Destination: Austin

The ‘Bill Clinton Ate Here’ Effect

Wherever former President Clinton eats, crowds follow. Writes David Segal: “[F]ew phrases are more bankable to restaurants around the world than this: ‘Bill Clinton ate here.’” Here’s why:

It’s widely (and correctly) assumed that he has good connections everywhere he visits, so he’s unlikely to wind up at a dud. More than most celebrities, he seems like a person who appreciates good food, and before he had heart surgery, he was known for his wide-ranging appetite.

And when Mr. Clinton visits a restaurant, everybody in the room knows it. Douglas Band, an aide who frequently travels with Mr. Clinton, says that his boss introduces himself to every diner, as well as every waiter and every kitchen staff member. He will always pose for photographs and sign guest books. Someone from his staff will send a thank-you note a few days later.

Anyone who trails in Mr. Clinton’s dining path will eat well, but should know that his taste in restaurants, when he actually selects them, runs to the bright, lively and unfussy. The white table cloth, 10-course prix fixe experience is not his style.

I’ve happily followed in Clinton’s dining path, here in D.C. and elsewhere. I regret waiting until my final day in Little Rock, a Sunday, to track down one of his favorite spots. Alas, it was closed.

Which American City Spends the Most on Food and Drink?

That’d be Austin, TX, per this cool graphic posted at Flowing Data. As the chart’s creators note, that’s a lot of Torchy’s Tacos. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

Keeping Austin Weird: The iPhone Slideshow

Armed with her iPhone during the South by Southwest festival, Valerie Conners roamed Austin's streets and captured the town's indie spirit

See the full photo slideshow »

What Some Locals Have To Say About SXSW

Twitterers are all a-twitter about the fun they’re having at SXSW in Austin, and the party is only just getting started. But are long-time locals having as much fun being descended upon by the hipster masses? I polled a few of my Austin buddies about the fun they’re having ... or not.

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Headed to Austin for SXSW?

Well, consider me envious. The sprawling festival somehow stays right on top of the music, film and new media/tech scenes, and it’s hosted by one of the country’s favorite smaller cities to boot. Just in case you haven’t already got your every minute mapped out, I’ve rounded up some last-minute recommendations and ideas.

The SXSW Insider’s Guide has a hot thread debating the year’s must-see bands (and hey, some of the posters even give helpful rationales/context for their picks), while the Screengrab bloggers offer their picks for must-see documentaries (parts one and two) and narrative feature films.

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Feeling Seasonable?

Four Season, Houston. Photo by alan5o5 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

So, let’s talk Four Seasons. Not the actual seasons—we’re getting plenty of winter fun here in New York—but the hotel chain. Worldwide, the Four Seasons is luring guests with third-night-free packages at about 40 properties. The offer’s ubiquity is what makes it such a value, though you should hurry as it expires come the end of March.

Down in Texas, you needn’t even spend the night to get a taste of Four Season goodness. The Houston and Austin properties have special offers for visitors who want to check out the facilities. Austin’s package features a massage, lunch and day-long use of the steam room for about $160 bucks; in Houston, you can drop $20 for access to the pool on weekends. Depends on how much you’re spending on a day at the spa in the first place, but should your plan to survive the economic downturn involve finding a sugar mommy or daddy, the outlay may prove worth your while.

Going to SXSW? Put the Harry Ransom Center On Your Schedule.

Evelyn Waugh's inkwell Photo by Eric Beggs
Photo by Eric Beggs

The South by Southwest (or SXSW) film, music and interactive festival is less than a month away. Got your plans and reservations yet? (And did you know that many Austinites flee the city as you arrive? Too much traffic and other mishigos.)

I realize that SXSW is all about the future of this, that and the other, but while you’re in town, I urge you to carve out some time to pay your respects to what many consider a dying art form, the written word, with a stop at the free galleries at the Harry Ransom Center.

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