Tag Archives: austin

Gypsy Picinc in Downtown Austin

Two of our friends were in town this weekend for a wedding, and being that this was the first time we ever had friends “in town”, Dave and I took full advantage of their company for the day. We picked them up from their hotel, and headed over to the Gyspy Picnic, a food truck festival that was taking place in downtown Austin. It was perfect, end of summer weather, and we strolled in ready to eat.

gypsy picinc in austin

The event really epitomized the vibe of the city. Known for it’s food truck movement, the Austin festival corralled thirty-five local vendors into a park next to Lady Bird Lake for a day of finger food, craft beers, live music, lots of dogs, and free entry. That’s an equation for some serious chill-time. Now that I think of it, why didn’t we bring a frisbee? 

Our first truck stop was East Side King, with a menu inspired by Southest Asian street food. They had three options on the menu, and we jumped in for all of them: chicken kaarage (sounds like chicken garage, I know… and I have no idea what was in it), a pork bun, and fried brussel sprout salad. I see brussel sprouts on a menu and I just can’t say no. I know Dave felt the same ;).

East Side King food in Austin

The bun on the left was so white it blended into the paper tray in this photo, but it was really good. The chicken was our favorite–it had that sweet, fried, dry chewy Chinese food consistency that you would get from an order of sesame chicken. That description sounds weird, but I promise it was yum. And the brussell sprouts were also good, topped with a balsamic dressing and some large french fry like croutons. I dominated the sprouts, and Dave handled the chicken–teamwork. While we ate we watched the hipster marching band go by, naturally.

Hipster Marching Band in Austin

Next we stopped at Blenders and Bowls for a refreshing dessert type treat. To me it was really more like breakfast: an acai smoothie (pronounced ah-sigh-eeeeee!), topped with granola, strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, chia seeds, and a drizzle of honey. Mix two plastic spoons with two hungry people, and some silent food domination battles are bound to break out. It was like low-impact passive aggressive fencing as we both oggled the smoothie bowl out of the corner of our eyes while pretending to nonchalantly walk. Oh, I was aware.

Blenders and Bowls

We wandered around the park for probably another hour or so while our friends tried some other food trucks, and Dave tried pizza at Spartan Pizza. He’s on a quest to find pizza worthy of his New York pizza-obsessed palette–but I’m pretty sure that day will never come in Texas. I forgot to snap photos of the pizza, but I would compare it to Domino’s and Ellio’s coming to together to make upscale thin crust. Can you picture the undercooked white bread like crust? Someone commented on the blog the other week asking me not to compare Austin food to New York City food, and to that I say: fair enough.

Besides the pizza, everything was delicious, and we left there looking like sun-burnt, swollen blueberries. The day with our friends was a lot of fun, and Austin’s unique culture was definitely the catalyst.

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Great Food at Papi Tinos in Austin (Finally!)

We did it! We found awesome food in Austin!

We found this small, romantic Mexican place on the Eastside called Papi Tinos by the magic of Yelp on Dave’s smartphone (our go-to these days when I pick him up from work starving and beg that we eat immediately). Yelp themselves actually classified it as romantic, and when Dave read the word “romantic” to me, he did the eyebrows up and down move which made me laugh and say “done.”

We got there, and took a seat on the porch, which was very cozy. We ate our appetizer there, but then it got windy and we headed indoors for the rest of the meal. They also had tables on the front lawn, which made it look your Southern grandma’s little house-turned-restaurant. Note: I don’t have a Southern grandma, but that’s where I imagine she would have lived if I did.

I forgot the camera, but I DID have my flipcam, so here’s a video of the appetizer and entree. It was love at first bite.  This is one of those restaurants with a very small menu, and then at least three additional off the menu specials for both appetizers and entrees. In our case, the appetizer shrimp we ordered tasted like lobster, the drinks were the best cocktails we’ve had in Austin altogether, and the entrees kicked ass. Yes.

The waiter bent down on one knee and almost whispered each special like we were in a museum. “And each entree is made to order…” trailed off his tongue like the last wisp of smoke from a cigarette rising up into the air. Fact: whispering waiters make the food feel more important. And the whole down on one knee thing reminds me of a marriage proposal; like he was asking us to kindly partake in his food because it would mean the world to him and his ailing mother. His melodramatic approach (and the awesome food) worked. It was one of those meals where I asked Dave to roll me home after because it hurt to walk.

Appetizer special: Shrimp ceviche–which really wasn’t like ceviche at all, but MAN it was awesome. Spicy and mango-y.

Entrees: Dave got the lobster enchilada special, in a verde cream sauce. I got the chicken enchiladas in a mole sauce. We both wiped our plates clean.

P.S. Don’t you love the way Dave says “suizas” at the end of his entree name? Very authentic 🙂

Zilker Park

dave in zilker park

Entering the park. Weee!

view of downtown from zilker park

view of downtown Austin from the park

zilker park

setting up shop (plus a tree camouflaged dog)

baseball glove and frisbee

The gear. Note: I can throw a fris all day.. but I'm scared of catching baseballs. This might take months to work through to Dave's dismay

swinging from trees

Swinging from trees

Perfect tree in a clearing

The perfect tree, casting an umbrella shadow

mel and dave

Happy park people 🙂

The Coffee Table Showdown

Welcome to the coffee table finals!

In the right corner, hailing from the Five Elements boutique on South Congress Street, weighing in at three hundred and twenty dollars, with a nice shiny retro yet contemporary look, and a matching console, we have the “I Like Shiny New Things in My Shiny New Apartment” table.

shiny new coffee table by sitcom

And over here, in the left corner, hailing all the way down the block from Five Elements, at a thrift store that I forgot the name of, weighing in at fifty four dollars, with a vintage, I might be worn but I’m really cool look, and a matching end table, we have the “I Always Wanted Cool Vintage Furniture” table.

Vintage coffee table austin texas

Who will make it? Who will rein champion of Dave and Mel’s empty living room? Who will go back to his owner-less corner of the showroom?

The battle is on.

On Furniture Shopping

Going furniture shopping for an empty apartment is like going to the hair salon with the intention of “getting something different this time, dammit!” What happens is, you walk into your usual salon, and somehow walk out with the same cut you’ve always had. Another fail at embodying the super cool persona you dreamed up on the way there (you know, the one with the ripped jeans).

Well, when you walk into the first furniture store, every item is really cool, almost to the point of invigorating. You spend over an hour imagining how each piece really is the you that you knew you could be. Bright red plush rug with cutout circles? Totally retro. I can bring back Austin Powers! I always loved the 60’s. Wooden coffee table with a super secret hidden drawer? Very James Bond.  Yeah, I’m definitely badass enough. I’ll keep my phone charger in there.

Then, after a while, there’s something a little off with everything. You want the corners a little rounder, the color a litttttle darker, and maybe the whole thing just an inch taller like your old dresser—and you walk out thinking, I guess I’ll just head to Bob’s Furniture again. But really? Bob’s? Man I’m such a loser. Screw it, let’s just get some frozen yogurt and try again next weekend.

furniture shopping montage

Getting A Car in Austin

At day eight in Austin, we’re checking off the list of things that will make us feel less like homeless wanderers:

  1. Get a place to live …. check
  2. Put a jar of peanut butter in said place to live …. check
  3. Get a car so as not to be prisoners in an empty apartment …. today is the day!

Neither Dave nor I are “car people”. For me, I just need to get from point A to point B and I’m all set. I don’t know any car models, and I don’t care about the sexy factor (it’s not an extension of my manhood, no). I pretty much like the color black and that’s all I got. Dave cares somewhat, but not like the typical dude in all 80’s movies who buys car magazines and wears driving gloves. Or maybe that’s just Sixteen Candles?

With these factors in mind, plus a rental car due back date of Wednesday morning, we wanted to get this done in two days. And we did.

I bought the party hats to celebrate.


We flip flopped between new vs. used, owning vs. leasing, and Nissan, Toyota, Honda, or Mazda. Ultimately we netted out with leasing a new 2012 Honda Civic.

buying a car in austin

Here’s why:

  • This is the worst used car market in a very long time. Due to the trickle down affect from the Tsunami in Japan and the economy in America, the supply of cars is lower and people just aren’t trading in their used cars as frequently, but the demand for them is still high because they are generally cheaper than new. This means the prices for used cars are at their peak–about 3k higher than they would be otherwise. That made buying a used car fairly uncomfortable. I said the word “budget” to each salesman way too many times and it brought me back to my homeless wanderer feelings.
  • The minute you drive a newly purchased car, the depreciation goes BOOM. Once driven off the lot, the value of a new car immediately drops thousands of dollars. So if you want to sell it in a year or two (which we might), you will lose money. That sucks. We looked at Mazda 3’s for a new purchase because they were just making the high end of our budget, but the car just wasn’t for us. And the salesman at the Mazda dealership talked more about wings and beer than the car. Fail.
  • Leasing a car meant more flexibility for us. To be honest, my gut reaction to leasing a car was: I don’t like it. Why do I have to give the dealership 2k down, also make monthly payments, and then give the car back without ever seeing that 2k again? That’s not how leasing an apartment works! Well, after lots of education (from my brother’s girlfriend and various car salesmen), I now get it. Cars are not investments like real estate. They don’t retain their value. They are a commodity you use, they lose value and efficiency, and they get trashed. So you’re buying the 2 or 3 years of the car that you’re using up in it’s lifetime of value. AND, for transplants like us who aren’t sure how long they’ll be in the city for, it feels better to know it’s not forever. And we will be covered for most repairs. And the car will be shiny.
  • Why Honda? It’s notably reliable. It’s crazy efficient on fuel – especially the 2012 Civic. And that’s all we need at this point in our lives.

My only qualms about the car are that the shape of the front makes it look like we got stuck in matrix mode moving at lightspeed, and the dashboard inside makes it look like you’re in a spaceship.

In fact, during the test drive the care salesman even slipped and said “If you press the economy button on the ship..” at which point I lost it and laughed the whole rest of the way. I asked the salesman (his name was Winthrop. for real.) if we could buy him with the car, but he said it wasn’t possible. Bummer, he was pretty funny. But then we called Spok and asked him to beam us up. And Keanu Reeves showed up in the backseat. So it was cool.

Let the sharing-one-car-good-times roll.

What do you think of our decision?

Austin: The Beginning

There are many things I’ve learned about Austin over the past five days, but in this post I will be highlighting one extensively, and one just a little:

  1. You can get a palace for the same amount of money it costs to live in a New York City studio apartment shoe box.
  2. The food here… is… just not that good. I really, really, want to tell you it is. But it’s definitely not (sob). See exhibit “what is this?!” below. I’m still recovering.

Now let me backtrack. Our first week here involved the following: living in an Extended Stay hotel (mind you there is a whole separate story involving a Howard Johnson with a slanted bed on night one; laughed until I cried), Dave going to work for training everyday, and me looking for apartments with our broker, Will, for hours. I rented a car on the third day after realizing that begging him to take me for coffee and a sandwich in between apartments was just not practical… and he probably thought I was being starved by Dave. While I was out with him though, I got a really good feel for what our options were for a place to live in Austin (very big thank you to Will at Urban Space–I highly recommend working with him if you’re looking for Space in Austin!).

Within our budget, the housing options split two ways: we could either get a legitimate two or three bedroom house about fifteen minutes out of downtown (!), or a super swanky one bedroom apartment right in the heart of it all.

At first I was swooning over the houses because HOLY SPACE, BATMAN! those things were huge compared to what we had in NYC. Really? A whole house? So we thought to ourselves: Wow, we could have an extra room and make a recording studio! Or an home office! Or a “let’s just put all the stuff we don’t know what to do with in here” room! But then we thought.. “Well.. what the hell are we going to put in it? .. do we have to buy a ton of stuff now?” Then there was also … “Well… who’s going to mow the lawn?.. SHOT NOT!”

Right.

So we landed in downtown swanksville, in a beautiful little apartment. The amenities to the building are really what got us: doorman + elevators, gym with membership included, rooftop pool, community lounge (a nice one–they even have National Geographic magazines! score), and a strip of homes that have been turned into bars down at the end of the street (double score). Here are some shots of the place:

dining room / living room / awesome sunshine

view from the end of the living room

kitchen

the kitch (shyeh!)

the bathroom (that's not a second shower, that's the mirror)

We got the keys to the place yesterday, and have been–and will be– sleeping on an air mattress until our stuff ships from Brooklyn later this week. Tonight, we decided to grab Chinese takeout and eat it on the floor with chopsticks like a scene in a movie, all romantic and such. Can you picture the lomein container in my hands? Well stop picturing it, because it was a giant Chinese food fail.

Here’s a little sample for you of my summer roll. Typically a summer roll has some lettuce, vermicelli noodles, shrimp or tofu, cucumbers, peppers, and cilantro. Top it all off with a nice lil’ dipping sauce that everyone would just eat with a spoon if they could (you would. admit it).

Mine?

Lettuce. and tofu. Dipping sauce? Nah, who needs that when you have all that lettuce?

What is this?!

And so I leave you with this. Night five. In our new lovely place together. Slightly hungry. Sitting on an air mattress. Scared of the heartburn that the really bad lomein might give us later. But excited to cook in the kitchen once my pots come :).