Dec 29, 2013

A breakfast that’s Juan In A Million

Juan In A Million is one of the more famous foodie destinations in Austin, Texas.  Aside from the catchy name, it has steadily built a reputation since it opened its original location in 1980 for generous portions of authentic Tex-Mex food at generous prices.  The TV show “Man Vs. Food” further cemented the restaurant’s reputation by including its Don Juan breakfast taco challenge on its Austin episode

And then there’s founder Juan Meza himself, who still tries to personally greet as many patrons as possible.  He’s even famous for it, as alluded to on the menu. 

With all of this in mind, how could I refuse when my friend Omarr suggested we go to Juan in a Million for breakfast one morning during my work trip to Austin last fall? 

Located on East Cesar Chavez Street in the increasingly revitalized East Austin neighborhood, Juan In A Million is hard to miss. See, even at daybreak, it stands out.

First in line for breakfast

Dec 22, 2013

Austin: South Congress and the Continental Club

When I went to Austin, Texas last fall on a business trip, I knew I didn't want to leave town without catching at least a small slice of its famous live music scene.  Fortunately, my friend Aaron obliged my request, and once we were done eating and drinking at Banger’s in the Rainey Street District, off we went to the South Congress neighborhood and, more specifically, the Continental Club.  

The first thing I noticed about South congress was the parking situation.  Anyone who is lucky enough to find a spot on South Congress must park diagonally – and they must back in to the spot.  See what I mean?

Dec 12, 2013

A commoner reviews Rainey Street and Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, Austin, Texas

Before I embarked on my business trip to Austin last fall, one of the items I put on my short list of things to do during my off-time was a pub crawl up and down Sixth Street.  It had been more than ten years since I was last in Austin, so I didn't want to miss the chance to once again hang out on what I considered to be of the best bar scenes in the United States. 

With this thought in mind, I at first found it ironic that the friends I made on my first full day in Austin were actually kind of discouraging me from Sixth Street.  The locals don’t do Sixth Street, like they used to, I heard.  It’s always too full of tourists and college students, and the weirdos (which was one thing I liked – a little Bourbon Street charm in south central Texas), I was told. 

So, where do the locals tend to go more and more?  Rainey Street

Dec 5, 2013

Finding Jalapeno’s by the Austin airport

Have you ever traveled for work and found yourself with some unexpected down time in the middle of nowhere?  That’s kind of how I felt the Sunday evening I arrived in Austin, Texas earlier this fall.  Yes, there are some nice hotels by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that cater very nicely to business travelers (including the Courtyard by Marriott where I stayed), but aside from that, there’s just not a whole lot else nearby.  Fortunately, I used my commoner’s travel instincts to find a diamond it the literal rough.

For a while, things didn't look good, though.  The hotel bar wasn't going to open on Sunday, and although I had the option to purchase libations at their gift shop/news stand, I had already decided if I was going to be a lone drinker in my room, I was going to stock up at the nearby 7-11 instead. 

To make matters worse, dinner time was approaching, and the hotel’s website only listed two restaurants within walking distance – Waffle House and Subway.  I could also see a huge Denny’s sign from the hotel parking lot.  I seriously considered buying a microwave dinner at the news stand. 

But then I befriended an attractive and charming young lady wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey working the checkout counter (it was game day, so rooting for your favorite NFL team among employees was apparently encouraged).  Understanding my plight, and reading the look of boredom across my face, she enthusiastically recommended a place located in the strip mall at the closest intersection with the main highway that would take you back to the airport.    

“It’s Tex-Mex and it’s the closest place for us to go for a drink after we get off work,” she said. 

It seemed like the last, best option.  So, I walked to the strip mall, and there it was – innocuously placed in between the Subway and Starbucks – Jalapeno’s

Dec 4, 2013

Airport food in Austin, Texas

Every once in a while this commoner will get lucky and his work will send him to faraway places on a business trip … OK, maybe not that far away, but I did get to travel to Austin, Texas earlier this fall.  Sounds great, right?  Work by day, great food, drink and live music by night. 

The logistics proved to be were a little challenging, however, when I discovered my work booked my hotel room near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.  Nice, new airport.  It just happens to be near the middle of nothing.  Urban sprawl is still a couple of years from catching up to it.  A commoner should never trust his travel booking to his work. 

Oh, well, during the time I was in and around the airport, I made the best of what I could find, and that’s what the first two installments of my recent Austin trip is about.  (Don’t worry, faithful followers.  I’ll cover my brief sampling of the Austin food and music scene, too.)  

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...