It’s hotter than Hades but the good folks of The Rotary Club are driving me through their fair city in air-conditioned comfort. Wednesday I had two different guides. In the morning I found the view over Lake Austin, in the afternoon it was Town Lake which was recently renamed Lady Bird Lake.
Lunch was at Ranch 616 (six one six, not six sixteen as I called it – oh the faux pas!). Famous for fried oysters and frog legs. I had a burger sutffed with pico de gallo and monterey jack. A great little music venue. They clear away some tables by the window on weekend nights. Dessert was a photogenic lemon tart, a decision made after much debate of the 7 made-in-house postres.
My afternoon guide Ladd Pattillo showed me a great swimming hole and canoe/kayak spot right in the middle of the city: Barton Springs (and Barton Creek). See the pic above. We were told we couldn’t go inside by a teenage worker who said we needed permission to photo the fenced in portion of the springs because it is a city rule. All requests must go through the media department or something like this. Ladd was a bit annoyed and said as much since why would anyone not want Austin to be promoted??? (I admit this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this – southern Italy has two amazing Greek bronze statues that no one in the world seems to know about. Why not? No one can photograph them! Duh!) So the kid at the office says, well, if you don’t like it, you can talk to the mayor. Ladd smiles, well, he’s a member of my club and a friend of mine, so I believe I will. Ha! So we just walked to the fence and took photos anyway.
We stopped by a city park of statues in a beautiful wooded/garden setting. (No problems getting permission to walk about) Then we took in the state cemetery with graves of such famous Texans as Stephen Austin, Barbara Jordan and Tom Landry. And then on to the French Ligation Museum where in 1841 the charges d’affaires from France was sent to the Republic of Texas. He became frustrated when the neighbor’s pigs kept coming onto his land, ruining the garden, etc. so he had a pig shot. Didn’t take long for the Texans to cattle drive his butt out of the state.
Dinner was with a representative of the visitor’s bureau at Guero’s Taco Bar where Bill Clinton once ate. I ordered the El Presidente: a chicken breast taco, a beef taco, beans, rice and guacamole, exactly what Bill had. They menu boasts: And he ate ALL of it! Guero’s was an old feed and seed store until only about 10 years ago. Rough wood floors and the corrugated plastic skylight/roof. Great food, excellent margaritas (on the rocks, none of that Sno-Cone machine stuff) and live music outside under an enormous oak tree. Guero’s is on a strip of South Congress that not too long ago was a bit on the seedy side. Red light district, drug deals, that sort of shenanigans. Now it is a quirky but trendy stretch of restaurants, bars, boutique shops and art galleries.
After dinner I met up with Jon Pattillo owner of a record label Fat Caddy Records and the son of Ladd, my guide. He picked me up from Guero’s in a 1960 Cadillac and we cruised with class to the next site, Hill’s Cafe. The restaurant has been there since 1947 and is held to be one of the best places for chicken-fried steak. (They won top honors for their burgers in 2005 in Austin) The meat is provided fresh by baseball great Nolan Ryan. How cool is THAT? (Seriously, if you know, email me, because I’m not really sure.) Food is great, fresh-made (100 lbs. of potatoes to peel each day!) But Hill’s also has live music 5 nights a week in their garden out back where there is a treehouse, BBQ and plenty of beer and seating. Crowds can get as big as 2000! It’s mostly country music with a bit of rock or something in between, and a dance floor crowds up in front of the stage. Definitely makes my list of best places to eat and hear live music. Tomorrow a little down time in the morning will put me on Lake Travis then it’s off to see Austin’s population of 1.5 million… bats!
Check out my other blog posts from Austin!