I was recently asked to share my perspective on being a mom in Austin for Elizabeth St., a site featuring “chic moms who know that life is best lived with style”. Their words not mine, but I was flattered and happy to share my opinions about fashion, food and culture. These are in many ways ‘the core’ that makes many big cities around the world iconic, perennial attractions. I am a West Coast gal through and through — born in Seoul, raised in Portland, college in Seattle, career + family in San Francisco. The move to Austin was a transition. A big one. But six-plus years in, I love this city and Austin is mine.
What do I love about my city? What makes it a great place for kids, for families, for someone used to a “big city”? Taking a moment to think about the places I love, the things we do as a family and the places we love as couple was a surprisingly easy and fun exercise. I couldn’t write my lists fast enough. I was surprised by how much I had to say.
Why do I love Austin? Austin is still a young city that embraces entrepreneurs and families. If you are willing to engage and put in the time, there are endless opportunities to grow your network professionally and personally. In just six years I have an amazing group of girlfriends and an integrated business network. I feel completely dialed in. The style vibe is casual; eclectic but there’s a growing appreciation for elevated, individual personal style makers.
We don’t do “date nights” as a couple. We like the spontaneity of going out when the mood hits, and we try to capitalize on opportunities to check out new restaurants, to see a show, listen to live music or attend an event or party when it strikes us as “babysitter-worthy”. Beyond the time and expense, the experience must be enticing enough to make us miss an evening with our daughters, who by the way we are crazy about spending time with.
Our dining hot spots when we are not with our kids? Here’s our current babysitter-worthy list of places: Uchi, best sushi spot – ever. Uchiko, an offshoot of Uchi but a little bit sexier. Clark’s Oyster Bar, amazing fresh seafood and amazing wine pairings. Second Bar + Kitchen, a breath of fresh air when it opened several years ago, as it was reminiscent of SF dining, and Austin’s first spot to offer seasonal, fresh staples with a bit of a fancy twist. La Condessa, fresh, modern and upscale Mexican food. Lenoir, former chef from TRIO at Four Seasons opened this quaint, seasonal delight. Eden East Austin, is like crashing a country wedding, outdoors on group picnic tables under the trees with chickens and hens running nearby. And of course, Jeffrey’s luxe and fancy fare is on our list. We haven’t been to the “new” Jeffrey’s but it’s on our list for our next grown up, seriously fancy meal.
But what makes Austin a great city for our kids? The inherently casual vibe of a city known for musicians and artists translates its energy and attitude throughout. I can take my kids to the ballet at the gorgeous new Long Center for the Performing Arts, to ACL music fest in Zilker Park, and to the Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. No matter where or when we go, access is easy and there are always parking spots and friendly faces greeting us. Coming from San Francisco, where two of my kiddos were born, a neighborly attitude and easy access are huge factors in making Austin a kid-friendly city.
Beyond the neighborly attitude and outdoor spaces, our family appreciates Austin’s fantastic breadth and depth of kid-friendly dining spots. Our favorite places to take our kids? So many to list, but these are our current faves: Asti, a quaint Hyde Park neighborhood Italian bistro, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, what’s there to say? Great beer, wine and everything fried! Elizabeth Street Café, indoor and outdoor seating with casual and spicy French Vietnamese – yum! Perla’s, another casual indoors and outdoors option with fresh and seasonal seafood. Fonda San Miguel, classic interior Mexican fare done well every time. Did I mention the talking parrot? Crowd pleaser for the kids every time. The lovely ladies tossing fresh tortillas in the main dining room entertain our kiddos for at least 15 minutes, another big plus. Brunch at Jo’s on 2nd Street, basic brunch staples with Texas style options: breakfast tacos, Huevos Rancheros and Migas. Oh, and cannot forget Easy Tiger bakery and café – at long last good, fresh breads and baguettes.
Clearly our priorities are shopping for food, finding places to eat and planning great meals, but there are also wonderful places for our kids to learn, explore and grow in Austin. Top of our list includes the Zach Scott Theater for classes and theatrical performances, Zilker Park (music and festivals year-round) and the Art School at Laguna Gloria AMOA Art House – best art classes for kids (and adults, although I haven’t taken them, just my kids.).
I still think of myself as a West Coast gal but Austin has wedged its way into my heart. I love this city and it is mine. Thank you ATX. MWAH.