Texas Forever: A Dinner Club Wedding Story (Part 2)
I awoke Friday morning with a teensy bit of a hangover. No fear, a little exercise usually helps straighten me out. After a hot shower, I made my way down East 6th to Cuvée Coffee, which came highly recommended by a coffee nerd friend of mine. As the temperature outside was hovering in the low 50s all weekend, I opted for hot coffee in lieu of my usual cold brew order, and I was really really impressed by the cup I was served.
My other goal for the morning was to find a suitable breakfast taco. There was literally one taco left at the coffee shop, and it was a basic black been thing that was not nearly filling (or good) enough for me. So I kept walking until I came to Veracruz All Natural, which is apparently considered one of the best breakfast tacos in Austin. Not only that, a show that airs on the Food Network hailed their Migas taco one of the five best tacos in the country.
I ordered two tacos for breakfast, the aforementioned Migas (egg, tortilla chips, Monterey jack cheese, cilantro, tomato, onion, avocado in a corn tortilla) and a taco of my own design (egg, potatoes, Monterey jack cheese, chorizo in a flour tortilla). I’m not going to lie. These were literally two of the best bites of food I had all weekend. While reveling in the splendor of these perfect little breakfast tacos, I started getting texts from friends who were landing in Austin. They were hungry, thirsty, and wanted to meet up. I tried to savor the tacos as long as I could, but they’re small (and my appetite is not) so I crushed them with remarkable ease and left to walk towards the hotel where everyone else was staying.
I’m cheap. My friends all like staying at hipster-y, LA-style hotels with artisanal coffee roasters in the lobby and DJs spinning at the hotel bar. I’m fine with a Sheraton.
So, I walked to the hotel, where I sat and waited for 15-20 minutes before they started to arrive. Nate and Kelie and Jessie were first to appear, and all three of them expressed a desire to eat. Fast. Unfortunately for them, I’d just polished off those incredible Veracruz breakfast tacos, so I offered to walk with them and grab a drink while they ate. They wound up somewhere that served Po’ Boys, a sports bar, where I had an IPA and watched them stuff themselves on oversized sandwiches. From there we walked around downtown Austin for a bit, and once Happy Hour started we took some seats outside at a bar on the corner of 2nd Street.
Mark and David, and then finally Ben arrived to join us. We hung out for a few rounds of drink specials and some chips before moving to another Happy Hour, at an absinthe bar in the warehouse district called Peche. I don’t think anyone ordered food here, but we all tried different cocktails. I had something called a New York Sour, which was made with bourbon, lemon, sugar, and a red wine floater.
Now a party of 7, we decided to have our first official meal together in Texas. The plan was to hit Moonshine Patio & Grill, then drink the night away at Easy Tiger. We soon found out Moonshine is a pretty popular place! The wait was between 90-120 minutes for a table, so we decided to reverse course and drink at Easy Tiger while we waited for our table at Moonshine. I loved Easy Tiger. That place is my kind of bar. There’s plenty of seating, the beer list has a little bit of everything, and the bites on their menu make for a very fitting pair.
I stuck with my plan to try local beer picks at every opportunity (at Corner Bar I had a Live Oak Hefe) and choose a Marzen from Austin Beer Works called Montecore. I followed that up with a Blue Owl Spirit Animal and ended the session with a Peachy Bones from Firestone Walker (not local, but couldn’t pass it up). We also ordered a half dozen pretzels and some french bread with whipped butter to tide us over until our dinner table was ready.
Upon returning to the restaurant, we were told the wait would be another thirty minutes or so. Somehow our group expanded to 8 people, and then 9, then back to 7 in the time it took for us to be seated. I drank a can of Big Bark Amber from Live Oak while we waited. Someone in our crew had the bright idea to walk up the street and sign us up for an Escape Room after dinner. I don’t know if I could speak for everyone in our party, but at least half of us were buzzed before we sat down to eat. The prospect of having to work together to solve an Escape Room seemed like a disastrous proposition to me. Which is to say I loved it.
Finally, we were seated for dinner. I thought we were going to follow normal Dinner Club procedure and order a bunch of dishes and share, but eventually, we settled on everyone ordering their own plates. We shared a Southern Grit Cake to start the meal. Then Nate ordered another Southern Grit Cake for his main course (very weird), Mark got the Chicken and Waffles, Kelie had the Seasonal Farmer Plate, Jessie had the Green Chili Macaroni (with grilled chicken, corn bisque and bacon gratin), David had the Chicken Fried Steak, I had the Shrimp and Grits, and Ben had the Baby Back Ribs — which was such a huge plate it left him with an immense amount of leftovers he was forced to carry around with him for the remainder of the evening. My food was fine. I’m not sure I got to try many others, but I liked David’s Chicken Fried Steak and the mac and cheese. Shockingly — with drinks — the bill for everyone came out to like thirty bucks a person.
That’s another thing about Austin. Compared to Los Angeles, everything is an absolute bargain. Those breakfast tacos? Eight bucks. My tab at The ABGB on Thursday with all those beers and the bacon wrapped quail knobs? Thirty bucks after tip. Dinner at the Moonshine? Thirty-something bucks. BBQ at Kreuz Market with sides and a soft drink? Twenty bucks. I almost felt like I was stealing from the people of Texas paying what I did for how much I ate and drank. Maybe…just maybe…I shouldn’t be living in Los Angeles [insert “thinking face” emoji here]
Full of food and steadily growing more drunk, we headed up the street to The Escape Game. David, I think, signed us up for the hardest room that was offered, which has a 10% success rate. We knew we were in for a disaster, but our drunk gang of fools gave it our best. The gist of the room(s) was that we were trying to break out of prison. We started in two separate cells and assumed we just had to get each other out and leave, but there were four rooms total in this adventure. We made it into the fourth room but fell well short of completing the jailbreak. Not bad for a bunch of drunk assholes.
From there the night gets a little blurry and a lot more annoying. We tried to meet up with some friends on Sixth Street but couldn’t track them down. That stretch of bars is one of the most annoying places in the country. It was “cool” when I was in Austin for a few days (one, two, three) in 2005. Thirteen years later I just felt old. Firehouse was too crowded. No one felt like going to Library or Blind Pig just so I could talk about how I’d been there before. One of them had a line out the door across the street. We ended up leaving 6th Street altogether and walking to some dimly lit bar blocks away, where I had a couple bottles of Lone Star and chatted with the gang about who knows what before Ubering back to my hotel. With a belly full of food and booze, day two came to a close.
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