This proudly different Texas capital is home to thriving live music and culinary scenes, a rambunctious university, and a healthy share of fitness fanatics. In their efforts to “Keep Austin Weird,” locals embrace it all.
Author Mark Healy Photography Blake Gordon
ILLUSTRATIONS ESRA CAROLINE RØISE
GENERAL MANAGER, MELLOW JOHNNY’S BIKE STORE
“Austin is the place in Texas where you want to ride a bike. There’s great riding in the Hill Country west of the city and, if you just want to tool around, the river ride is great.”
DANCER, CONTINENTAL CLUB
“I moved to Austin when I was six, and my mom used to bring me to the Soap Creek Saloon. It’s still a great place to hang out.”
MUSICIAN POLITICIAN “RENAISSANCE TEXAN”
“One place to check out is Threadgill’s, named after Kenneth Threadgill, who used to have a gas station. That’s the first place that Janis Joplin ever played. He was very kind to her when most people weren’t.”
Image – RALPH BARRERA
Meal deals on wheels
Austin was among the first cities to enjoy a robust food-truck boom, and you’ll be depriving yourself if you don’t find time to visit any number of Airstreams and recommissioned ice cream trucks parked around town. In a lot across from the prime shopping on South Congress, head to the shiny camper that is The Mighty Cone, an offshoot of the restaurant Hudson’s on the Bend. The camper serves up soft flour tortillas in paper ice cream cone holders, filled with chunks of chicken, shrimp, and avocado, and topped with a mango-jalapeño slaw. Then walk 50 paces to the Hey Cupcake trailer for a red velvet or 24 Carrot. Still hungry? Cross the river to the mmmpanada truck, located at 2nd Street and Congress, for flaky empanadas well-stuffed with BBQ chopped beef, asparagus and prosciutto, and spicy black beans.
Image – Courtesy of LBJ Library
ALL THE WAY WITH LBJ
Don’t miss Austin’s Texas-size presidential library.
Once you get away from Austin’s kooky side, there’s a lot of history to explore. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum (www.lbjlib.utexas.edu) is one of the most visited in the country, and the only one that’s free. The most devoted history buffs will need days to peruse all the documents and artifacts of Johnson’s presidency— between his predecessor’s assassination, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Also pretty cool are a model of the Oval Office as it looked during his presidency and a life-size, joke-cracking model of Johnson (so maybe there is some of the city’s signature quirk here).