MY PICKS FOR AUSTIN CHRONICLE’S “BEST OF AUSTIN” ISSUE.

Local delights, top left-to-right-to-bottom: Margot Wolf Jewelry, Hotel St. Cecilia, Fail Jewelry

Each year, the day that Austin Chronicle‘s “Best of Austin” issue comes out is a special one for me. I like to make a little ritual of it, sitting down with a cookie and a fancy beverage at a coffee shop (usually Quacks), circling places I’ve never tried before and grinning when people or places I know are featured.

Last year, I just about flipped my breakers when Austin Eavesdropper won Best Local Blog, and found myself in the company of individuals I’ve looked up to for years. It was so affirming! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked myself, “why did you start a local blog? Way to limit yourself, self” and the answer to that question stared me in the face as I opened up the Chronicle‘s pages last year. Austin is my beguiling, weirdo muse, and I can’t help it. Your muses pick you.

This past year, I’ve gone out / networked less, and have been more hermit-like in general, but in the place of all that has come greater intimacy with a certain few special places and people. Here are some of them.

++ MY PICKS FOR AUSTIN CHRONICLE’S “BEST OF AUSTIN” ISSUE ++

Architecture & Lodging

Hotel: Hotel St. Cecilia. A stylish, Gatsby estate dripping with huge oak trees and Liz Lambert specialness? OK, I’ll stay there.

Affordable Motel: Habitat Suites. I discovered this place last year via the Best Of issue, and think more people should know about it. It’s a green motel, and while the decor is kinda standard motel stuff, the landscaping is gorgeous and the rates are affordable.

Hotel / Motel Pool: W Hotel. Once, I “accidentally” snuck up to the “guest-only” pool on the roof of the W, and proceeded to cackle wildly from the lap of luxury.

Sign: Progress Coffee. Perhaps not the most obvious choice? But I love seeing a gigantic “PROGRESS” peering down at me as I approach east 5th St. from the I-35 feeder road. It feels metaphorical.

Public Art: I honestly had a hard time choosing one for this (so if you have a suggestion let me know), but in the process found a really cool resource: the Facebook page for Austin Art in Public Places Program. I had no idea this existed, and dug around in there for a good little while.

Entertainment

Party of the Year: I’m not sure it’s even fair to call SXSW a “party.” But it won last year, and any party in which Bill Murray decides to randomly bartend on the east side is one I want to crash.

Scenester/Mover & Shaker: Adi Anand! This is the most hard-working man in Austin entertainment.

Movie Theater: Alamo Drafthouse (duh).

Emergent Local Filmmaker: Tie between Christian Remde, the man behind Food Narrative, not to mention some of Bravo TV’s online food spots, and my dear friend Carlos Funes. Christian and I just wrapped up a project together, and let me tell you — the man is not only talented/visionary, but hysterical. A VERY important quality during 100-degree film shoots. Carlos is my creative partner-in-crime for AETV, a “Best Script” fest winner for his short film This Is Kilo 3, and is off in New York now co-directing a feature film! Basically he’s about to be famous.

Bar Staff: Peche. Classy and knowledgable.

New Bar: Bangers. I know. When someone mentioned the name to me, I laughed at them. And then I went to see a show there, and the bar is seriously a craft beer aficionado’s dream. Also a sausage-lovers dream, and I don’t mean that in the Pizza Hut sausage-lovers way; I mean that in a we-are-the-restaurant-who-created-Franks-now-try-our-kickass-antelope-sausage way.

Drag Performer: Rebecca Havemeyer! Christeene and her gnarly mouth may be getting a lot of attention these days, but I still love our Southern belle Rebecca through and through.

Arts & Culture

Best Place to See Local Art: East Austin Studio Tour!  One time, I saw John Krasinski premiere something at the Drafthouse, and apropos of nothing, he remarked about how awesome EAST was. To which I’m pretty sure the reply was “I LOVE YOU JOHN!!!!” from a smitten fan, as her friends tried to restrain her.

Arts Festival: The raucous and far-flung Art Outside.

Visual Artist: Alyson Fox.

Local treasures, top left-to-right-to-bottom: Alyson Fox, Hamilton Pool, Leslie

Local Actor/Actress: Erica Lies, who was just featured on Jezebel.

Dancer or Dance Company: Blue Lapis Light.

Clothing Designer: I’m going to cheat and go with a jewelry designer. Actually, two: Margot Wolf Jewelry and Fail Jewelry (full disclosure: the latter sponsors Austin Eavesdropper). I like the edgy, rock n’ roll feel of both.

Edutainment Event: The Dionysium. My friend Amanda Krauss is one of the directors and producers for this monthly event, and they put on the coolest freaking variety shows: There was one on humor theory that I attended recently, an upcoming one on beer, and next week’s (September 5) is all about design. It’s part lecture, part debate, part comedy; all parts rad.

Food

Food Event: La Dolce Vita.

Local Food Company: Greenling.

Place to Take a First Date: Elizabeth St. Ross and I ate there recently, and it’s totally darling. In fact, ladies, take your best gay on a date here too.

Cheap Date: The newly-opened South Lamar Trailer Bazaar!

Outdoor Dining: Contigo.

Food Trailer: Well this is an IMPOSSIBLE question. I’ll go with East Side King since Paul is our hometown hero now, and for good reason! The man is a genius in the kitchen.

Sweets/Goodies: Lick Ice Creams. I interviewed the co-owners recently, and their ridiculously tasty, unexpected ice cream flavors — Goat Cheese, Fig & Honey, for example — is matched by the quality of their sources. They treat ice cream like a culinary art, and I hope they become fabulously successful.

A shot of Lick’s Quark Cheese & Fig Ice Cream, taken during aforementioned interview. I dare you not to drool.

Best-Kept Secret: I don’t think this is a secret, but Papi Tino’s is tiny, low-lit, and sigh-inducingly good. Order the pretty enchiladas.

Media

Journalist: While interning at KUT earlier this year, I started following the work of Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune — particularly her in-depth coverage of women’s health in Texas, which seems to be constantly embroiled in debate lately. She gets my vote.

Event Photographer: Miguel Angel of ulovei. His Instagram feed is a direct window on Austin nightlife, even if it does make me feel like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused — “I git older, they stay the same age …”

Local Author: Ruth Pennebaker. One of my writer icons.

Radio DJ: I’m going to non-ironically vote for John Aielli. C’mon you guys — when John talks to himself about his garden? Or his favorite operas?  Or when he can’t start a tape?  That’s solid gold, people.

Local Entertainment Website: CultureMap.

Local Blog: Please do feel free to vote for Austin Eavesdropper if it so compels you!  But this year, I’m casting my vote for Hipstercrite. Blogger Lauren Modery has done a terrific job building up a community around her bizarre and wonderful site, which trains a sardonic eye on her beloved city. Lauren has a great way of balancing funny with caustic, critical with celebratory. It’s one of my daily blog reads, authored by a terrific young writer.

Outdoor & Recreation

Annual Festival: Fun Fun Fun Fest. I met my idol, aka Wayne Coyne, there last year. It’s smaller and more intimate than ACL, with more punk-rock energy and Ryan Gosling sightings.

Austin Holiday: Obviously, Eeyore’s Birthday.

Day Trip (Dry): Wimberley. Proof.

Day Trip (Wet): Hamilton Pool.

Best Swimming Hole: Again, obvious, but Barton Springs.

Fitness Classes: Dharma Yoga.

Politics & Personalities

News Story: That huge arms-dealing / drug trafficking / money-laundering bust around the owners of Kiss & Fly. How nuts was that?

March or Rally: QueerBomb!  Here’s a colorful picture album, with tons of photos by our very own Nicki Lemon.

Austin Icon: The patron saint of Keep Austin Weird, Leslie Cochran, who passed away in March. Rest in peace, Leslie — we miss you.

Services

Barbershop: Birds (full disclosure: They sponsor Austin Eavesdropper. They were in fact one of AE’s first sponsors ever — another reason to vote for them, since they support locals too!)

Spa: Travaasa. Totally heavenly.

Landscape Services: Yard Farm, who will come build a vegetable garden for you at your home.

Shopping

New Local Business: In.Gredients. Confession!  I actually haven’t been there yet. But I love the concept, and want it to succeed. If you’ve been — how is it?

Clothing: Wanderlust, which just opened close to my ‘hood. Divine clothing in a thoughtfully-designed little house. Plus, it’s a salon. And an art gallery. And did I mention they serve wine and chocolate? Yeah.

Vintage: South Austin Gallery. They not only sell vintage clothes, they tailor and reconstruct them into contemporary shapes. I’ve gotten some of my most-complimented-on outfits here.

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And THERE YOU HAVE IT!  Who did I leave out?  Which selections make you think, “right on!” and which make you think, “are you f-g kidding me?”  Tell me what you think in the comments section, and let’s start a cool thread of local suggestions!

PHOTO SOURCES // Here, here, and here.