At some point, while exploring the city, we were mid-bridge and looking around exclaimed, "I feel like I'm in Portland!" in unison. Seriously though, Austin and Portland are like twin cities. The vibe, the layout, it all fits. So, of course, we loved it.
If you're like me, you assume Texas is only about bbq, guns, the good book, and places that shrine the three. Well, when you set out to find the best bbq in Austin, you actually discover that the best bbq according to all of the blogs and everyone else you ask, is about 30 minutes outside of town. While on our drive to this bbq place, we pass multiple wineries and a Hindu sanctuary retreat, so I start to wonder if we've mistakenly driven through a wormhole. But as we approach The Salt Lick BBQ and Winery, with it's rustic and tasteful charm, I realized my misjudgement. The Salt Lick is exactly what you'd expect when you think of Texas BBQ. A fit pit full of ribs, sausages, and various meat accoutrements greets you at the entrance. The menu is simple, but the offerings are HUGE and served on metal platters. It is delicious and perhaps the best bbq we've had on the trip yet.
Next door to the restaurant is the winery and if you love big reds, don't miss it. We haven't had much luck with finding good wine outside of west coast on this trip, but the Salt Lick winery is worth a taste. Surprisingly, the wines were well-structured and crafted of the warm/hot climate varietals that seem to thrive in the Texas climate.
Now on to the most Portland-like neighborhood of Austin - South Congress. South Congress is like if Hawthorne and the Pearl District had a love child. It's a little gritty, a little bohemian, a little bro-y, but mostly oldish buildings with lots of class, and a whole lot of hipsters. Between a food cart pod with artisan ice cream, an outrageously expensive men's clothing store, and the Warby Parker store, we found ourselves right at home immediately. There were lines for pizza, a breakdancing homeless duo, and hip bars as far as the eye could see... Ah, back in Portland.
After our venturing around SC, we strolled north towards the city where we ended up having our 'are we in a parallel universe' moment before we hit Rainey Street. Then shit got cray. Rainey Street IS Portland. It is literally just a street lined with renovated bungalow style homes that have been converted into bars, complete with a bar dedicated to beers on tap - Craft Pride. After we drank our pint, we decided to head back to South Congress to find dinner and some live music.
Austin is said to be the best city to find live music and unfortunately, the self-proclaimed granddaddy of Austin music venues, The Continental Club, was sold out due to Dennis Quaid's band making an appearance. However, Zappos (yes, the online shoe store) was hosting a Friends with Benefits Block Party and we slipped in to partake in the free live band and beer. Seriously though, there is nothing better than free beer and live music. Thank you Zappos.