Portland of the east

Portland Maine Harbor

If you’re anything like me, you’re already planning your travel for the year. And if you are, better add Portland, Maine, to your list.

I picked Portland because it seemed to have the best of both worlds – idyllic, water-front lighthouses and small town vibes + culture like art galleries, live music and top notch food. When I learned my mom had always wanted to go to Maine, too, it was settled!

Before we had even booked plane tickets (fyi flying to Maine is crazy expensive; Boston is way cheaper and just an hour and a half drive away!), I locked down our stay at The Mercury Inn. I fell in love with the mid-century modern and cozy place while researching, and in person the beautiful rooms, charming neighborhood, amazing hosts, and delicious food did not disappoint. The location was also amazing – one direction and we’re at a farmer’s market, the other and walking around downtown Portland. All of these superlatives do not even do it justice; just go there.

One thing that surprised me was how artsy the town was. I had pictured Maine to be a Life-Size Ralph Lauren catalogue, but it turns out Portland is home to art and film schools…so creativity abounds! Definitely nothing cookie cutter or preppy about the places and people, which I loved. Everywhere we went, friendly locals like a neurosurgeon on a Tinder date and a bartender who skis to work in the winter openly chatted with us about their lives and favorite places. Here’s what we did, with my favorites linked below!

Mercury Inn Bed and Breakfast Portland Maine

Stay.

 

Eventide Portland Maine Seafood Restaurant

Lobster Roll Maine Food Truck

Eat.

  • Oysters, Tuna Tartare and Cucumber Gimlet at Eventide
  • Fish tacos at El Rayo – I was suspicious about their “authentic Mexican” claim, but these are now my #2 favorite fish tacos (#1 goes to Duke’s in Malibu).
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free pizza at Otto (Yes, my mom is quite the trooper.)
  • Lobster Roll at the Bite Into Maine food truck – with gluten-free buns!
  • Bam Bam Bakery for Earl Grey Cake. Gluten-free and vegan, of course.
  • Duckfat for…duckfat fries.
  • Holy Donut

 

Tandem Coffee Portland Maine

Caffeinate.

  • Bard Coffee. My favorite! Seriously regretting not buying their beans.
  • Tandem Coffee. Cool space; acidic coffee, though – not my thing.

 

Maine Craft Distilling Portland Liquor

Fizz House Portland Maine

Portland Maine Breweries Bayside

Rising Tide Brewery Portland Maine

Drink.

  • Vena’s Fizz House (non-alcoholic)
  • Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box. As recommended by Otto’s bartender. Really cool, slightly hidden space with speakeasy vibes (you have to be looking for it, or, like my mom, curiously peering inside every dark door with music playing inside). Here we met another loverly bartender who was actually Zach Galifianakis. I swear.
  • Breweries. Maine Craft Distilling (the best!), Rising Tide (Maine’s beers have a grassy taste, if you’re into that sort of thing), and Urban Farm Fermentary are all within walking distance of each other.

 

Imagine Maine Portland Shopping

Shop.

 

Portland Maine Sailing

Sailing Portland Maine

Paddleboarding Portland Maine Beach

Do.

  • Walk around Downtown Portland
  • Ride bikes (from Gorham Bike & Ski) around Back Cove, stopping at the beach for reading and shell picking in the sand.
  • Portland Museum of Art – Free Admission Friday!
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Explore lighthouses in South Portland
  • Sailing at sunset. Freezing and worth it! If you can book one of the yoga or live music sails, too, do it.

 

thank you maine portland documentary school poster

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Just book it

One of my favorite past times is planning trips I never take. Day dreaming about the beaches of California and looking at NYC hotel deals. I’m always down for the talks of taking a vacation, always say “yeah, let’s go!” to anyone who wants to go anywhere. Juuuust about till we get down to specifics. And everyone’s asking for dates, hotel prices and plane tickets. That’s around the time I take a look at my bank account and bow out.

So last Thursday when the boyfriend texted me “let’s go to this music festival”, I said “yeah let’s book it!” With the expectation that this, much like other vacations we’ve day dreamed about, would fall through.

And then Friday night rolled around. We had just enjoyed a great dinner at Ocean Prime for our one year anniversary and were enjoying some time with two friends/another couple. All of a sudden, we were looking at hotel/ticket packages and plane tickets. Talking about how many days we should take off work, etc. And then something amazing happened, with the pain of trying to get Coachella tickets after they were sold out still fresh on our minds, we actually booked it!

So, ladies and gents, I’m going to the Osheaga Festival (still trying to figure out how that is pronounced..) in Montreal, Canada in August! I’m so far past being excited. First of all, the lineup for the festival is beyond amazing. 

So I was already pretty pumped. And were able to get a sweet hotel package that includes our festival passes, metro tickets and hotel stay for like $400 each. Beautiful. Today, however, I’m speechless. I Pinterest searched “Montreal” and can’t even handle what I’m seeing right now. Quant brick townhomes, amazing architecture, beautiful landscape and bonus, they speak French. I simply can’t handle this. I feel like an overly hyper child who was fed too much sugar.

Was visiting Montreal anywhere close to where I thought I’d visit this year? Nope, not at all. It wasn’t even on my bucket list. For me, that’s what makes the trip even more fun. A little spontaneity is good for this over-planner 🙂

Montreal2 Montreal3 Montreal4 Montreal1Montreal5

Here, there, everywhere

Why hello!

It turns out leaving a great job, starting a new one, taking a pre-marital class, planning a wedding, joining a new Bible study group, getting another exhaustive round of health tests, having a health “scare,” traveling for two weeks and keeping up a blog (technically two) is very hard to do. This all seems perfectly obvious here on screen but somehow in my head seems like what we optimists call “a challenge.” I like challenges. I guess you could consider it my outlet for any and all of my competitiveness, because it sure isn’t making an appearance on a field or court any time soon. But at some point my realistic side goes, “Enough is enough. Why can’t I just go galavant around Italy again??”

Okay, so maybe not so realistic.

Not Italy, but I did manage to squeeze in some adventures…Here’s a peek into my impromptu blogging hiatus in LA and then Austin for SXSW:

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Side effects of engagement

Appreciating the city from Central Park...
Appreciating the city from Central Park…
Fantastic espresso followed by Central Park...a brisk (ha) 65 degree day in November!
Fantastic espresso followed by Central Park…a brisk (ha) 65 degree day in November!
First broadway show for the boyfriend, first together.
First broadway show for the boyfriend, first together.
The view from our friends' apartment...no kidding.
The view from our friends’ apartment…no kidding.
I'm saying it...Best bakery in NYC!
I’m saying it…Best bakery in NYC!
Apparently this is the 'temporary' ring and I get a new one next week...do I also get flown to New York again next week? Just asking.
Apparently this is the ‘temporary’ ring and I get a new one next week…do I also get flown to New York again next week? Just asking.
Post-engagement tapas with sweet friends.
Post-engagement tapas with sweet friends.
Homecoming surprise with dear friends, my madre, prosecco and Sprinkles gluten free cupcakes of course!
Homecoming surprise with dear friends, my madre, prosecco and Sprinkles gluten free cupcakes of course!
Banksy? Or just a look-alike? Either way, it is true.
Banksy? Or just a look-alike? Either way, it is true.

Last week I found myself in an unexpected but all-consuming state of crazy. Somewhere between fearing discussing marriage with the boyfriend, rolling my eyes at yet another engagement announcement on Facebook and scoffing at friends’ complaints about how frustrating the post-talk, pre-engagement phase is, I had the overwhelming realization: I need a wedding Pinterest board. Like now.

Within a few hours I was right beside those friends, pinning all the things and moaning, “Why doesn’t he just do it already so I don’t have to be stuck waiting around? I don’t even know if it will really happen! Not to mention waiting for my fate to be instigated by a man is decidedly insulting for my feminist sensibilities…but there’s still no chance I’m the one proposing.”

Crazy.

Little did I know I wouldn’t have to wait more than a few days, as I was whisked off to New York City for the weekend with loverly friends, front mezzanine Broadway musical seats, a leisurely Central Park stroll, gluten/dairy/soy-free baked deliciousness from Babycakes and finally, a candlelit rooftop proposal overlooking the New Yorker and Empire State buildings. (Yeah, he might be a keeper.)

It turns out, though, getting engaged only exponentially increases the amount of uncertainty. Not only are there actual wedding plans to make (blagh), but we’re going to have to broach everything from worrying about people’s feelings to wondering where we’re going to live to actually figuring out this whole getting my own medical insurance thing.

And then there’s the questions. So many questions. I realize it’s only been a week so everyone’s just really excited for us (and truthfully, rant aside, I am too), but it worries me. I’m still the exact same person. Same goals, dreams, struggles and passions. For some reason, when a girl gets engaged, everyone seems to forget about this. Suddenly, wedding planning is all anyone thinks to ask about. I’ve seen it happen (and been guilty of perpetuating this myself), and it just makes me want to yell, I’m a whole person!

This is one reason I’m super grateful for my awesome friends, in addition to a whole lot of support and surprise celebrations, they just…talk. I had dinner with one such friend this week. After spending an hour and a half sharing work stories and life updates, we finally got around to talking about The Engagement. But you know what she was more interested in than the proposal story? Talking about how she’s seen us grow in our relationship over the past two years of our friendship and how neat it has been to see us appreciate each other the more we understand each other. Love her.

All that said, it has been quite fun typing this whole thing with a shiny diamond on my finger. 😉

Hello, Turkey

Finally! After severely underestimating the amount of photos I took in Istanbul (and Pamukkale), I now have something to show for it. Can you really blame me that every seaside walk provided the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen or the best [wrap, meatball, pudding, etc.] I’ve ever tasted? Okay, so maybe not everything was 100% superlative, but the whole Turkish thing added a few points to the grading curve.

And without further ado, Istanbul.

One overnight bus later...Pamukkale.
One overnight bus later…Pamukkale.
Nope, not ice! Just a white stone mountain with a constant stream of mineral water and sparkling pools. Also known as the warmest we would be the whole time in Turkey.
Nope, not ice! Just a white stone mountain with a constant stream of mineral water and sparkling pools. Also known as the warmest we would be the whole time in Turkey.
This is real. And we swam in it.
This is real. And we swam in it.
Another overnight bus later...we made it! Considering our complete disorientation and lack of Turkish this is a miracle in and of itself.
Another overnight bus later…we made it! Considering our complete disorientation and lack of Turkish this is a miracle in and of itself.
Our first cafe complete with hot Turkish tea and jazz. Both hugely popular in Istanbul it turns out.
Our first cafe complete with hot Turkish tea and jazz. Both hugely popular in Istanbul it turns out.
Oh you know...just a jaunt along the Bosphorous fishing villages.
Oh you know…just a jaunt along the Bosphorous fishing villages.
Seafood seaside.
Seafood seaside.
Drinking like the locals. Raki, liquid (alcoholic) licorice.
Drinking like the locals. Raki, liquid (alcoholic) licorice.
Started our 'Old City' day with the view from the Sultans' Palace.
Started our ‘Old City’ day with the view from the Sultans’ Palace.
Inside the Hagia Sophia, my favorite of the Old City.
Inside the Hagia Sophia, my favorite of the Old City.
Sultanahmet, aka the 'Blue' Mosque.
Sultanahmet, aka the ‘Blue’ Mosque.
A look back...the path between Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet.
A look back…the path between Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet.
Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice street-side. Cheers.
Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice street-side. Cheers.
The locals literally line the street for this Turkish coffee shop. Souvenirs? Check.
The locals literally line the street for this Turkish coffee shop. Souvenirs? Check.
Nobody does brunching like Turkey. Plate after plate of delicious dips, fruit, cheese and bread with - what else? - cup after cup of hot tea.
Nobody does brunching like Turkey. Plate after plate of delicious dips, fruit, cheese and bread with – what else? – cup after cup of hot tea.
Holy Coffee - Home to Berk, Turkish hipster/drummer for SXSW bands, and traditional Turkish drink, Salep. Not only did they buy the ingredients fresh for us, Berk invited us to a coffeeshop dance party and brought us along to a Turkish "home party."
Holy Coffee – Home to Berk, Turkish hipster/drummer for SXSW bands, and traditional Turkish drink, Salep. Not only did they buy the ingredients fresh for us, Berk invited us to a coffeeshop dance party and brought us along to a Turkish “home party.”
Taking a break from vintage shopping to appreciate the architecture...one of far too many photos.
Taking a break from vintage shopping to appreciate the architecture…one of far too many photos.
Welcome to our day of epic eating. Best of the best? This spicy meat wrap, courtesy of this guy.
Welcome to our day of epic eating. Best of the best? This spicy meat wrap, courtesy of this guy.
Finding our way to "hipster bar" Peyote for some live music and dancing. "You're going to a-love this place" - our friend Berk.
Finding our way to “hipster bar” Peyote for some live music and dancing. “You’re going to a-love this place” – our friend Berk.
The top of Galata Tower...Hello, Istanbul.
The top of Galata Tower…Hello, Istanbul.
Istanbul has islands, who knew? Enjoying a ferry on our way.
Istanbul has islands, who knew? Enjoying a ferry on our way.
Dodging sea gulls on the boat.
Dodging sea gulls on the boat.
Checking out the fish market before awkwardly crashing a way too nice restaurant just for their special fish soup. Worth it.
Checking out the fish market before awkwardly crashing a way too nice restaurant just for their special fish soup. Worth it.
We found the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, a little hideaway in an alley. Still not sure if you're supposed to drink the grounds in the cup...
We found the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, a little hideaway in an alley. Still not sure if you’re supposed to drink the grounds in the cup…
Goodbye for now, Istanbul! You were all I had hoped, and I would love to return.
Goodbye for now, Istanbul! You were all I had hoped, and I would love to return.

Why Istanbul?

istanbul sign

istanbul meatballs

istanbul streets

Isn’t funny how different countries can sometimes seem just the same and completely unique all at the same time?

I’ve now had the opportunity to drive through the countryside in the US, Italy, England and Turkey, and I’m always struck by how, once you are a little removed from the concentrated culture of the city, everyone’s fields and mountains look like just that…fields and mountains.

I suppose there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

For me, my recent trip had a lot to do with perceptions. I started my travels with some hazy, largely unconscious ideas pieced together by a mix of picturesque Pinterest pins, inflammatory news reports and well-meaning but under-educated overheard discussions.

Upon hearing my travel plans, everyone asked, “Why Istanbul?” To be honest, there’s really no one thing. Unfortunately despite good people and a greater God, religion gets it wrong sometimes, which I’ve noticed happens most when cultural and personal biases get lumped in with it by us fallible humans. So I grew up in my church bubble dismissing the region largely due to unawareness and therefore avoidance about Islam. “Classic American,” right? Luckily, through traveling opportunities and curiosity about other cultures that ignorance was not to stay for too long. After taking a missions class about world cultures about 2 years ago, I was even more excited about the area. Out of nowhere, Istanbul was on my mind and seemed to be everywhere…on book covers, Pinterest feeds, a vacation giveaway email and more. I became captivated by the beautiful mosques, long history, fascinating convergence of East / West and completely different but delicious flavor profile.

Here’s just a few of the perceptions, some my own and some that I’ve heard, that I found challenged during my visit:

Turkish people speak far less English than guidebooks and blogs led me to believe. Thankfully, they’re also some of the most hospitable people I have come across so the worst ‘mishap’ experienced was receiving an awful lot of hot tea (çay) when asking for the similarly pronounced check and the more than occasional appreciative laughter at our failing attempts to master “thank you” (teşekkürler).

Yes, the Muslim call to prayer happened every day, multiple times a day. But contrary to popular (American) belief, the city did not stop functioning during those times and no one made us feel awkward or out of place for not participating. Besides hearing it over the city’s loudspeakers, I never really noticed. Honestly, I found the idea of an entire country not only accepting but broadcasting its optional call to united prayer really neat, coming from the US where religion seems to be more and more of an incendiary topic and one we often skirt around in conversation.

Americans. Single women. You are perfectly safe in Istanbul. If you are smart and respectful, there is no reason why these sweet people would have any problem with you. There are bad people in every country, and the only time we received any sort of negative attention was from a passing car while walking back from a club at 1:30 in the morning in a dress and red lipstick…and we just ignored them so they kept on going. Overall, Turkish people really are incredibly welcoming, kind and helpful people. I can’t tell you how many times someone noticed our complete confusion with the bus schedule and approached us to help in whatever way they could despite language limitations. It makes me sad to think that many Turkish people might not have the same reception from every American if the situation was reversed. Because if I’m being honest, I can’t say before that I would have stopped unsolicited in the middle of my daily commute to help a lost tourist.

Turkish people are quite stylish and modern. They’re really into vintage clothes in the New City side of Istanbul, so there were strings of fantastic shops. Women’s unique, fashion-forward combinations were both beautiful and inspiring. The guys especially are very well-groomed, smartly dressed…and really dang attractive. We decided it must be the great cheekbones that everyone seemed to have.

I hope this helps paint a slightly different picture for you than maybe you’ve heard before. And I hope you decide to find out for yourself!

A perfect New York weekend

I’m ba-aaack!

One, I’ve returned from a week and a half vacation reuniting with my long-time love (New York City) and discovering new ones (basically all Turkish people, ever…it helps that they fed me. Very, very well.) Two, it’s time this little month-long blogging hiatus came to an end.

It’s been a crazy last month that on my end only involved 7 – 7 work days trying to make time for The Great Turkish Adventure. But it’s not all work over here – Finding Tiffany’s Lydia was busy becoming a published author (by someone other than ourselves)! It being a story about Italian food only makes it that much more exciting…just imagine all the delicious “research” this piece entailed. Congratulations, Lydia!

As for New York and Turkey, I could probably write a whole novella. For now, though, I thought I’d at least share some of the highlights. Up first, New York City:

This is what a perfect start to vacation looks like.
This is what a perfect start to vacation looks like.
Brooklyn Soda Works. Yes.
Brooklyn Soda Works. Yes.
Gnocchi at Smorgasburg.
Gnocchi at Smorgasburg.

Smorgasburg. Um, delicious. Picture walking in sunny 70 degree weather through tents of fresh food, sipping a refreshing Apple Ginger soda then picnicking along the banks of the East River admiring the skyline. Highly recommend. Plus, I always love me some hipsters, and Williamsburg is basically their home base.

Found it! What a show.
Found it! What a show.

Newsies on Broadway. Dream come true. Even though you can’t see my fangirl Google search history, the occasional Newsies reference on FT might have already given me away as a long-time proponent. I was a little worried this cast couldn’t live up to Christian Bale and co., but I was blown away by their voices, dancing skills and how completely magnetizing this Jack Kelly was even when just in the background of a scene. New goal: go back and pay for the very front row of the mezzanine. Worth it.

The beginning of one of the top five brunches of my life...so far.
The beginning of one of the top five brunches of my life…so far.
New York patio in September? Don't mind if I do.
New York patio in September? Pass the prosecco, please.
Jalapeno sliders...and The Fries.
Jalapeno sliders…and The Fries.

Brunch at Hudson Clearwater. You know when you look up directions to a restaurant and the only ones that come up are from a blog including the words, “When facing North, take fifteen paces to the left and you should find a small, unmarked green door” that this is going to be a food adventure. This place had all the trendy makings to be as pretentious as they wanted to be, but I’m happily surprised to say they were some of the most welcoming servers I’ve met. Sean didn’t even look at us that funny when we told him we were writing a haiku about their french fries because they were so good they tasted like poetry, which, let’s face it, he totally would have been entitled to.

Walking the High Line...beautiful.
Walking the High Line by the Hudson…beautiful.
View from the High Line.
View from the High Line.
Tried to get a shot of my People's Pops and got these precious ones kicking each other instead. #notmadaboutit
Tried to get a shot of my People’s Pops and got these precious ones kicking each other instead. #notmadaboutit
Stocking up on coffee for an afternoon at Central Park
Stocking up on coffee for an afternoon at Central Park
Just a small stop on the way...
Just a small stop on the way…
Central Park.
Central Park. Made it!
Taking a break...deliberating over Instagram filters can be hard work.
Taking a break…deliberating over Instagram filters can be hard work.

We also got to spend some fantastic time catching up with friends from high school and college, without whose hospitality this trip really couldn’t have happened. Let the saving begin for Round Three!

It’s all happening

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia

We had a plan.

After sharing my unfounded but very real passion for Istanbul with my now roommate, we made a pact to make the trip at the end of our lease together – a last hurrah for us in a way, and if things kept on the path they seemed to be, perhaps even a last hurrah for my ‘single’ self.

Partly in hopes of rationing the voice in my head that said things like too far, too expensive, too different, I tried to be responsible. I plotted vacation days on my calendar. I spent hours researching the best credit card for miles (Chase Sapphire Preferred, by the way) then actually got it this time. I steered clear of city research to avoid getting too excited too soon or worse, let down.

Istanbul Streets

Then out of the blue, I got a text: “I can go to Istanbul!!! Let’s GO”

The five (or ten) that followed were filled with dates, exclamation points, summer sale prices and more than our fair share of smiley face variations. One quick trip to Starbucks later we had researched plane tickets and the roommate was literally bouncing off the chair to hit “purchase” when that voice came back again with “reasons”…what if it uses all of my vacation days, what if it costs too much without all my bonus miles, what if it disrupts my dietary needs/issues?

I’m a pretty impulsive traveler by nature, so all this hesitation was so unlike me. For example, my first ticket to New York was purchased on a whim immediately upon opening a travel deal email and without a second thought toward where we’d sleep…and it turned out to be one of the best weeks of my life!

Turkish Coffee in Istanbul

One week later, though, it was clear: the only thing holding me back from Istanbul was me. With the green light from my work and bank, there really was no reason NOT to hit purchase…so we did.

That’s right – I’ll be spending an entire week in ISTANBUL in just 5 weeks! We also timed it perfectly to squeeze out a weekend in New York beforehand.

Pamukkale Turkey

Seriously.

If you’ve been following Finding Tiffany’s for awhile, my wanderlust is no secret. It’s also no secret that I’ve been obsessing over both Istanbul and New York, specifically, for quite some time now. I’m literally going on my ideal trip, accomplishing my latest major life-travel goal.

I’m not exactly sure when I allowed the aforementioned fear to creep in, but I realize now why it did. It’s kinda a scary thing when you accomplish what you thought was a huge goal much sooner than you expected. Yeah there’s always the fear of being disappointed after all the hype, but really it’s more the wide-open realization…Now what?

In the words of my coworker: “Now you need a bigger goal.”

Istanbul Bridge Europe to Asia, East and West

Chicago, finally

I know you’ve all been doing absolutely nothing besides wait for me to post the long-promised pictures from Chicago, so I’m happy to tell you…the wait is over.

In all seriousness, I do feel badly for leading you on for so long. I also hope you do have many better things to do, but if you’re looking to escape from a particularly stressful work day or kill time waiting in line or traffic, I’m happy to oblige with the below stream of photos. (Except the traffic part. Do what I don’t and put. down. the phone.)

My week off work for the Wisconsin wedding and Chicago visit was 100% the re-energizing, fulfilling, fun, relaxing and all those other awesome adjectives that vacations are supposed to be. One major takeaway was the revelation that Madison, WI is quite the cool city with a Portland/Austin vibe: adorable painted houses, two lakes, bike-friendly, focus on local food and businesses, lots of live music and probably more. Who knew? I would completely go back, if only to participate in the (genius) Brunch & Bike event.

As for Chicago, we didn’t make it to a Cubs game, but we did do everything else I hoped for and more including a sunset architecture boat tour through the city, Second City improv show, Hot Doug’s for a real Chicago hot dog, drinking coffee and checking out record shops and bookstores through Wicker Park / Bucktown (the “hipster” neighborhoods, can’t you tell?), a leisurely walk through Lincoln Park and the beach and rooftop swims at our downtown place.

I also found my favorite place in all of Chicago, a cafe called Fabcakes where I enjoyed the most delicious lavendar latte and vegan and gluten-free oatmeal cookies. It wasn’t until after making insta-friends with the lovely people behind the counter and going back for seconds that I saw it – the neighboring restaurant’s hugely printed name next to the cafe’s shaded outdoor patio, “Prosecco.” If that’s not a sign of perfection, I don’t know what is.

school grounds coffee WIwisconsin flowerswisconsin school grounds coffeemadison sourdough bakerymadison sourdough bakery breadWicker Park Bucktown ChicagoView from our downtown Chicago apartmentDowntown Chicago BuildingsLake Street Chicago RiverChicago River architecture boat tourChicago architecture boat tourChicago Skyline at NightSprinkles ATM Chicago - My first dessert of 2013!Chicago BeanWrigley Field and Chicago CubsFabcakes Chicago PatioProsecco Chicago RestaurantChicago Beach and BikesChicago - Lake Michigan

Food, friends and Franklin’s

Hey, remember back when I mentioned I spent a great weekend in Austin? My pictures have been begging me to go ahead and upload them already ever since. “You took us to be seen, didn’t you?” they say pointedly while taking up desktop space in a most guilt-inducing manner.

As with most Austin trips, food played quite the prominent role – and the Italian in me vehemently believes good food should be shared. So without further adieu…

franklin barbecue Austin porch

The boyfriend and I made the trek to visit with friends (just the sweetest couple, really) and make another attempt at Franklin Barbecue. You might have heard about this place recently seeing as Texas Monthly’s “Barbecue Guy” (it’s true, this job exists) just ranked it as the #1 best barbecue in Texas, and it’s been recognized as the best in the country by Bon Appetit. See, round one didn’t go so ideally in that I wasn’t actually there, everyone was apparently sleep deprived, one was too hungover to make it despite a valiant effort and one gas station stop for the impending sickness, it poured the Texas equivalent of freezing rain throughout the multiple hour outdoor wait and did I mention I wasn’t there? Despite all this, they came back from lunch saying how more than 100% worth it all this mess was because the meat was just. that. good.

This time around I made sure to secure my invitation and checked the weather – it was sunny skies ahead. Friday night drinking was held to a moderate level during our trip to a laid back downtown bar, Handlebar (as in mustache, found courtesy of a “Austin hipster restaurants” Google search), and dinner at Frank, whose hot dogs and bloody mary’s have made a couple tv appearances for their deliciousness. Bonus: they have plenty of gluten-free options! Of course, I couldn’t say no to a little champagne while watching the sunset and bats on the Congress Ave bridge, too.

congress avenue bridge austin bats

We woke up the next morning and made it to Franklin by 8:30 a.m. with lawn chairs and a cooler of mimosas and bloody mary’s in tow. A line was already beginning, but we weren’t too far back and the weather was beautiful so we were feeling pretty optimistic. While Franklin actually opens at 11, they’ve sold out of everything every day since opening two years ago, so you want to get there early to make sure they’ll still have the menu items you want. After a leisurely wait in an atmosphere of giddy anticipation from the crowd, the doors opened. I can’t even describe the richness of flavor, the silky texture of the meat, the way it literally fell off the bone and melted in my mouth…Just go there.

franklin barbecue line waiting tips

franklin barbecue BBQ food

franklin barbecue brisket picture

We wrapped up the weekend sunning our stuffed stomachs by the pool. Perfection.

Texas Monthly also ranked Dallas’ Pecan Lodge as number two, so we’ll be reuniting soon to see how it measures up. I’ll keep you posted!