Tag Archives: Amy’s Ice Cream

AUSTIN. Not all Texas cities are created equal

43. Probably one of the most irrelevant and insignificant ages in a person’s life. It’s right up there with 22 and 37; but, any birthday, any year is GREAT when you live in Austin, Texas.

Greetings from AUSTIN - Capitol of Texas
Greetings from AUSTIN – Capitol of Texas

Ever since I was old enough to say “I’m not going to work on my birthday”, I haven’t worked on my birthday, and this year was no different. I threw my kick ass Crumpler camera bag over my shoulder and decided to explore my city while I waited on my friends from Lubbock and Houston to arrive in town. Let’s just say… “Not all Texas cities are created equal” and leave it at that.

Austin GlobeTrekker 2013
Austin GlobeTrekker 2013

If your travel plans involve an Excel spreadsheet of what you’re doing each day, each hour, where you’re eating, what time you’re having coffee, and how long you’re going to stand in front of X statue, or visit Y museum, then you and I my friend will have some “challenges” as travel partners. I think I’ve mentioned multiple times… I just need to know WHERE I’m sleeping each night. 2 words… MADRID. Yeah, I know that’s just one word. Add !@#$%&! in front of it, and you’ll get the idea. It was 2003, and I really need to let it go; But, I digress. I needed COFFEE and Jo’s Coffee was my 1st stop.

Jo's Coffee - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo's [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo’s [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
So once again… my plan for the day… I’m going to act like a tourist and SEE the city of Austin! Yeah, I pretty much made it to Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress Ave (SoCo). If you want to waste away a morning with no care in the world… SoCo is your place. Reminds me of a story (here comes the random irrelevant travel tangent). My wife Anna and I accidentally stumbled into a little Italian run coffee shop in the beautiful town of Füssen, Bavaria (aka Germany) a few years ago, and almost didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein Castle. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration and partially my fault. Actually, it was ALL of my fault. I accidentally put Falkenstein Castle in the GPS instead of Neuschwanstein Castle, and next thing you know… we’re lost in the middle of the Bavarian Alps (which was AWESOME by the way!). We eventually saw the castle that inspired Walt Disney; but, between the town of Füssen and my GPS incompetence, we kinda got sidetracked by more than a few hours that day. Which was perfectly cool, because that’s how great unexpected travel stories are created. Wrote a blog about it which you can read here: BAVARIA. Get Lost! Besides… We knew we were sleeping in Salzburg that night. That’s all I needed to know.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Füssen, Germany – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Wait… How the heck did I get off on a tangent about Bavaria? OK, back to Austin. 68 F and Sunny (the weather, not me). I’m sitting on an outdoor bench at Jo’s Coffee, sippin’ on a perfectly crafted mocha, legs kicked up on the chair across from me, reading my Facebook birthday greetings and trying to “like” and/or respond to every single one of them. Finally, I did what every smart person should do at least one day per week, and I put away my iPhone and decided to be still. calm. quiet. And appreciate the world of South Congress Avenue passing in front of me. What a magnificent birthday treat!

Jo's - The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s – The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. – Austin, TX]
Jo's Coffee - http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. [Austin, TX]
I’m telling you people… If “People Watching” was an Olympic sport, I’d be a 5 time reigning Olympic Gold Medalist. Some people call it lazy… I call it observant and patient. I couldn’t tell you how long I was sitting at Jo’s “People Watching”; however, without a purpose or cue, I removed myself from my perch, and decided to capture my SoCo surroundings on camera. ONE CITY BLOCK my friends! That’s how much of my city I saw that morning, and it was fantastic! Thanks Jo’s Coffee!

People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Something as simple as the green side wall infused with red spray paint at Jo’s that says… “I Love You So Much”. My first thought… These punk kids with their graffiti!!! Just kidding. My first thought… Anna (my wife). I snapped a photo and sent it to her via text. Her response: “Did you write that?”. It crossed my mind ever so briefly to take credit for this simplistic and beautiful message; but, I gave the fine folks at Jo’s all the credit.

"i love you so much" - Jo's Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
“i love you so much” – Jo’s Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Right next door to Jo’s… Snack Bar Diner – Lounge. Even the sign is cool! “Food! We’ve Got It!”. Yes they do! Organic local produce all wrapped into a cool vibe. A piece of art mounted on the back wall of the parking lot shows favor to the quirkiness of Austin’s SoCo. I’m also a sucker for vehicles that look like they shouldn’t be running; yet, somehow their soul is revived as a reminder of how things used to be. And I like that.

Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Old... but, running (I think) - Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Old… but, running (I think) – Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Look up, and you can’t help but see the landmark Austin Motel in front of you.  “No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938”. Yeah, there’s also NO VACANCY. Hit the end of the block and turn back, and there’s a 2nd message from Austin Motel. “So Close. Yet So Far Out”. It’s South Congress baby!

AUSTIN MOTEL - No Additives. No Preservatives. No Corporate Free Since 1938
AUSTIN MOTEL – No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938

AUSTIN MOTEL - So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
AUSTIN MOTEL – So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
The block was lined with unique storefronts filled with quirky artifacts, clothing, boots, and furniture. Not that I was out to shop; but, more or less to proudly appreciate the focus on supporting local businesses. Places like El Tezontle Gallery, Heritage Boot Company (handmade fancy boots), Stella Blue Boutique & Salon, and Blackmail Boutique and Atelier. Just cool. VERY cool.

El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company - Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company – Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I made my way back towards Jo’s, I thought I heard live music. We’re living in the Music Capitol of The World, so of course you’re going to hear music; But, how often do you hear live music from a guy named “Guitar Shawn” rockin’ out on the top of his van on South Congress Ave in front of the Austin famous Continental Club? Well… probably more often than one would think. CLASSIC! I tipped brother Shawn, he gestured a “Thank You Brother!” and just kept on jammin’ with his circa 1987 hair and Texas Lone Star State flag blowin’ in the wind. Right on! #Guitar_Shawn

"Guitar Shawn" - rockin' on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
“Guitar Shawn” – rockin’ on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
"Guitar Shawn" - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
#Guitar_Shawn [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
I just had coffee. Listened to Guitar Shawn. And now, I’m sitting on yet another bench, moderating a conversation (albeit argument) between 3 young ladies trying to figure out has the best ice cream in Austin, which then escalated quickly to the State of Texas. Did I mention I was right outside Amy’s Ice Cream? Look no further young ladies! AMY’S ICE CREAM is the answer! Is it the best ice cream in town? Perhaps. How about the best in Texas? It’s debatable. I’m a true Texas fan of Blue Bell Ice Cream (Brenham, TX); however, last time I bought a pint of homemade vanilla at HEB Grocery Store, I don’t recall any servers performing a magic show as they infuse gummy bears and half a Snicker’s Bar into a delicious mound of Belgian Chocolate ice cream that is then flipped into a waffle bowl. Amy’s is about the entertainment and the delivery! These dudes (and fabulous ladies) are like Wizards of Frozen Dairy! And oh yeah… it’s that goooooood!

Amy's Ice Cream - The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Amy’s Ice Cream – The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I was making my way back to the car, I found myself stopping outside of Hotel San Jose. A great place for date night, friends in town, afternoon or late night drink; but, although I live here in Austin… it’s a goal of mine to actually STAY a night at Hotel San Jose. Just an iconic hotel residence to call your home for a night (or two) in Austin, Texas.

Hotel San Jose - [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Hotel San Jose – [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
My friends called. Lubbock and Houston had arrived. That was my 43rd Birthday morning. Unscripted. No purpose or cause. And it was spectacular! Maybe next time I’ll try to do more than just peruse ONE CITY BLOCK. Perhaps see 2 or 3 blocks of South Congress Avenue, or even venture (dare I say) to OTHER cool and hip parts of A U S T I N. Like I said… Not all Texas cities are created equal.

A  U  S  T  I  N  .  T  E  X  A  S

AUSTIN: Hometown Cravings!

Texas State Capitol Building – Austin, Texas USA – “Don’t Mess With Texas!”

The name of my TRAVEL blog is Austin GlobeTrekker; yet, all I’ve blogged about so far in my one month of existence is the “GlobeTrekker” portion. Time to get LOCAL and talk about AUSTIN! This might very well be one of the most conceited and arrogant statements I’ve made in the past 24-36hrs; however, I must say… I live in a BAD ASS city! Austin, Texas might very well be one of the coolest places to call your home. And I rightfully call Austin my hometown, because even though I was born in Leicester, England, I’ve lived in Austin for over 30% of my life; Texas for over 70%. As much as I love to travel… Texas IS home. Don’t worry… I’m still going to ramble on about other countries too.

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA

I recently met some folks from Canada during a training session in Round Rock, Texas for my “real” job that I actually get paid to do. You’ll rarely hear me talk about “work” on this blog, because… we’re here to share stories and experiences about TRAVEL. Things I like to do when I’m NOT working. Sure, I’ve been to British Columbia (Vancouver, Whistler) and Alberta (Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper) and met hundreds of Canadians (ok, like 10); But, it’s not so often that you meet them right here in your hometown and hear them say “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Austin!”.  That TEXAS PRIDE kicks in, and an uncontrollable Southern grin crosses your face, and all you can think to say is “WELCOME TO TEXAS!”.

The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

Like most tourists (including myself), you do your research and have your rough itinerary of things you want to see in the city your visiting. About halfway through our conversation about the downtown Austin live music scene, the bats under the Congress Bridge, partying at the bars on 6th Street, eating real Texas BBQ (his words, not mine) and indulging in some authentic Mexican food (her words, not mine), I drifted off into a coma and started talking to myself about the things that I like to do in Austin. I started to tell them that if they REALLY want to see some live music… come back in September (16-18) for ACL – Austin City Limits Festival 2011 at Zilker Park. Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of watching one of my legendary favorites – Pearl Jam put on a spectacular show. This year promises to be incredible too. Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, and so on and so on. Skipped it last year… but, I digress.

Austin City Limits Festival 2009 - Pearl Jam on the Livestrong Stage

Unfortunately for them, they were staying at The Marriott – La Frontera, in Round Rock, Texas. I had to gingerly explain that this is NOT Austin. Saying you’re “staying in Austin” when you’re really in Round Rock, is kinda like the time one of my managers told us we were “staying in Manhattan, New York” when our hotel was really in Secaucus, New Jersey. True story. Similar… but different. It’s close enough that you can get there. But don’t fool yourself thinking it’s a 10min walk. More like an expensive cab ride. In honor of my new Canadian colleagues, I’ve added a photo of one of my favorite hotels in the world – The Fairmont Banff Springs HotelAlberta, Canada. Once again – Similar… but different to Round Rock, Texas. I’m just sayin’.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel - Alberta, Canada - Canadian Rockies

Naturally, it wasn’t long before I realized… our “Austin Agendas” are just a tad different. In a traveler’s defense… It’s hard to know a place in 2 days. God bless ’em for tryin’ though. For example… The best bars in Austin (in my opinion mind you) are DIVE BARS. I’m embarrassed on the borderline of sheer pride that MOST of the Dive Bars in (and around) Austin, Texas know me and my group of idiot friends we like to call “The Dive Bar Crew”. For the past 10-12yrs, we’ve frequented some spectacular joints like Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Lustre Pearl Bar, Poodle Dog Lounge, Buddy’s, La-La’s, C-Hunt’s, G&S Lounge, Dry Bean Saloon, Horseshoe Lounge, The Hideout, Deep Eddy Cabaret, Shoal Creek Saloon, The Water Tank, Dog & Duck, Posse East, Nasty’s, Crown & Anchor, Shannanigan’s, Draught House, Canary Hut, The PLT (Parmer Lane Tavern) Carousel Lounge, and my favorite dive bar in Austin, Texas… Donn’s Depot – just to name a few! Oh, and if you’ve got the time… and the courage… take a short trip just outside of Austin to an old biker bar in the Texas Hill Country called The Devil’s Backbone . CLASSIC!

"The Dive Bar Crew" at The Devil's Backbone - Texas USA

I then started to get thirsty. Then I just got flat out hungry after drinking all that cheap ice cold beer (in my mind), and could NOT get BOMB TACOS out of my mind! It was driving me crazy! So, I mentioned Lustre Pearl Bar. It’s a really cool laid back Texas style beer garden at 97 Rainey Street over by the Austin Convention Center. BOMB TACOS is a camper. No lying. It’s not a building establishment. It pulls up to the side of the beer garden in the back of Lustre Pearl Bar, and serves a Bad Ass Burrito. LITERALLY. It’s called the “Bad Ass Burrito”. Check the sign and menu. All Tacos – $3. All Burritos – $6. All Quesadillas – $6. And it’s fresh-cooked, TexMex heavenly cuisine when accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza! I recently got my Bomb Taco fix on my birthday party weekend (May 7th) before heading to Europe (May 9th) – Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Sometimes… you’ve just gotta have it!

BOMB TACOS - Lustre Pearl Bar - Austin, Texas - "Home of the Bad Ass Burrito!"

Which leads me to another quick story (not really). My friend Sal lives in Munich, Germany. LOVES it there, and I can clearly see why. FANTASTIC city, culture, people, food, beer and overall scene. BUT… Sal told me how he was craving Mexican food like a banshee! Not really sure how a banshee craves food; however, dude was clearly desperate enough to get into an altercation with a Bavarian over the definition of Mexican food. Sal ordered a quesadilla. Dude gave him a burrito. Similar… but different. Sal’s response – “Hey man! I’m FROM Texas… I know Mexican food!”. So I said, “Sorry you didn’t get your Mexican fix! I wish I could package some TexMex and send it over for you.” His response… “Oh, I ate the burrito! And it was damn good too!”. Hmmm… me thinks NOT! He’s been away from Texas too long. They don’t know TexMex food; But… The Bavarians KNOW beer! PROST!

Bavarian Beer Garden - Munich, Germany - May 2011 - PROST!

So, I’m still stuck in this freaky coma of complexity, dreaming about my local palette, and it leads me to ice cream. While we were recently in Venice, Italy, I think I may have had the BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world! Seriously. No exaggeration! OK… maybe a 3.742% exaggeration. Sometimes, food is just about location. location. location. Ice cream in The Rialto Market on a warm sunny May day in Venice, Italy… that’s almost perfection for location. It was sooooo good, that after completing the generously portioned scoop… I wanted to go back and get another one. If you’ve been to Venice before – good luck getting back to where you were in The Rialto if you never knew where the hell you were in the first place.

"The Rialto" - Venezia, Italia! - BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world!

But, back to local. As great as that ice cream was in Venice… there is almost nothing like a true frozen dessert experience at Amy’s Ice Cream here in Austin, Texas. These artisans are like Wizards of Dessert. I remember a few years back when my cousins Roger, Amanda, Polly and Ella came over from England. Music blaring, “Keep Austin Weird” signs around the place, college students on their laptops (pretending to study), and an ice cream server who looked like his beard should have had a hair net on it for health code reasons. BUT, that’s Austin my friends! After getting all kinds of candy bars and fruit crushed up in her ice cream, my cousin Polly was shocked, yet excited like a cast member of GLEE, when they threw her ice cream over the counter for her to catch in a bowl. Like I said… it’s a true frozen dessert experience.

Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"
Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - Cousin Polly catching ice cream from "The Wizards of Dessert"

By now, I’m starting to come out of the coma, and I realize that the Canadians are still talking. Probably something about hockey and asking “why is it so bloody hot down here in Texas!” 103F today. Well, I’ve been drinking beers at dive bars, eating bad ass burritos at Bomb Tacos, and eating Amy’s Ice Cream. It’s like I was in The Matrix. Plugged in… but, more like a robot of “yeah”, “sure!”, “oh definitely”, “you don’t say?”, “uh huh”, “you go girl!”. I’m just ready to go to bed by this point; but in “coma land”, it’s late night 2am in Austin, Texas, so I started thinking about blueberry pancakes at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. This place is so good! And it’s a true local Austin diner. Like they say… Everybody Knows – Everybody Goes! I had a ridiculously fantastic strawberry syrup with ice cream pancake at The Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands a few years ago; but, it still wasn’t the same nostalgic experience as a late night closer, or morning hangover remedy at Magnolia Cafe. Ironically, less than half a mile down the road from my favorite dive bar – Donn’s Depot, and across the street from yet another one of my favorites – Deep Eddy Cabaret.

Magnolia Cafe - Austin, TX - late night with my friends Robyn & Jaime

As I’m now fat, full and drunk… I join reality once again, only to hear the Canadians closing comments: “THANK YOU! So I guess we’ll see you tomorrow night!”. As of right now, I have absolutely no idea what I signed myself up for (or THEM for that matter). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow now, won’t we! If they truly want to hit 6th Street… I’ll take them to WEST 6th Street. Who knows… maybe we can grab a slice of good ol’ late night pizza from Roppolo’s Pizzeria!

Late Night Pizza from Roppolo's Pizzeria - W. 6th St - Austin, TX - my friends Cooksey and Maui Meg

OK… I’m done rambling. Stay Tuned for more adventures of Austin GlobeTrekker. Until then… Join the Conversation!