Steph and I met 22 years ago through rec soccer. We were the only two girls on team House of Pizza, also known as “the red team”.
We’ve seen a lot of milestones together, from awkward crushes and *NSYNC concerts, to my $1 grilled cheese party and our respective college graduations. When I got married, Steph traveled from her home in Portland, Oregon to stand by my side and dance to Jagged Edge’s Where the Party At—the same way we did back in middle school.
With our newest milestone on the horizon (TURNING 30!), Steph and I met in Austin, Texas to eat, celebrate and enjoy the 85° October weather.
- waiting in line at Franklin Barbecue for some of the tastiest brisket on earth
- browsing the quirky wares at Uncommon Objects
- eating burgers and milkshakes at Hopdoddy
Day 1: Boston, MA to Houston, TX; Houston, TX to Austin, TX
Steph and I left our respective coasts and met at the Austin airport, where we grabbed the 350 Bus to our airbnb in the Mueller neighborhood. Dinner was at Salty Sow, one of many cute spots on Manor Road (pronounced “may-nor”) with creative cocktails and well-executed dishes. Their crisp chicken thighs were insanely delicious.
Day 2: Austin, TX
I’d been dreaming about trying Aaron Franklin’s famous brisket for years—so our one job for Sunday was to get up early to stand in line at Franklin Barbecue. Franklin opens its doors at 11 am and serves barbecue until they’re sold out (which on the day we went, took only 3 hours).
Rumor has it that if you want any barbecue at all, you’ve got to get in line by 7-8am. People bring chairs, coolers and games—and in one woman’s case, a hammock—to stay comfortable and entertained during the wait. Steph and I hopped in line at about 7:45 am, and had a tray full of food by 12:15 pm.
You may be wondering whether the barbecue was worth it, and to that I answer, 100%. The brisket was the best I’d ever had—with a gentle flavor of smoke, salt and pepper, and the most succulent melt-in-your-mouth fat. I could have eaten a tray of that fat alone.
We also ordered the pork ribs and sausage, along with single-servings of potato salad and cole slaw. The ribs were tender and juicy, but I found myself setting the bark off to the side. It was loaded with smoke and peppercorns, which are two flavors I get overwhelmed by pretty easily. The cole slaw, barbecue and hot sauces were delicious, as was the mini Texas pecan pie that I was too full to eat. I ended up packing it in my carry-on and sharing it with my husband on my first night back in Boston.
We worked through the meat sweats by taking a tour of Graffiti Park at Castle Hill. It was a pretty unique landscape packed with fellow tourists, photographers and graffiti artists working in real time. The rocks were a bit of a challenge for my flip flops and my cell phone screen (which shattered after I carelessly dropped my phone), so future notes to self include bringing sneakers and leaving my phone in my pocket.
Luckily, Steph hooked us up with car2go, which ended up proving more valuable than I’d ever hoped. It got us to the mall where I salvaged my phone with a screen protector, and gave us a cheaper option for exploring the more spread-out parts of the city.
We closed out Day 2 by reconnecting with my lovely friend Maria over margaritas at Z’Tejas, followed by tacos and the Presidential Debate at Chupacabra Cantina y Taqueria, and pool at Casino el Camino. We’d heard that Casino El Camino’s burgers were a must-try, but after lunch at Franklin Barbecue we were all meated-out.
Day 3: Austin, TX
We climbed the stairs at Mount Bonnell and took in the view of lake Austin and the Austin skyline. From there we grabbed lunch at Torchy’s Tacos and made our way down South Congress Avenue by way of its shops and thrift stores. South Congress Books and Uncommon Objects were my favorite spots, with unique selections of well-cared-for books, tchotchkes, and antiques.
Being in 85° weather rekindled my desire for ice cream, so I grabbed a sundae at The Science Cream, which uses liquid nitrogen in lieu of churning and freezing. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it, but the gummy bears and raspberry sauce made for an exciting treat.
It was time for pedicures, so we stopped in at River Spa and Nail Salon to recharge. We grabbed happy hour cocktails at Péché, followed by some mind-bogglingly delicious burgers at Hopdoddy. The buns were squishy and homemade, the burgers soft and well-seasoned, and the toppings expertly curated and placed. We ordered the Magic Shroom and the Primetime, both of which were savory and gooey. I enjoyed the Primetime so much that I actually stopped eating it because I didn’t want it to end. Instead, I stuffed my face with fries and a stout chocolate milkshake until I was brave enough to take my last bites of that burger.
Day 4: Austin, TX to Newark, NJ; Newark NJ to Boston, MA
We said our early-morning goodbyes at the Austin airport, where Hopdoddy’s burgers still weighed heavily. I made my way back to chilly Boston with two artifacts from our lunch at Franklin Barbecue: a mini Texas pecan pie, and a sandwich made with leftover brisket, pork rib and white bread. With $0.19 worth of arugula from the Newark airport salad bar, my sandwich became a meal. My only regret? Leaving Texas without any of Franklin’s barbecue sauce.