SoCo Neighborhood, Austin, Texas
Sunday, September 21, 2008

GETTING THERE: Southwest flies nonstop to Austin in 3 1/2 hours from BWI for as low as about $220 round trip.

STAYING THERE: The Hotel San Jose (1316 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-7322 or 800-574-8897, offers spare, hip, upscale rooms from $95 weekdays with a shared bath to $375 for a courtyard suite on the weekend. For shabby chic, there's the Austin Motel (1220 S. Congress Ave., 512-441-1157,, from $80 a night for a room with a single bed to $168 for a luxury suite.

EATING THERE: Threadgill's (301 W. Riverside Dr., 512-472-9304,, entrees $10 to $15) was originally a gas station owned by a bootlegger and now is the place for stick-to-the-ribs, Southern-style home cooking. Jo's Coffee Shop (1300 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-3800, serves coffee (natch), sandwiches and snacks with sidewalk seating. Magnolia Cafe (1920 S. Congress Ave., 512-445-0000, has a big neon sign reading "Sorry We're Open" and mammoth breakfasts all day, bison burgers and a friendly, helpful staff. Only one entree over $10. (It's $11.) For authentic Mexican, right down to such drinks as a cantaloupe agua fresca and house-made corn tortillas, try Polvo's (2004 S. First St., 512-441-5446,, entrees under $10). Curra's Grill (614 E. Oltorf St., 512-444-0012,, dinner entrees $11 to $16) is more than a walk from SoCo, but where else will you find a chili-flavored brownie? Foodies salivate at the succulent Sunday brunch at Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop, 512-459-4121,, prix-fixe brunch $38.95). Amy's Ice Creams (1301 S. Congress Ave., 512-440-7488,, $2.98 for a "tiny") is a local favorite.

WHAT TO DO: SoCo shops are loaded with personality and collectibles. At Crofts Original (1714-B S. Congress Ave., 512-445-6308,, hand-painted T-shirts contribute to the eclectic mix of casual wear and jewelry. There's kitsch galore at Monkey See Monkey Do (1712 S. Congress Ave., 512-443-4999,, including Japanese figurines, Einstein action figures and Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill lunchboxes. Off the Wall (1704 S. Congress Ave., 512-445-4701, has furniture and finds, such as an art deco radio for $9.95 and a selection of vintage boots. Aptly named Uncommon Objects (1512 S. Congress Ave., 512-442-4000, has sophisticated folk art and such jumble-sale finds as a pair of vintage men's black patent-leather cowboy boots for $78. Dia de los Muertos fans will find lots of Day of the Dead figurines at Turquoise Door (1208 S. Congress Ave., 512-480-0618) along with reasonably priced Mexican jewelry and masks and folk art.

LIVE MUSIC: Continental Club (1315 S. Congress Ave., 512-441-2444 or 512-441-0202, is a landmark-status bar and music venue. The blues club Antone's (213 W. Fifth St., 512-320-8424, offers more than blues acts. Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave., 512-472-5470,

The Austin City Limits Music Festival is Friday through Sept. 28, with 130 acts (including Erykah Badu, David Byrne, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Foo Fighters, Gnarls Barkley) performing on eight stages in Zilker Park (Barton Springs Road, free shuttles from Republic Square). At this point, only $80 single-day tickets for Friday and Sunday are available. Those willing to plunk down $850 can still purchase three-day VIP passes, which include food, drinks, shaded seating (though no stage views), restrooms and parking. For more information, go to

INFORMATION: Go to, which carries event listings and information on local history. To see who is playing in town, try the Austin Chronicle, at

-- R.F.

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