens at 11 — on weekends people get in line as early as 7am to get some of that delicious brisket and turkey before they run out. And while waiting in line sucks, the line at Franklin is a bit of a party atmosphere. There’s day drinking (you can bring your own booze for tailgating or they sell beers to the line at a reasonable hour, which….is still morning), chatting, frisbee — I mean, you’re all waiting for a feast. How can you be that down?
If you want to spend a couple of days just standing in BBQ lines to see which famed Austin joint is better (WHICH IS A NOBLE AND TASTY WAY TO SPEND A DAY), Franklin’s competitor La Barbecue also serves up amazing meats with a pretty long line. Both are worth it, in my opinion.
For dessert, after you fill yourself with so much barbecue that you want to die, you’ll want more food for dessert. Gordough’s Donuts serves up stuffed donuts the size of cakes out of an airstream trailer. Some hack travel writers will tell you split such a beast with one or several friends, but I will not because then you can’t trade pieces of yours. Mama’s cake uses a yellow cake batter filling and is truly amazing while the Fat Elvis involves bananas, bacon, and peanut butter icing.
You can’t get away with visiting Austin without eating breakfast tacos (but also lunch and dinner tacos). Tacodeli is a Texas chain, but they started in Austin and there’s a reason they expanded — the small restaurant is right on the edge of the Green Belt so you can load up on tacos before a hike. The Cowboy with its steak, carmelized onions, and guac and the pork shoulder based El Conquistador are amazing. For a classic (and perfect Austin breakfast taco) you should head to Rosita’s Al Pastor. And don’t leave without hitting up Veracruz All Natural, both for the migas breakfast taco and their al pastor.
The Roosevelt Room is an amazing place to get a slightly upscale cocktail. For more of a sit-down dining feel, Suerte was one of last year’s best new restaurants in the country, Chef Fermín Núñez makes masa using Texas corn in-house, and the Suadero Tacos (brisket) are so good, you won’t be able to handle it. For the beer lover, The Brewer’s Table is elevating the beer drinking and dining experience with a menu that compliments and plays off beer in innovative ways while using locally sourced ingredients. The East Austin restaurant’s entire staff has completed at least Cicerone level one (the craft beer sommelier program) so you know they’re knowledgable. Neither the food nor the beer will disappoint.