A South Austin Pilgrimage

by | Mar 20, 2007

We just spent 10 action-packed days in Austin for SXSW. Austin is a great American city (GAC)—one we hadn’t visited in four years. During South By there are a million places to be and even more things to do. It’s a challenge to shrink it all down to manageable portions. But one way to do this is to focus on a neighborhood. To go hyper local, as it were. And there’s no better place in Austin to do this than on South Congress Avenue.

Less than a mile from downtown, South Congress or SoCo, offers a multiple block strectch of retail establishments, hotels, restaurants and music venues—all of which rank as some of the best in Austin. The Continental Club is arguably the anchoring establishment, with competition for that title coming from Guero’s Taco Bar, Hotel San Jose and Jo’s Coffee. Other noteworthy spots on SoCo include Allen Boot Company, Austin Motel, South Congress Café and Home Slice Pizza. Further south, we found Magnolia Café—an all night munchie palace with tons of local flavor.

The hilly neighborhoods that flank the east and west sides of South Congress are populated with street after street of classic bungalows built in the 1920s and 1930s. Many have been remodeled. Others wait for the tender loving care of new well-heeled owners.

Given that we live in a gated community with strict regulations requiring conformity, it was a pleasure to see Austinites freely flying their freak flags. We rented a lovely cottage in Travis Heights for our stay, and while there the neighbor across the street placed a sign in her yard that read, “No War. No Empire. No Occupation.” I want one of those! We can’t place it in our front yard for all Rose Hill to see, but we can place it in our front window to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in the fight to save America, and maybe our sanity in the process.