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Old 04-04-2007, 11:18 AM
 
110 posts, read 478,119 times
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Warning – long post alert!
OK Austin residents (and people thinking about relocating to Austin), I finally made it to your territory, my wife and two kids (12 and 9-year-old boys) in tow. We spent a lot of time trying to get to know the area, mainly in the downtown and upriver (NW) suburban areas. FYI we are currently living in North San Diego County. I’ve used this forum as a tool many times , and it’s time to give back. So … in the spirit of helping, here’s our impressions (in no particular order):

- The hill country (Lake Austin to Lake Travis) is beautiful. Very green area with lots of mature trees (mainly live oak). Hilly, not mountainous. Not many flowers compared to SoCal (but bluebonnets were popping up everywhere), so the predominant color is a deep green. Lake Austin is really the Texas Colorado River, so it flows and is greenish-brown like a river should be. Lake Travis is a wider lake-looking body of water, blue and quite scenic. Looked like access to both would be relatively easy. Scenic roads due to the terrain and cut-throughs in the limestone.
- The friendliness factor was evident, especially compared to SoCal. People were much quicker to smile, and we didn’t find a single incompetent individual in restaurants, the hotel, anywhere (which amazed us!). Nearly everyone was friendly and wanted to help. Incompetence (fueled by poor attitudes) is rampant in SoCal.
- Disliked the roads across the board. Quality was fine, but signage is poor, and the frontage roads really kinda suck. Countless times we’d see something we wanted to drive to, but then had to do a U turn, switch back past the place again, another U, then stay on the frontage road to get there. Also there are some areas where you have to merge across 4 lanes in about 100 feet to get where you want to go. Also we didn’t know when you could depend on there being no lights (freeway) or not; seemed like a 60MPH highway, then all of a sudden you’re slamming on brakes for a stoplight. Another gripe is the naming … sometimes you’d see 2244, and other times you see Bee Caves Rd … Hwy 1 is also MoPac … Hwy 360 is Capital of TX Hwy … 183 is Research Blvd … 71 is Ben White (I think?) and sometimes 290. Consistency is lacking – everyone seems to call 2244 “Bee Caves”, but no one seems to call 2222 “Northland”? Didn’t run into a lot of traffic, but can only imagine if one of these roads got backed up … everything would just stop. The only interstate is I-35, and it’s only three lanes.
- Food & Restaurants: Austin is touted as having more restaurants per capita than anywhere, and that’s clear close-in to downtown, or once you hit loop 360 and MoPac, but clearly we’re going to have to do some searching if we move into Steiner, since we didn’t find very much to like near there. We loved Freebird’s burritos, Thundercloud subs was OK, Tex-Mex was disappointing coming from California where Mexican food is great. Had a great breakfast at Magnolia on S Congress. The Oasis had a great view with average food. The Steiner/River Place area needs more stuff in general, IMO. This would be an adjustment for us, since we have about 30 restaurants within 5 minutes of where we live now, and everything within about 20.
- There is a tendency to keep stores back from the streets. Good for scenery, but bad is you’re just out trying to find something, and with U-turns difficult (illegal?), once you pass something it takes awhile to backtrack. I’m sure I would learn to prefer it this way though.
- Austin did not look like stereotypical Texas to us. We counted only 10 real cowboy hats in 5 days.
- Downtown was smaller than I thought it would be; the buildings are nice and the capital is beautiful. 6th street is great, but very grownup; I was a bit embarrassed to bring my kids there. Lots of references to “getting laid” and shirts with foul language for sale. We are not prudes … my wife and I loved the vibe … just not for kids too much. Other streets (4th and 2nd) were better for kids. Clean and relatively safe feeling.
- Westlake: Very nice, close to downtown. Noticed a difference in the area compared to Steiner & River Place … a sense that the people knew their “worth” and showed it through some attitude. Also this area was more “Texas” than others, with big money, big jewelry, big people, etc. Westlake High School was old but very nice, but the students did show an air of entitlement more than other places.
- Steiner Ranch: Great master planned neighborhood; lots of construction. Beautiful homes on relatively small lots (0.25 to 0.35 acres). About 25 minutes to downtown. About 8-10 minutes to the nearest HEB, depending on far in you are from Hwy 620. About 25 minutes to nearest movie theater. Very remote, compared to where we live now. Not much within 10 minutes, but nearly everything within 30. Canyon Ridge middle school was very nice – new with lots of smiling kids. Cedar Park HS is nice also but indeed quite far away … they really need to accelerate that new high school planned for Ribelin Ranch (near River Place on 2222).
- Bugs: Better than we thought, but of course it’s not the season and humidity was low. We traversed a lot of new construction areas, uncovering rocks, etc. and saw no scorpions, a few spiders, and lots of fire ants. Looks manageable.
- Lots of people out enjoying their communities. Running, walking, with doggies, playing, etc. Definitely not a shut-in area; people are everywhere doing their thing.
- The bats returned while we were there; didn’t get to see them but it’s way cool how the downtown gets so excited about them.

That’s it for now; I’ll post more as I think of it. Please feel free to post disagreement, as it’s just our opinion. Also, for those looking to relocate, please ask questions and I’ll answer as best I can from the POV of a potential newcomer to the area looking at everything with a critical but hopeful eye.

Peace to all.
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Old 04-04-2007, 12:45 PM
 
66 posts, read 357,572 times
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orionid: thanks for the information. My husband and I are relocating in Sept. of this year and the insight was great. Good breakdown and I appreciate the honesty. Great, helpful post!
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Old 04-04-2007, 01:21 PM
 
Location: Hutto, Tx
9,247 posts, read 24,180,181 times
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What's the difference between Mexicali and Tex-Mex? I've never eaten California Mexican food, but have had Colorado Mexican, and it is just more like a southwestern style. It can be pretty good depending on where you eat, but we missed the gooey, saucy, cheesy tex-mex.
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Old 04-04-2007, 01:33 PM
 
Location: Austin TX
1,209 posts, read 5,860,348 times
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So, have you decided to relocate, Orion?

I'd also make one slight correction - it's not normally going to be 25 minutes from Steiner to downtown. you might have hit it exactly at the right time of day. Normally downtown is 20 to 25 minutes from River Place (we live pretty near the front), and we are almost exactly 10 minutes closer in if you clock from Laura Bush school (kinda the middle of Steiner) to the front of River Place. I'd budget more like 35 minutes to get downtown if it's an important travel route for you.

And as far as dining, yes, the 4 Points Area doesn't have much to offer in terms of food. Steiner looks to be adding a few little places within its borders. As the 4 Points Center (near Target and HEB) get further developed, which is starting now, there will be more restaurants. There are also a few places down at 2222 and Jester and one little place in front of River Place.

You can head west into Lakeway for some okay places, but otherwise you're headed in the direction of the mall or toward downtown. In some ways it's good; we eat in a lot more than we used to. Or, we get to order takeout from RP Country Club - their $5 burger special on Friday nights is a good deal!

Also, on the road naming - I believe the 2222 is called 2222 instead of Northland because it's actually Northland for only a small stretch of road. It changes names a few times, and is actually called Bull Creek Road once you head west on 360. Bee Caves is Bee Caves the whole way through.

Last edited by gigi927; 04-04-2007 at 01:52 PM.. Reason: typo
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Old 04-04-2007, 02:31 PM
 
574 posts, read 2,318,079 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by love roses View Post
What's the difference between Mexicali and Tex-Mex? I've never eaten California Mexican food, but have had Colorado Mexican, and it is just more like a southwestern style. It can be pretty good depending on where you eat, but we missed the gooey, saucy, cheesy tex-mex.
It's just different. In So Cal, there is a place called Carmel's that you have to ask for vegetarian refried beans, or else you will get the traditional refried beans made will real lard, and some bacon added in during cooking for even more flavor. They use Jack cheese finely shredded, and the Carne Asada is just really good.

The tortilla they use is bigger than Freebirds or Chipoltle. And, they (the burrito) are easily 16-17 ounces total. The pico and hot sauces are just simple and delicious, and the cilantro and onions on their chicken or carnitas tacos make it a understated, but tasty experience.

I mentioned Alberto's in a previous post, but they have burritos so greasy, you have to be careful. These are greasy in a "good way." Their Chorizo and egg burrito starts off any day right.

So I guess I have described a burrito and taco more than mexican, but the sit down Mexican restaurants, that may even be chains are just really good. I don't know if Carlos Murphys is still around near N San Diego, but they had great fajitas. El Torito is really good, and we haven't found quite the same flavor here.

Texas seems to go more for sliced jalapenos for spice, but I like more "wet" enchiladas, or wet burritos and more pico that is heavy with cilantro. Not as spicy, but my taste buds survive to sort through the subtle nuances of the food. Does that make sense?

To orionid, if you do relocate, make sure you visit Fiesta market. The meat department will make you think of Tijuana or Ensenada, if you have ever stayed in a beach house and shopped in local markets. We go there for many of the base mexican staples we can't find in HEB, like 8 different kinds of Chorizo, premarinated chicken that comes close to El Pollo Loco, large tortillas, etc. By the way, we are caucasian, but I just grew up on a lot of Mexican food growing up in Huntington Beach, and also attend Palomar for a time.
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Old 04-04-2007, 02:31 PM
 
Location: N.W. Austin.
804 posts, read 2,674,518 times
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Sounds like the typical first-timer already enamoured and itching to pack and move!
One thing I have to point out is, you can't expect wherever you decide to move to, be exactly the same as where you're now. Different is just that, and it may actually turn out to be good once you appreciate it for what it is and that will only come with living here.
I had to laugh at the bug report...only newcomers would go to that extent of checking their surroundings so thoroughly. I wonder if you'd have changed your mind about moving if you'd uncovered a scorpions nest under one of those rocks?
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Old 04-04-2007, 02:53 PM
 
110 posts, read 478,119 times
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To address a couple of the questions ---

The SoCal Mexican food widely available is different (again, limited by the couple of places we tried) in that it has thick tortilla chips and shells (not Tostitos), real pulled beef (instead of ground beef or beef paste), real melted cheese (not cheese liquid), and it's all greasy in a good way; great hangover food! I'm sure these places exist; we just didn't find them.

Gigi -- we put a hold on a house in Steiner, but decided to come back to SD to compare before deciding. There's a lot to love in Steiner/Austin, but there's a lot here too ... we have to decide in 2 weeks.

If anyone knows of the restaurants going into the expansion near 2222/620, please let us know! We'd love a Panera or Freebird's closer than Westlake!

Spook -- believe me, we know that no place is perfect, and need to embrace any change; we just have to decide what's most important to us. And no, if we found a nest of scorpions we wouldn't have fled to the airport ... mostly just trying to investigate. Some reports have me led to believe that Texas is infested with large, scary creatures, and my report is that it's not, at least in March!
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Old 04-04-2007, 05:56 PM
 
Location: Austin 'burbs
3,226 posts, read 13,130,400 times
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The "cheese liquid" is our well loved Queso!!!
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Old 04-04-2007, 06:07 PM
 
Location: Coachella Valley, California
15,582 posts, read 37,747,032 times
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We had the same problem with the roads in Austin when we were first checking things out! We couldn't understand why they have 50 different names for the same road! Very confusing. Also the turn around situation if you miss something is annoying. What I particularly didn't like was that you have this 60 mph highway with people flying around like bats outta hell and NO CENTER DIVIDERS!!! Call me paranoid, but my brother was killed by a guy crossing over into his lane on a road with no center dividers, so I am a little apprehensive about those kinds of situations.
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Old 04-04-2007, 06:20 PM
 
Location: SW Austin & Wimberley
6,208 posts, read 16,026,184 times
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Quote:
I wonder if you'd have changed your mind about moving if you'd uncovered a scorpions nest under one of those rocks?
I've lived in Oak Hill since 1999 and have been bitten by scorpions three times. Never was stung in the 14 years in Austin before 1999. Last week I found one crawling across my living room floor and tossed it out in the grass. I never kill them as it's bad luck and bad karma to kill a scorpian. We also don't spray chemicals in or around the house to rid them. They are just part of living in the hill country.

Our scorpions are not the same ones seen in Clint Eastwood westerns. They sting badly but it goes away soon enough. Comparable to a yellow jacket sting. Two of my stings came while sleeping and having them crawl into the bed. The other was when tossing laundry into the washer and grabbing one that had crawled into a towel. Don't leave your laundy laying on the floor in darl areas like a closet.

If you should be so honored as to receive a scorpion sting after you move here, consider it a Texas Welcome. You'll get to brag to your California friends about it too.

Steve
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