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My Days in Austin's Hyde Park

Having lived in Hyde Park since I was 18 and a student at the University of Texas, I find my peace in this corner of Austin. I remember the feeling of walking into an old pier-and-beam house when I was in my 20s, the comforting smell of a 100-year-old house made entirely of wood. I once told a friend an old house gives you a hug when you walk in, and I still feel that way.

From that tiny little garage apartment I rented at 3813 Duval in 1993 for $300/month to the home I now live in across the way on Avenue H, I have always found comfort in the area's architecture and the sense of community Hyde Park gives you. 

The density of the neighborhood gives it just the right amount of residential density to support amazing local businesses. Today, I’m writing at First Light Books, having coffee on their patio and admiring their landscaping. Lately, if I have solitary work, First Light has been my place; it’s a bookstore with an excellent coffee shop within it, with an outdoor window for quick pick-up and early morning coffee orders before the store is open. If I fit in a tennis game early in the morning, they also have pastries that never disappoint. (The cream cheese strawberry Danish is the winner.)

I spend a lot of time thinking about design and finishes for my next construction project. (We are currently building a garage apartment on Avenue H.) 

The feeling created here by the wooden bar, the marble countertop, and the intricate landscaping and hardscape creates a place for the community to gather, and it gives me great design inspiration.

Public businesses can go so much further when creating this kind of design-focused environment.  As commercial spaces, it’s far more effective for them to spend money on improvements since so many people can enjoy them. It’s not always sensible for homeowners to pay $20,000 on metal planters, but you can come here on a rainy day like today when I’m writing this, sit on the patio, and admire all of their work. Find a space on their pea gravel patio, be surrounded by the established plants, and find a neighbor to say hi to or a dog to pet.

Uncle Nicky’s is another coffee shop closer to my home, in the commercial intersection at Duval and 43rd. It’s an excellent spot for a happy hour glass of wine with snacks or a late-night Gelato. Without fail, you will run into a neighbor if you hop in there at the end of a work day to visit with a friend or meet with a client. Their space was the old Dulce Vita ice cream shop, but it has been Uncle Nicky’s for over five years. Every once-in-a-while, you can find my team heading for a walk to Uncle Nicky’s or Shipe Park to clear our heads.

The Terrible Love coffee trailer is at the Baker School, now the headquarters for Alamo Draft House. My little sister showed me this spot before she left me for LA, sigh. Amazing coffee and an eclectic music selection are the highlights here. Make sure you walk past the thriving garden on the Southeast corner of the city block.

Julio’s is next door to Uncle Nicky’s at the 43rd and Duval intersection. Since we’ve lived here, one of our weeknight staples has been picking up a rotisserie chicken at Julio's to eat dinner at home. The amount of plastic packaging the Central Market chickens come in is always shocking and wasteful – Julio’s sends you home with a chicken wrapped in foil and paper plates. It’s affordable and delicious and supports the neighborhood businesses. You will run into a neighbor or two when you walk into Julio’s on a Saturday morning to pick up your breakfast tacos or even the mayor of Austin. 

On the other side of Uncle Nicky’s is Antonelli’s Cheese (of Citibank’s national commercial fame). We frequently order cheese plates from here when we have ladies' wine & cheese night in the neighborhood.

On the weekends: breakfast tacos at Julio’s, a pastry at Quack’s, and then walking to Terrible Love Trailer for a coffee.

We spent COVID in Hyde Park, walking Avenue G when it was closed to vehicles, running into neighbors on our walks, and visiting each other’s porches. Fresh Plus Grocery became our regular spot since it was so convenient, and we could walk home. It’s easy to think that a small neighborhood store wouldn’t have a great produce or overall selection, but Fresh Plus always amazes us with what they have. Central Market is just a short walk from the neighborhood, but if we are in a hurry and have people coming for dinner, the convenience and selection at Fresh Plus don’t disappoint.

Wherever you go in Hyde Park, you will run into a neighbor you know. When walking with our dog Jacks to Shipe Park to play frisbee, we constantly run into neighbors that are heading to Quack’s to pick something up for their house or on their way to Fresh Plus. On Tuesday nights, Shipe Park hosts the community brass band Blowcomotion. We have also had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the Honk Festival in the spring.

The options change a little if it’s a night out in Hyde Park. Curra’s Hyde Park, Hyde Park Grill, and Julio’s are in the rotation for casual options.  If you’re looking for a special dinner to celebrate, Luttie’s at the Commodore Perry provides an incredibly romantic setting and fantastic food, with sometimes spotty service, but we still love it. Mongers on Guadalupe is a great fish option, and Asti never disappoints with their Italian menu. Get the chocolate cannoli!

The most recent addition to the area is the Bureau de Post, which opened this year in the old post office. And we are awaiting the rumored Allday Pizza  that should be coming this fall. Tiny Grocer, home of the $5 apple, is also at the old post office location; they have a great kitchen gifts section.  If you venture just a bit north of Hyde Park, you can find the North Loop location of Homeslice Pizza; I bet you didn’t know they are known for the Italian sub with homemade bread, or you can stay on 43rd and check out the Parlor which is reminiscent of the punk bars on Red River in the ’90s. 

On the neighborhood's north side is the Flag Store convenience store for a great beer selection, or gelato at Gelatoro, which shares the old mechanic's shop space on Duval and 45th with Juice Land.

Living in Hyde Park has reminded me of the feeling you had in college when all your friends were nearby, and all you had to do was wander around to connect with your people. For quiet time, you can retreat to your home, open the windows, and let the sounds of the neighborhood linger through the screens, but you never feel isolated.

The variety of housing makes it the most economically varied place I know of in Austin. There are apartment buildings, small condominiums, historic bungalows, and mansions. The people you will find here are just as varied and interesting as the architecture!



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