Austin Texas

Austin: Live Music and So Much More
By Mary Luz Mejía

Austin has been described as the “blueberry in the tomato soup.” Part of that comes from its citizens liberal views that locals admit, don’t reflect the rest of the state’s more conservative stances. But it’s that Bon Vivant approach to life that’s made Austin not only the “Live music capital of the world,” but a culinary hot spot and culture loving destination too.

For the fourth year in a row now, the Austin Food & Wine festival gathered chefs from across the city and the country at this eat, drink and be merry hoedown for some of the best Q, craft beer and culinary creations under the Texas sun and stars. Further afield and away from the festival grounds, the city of Austin is bursting at the seams with fresh and flavorful fare that reflects their “support local” stance on everything from music, to food and fashion.

Paul Qui, Austin’s own Top Chef and multiple award winner, takes diners on a sensory journey through his restaurant Qui as well as his food trailers (that’s what they call them in Austin), East Side King and Thai-Kun. East Side King, on the city’s east side, is Qui’s original food truck. His “Brussel Sprout Salad” featuring fried brussel sprouts in a sweet and spicy sauce is an unexpected winner, even for the die-hard carnivores in your group. At Thai-Kun, included in Bon Appetit Magazine’s best new restaurant 2014 list (in eighth place), is the cabbage two ways (pickled slivered of rice flour coated, deep fried cabbage with fresh herbs and peanuts). It’s an absolute winner.

The same weekend as the food festival, the Moontower Comedy and Oddities Festival was in full swing at venues across town. I was lucky enough to catch funny lady Wanda Sykes for a hilarious set at the historic Paramount Theatre in the city’s downtown core.

Life as a black woman married to a white French woman with two adopted blonde, blue eyed twins provided enough fodder for a gut busting hour and a half. This woman has the gift of making people laugh. Hard.

If it’s a lay-of-the-land/overview of the city you’re after, take an Austin Detours tour. Our guide Jason was the consumate city ambassador who can roll off a list of “did you knows?” and facts faster than he can strum his guitar (he’s also a musician and festival producer). We strolled the State Capital, took a drive around the 04 (a former artist enclave turned high priced, pretty nabe), sampled rich cake pops at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery’s Holy Cacao and drove through most of the city’s major districts.

As Jason points out, there are only seven weekends in Austin without a festival or two lined up to entertain locals and visitors alike. “Keep Austin Weird” isn’t just about the city’s eccentricities, it’s about making sure that the local, indie musician, craftsman, restaurant owner, clothing designer and artist gets his/her due over big multi-nationals.

And that’s at the heart of what makes this city so singularly special for locals and visitors alike.