From afar, some might picture Austin as that quirky, liberal Texas town full of cowboy hats, brisket, beer, and acoustic guitars. Oh, and of course, who could forget that “little” conference and festival called SXSW? Of course, those things have a prominent place here, but what makes ATX truly magical is the creative culture. And Kelly LaPlante, Austin-based designer, entrepreneur, and creator of the upcoming Odelay Texas Brasserie, hits right in the heart of that culture. To help us suss out those truly authentic Austin experiences during SXSW (and any other time), she has one key suggestion: get on out of downtown. Move past the chaos of the festivals and tourists to find a true taste of Austin style.
Get a Caffeine Fix at Stouthaus Coffee Pub
4715 S Lamar Blvd #102, Sunset Valley, TX 78745
Kelly: Travel south to Stouthaus Coffee Pub for an excellent cup of locally roasted coffee or, if you prefer, a craft beer. They also serve some delicious small plates (including tamales!) which is helpful when you’ve been hanging out for so long that you need a snack (I usually do). Bonus: If you’re hungry enough for a meal, St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop is right next door.
Chill Out at Mayfield Park and Reserve
3505 W 35th Street, Austin
Kelly: Sometimes you just need a break from the awesome energy of Austin (especially during festival season). Visit Mayfield Park and Preserve to hike the trails and meet the thriving peacock population. If you’re from a part of the world that has actual mountains, you should note that the word “hike” in Austin just means walking on a trail in the woods, but it’s a truly lovely experience, nonetheless. I’ve got a favorite boulder there, where I like to sit and stare at a moss, trees and water…it’s strangely magical.
Bring An Extra Suitcase For Plenty of Shopping
Kelly: Sister stores Moss and Garment, offer a one-two shopping punch on South Lamar where they reside, just a few doors down from one another. Moss is designer consignment with very high standards (hence, the clothes don’t smell like Granny’s house). Garment features extraordinary vintage fashion as well as contemporary lines with finite production. A welcome addition to the party is Nannie Inez, who recently moved from their previous location to offer a unique, well-curated perspective on modern home decor to the strip. Now that the location is a triple-threat, I find it very difficult to drive past without stopping.
Design aficionados must also be sure travel north on Lamar to visit The Renner Project for a fantastic assemblage of vintage, antique and modern pieces, set in an ever-evolving showroom of inspiring roomscapes.
Drink in a Dirty Little Secret
6th Street, Downtown Austin
Kelly: Hidden in plain sight on “Dirty Sixth” (aka: rowdy bars and other shenanigans on Sixth span several blocks east of Congress) is Midnight Cowboy. Once a “massage” parlor, the building has been transformed into a rather authentic speakeasy, complete with pressed tin ceiling tiles and a drink cart. Everything from the exterior to the website are likely to dissuade you—but believe me, you want to go. One the rare occasion that the “vacancy” sign is alight, you can buzz in and potentially score a table. But for the most part, reservations are required and you’ll need to follow the instructions on the website in order to imbibe.
Cure the Common Hangover
Kelly: Let’s be clear, there is nothing healthy or redeeming about Gourdoughs. It’s donuts. Really ridiculous donuts covered with other ridiculous stuff like brownies and caramel. Donuts employed as a hamburger buns. Donuts tossed with more donuts and some frosting. Technically, you can get a salad there, but why would you? I save this place for when I need to indulge on something so decadent that I’ll likely hate myself the next day… or when I’m tasked with curing a hangover. Visit one of the two trailers around town or their brick and mortar location on South Lamar.
Eat … Well, Everything
Kelly: There are a ton of delicious restaurants in Austin— but if I dove into that topic, we’d all be here for hours. Your best bet is to scour EaterAustin to plan your foodie adventure in advance.
Kelly LaPlante is an Austin-based designer and entrepreneur. She is the author of écologique and founder of Standard Magazine. Her current passion is working with companies to achieve a unified approach to their branding, architecture, and experience. She’s adopted the same cohesive design model for her own entrepreneurial adventures like Odelay Texas Brasserie, her forthcoming restaurant and coffee shop.