Enjoy a weekend jaunt down I-35
As Texas’ most left-leaning city, Austin has long been a destination for gay folks, funky straight folks and almost every stripe in the liberal rainbow. But if you haven’t been there in the last few years, you may have trouble recognizing the downtown landscape, which has been transformed by new construction. Here’s a recipe for enjoying a quick weekend road-trip to the Texas capital.
WHERE TO STAY: The Warehouse District, with its bounty of both gay and gay-friendly bars, restaurants and boutiques, is a good bet. For glamour, there’s the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin. Less pricey downtown alternatives include the Radisson Town Lake and the Hampton Inn. The retro-trendy South Congress district is home to the super-posh, lesbian-owned Hotel San Jose.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Kick off the weekend with some Tex-Mex. Homey Guero’s serves some of the best south-of-the-border fare in central Texas, while Manuel’s is one of the fancier Mexican restaurants in town.
Most gay bars are concentrated in the Warehouse District. Everyone eventually goes to Charlie’s, the city’s oldest gay bar, where go-go boys dance in the shadows of the capitol. Rain on 4th has a deck in back, a billiards bar in front and a mid-size dance bar in the middle.
SATURDAY: Catch breakfast at the eccentric Magnolia Cafe, which has branches on South Congress Avenue and Lake Austin Boulevard.
Work off those calories with a stroll through Zilker Park. Austin’s best outdoor attraction, however, is Hippie Hollow, pictured, the region’s only clothing-optional sunbathing spot. The gay section draws crowds just about any day with temperatures above 65 degrees.
For cool sweets, Amy’s Ice Cream (several locations) is a no-brainer. Lick a cone while strolling among the antique furnishing and vintage clothing shops along South Congress.
For dinner, stick with the Warehouse District for the best peoplewatching and proximity to gay nightlife. Kenichi offers a mod setting where pretty people hobnob over superbly rendered Japanese cuisine. At Malaga, you can savor plate after plate of terrific tapas.
After dinner, clubbing can begin at Oilcan Harry’s. An Austin fixture, Oilcan’s attracts hot collegians. Rainbow Cattle Company is where two-steppers congregate below Wild West artifacts. If you’re into leather, Chain Drive cultivates a rugged, bearish ambience.
SUNDAY MORNING. Austin’s a great brunch town, so before heading back up I-35, stop by Katz’s Deli, renowned for its half-pound sandwiches, or South Congress Cafe, a handsome space known for toothsome brunch treats.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2008