Written by Jane Wu
I spent a rainy Saturday evening in Dallas with my sister, Joan and my daughter, Lucy strolling the Bishop Arts District. Despite the soggy weather, we were able to explore many of the shops covered in the February TH feature on Bishop Arts, and then some. With its mix of modern and vintage retail wares, casual cafÃ©s and upscale restaurants, and friendly, relaxed ambiance, the Bishop Arts District felt more like Austin to us than Dallas.
But even while seeing the magazine's feature in production, I didnâ€™t realize how much the area has grown in the number of stores and cafes from my last visit five years ago. We were pleasantly surprised to find more contemporary, and even affordable styles at shops such as Ouch! Fashion, as well as the venerable Zolaâ€™s Everyday Vintage, still a cut above with its designer finds (More Pucci than Iâ€™ve ever seen since the â€˜60s!)
Another sign of progress: Joan had dined at Hattieâ€™s a couple of times previously, and never needed a reservation on a weekend evening, so we decided to drop in. By the time we arrived just before 7 p.m., the place was packed, and the host had to regretfully turn people away if they didnâ€™t have reservations. All of the nearby restaurants, including Tillmanâ€™s Roadhouse were quickly filling up, so we walked a few blocks further to CafÃ© Madrid, a longtime Bishop Arts haunt, for tapas. We were astounded by the entrÃ©e-sized portions of Spanish Potato Omelette and Grilled Marinated Chickenâ€”Texas-sized tapas! The calamari was more typically-scaled, but offered in a generous serving, delicately fried and slightly chewy-yet-tender.
Heavy rain cut short our time for more Bishop-hopping, so we headed to the Belmont Hotel, where Lucy and I were staying. I have heard raves about this place from friends whoâ€™ve stayed there, even those who have family in Dallas or are Dallas residents. They all speak of a â€œdoesnâ€™t seem like Dallasâ€ feel, from the hotelâ€™s hillside perch (where youâ€™ll happen to find an excellent view of the downtown skyline), to the curvy pathways and gardens meandering around the suites and the pool area, and the hip-yet-gracious staff. The BarBelmont near the lobby was packed with hotel guests and bar patrons, even more so with the steady rain keeping folks from gathering on the adjacent terrace. I managed to elbow my way in to enjoy a Belmontini and was well-rewarded by the smooth, tart concoction.
Recalling our visit to Bishop Arts earlier, browsing bottles at the Soda Gallery reminded me of an old ad campaign for 7-Up Cola: â€œ7-Up is the UnCola.â€ Based on my weekend, one could make the case for Bishop Arts District and the Belmont Hotel as the â€œUnDallas.â€
Every March, when the SXSW Music Conference comes to Austin, capping off a week of the SXSW Interactive and Film Conferences, the city embraces, and braces for the hordes of attendees and massive traffic snarls in and around downtown. At Texas Highways, with our offices just a stone's throw from the epicenter of downtown, where the conference takes place, and South Congress Avenue, where many free music events occur, we feel the effects of the SXSW tsunami, from press releases touting SXSW-related events to courier delays from our prepress vendor due to the gridlock. Music from the day parties can even be heard in our parking lot. The aural lure combined with sunny, mild spring-like weather can tempt even the most dedicated worker to distraction.
This yearâ€™s April Wildflower Issue, 22 pages of the best of Texasâ€™ spring color, marks my 15th year designing this spectacular feature. One of my biggest challenges each year is in presenting flower photos that are fresh yet timeless, and composing striking image combinations. This could not be possible without the hundreds of photo submissions we receive from photographers throughout the state. Much, if not most of the credit goes to Photo Editor Griff Smith for reviewing all of the submissions and paring them down to just over a hundred. Of these, only 22 were selected for this yearâ€™s feature. The criteria for selection includes such things as whether a particular flower is mentioned on one of the four wildflower drives, the region where the flower was shot, and of course, visual impact, color, and composition.
Although there are a few â€œgo-toâ€ wildflower-photogs we count on year after year to provide stellar flower coverage, Griff and I are always surprised and amazed by the new discoveries we uncoverâ€”photographers whose work graces the wildflower pages for the first time. This year, Steven Schwartzman, Aja Martin, Randy Heisch, and Erik H. Pronske, M.D. (actually, this is his second year) join forces with stalwart WF shooters Richard Reynolds, Tim Fitzharris, Lance Varnell, and Joe Lowery, who provided the front cover image, as he has for many Aprils. And there are some returning WF veteransâ€”welcome back, Wyman Meinzer and Al Braden!
So you think you can shoot? If youâ€™re interested in submitting your wildflower photos to us, start by taking a look at the Photo Guidelines on our website before sending. And please refrain from sending wildflower images featuring babies or other loved ones. In the pages of TH, flowers are the focus!
More photo opps.: Mark your calendar for May 3-9 when the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Canon join us in presenting an exhibit of Texas-size, larger-than-life wildlflower images from the April issue at the Wildflower Centerâ€™s McDermott Learning Center. Keep checking our website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for the latest details on this very special event!
The trailer-café craze that has consumed Austin tends to be a mostly daytime affair, with many if not most in my neighborhood rolling up their windows by sunset. I was delighted to discover that Odd Duck Farm to Trailer at 1219 S. Lamar begins serving at 5 p.m., perfect for "cook's night out" (the "cook" in this case being me).
If you're planning to tour Quirky Houston, I suggest you start your day with breakfast. On a recent visit, my daughter tipped me off to Baby Barnaby's, next door to its big brother Barnaby's Cafe (which serves lunch and dinner) in the Montrose area, the birthplace of Houston-quirky. This colorful cafe is cozy, casual, and cheap. The menu features a few whimsically named items like Green Eggs (eggs scrambled with spinach, artichoke hearts, and jack cheese) as well as breakfast basics, like bacon-and-eggs and pancakes. City-diner staples such as the Lox Platter, and Corned Beef Hash and Eggs are offered, along with Tex-Mex favorites like breakfast tacos, migas and huevos rancheros. My daughter had the Lox Platter and I had the basic Breakfast Plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and grits. Both the standard fare and the lox/bagel/cream cheese were prepared "just-right," as were the portions, not too filling and perfect for packing in a day to tour Houston's quirky sights. Houston brims with quirky breakfast places. Tell us about your favorite Quirky Houston breakfast spot.
Last Saturday, I went to Houston's Bayou City Art Festival Downtown with my sister, Jean. I recently discovered that this festival had a former life as the Westheimer Art Festival, which I attended over 30 years ago.
I took advantage of Austin's Free Museum Day to catch up on a few exhibits I've been meaning to see.
In the photo: From Texas Highways, Dec. 1981: As she often does for Christmas visitors, Wanda Timmermann stands on the stairs to read reminiscences of Christmas 1849 while her sisters listen. Standing, from left, are Hulda, Willie Mae, and Melitta behind Tekla and Stella. Meta sits in front.
Sometimes a trip out-of-state helps me appreciate what information a tourist needs and wants. I shouldn't admit this, but on a recent visit to Chicago I discovered that I barely cracked open my usual requisite guidebook, and instead relied on the Internet and an I-Phone (my two "I's") to show me the sights, book reservations and point me in the right direction. Still, I firmly believe print has a place for the tourist, if only to whet the appetite to explore. That's where I hope Texas Highways comes in handy each month, showing travelers out-of-the-way places as well as revisiting well-known areas in new ways. And offering helpful tips along the way.
That said, I hope you find our recently redesigned and streamlined Essentials sections, maps and info boxes offer a handy guide to phone numbers and web sites at a glance. And let's not forget our website, along with our Facebook and Twitter pages to help or remind you of what's in store in our current issue, or find places we've covered in previous issues. Let us know if we've made your journeys easier, or what more we can do to enhance your Texas travels. E-mail us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Lamar Blvd. Pedestrian Bridge
TH's July issue features a day in Austin from three of our editors, each exploring some of the Capital City's favorite tourist spots from a local's perspective. I for one am experiencing Austin from a somewhat unusual vantage point: that of a longtime resident staying in a vacation rental while my new home is being completed.