Monday, November 10, 2014

AUSTIN TX - Day 3: Return to SoCo

On a wing and a doughnut...

Spend the morning seeing any of the typical downtown tourist attractions (go here for suggestions).  Come lunchtime, head back down south across the Congress Avenue Bridge (a structure with its own special charms, as we’ll discover later) to the South Congress neighborhood—otherwise known as SoCo—to finish our adventures.

Lunch Today is at:

1610 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704

“Charming” is an overused word for neighborhood restaurants like this, but the term genuinely applies to this elegant but casual bistro-cafe.  My sources recommended it as a great spot for cocktails—and very good upscale pizza—particularly the classic (not the collegiate) Margherita with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and basil.  Our meal was very good, but the star for me were the amazing french fries.  Really—they were that good.  Get whatever you want, but make sure it comes with fries!

Big Top Candy
1706 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704

Time to bring your inner kid out to play.  Candies you’d forgotten you loved will bring up all kinds of sugar-coated memories in this place.   Candies that seem more toy than confection, a huge assortment of truffles, gummies of every description, and a generous portion of super-happy children make this store worth the trip even if you only walk out with a stick of gum.  But trust me, that ain’t gonna happen here. I won’t tell your dentist if you don’t tell mine.

1708 S. Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704

I’ve been trying to switch my clothing purchases from mall chains to indie boutiques, but that can often be a pricey goal.  Stores like Co-Star, that offer goods at a variety of price points and even host a consignment rack, help soften the blow.  The staff was friendly, not at all snooty as can happen in trendy shops, and had a nice balance of men's and women's clothes, accessories, seriously cool hats (an Austin necessity, it seems), funky t-shirts, and unique gifts.
Monkey See Monkey Do
1712 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704

Toy shop?  Not really—it’s much more than that.  Gift shop?  No, that’s not quite it either.  They cite it as “toys, gifts, kitch”, but my favorite descriptions were “absurd trinkets” and “wacky gifts.”  Invariably, as I wander places like this, I find myself buying something weird that someone I know will absolutely love.  The world needs more bacon wallets, right?

Having eaten well and gotten your silly on, make the short drive farther south to our fiber fix for today:

The Knitting Nest
8708 South Congress
Austin TX  

All knitting people are generally friendly, but some just shine in the hospitality department.  Ten minutes into a conversation with owner Stacy Klaus and her husband (who runs his insurance firm right next door), and I knew I made a new friend even before we talked about UT football.  

Okay, her adorable pair of Westie dogs Hank and Gracie (more about them later) charmed me as well, but it’s not hard to see how Stacy lures an impressive host of knitterati to visit her shop.  The Franklin Habit mural on her wall shows how much celebs love her store.

“This is a happy customer store.  I want to help knitters make the jump from box store stuff to quality yarns,” says Stacy.  She’s known around the community for giving back—Hank and Gracie’s very own book showcases a variety of charity knitting , and she was collecting a mountain of such items while I was there.

Wide-open and chock-full of inspiring samples, the store echoes Stacy’s “how can I help you?” attitude.   Here are a few of the great projects from this shop:

Bohoknits Sockhead Hat
Need some great travel knitting?   Grab a skein of any sock yarn and whip up this slouchy hat with a snugly ribbed wide band to help it stay put.  This will make great use of any of the marvelous self-striping fibers out there.

All-in-One Cardigan
Crocheters, this is your version of the classic Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket.  Any worsted weight and sturdy yarn will do, and the pattern is available on Ravelry.   Don’t you dare do this in a solid or heather—this project demands a rainbow of colors!

Felted Birdsnest
This project is as much the star of Hank and Gracie’s book as the dogs themselves.  Felt up your stash to make an endless array of birdhouses!  Or give one—along with the adorable book—as a gift for a child in your life.

Knit Along: Brush Creek Cowlette
An inventive cross between a shawlette and a cowl, this cozy-yet-lacy accessory combines a 300 yards of local fiber Bronotta hand-died super wash merino in a trio of colors (the kit is exclusive).  I love the scalloped edges—a great detail.

Once you’ve scored your knitting finds for the day, head for a one-of-a kind meal at:

Gordough’s Public House
2700 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
512) 912-9070

Only in Austin could you find a restaurant where everything—and I mean everything—comes on a doughnut.  Hide your cardiologists, people, nutrition does not live here.  Decadent deliciousness, however, does.  You’d think it wouldn’t work, but it does.  Hubby had a “Big Baller” burger (pimento cheese!), I had The Count Gordough Cristo (a montecristo), but with names like “Bacon Me Crazy” and “The Ron Burgundy,” it didn’t look like you could go wrong with any choice.  And yes, desserts round out the menu.  They’re famous for the “Flying Pig,” but we went for the Blackout, a chocolate brownie extravaganza.  I wouldn’t—couldn’t—eat here every week, but you’ve got to come here at least once.

To end your day, there’s really only one nowhere-else-like-it event:

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
Austin Chronicle photo
Yep, you heard me, bats.  When the engineers built the Congress Avenue Bridge, they didn’t mean to create an ideal bat habitat, but they did.  As such, the Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.  You can either stand on the bridge, book a river tour, camp out at a nearby hotel bar, or just sit along the riverbank, but from wherever you watch, the extraordinary exit of bats into the sunset is a crazy spectacular.  March through early fall, something close to 1.5 million bats call this place home and head out each night to gobble up insects.  I’ve seen it, and it’s wild—in every sense of the word.

There you have it, DestiKNITters—in three days we’ve launched an exploration into all that is Austin.  With a Longhorn now in the family, I’m sure it won’t be my last visit!

Up next, I cast on the Lady Fern Scarf from Hill Country Knitters. 

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