Recently, I had the pleasure of squiring some first-timers around my fine state, and I didn't realize just how fond I am of the place and the people until I heard myself gush.
Night One: I figured I’d give my farthest traveler a taste of Austin and made her come straight from the airport for a drink at Cedar Creek. She was impressed (I think) by the sheer size of the Thursday-night crowd and with their propensity for shots on a work night. Apparently St. Louis happy hours are more low-key.
She wanted to see my high school, but it was dark and I didn’t think nightfall could do the storied cloisters of St. John's justice, so I took her to Lizzard’s Pub instead. (Close enough.)
We sampled more Texas beers and ended the night, like so many others, at Whataburger. Keeping in the high school vein, I pointed out Pumpkin Park (the site of a great many high school "formals") and opted to drive thru the Westheimer location where we used to meet and make Whatacocktails pre-house party.
The out-of-towner tried to order a burger at Whataburger (absurd) and it was explained that the only options were a taquito (which is not really a taquito, she noted), chicken fingers or a honey butter chicken biscuit. I guess the name is kind of misleading.
Day Two: Under advisement from one of the Lizzard’s bartenders, we headed to Saint Arnold for a brewery tour, where we quickly learned that this weekend event is not so much a “tour” as community drinking at long picnic tables, on the floor or in lawn chairs. We were utterly unprepared. Whereas others had blankets, crock pots, and entire picnic spreads, we found a spot near one of the columns and had a pizza delivered. It was all a smidge more laid back than the Budweiser Brewery.
We caught the attention of a few friendly male onlookers (my friends are very pretty) and when the day drinkers were finally kicked out of Saint Arnold, a 15-minute wait behind a train gave us opportunity to recruit our new friends back to the patio of Cedar Creek. We invited everyone, shouting phone numbers and directions out of moving-car windows as we tore through downtown.
My guests were surprised when they all showed up, but I wasn't. This is Texas! We'd just need more chairs.
Then it was off to get my friends their first taste of oysters. I know there are some terrific raw bars in town, but I like to support the Gulf Coast guys. So I brought the group to Goode Company Seafood, where we did some major economic stimulation with an array of appetizers — "Two campechanas, three-dozen oysters and three orders of empanadas, please. And no, you can’t order fried fish."
We hit Washington Avenue for flirting, dancing, and pictures in front of the skyline and my more northern friends thanked their lucky wallets they were in Texas, where boys open doors, give you their jackets and pay for your drinks.
A few days later one of my favorite transplants had her sisters in from Ann Arbor, Mich., and I got to witness their first rodeo. The candied nuts? Enchanting! The Mutton Bustin’? Hysterical! And the outfits? Why hadn’t anyone told them?! They were beside themselves with the size and scope of the affair: The animals, the rides, the sausage-on-a-stick and how many Tim McGraw songs they actually recognized.
After five days of showing first-timers around, I started to remember what compelled me to snap that picture of the Texas sky when I first crossed the border on my (then unwelcome) move back.
I’m coming up on my first anniversary of Texas living, and I almost want to send flowers — I'm just not sure where to address them. Maybe I'll buy myself a little memento to mark the occasion instead. I've got my eye on Maya Brenner's Texas pendant.
Either way, you'll find me that day on a patio somewhere with a Pearl.