by C. Jeanette Tyson
You’ve seen that bumper sticker: “I wasn’t
but I got here soon as I could”? It always makes me shake my head because,
let’s face it,
is not all flowers in the hair and lying in the chaise with cute boys
fanning you and fetching chocolate. But if you changed the word ‘
’ to ‘
’, I just might slap the thing on my station wagon.
took me more than forty years to get here, but I figure that was just about
that, sans children, I would hardly have appreciated
’s kid-friendliness. Somebody must’ve realized a long time ago that when
Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy and henceforth made it an easy town for
us. I am writing this while Maddy and
, fast approaching four, do “yoga.” There are fabulous music classes at
for the wee ones. There are wonderful museums. There are nature camps,
gymnastics camps, acting camps. There are parks upon parks and people who,
miraculously, don’t yell at you if your toddler waddles out in front of
their bike. There are kids in every restaurant and at every musical venue.
There’s a kite show. There’s a playground at the grocery store. This
town seems to embrace every child as its own. It’s heartwarming, and a
much of my thirties, I would not have appreciated the town’s laid-back
nature; there’re few tyrants in Teva’s. No, I would’ve taken it as a
sign something was lacking. I had dragons to slay, the bigger the better.
The more scarred I was by their fire-breathing, the more worthy I became. I
am constantly impressed by the creative juice shooting through
’s veins, but a friend who’s been here more than twenty years, a
brilliant guy, laments the old days. “Twenty years ago this place was so
great. It was nothing but slackers.”
I may not even have appreciated the heat. If
you’re going to put in the gym-time and work that hard to be able to show
a little skin, isn’t it nice to be able to show it much of the year?
So not only am I a happy citizen, I have all the
zeal of a convert. Recently I had the chance to show off the town to friends
from one of my lily pads along the way,
But here’s the question: when it comes to food,
We started with Guero’s. Really, have you ever
had a bad time there? So you have to wait for a table, maybe sit under that
fabulous oak and listen to a band with a cold beer. Torture.
Or maybe the only wait you have is for your kids to toss a few coins
in the fountain and say hello to the goldfish on your way to a table.
Guero’s, housed in what was once an old feed store, is a place you can
ease into and stay a while. The shrimp fajitas are unrivaled.
Surely there’s a bit of old
The next night we ventured to Uchi. The minute you
drive in through the bamboo fences and search for a parking space, because
yes, it is packed on a Tuesday night, you expect something interesting.
Beautiful young girls smoke on the porch. (Don’t get me started on that.)
The wallpaper is red with huge flowers, the wood dark, the waiters in black.
There are booths and tables, everything close. You’ve come into the warm
beating heart of the primal Asian beast.
Toro sashimi was the special that night. It arrived
in a small bowl of ice with a tall sprig of flowers. If I didn’t have
cats, it would have made a nice piece of art for my house. The fish melted
like butter in your mouth.
We continued with spider rolls; softshell crab,
flying fish roe, Japanese cucumber wrapped in white soybean paper.
Crudo, a starter dish of raw red snapper, grape seed oil, garlic and
black pepper in an orange juice vinaigrette, was delicious. And the hakujin,
a fresh salmon and grilled asparagus rolled in warm tempura flakes, was not
our favorite, but interesting nonetheless.
The place had pretty much cleared out by ten but it
was Tuesday. Even the beautiful people have to pace themselves. Surely
there’s a bit of
Completing the culinary triptych was Magnolia Café.
The atmosphere is 3 a.m. diner, though the food is far more conscious than
that. Ginger pancakes, of course, are the kids’ favorite thing, besides
meeting the kid in the booth next to us and scampering back and forth.
There’s a variety of vegetarian offerings, including a wonderful
portobello mushroom melt. The catfish tacos are fabulous.
The weekend breakfast line at Magnolia starts early
and lasts into the early afternoon but no one seems to mind, not the college
students who’ve just rolled out of bed, the couples who’ve already run
the lake, the friends who’ll talk about their own college days and runs
around the lake as long as the coffee keeps coming.
there’s a bit of nostalgia in
It’s tough to impress people from
, itself a pretty cool place to live, but we managed to do it. Already I’m
thinking of other places we should’ve gone. But how do you choose? It’s
as difficult as picking the three moments, three relationships, or even the
three pairs of shoes in your closet that completely define you.
But would you have it any other way?
1412 S. Congress Ave.
801 South Lamar
2304 Lake Austin Blvd.
C. Jeanette Tyson is
AustinMama.com's beloved foodie-in-the-field.