Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Eat Like a Texan, Part 2: Restaurants near our hotel

Last week our friend Sheryl gave you the scoop on distinctive Austin restaurants for foodies and those who want to eat like locals do, some within walking distance of our official hotel and others just a ride-share or cab ride away. Today, we're sharing restaurants right around the hotel, within a walk of a few blocks in any direction.

What meals do I need to cover?

You'll be on your own for dinner only one night, Friday, May 4th. Otherwise we have you pretty well covered with appetizers at the welcome reception on May 3rd (you may wish to grab a light bite afterward if you still have an empty spot), our banquet dinner on May 5th, and a BBQ Bash on May 6th. We will also feed you lunch on our tour days, May 4-6. So in total, you'll be on your own for breakfasts, dinner on May 4, and maybe a quick dinner on May 3 after the welcome reception. 

I don't want to eat alone!

Some bloggers arrange a dinner with friends before they get to the Fling, making a reservation in advance for their party so that they don't have to worry about figuring that out when they get here. That's a great way to catch up with old friends -- if you know anyone, of course. But if you're a newbie or relatively new to the Fling, don't worry. You need not eat alone, and you have lots of friends here -- you just haven't met them yet! We're planning to organize a Friday dinner reservation for anyone who's new and would like to meet other newbies, so stay tuned as we get closer to the event for more info about that. 

Where to get good grub

Here are our suggestions for restaurants near the hotel. There are plenty of others, but this will get you started. And by the way, it doesn't seem to matter how many restaurants Austin has: we love eating out, and there are often long waits. So put the Open Table app on your phone and make a reservation in mid- or late April. Or just wing it -- lots of Austinites do -- and be cool with relaxing on the patio with a drink while you wait for a table. We're all about our patios here! 


1886 Cafe & Bakery
604 Brazos Street
.3 mile / 7-min. walk
Classic American breakfast, with table service, in the iconic Driskill Hotel; also has a counter bakery
Opens 6:30 AM

Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden
709 E. 6th Street
.4 mile / 8-min. walk
Coffee, tea, and bakery breads/pastries in the AM; ultimate Austin-casual hangout with good bar food and sandwiches in the PM
Opens 7 AM

301 Congress Avenue #105, in center of the building
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Breakfast bowls, bagels, breakfast tacos
M-F: opens 7 am

Houndstooth Coffee
401 Congress Avenue
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Coffee, tea, pastries
M-F: opens 6:30 AM
Sat/Sun: opens 8 AM

300 E 4th Street - located in our hotel, Courtyard Marriott
Bakery, breakfast sandwiches, granola
Opens 6 AM

Taco Shack
402 Brazos Street
.2 mile / 3-min. walk
Counter-service breakfast tacos
M-F: opens 6:30 AM
Sat: opens 7 AM
Sun: opens 8 AM


1886 Cafe & Bakery
604 Brazos Street
.3 mile / 7-min. walk
Classic American fare in the iconic Driskill Hotel

Chez Nous
510 Neches Street
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Neighborhood French bistro and beloved Austin classic

The Driskill Grill
604 Brazos Street
.3 mile / 7-min. walk
New American fare with a seasonal Texas twist in the cattle baron-era Driskill Hotel

El Naranjo
85 Rainey Street
.9 mile / 17-min. walk
Interior Mexican food, Oaxacan-style (not Tex-Mex)

Emmer & Rye
51 Rainey Street
.8 mile / 15-min. walk
Farm-to-table in the lively Rainey Street district

605 Davis Street
.5 mile / 10-min. walk
Modern Southern-inspired fare; located on 4th floor in Hotel Van Zandt

Holy Roller 
509 Rio Grande Street
.7 mile / 14-min. walk
Diner fare with a punk-rock twist

123 W. 6th Street
.5 mile / 10-min. walk
Italian farm-to-table

Le Politique
110 San Antonio Street
.7 mile / 14-min. walk
French brasserie

310 Congress Avenue
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Regional Mexican dishes at this longtime Austin favorite

Moonshine Grill
303 Red River Street 
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Upscale Southern comfort food

301 East 6th Street
.2 mile / 4-min. walk
Gastropub with seasonal fare and raw bar

Roaring Fork
701 Congress Avenue

.4 mile / 8-min. walk
American Western bistro

Second Bar + Kitchen
200 Congress Avenue

.3 mile / 6-min. walk
Small plates for sharing plus salads, pizza, and other entrees

Stubb's BBQ
801 Red River Street
.5 mile / 10-min. walk
Austin classic BBQ joint, with a live-music venue out back

Swift's Attic
315 Congress Avenue
.2 mile / 5-min. walk
Eclectic small plates in a stylish space

A note about safety in downtown Austin

Downtown Austin is generally a safe place to walk around, especially during the day and at the dinner hour. But later at night, particularly on weekends, it can get rowdier thanks to bar-hopping crowds along 6th Street. Also, like many large cities, Austin has a large homeless population downtown, and panhandling is common. Don't let any of that scare you; just be alert at night and walk with a friend. Also, we don't recommend crossing under I-35 on foot (the big elevated highway located 4 blocks east of our hotel); instead, take a cab, pedicab, or ride-share if you want to explore up-and-coming hot spots in East Austin. If you're driving and parking in a public spot, don't leave anything valuable -- or tempting, like a shopping bag -- visible; hide it beforehand in the trunk, and always lock your car. Stay in well-lit areas with plenty of activity, and you'll have a great time exploring our lively city!

Also, with regard to Austin's famous 6th Street, which is lined with bars and live-music venues, it's both loved and hated by locals. Of course you must see it while you're here, so go -- after 10 pm for best people-watching and live shows -- and check out this Guide to Dirty Sixth Street by for their take on what to see and do. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Who's Coming to Austin Fling? Plus a hotel update

Wondering who is attending Austin Garden Bloggers Fling? These awesome bloggers, that's who!

Here are the bloggers, plus a few select sponsors, who've already registered for our event next May 3-6, 2018, which includes 3-1/2 days of garden touring and socializing in fun, friendly Austin, Texas. We'll update this list continually as spaces are filled.

Currently we have bloggers from 27 states and 3 countries! Won't you join us? Click for info on how to register!

While you're here, we want to give an update about our official hotel, the Marriott Courtyard Downtown. As some of you know, our block of rooms at the special Fling rate was snapped up in the flood of registrations in the very first week. Austin Fling is a hot ticket, and we're 3/4 sold out already, which is wonderful! But that means if you weren't an early bird, you may be eyeing a hotel rate that's higher than we both would like.

We don't want anyone not to be able to attend because of hotel cost. We're pursuing two options: we're looking into whether any nearby hotels are offering rooms at less than the current rate at our official hotel, and we're encouraging bloggers to room-share.

Sharing a room with a fellow Flinger makes a hotel stay more affordable, plus it's a great way to make a new friend or reconnect with an old friend. We know that not everyone wishes to have a roommate, and that's totally OK. But if you ARE willing to have or be a roomie, we hope you will put yourself out there on our Facebook post about finding a Fling roommate or our blog post. We want to help facilitate room-sharing so that everyone who wants to attend the Fling can do so!

Oh, and if you're already registered, and you notice that a blogging friend is missing from this list, please encourage them to come. And if you're a blogger who's on the fence, or you see that no one from your state or region is listed -- hey, come represent and join the fun!

Registered Attendees

Mary Beth Shaddix -- Mary Beth Shaddix


Brenda Embry -- The Blonde Gardener

Gerhard Bock -- Succulents and More
Kelly Kilpatrick -- Floradora
Gail Lord -- Piece of Eden
Denise Maher -- A Growing Obsession
Kathleen Melikian -- Queen of the Dirt
Renee Pasman -- Gardening Turned Up to Eleven
Jim Peterson -- Garden Design
Kris Peterson -- Late to the Garden Party
Kathy Stoner -- GardenBook

Brandon Coppin -- Botanical Interests
Judy Seaborn -- Botanical Interests
Jennifer Spainhower -- Botanical Interests

Jenn McGuinness -- Frau Zinnie

Karin Hicks -- Southern Meadows

Mary Ann Newcomer -- Gardens of the Wild Wild West

Carol Michel -- May Dreams Gardens

Jean McWeeney -- Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog

Claire Jones -- The Garden Diaries
Teri Speight -- Cottage in the Court

Pat Leuchtman -- Commonweeder

Stefanie Gilmour -- See Jane Dig

Jennifer Ebeling -- 6ft Mama
Mary Schier -- My Northern Garden

David Cristiani -- It's a Dry Heat
Teresa Odle -- Gardening In a Drought
Ellen Zachos -- Backyard Forager

Jim Charlier -- Art of Gardening
Kevin Gepford -- Fuchsias in the City
Elizabeth Licata -- Garden Rant
Theo Margelony -- Fuchsias in the City
Lynn Yenkey -- Sin City to Slaterville

Daricia McKnight -- A Charlotte Garden
Tonya Peele -- Plant + Shoot
Lisa Wagner -- Natural Gardening

Kylee Baumle -- Our Little Acre
Louise Hartwig -- Two Girls With a Purpose
Sue Heppeard -- Two Girls With a Purpose

Dee Nash -- Red Dirt Ramblings

Ann Amato -- Amateur Bot-ann-ist
Loree Bohl -- Danger Garden
Darcy Daniels -- eGardenGo
Jennifer Dennis -- The Rainy Day Gardener
Jane Finch-Howell -- MulchMaid
Alyse Lansing -- Garden Inspiration Blog
Tamara Paulat -- Chickadee Gardens
Heather Tucker -- Just a Girl With a Hammer

Layanee DeMerchant -- Ledge & Gardens

Julie Adolf -- Garden Delights
Janet Ledebuhr -- The Queen of Seaford

Gail Eichelberger -- Clay and Limestone

Vicki Blachman -- Playin' Outside
Jennifer Brown -- Victory or Death! the Garden (Bus Captain)
Shirley Fox -- Rock-Oak-Deer
Caroline Homer -- The Shovel-Ready Garden
Catherine Jones -- The Whimsical Gardener
Diana Kirby -- Sharing Nature's Garden (Austin Fling Chairwoman)
Linda Lehmusvirta -- Central Texas Gardener
Laurin Lindsey -- Ravenscourt Gardens
Shawn Michael -- Ravenscourt Gardens
Pam Penick -- Digging (Austin Fling Planner)
Susan Tomlinson -- The Bicycle Garden
Cindy Tournier -- From My Corner of Katy
Laura Wills -- Wills Family Acres (Austin Fling Planner)
Sheryl Williams -- Yard Fanatic (Bus Captain)

Wendy Hatoum -- High Country Gardens
Jenny Prince -- American Meadows

Lorene Edwards Forkner -- Pacific Horticulture
Grace Hensley -- Fashion Plants

Beth Stetenfeld -- PlantPostings
Anneliese Valdes -- Cobrahead

Helen Battersby -- Toronto Gardens (Ontario)
Janet Davis -- The Paintbox Garden (Ontario)
Liza Drozdov -- Hortus TV (Ontario)
Margaret Mishra -- Homegrown - Adventures in My Garden (Ontario)
Joanne Shaw -- Down 2 Earth Landscapes (Ontario)
Patterson Webster -- Site & Insight (Quebec)

Michelle Chapman -- Veg Plotting
Helen Johnstone -- The Patient Gardener
Barbara Segall -- The Garden Post 
Victoria Summerley -- Tales from Awkward Hill

Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Eat Like a Texan, Part 1

Guest post by Sheryl Williams

Where to eat in the Republic of Austin
Austin may be located within the confines of Texas, but its “keep Austin weird” vibe, constant renewal from the influx of 50,000 or so University of Texas students, the associated tech community, and of course, live music separates the city from the rest of the state. This provides for an eclectic array of restaurant choices, many of which foodie media stars like Anthony Bourdain have championed.

Lucky for all of us, even in this car-dependent city, there are great places to try that you can walk to from the Fling hotel or by hopping a bus or grabbing a cab (both human and gasoline powered). All the major hotels have decent restaurant fare, and there is a P.F. Chang's right down the street.

But I want to point out some places that are distinctively Austin – or at least want to convince you that they are (*wink*). No matter where you go, it’s Austin casual, no need to dress up, and anyone you see who might have taken the trouble to do so is usually from Dallas. (Local joke.)

There is no such thing as bad barbecue.

Barbecue in Texas is all about beef. If you’ve traveled in the South, you know that each region has its own version of preparation, sauce, sides, and meat and will take a hit for the team to defend it. In Texas, everything here is “the best.” Just accept this and move on. You can gossip about us when you get home.

There are two things that you need to know right off the bat.
1. Sauce is served on the side.
2. Brisket is what separates true Texas BBQ and people who just go outside to burn meat.

One of my favorites is just a whip and a spur from the hotel: Iron Works BBQ. It’s not full of hipsters, and you don’t have to wait in line. Their brisket is very good, and I’ve gnawed on my share of rib bones there. No limit on the number of napkins you can use.

Other notable locations are Stubb's (great live music and a little further to hike) and Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. If you’re up for an all-day adventure you can make the pilgrimage to the original Salt Lick BBQ (just so you can say you’ve been there, done that), which features an incredible drive through the Texas Hill Country. Be advised that it’s cash only and BYOB, which is why you will see people lugging coolers.

Food trucks are all the rage.

Don’t quite know what you want to eat? The South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery has something for everyone about 1.5 miles away. The food can be quite exceptional and usually comes with a good story to tell folks back home. That’s because it’s outside, and if you find seating you’ll probably have to share, although eating at the curb is not discouraged too much. Leaning on someone’s truck is okay but only if the driver is amenable and you’ve got some beer to share. Otherwise, come prepared to eat in your car, back at the hotel, or a nearby park.

No meat? No problem! No wheat? No problem! No dairy? No problem! No [insert your choice here]? No problem!

Most places that are not dedicated meat palaces have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. However there are a couple of really good restaurants downtown that are beacons for plant eaters. Just under 2 miles away is the Bouldin Creek Café. They do an amazing job, and it’s a fun place to people-watch in one of Austin’s hipster neighborhoods. Just over a mile away is Blue Dahlia Bistro. Although not 100% vegetarian it has a lot of choices and is a way to get your requisite French food calories. Further north about 4 miles is Mother’s Café. Mother’s is in the Hyde Park neighborhood – a treat to visit all on its own, but you’ll probably need a cab or bus to get there.

Behold, I give you the taco!

The second most popular religion, behind barbecue, is taco worship. The taco scene has somehow evolved from Mexican street food into cuisine snobbery of the highest order, with TexMex thrown in there just to keep the fat content up.

You will see taco food trucks everywhere, especially around the convention center (do sample as many as you can), but there is a huge rivalry between who has the BEST tacos. It’s a contest between Torchy’s Tacos and TacoDeli. Both have several locations and are best enjoyed in the University District, where a 17-year old can wax poetic on which taco should be consumed after binging on an array of cheap alcoholic beverages. For Torchy’s, you can take the Congress Avenue bus up the hill to 2801 Guadalupe St, or if you want to walk just under 2 miles there's a location at 1311 S. 1st St.

Other notable locations

Whenever I miss my grandma’s cooking I head over to Threadgill’s, about 1 mile from the hotel. It’s a great place for Southern-style food, and a lot of times I go there and just order side dishes, although I must say that their chicken-fried steak is one of the best (if there is such a thing). It’s an Austin music institution, where it’s fun to look at old photos.

The Driskill is a must, if for nothing else than just to see the ornate lobby and bar. They have a decent happy hour and usually have live music you don’t have to shout over.

Just up the street is B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, which is kind of a chain but has the best Irish stew I’ve never made myself, plus friendly service and no-cover live music.

Probably our most famous restaurant is Uchi, a sushi place here in landlubber Texas. It really is spectacular – and expensive. But, the locals have learned that you don’t need a second job to afford their happy hour, and it’s a way to say “of course I’ve been there.” You’ll definitely need a cab.

Barley Swine, Odd Duck, Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue, and others you may have seen on TV are truly wonderful, but the wait time is horrific. Only venture to those if you have nowhere you need to be and can evoke a quick Plan B.

Just for the heck of it

A stroll down Red River or 6th Street is where you’ll encounter our famous live music. What I love about Austin is that from every doorway music pours onto the sidewalk. Don’t like that band? Walk 5 feet and find something totally different. Venues downtown usually have at least a $10 cover.

South Congress Avenue, or SoCo if you’re hip, is also a hoot. I like Magnolia Café (exceptional migas), Perla’s, and South Congress Café, all under 2 miles away. While there, go try on boots at Allens and see if that pair costing $3,000 makes you feel special. Sadly, my feet are too wide to fit into them, so let me know how it works out for you.

For even MORE places to eat, check out Eater Austin and Austin360eats. Both of these sites have lively commentary with their food reviews and keep up on all the local happenings.

If you STILL can’t find what you are looking for, or just want to slam down margaritas at Chuy’s, let me know!

Sheryl Williams, an Austin transplant by way of Portland, Oregon, blogs at Yard Fanatic. She's a regular Flinger, a connoisseur of great food, and a fun-loving and cheerful ambassador for our taco-scented city.

Read Part 2 of How to Eat Like a Texan for info about which meals you'll be on your own for at Austin Fling, plus a list of restaurants within a short walk of the hotel.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Oh roomie, oh roomie, wherefore art thou?

We’re excited to have so many bloggers registered for the Fling in the first few days.  If you haven't signed up, we encourage you to register now to ensure your spot.
For some bloggers, this trip is a great way to see gardens, have fun, and have a room all to themselves to recharge. Other bloggers prefer to have a roommate to  to save money and make a new friend.  

We’ve seen several comments on multiple Facebook threads about roommates.  To help facilitate that process for those who want to share a room, we’re starting a new thread to give attendees a single place to look for a room or a roommate.  So, if you have a room and need a mate, or you're a mate in need of a room - check out the Roomie post on Facebook.
One of the Austin planners, Laura, of Wills Family Acres, highlights her great experience sharing a room:
“At my first two flings, I roomed with an Austin blogger I knew well. I enjoyed the comfort of knowing my roommate, but I didn't branch out as much. Spending most of our time together meant I didn’t meet as many other bloggers. My friend didn’t go to D.C. this summer, but I still wanted to save on hotel cost, so I nervously put myself out there, looking for a roommate on the Fling Facebook page. I roomed with Joanne from Toronto. What a great experience! Not only did I make a new friend in Joanne, but I made many more new friends by getting out of my safe bubble.” 
                                                        -- Laura

At the first fling in Austin back in 2008, traveling to another city or state to meet bloggers for the first time simply wasn’t done. But, so many things brought us together, from gardening and blogging to photography.

Special friendships were formed at that first fling that continue today.

So, whether you plan to relax and enjoy a peaceful experience in your solo room, or you reach out for a roommate, we hope
the Austin fling launches some lovely friendships.