When I made the decision to move from the east side to the campus area last year, some of my, ahem, hipper friends furrowed their brows and asked, "Why do you want to live there?" Well, because it's great, that's why.
In honor of the University of Texas at Austin starting its new fall semester, here is a quick and dirty guide to the campus area, a neighborhood we affectionately call "Southern Hyde Park."
Where to take out of town guests — Hole in the Wall
The first thing non-Texans want to do when they visit Austin is usually "go to a Texas bar." While we don't really know what that means, we do know a visit to this campus-area joint is always a hit. Despite being right smack in the middle of the Drag, Hole in the Wall has maintained its gritty charm, cheap drink prices and consistently solid music lineup for 40 years.
Where to get classy — FINO
The amazing thing about tapas is that though they are small plates, they usually rack up a pretty big bill. But if you're going splurge, you should do it at FINO. Order a bottle of wine for the table (or for yourself) from the rotating menu and let everyone order a few dishes to share. Go early and take part in FINO's happy hour from 3:30 to 6:30 pm which features half priced rose and sparkling wines, $2 off cocktails and beer and $2 off tapas.
Best place to watch other people workout while you eat pizza and drink beer — Dane's Body Shop and The Parlor
With Dane's Body Shop directly across the street, the Parlor's patio is the perfect place to people watch. While you sip a pint, enjoy the eye candy as people grunt, sweat and push themselves through a pretty intense workout. And if you're feeling inspired, head across the street and sign up for a class — after you've finished your French bread pizza, of course.
Where to find spiritual solace — Hyde Park Yoga
Located in the heart of Hyde Park, this sweet little studio is about cultivating a community while getting your zen on. Teachers spend time not only helping improve your physical practice, but tapping into your spiritual one, too.
Where to grab a coffee — Beware
Nothing makes us happier than waking up, waltzing over to this delightful trailer (currently parked in Spider House's parking lot) and ordering an iced coffee from the adorable couple inside. In the morning, a handful of regulars will sit and chat at the tables in front of Beware, so get ready to schmooze it up. A perfect start to a perfect day.
Where your folks should stay — Hotel Ella
Oh Hotel Ella, if we're not swooning over the handsome valets greeting us at the entrance, we're swooning over this recently renovated hotel's comfy porches, beautiful rooms and swank pool area. Our advice? Grab a cocktail, find a seat outside and relish in this little oasis in the midst of the city.
Where your friends should stay — Airbnb
As an Austinite, you're no doubt used to having house guests. But when you start to feel like you're living in a flop house, it is time to convince your friends to find lodging elsewhere. Being on the outskirts of Hyde Park means being walking distance to some of the cutest Airbnb options in the city. (We're in love with this one.)
Where to have an indulgent lunch — Blackbird and Henry
Sometimes you just want to escape. Whether it's a roommate, a lover or just the confines of your house, we all need to indulge ourselves once in a while. Grab a book (or a pile of trash magazines) and head to Blackbird and Henry. This new restaurant boasts a delish — and affordable — lunch menu with dishes like calamari salad and lamb leg grilled cheese. Insider tip? Blackbird and Henry's tripled-cooked fries are some of the best in town.
Bike repair without judgment — Clown Dog Bikes
Riding a bike is easy. Walking into a repair shop with a broken chain and no knowledge of how to fix it can be, well, not easy. Clown Dog is filled with smart folks who are helpful, knowledgeable and don't make you feel like a dummy when you admit you haven't changed your bike tubes in years.
Favorite tailor/experience in organized chaos — Fine Stitch
Walking into this tiny shop at 4000 Avenue B is a lesson in organized chaos. Clothes hang from every place possible, there is no paper work and a little dog runs precariously throughout the shop as you get hemmed with straight pins. But, my oh my, this lady can work magic with a sewing machine — and fast.
Best pizza from a hybrid restaurant — Milto's Mediterranean Cafe
In an area with Salvation Pizza, Austin Pizza, Mellow Mushroom and Conan's Pizza within spitting distance of each other, Milto's is an arguably controversial choice. Though it is tempting to dismiss a place that serves both Greek cuisine and New York-style pizza, Milto's serves up a decent pie at a decent price.
Where to meet your soul mate — Posse East
It's a proven fact that if you want to meet the love of your life near campus, you should go to Posse East. Posse is the kind of place where you can put your guard down. Want to make out with a stranger on a picnic table? Go ahead — there is no judgment here.
Where to go for inspiration — Adams-Hemphill Neighborhood Park
Though it's barely three blocks long, this little park is a "Hyde-en" gem. Relax by the tiny creek side, find yourself a box turtle to hang out with and take a break. If you feel like walking, stroll down Laurel Lane and take in the beautiful old mansions and quirky bungalows. The famous green parakeets of Austin have been hanging around lately, which always brings a smile to our faces.
Favorite place to spend money — Buffalo Exchange and Antone's Record Store
Practically next door to each other, you can drop some serious cash on this little strip of Guadalupe. This Buffalo Exchange location is filled with great finds, thanks to the hordes of broke college students who sell their clothing here. (We've scored beautiful Frye boots here twice.) Likewise, Antone's features a slam-dunk collection of vinyl as well as CDs, apparel and books. If you still have money left, Breed and Co. is around the corner and Langford Market is nearby, too.