Weekend in Austin: ACL Music Fest, Exploring the Butler Trail and Barbecue Tasting Tour!

Heading over the Congress Avenue Bridge

Heading over the Congress Avenue Bridge

Few things are more fun than a road trip with your friends.  Sometimes where you end up just doesn't matter.  But when your destination is Austin, TX...it's pretty much a guarantee that you're gonna have an awesome time when you get there.  And recently, we did just that, with great food and drink, running and walking miles and miles each day and of course, great live music at the Austin City Limits Music Festival!  The music deserved its own post, so check out my festival wrap-up over at one of my favorite places on the Internet, my girl Rebecca Trax's blog Running with Music.

CULINARY DELIGHTS 

The state of Texas is known for a lot of things, but good barbecue is near the top of the list.   While in Austin, everyone knows they should visit world-famous Franklin's, but the line can sometimes last for hours.   We decided to venture out a bit and check out some other barbecue pits off the beaten path before we went to ACL on Saturday. 

Our tasting tour took us to the towns of Lockhart and Luling, just south of Austin.   My beloved Kimberly (aka KTP) of the B'ham Tunes Crew & Bonnaroo awesomeness has done several "death by barbecue" tasting trips in this area and guided us to the right spots.   We hit up Smitty's and Black's in Lockhart, and City Market in Luling.  

Downtown Lockhart, TX; Courthouse Square

Downtown Lockhart, TX; Courthouse Square

Downtown Luling, TX

Downtown Luling, TX

Barbecue tasting team (Cody had to get some work done, so he missed out - but we brought him a to-go order)

Barbecue tasting team (Cody had to get some work done, so he missed out - but we brought him a to-go order)

I learned a couple of key considerations to a successful barbecue tasting (and by that I mean any outing where you're going to visit more than one pit): first, order the same thing at each restaurant in order to be able to compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges....or in this case, brisket to brisket.  Second, and this is crucial, place your order for much less than you would generally order for a regular meal. We ordered together and purchased a minimal amount of three different meats: a couple of slices of brisket, a couple of pork ribs and a link ("ring") of sausage from each restaurant.  We also chose a side item at each place and somewhat broke the "tasting rules" by selecting a different one at each place:   macaroni and cheese at Smitty's, candied yams with marshmallow topping at Black's and seasoned bbq beans and potato salad at City Market.  

First stop, Smitty's.... 

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The pit at Smitty's - check out the smoke buildup on the wall.   The building dates back to the 1920's; good chance that smoke residue is older than me.   

The pit at Smitty's - check out the smoke buildup on the wall.   The building dates back to the 1920's; good chance that smoke residue is older than me.   

Where the magic happens  

Where the magic happens  

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Kimberly (KTP) ordering for the group at Smitty's

Kimberly (KTP) ordering for the group at Smitty's

Round 1

Round 1

Second stop, down the street at Black's.....

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Plate number 2 on the trip....

Plate number 2 on the trip....

On to our final stop, City Market of Luling, TX

Our haul at City Market, the last stop.   At each of the three establishments, we saw someone drinking a "Big Red"....so we had to try one at City Market.    A bit medicinal for our tastes.  

Our haul at City Market, the last stop.   At each of the three establishments, we saw someone drinking a "Big Red"....so we had to try one at City Market.    A bit medicinal for our tastes.  

When it came to which barbecue pit took the prize for our tasting, we agreed that each place had the best (that day, at least) of one of each of the meats we sampled.  We decided that we liked Smitty's brisket, Black's sausage and City Market's pork ribs.  The Black's yams were the side-order winner for me.    I'd give the overall prize of "best all around" to City Market. 

One more food pic to share from the weekend - after the last notes had been played at ACL on Sunday night and the festival was over, we headed back to the hotel to shower up and pack for our departures. We were sick of festival food by that point, so it was decided that a pizza was in order.   Mind you, we did not order an extra large pie, but one slice of the large pizza that showed up at our door was bigger than Cody's head.   The whole pizza itself was crazy....check out the can huggy and the credit card that we placed nearby for perspective.  

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RUNNING 

To counteract our epicurean tour of the area and to keep on track on the marathon training plan for Houston 2016, I needed to get in 2 runs while in Austin, so praise be for the beautiful Butler Trail.    Cody joined me for one lap of the long run, which I very much appreciated - especially considering that our step counters on our various devices showed all of us walking MILES and MILES to, from and at ACL.   

It was a pretty hot and humid weekend by October standards, so I never really pushed the paces, which allowed me to check out the cool people and landscape of the area.   Definitely hillier than you might expect for Texas (and where we were in downtown is actually nothing compared to "Hill Country" proper, outside of town.  

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The Butler Trail is quite popular with both 2 and 4 legged creatures...

The Butler Trail is quite popular with both 2 and 4 legged creatures...

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MUSIC 

ACL was definitely the high point of our trip!   Check out my thoughts on the festival here and more videos from the weekend on my youtube page.