Sorry I haven’t posted in ages, but you don’t care that much and I’ve been too busy discovering Santa Cruz’s rad fauna. Basically life as an exchange student in Santa Cruz is comprised of drinking tequila in your bedroom because most people are under 21, and then going to the meadow to meet high randoms and shoot laser beams amongst the redwood trees. Seriously, laser beams are awesome, everyone should get on it. Then the next day you wake up around 5pm, realize that you’ve missed all your classes, and you do the whole thing all over again – except for my flat mate Irish Shane, who is the pinnacle of studiousness and general goodness. So Shane’s parents, if you are reading this, Shane remains uncorrupted: he’s still the polite, IT genius legend you raised. Can we all just pause for a second and celebrate Shane? K thanks.
But now that the gf has arrived, we are currently in Austin, Texas, because YOLO. Usually you ask someone in America if they have travelled much and they will proudly list off a whole bunch of different cities – all in their home state. For Australians, as we well know, if you want to experience anything very different, you have to get on a plane. And unless your idea of a multicultural adventure is Auckland, chances are you’ll be on that big bird for several hours at the least. So the three and a half hour plane trip from San Francisco to Austin isn’t really a big deal. It takes longer to get from Sydney to Perth.
Now we are here, Iz and I are doing things a bit differently than we did in Santa Cruz – except for the sleeping during the day thing. That’s still working well for us. Luckily for Iz, she’s twenty-one. Unluckily for me, I am not. So, here is the first rule for being an underage Australian drinker in Austin:
Make sure to get a foreign 21 year old’s ID that looks a bit like you.
It’s not enough to get the ID of your 21-year-old American doppelgänger. Bouncers are accustomed to seeing these all the time, and they will easily pick out the fact that the person in the photo isn’t you. As once happened to me in Wholefoods while trying to buy artesian beer (I know, I’m a wanker – but it was Wholefoods! What was I supposed to get? They don’t have anything un-artesian), the sales assistant said, while peering at my ID, “This isn’t you.” To which I responded, “Um, yes it is?” And then he said, “No, it definitely isn’t.” To which I replied, “Good point,” and quickly got the hell out of there.
The key is to get a foreign ID, because this confuses American bouncers. You can see the bewilderment spread across their faces as they try to work out where the date is. In all this befuddlement, they forget to look at the actual photo. Bingo, you’re in. My British ID belongs to my cousin, so shout-out to her for looking vaguely like me, and for allowing me to explore my English accent talents when talking to bouncers.
Now that you know the key to actually getting into bars when you shouldn’t legally be there, the next step is to know the cool places to drink. A fake ID means nothing if you end up downing beers in a sports bar with mid-westerners. In Austin, you have two main choices. In other words,
Do you want to get drunk with a) povo students like you, or b) people who pretend to be povo students but are really interior designers wearing threadbare Phillip Lim 3.1?
If your answer is a), you want to go to ‘Dirty 6th’. This is a street jam-packed with grimy clubs, bars and pubs, and hawkers standing at every entrance yelling, “Get your $3 jaeger shots! $2 Irish car bombs!” One dude screamed this at Iz and me, to which we responded, “We might come back later!” He jovially replied, “That’s what my Papa said to me when he left our family one night when I was a kid, and he still hasn’t come back!” Ah, pathos.
Dirty 6th is located in the heart of downtown, and is basically where all the students from nearby University of Texas go, and where tourists from interstate come to experience ‘city life’. Not to mention the backpackers. So many backpackers.
Our favourite on this strip is probably Pete’s Piano Bar. Yes, it’s a $5 cover, but it is a feckload of fun. Walk in, and you’ve got tables of out-of-towners getting their Austin live music fix. You’ve also got two smooth-as piano players and crooners belting out pop covers and schmoozing the crowd with their sweet tunes. Additionally, you’ve got a hot waitress walking around selling $4 jello shots in syringes, and a bar full of cheap drinks, and bartenders who will take selfies of themselves instead of you when you ask them to take a happy snap of you and your mates. Iz and I came here on our first night and befriended some awesome women from Dallas who were celebrating one of their 40th birthdays. We became fast friends and bonded over tequila shots, jello shots, and every other shot. I woke up the next morning with a lovely email from one of them entitled, “We will be in Sydney in two years!” I guess I’ll be having houseguests…
Oh and I should mention that once you are drunk and after food, you should definitely walk east along the street until you find Gourdough’s, the amazing doughnut truck catering to people so inebriated they have forfeited all calorie qualms and just want stuff that tastes really freaking good. Iz and I are big fans of the ‘Fat Elvis’: a massive doughnut covered in peanut butter glaze, topped with caramelized banana and crispy bacon.
If you answered b), you’ll want to head to ‘East Sixth’. This area keeps winning all the sarcastic awards for ‘most quickly gentrified area in Austin’, but whatever. We still think it’s awesome, and the plethora of fabulous bars and delicious food trucks means that it will remain awesome for some time yet. Some winners in our eyes include
This place is known for being ‘LGBT friendly’, so Iz and I were super stoked that we would have instant mates! But apart from this title, it’s also just a very rad bar, with patios out back and front, yummy drinks (including the amaze-balls hot apple cider with rum) and live bands and drag queen acts on Saturdays (and maybe other days: I have no idea, I was just there on a Saturday). When we were there, this incredible singer/rapper Katy B was performing, and she had everyone twerking and yelling and generally looking ridiculous. Charlie’s definitely cheered us up.
To be honest, I don’t really remember that much of this place, apart from the fact that it was full of super-friendly people that bought us drinks, and wound up in our iPhone camera albums the next morning. However, I think one of the reasons I remember it so fondly is that it rocked in comparison to Yellow Jacket Social Club, the bar we had hit up just previously. This place is touted as being a ‘hipster haven’, so we assumed it would have a pretty liberal-minded clientele. But Iz was talking to some people who were being really friendly while I was in the bathroom, and then when I came back and she introduced me as her gf, they literally just walked away without saying another word. Literally. Just. Walked. Away. I would expect this in Tennessee maybe, but not in Austin. So thumbs down, Yellow Jacket, thumbs down. Another notable mention goes to The Liberty, whose drinks are delish, but whose food truck in the backyard, East Side King, served up the best pork buns I’ve ever tasted. (Obviously, I really like pork).
Now you’re drunk, you should hit up the food trucks just near Cheer Up Charlie’s. The al pastor (pork) taco at the taco truck was like actually the best thing I’d ever consumed, and the candy-covered bacon dipped in chocolate and salt from the fried food truck next to it, Fried and True, was heart attack heaven. Well done, Austin.
Finally, a special mention goes to Qui.
Also on East 6th, it is apparently the ‘hottest restaurant in Austin’ or some such hyperbole. But Iz and I went there for our one year anniversary dinner for a fancy, fancy night, and boy did it deliver. Some hits included rabbit seven ways, the crispy chicken skin cabbage salad and the (OMG SO GOOD TRUST ME) cheddar cheese ice cream with crispy waffles, goat milk cajeta, peanut praline, aged cheddar ice cream. Service was excellent, wine was delicious. And afterwards some cheeky cocktails at the East Side Showroom.
I could go on and on about all the other food and drinks we’ve consumed here, but suffice to say, this town is amazing. Young Australians, just remember to get your fake ID and practice your poker face, and you too can soon be losing your wallet while climbing a fence and yodeling into your hostel at 4am with the best of them. Good luck!
- Is ‘Dirty Sixth’ a problem for Austin? (kvue.com)
- 4 Popular Austin Nightlife Destinations (new2austintx.com)