Five reasons Milwaukeeans are flocking to Austin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Make the trip south and you'll run into plenty of Milwaukeeans flocking to Austin, Texas, fulfilling the notion that it is becoming a "transplant" city.
But, we certainly aren't the only ones.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal referred to Austin, along with cities like Portland and Seattle, as "youth magnets," cities where the lack of employment and booming population did nothing to deter college-educated Americans from making the migratory move.
Between 2005 and 2007, Austin drew nearly 8,500 new university grads contributing to nearly a 30 percent population increase in the last 10 years.
I, too, recently fell victim to a trip to Austin, and I can honestly say, yes, it is as great as others imagine. So, whether you're contemplating turning this Texas island of liberal arts and coastal trend into a permanent home or just looking for a break from the bleak Wisconsin winter, here's a glimpse into what's triggering such attraction.
"Keep Austin Weird"
In Austin-- the vibe, creativity and conversations-- all embrace the visionary idealism inside every visitor and encourages the pursuance of the crazy yet genius idea in the back of your mind.
There, the weirder the better. What thrives in cities like Brooklyn, Portland and Seattle, somehow makes inwards to the entrepreneurial mindset of Austinites, urging the creative class to top one idea with another of originality, eccentricity and brilliance.
You'll find it in every aspect of life, from food to design to events and business. The result? Ispiration, motivation and awe pouring out of restaurants, boutiques, museums, music venues and art galleries.
In short, this love of eccentricty is sparking neighborhoods primed on cooking in the kitchen, getting outdoors and making music.
Food on the go
Sprouting up all over the country in the last 10 years and in thanks to pioneers like Rudy Speerschneider coming out of Portland, Austin jumped right on board with original concepts for cheap and tasty street food.
Ideal in a city where the temperature (with this year's snow as an exception) rarely dips below 40 degrees, dine curbside at clumped locations downtown, on South Congress and sporadically throughout the city.
As you might expect, a few of the most popular plates are fried meats, originally-styled tacos or good home-cooked barbeque.
The Mighty Cone, 1600 S. Congress Ave., serves hot 'n crunchy shrimp, chicken or avocado in, what else, a cone. Just a few blocks down, fill up on authentic tacos at El Paisa, 3600 S. Congress Ave., an extension of La Moreliana Meat Market.
Look for a line out to the road and you'll find Kebabalicious in a variety of late-night locations. This Turkish find rolls lamb and chicken pitas or falafel in two different sizes and at various levels of spicy heat. Classically simple yet obediently satisfying.
No trip to Austin would be complete without sinking your fingers and teeth into some long-marinated BBQ. Franklin BBQ, on the corner of Concordia and Robinson, pulls big flavors out of a small truck. Try their pork ribs, peppery brisket or pulled pork. Even veggies can get into the action with "Tasty Tempeh Frito Pie."
And, of course, there are cupcakes. Dessert at Hey Cupcake!, 1600 S. Congress Ave., may induce a diabetic shock, but the dose of sugar in classic flavors like vanilla, red velvet and chocolate is well worth the risk.
Don't Mess With Texas
Any description of Austin is prefaced by the understanding that, although the city is geographically in the state of Texas, the culture is far from its stereotype.
Home to the University of Texas, Austin stands with a liberal mentality, lively art scene and regional culinary makings. So it's no surprise they've managed to turn signage of the old west into kitsch trend and spawn a generation hip on huge belt buckles, leather boots and cowboy hats.
Need to quench your desire for local gear? Allens Boots, 1522 S. Congress Ave., is the obvious choice. Look for the giant red boot outside and find isle after isle of authentic boots surrounded by men's clothing and cowboy hats inside. A few other local favorites include Big Rig & GypsySun Vintage, 1601 S. 1st St., and Texas Custom Boots, 1601 S. 1st St.
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As an Austinite, let me say that Austin is a friendly city, a wonderful place. I grew up in Chicago and have thrived here for the last 10 years. It's a very welcoming city, but of late we've been overrun by people from places like Wisconsin, Minnesoduh and Michigan who really don't want to be here but have heard that we have work. That's not a good reason to come, and if that describes you, they have work in China, too. Check it out. If you want to be a Texan though, please come. Here's some helpful advice. 1. We're not stupid and slow. We're just different than you. If that bothers you, it says more about you than it does us. 2. Our schools are no more screwed up than yours are. 3. Yes, it's hot. This isn't Norway. It's Texas. 4. Mexican food and BBQ are spoken here. Don't ask for casseroles. We like living too much to eat that garbage. 5. We don't line dance. You do. We two step. 6. We love our guns and if you come down here and try to take them away from us, you're in for a fight. 7. We also love God. We tend to worship in different ways. We are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, LDS, you name it. What we are not, for the most part, is vain enough to think that we can control the planet's temperature. God's doing that, and He's doing a fine job. 8. We listen to all kinds of music. SXSW is in Austin, but Bob Wills is still the king! You've grown up listening to jokes about us. You're smarter than us, you've been told. You're quicker on your feet. You live better. I know, I was told the same thing. The funny thing is, I don't know one single Texan who would voluntarily move to the frozen tundra, but the way things are going, we're going to have to build the border wall on the Red instead of the Rio Grande. At least our visitors from the south want to be here, respect our tradition and make an effort to fit in. I guess what it boils down to is this. If you come, welcome to Texas. If you want to make us the midwest south, stay home, por favor. Gracias, Amigos.
Here's a list and map of all the great street food places in Austin. http://tinyurl.com/Austin-food-carts-trailers
I will admit that Austin, Texas is probably one of the best cities I have visited. Coming from Hales Corners, I moved to Dallas, Texas in 2004, and upon my first visit to Austin, I really fell in love. In all honesty, the landscape reminded me of home, Wisconsin. The rolling hills, trees, air, and all of the water, it was something beautiful. The creativity, and energy were also apparent, and drew me back every few months. Now being back in Milwaukee, I do think of Austin on many occasions.
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