Note: This evening’s itinerary also works for date night!
I like to do a group outing with girlfriends once every week or two, but sometimes we get into a rut – where we are doing the same things, going to the same places, etc. So, for 2014, I’ve made a commitment to try and mix things up a little (nothing too crazy) and try to do something a little different each time we get together. Last night was our first night since the holiday madness, and me and gals decided to hit up the northern edge of Congress near the Capitol – frankly, a seeming no man’s land in the evenings.
Stop 1 – 6pm: The Contemporary – The Jones Center at 7th and Congress
For a steal at $5, you can get in to The Contemporary – Jones Center, and view the exhibitions on site (apparently, your receipt gets you into the Laguna Gloria site for a time period after purchase, too – so that’s an even better deal!). Right now, they’ve got a video installation by Liam Gillick and a huge installation piece by Marianne Vitale.
If you are REALLY into the artists / art – they also had a sort of reading area in the gallery with supplemental reading materials pertinent to each. We blocked out an hour for this segment of the night – but you could probably get what you need in 35 minutes, unless you’re going to take advantage of the reading lounge.
Note: Apparently, it is against the rules to go to the center of Vitale piece and stand in the open space. You will get heartily admonished by security. So we hear.
Stop 2 – 7pm: Quattro Gatti, 908 Congress Avenue
Y’all – go to Quattro Gatti. We simply had the nicest time dining there last night. The owner / operator Gianfranco Mastrangelo (or, as I like to call him, the Italian Mitt Romney – because he looks a lot like Mitt Romney), was there and was attentive and friendly, as was our server. And the food was good, authentic, Italian, and not too terribly priced. Service was a little slow – but conversation amongst our group was anything but, so we didn’t mind too much. Here’s the full menu. I had:
- Glass of Red Wine – $7
- Simple Mixed Green Salad (large portion) – $7.5
- Potato Gnocchi (large portion) – $15.50
For the quality of food and the portions, I thought this was reasonably priced. They are also open to half-orders if your appetite’s a bit smaller, which is super great.
North of 7th, Congress seems to simply kind of shut down, particularly at night. The 9th block of Congress’s east side is bogged down by blighted, vacant buildings. Very few of the shops are open past 6 or 7 (even the Starbucks at 10th and Congress closes at 6pm every day, and the locally owned franchise coffee shop Lavazza Espression closes at 9pm on Saturday). The business that far north on the main street of downtown Austin seems to be mainly driven by day-time uses, and it would be lovely not only for locals, but also for tourists, to have more night-time uses in that area of Congress Ave.
There’s been talk of development of a few sites along 8th and Congress and 9th and Congress – but to date – there’s been no breaking ground on any of the projects. Quattro Gatti is a delicious, authentic restaurant that’s just a little ahead of its time, and should be supported!
Stop 3 – 9pm: Annie’s at 3rd and Congress
Okay, so this is much further south on Congress, but I just love Annie’s for coffee and dessert. So, our female wolf pack walked the 6 blocks from Quattro Gatti to Annie’s to enjoy just that as the nightcap to our Girls’ Night Out. We ordered 2 of their tarts (one lemon, one chocolate) and each had a coffee spiked with Kahlua or Bailey’s. A great way to end the evening for about $15.