Welp. I don't know how you did it, Austin, but you beat Asheville to claim your title as the worst city I've dated in. You did, however, win the Dana Hamilton Best Eating City 2018 award as well. Was it because it's the city where I sampled pussy for the first time? Nah. Actually, Austin is the best city I've ever eaten in. It hurts to say this, but... it's better than New York.
I'm currently in Denver (where both the men and the food have been mediocre at best!), but, as per tradition, Imma break down the last city I was in through the lens of what this very blog is named after:
Odd Duck: My favorite restaurant in Austin. If you go to Austin and don’t eat at Odd Duck, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. The menu changes every day based on what the best meat/produce is available at local farmer’s markets, but there are a few things (I’m talking a very small handful) that are permanent fixtures. One is this roasted beet dish with pureed black beans, fried cheese curds, pepitas, shaved radishes, and onions. This flavor combination sounds weird af, but it WORKS. I got it both times I went there, it was that good. The first time I went, I had a chicken-fried pork chop that was out of this world and they gave me a giant fortune cookie that's made in-house for my birthday. And usually fortune cookies are tasteless and gross, but this one is essentially a giant vanilla cookie. It’s awesome. When you go to Odd Duck, definitely lie and say it’s your birthday just so you can get the free fortune cookie. We may or may not have done that when my mom came to visit, but I won’t tell. We also both got the steak with mushroom croquettes and it was the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. My mom said the same thing
Franklin’s Barbecue: Franklin’s is the most famous barbecue place in Austin. There’s also a wait so long that people get up at 8am and pretty much tailgate for an entire afternoon. BUT, fun fact: if you order a few months ahead of time, you can pick up a catering order and skip the line. That’s what my friend Mikey did.
I met Mikey on my friend Janson’s boat for Mikey’s birthday. And so when Mikey said he ordered Franklin’s and was having a party, I thought the same company that was on the boat (a bunch of fun dudes) was going to be at the party and that it was a continuation of his birthday celebrations.
So I wore what I usual wear when among my peers: a t-shirt that says “Support Local Female Orgasms” that I cut up and turned into a crop top. You know, typical Dana Hamilton: fashion icon, smartass, and Doc Marten enthusiast.
It turned out that it wasn’t another birthday party with friends. It was Mikey's fucking graduation from grad school and his entire family who flew out from Oregon was there. Including Mee-Maw.
While I was mortified, Mikey assured me that if there was a family to wear that shirt around, it was his. They thought it was hilarious. It ended up being a super fun night.
But yes, I tried the brisket, potato salad (which had some curry in it, which I love), mac and cheese, and coleslaw. It all was very good! Would I wait on a 6-hour line for it? Probably not because I’m impatient as fuck, but was I glad I tried it? ABSOLUTELY. Very, very yummy.
Loro: My mother said this was the best brisket she’s ever had in her life and I said the exact same thing. This restaurant is the creation of the person behind Franklin’s and the owner of one of the best sushi places in Austin (I forgot the name because I don’t eat fish), so it’s no surprise how good the barbecue is. The brisket has a rub on it that is definitely Asian-inspired. Get that, the garlic rice noodles (TO DIE FOR), and the Thai Watermelon Punch (sweet and spicy watermelon cocktail).
June’s All Day: June’s is on South Congress (the main strip of Austin, filled with shopping and restaurants, but mostly shopping) and it’s super cute. From 4 – 6pm on weekdays, all the food is half off. The first time I went, I got the burrata with asparagus, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and dill (weird flavor combination, but it was DELICIOUS), Boston bibb salad (okay—the truffle oil was a lil’ heavy-handed), and lemon tart. The next time I went, I had that same burrata (it was that good), chilled roasted artichoke (SO GOOD, especially on a hot summer day), and my mom and I split the hot chicken sandwich (which was in-fucking-credible; their fries are really, really good, too).
Vespaio: A date took me here and I was like ARE YOU SURE DUDE, I’m from New York, but it was absolutely fabulous. I learned later from a Lyft driver that Vespaio was voted the third best Italian restaurant in the country. Order the polenta con funghi (amazing), the cacio e pepe, and the Bolognese. I’m very hard to impress when it comes to Italian food and this place blew me away.
Torchy’s: This is the most well-known taco place in Austin. There are a few locations—it looks a little fast food-y, but don’t let that fool you. It’s great. I had the pork chili verde and their monthly special, which was a hot chicken taco with honey. Both were fabulous.
Taco Joint: This place’s name is ~marihuana~ reference. Get the 4/20 and The Street Taco. One of those—I can’t remember which, comes with potato sticks on it. It’s like putting chips on a sandwich. A+
Via 313: This is one of the most well-known pizza places in Austin. They do a Detroit-style pie, which is essentially a Sicilian slice (soaked in butter and baked in a pan) with cheese on top and then sauce on top of that. It was really good! I didn't get any good pics because I inhaled mine. Pretty delish.
Frank: Vegan chili cheese fries and a vegan/gluten-free Chicago-style hot dog? I LOVED this and I wasn't even stoned. (Sorry, I ate this on my bed like a total garbage person.)
Valentina’s Tex Mex: I really liked this place, but my fondness for it may have been influenced by the fact that I went there with one of my favorite friends, VP. While we were driving over (it’s in the middle of nowhere), we had to drive through a ton of residential areas and VP said, “Wait. Is this place at someone’s house?” While that ended up not being the case, the “restaurant” is based out of a trailer and this place has Port-a-Potties instead of bathrooms. It was super weird. That said, we both had the brisket sandwich, which was fab, and the rice and beans, which were fantastic. We just had to both hold our pee until we got home because… Port-a-Potties.
"I want people to know that I'm purposefully posing to look silly in this photo and that I don't actually look like that." - VP
Elizabeth Street Café: I love this place. They have Vietnamese coffee (I had the hot--which I looooved--a bunch of times, but the iced is UGHHHHH *chef finger kiss*). I ate their everything croissant (a croissant stuffed with cream cheese and topped with everything bagel seasoning) at least 3 times and didn’t want to try any other pastry (and they all look delicious), it was that good. I also had their egg, sausage, and sticky rice Korean breakfast once and it was fab. The sausage tasted like the inside of pork gyoza. Ugh. So good.
Lick: The best ice cream place in Austin. Their flavors rotate week to week (I think?) and I had the salted caramel (my go-to), carrot cake (GAHHHH), and Meyer lemon (lfksjd;lfakjsdl;kfjasdf WITH REAL LEMON CURD IN IT; it tasted like eating a lemon bar). Go here.
Amy’s: Get the Mexican Vanilla ice cream. Just trust me on this. If you’re high, have the ice cream sandwiches (chocolate chip cookies with Mexican Vanilla ice cream between them) Postmated to your house.
Sweet Ritual: This is a vegan ice cream place. And listen. I usually LOVE vegan ice cream. I eat non-dairy ice cream all the time. But this place’s flavors are… a little earthy. I sampled a bunch and was like no thanks. BUT I did end up going with the chocolate peanut butter cup and it was very good. So if you’re vegan, definitely go there and get that flavor. They even make the peanut butter cups that are in the ice cream in-house.
I’ll admit that some of the time I spent in Austin (especially as the dating scene wore on me) involved me staying in a lot because I was emotionally drained. That said, I went to a few places:
Hamilton Pool: Read my review/worst dating story here.
Barton Springs: I went here on Memorial Day. Big mistake. It took us a looooong time to get in. It's fun to go to just to say that you've gone, but was I impressed? Eh. It's a giant spring-fed pool. Very refreshing on hot days, but I feel like there are better places to swim in Austin.
Lake Travis: I went here for the first time on Janson’s boat, which was fun as hell. Then I went back with my mom a few times to go swimming. It was great. Be warned: there is very little shade at any of the beaches around Lake Travis. You will burn. Hard. But the water is crystal clear and lovely.
Bookpeople: I love this place. It is my ideal independent bookstore. You know in some bookstores when they have a few placards throughout the store that are handwritten book recommendations from the staff? This place has those kind of notecards on practically every shelf. I LOVE THOSE SO MUCH. They also have a second floor devoted to kids’ books, toys, and games, which was so fun to play around in because I am actually four years old.
Okay, y’all. You’ve heard time and time again how much I hated Austin’s dating scene. But the one thing I will give it credit for is that I was able to go on dates with two very attractive women. And then I slept with one of them. I won’t get super into it, but here are some quick notes:
Two of my queer female friends were SUPER excited about me dating women and one was “so happy I’ve finally admitted to being a lesbian.”
Here is that first friend:
I told her, "You know how you're a Gold Star Gay*? I'm more like a bronze."
"You're more like a rock," she said.
"I'm tin foil," I said.
[we both cackle]
*A Gold Star Gay is someone who has never been with the opposite sex
My next friend said THIS:
WISHFUL THINKING, YOU GUYS. But I get it. And to be honest, I WISH I were romantically interested in women because dating men is so fucking boring sometimes. I discussed this with one of my friends yesterday:
So yeah. I have 6 months ahead of me until I move to Boston, at which point I will be able to actually date with intention, which is absolutely me in my element. Dating with intention/looking for a more genuine connection than just sex is exciting and less soul-crushing/paranoia-inducing (STI risk!) than dating around.
My friend Janson described me as “a Christian schoolgirl at heart”—that I’m out there having sex and being crazy, but deep down, I have very traditional values when it comes to relationships. I had never been more offended in my life. I told him to get out of my Christian home.
It may be true or whatever (shut UP), but this schoolgirl was gonna get nuthin’ in Austin besides syphilis. I’ll be back to eat and visit friends, but I sure as hell won’t date there ever again.
Dana Hamilton is a writer from New York City currently traveling across the United States on her own for all of 2018. Passionate about everything having to do with the body, she writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Time Out NY, and SELF, among other publications. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.
Passionate about everything having to do with the body, Dana Hamilton writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Time Out NY, and SELF, among other publications. After driving (and dating) across the country and back on her own for all of 2018, Dana now splits her time between New York, Boston, and Chicago. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.