Monday, September 19, 2011

The Bat City Bombshells

 If you were not in attendance for the It's Hot... Take It Off burlesque show September 10th featuring the Bat City Bombshells at the Red Shed Tavern, then you missed a great show.  At just $5 at the door, it was also probably the best ticket for the price in town that night.

 For those who are unfamiliar with the art of burlesque, American Burlesque (derived from the Victorian Era burlesque shows of Europe), are related to, at least in my mind, the shows of the Vaudeville Era.  Burlesque differs in that their main feature is the strip-tease, which is showcased with mildly raunchy comedy, playful musical skits, and dance numbers.  To me, burlesque represents a period of innocence in the American psyche, something more sexual than the typical Vaudeville Show but less jaded than the performances of Exotic Dancers in modern strip-clubs.  The girls in the burlesque shows that I have seen differ from their "exotic" counterparts in that they seem to genuinely be having fun.  Burlesque is about the tease, not the display.  The give-and-take between the performers and the audience is not as one-sided as it is in a "gentlemens club".  A burlesque show titillates and entertains.  It is a turn-on on more than just a physical level.

 Burlesque is simply more fun, and no troupe I have seen in Austin is more fun than the Bat City Bombshells.

 The show was emcee-ed by Nicole Lucas, a comedic wit that was sharp and sassy, a perfect compliment to the performers on the stage.  Cindi's Gifts provided a basket of erotic goodies that was raffled-off and some t-shirts that were handed-out during the show.  The Red Shed Tavern was a superb venue, offering a stage situated outdoors in a spacious and well manicured back-lot.  Even the weather co-operated, treating us to a break in our 100+ degree weather with a cool evening for the performance.

 The ladies were amazing.  The Bat City Bombshells mix classic burlesque skits and modern dance numbers.  The performers ranged from those having years of experience to a few girls who had never performed burlesque for a live audience until that night.  The skits were humorous, sexy, and fun.  Three of the girls, including the notorious Sherry Bomb, treated the audience to a feathered-fan strip-tease, a tradition in burlesque.  There were several sultry solo dances, a couple of the girls dressed as husband-and-wife did a skit and strip-tease about a woman who just had enough with being ignored, and the finale took the audience to a car-wash where the girls made getting a car clean a little dirty.  All the while, the girls were smiling, winking, and having just as much fun as we did in the audience.

 That is simply what makes burlesque great.

 The Bat City Bombshells are an Austin Original, appearing at finer venues all-over town.  Check out their website and like them on Facebook for details about the girls and up-coming shows.  Burlesque is a bit of lowbrow fun, and the Bat City Bombshells do it like no one else in town.

I love my life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Kolache Factory

 Before moving to Austin about, man, has it really been 7 years ago (?)... I had never heard of a "kolache".  Indiana is not exactly the center of the universe, so many of the trends that are common in civilization are unknown to the barbarians living deep in the cornfields of the Midwest.  A "kolache" in this case is an American version of a traditional Central European wedding dessert.  Of course, while theirs is filled with sweet fruits and jellies, we fill ours with meat, eggs, and vegetables and eat them for breakfast.

 We're kooky like that.

 This morning I was a little early arriving at the post office to ship about 3 dozen packages to eBay auction winners (check out my other blogs about an Exit Strategy).  Across the street from the Post Office I use on North Lamar is a Kolache Factory store.  I have had a kolache before, but never from the Kolache Factory.  The name makes me think of an automated-process involving conveyor belts or maybe a Rube Goldberg Machine.  The building is located near what I refer to as "the medical district" (due to the number of hospitals, doctors' offices, and medical-suppliers in the immediate area), and aside form the outdoor dining area it has the look of a small factory.

 Inside, the look is completely different, more like an up-scale doughnut-shop.  The two people behind the counter were friendly and quick to serve, and the kolaches; traditional and American, were on display behind them.  The guy who took my order pro-actively offered to heat mine up.  The microwaves are placed under the check-out counter, right at genital-level... which I am not certain is very safe for employees who might be employed there for a long period... but, fuck it, I don't work there and as long as their mutant radioactive kids have enough brain-cells to take my order in the future then they are welcome to continue to irradiate their genitals to their hearts-content.

 Though, now that I think about it, given where they place your food to "heat it up", it might be wise to be nice and polite to these guys.

 I ordered a sausage-and-cheese kolache and a ham-and-cheese croissant.  The kolache was basically a dinner roll with some cheese-paste and a clone of an Eckrich breakfast sausage in the middle.  The sausage and cheese was baked in the roll and doesn't stick out on either side like at some places, and the cheese was not overwhelming.  The most flavorful aspect of the kolache was the little bit of salted butter that had been brushed onto the roll, otherwise it was, well, a roll with sausage and cheese.

 The croissant was awesome.  Now, to be fair, I like croissants, so I may be a little biased.  My girlfriend does not like croissants, so no matter how I might rave about the filling, it is wrapped in what she would describe as a "vile waste of dough".  The filling in this pastry was excellent.  The ham is cubed to a point of almost being ground-ham, and the Swiss (?) cheese held all the ham together.  A "dollop" of ham is really the only way to describe it, like it had been placed in the croissant with a medium-size ice-cream scope.  

 The croissant rocked.

 The best part, though, was the price.  I spent less than $4 for two filling breakfast pastries.  

 The Kolache Factory is also a Texas original, starting near Houston about 25 years ago.  They are spreading out, coming to a town near you.  If you haven't checked them out yet or have one opening near where you are, I highly recommend paying them a visit.  It is hard to beat the value you get for the price.

3706 North Lamar
Austin, TX 78705

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Hideout

 Let's get something out of the way right now.  Fuck Starbuck's.  Fuck them right in their collective ears.  Starbuck's represents everything that is wrong with our Capitalist System of economics.  Sure, on the surface, you have an American business that has become successful... becoming the model for other coffeeshops across the country.  Indeed, they often buy-out those shops.  They provide jobs for good people and they have a brand that is followed by the masses all-over the world.  The downside is that the American Coffeeshop epitomizes the "mom-and-pop" business.  When someone opens a coffee-shop, it is usually themselves and their family members that actually operate it.  They are invested in how the business runs, knowing who their neighbors and customers are, and creating an environment.  Starbuck's tears the soul right-out of the coffeeshop.  Oh, sure... they pay lip-service to the idea of being a part of the community and they model themselves after the mom-and-pop shops, but when the people behind the counter are minimum-wage earners and not the people for whom this kind of business is a dream-come-true, when it is about peddling as many cups-o-joe as possible and not about creating a place... It just sucks.

 I don't do Starbuck's unless I want a coffee and there is no local option to choose from, and then I have to want coffee really, really bad.  

 With that said, let's talk about the Hideout Theater and Coffeeshop on Congress.  The Hideout caters to and has a focus upon performers; comedians, actors, vaudeville, and burlesque.  It is one of those businesses that "gets" what it is to be a part of Austin.  

 I love this place.

 The first time I visited, it was to catch a burlesque show.  The place was packed, but the folks behind the counter were jazzed about the crowd; happy, friendly, and quick-to-serve.  You could tell that the people were not just employees... they recognized that they were a part of something special, something that goes beyond serving coffee, beer, and sandwiches.  

 I'll talk about burlesque in another post.

 The coffeeshop rocks.  They have relatively the same drinks you would expect from the big corporate machine; frappes, cappuccinos, espresso drinks, etc.  The prices are competitive with those other places as well.  What you don't get at those other places is the atmosphere... the vibe.  Hanging on the walls of this place is a rotating display of art by local artists; whimsical, political, realistic, child-like... As an artist, I can tell you what a boon it is to have a place like The Hideout who will display your art.  Try walking into your local Starbuck's and getting your work displayed.  Yeah, not without going through and getting approved by the corporate office, and only if your work meets whatever standard they are trying to maintain as per their brand.  

 The food is drawn from other local businesses.  This morning I went in and had an espresso-shake made with Amy's Icecream, a croissant sandwich by a local vendor, and my girlfriend had breakfast tacos from Torchy's Tacos.  Even with the food and drinks offered, The Hideout is a hub for many things that are "Austin".

 The seating offers a variety of options, from over looking the street to sitting in a private corner in the back.  You can come in here on your own or with a large party, and not only find adequate seating, but you can usually be as open or private as you want.  My kids and I like to sit at the table that is on the stage (for when they have local musicians perform) and watch the early morning activity on Congress.  

 Even the music playing caters to the uniqueness and community conscious vibe of the place.  It's not piped in from some corporate-approved digital soundtrack, and is not your top-forty drivel.  Most mornings you will either hear from a local musician or they are pulling music from around the world.  It is always something different and always helps complete the mood.  The Hideout is the kind of coffeeshop where you can relax with your friends, sit on your computer and work on a book or artwork, or just get your thoughts in order.

The Coffeeshop supports the improv theater, which is the heart-and-soul of The Hideout.  These folks are students of just about every style of improv you can imagine; short form, long form, Chicago-Style, NY-Style, CA-Style, Austin-Style... especially Austin-Style.  They teach improv to those who are interested, even offering a free introductory class for the curious.  They are dedicated to their craft and keeping the art-form alive-and-well.  They offer classes for adults and children. 

 The Theater has something for everyone.  Comedy is their main billing; offering not only a venue for local, amateur, and professional comedians, both Stand-up and improv, but also a stage for a variety of performers.  You get the feeling that everyone involved feels like they are a part of a family, and that they are keeping something of the essential showman experience alive from the days of vaudeville. There are several shows each week, and every show is unique.  For those who are looking for something "Austin" to do, The Hideout is one of the best tickets in town. 

 I cannot recommend this place more highly.  Check out The Hideout for coffee in the morning, for information about what is going on with the creative community, and for an entertaining evening.  

 617 Congress Ave  
 Austin, TX 78701
(512) 443-3688 (H-I-D-E-O-U-T)

The Cedar Door

 The Cedar Door on 2nd (Willie Nelson Blvd) and Brazos has been an Austin Original since 1975.  What drew our attention is its claim as the "Home of the Original Mexican Martini".  In my review of Chuy's, I point to their Mexican Martini as one of the best in Austin, so it only made sense that I needed to try the original.

 Recently remodeled, the Cedar Door has an impressive outdoor seating section overlooking Brazos, banquet rooms, and glass garage doors facing 2nd St.  The interior was spacious, with large flat-screen television within easy viewing distance in any direction you looked but also not everywhere you turned you head.  You could watch the televisions or focus on the conversation at the table with equal ease.  

 The staff was friendly, and it seemed like the servers make a point of letting you enjoy your food and the atmosphere while themselves not getting in the way.  Our waitress did not hover around our table or her section of the restaurant, but kept our drinks filled.  The check came a little more slowly than I would have liked, but then it is the kind of place that encourages you to sit and relax.

 The menu, which also recently changed, included what I would consider common sports-bar fare.  For example, we ordered fried mushrooms as an appetizer and I had the chicken-friend chicken.  The fried mushrooms were similar to those you get at Cheddar's, and the chicken-friend chicken was a step below Applebee's.  Price-wise, though, these same items were slightly less expensive than from the two places I mentioned.  We went with the top-shelf Mexican Martini, and we didn't like it as much as its counterpart of Chuy's.  It was good, maybe even a little smoother than Chuy's Mexican Martini, but it lacked the same spicy-kick.  

 If you are not a fan of spicy food, then you would probably favor the Cedar Door's drink over Chuy's. 

 Over all, it was a cool place to eat; just a couple of blocks from 6th St, good food, great atmosphere, and a competitive price.  If you are looking for a place that everyone can afford to hang-out at before hitting the bars on 6th St, then check out the Cedar Door.

 2nd and Brazos
 Austin, TX