Deep in the heart of Texas is its capital Austin and the citizens of this fine city take great pride in doing things differently  –  the city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird”  – so it should come as no surprise that it offers a host of funky restaurants and eclectic entertainment venues to keep a visitor happily wined and dined for days.

Instead of being a staid, plaid state capital with big government as the big employer, Austin is a young, vibrant, artistic city thanks to the University of Texas and a cluster of global high tech firms including Intel, Google, Oracle and eBay. This  combination of youth and a self-starter entrepreneurial zeal has lead its current crop of culinary celebrities to go their own way including Aaron Franklin of the renown Franklin Barbeque which is often ranked as one of the top barbeque spots on the planet.

Sign Sign by A Vandalay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Aaron Franklin has barbeque in his blood having apprenticed in his parents barbeque joint as a pre-teen before working  in an Austin barbeque restaurant that went under leaving him without a job but with the 1400-pound wood-fired pit that he used to perfect his now famous brisket which he began serving from a vintage 60’s trailer in 2009 before moving into the current building two years later selling out of its meat every day since.

The interior is a casual affair with exposed cinder block walls, low ceiling and a hodge-podge of tables and chairs.

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Franklin Barbeque’s interior design or lack thereof however isn’t why people line up for hours before it opens every day, it’s for the meat which they slice before the line of hungry patrons.

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The boneless brisket is the star of the show with its peppered black shell but a pink center than almost falls apart on your plate and has a distinct smoke flavor in every bite. Adding to the pile on your paper plate are also pulled pork, sausage, ribs and turkey with sides of coleslaw, potato salad and pinto beans and plain white bread.

franklinbbqphoto courtesy of beckoa

The special treat was that I and a few dozens other lucky souls were hosted for a private event by a large internet company and so had Franklin Barbeque to ourselves for 4 hours in the evening as normally the line-ups begin before dawn for the restaurant’s 11 AM opening. The lengthy line-ups and a behind-the-scenes look at the Franklin Barbeque are in this New York Times video:

For more barbeque how-to videos check out the Franklin Barbecue’s YouTube channel here.

Known locally as the Dirty Sixth for its rowdy reputation, the Sixth Street Historic District is a nine-block area of low two or three storey buildings built in the 1880’s that house dozens of bars, clubs, restaurants and live music venues.

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Every weekend traffic is blocked on a six block stretch of Sixth Street from the Interstate 35 highway to Brazos Street giving revellers easy access to the many watering holes that line both sides of the street.

sixth street

sixth street by Charlie Llewellin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

With warm weather even in early November the Irish pub inspired B.D. Riley’s throws open its windows for some open air live music most nights.

20161105_224544photo by author

photo by author

Live music can be found in many joints along Sixth Street and around Austin every night of the week. The city bills itself as “The Live Music Capital of the World” partly because of all these smaller venues but also because of major music festivals held every year, South by Southwest (SXSW) and the Austin City Limits Festival.

The University of Texas Longhorns logo is seen everywhere in this city including in neon in this bar along Sixth Street.

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The craft beer scene is alive & well with 47 breweries in and around Austin with most producing beers year round with the rest releasing seasonal specialty brews.

Eureka on the corner of Sixth Street & Brazos Street has a vast selection of on-tap local micro-brews and among my favorites are Live Oak’s Hefeweizen, a cloudy German wheat beer that’s been crowned by some as the top Austin brewed beer, and 512 Brewing Company’s Double IPA but there’s no shortage to sample with over 40 beers on tap.

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Craft Pride on Rainey Street meantime has over 50 taps dedicated solely to the beers brewed in Texas that change often so the variety is vast. The beers on-tap are grouped into classifications such as porters and stouts,  IPA’s, lighter ales and pilsners, malts and even sour beers.

photo by author

‘Round back of Craft Pride is a patio with a food truck serving Detroit style square pizzas. (full menu here) The whole vibe is very low key and it’s a great space to kicking back and wait for your pizza pie or gather with a group of friends over some evening drinks. A notice tacked to the fence informed me I was lucky enough to visit Austin during Beer Week. And, no, I didn’t leave thirsty.

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The Rainey Street Historic District is an easy amble from Sixth Street but is very different in that the bars and restaurants are mostly in bungalows without outdoor beer gardens on a narrow one lane street. The once sleepy residential neighborhood with 1930’s houses was rezoned in 2004 as a business district and now buzzes with party-going pedestrians.

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Just up the street is Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden, a sprawling indoor & outdoor beer hall with frequent live music and Austin’s largest tap wall with over 100 draft beers on-tap plus another 50 in cans and bottles. The full beer menu is here and it contains a few surprises from around the U.S. as well as others such as Quebec’s Unibroue Fin Due Monde, a blonde Strong Ale with 9% alcohol by volume (ABV).

20161106_123247photo by author

20161106_123322photo by author

There are 30 varieties of house-made sausages to choose from and all are USD$10 with sides like fries so offers a good value. I wolfed down the Currywurst which sounds like it’s super spicy but really wasn’t. I washed my sausage and fries  down with an Adelbert’s Naked Nun witbier that tastes sinfully delicious. The full sausage menu is here.

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Seating inside and out is on long wooden picnic tables that foster a social scene with everyone in close proximity. I’d recommend coming to Bangers after dusk as the live music and patio lights make for a really relaxed place to linger.

It’s worth mentioning that the nightlife along Rainey Street is easily walkable from my accommodation, the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, in under 20 minutes at a casual pace. There are a number of hotels even closer to Rainey Street as it’s  under a mile from the Austin Convention Center.

After a night or two of reveille a hearty breakfast helps start the day and there’s no better place to dine than the oldest restaurant in downtown Austin, Annies Café & Bar, which was inspired by the bustling bistros and great sidewalk cafés of Europe.

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The outdoor tables were occupied while I was awaiting my breakfast despite the cloudy & cool conditions.

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The interior has a café feel from the 1940’s and I chose a table with a street view to people watch over a leisurely breakfast.

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The short stack of buttermilk griddle cakes arrived with a side a side of crispy bacon and given the size of the serving was glad I hadn’t upsized to the full stack of pancakes!

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Austin’s city center is compact at approx. 15 square blocks making it easily walkable and almost as fast to walk as to drive. Walking also avoids having to find a designated driver after you’ve spent an afternoon and evening on a moveable Austin feast sampling all this city that marches to its own beat has to offer.