The Driskill Hotel
Austin, Texas
604 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701

Historical, old school and filled with lore and legend, the Driskill Hotel is quite the spot to stay when in Austin, Texas.  Who knew that Austin was so much fun?  What a great town, so clean and easy to navigate with music and food establishments bubbling up like crude oil from Texas dirt.  There is a reason why so many Californian's are moving to Austin and now we have a better understanding as to why.

The Driskill was built by Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill. He came to Texas in 1849 where he became a prosperous rancher and cattle baron.  In 1886, he spent $400,000 (that was a LOT of money then) to build the finest hotel south of St. Louis.  Smack in the middle of downtown, the location is wonderful because you can walk everywhere.

The Capitol is six blocks in one direction and the edifice is steeped in its own rich history.  In the other direction the street is littered with lively music establishments and bars, and in yet another direction there are more upscale venues for music such as the infamous Elephant Club.  A fifteen minute walk down to Second Street will lead you to some finer shops and some great restaurants.  If you get tired of walking, most other things are a five to ten minute Uber ride from the hotel and Uber in Austin seems less expensive than almost anywhere else in the country.
And if you don't want to leave the hotel, the Grill area above the main lobby is just as happening as the night scene outside the hotel.  Live music wafts through the enormous room as people of all ages drink, socialize and enjoy a bit of southern hospitality.

As our readers know, we like to stay in suites.  The Drikill did not disappoint as we found ourselves happily ensconced in the "Yellow Rose of Texas" honeymoon suite.  Suite 543 is at the end of the most charming hallway we've ever seen in a hotel; covered in early American art framed and individually lit.

Double doors opened to the great room which boasts twenty foot ceilings and dramatic golden yellow drapes gushing to the floor, atop of which were more draped fabric and crafted rose petals.  An enormous room with crown molding and a ceiling design as interesting and detailed as the rest of the room, a painting of a beautiful Texas Belle in yellow roses anchored the room over the writing desk (where we sit and write this story). 

Old crystal antiques, clocks, vases and other artifacts adorn the room (without being glued down, trusting souls) and take us back to a simpler more grand time in old Texas where such refinements were de rigeur (if you happened to be in that socioeconomic world, of course).  A chair rail surrounds the room and more molding accentuates the simple wood floors.  An antique woven tapestry adorns the far wall, while a woven throw rug warms the floors and carries with it ornate caved chairs and sofas for the comfort of enjoying television, or just the space itself.  An oval dining room table is beside the window where bright light spews through the beautifully lace clad windows.  On the fifth floor of only five floors, we were high enough to enjoy a view and to just lazily watch the sun fade in the sky as the pigeons cooed on the window sill.

From the great room, there is a door leading to a dressing area, complete with vanity table and closet.  Beyond that is another door leading to the bedroom that contains a four poster bed.  Moments of old Texas and bric-a-brac of items with roses and Texas adorn the walls making a trip around the suite as interesting as it is comfortable.  The four poster bed is comfy and has fabric draping on all corners and the windows are double pane for a quiet night's sleep.  In fact, we're sleeping better here in the middle of the city than we do at home where we live in the quiet hills.  The bathroom is charming, albeit small, and the shower is brilliantly set high up on the wall for us tall folks.  The amenities are lovely, June Jacobs, and definitely worth stuffing into your suitcase, especially the refreshing revitalizing hydrating mist.
In addition to the many stories about this hotel (such as the one that Mr. Driskill lost the hotel during a drunken game of poker) there's the legend that the hotel is haunted!  No one loves a good haunting like The Dining Duo, and we were in luck because the room in question --525--was right down the hall.  Although we can't quite get the right story from anyone (and it's a bit like playing the game of telephone), legend has it that two women were about to get married but they were secretly lesbian lovers and so the only way to save themselves from being sent away with the men they didn't love was to kill themselves…which they did…in room 525.  Folks whisper that you can hear them cry or smell their perfume, so we hung out there a few nights to see and hear for ourselves.  You'll just have to go there and perhaps stay in the room to find out if it's true.

 The public areas in this hotel are really charming and old world in a Texas sort of way.  The chandeliers are kitschy and the ceilings are saloon-like, but upscale.  People definitely congregate here and it's well worth spending time in the lobby and people watching.

The Bakery in the hotel is also a dining establishment and we enjoyed cafe lattes and espressos there each morning.  The pastries and blueberry muffins were truly divine and some of the best we've tasted.

We had the good fortune of meeting the head Pastry Chef, Tony Sansalone, who described with pride how they prepare everything fresh each and every morning starting at five A.M. so the guests would have only the best.  

We're still tasting those pastries, and it was a great way to start the day in Austin.

The Dining Duo enjoyed these Restaurants while in Austin:

1.  South Congress Grill:

Fun and funky, this restaurant is located in the equally funky South Congress area, and it definitely skews younger.  The food was good, although the service was "hippy"-iffy and without fanfare or any scent of training.  We had the traditionally eggs Benedict with chipotle, that was tasty, but overcooked so that the yokes were not runny.

We also enjoyed their famous carrot-cake French toast, but it came served slightly warm and a bit soggy.  It was accompanied by their own concoction of a syrup that was too heavy and drowned the flavors of the toast.  The applewood smoked bacon was terrific, but also served warm, not hot.

 Don't skip the bloody Mary, it was a great way to welcome in the day. 

This is a cool place to come and enjoy the young vibe of Austin, but we think the food is overrated by the locals and is more of a B than an A.

2.  Lambert's:

Located in an upscale shopping area of just a few blocks, this restaurant delivered BBQ like we've never experienced in Los Angeles or anywhere.  It's fun, loud (which we don't really care for, but it had its place here), crowded, unbelievably popular (so book far ahead) and they make BBQ the way BBQ should be made.  

Our waiter was well versed on the menu and made suggestions that were great.  We had pork and chicken that embodied flavors that were both sweet and savory and that set our mouths into a new zone of awareness.  

We started with an Asian version of some deep fried baby ribs with a Roquefort sauce that was so good we licked our lips, fingers and nearly the plate.  The Mac n' Cheese shown was scrumptious and decadent.

The burnt caramel apple pie was sensational and provided the right compliment of sweetness to compensate for the BBQ orgy we had just experienced.  The traditional cheesecake was a disappointment and ordinary so skip it; but do not skip this restaurant when in Austin no matter how short of a visit.  There's another restaurant rumored to be amazing called Franklin's, but you have to line up literally for hours and then you could be faced with them running out of food.  Frankly Franklin's, who needs this when you have Lambert's that is superlative BBQ with an honored reservation.

3.  Olemaie:

What a sensational find.  Located in a charming little house in a residential area, the quaint and charming home offered up beyond amazing southern creations

that we are still tasting and wishing this place was in Los Angeles. 

Chefs Michael and Grey (both so handsome too) have cut their teeth in New York at Per Se and Lincoln, and in L.A. at Animal and Son of a Gun, and now they have created their own sensational food and environment.  

You can enjoy a fast lunch here if you're on the run, or perhaps a romantic dinner.  But whatever you do, do not miss it when in Austin.

4.  Berry Austin Frozen Yogurt

This is a really fun desert place on 2nd street in the heart of a small but upscale shopping area of downtown Austin and is not only a delicious spot for yogurt, but it is the most clever build-out we've ever seen.  The owner, Kathy Steele, is a delightful Texas belle who is as much an artist as an entrepreneur.  If you want to see some of the best decoupage south of the Mason Dixon line, this is the place to drop in and enjoy.  If it were in a museum of contemporary art, you would be charged an entrance fee.

Really fun places to see when in Austin and shouldn't miss:

1.  LBJ Presidential Library--Truly great fun and historically interesting.  A real highlight was listening in on actual telephone calls with the likes of Martin Luther King.  It was almost as good as being right on the line in the next office.

2.  Cathedral of Junk--What a kick in the pants.  This interesting and eccentric artist has turned his home into an art piece composed of found objects.  It's a bit off the beaten path, but you'll never see anything like it; ever.

3.  Wander down South Congress Street in and out of all the funky shops--Stop into the western wear shop and purchase some amazing boots; or browse the local artisan shops for old items and new creations. 

4.  Wall of Graffiti at 11th and Boyston--This is just an amazing display of transforming an abandoned hillside into a piece of art assembled by graffiti artists from around the city and the country.  Spend ten minutes or ten hours here as it's mind-altering.

5.  Museum of Texas--Live and learn.  Who knew Texas was once its own country?  Browse the museum and learn about an amazing history.

6.  University of Texas--How can 50,000 students be wrong?  Check out the bell tower and the other interesting buildings, but watch out for the abundance of bag people who populate the nearby sidewalks.

7.  Capitol tour--absolutely fascinating tour, so don't miss it.  Everything is big in Texas, including the Capitol which is more than two feet taller than our national Capitol.

Now, that's BIG.  We LOVE Austin and can't wait to come back and explore some more Texas.

Appetizingly Yours,

Scott and Michael, 
The Dining Duo

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