Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Austin Cosmic Cowboy

Austin Cosmic Cowboy Tour

Austin Cosmic Cowboy- the nighttime Duck tour. Yeah, I know, Duck tours are lame and corny. Not this one. Well, maybe a little bit corny, but in a great way.

Greg Strake and Leeann AthertonInstead of being greeted with a rubber duck or quacker, you'll be greeted with smiles, live music and cold refreshments. Greg and his crew go out of their way to make sure you have a good time, and the package includes locally produced refreshments and a meal, as well as the tour of Austin and obligatory splash in Lake Austin. Although not listed on their website, I have heard rumors that they have an interesting and tasty variety of Locally Distilled Refreshmentsbeverages available, all locally produced. And iced tea, too.

The evening starts with a tour of the downtown area, then a stop to pick up the evening's meal, then continues through the streets of Austin as you drink and dine. There is live music on board every night, Greg has lined up a long list of great performers and they change regularly. The last time I rode was on the now-infamous Hackers on a Duck BSides Austin afterparty and we were entertained Leeann Atherton on that evening. After dining it is time for a little aquatic adventure in the lake, then back on dry land for a stop at a local watering hole Mean Eyed Catbefore ending the evening. We stopped at the Mean Eyed Cat on our outings, a former chainsaw repair shop turned bar. You will not mistake it for the lobby lounge at a Holiday Inn, and that's fine by me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

IMG_0795 Another San Francisco favorite of mine; a tourist attraction, a relic of another time, a cliche, a place so tacky it crosses back over into having class, and a great place to hang out and watch people.  On bottom floor of the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, the Tonga Room started life as the hotel's swimming pool area.  Some time in the mid-40's it was converted into an over-the-top  Tiki IMG_0810Lounge, and the pool remained as a central feature- but instead of swimmers it hosts a pontoon boat which serves as the lounge's bandstand.   IMG_0807

Ship's rigging from the remnants of the S. S Forester adorn the lounge, as do Tiki Huts, a faux long house, outrigger canoes and more.

A bit over a year ago the Tonga Room seemed destined to close, it had fallen out of favor with many, at least partially due to neglect from management- the food was disappointing, the drinks were OK, but expensive, and it needed some scrubbing.  When word of its potential demise got out, the masses rallied, the Tonga Room was packed nightly- the food and drink got better and the room was cleaned up.  It seems to have recovered and sustained enough business that it is apparently no longer in immediate danger of closing.

During the week there is a happy hour, plenty of appetizers are out on buffet tables, enough to make a meal if you are so inclined.  There is a one drink minimum with the happy hour.  There is also a full restaurant menu for traditional dining options.

About those drinks- they are not cheap (specialty drinks generally start at $10) but they are good, and they are STRONG.  Do not be surprised if odd things start happening after spending quality time in the Tonga Room.



Monday, March 15, 2010

Jack's Cannery Bar, San Francisco

My first real post on this new blog, and the venue is a bar I really like. Yep, a bar, in a tourist trap area, Jack's Cannery Bar. But it is pretty cool, and a bit of an oasis from the Fisherman's Wharf tourist mobs.

I really like to "just sit" at Jack's, maybe have a conversation with my traveling companions, maybe just sit. The dark paneled walls, including some centuries-old carved panels, and the high intricate ceiling provide plenty to stare at while pondering the meaning of life, avoiding eye contact with family, or just pounding another beer before rejoining the masses on the street. It has several booths and tables which accommodate up 6-8 people, so it is a good place to land with a crowd, too. There is an outdoor seating area, great for a little fresh air, or for catching the musicians who often play the small open-air stage at the Cannery.

They have a lot of beer- 85 beers, over 60 of them on IMG_0763tap, a good selection and reasonably priced (especially for a tourist area). For the non-beer drinker (or those who want a change of taste) they generally have a couple of ciders and a perry (think "pear cider") on tap.

Food is OK. Just OK, not great. The menu is pretty sparse, especially compared with the myriad of places to dine on and around Fisherman's Wharf. And not cheap, either (not expensive by any means, just no bargains). They do have a $9.99 steak dinner, which is a $9.99 steak dinner. Oh, and they don't take credit cards- cash only, but there is an ATM on site. Unfortunately, the ATM is a free-standing unit, the kind that are way too easy a target for "bad people", so just bring cash.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Another beginning

I am a bit of a curmudgeon; I am also a cheapskate and a spendthrift, and when the moon and stars are aligned just right, I am all of these at once.  Oh, and I travel occasionally.  This blog is mostly about places and things I encounter while traveling, but will sometimes include things closer to home.  These will mostly be things I enjoy, but I may occasionally out some deserving dump.  That does not mean YOU will like or dislike them, that's the problem with blogs, any idiot can have one (or more).

NOTE: this is not the incoherent ramblings of a bitter old Information Security Curmudgeon, I keep that over on my other bloggy thing.