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Top 10 things we're thankful (and not-so-thankful) for in Austin this year

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Austin Photo Set: Pages_acl day 2_oct 2012_sign2
ACL expands to two weekends in 2013. Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Dupuy_paul qui_james beard winner_may 2012_portrait
Paul Qui stays in Austin. Photo by Bill Sallans
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_Gourdoughs_brick and mortar_oct 2012_naughtyandnice
Gourdough's goes brick and mortar. Courtesy of Gourdough's
Austin Photo: Kevin_Formula 1 first lap_October 2012_Lotus F1
Formula 1 was a success. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo Set: Pages_acl day 2_oct 2012_sign2
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Dupuy_paul qui_james beard winner_may 2012_portrait
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_Gourdoughs_brick and mortar_oct 2012_naughtyandnice
Austin Photo: Kevin_Formula 1 first lap_October 2012_Lotus F1

Whether your ship just landed or you’re a native Austinite, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful you live in Austin. In honor of holiday tradition, let’s take a moment to appreciate the things that put us on multiple “Best of” lists, while contemplating why those rankings seem to be slipping.

Things we're thankful for:

1. SXSW stayed in Austin
Can you even imagine what would happen if the world’s most beloved music, film and interactive festival was relocated to Davy Crockett’s burial ground? Panels would be held at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Alamo would be turned into an Apple store and no less than a dozen drunk hipsters would drown in the River Walk. Thankfully, organizers turned down San Antonio’s generous offer and kept SXSW right where it belongs: in Austin.

2. So did our Top Chef
After Paul Qui won his first James Beard Award, dominated Top Chef: Texas and embarked on an intercontinental dining tour, we were all but sure his talents and cheeks had outgrown the Capital City. Thankfully, Chef Qui has decided to stick around and grow Austin’s food scene with new East Side King locations and a new restaurant on, you guessed it, the East Side.

3. Our favorite food trailers are going brick and mortar
I’m sure some “purists” consider this a step in the wrong direction, but hoards of hungry diners would suggest otherwise. Franklin Barbecue continues to fill the sidewalks of E. 11th on a daily basis, Barley Swine has turned Black Sheep Lodge into its personal waiting area, and most recently, Gourdough’s has turned the old Kerbey Lane South Lamar location into a donut emporium. Still not convinced this is a something to be thankful for? Just wait until Odd Duck and the Paul Qui restaurants open up.

4. ACL is following Coachella’s lead
How is the Austin Parks Foundation keeping Zilker Park from becoming a roach-filled (and I’m not talking about insects) wasteland during next year’s ACL? They’re extending it to two back-to-back weekends. I don’t get it either, but I’m thankful it will be easier to get tickets and rent out my apartment for twice the profit.

5. Formula 1 wasn’t so bad after all
The drivers, pit crews and Arabian Princes have left, and thankfully, our city is still standing. The traffic wasn’t as bad as expected, Enrique Iglesias and Nelly came out of retirement and everyone was impressed with the new track. Race fans had their fun while disinterested Austinites went about their day-to-day lives. All in all, everyone got what they wanted out of the inaugural Formula 1 weekend. Well, everyone except that dude who wanted to dock a yacht in Town Lake.    

Honorable Mentions

  • Tatsu-ya brought authentic ramen and an unbelievable slider to Austin.
  • Fun Fun Fun Fest was, well, fun.
  • Ryan Gosling is gone. Boyfriends rejoice.

Things we're not-so-thankful for:

1. We discovered the secret behind Armstrong’s strength
Despite your personal take on Lance Armstrong’s doping debacle, there’s no denying that things were better for Austin when his reputation shined like his seven Tour de France trophies. It’s hard to say what the future has in store for Mellow Johnny’s and the Livestrong Foundation, but I think it’s safe to say we should find a new marquee athlete.

2. Rick Perry’s painful presidential campaign
Even Austin’s most left-wing liberals were secretly excited when Governor Perry decided to run for the Republican nomination, but the thrill was over before Rick could count to three. First, he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Then came the debate on commerce, education and uh... that other thing. In a field composed of a sexually deviant pizza magnate, the second coming of Ross Perot and a robotic Mormon millionaire, Rick Perry somehow prevailed as the biggest laughing stock of them all.

3. The South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse will never be the same
They destroyed the original home of Odd Duck, Gourdough’s and that other trailer with the awful logo. They’ve eclipsed Broken Spoke with scaffolding. And now, the South Lamar development team has convinced Tim League to close down and renovate the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse for most of 2013. If the closure wasn’t bad enough, just look at the plans for the new location. It certainly fits right in with the recent apartment complexes. Sure, this may make way for a cleaner, larger and more efficient movie experience, but will it still feel like an Alamo?

4. John Mueller fell off the chuck wagon
Less than a year after sharing his fascinating comeback story with Texas Monthly, John Mueller has once again been kicked out of the pit. The trailer now runs under the name La Barbecue “Cuisine Texicana,” with former Aaron Franklin apprentice, John Lewis, at the helm. Although the pits of South First are still firing, there will always be a somber ending to John Mueller’s comeback story.    

5. We’ve seen the last of Leslie Cochran’s crack
Before there was Magic Mike, there was Leslie Cochran. That thong-wearing weirdo brought more personality to this city than any Formula 1 race or festival can hope to replicate. Although we should be thankful for his legacy, it’s a shame that future generations of Austin residents will never lose their appetite at the sight of his practically bare backside.

Dishonorable Mentions

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