Deana Bianco | May 13th, 2008
Photos by Dave Burnett
Texas is a gem in America that I have always been curious about. From the ten gallon cowboy hats to The Alamo, to rodeos and that ultra glam 80’s drama ‘Dallas’, I’ve always been intrigued by what Texas has to offer. This spring, I decided to mosey my way down to Austin on a plane (rather than by horseback) for the South by Southwest music festival.
Wearing my ZZ Top (Texas natives) shirt and cowboy boots, I stepped off the aircraft expecting the unexpected. I was immediately charmed by the hospitality and thick Texan accent. Living in New York City, I must have looked like a deer in headlights when the locals passed me on the street and said ‘hello’
Downtown Austin is absolutely beautiful and very clean. I spent my days rumbling through vintage stores (out of any city I’ve been in, Austin has the best!). My favorite of these is called ‘Uncommon Objects‘ and is located in South Congress. It has different stalls filled with everything you could possibly want from beautiful vintage armours to a stuffed cougar to old letter jackets from the 1940s. I found myself squealing in excitement at just about everything in there. Best of all it’s the size of a soccer field so it feels like you have literally been transported back in time. This is where I found the ultimate souvenir of Texas: a giant vintage mirror from the early 1900’s framed by beaten-up green lather and crowned with Texas Longhorns. Since everything is reasonably priced (cheap compared to New York prices) I plan on going back with a truck and just filling it up to decorate my apartment. I also loved ‘Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds‘ which had an array of costumes as well as items I wanted like original vintage peasant blouses and 1940s sequence tops. Supposedly it’s where Bob Dylan used to shop in the 60’s for his outfits.
For all things boots, Allen’s Boots is the store. There are rows and rows of cowboy boots that you can touch, feel and try on at your leisure. The baby cowboy boots were my favorite because they fitted into the palm of my hand!
As a vegetarian New Yorker, I am spoiled with restaurants where I live. I found that a lot of the Texan food was quite carne based although I found a tasty restaurant on South Congress called The Woodland. They had the most unbelievable macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted! For meat eaters, Black’s in Lockhart is the place for everything BBQ. The restaurant is the oldest family-owned restaurant in Texas and considered the best BBQ in the country. They have everything from cheap chop beef sandwiches, to homemade sausage to ribs to peach cobbler! It’s everything your mamma didn’t make and more. They cook their meat the old fashioned way by smoking it in brick pits.
I stayed at ‘The Mansion’ at Judges Hill; a beautiful boutique hotel located just outside of downtown Austin. The hotel room’s bed exemplified all things Texas, from its beautiful wooden headboard engraved with a Texas Star to the ornate, tasteful, floral wallpaper to the stack of albums by the stereo from such Texas-born artists as Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson.
Austin’s nightlife seemed pretty driven by music (something I approve). Like my taxi driver said, “You can walk down the streets downtown on any night and hear live music streaming out through the air”. The highlights of my South by Southwest music experience was hearing local bands Amplified Heat and Dixie Witch as well as jazz legend Brian Blade and Brooklyn’s very own alt-country band Phonograph.
One of the best things about traveling in America is that you never really know what you are going to see or experience. Texas is one of my destinations and if I ever move out of New York City, it’s definitely a place I could end up in. The amazing shopping, the kind folk and the nice weather is everything you could want from a vacation and more.