CHOW Tour Handmade
AUSTIN
2/14 - 2/27
OAKLAND
2/28 - 3/13
PORTLAND
3/14 - 3/25
See Where We've Eaten!

Why Austin Is So Rad

We went to Austin right before the mania of SXSW, and despite working superlong days and freezing half the time, we were reluctant to hop a plane back to the Bay Area. The biggest reason: the people. Everywhere we went, Austinites were friendly, helpful, and fun to work with. Marisela from El Mesón actually offered to loan us warm jackets when she overheard us commiserating about not having packed for the cold snap. We even had a random run-in with Chowhound stellawine at a picnic table in front of the Odd Duck trailer, and had a friendly chat while we were filming that perfect soft-boiled duck egg.

One of the big surprises of the trip: Texas wine. Not only was Lewis Dickson's La Cruz de Comal wine experimental, funky, and delicious (it reminded us a lot of the Scholium Project), but we also tried a Texas Vermentino made by Duchman Family Winery on the advice of Wes Marshall, our Texas wine Yoda, that we'd drink anytime. It was inexpensive, crisp, and clean drinking.

We did start to wonder: Where's the legendary Texas beef? Other than the badass barbecued brisket, we encountered mostly pork. But after chatting with Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due, it seemed to come from a natural place: If you are doing local/sustainable meat production, pigs are just a higher-yield animal and easier for chefs to store and work with than a huge side of beef.

The other thing we left Austin admiring was the creative spirit of the city. People there take risks, start quirky, fun businesses, and really try to fulfill their visions. There was G'Raj Mahal's funky tented outdoor seating, searingly spicy Goan fish curry, and a rattlesnake art bike installation. A silver Airstream trailer called "The Vegan Yacht" with a huge painting of an octopus riding a bicycle on the side serving vegan Frito pies. The insane housewares store Uncommon Objects where things from vintage cookware to old medicine bottles are arranged in giant walk-in dioramas that feel part Alice in Wonderland, part Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" video.

And we're probably going to get banned from Austin for life for saying this, but we just didn't get Torchy's Tacos. Were we too sober to understand the allure? Now, we're going to run away before someone tries to off us for this Austin food blasphemy! Check out what we found in Oakland, California, starting Monday!