Whether it's the toppings, the oven, or the crust, it takes a little something special to make a pizza memorable. At The Backspace, it's a combination of all three. This smallish eatery boasts a wood-burning oven that cranks the heat up to 1,000 degrees, requiring a specially-formulated crust that blisters wonderfully when cooked. The toppings are fairly typical — margherita, sausage, pepperoni, roasted mushrooms — but are always super-fresh, and are joined on the menu with a variety of salads, charcuterie, antipasti, and a healthy selection of wines and beers.
Not all that many blogs wind up opening stores, and even fewer of those expand their operations into the brick-and-mortar world — so it goes without saying that Nice Kicks is unique in more ways than one. Still run by blog founder Matt Halfhill, this campus-area store offers a stellar selection of sneakers from the likes of Nike, Adidas, Vans, and more, as well as essential accessories to accent your new shoes. Just watch out for launch days, when the lines in front of the store can grow long enough to deter even the most desperate, shoeless shopper. [via]
What makes a great comic book store? Is it the selection of new and back editions? A knowledgeable, friendly staff? A wide range of toys and other accessories? It really doesn't matter which you answered, because Austin Books & Comics has them all. Located north of downtown, this staple of the local comic scene, this surprisingly large store offers a fantastic selection of comics, graphic novels, comic-related clothes, toys, games, and more, so much so that you may find yourself spending way longer than you expected browsing their goods, and likewise a bit more money. So plan accordingly.
There's a ton of BBQ joints in Texas, so it's saying a lot that The Salt Lick is among the best. Founded in 1967 — and since expanded to locations in Round Rock and the ATX airport — this institution still cooks its meat on the same open pit that was used when it opened, offering brisket, ribs, turkey, sausages, chicken, and sides, all as tasty as anything you'll find elsewhere. Oh, and this location is BYOB and cash-only — so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
Top-shelf cocktails and intricate decor are all well and good, but sometimes you want a bar to feel less like a speakeasy or saloon and more like a backyard party. Clive Bar offers the latter, while not skimping on the cocktail quality. This Rainey St. hangout offers an inside bar, a large patio with bar access, and a separate Mezcal bar hidden off in a hut in the patio yard. Not feeling the liquor? They have a fine selection of draft beers, a small selection of favorites in cans and bottles, and a very brief wine list for those too pretentious to drink anything else. [Scouted by Daniel]
It's still a month away, but it's never too soon to get your plans set for the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Sadly overshadowed by the massive SXSW, this two-day event is put on by Food and Wine magazine, and offers tons of cooking demonstrations, as well as places to try some small plates. Over 80 exhibitors will be available, as will plenty of wine and cocktail seminars, two lounges offering complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails — repeat: Free Beer! — and an autograph tent with chefs inside signing their Hancocks to some cookbooks. Tickets aren't cheap — they start at $250 — but they're totally worth it, even if you decide against Instgramming every bit you take.
A lot has changed in Austin in the last 30 years, but one thing has remained constant: the excellent selection and service at Waterloo Records. Now housed in a 6,400 square foot space, this must-see music shop offers a wide variety of music on vinyl and CD — all listed in a genre-free alphabetical filing system — as well as Blu-rays, DVDs, and other goodies. You can listen to anything in the store before you buy, and if you're timing is good, you'll be able to hear some of it live during one of the many in-store performances it hosts on a weekly basis — complete with refreshments from Shiner Beer. And if you're heading to SXSW, be sure to stop by for the shop's day parties, which will play host to acts like Tegan & Sara, The Joy Formidable, Emmylou Harris, and Ra Ra Riot on the outside stage.
You wouldn't expect East Austin to be home to a wonderfully authentic French bistro, but plenty about Justine's Brasserie is unexpected. Opened in 2009 by a husband and wife team who restored and converted the 1937 bungalow in which it's housed, it offers up a standard menu of classic French comfort food, including dishes like escargots, french onion soup, steak fries, ratatouille, and creme brûlée, all of which if joined by a constantly changing daily menu featuring options like duck confit and house-made ice cream. There's also a fine selection of cocktails and wines, which are great for having with your meal or as a before- or after-treat outside. [Scouted by Norman]
It's only right that a town that prides itself on being weird is home to a store like this. Leaping from the pages of a mail order catalog and straight into real life is Toy Joy. This enthusiastically offbeat West Campus store offers a huge selection of amazingly unexpected toys, including Rody, the store's unofficial plastic inflatable horse mascot that can hold dudes up to 350 lbs. Other offerings include Cthulhu stickers, 12-month subscriptions to the (Plastic) Moustache of the Month Club, and a wide range of Hello Kitty and anime goods. And don't worry if you have a late-night toy hankering — it's open 'til 11 on weekdays and midnight on the weekends. [via]
We're not much on shopping by label alone, but sometimes a store offers so many that you can't help but take notice. A store like Service Menswear, for instance. This SoCo store offers a wide range of mens essentials, including apparel, bags, wallets, shoes, swimwear, sunglasses, soaps, socks, watches, and other accessories, all in a clean, no-nonsense atmosphere that's modern yet manly. [Scouted by Matthew]
Whether you're heading to SXSW or simply visiting for the hell of it, the Hotel San Jose is a fine place to rest your head. Located in the South Congress district, this unique, modern courtyard hotel started life as a motor court in the 1930s, falling into disrepair before being remodeled. Apart from the clean, modern rooms, the San Jose offers designer mid-century furniture and locally-made bath products, free Wi-Fi, a courtyard wine bar, an adjacent coffee shop — Jo's — and a vintage typewriter should you feel the need to write something up old-school style. [Scouted by Matthew]
What do you do when you own a catering business yet have normal folks clamoring for your food? You open a food truck, of course. The Seedling Truck travels around serving up dishes created by the minds (and mouths) at Royal Fig Catering. In keeping with their simple, seasonal, and fresh philosophy, the Truck's menus include hearty items like short ribs with sweet potato greens, a house-cured bacon sandwich with fried egg and bacon aioli, and a bacon crab cake with butternut sauce. Okay, so maybe the menu is mostly seasonal. Because let's face it: bacon is always in season. [Scouted by Matthew]