We were so fortunate to experience the NW with two weeks (Aug. 8th-22nd) of gorgeous weather and rain only happening at night. So many flowers were in bloom still and I was able to identify online, all of them but one. I met up with the Rycheners in Seattle, had a day there, we flew to Anchorage, rented an RV and rolled around Alaska. I went back to Washington to meet up with my dad for camping and the art opening where my latest studio work was being shown.
Sunset from the plane
Gray clouds close over
Orange sliver in the west
Like sleepy eyelids
Seagulls and a bald eagle. Sourdough bread and chowder sampler bread at Duke’s – seafood, clam, and lobster. A-Frame duplex covered in vibrant flowers. Monkey Puzzle Tree. Barnacle and black seaweed covered steps. Massive freight barge, heavy with train cars, floats slowly down the Puget Sound. Maple’s red seedpods. Salty air.
Museum of Pop Culture
I think this is going to be a museum about Jimi Hendrix. It definitely looks trippy on the outside. The music playing in the lobby is standard auto-tuned pop of the 2010’s. Nothing calls to me visually or sonically. We are pressed for time anyways, so $30 a ticket isn’t a price we are willing to pay to explore and see if anything else of interest is beyond the entryway.
Pike’s Place Market
Creamy yellow Golden Trout with pink lips and middle stripe; Three and a half to four ft. long chrome King Salmon; Two inch round, two ft. long king crab legs on ice; Bouquets galore – white lilies with lavender edging, silver painted branches, poppy seedpods, dahlias
snowy mountain tops
melting into river trails
heading into bays
Glenn Hwy. overpass overlooking pale ice blue stream frothing on the edges; Spruce broom rust in the tree tops kept tricking me into thinking there was a baby bear up there; After watching the roadside for hours, in hopes of spotting an animal, I say, “It’s time to see a moose! That’s my declaration.” A few minutes later, while getting something out of my backpack, Todd yells, “A moose!” By the time I jump over to the window, it is already far in the distance. All I can see through the screen obscuring my view is a flash of a fuzzy moose and horns silhouette. Rocks arranged on bare dirt hillsides with names and animal shapes. We stay the night at a small RV park next to a glacial mountainside. I realize a glacier and iceberg are not the same thing. The cliffs across the street are speckled white in a couple of places. Through binoculars we can see they are dall sheep.
We stop in a small town named Nenana. We take our photos under an “Alaska” sign / photo booth on the side of the street. Wander around looking at the buildings and I spot a second bald eagle suddenly flying above me. My lens isn’t long enough to capture a great shot of it, but cool anyways. We stop in for lunch at a quaint little restaurant for lunch and the waitress offers us a zucchini from her garden, which lasts us several meals because as I mentioned, it was Alaska-sized! On the way out the door, we notice a book with names and dates next to it. I had just read American Gods, so between Mr. Rychener’s comments and that, I remember it is guesses of when the ice on a nearby body of water will melt after wintertime. Like in the book, something heavy is probably sitting on it that can fall in to prove the date. The winning guess gets a cash prize.
Tanana River whirlpools
To see a video of these strange river vortexes, visit: https://vimeo.com/236171268
We hear strange insect / birdlike sounds from the trees then realize it was these tiny red squirrels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFQKzsz1j7s Two tasty local beers: Kodiak Brown Ale with ballistic Grizzly Bear on the can + Moose Drool light ale. Long-lasting jewel toned sunset. Pattering of drizzle on leaves sounds like a rain stick.
Surprise “use-at-your-own-risk” canoes; “Snowball flowers” (Cotton sedge grass); Boggy, mosquito ridden landscape. Deliciously mild low bush cranberries for days. I can’t get enough of them.; We see some birds fly in and out of the trees. Mr. and Mrs. Rychener say they are gray jays, but I don’t get a good look. ; Fisherman’s catch of silver with purple striped trout
Reindeer (caribou) dogs roasted over an open fire; Misty morning on Moon Lake; Raven honking on top of a tree sounded like geese
On the road near Eielson AFB
Cliff side’s jagged edges make easy climbing ledges for spray painting who loves who and favorite sports teams. A pipeline, suspended up high, stretched alongside the pavement. Trance inducing, the trees go on and on…
Flocks of Canadian Geese fly over the RV park; In hope of bread, ducks swim towards a girl and her brother fishing in the pond. A young one gets entangled in the fishing line. The boy goes for scissors while Todd helps unstring its wing. My good buddy / neighbor / coworker on Jeju Island, S. Korea, Dave picks us up and takes us to local hangout, The Golden Eagle Saloon, for a mini party with him and a musician friend, Isaac, who I also knew on the island.
Afterwards, we pick up some of his fellow Shakespearean actors living in an artists’ camp in a birch forest. They are both from Wisconsin, where I was born, and one happened to be from the graduating high school class of my dad! Those trees are known to be home to flying squirrels. A prop rests at the base of the trees – a wooden cutout of a ship with a red wig hanging over the bow.
Dave drives us out about an hour away under a lovely sunset. We carefully watch for moose while singing 70’s and 80’s rock songs or listening to jazz and electronic music playing on the radio. Finally we arrive at Chena Hot Springs. I can’t say enough good things about the place. I would go there every day if I could. The springs are enclosed in boulders that you can stretch, sit, or climb on. There is a fountain you can sit under. A strong sprayer to pound your shoulders with. The water ranges from warm to as hot as it can get before scalding you. We would have stayed much longer had they not been closing for the night.
The next morning, another dear friend I met in S.Korea, Carey, picked me up and then we swung around to get Dave for breakfast at The Oasis. Crab meat eggs benedict and good company. If you ever need some good reading about Alaska before your trip, visit the site Carey writes for, http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/
On the road again
Abandoned four-story, igloo shaped hotel. Beverage business yard sign announcing, “Yes. We have Red Bull smoothies!” *BLECH* Yellow and blue painted metal sign for True Value Hardware on A-frame cabin with wooden sun and rays above its garage door and windows. There are stops along the way where we have to sit for about ten minutes as construction is underway. A stout little native woman holds a sign up in the road reminding us to stop, then eventually gets into a “pilot car” pickup truck and leads us out of the maintenance area.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Our first night is spent in an RV spot in the preserve. The next morning, while hiking along Savage Creek, we hear a sharp squeaking sound, almost like a dog toy, but can’t find its source. Camouflaged with the rocks are these little chinchilla looking rodents, which someone correctly guess it is a pika. Pika facts: In order to warn its neighbors under the rocks, pika scouts looking out from above will give off a sharp squeaking sound when predators, including humans are nearby. It’s a prairie dog! No, it’s a ground hog! No, it’s an Arctic ground squirrel. This large rodent is digging away and pulling out plant roots, chewing them up like pretzel sticks.
Pretty river flow: https://vimeo.com/236217656
The next night we stay outside of the preserve, but near Denali, at an RV park called the Grizzly Bear. Just before sundown, we walk to the river access across the highway…
In the resort next to the river, we hear from a gift shop cashier that she saw a mother moose and calf around 9:30PM. We decide to take a night drive in hopes of having the same luck. I spot a young one cross the road so Todd stops the RV to watch. Several other cars stop as well. People are getting out and taking photos, but we can’t see from where we are so we get out too. We move into a fairly close vantage point but with plenty of shrubbery between us and the mother moose there. We are growing uncomfortable though because one of the people is clearly getting too close and making the cow nervous. We tell her so, but she didn’t seem to either understand or care. A tour bus driver tells us that we should back away, so we leave.
Moose (and willow) facts: Although moose are in the deer family they are given bovine names (bull, cow, and calf). People who use all of the parts of a dead moose use the brain to tan its hides. Females have 24 hrs. to breed. If male smells the mating hormone, he will slowly approach female and rest his head on her rump. If she is receptive, they will proceed.
Several types of willow, which contains vitamin c and the pain relieving acid used in aspirin, grow in Alaska, but I never saw a weeping willow. Most likely because many animals, including the moose, like to eat it in abundance, so it never gets a chance to grow large. They eat 7-10 times a day because they require 50-60 lbs. of food per day. In order to be able to recover from the feasting, part of the year willow puts out a chemical that animals cannot digest. That is when they begin eating other things.
A dewlap is a flap of skin under the chin of a moose. Experts are uncertain what the purpose is, but our shuttle driver, Bard makes us laugh when he says, “Let’s get our dewlap pierced!” Bard said that more deaths happen per year by female moose attacks than by any other cause. Be careful not to get too close, especially to a baby moose because it’s mother is nearby. According to my dad, if their ears go back, they are likely to charge you.
Horseshoe Lake, a gorgeous emerald body of water in a valley. Although we haven’t had luck spotting a moose, we discover moose tracks. There are impressively cut beaver dams and gnawed fallen trees. Female mallards and ducklings splash about and fish. We see a lone fish that Todd recognizes as a Arctic grayling because of its large dorsal fin. We stop to take a photo together against the lush colors and a gray jay lands on a tree near where we are sitting, so we get a good look at it. It’s really cute!
This video shows a creek full of of sediment from melted glaciers. It is uninhabitable by fish or amphibians: https://vimeo.com/236218216
We visit a sled dog kennel where the dogs are so mellow I wonder if they are sedated. When it comes time to put on a show for us though, they go wild – barking and jumping in hopes they will be the ones picked to perform and get treats. The canines are still used to run sleds up to high parts of the mountains that are inaccessible to vehicles, but where park staff are stationed.
To see the show, visit: https://vimeo.com/236217730
6,000,000 acres; Denali Mountain means “the high, big, or great one” in Athabascan. It was named Mount McKinley because a Republican explorer and gold prospector wanted to celebrate the presidential nomination of William McKinley, who had never even been to the state. President Obama officially renamed the mountain in efforts to restore respect back to Native Americans. It was too cloudy to get a glimpse of its peak while we are there because it is the tallest one in North America, so this opportunity is rare. We see so many other gorgeous ranges on our shuttle tour though such as the impressive Sable Pass, Polychrome Mountains, Geode Mountain, and Eielson. When I try to pick up one moose horn at one of the stops I can’t. I start cracking up over how heavy it is. Needless to say, they are massive animals.
Other things we see on the shuttle are: homosapiens in brightly colored rain gear; low level strips of water weaving around the riverbed is called a braided river; random ring of red leaved plants on a hillside; male moose bones scattered in a field from wolf pack attack, and a weird “fairy portal” made of birch in the middle of a field. Shuttle bus stops for us to see a few willow ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska. They are ground birds from the grouse family and are hunted as a food source by humans. The consensus online is that they taste like quail and/or chicken. Despite all the bear activity warning signs at the trail heads, luckily we never see one close up on our walks. Fortunately, we see several from a distance. There is a grizzly that appears to be frolicking, but we are told it is injured. Blond grizzly mamas and cub twins foraging for berries on the hillsides. When salmon season is over, they change their food source. It’s hard to imagine they can get enough berries for those big bodies. A lone female moose far in the distance. Caribou (reindeer), which I am uncertain as to the sex of because both females and males grow antlers.
Mice with a red stripe down back running around the park’s Wilderness and Visitor Centers. One hangs out under a hanging planter, as it’s being watered by someone on a ladder, so it can lap up the liquid draining onto the ground below. They scurry too fast for me to catch a photo and I can’t find one on the internet.
Driving back towards Anchorage
Vegetables get enormous because there is so many hours of sunlight. Supposedly it went down completely at 3 AM and rose again at 4 AM. A zucchini about 18″ long and 5″ wide on the bottom end is sitting on the counter of The Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, Talkeenta, AK. They offer birch syrup drinks, but I really just want a sample of it so I know what it tastes like. The lady behind the counter gives me a couple of drops in a spoon. It tastes almost like molasses, but not as heavy. We enjoy a delicious smoked salmon bagel sandwich. The trees surrounding the place are draped in a soft green moss that I haven’t seen anywhere else we’ve traveled to. In the woodland trail I spy a dark-eyed junco (slate colored subspecies).
We stop because Barbara sees a trumpeter swan couple in a pond. In the next RV park, Montana Creek, we park in for the evening, we go for a walk by a creek and see a school of fish close to the opposite shore, probably salmon, appearing to swim in place. They are most likely laying eggs in the rocks. A large, dying one is swimming alone on the shore we are standing on. Seagulls fly overhead. I occasionally hear one swoop down to try and pick one up or hear a fish jump. Todd and his dad part ways with me to eat, while I obsess over lovely lichen patches with my close-up filter while talking and singing aloud to invisible bears that could walk up at any time, especially if they smell fish. Lichen are not plants, but a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. They absorb minerals from the rocks, trees, and bones they attach to and create soil by expediting the decay of those hard surfaces. Some varieties are then eaten for their mineral and protein content by moose and caribou.
I traverse through most of the woods there and stumble across a tunnel window. Just after taking a picture, I small man, with a strong resemblance to a leprechaun in his plaid paddy cap, white hair and beard walks into the passageway, carrying a bundle under his arm, grumbling fiercely to himself. I scramble up the hill to the train tracks because a petite woman alone in the wilderness should be especially cautious. Todd said he was probably grumbling because there wasn’t enough gold under the rainbow. Later I see him in an RV near ours. He no longer sports a sweatshirt, but a long sleeved tee with suspenders. I see that he is Asian and his beard was merely speckled with white, but the darkness of the tunnel must have only allowed that to show through.
A wild berries of Alaska poster at one of the trail heads helped us recognize the abundant high bush cranberries there. We sampled some. One was too tart, one was awfully overripe, one was just right. Still, I preferred the low bush type that we had a few days before.
Musk ox farm in Palmer, AK. They are raised here in order to harvest the down under their hair. This ultra-soft fiber, qiviut (KIV-ee-OOT), is warmer and softer than sheep’s wool. When these animals are grown, they looked like giant long-haired guinea pigs (with horns). Highly durable and waterproof scarves and other items are made from qiviut. Just a shake will dispel all the water even from a rain soaked garment! Their astounding spiral nasal cavities allow the air to warm up before reaching their lungs, so that they can endure -80 degrees fahrenheit! Obviously, qiviut has helped them survive those temps too. Oomingmak, as the animals are known to native peoples of the area, have been around as long as the woolly mammoth and fossils of them have been seen as far south as Florida. If have ever been a fan of the Cocteau Twins, here is a lovely song, named after these sweet animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSKO2vDTfq4
has a bar called the Sleeping Lady where an art exhibit featuring work by living artists from Northwestern Native American tribes.
Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, Denny Creek Campground
Dad picks me up after dark from the airport. He’s smaller than I remember. He says I am too. He says he shrank by two inches after he had spinal surgery. I don’t remember the conversation now, but I remember his is in a great mood and being funny. We haven’t seen each other in four years. I haven’t been to Washington in seven. We arrive in the forest after dark, but I can still see the massive trees. The sky is clear so I can finally see the stars! I don’t have a tripod with me, so I rest my camera on the ground supported by a flashlight.
In the morning, we eat sage sausage that he has made with fresh eggs. I take a walk by the creek (Denny) flowing through the park. It’s the prettiest creek I’ve ever seen. There are clear running waterfalls and pools along the trail. I become so engrossed there that I hardly even wander far from camp, but am gone for hours.
When I return Dad shows me his walking stick that he has hung feathers of Stellar’s Jay, woodpecker, and crow. He shows me a bone that is used to make an arrow shaft from a small tree branch. There are many robins but the light is too dim and they are moving too quickly for me to get a good shot. I did manage to get one of a hairy woodpecker. At night we make a campfire and act silly.
The next day we have breakfast, then head over to Columbia City neighborhood in Seattle, when I am participating in an art exhibit. To see images from that show, visit my other blog post: https://haikuflash.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/su-casa-es-mi-casa
My friend in Alaska, Dave, tells me to go to a diner in North Bend because it’s the one everyone hangs out at in the surreal murder mystery series Twin Peaks. We just happen to be staying 20 minutes from there, so plan to head over for breakfast, pie, and coffee. I have been watching Twin Peaks: The Return every Sunday, so am excited to be in one of the three-dimensional locations I have seen on the two-dimensional screen. We are greeted by a flashing open sign with a blue neon mug and red marquee lights above it representing steam rising from its hot liquid. I’m pretty sure it was in one of the episodes.
The props and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the place definitely lend to the feeling that the show is superimposed on top of the charming diner. I can see close up, the panoramic landscape painted in a strip along the entire wood paneled wall. My cup is emblazoned with the logo for Twede’s Cafe along with their slogan “The Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and ‘A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee’.” A rectangular wooden sign with letters carved out and painted white: TWIN PEAKS Population 51, 201, sits on top of the pie case. A man, appearing to be the manager, sports a t-shirt with a Twin Peaks Sheriff Department decal on the back. To top it off, as we are leaving, we see an FBI Agent smoking out back with one of the waiters as a sun dog glows above us, just like in the intro scene of every Twin Peaks: The Return episode. In fact, that entire fictitious town, invented by David Lynch and Mark Frost, is situated in that area, including other regular scenes depicted in the show, the Snoqualmie Falls (named for a branch of the Salish tribe) and “Crying Man” mountain, Mount Si.
To see this gorgeous misty waterfall in action, visit: https://vimeo.com/236171694
After brunch and a walk to the aforementioned falls, we go hiking up to Franklin Falls, which feeds the creek running through our camp, Denny Creek. On the way up, we see many small trees growing from hollowed out dead tree trunks that have filled with dirt; cozy cabins; a tree trunk remnant that serves as a rocking bench, which I enjoy with a random little girl on the trail; a tree base that looks like a giant spring onion; and tiny black squirrels. It’s a sunny day, so at the apex we see many rainbows in its mist. The water is cool and fresh. Dad finds an arrowhead along the rocky shore. We see a young guy climbing the cliff side really fast like he is a billy goat. We walk off our Twede’s, so have room for grilled steak, compliments of dad’s friend who owns cattle and uses no hormones or antibiotics. Needless to say it was super flavorful and fresh.
The next morning, we are considering going into the city to meet with the Rychener’s to view the eclipse, but are worried about the traffic, which has been insane the past couple of days. Instead we drive out to the highway near the campground where we have a clear view of the sun. The peak of the eclipse is supposed to be at 10:20, but it is still pretty bright outside, which I am not expecting because I had already seen one in the 80’s that was much larger (lower in the sky because it was evening time) and probably closer to totality because it got much darker. It did cool down noticeably though. I try to capture a shot at 1/8000th of a second, ISO 100, and f32, but my lens isn’t very long and when I review the image, it doesn’t look like much…until I see it on my monitor! So pretty! Very different than the cell phone pix I take, which only show a tiny trace image of a crescent sun shape off to the side.
We enjoy lunch and a pint at my favorite Irish restaurant, Kell’s. They have the best soda bread and so many delicious seafood choices. It’s right on the wharf, so we stroll over to the aquarium, which was closing soon and cost too much for the amount of time we would have in there. Still, we get a good view of the water, boats, and gulls. We have some time to kill before heading to the airport, so we make our way to the Discovery Park lighthouse, West Point Light. The park is non-existent without getting a special permit first, so dad drops us off and comes back to get us later. The nostalgic looking building has been renovated and has been automated since 1985.
I don’t want to leave the wilderness to return to Austin traffic and heat, but I know that the bitter cold will catch up with the Northwest shortly after we leave. Luckily for them, they get the Northern Lights as consolation. We are too early to catch any. It isn’t dark enough. I hope to go back another time for their electric show and go to Valdez too, which is highly recommended by several people.
To see more photos from this trip, visit: https://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Alaska/G0000nLeUEupIxYA/C0000wXadIR1Yr_g AND https://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Washington-State/G0000lWJERtcV3d4/C0000wXadIR1Yr_g
chirping near window
What kind of night bird is that?
Wait! That’s a frog song.
wings spread, slender neck
curves slowly down then straightens
graceful heron dance
duck swims at high speed
frantic flapping and quacking
paddling bird dog chase
flew through window wings brush wrist
Granna died today
Raccoons raid campsites
Barking echoes in canyons
Boars grumble in the night
seikô udoku; kakô tôdoku (In summer, cultivate the fields; in winter, cultivate the mind.)
smell, taste, and hear snow
winter’s blood, water’s sleep dance
Warm windy sidewalk
Winter suddenly burst through
As I crossed the street
Green parrots sitting
Two by two four love birds kiss
Beak to beak on wire
I’m always surprised when I meet someone who has been here for several months and still hasn’t been to any of the nature spots, bar / music venues, or longstanding restaurants that give Austin deep character. I’ve lived here for 20 years, so I feel pretty qualified to write this post. Most of these eateries have well seasoned grills, which really comes through in the food as a seasoned iron skillet does. Finally, they are all pretty damn cheap with generous helpings. It’s sad to learn that people only know about what is a corporate chain, trendy, and/or posh here. Not that some of those places aren’t really great too, I’m all for innovation, but my favorite locally owned spots are so down-to-earth, funky, and friendly, like the heart of Austin. I hope you love it as much as I do. I haven’t put any sushi places here because in my opinion, any of our sushi restaurants are better than most places in the world with wide variety and unique rolls. Music and art shows are day by day, check the Chronicle, but I threw a few long standing venues in here always feature Austin’s best bands. Enjoy! P.S. Please share with your friends. Thanks!
Food and Drink
#1 All Time Favorite – Curra’s Grill Mother of Mex (not Tex-Mex) on Oltorf between I-35 and Congress. If the lot is full, park on Rebel St. This is one of the only places where I can order anything on the menu for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and feel as satisfied by it as my previous favorites. If you’re there for breakfast, you must get a Oaxacan (wa-ha-kan) coffee. Soft corn tortillas. Red corn tortillas. If you like smoky Scotches, get a Mezcal (smoky tequila) drink or try their avocado margaritas. Not many places serve those.
2 – Polvo’s on South 1st. I crave their salsa bar. Three types. All delicious. My fav is always the Goliath Burrito with fish, but any filling is delicious and includes squash and other veggies.
3 – Guero’s on South Congress near the river. Delicious raspberry puree margaritas. I usually either get the El Presidente Burrito, but sometimes a Sante Fe enchilada, which comes with a fried egg on top.
4 – Matt’s El Rancho on South Lamar. Really great patio if it’s not too hot. Food’s good too.
5 – Maria’s Taco Xpress on South Lamar. Migas breakfast taco is the bomb! The only place in town that serves chimichurra salsa at their bar. It’s the one that is made primarily of cilantro and chilis, not liquid like most salsa. Funky style old school Austin setting.
6 – El Alma on Barton Springs. The only place good enough to stay in business in the tricky spot. They even have a parking lot across the street now. My drink of choice is the Chilanga, an very orangy margarita with chili salt on the rim. I go in when I just want a happy hour drink and appetizer of their jack and shrimp tostaditos that come with a side of escabeche (ay-ska-bay-chay) which is picked veggies. I don’t even normally like that stuff, but theirs is special.
7 – Habana Cuban on South Congress. Best Cuban sandwich. Best tres leches cake (with cinnamon). Theirs is not too dry or too wet. Great mojitos with the option for mango or coconut rum. Little straw cabana booths outside for when the weather is nice.
*****Can you tell I’m a Southside girl 😉
8 – 888 Asian (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese) Their wide noodles with seafood is my fav. The scallops are especially impressive for this price. I’ve tried friends’ plates and those almost made me wish I’d ordered what they had. Of course, family style is also an option. Open very late although there might be a line.
9 – IM Thai. Sunset Valley (SW Austin). Ok this is one is fairly new, but they have the best som tam of anywhere in Austin. I lived in Bangkok for two years, so am picky about Thai food. Get the one on their House Specials menu and share it with your friend. That one comes with marinated meats and sticky rice.
10 – Conan’s Pizza on Stassney. Not only do they serve great pizza, especially the thick, but this location has an antique piano that you might be lucky to be accompanied on or even get to play.
11 – Square Rut Kava Bar on South Congress. Direct from the South Pacific pure kava beverage in a coconut shell cup. Different strains for different effects. Talk to the bartender. If you are sensitive to bitter, drink slowly and get them add flavoring such as chocolate caramel. There’s one on the Northside too if you stay there.
12 – Maudies on South Lamar. Nachos baked on thick chips.
All over town:
1 – Taco Shack. El Nino breakfast tacos (If you can handle it!) egg, chorizo, pickled jalapenos and cheese.
2 – Trudy’s. Again, all good for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Even their mix and match 3-5 vegetarian dishes are sooo good, especially considering they aren’t a veggie restaurant. Best broccoli ever.
3 – Chi’Lantro’s trucks (ck Twitter for the location that day) or storefront on S. Lamar. Ok, these guys are new school, but local and started in a trailer. Bulgogi fries w/ special sauce. Sick! In a good way though.
4 – East Side King trucks and storefront on S. Lamar. Also pretty up and coming, but is my favorite since my favorite Thai restaurant, Spin closed down, which Sway on S. 1st is similar to. Everything on the ESK menus, which vary by location, is delicious and inexpensive.
Downtown / Central / Campus Area:
1 – Ruby’s BBQ. Off of Guadalupe on 29th. They smoke it there in the back. Rich red sauce and great sides. Shiner and other brews by the bottle.
2 – Spider House on Fruth St. coffee shop with cool patio full of funky vintage furniture and decor. Rust and time. Outdoor stage with regular shows. Their venue around the corner from their parking lot also has regular concerts where all my favorite bands play.
3 – Pubs: Fado’s Irish food and pub on 4th Street and around the corner from it AND Gingerman on Lavaca with over 50 beers on tap. I preferred their old building, but the new one is similar.
1 – El Azteca on E. 7th. Chipotle chicken
2 – Licha’s Cantina on E. 6th. Ok, pretty new establishment, but in a cute older house with patio covered in stencil art. One of the few places serving huitlacoche (hweet-la-co-chay), AKA corn truffle 🙂 Have you ever tried hibiscus flower quesadillas? Now is your chance! Wide selection of mezcal.
3 – Takoba on E.7th and Onion. Again, not really longstanding, but I have to rave about their mojito. They grind the mint up so you REALLY get the flavor of it. Smart. Delicious food. A little pricier than the others.
4 – El Chile on Manor Rd. Essentially the same as El Alma on the Southside.
5 – Mi Madres on Manor Rd. I heart their burritos with french fries inside. They are the only place that serves café de olla (cinnamon stick coffee in a clay mug).
6 – Hoover’s Southern Food on Manor Rd. I usually go here for New Year’s Eve to get my lucky black eyed peas. Lot’s of other delicious down home style offerings though.
7 – Blue Dahlia French Cuisine on E. 11th. In my opinion, moules et frites (mussels and fries) and ratatouille are their specialties. Pretty garden dining.
8 – Juan in a Million on E Cesar Chavez. Famous for their Don Juan breakfast taco. No one makes one like this. Semi mashed potato, cheese, egg, and crumbled crispy bacon.
1 – Fonda San Miguel. Gorgeous interior Mexican decor. You know colored tiles, old carved wood furniture, lots of plants. Wonderful food. Sunday brunch extravaganza.
2 – Korea House on Anderson Lane. Most generous variety of banchan (tiny appetizer bowls). A large menu of sushi options. If you want, you can take a table with a galbi grill in the center. There you can prepare the meats as is popular in Korea.
*Bonus: Terra Toys is super close in case you want to go in and play a bit.
3 – Din Ho on 183. Chinese spot with delicious seafood. BBQ pork on sticky buns. Dim Sum.
Veggie Heaven; Mother’s (still my favorite veggie burger in town); Casa de Luz – macrobiotic in a lovely setting; See Trudy’s write up above; Mr. Natural on South Lamar or E. Cesar Chavez
Music and Drinks
1 – Flamingo Cantina on 6th Street. The only place on Dirty 6th that I frequent regularly. World, Soul, and Reggae music in a funky space with great outside upper deck overlooking the stage.
2 – Sahara Lounge. Far NE. Worth the drive. Always bumpin’ world music. Latin, African, Jamaican, etc. etc. in a shack filled with old African instruments and jazz, reggae, and world music concert posters and photos. A large backyard including lots of picnic tables. Signature drink: Sahara Slant ginger and cinnamon buzz.
3 – Whip In on S.IH35 access road between Riverside and Oltorf. Vintage Indian decor in the stage area for local acts. Wooden booths. 2nd outside patio and stage. Beer and wine bar. Inexpensive home style Indian food.
4 – Continental Club / The Gallery (upstairs) AND C-Boys Heart and Soul both on South Congress. Always primo acts.
5 – Hole in the Wall on the Drag (Guadelupe across from UT campus). Many talented bands got their start here because the owners were willing to take a chance on them. Well known musicians have played here too though. Now East Side Kings, one of our best Thai food vendors, is sharing the space with them.
6 – Waterloo Records on South Lamar. I hadn’t added this at first bcz I thought it didn’t need to be mentioned. Then I heard someone say they were going to order a CD online of a local band bcz they didn’t know this longtime music vendor would have it. Call first. If they don’t have it, they will get it fast and call you. Support local. Four point five rows of vinyl. Lots of used CDs. Videos. Listening stations. In store mini concerts. Toys. Books. Gear. This place kicks ass.
7 – Book People on South Lamar. Ok some books are cheaper online, but spending time browsing a great book / magazine store like this is just plain old fun. It’s two stories. Coffee shop. Gifts and cards. In store author lectures / book signings.
8 – Elephant Room under Congress. Underground jazz bar. Always featuring great acts. Brannen Temple and Ephraim Owens are the ultra talented stars of this scene.
9 – Half Step on Rainey Street (South Central). Classy newish place in an old Rainey Street house with comfy booths. The bartenders put on an entertaining drink making show, sometimes those big square ice cubes. Kind of trendy drink menu, but low key. Great patio. Highly talented bands like improv funk / soul / jazz crew Canned Beets playing on Wednesday nights and teen blues act The Peterson Brothers on Thursdays.
10 – Russia House on E. 5th St. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I heard it’s good. I have sampled from their wall of flavored vodkas though. It’s like digging into a bag of Jelly Bellies. Name the flavor and they’ve infused their vodka jars. Bands play on some nights.
11 – Vortex Repertory Theater on E. Manor Rd. All original productions including fantasy, fairy tales, hip hop, sky dancers in this intimate space. The Butterfly Bar is attached. There is a courtyard of picnic tables to enjoy the weather and eat a meal from one of their trailers serving Italian and ?
12 – Skylark Lounge on Airport. East Austin Soul. Originale patio.
13 – Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon on Burnet. Feels like a country shack inside. Friendly staff. Tiny stage with talented country acts. Fiddlin’. Chicken Shit Bingo on some Sundays.
(besides Zilker Park, Botanical Garden, and Barton Springs)
1 – Mayfield Park is a centrally located. Lovely water ponds and peacocks amongst huge palm trees. There is a walking trail if you want to go down to the water.
*Bonus: Laguna Gloria is right there next to it. This is an old, well maintained villa converted into art museum. Walking trail to the left has my all time favorite climbing tree in the world! You will see it. There is a bench underneath to help petite people like me get up.
2 – Greenbelt secret mini waterfalls trail! The Greenbelt goes all around town as the name suggests, but I usually love to enter through parking lot of Retreat at Barton Creek Apts. on S. Lamar Blvd. Park in a visitors spot by the office / pool. To the right of those, you will see a space between the back and side buildings where a bamboo grove stands. To the left of the grove there is a trail going all the way down to the river. Very private.
3 – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in very Southwest Austin. Best in spring. Go up the tower to see the fields or walk around the gardens and trails. Vast blankets of color.
4 – McKinney Falls State Park is in near SE Austin.
5 – If you have time to get out of town, Enchanted Rock! Pink granite mounds. Ancient Native American sacred place. If you are sensitive, you can feel the magic. I love going around Thanksgiving when the leaves are turned. If you climb up the rock (it’s pretty steep, but if you have strong legs or a walking stick, you can do it!), you get a beautiful vista view of the autumn trees. It’s fun in the spring too though when the wildflowers are blooming. I’ve seen roadrunners and an armadillo there.
(besides downtown – Mexicarte, The Contemporary, The Blanton)
1 – Women & Their Work on Lavaca. Super cool and fun. A sidewall in foyer holds big square brochures of past exhibits for several years. Gift shop with local artisan jewelry, books, and unique gifts. Open Mon-Sat business hours.
2 – Canopy art complex on Springdale houses Big Medium, Co-Lab, Art.Science.Gallery, a coffee shop, high quality craftwork shops, and studios. Ck hours before going.
3 – Laguna Gloria (see Mayfield Park above)
4 – grayDUCK on E. Cesar Chavez. From what I’ve seen is always showing top quality Austin artist’s work.
5 – Dougherty Arts Center Gallery on Barton Springs. This humble place often gets overlooked because although it has been promised funding for a face lift after winning votes in the bond election twice, it has never gotten it. It has so much heart. Please drop in. Community or two person shows exhibit here. Always lovely. Check the theater schedule for performances.
Place to stay next time you’re in town in group of people
Contemporary architecture with Balinese decor. Fresh and gorgeous. Filled with quirky artwork. Lush gardens. Pool. Firepit. Screened in patio with swings. Super nice proprietor. Currently I am the groundskeeper here.
All images and text copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while might remember that I have posted about cicadas as heralds of summer.
Here are new haiku written during a recent walk at the Colleyville Nature Preserve in North Texas.
Cool breeze and dirt path
Cicada belly up…still…
Summer is over
A dozen monarchs
Fuel up for their journey
South to Mexico
Single click thumbnails to enlarge and view as slideshow. All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid