Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Austin Weird

"Keep Austin weird" - Austin city slogan
UT Austin Emergency Medicine
Creepy clown toys- classic Austin weird 

The first thing you notice about Austin is that there are food trucks everywhere.  Like slot machines in Vegas or coffee houses in Seattle, food trucks dot every other corner and empty lot across the city.  In some areas, they even have “food truck parks”, lots with half a dozen or more trucks packed together.  I even saw some brick-and-mortar restaurants have their own truck out front; the truck serves as the kitchen and the storefront is just the place to eat.  The food truck craze is so outlandish, with such a crowded market, each truck tried to outdo each other in its combinations, pushing the culinary envelope just a little further.  At Gourdough’s, I enjoyed the Flying Pig, a donut with bacon  At Llama’s, specializing in “Peruvian Creole”, the pork belly and sweet potato sandwich was outstanding.  But I drew the line at the combination of salsa and kimchi: either is great on a taco but I just couldn’t bring myself to try them both together.
and maple syrup icing (they are famous for the Mother Clucker, a donut with a fried chicken strip and honey butter).

When I arrived in Austin, hungry to enjoy the music and food the city is famous for, I had a carefully developed list of their best and brightest culinary delights.  However, as it turns out, their food is intended to be a discovery, its source ephemeral, defying all planning and schedules.  You eat when you’re hungry, you find food where you are.  My long list of food stops pretty much went up in the mesquite-scented smoke of south Texas.

  • ·      Franklin BBQ- requires at least a 4 hour wait.
  • ·      La Barbeque- closed for private party the first time I showed up then sold out when I came by the next day
  • ·      Llama’s- closed on my first try, then out of pork belly right after me
  • ·      Hog Wild- decided he didn’t feel like working that day and didn’t open
  • ·      East Side King- I have no idea what happened: they never showed up where they said they would be on Google and Facebook.
Vietnamese tacos

Pork belly and sweet potato sandwich

Pineapple and al pastor taco

Probably really good, but a little too weird for me

Austin is the perfect city if you are attending a convention: you would go downtown to the Sixth St area, stay there, and enjoy all the live music and truck food you can handle.  But to live there and move around by car is challenging and getting worse every year.  The population growth has far outpaced infrastructure.  In fact, no significant development of infrastructure has occurred in the last 10 years.  I-35 through the center of town is constantly clogged.  The traffic on surface streets is awful.  I can’t imagine what happens during South By Southwest (SXSW) or Austin City Limits (ACL)
quintessential Austin rubbish

I was in town to present at the UT Austin EM residency.  I stayed to enjoy the Texas- Iowa State game.  I didn’t have a ticket and assumed I could pick one up from a ticket scalper on the streets. 

I assumed correctly.

On my very first try a gentleman offered up a single 50-yard line seat, about halfway up the lower deck.  So easy . . .

The UT campus is beautiful and welcoming.  The friendliness of the people was on par with Arkansas or Nebraska.  Very impressive.  As I wandered through the tailgate area, I was offered some grapefruit vodka, then some watermelon vodka, then some . . . uh  .  . . vodka vodka.  There is also apparently a game day uniform for the UT coeds: a billowy tan tank top, jean shorts, and cowboy boots, presumably from Allen’s, an Austin institution.

The one thing I learned about watching a Texas game in Austin is that the Longhorns are very proud of their traditions and legacy.  Despite suffering through a current painful rebuilding period, their turnout is strong and they cheer loud.  Their pre-game ceremonies are a mash of game-day traditions.  They essentially layer on new traditions as they develop without replacing old ones.  As a result, they lack one iconic focus yet revel in many.  They claim the world’s biggest bass drum, they fire a cannon at the kickoff and every score, they have a pen for Bevo the Longhorn, they show off the world’s largest Texas flag, and they have a stuntman enter the stadium in a jet-pack at the start.   Oy vey!

Unfortunately for the Texas faithful, it was a spectacularly close game, with the ‘Clones matching the Longhorns score for score.  Texas finally prevailed with a last second field goal to win, 48-45, avoiding another embarrassing loss during a forgettable season.  How bad has it gotten for Texas?  The game program printed the results for the year so far and decided to “invent” a win over Baylor, reversing the actual score.

By the way, Austin, USC is coming to play there in 2018.  I’ll be back

Fight on,


No comments: