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Love Thy Neighbor(hood)
by Anne Bruno
Photographs by Chrissie Calderon
If you’ve lived in Austin for any length of time — be it for three years or 30 — you’re going to have a list (at least in your head) of your favorite neighborhood spots: your gotos for everything from pet food to pizza, from green spaces for stretching out to urban haunts for feeling the energy of the city, and an array of places you regularly find yourself returning to for one reason or another.
Austin doesn’t have the boroughs of New York or San Francisco’s storied districts, but each part of our town has its own distinct qualities. Take a close look at your circle of friends or coworkers and you might see their personalities reflected in the neighborhoods they live in. Go a step further and ask about the reasons people love where they live and you’ll end up with a map of sorts, one that illustrates the places that make up their very own bespoke Austin.
Check out the personal maps we’ve created for a few Austinites in and around the city, and read on as they extoll the virtues of their ’hoods, in their own words.
Along with her daughter Sydney Sue, Bly created and operates The Wayback, a boutique hotel made up of eight cottages and a farm-to-table cafe on Bee Cave Road. She has four kids and two dogs and has lived in Westlake since 2007.
Westlake is minutes from downtown, but here we can enjoy the space of the Texas Hill Country. I like being surrounded by the hills and oaks and great sunsets — the peacefulness you can only get from being in nature.
I think it’s sometimes assumed that everyone in Westlake is in a bubble, but people here are down-to-earth, active, fun, interesting, family-oriented and really caring when it comes to community.
WHY WE ALSO STARTED OUR BUSINESS HERE
I’m from San Angelo, and the Wayback evokes some of those West Texas qualities I’ve always appreciated. I love being raised in wide-open spaces, and I love the spirit of Texans — a do-it-yourself attitude and a humbleness that’s unique.
We loved the planning stages and love seeing it evolve. Our 3-acre property on Bee Cave is surrounded by undeveloped land, and we tucked the cottages within the oak trees. With the café, we wanted to bring Westlake a casual place that serves farm-to-table food and organic wines in a place with natural beauty. You can have dinner on the terrace and see a beautiful sunset.
MY NEIGHBORHOOD FAVORITES
Commons Ford Metro Park: It’s great for short hikes and walks with my two little dogs. Some of the trails lead to a beautiful creek and a little waterfall. I’ve seen baby owls that nest in the pecan trees, painted buntings and ringed kingfishers, among others animals.
Olivia Shoppe: We love the clothes, toys and gifts. The dresses are fancy and fabulous, and I can’t wait to buy a wooden dollhouse for my granddaughter.
Liz James Designs: Sydney gives me Liz James earrings for special occasions. My favorites that I wear all the time are big gold hoops that have a very fine, artisanal look.
Breed & Co.: A small hardware store that has every – thing you need and more.
Barton Springs Nursery: They always have a great selection of garden plants and flowers.
Writer and creative consultant who moved to Austin from Houston in 2004 and has lived south of the river nearly ever since.
I’ve lived in what’s largely the southernmost point of Austin’s city limits, near Southpark Meadows, for about six years. South Austin feels like home to me. I found out pretty quickly that I preferred South over North. It felt a bit more traditional without being dull.
Most of the people that I’d meet were Austin originals, so I decided that if homegrown locals lived, worked and raised their kids in this part of town, it would probably enrich my experience and provide an honest foundation to a rapidly evolving city. It still feels a bit like old Austin. Or at least the old Austin I’m familiar with. It’s far less touched by the modernizing of Central Austin and the East Side. There’s an authenticity to South Austin.
WHAT PEOPLE ASSUME ABOUT MY NEIGHBORHOOD
I think there’s an assumption that South Austin is old-fashioned in a way that means it’s occupied by an older demographic. And, in part, there’s some truth to that. Yet most of my friends live on this side of town, and they’re quite young. I always recommend visitors stay south — or east —when traveling to Austin. It somehow crystalizes a fleeting snapshot of what Austin once looked like. I think it’s important people see that.
WHAT I COULD SEE HAPPENING HERE
I’d love to see a larger literary class in South Austin, similar to New York’s Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. A community teeming with creative brilliance is equally bursting with love and thoughtfulness. Beautiful prose can paint a picture better than any artist, speak a missive so adoring and considered. If I could choose a figure from history to live near me, I’d want James Baldwin to be my neighbor.
MY NEIGHBORHOOD FAVORITES
The Little Darlin’: For most in my neighborhood, Moontower is the hangout of choice. I prefer Little Darlin’. It’s far less of a scene, the staff is great and the patio out back is perfect for a show or a quiet conversation over a cocktail.
Evangeline Cafe: Growing up in Houston I would visit New Orleans frequently. I had an uncle there who worked for Cash Money Records in the early 2000s. So aside from going to Juvenile and Lil Wayne shows we would eat all the Cajun food humanly possible. Evangeline is the only spot in town that fills that void for me.
Nicolaza’s: Nicolaza’s has a very thoughtful Latin American theme and the cocktails are great. It has a bit of an east side feel. It used to be a biker bar back in the day.
DK Sushi: Everyone knows DK Lee from DK Sushi. They have a pretty famous karaoke night. It’s one of those neighborhood traditions that, if you live in South Austin, you’ve done once, twice or 10 times.
President and proprietor, along with her husband, John (pictured with the couple’s two children), of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. She’s also a working mom, a mental health advocate and a former high school rodeo queen and competitor, among other things.
We live in Rosedale and work in Hyde Park; our kids attend schools more or less in the middle. Since we moved to ATX in 2005, we’ve lived in two different houses on the same street in Rosedale. We love the mix of neighbors — professors, students, retirees, former hippies, yuppies, kids, babies, pets. Plus all the greenery. Neighbors here show up — everything from organizing and hosting annual July 4 parades, to catching and returning our escape-artist dogs, to attending the Antonelli’s PopUp Picnic at Ramsey Park.
HOW WE ENDED UP WHERE WE LIVE
We were drawn to the neighborhood feel and loved having Ramsey Park so close. I’m a country girl, so I need lots of green space. Moving from a studio apartment in Washington, D.C., we found that in Rosedale. John and I met at Georgetown University. I could’ve stayed there, but I experienced a lot of family struggles while in college. After a year of working in D.C. post-college, I decided I needed to be closer to my family in Texas. Austin simultaneously had the culture and feel of a little city and a big town. And we love that we can hop in the car and be in the Hill Country within 30 minutes — depending on traffic! We spend lots of weekends enjoying a family home in the “town” of Kendalia in Kendall County, my namesake.
CHANGES IN OUR ‘HOOD THAT I’M LOVING
I kind of like the perception that we’re not as hip and happening as South Austin or East Austin. Fine for us! We’ve always been surrounded by fantastic businesses, but more food stuff is happening now along Burnet Road. It’s pretty exciting for a family that plans its day around our next meal.
MY NEIGHBORHOOD FAVORITES
Bark ’N Purr: One of our dogs is allergic to poultry, so we’re grateful for all their options. And they deliver.
Blue Skies Frame Co.: This is my go-to place when I need a gift — I love their work. Just take in a great photo or artwork for some framing magic.
Draught House Pub & Brewery: Oh, the beer. And the feeling when you just get to chill, sit outside and people-watch. Owner Josh is a standup dude. Constance and the whole team are great.
Picnik: We often take out-of-town guests here as a first meal to discover any specific dietary eating needs or restrictions. I love that everything is so delicious, and nothing feels lacking — a hard feat to pull off.
Banh Mi Ngon: This Vietnamese trailer near 45th and Medical Arts is our family go-to for a quick and easy dinner. Generous portions — we usually get one or two of the lemongrass pork vermicelli bowls with a side of fish balls on a stick.