Last weekend Christina and I decided to take a little time off and head to Austin for the weekend. Work’s been super busy, and like everybody else we haven’t been able to travel or really do much of anything this year (other than work) because of COVID-related restrictions. When we saw there was a little gap in our calendar, plus noticed discounted hotel rates, we decided to take advantage and head to ATX for a quick getaway.
For this trip we decided to stay at the South Congress Hotel. Having gone to Austin many-a-time and liking boutique hotels in general, I’ve always been curious about staying there. This was the first time, however, that we actually pulled the trigger and made it happen. Let me tell you – we loved it and we’ll definitely be back.
We left Houston Friday morning a little after 10:30a and got to the hotel around 1:15 or so. The first thing we did after checking in….coffee, of course. One of the great things about the South Congress Hotel is that there are coffee shops, bar(s), and a couple quality restaurants connected to it, so it makes things super convenient. Manana is a great third-wave coffee shop located in the hotel’s courtyard, and even if you’re not staying in the hotel, if you’re a coffee person it’s worth checking out.
After coffee it was time to address our other basic needs…food and wine. We decided to walk over to June’s All Day which was just a block away from the hotel. We got some light bites, of which we particularly liked the fried baby eggplant. Christina and I like fried eggplant in general, but these tasted like fish sticks to me…and I wasn’t mad at it all. We also shared a bottle of Sancerre that we were both really into.
After June’s we headed to Central Standard, which is another restaurant connected to the South Congress Hotel. Again, we were just stopping in for some light bites and drinks, before heading to Sway for dinner.
Sway is a modern Thai restaurant with 3 locations in Austin (however only one location, in West Lake Hills, is currently open, while the other 2 are temporarily closed due to COVID). The dining room of the restaurant is a vibe…exactly the kind of vibe we wanted to wrap up our first day in Austin with.
We started off with the chicken wings while we waited for our table, and after we were seated we rounded out the meal with their Pad Thai, the Son In Law braised pork shoulder fried rice dish, and the Tiger Cry hanger steak. I think both Christina and I liked the Pad Thai the most, but everything was good and flavorful. I read somewhere that the Son In Law is their most popular dish, but just know it’s rich and savory AF. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s probably what should be expected from a braised pork shoulder dish. But I felt like it’s appropriate that we warn you because it might be a little much for some folks.
After dinner we went to Dirty 6th and partied it up. Just kidding, that’s a lie. By the time we were done with dinner our #washed selves were ready to head home, and we did exactly that. Both of us were in bed and asleep by 11pm, and we have no ragrets. In fact being able to turn in early and have a restful night’s rest was pretty ideal.
Café No Se is attached to the South Congress Hotel (which we’d actually been to before on one of our previous trips to Austin). One of the highlights of this trip was being able to order Café No Se for room service and having it brought up to our room for breakfast in bed Saturday morning. It was so convenient, and the food was actually fire (unlike most other room service situations, in which the food is mediocre at best).
After breakfast Saturday morning Christina and I booked the fitness center at the hotel to work off the calories on the hotel’s Pelotons. Mind you, I had woken up around 6:40am that day and already ran 3.6 miles that morning, but your boy is on his #MambaMentality ish so adding on a 45-minute virtual spin class to the itinerary is light work (lol – jk….we took Alex Touissant’s hip hop ride and it kicked my a**).
Afterwards, we had a 12-2:30p block booked at the hotel pool, and we were able to enjoy some drinks, get a bit of reading done, and cool off in the pool.
After the pool we walked around SoCo to do a little shopping, and one store in particular that we loved is Neighborhood Goods. Their vibe, aesthetic, and the brands they carry is very “Chris & Cab”, but what especially intrigues me is their business model. In the traditional retail business model, a store typically buys products from brands at a wholesale cost, and resells the items to customers at the retail price for a margin. Neighborhood Goods’ model, however, is different in that they generate revenue from subleasing space to a curated set of brands so that each brand has a dedicated space in the store. Being a former boutique owner and understanding the changing landscape of retail, I’ve actually had this business model floating around in my head for the past few years, and I think this is the model more retail concepts need to adopt in order for retail (and local business in general) to survive. I’ll expand more on this in a separate blog post (coming soon). But for the purposes of this post, just know Neighborhood Goods is dope lol.
During our SoCo stroll we also picked up pizza from ATX-classic Home Slice to take with us on a visit to my buddy Tri’s house, where we caught up with him, his girlfriend Kat, and their adorable daughter Eleanor. Buuut we didn’t get take any pictures of the pizza or hanging with Tri, so did it really happen?
For dinner that night Christina suggested we eat at LORO, an “Asian smokehouse” from Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi fame and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue. We almost didn’t go, and that would’ve been a mistake. See, our friend Tri is an understated person that doesn’t like to hype things up and tends to downplay things. While we were at his house we told him our plans to eat at LORO for dinner…and he paused. The kind of pause that makes you think, “Man should I not go? Is this place overrated? Should we go somewhere else?” Now, to Tri’s credit he did insist the restaurant was good, but the pause was enough to cause doubt in my mind. Anyways, we decided to stick to the plan and headed to LORO for dinner…and it was GREAT.
[Moral of the story: Trust the places Christina picks out for dinner and don’t ever let an outside force cause any doubt lol.]
During our visit they were unfortuantely sold out of the Smoked Beef Brisket (I still haven’t had Franklin BBQ, btw), but they did have the Brisket Sandwich, so at least we got to have a little taste of what the brisket is like. Other items of note were the Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam, Cripsy Potatoes. and the Smoked Prime Bavette. All in all it was a fantastic meal, and it would have been a travesty if we decided not to go. I even texted Tri afterwards just to say the meal was great.
After dinner, it was another early night for us (because being #washed is a lifestyle, baby). We ended the night in bed watching the Mavs play the Bucks, and me thinking I’d take Luka Doncic over Harden to build a team around (which is definitely a #hottake coming from a Houston Rockets fans, but if you know me you know I don’t like Harden).
Sunday was a short day as we needed to head back to Houston. Before leaving we decided to hit up the East 11th District and visit a cute shop called Take Heart, which offers a great selection of home goods, jewelry, books, baby + kids products, and more from independent brands. Christina and I basically loved everything in that shop. I joked with her that if she and her friends opened up a boutique, that’s exactly what it would look like.
We then headed to Clark’s Oyster Bar on W 6th for our last meal before heading back home. Yet again, it was a great meal and another place we’d recommend checking out if you’re in Austin.
On the way home, we stopped by the Serengeti Animal Sanctuary off of US-71 close to La Grange. Lately we’ve been seeing a bunch of different friends going to drive-thru safaris and animal sanctuaries, so on the way back we decided to check one out for ourselves.
As soon as our drive-through began there was an emu near the entrance. It is then that I learned that emus are terrifying. They just have these crazy eyes, and they look at you like they’re about to buck at you and peck your eyes out. You ever see that Kevin Hart joke where he talks about being terrified of ostriches? Well, now I know exactly where he’s coming from.
This past weekend in Austin was exactly what we needed to take a slight break and enjoy time together. Now it’s time to get back to the business of helping people find homes they love =)
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