Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Weekend in Austin...Featuring JW Marriott Austin and the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest!

Photo provided by JW Marriott Austin
Michael and I are fortunate to live just 1.5 hours from Austin. That means we're able to enjoy several fun weekend getaways to Texas' capital city each year. We recently enjoyed a relaxing overnight stay at the luxurious 1,00o-room JW Marriott Austin. Our hotel stay was followed by a Sunday afternoon enjoying Texas' best BBQ at the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest! We arrived at the JW Marriott Austin on a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon. We were very impressed with the hotel's cool, modern look. Check-in was smooth and quick, and we were on our way to our corner Executive Suite overlooking Downtown Austin. The large suite reminded us of a sleek high-rise apartment. Our suite featured a large living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a pullout sofa, a well-appointed bedroom with a King bed, and a spacious bathroom. The neutral color scheme was very soothing. I could definitely get used to this! 
Before we knew it, it was time for us to head downstairs for a dinner tasting at the hotel's Corner restaurant. Corner features regional Texas ingredients, creative crafted tequila cocktails, and locally sourced brews. Corner's atmosphere is upscale casual, and their menu is full of the big flavors that we love! We started our meal with a sampler of tequila-infused cocktails and a duo of appetizers. The fun Three Dips and Chips sampler included crispy tortilla chips, spicy roasted pepper salsa, creamy poblano queso, and house-made guacamole. We also enjoyed the Low Country Fry Up, which was served in a whimsical fryer basket with paprika-infused remoulade sauce for dipping.
The Low Country Fry Up included a variety of fried foods, including shrimp, spicy andouille sausage, zucchini, and sliced jalapenos. Our meal was off to a fun...and tasty...start! Up next came a trio of signature tacos from Corner's popular Taco Bar menu. We sampled the Pork Carnitas, Braised Short Rib, and Crispy Fish Tacos. Each taco was colorful to look at...and yummy to eat!
The carnitas tacos featured juicy pork, a colorful slaw, and picked red onions. The fish tacos included crispy fish, a sweetly spicy sauce, and a snap pea slaw. The short rib tacos featured earthy beef, chimichurri sauce, and flash-fried shallots. It was fun to sample a bit of all three flavors, but the short rib tacos were my personal favorite. We were getting full, but we decided to share the decadent Pecan Praline Brownie served a la mode to end our meal on a sweet note. It was richly sweet and indeed decadent!
After dinner, we took a brief walk outside to admire the pretty lights on Congress St. outside the restaurant. Before heading back to our suite for the night, we decided to check out the rooftop pool and 24-hour full-service gym. It was too chilly to go swimming that night, but check out the amazing nighttime view of Downtown Austin from the sleek outdoor pool area!
We headed back to our suite retreat and settled in to watch a movie on our living room's 48-inch LED television. We also took advantage of the room's high-speed WiFi to share some pictures on our social media channels. Later that evening, we slipped under the covers of our comfy King-size bed, where we enjoyed a fantastic night of restful sleep -- but not before I enjoyed a bubble bath in our suite's deep soaking tub!

Photo provided by JW Marriott Austin
As part of our stay, we received complimentary admission to JW Marriott Austin's Concierge level. This upgraded guest amenity provides a lovely expanded continental breakfast each morning, all-day snacks and beverages, and evening refreshments. It's also an exclusive retreat where we could watch television, read, or simply visit with friends and family. The Concierge level was a nice touch that really enhanced our stay. For guests who opt not to include this upgraded amenity to their stay, JW Marriott Austin features plenty of dining options -- including an onsite Starbuck's! After our breakfast, it was time to check out and head to the TMBBQ Fest. This was our second year to attend this tasty event, and we had a blast!

The TMBBQ Fest features the very best BBQ restaurants in Texas in one location. For one price, you can sample the best food from BBQ joints located all over Texas! As soon as we arrived, we made a beeline for Franklin BBQ's booth! Aaron Franklin's popular Austin BBQ joint is rated #1 BBQ in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. The line to eat at Franklin's on a weekend can easily reach 3-4 hours...so we were thrilled to be able to try his BBQ with only a 45-minute wait at the TMBBQ Fest. We waited our turn in line and were rewarded by samples of Aaron Franklin's brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. In a state known for our amazing BBQ, Franklin's is truly in a class all by itself!
Michael's favorite BBQ in the Houston area is Killen's BBQ. The line for Killen's was not quite as long, but their amazing BBQ was perfectly smoked! Killen's is quickly gaining in reputation among serious Texas BBQ lovers, and they're hot on Franklin's heels for offering the best BBQ in the state. The views of Austin from the TMBBQ Fest site are gorgeous to look at while you wait in line for some amazing BBQ.
We spent the entire afternoon listening to live music and visiting all 24 participating BBQ joint's booths to sample their BBQ. Some joints offered traditional smoked brisket, while others featured pork and sausage. One BBQ joint even offered smoked lamb chops. As the pictures of the crowd show, Texans love their BBQ. The TMBBQ Fest is extremely popular -- this year's attendance included 4,000 hungry BBQ lovers!
Before we knew it, the TMBBQ Fest was ending...and it was time to head back home to San Antonio. We agreed that the combination of our JW Marriott Austin stay and an afternoon of delicious Texas BBQ made for a perfect overnight getaway to Austin!

Disclosure: JW Marriott Austin provided us with a one-night stay and dinner at Corner to facilitate this article. Texas Monthly also provided us with press tickets to attend and cover their TMBBQ Fest. All opinions expressed are solely my own, and all photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or used without prior permission.

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