I’m three days into my week in Austin, and I’m finally starting to appreciate the city for what it is. Admittedly its stark uniqueness (open-air roadside restaurants, breakfast tacos… did I mention the 100 degree weather?) didn’t win me over at first. I have nothing against tacos for breakfast, so perhaps it was that my first impression of Austin was 6th Street, a wide stretch of bars that come alive only at night. My favorite neighborhood so far? South Congress, of course. Surprised? If you’re familiar with Austin it seems it could compare to the Brooklyn of NYC: good coffee shops, residential, walkable, livable, breathable.
Houston was initially in the cards for today, but a small change in plans led me to spend the day working in Austin. Sorry to have missed you this time Houston!
Is it me or the genuine friendliness here is on another level? Everywhere I go I feel like I make a new friend. Yesterday at the grocery store, today at the coffee shop, where next tomorrow? By the way, if you’re looking for good coffee in Austin, so far my favorite has been Seventh Flag Coffee. If you’re looking for food with your daily cappooocceeno you can go to their food truck neighbors on the right for ravioli or a delicious lentil, pear and gorgonzola salad.
In important news, I found a place to embroider Libellula on my jean skirt.
For dinner to take home to family friend, I found a place called Loro (yes, I was drawn to it because of its Italian name!). Thai-style barbecue with coconut rice, a fun wooden and hammock-filled outdoor space and communal tables. Next-up: Texan barbecue!!
I love oat milk. I found it today. At the first ever Whole Foods. I would buy it except I’m on the road… now that I think about it I may go for it anyway. I could eat granola and oat milk all day. Never again will I be let down when the coffee shop doesn’t use oat milk. There I go, ordering coffee with no milk and taking out my own personal supply. Independent woman.
Despite my trip to Whole Foods and a couple interesting encounters with their famous “tasters” that operate behind-the-scenes, I managed to smooth out the next couple stops of the road trip at Houndstooth Coffee.
The day ended well at a downtown WeWork olive oil tasting. I always meet great people at the WeWork events. Today I spoke with a guy from Palestine who has sent olive oil from his own olive trees. He offered me a taste, and it reminded me of sesame it was so nutty. It lacked any of the complexity or fruitiness that I’m used to. But I loved listening to his story, the foods he enjoys pairing it with, and feeling his passion for a product so closely tied to his culture like Libellula.
The first thing I crave to do in a new city is check out the local coffee scene. And so I did, at Mañana in South Congress. The coffee was pretty acidic, but I was happy to finally have my dose of oat milk!
We later drove to Wimberly, an artistic town south of Austin, for a short Libellula pop-up at a store called Libelula, the spanish word for dragonfly. I love listening to stories behind other people’s businesses, especially when there is a strong emotional element. Relationship-building and supporting one another’s businesses becomes so much more powerful when there is strong purpose and meaning behind the business on both ends.
Who knew Texas had some beautiful hill-country? Trattoria Tunisia is an Italian restaurant tucked between vineyards and trees, slightly reminiscent of the Tuscan countryside. We had wine outdoors overlooking the acres of vineyards, and an Italian-American meal indoors in the veranda. Driving away at dusk transported me to Italy, when the sky takes on a pale blue-gold tint, and the green of the trees turns silvery. Surely a popular place for a weekend getaway.
Before leaving Dallas I wrapped up some work at Ascension, a local coffee joint that treats its beverage menu like a chemistry experiment, except they have the conceptions down to perfection: low acidity is one thing I took away from the owner, who used to be in the fashion world and a frequent traveler to Italy. Needless to say, the coffee truly was delicious.
The drive over to Austin was hot in my red hot chili car, and the arrival was greeted just as warmly by a family friend from Milano. We immediately left the house to experience Esther’s Follies, a renowned Texan comedic and magical performance filled with musical performances and political satire. One of the acts divided the map of Texas into 5 sections, highlighting the stereotypes of each area and providing me with some local insight. We ended the evening on a rooftop at University of Texas, where a visiting cohort of entrepreneurs from Africa were hosting a celebratory go-away party. The music didn’t work, but the skyline and moon were enough entertainment for me!
Today was mostly spent in our hot red FIAT 500X, driving down from St. Louis to Dallas. What was a 10 hour drive felt like 5. That’s what you get for great friends and deep road trip conversation!
My friend Nicole, who kicked off the first week of the road trip with me, is headed back to DC, and I’m staying with a Smith alumna in Dallas. I was just expecting a warm bed and conversation, and I was given a warm Italian meal at Lucia in the “hippest” city neighborhood, a tour of downtown, the cutest smothering dogs, and tips and connections for Libellula. Their daughter is set on going to Rome for university, and I’m thrilled to reciprocate the feeling of home and guiding advice when she moves there next year.
Nothing more to report right now other than that I’m ready for some deep dreamy sleep!