I was recently sent to Austin, Texas on a shopping trip for work. It was my first time back in the wacky city (where even the Mary Kay cars are huge) that I used to call home since I moved to Brooklyn in 2002. It was kind of neat to drive through the parking lot of the strip mall that houses the Book Stop (where I used to work) and Central Market (where I used to not be able to eat at for lunch because I was too broke). Now someone was paying me to go there. Movin’ on up…
As for shopping there was much to be had. We began at South Congress, where Feathers, a nice, selective store (though one that was uppity about me wanting to take a photo for my blog) held a real gem: a perfectly fitted original Judas Priest t-shirt. I was ecstatic. Other great vintage shops in the city includes the large, overstuffed Blue Velvet on “the drag” of Guadalupe, the half consignment/half hip new stuff store Parts and Labour, and the legendary Lucy in Disguise – a mind blowing and overwhelming bright rainbow of a costume shop.
For non-vintage we scoured the expensive racks of By George, a store with two locations that impresses with its high end fashion. The South location is more boho with lesser known designer dresses while the downtown spot features names you’ll recognize and tons of “yah right” price tags. Great to browse and dream though. The other excellent high price spot in town in The Blue Elephant, a slightly hipper shopping option with lots of chic denim and Marc Jacobs.
We also liked Blackmail a store that initially seemed like a no-go due to the overly gothy, never left the 1990s racks of black clothes. However, it’s worth a stop for the creepy, modern, interesting and, yes, gothic accessories like jewelry inspired by House of Waris and darkly Victorian inspired dish ware.
Hovercraft is another cute store that features lots of great t-shirts and some good mens options much like Downstairs (which used to be called Upstairs in its previous location) . Both also feature good looking staff, including the Downstairs owner, manly bearded Jeff Strange.
Spartan, which shares a space with the lovely Bows and Arrows is another shop run by an interesting person. I never got her name, but you’ll known her as the pretty and enthusiastically helpful woman that runs this clean, feminine gift shop filled with items you would actually want (and would also be able to afford) for a loved one. Outdoorsy loved ones can be shopped for at the Big Red Sun, where plants can be purchased in their garden, NPR is pumped through the intercoms, and tons of caged birds sing to you in the shop.
I relived some olden days and stayed at the iconic Austin Motel, a no frills (except for my odd honeymoon suite mural), quirky motel that has been there since 1938. My co workers had slightly nicer digs next door at the Hotel San Jose, which featured a great outdoor bar (but a much smaller pool than mine). We met there for an excellent michelada. Other blog worthy drinks during the trip? Certainly the chilango margarita at El Chile (which also has amazing thick smoked salsa) a perfectly spicy orange concoction and the nearby Red House Lounge an outdoor laid back bar owned by the same people.
No trip of mine is complete without lots of good food and my belly tells me we may have almost had too much in Austin. Jo’s cafe was a perfect meeting spot to grab iced lattes and iced tea. Nearby Guero’s offered over stuffed plates of shrimp fajitas. Counter Cafe was a spot I remember vaguely as always being crowded, but I don’t remember it being so gourmet meets pit stop. My friend’s sweet potato fries were so fresh, we witnessed them being made completely from scratch, yum. My oysters, though were only so-so.
Our last meals were at Lamberts, a comparatively fancy BBQ joint where my coriander maple pork ribs delighted and the beans and potatoes salad were out of this world. For dessert we visited to adorable trailer Hey Cupcake, where the treats were good but sweet enough to make me buzz for a few hours.
It was great to see so many new places, but the best was stopping by my old haunts. No trip could be complete without a stop at Donn’s Depot with its tattered flocked wallpaper, live music, and lone star. Musashino was another old friend, an amazing sushi spot in an odd office park that is still better than any place I’ve been to in the city. And of course, Uncommon Objects, a nearly indescribable vintage and antique store that is so engrossing to wander through that the experience got me through the despair of a major delayed flight. They were kind enough to let me take some inspiring photos.