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These are a few of our favourite things that have opened up in Austin since March 2012…

For a city that knows how to enjoy one of its favourite pasttimes, these new bars do not disappoint. What we see are bars that are increasingly pushing the envelope – not stopping with Prohibition-era cocktails, but moving onto carefully curated lists of locally or well-sourced beer, alchemic cocktails and novel wines. And all this while paying attention to the fact that our hunger for great food  – whether a nosh over a happy hour or a late night plate – never seems to get satiated.

Midnight Cowboy

What bar doesn’t entice you to check them out with this opening: While our cocktails might loosen inhibitions and the building’s past might encourage licentiousness, we ask that you refrain from excessive displays of public affection and unwelcome advances towards members of other parties. Why yes, the house rules we’ve always looked for.

As it suggests, Midnight Cowboy has a storied past – a former ‘modeling’ or Oriental massage parlour upstairs from Dirty 6th that has now been turned into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. If the light’s on upstairs, take your (slim) chances at a walk-in by pressing on the rather anonymous buzzers downstairs. For a safer bet, just reserve online. It’s a bit of work since you’ll have to work around a 2 hour slot when you can get it, since Food & Wine among others have tagged it one of the best bars in America. But who says all enjoyment should be easy.

And when your cocktail comes prepared table-side – or at least when you know well enough to order the Smoke & Mirrors, it does – you know that enjoyment doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth it.

Weather Up – 1808 East Cesar Chavez

This is the first Austin outpost for NYC bartender, Kathryn Weatherup’s craft cocktail bar with others widely recognized in Tribeca and Brooklyn. The cocktail menu is outstanding, with a speciality ice program no less. Try a stalwart: the Manhattan absolutely will not disappoint; then go from there.  And a critical point for the Hobbyists, they have a great menu – from outstanding happy hour specials to proper features like oysters, mussels and charcuterie. Having trained as a bartender in Paris, it seemed Weatherup couldn’t avoid the inevitability of ensuring her clients are well satiated on all fronts. They have a great happy hour (4-7pm!) that not only serves Sunday Funday well, but more importantly is industry-friendly, running from Sunday to Thursday. And Tiki Mondays are a fixture, always.


Just to check out the taps alone, Banger’s makes it worth it. And striking out on a path different than elsewhere on Rainey Street is something that we respect….and then we learned that Banger’s makes its own sausages. Assuming this meant sausages for most, pretzels for the veggies in the house, we were absolutely stunned to learn that they make a couple veg options. Not to detract at all from the 100 taps that we first mentioned…

Truly a great addition to the Rainey St. scene and a mandatory destination for any beer lover in your group this year over SX. Whether a fledgling cicerone or not, Banger’s will get them at either the beer or the sausages, and take down the rest of us with the house-made pretzels and a surprisingly good pub-level wine list.

Craft Pride

More beer? Don’t stray too far from Rainey St. then til you hit Craft Pride, a pub that just opened in time for SX. With 54 local Texas beer on tap, you are bound to be able to do your due diligence here on our great state’s craft beer community. Oh and by the way, local resto, Bacon, happens to have a food truck out back. Be sure to grab one of their Bacon Flag T-shirts, after you’ve recovered from the power combo of craft beer and pork products.


Some bars have a food program, others may have a wine program. Freedmen’s has a barbeque program. And a serious one at that. Evan LeRoy mans the pit taking care to go beyond that and make his own pickles, jams and barbeque sauce reduced from turkey and beef stock, smoking beets and cooking offal beans as his sides. Oh and sorry, the bevvies? Yes…it’s a craft cocktail lounge that you can easily settle into its gorgeous, historic interior dating from the late 1800s and give some time to the menu. The cocktail ingredients are made in house, something we always respect. Sunday Brunch with a brisket benedict and a Bloody Swine. Oh and one of our favorites: Whisky Wednesdays all March – $3 Jameson’s.

Hi Hat Public House

Duck confit nachos? Why yes….Oh are we blocking again on the great food that our Austin bars are offering? Sorry, it’s becoming a regular fixation. This East side joint had us at the name, after having one of our group being an early percussionist. Giving that up for a cocktail glass years later, finding spots like this are a great nostalgic moment. Hi Hat has a great beer list, great food and is a spot that you’ll be happy you found with a great atmosphere. Reverse Happy Hour & Half off Wine Wednesdays are to be checked out here! Hi Hat’s closed Mondays…likely not over SX, but just a heads up.

The Workhorse

This is a great spot that’s opened up on the North Loop strip in what everyone will tell you is the old Parlor spot (an Austin stalwart that has focused on its off-Guadalupe location). Focusing on great local drafts, the Workhorse also has locally produced or well sourced spirits and wine. They keep a newly tapped list of beer going that you can check out on their site. And best of all perhaps? A rare bar trying its hand at strictly locally sourced wine, they also do pairings with plates from our favourite, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Once you figure out just where to start on the North Loop crawl, this will be on the hit list.

The Chicago House

A new downtown craft beer spot to check out with  a great list and the care that comes with craft conditioned ale. Easy to get to from most SX haunts, the Chicago House is situated in an old 1880s historic building where you can grab a delicious pour and re-group.

508 Bar

Situated behind Pelon’s at 8th & Red River, you’ll find this spot focusing on cocktails and margaritas. With a solid happy hour from 2-7pm with $5 house margs, we’re sure that you will find not shortage of satiation to set you up to take on your evening!


This lovely husband/wife duo, Mike & Jessica Sanders, have just celebrated their 1st anniversary. So in truth, they were just cracking their doors open when SXSW12 hit last year. All the same, they are part of the renaissance that is North Loop that deserves some love here. Great spot, great cocktails, great beer selection, great pubbing wine list and…wait for it…great homemade bar snacks. We’re good. Check it out on your North Loop pub crawl that we’re setting up for you – you won’t regret it.

Casino South Side Lounge

Little brother to Casino El Camino downtown, this lounge is worth the trek deep south if you have wheels or a nice local friend to take you on a bit of a crawl. Casino downtown is known for its real vibe and world famous burgers  that have long attracted the attention of the Food Network among others – naturally making Casino South Side well worth the drive. And a session there. Open noon til 2am throughout SX.


Following up on our Smoked Salmon recipe from last week –  -  here is another favourite recipe of ours, which we have learned to make with the great fisherman, Murman, in Terrace. This is the perfect key to last minute hobbying and a great way to make sure that you have delicious smoked salmon in the house long after the salmon stop running.


delicious, fresh salmon
1 cup brown sugar*
1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup thai red chili sauce**
several large grinds of black pepper


*In order to make the essential core of the brine, you must keep a 4:1 ratio (brown sugar to salt). Use this ratio to ensure that you have enough brine for the amount of salmon that you have. As long as you keep the ratio in mind, you can built out this recipe to accommodate as much fish as you are lucky enough to have!

**Siracha or sambal oelek would work as well if you would like a spicier brine or were trying to be somewhat mindful of the additional sugar going into this brine.
Cut the salmon into filets according to the size you choose. We like to use filets that are about 10″ in length, with the width depending on the size of your catch!

Mix the brine together. Place the salmon filets side by side in a glass casserole dish and layer the brine overtop. Layer any remaining filets on top and coat them with the brine, ensuring that no salmon remains uncoated. Leave the salmon covered in the fridge overnight in the brine. Preheat your Big Chief smoker at 150 degrees. Rinse off the brine, then pat the salmon dry with a paper towel or clean towel.  Smoke the salmon for 4-6 hours at 150 degrees. While your salmon is smoking, sterilize your jars and prepare your lids and rings. We recommend using either 4 oz. or 8 oz. jars.

Carefully remove the salmon from the smoker. Then, portion the salmon into the sterilized jars so that the salmon comes up to the bottom ring of the jar. Place the lids and rings onto the jars, only very loosely tightening the rings. For hot water bath canning, process your jars for 4 hours. For pressure canning, process your jars for 90 minutes at 15 lbs pressure.  Remove carefully – and enjoy your delicious canned smoked salmon for up to a year!

We love to serve this as is on fresh sliced  bread or flatbread with cream cheese, red onion and capers. It also makes a delicious appetizer for last minute hobbying in no time – simply mix with cream cheese (low-fat or no-fat works great), some fresh dill, a couple grounds of coarse black pepper and serve as is, or cool in the fridge until you can roll it into a ball and coat with your favourite chopped nuts.

Cormac McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses

Although it’s a McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses, doesn’t necessarily break up the list of coming of age / first romances that seems to be unfolding on this list – but it does so in a characteristically McCarthy way. I read this on one of my first trips to Austin and couldn’t put it down – except to think about hitting the road south for Mexico. If you have seen the film, try to leave it at the door and let this novel take on a life of its own. His prose is often without par, making you stop short and re-read sentences with a respect for his skill level. His characters are dense and raw, taking on a real presence with you as you read it that is not often attainable for many writers.

Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub: Northwest Ale

Photo: Craig Kalnin

As we have noted before, Victoria is fast becoming British Colombia’s craft beer mecca which makes it a great place to take a trip. However, when you can’t travel to the beer, it is really nice to have the beer come to you. As a result, we were more than a little excited to hear that Vancouver was getting a shipment from Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, whose beers we have heard so much about but been unable to try.

We cracked their Northwest Ale first. A beer that is everything you would expect based on the name. This beer is a mighty fine representation of BC brewing. It’s light but it’s hoppy. It’s refreshing but also nicely complex. It it were any more representative of BC, it would be running off to yoga class in Lululemon pants and sipping a non-fat caramel macchiato. Except this beer is the opposite of that.

It pours a deep golden copper colour that glows in the glass. With an emphasis towards the three C’s of Northwest hops – Centennial, Cascade and Citra – the aroma is heavy in citrus and pine normally associated with IPA’s from this part of the world. It’s more the great outdoors than a Kit’s yoga studio. It’s the sunrise on the top of Grouse Mountain. There is some lingering sweetness, like maple syrup, and a fruitiness from something we can’t quite put our fingers on (possibly mango). To the taste, the beer is bitter yet balanced. A lot like we would expect from an IPA. There is a strong hop profile which is to be expected from 85 IBU’s but it’s not overpowering. It’s actually quite refreshing.

The bottle looks great too. All of this is captured quite well in a beautifully painted scene of a surfer against a West Coast sunset. Definitely a beer that made us want to take the hop to the Island!

Zadie Smith - White Teeth

Smith made herself noticed instantly with this amazing first novel. It offers you a view into South London and the ethnic melange of cultures that is contemporary England. Exploring the lives of two kids from very different cultures raised in an area of South London, falling in love and dealing with the fallout, White Teeth enraptured me with its characters and their backgrounds, while doing so with a sense of humanity and insight into the struggles of  many immigrant communities, all framed in the context of a universal story of coming of age and first romance.

Eden Robinson - Monkey Beach

For anyone travelling up the Northwest Coast – either on a fishing trip or an exploration of the Haida Gwaii, this book is for you. Robinson, a young Haisla/Heiltsuk writer from Kitimat, B.C., received several well-deserved accolades for this stunning novel, including a Giller nod. Set in Kitamaat Village, it’s an enthralling story of two youth growing up in this remote setting and all that comes with that – dealing with getting older, falling in love, grief and loss.

After a SXSW hiatus – and, admittedly, a post-SX recovery hiatus – our Travel List series is back to help you toss around ideas about just which book will make it into your suitcase this Easter weekend. Post-SX, what better kind of author to consider than a music writer? Rob Sheffield has written for SPIN and most recently pit out two musically grounded memoirs of diffthirst periods in his life. While we missed meeting him at SX where he was signing books & getting some love, we still love him and think this is a truly great read.

Rob Sheffield – Love is a Mix-Tape (Life and Loss One Song At A Time)

For anyone with the slightest nostalgia for the ’90s, Sheffield can instantly take you back with this great tribute to both that decade’s music and his wife who he lived the music with. Framed in the context of the mix tapes that these two music lovers, and eventual music journalists, made for each other, the book will have you wishing you never threw yours out years ago. Each chapter starts out with a scrawled out cover of a mix tape that either he or his then girlfriend, soon to be wife, made for each other and for distinct moments of their lives, Sheffield takes you into his relationship as they experience the 90s opening up a whole different era of music as first Pavement and then Nirvana changed everything.

Sheffield’s book is, at the same time, poignant and heart-wrenching, with the risk of a few tears as Sheffield takes you back to this moment in his life – but which leaves you looking ahead with him and with no shortage of music to unearth. Full disclosure…This book holds a special place in my own memory today, having read it on my first trip to Austin almost two years ago, only to discover that Pavement was playing the last night of their reunion tour (after a 20 yr bitter musical divorce) on my last night in a city I was fast falling in love with, admittedly at a velocity something less than the guy I was falling in love with here. Tickets bought instantly, it would be my first of many concerts to catch at Stubb’s. And Sheffield’s mix tape lists have stirred a lot of sessions of digging up old 90s albums, our own tapes sadly having long been tossed out.


Happy 1st Hobbyists! Cheers to another year!


It’s not a problem…it’s a hobby.

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