When my friend Brittani from Texas Megabites told me about the Soul Food Truck Festival in Austin I knew I had to be there. I love food trucks, soul food and it was just a good excuse to take a little road trip to a city that I love. Thanks to the Soul Food Truck Festival for sending me judges passes to solidify my trip to Austin.
When I saw the e-mail that said that judges could get in an hour early I hurried up and got on the road Saturday morning to be able to beat the crowd. I knew this would be the perfect chance for me to get pictures of the trucks, check out the menus and get samples before the lines started to form. When I arrived I received my judges wristband and a packet with tickets for samples. Each ticket told you what samples you were able to get from each food truck. Since I don't eat beef, pork or spicy food my selections were very small (I knew this was the risk I was taking with it being a soul food themed event). I took photos of the trucks, grabbed one sample of shrimp and grits (that originally came with bacon but the owner was nice enough to make me a special one without) and then left the festival to go get something to eat. I wanted to meet up with my friend Mel from Grow Your Love Space, so I came back afterwards and the festival was packed out like a family reunion on that one year that everyone decides to come back. I loved it! The DJ was playing all of the reunion style hits like Frankie B and Maze and I was totally digging the vibes even if I couldn't eat the food. I truly enjoyed myself. (Judges samples included: collard greens, brisket, buffalo chicken and waffles, italian cream mini cupcake, burger sliders, beef tips with gravy, sausage, and fried cabbage)
After leaving the festival I decided to look at my list of places I wanted to visit while in Austin. Gourdoughs is a place that I had visited a few years ago and remembered being really good so I went back. They specialize in over the top donut meals. They have sweet and savory donuts, so when you order a donut sandwich don't think sweet glazed donut. Think light soft fried biscuit (just not as heavy and thick as a biscuit). I ordered the Country Clucker. Y'all! That thing changed my life! You get their signature savory donut topped with fried chicken, with a mashed potato pancake, smothered in creamed corn and topped with candied jalapenos. The chicken was moist and flavorful and everything worked together perfectly (I'm drooling now just thinking about it.
Later that night I got together with an old college friend for ramen. This was actually my first time trying the new ramen sensation that isn't the same 4 packs for a $1 that my friend and I were on when we were in college lol. We've come a long way. We went to Ramen Tatsu-ya. Since I don't eat beef, pork or spicy food my options were a bit limited. I really wanted to try those eggs but they are cooked in pork so I stayed away. I was very pleasantly surprised with the food. The broth in my veggie ramen was very flavorful and the veggies were tender and seasoned nicely. I got 2 corn balls, which are basically butter and corn in a ball, and dropped them into my ramen. We shared the sweet and sour yodas which are brussel sprouts. I tend to either really like brussels or really hate them. Well these I loved! They're made with an apricot vinegar and curry spices. Everything was washed down with a frozen sake margarita. Everything about this meal was a hit.
Not too long ago my foodie friend over at Black Girls Who Brunch created a list of black owned brunch spots in the US. I love trying different B.O.B.s so since I decided to make a weekend of it I wanted to try to find one to support. I was happy to see that there was a place in Austin featured on the list called Hoover's. Sunday morning I headed over to Hoover's for brunch and it has officially made it into my list of top brunch experiences of all time. I started off with the mimosas. They are made with freshly squeezed orange juice which is a nice touch. Then I decided to get the pancakes and chicken. I like that you're able to select if you want dark or white meat. I'm #TeamDarkMeat and we usually stay losing to chicken breast in these situations. You can also pick which type of pancakes you want and I got the sweet potato pancakes. The plate of food was huge enough for 2 people to split easily. Those pancakes were so light and fluffy with just the right crispiness to the edges. They came topped with what I think was an apricot preserve and best of all........softened butter and HOT syrup!!! If you know me, a pet peeve of mine is when places serve cold hard butter and cold syrup with waffles (and this crosses over to pancakes as well). The chicken tasted like grandmama was back in the kitchen herself with a brown paper bag and a can of grease cooking it up herself. I would drive back to Austin this weekend just to go back to brunch alone.
A few years ago in Houston I took a chance on Pricelines name your own price feature. You bid on a hotel room and don't know what hotel you're bidding on until after you find out if they accept your offer. I lucked up on a gorgeous hotel room downtown that set the stage for a perfect mini getaway. I tried my luck again in Austin and was excited when my bid was accepted. That excitement quickly started to fade when I made it to the hotel, Extended Stay America-Austin Metro. I will say that the staff were very friendly and I liked the layout of the room. There was a desk area for business, a couch for a small living area, one queen sized need, a full kitchen with standard sized appliances, a bar area to eat and a decent sized bathroom. The room felt very old with the dated decor, crumbly looking floors and wallpaper and noisy floor unit air conditioner. The bed was very hard and uncomfortable. I could hear what sounded like running and stomping above my head the entire time. Random but, it was cool that a team from FEMA was also staying at the hotel. They have a small fitness room, swimming pool and grab and go breakfast bar. Although I'm probably not coming back here again, if you're in a bind and not that picky this place just might work for you.
I have been to Austin multiple times, so I've been able to experience the usual attractions. I've visited the capitol, the springs, 6th street and attended SXSW. I really just wanted to relax and try something different this go round. The soul food truck festival allowed me to be able to visit a new museum, the George Washington Carver Museum, since that was the festival location. I went and looked at the current exhibit which featured stories and artifacts from black history as well as the history of different families in Austin. There was even a hands on exploration area for kids. My friend Mel of Grow Your Love Space told me that they often feature exhibits from different artists with nice receptions at this museum and will have their own SXSW before the official SXSW kicks off.
I asked my friend from college where I could get a good free/cheap view of the lake and he directed me to Mount Bonnell. Now there were what felt like a million steps to get up to the top (ended up only being about 3/4 flights lol) but it was totally worth it. The view up there was breathtaking. There were also hiking trails when you make it to the top. I started to explore one of the trails, but while there one of the dogs was on the attack (if you saw my IG story this was all of the screaming and barking you heard in one of the clips). Some of the people around said that was the 3rd time the dog had attacked. The dog's owner kept apologizing for the dog's actions, but that was enough for me to turn around and call it a day. I will definitely come back for that view and to get in a nice hike.
That Sunday the Cowboys were playing, and I'm serious about my boys, so I couldn't come home until after the game. I used my Hooch app (Use code bfdiarydrinks all lower for your first month free you get one free drink every day) to find a place called The Goodnight. There were large screens at the bar, and they had the Cowboys game. I used my free drink to order a Mexican Firing Squad and then ordered a Mimosa which I wasn't expecting to be as large as it was. That thing was bigger than my head. I'll have to come back here and try the brunch. It seems like a really cool place to hangout for adults. They have pool tables, arcade games, bowling and karaoke.
I was recommended by multiple people to go to The Domain which is an area in Austin that has different restaurants and bars. It's supposedly a cool spot to hang out in on the weekends. Specifically I was told to go to Kung Fu Saloon as a starting point, so I've got that bookmarked for my next adventure in Austin.
I always say that Houston is my second home. I went to college in the area, spent many important developmental years of life there and have friends that are more like family there, but after last weekend in Austin I can say that it is definitely on the rise to becoming another home of mine. I can't wait to go back.