Tag Archives: texan

Blue Owl Brewing



Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂


Austin and its surrounding towns are becoming a mecca for small-starting breweries, which we are not mad about here at Texas Lifestyle. In fact, we are starting a monthly beer series! Know of an amazing brewery that we need to cover? Let us know!

Blue Owl is first up—tucked away off East Cesar Chavez, they create five sour-mashed beers, and they’re all pretty great. New to sour-mashed? I was too—don’t worry, they’re not eye-popping sour, just a bit more tart than your usual draft.

Sour-mashing is a much faster process than barrel-aged sour beverages, so the product is a taste that’s closer to their natural state.

OK, OK, onto the beers. Blue Owl makes 1) Spirit Animal- a sour pale ale, 2) Little Boss- sour session wheat, 3) Professor Black- sour cherry stout, 4) Van Dayum!- sour red ale, and 5) Dapper Devil- sour raspberry Belgian strong, their winter seasonal.

I’d definitely recommend stopping in for a brewery tour and scratch-off tasting card—it’s an awesome deal and allows you to figure out which sour-mashed is for you. The brewery is super cute, too. I know, I know, breweries aren’t supposed to be “cute,” right? Well, whatever, this place is cute—quaint seating, tiny decorative plants, owls everywhere (not live owls…yet). I’m especially a fan of the small, lit-up patio area.

However, there’s good news for those of you who’d rather enjoy a drink at home—Blue Owl is now canning their concoctions. You should be able to find them at any grocery store, but they sell fast!

Put a new spin on your typical after-work happy hour, weekend BBQ, or nightcap. Blue Owl’s sour-mashed beers are so fresh and unique—you’ll love the change from the ordinary.





Originally written for and posted by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Cantine Italian Café and Bar: The Upscale Side of Pasta

By Alysha Kaye Mendez


I don’t know if you fellow Austinites have noticed, but there aren’t very many solid Italian places here in the capital city. Pizza, sure. But I’m talkin’ homemade risotto, handcrafted bucatini, perfected spaghetti…you get the idea.

Cantine Italian Café and Bar, fairly new to the South Lamar main strip, is that missing element. Although the menu is small, each plate tastes like your long-lost grandmother from Tuscany whipped it up especially for you—slaved over the stove for hours, in fact, concocting each noodle to absolute excellence.

With the deliciousness comes a bit of a price tag—Cantine is definitely going for the upscale, fine-dining look. The wine list is extensive, the wait staff is super formal (in a polite, elegant way), and the décor is chic, modernly minimalistic. However, I was there on a Monday, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mondays are Happy Hour all day! Hooray!

We started off with fried goat cheese—they were so different, really unusual and tasty. They were served with red onion jam and honey. The calamari was standard, but the sauce they serve with it, mojo picon, was not—it was a bit too spicy for me. Amazingly, the chef prepared a simple red dipping sauce for me upon request—much better in my opinion.

Then the main courses—spaghetti carbanara and bucatini amatriciana (added sausage to this one). Both dishes were mouth-watering in appearance. The presentation is lovely and your taste buds will agree with your eyes—YUM! I can’t stress enough how much care every item seemed to have taken—every bite tasted equal to the last in flawlessness.

My only complaint? You have to request and buy your own bread. Call me cheap, call me an Olive Garden girl, but you shouldn’t have to pay for tortillas at a Mexican restaurant or bread at an Italian restaurant…am I right? That being said, the olive sourdough with whipped lardo was suberb.

We topped off the fancy late-night stop with dessert—polenta cake with vanilla custard, Amarena cherries, and cherry coulis! So, so, so good—but we couldn’t even finish it since we’d already stuffed ourselves with various forms of divine carbs.

Set a date night or girls’ night out soon—Cantine is wonderful. It’s location is fantastic as well—afterwards, you can walk to Alamo Drafthouse for a movie or Barlata for a drink.

VOX Table



Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Looking for a new twist on date night? Obviously, Alamo Drafthouse is a perfect movie spot, but have you seen the snazzy restaurant and bar across from the theater? VOX is lit up at night, quite beautifully, but is barely visible during the day—hidden underneath swanky apartments and overshadowed by Highball and Drafthouse. You can easily walk by the entrance and not realize it, which honestly, is part of the draw.

Once inside, however, VOX is anything but bashful. Modern black and white décor mesh well with a tangle of artistic lighting, a bright area to view the chefs hard at work, and a fully stocked bar.

The wine, cocktail, and beer menu is vast—get ready to spend some time on that. Or, if you’re like me, give up and order a glass of Riesling like you always do when confronted with novel-sized drink lists.

Dinner is the real treat—there’s something for every palette, separated into these categories: provisions (cheeses and breads), leaves + roots, fins + shells, hooves, and feathers + beaks. Plus dessert, of course. Lunch is “TBD” on their website, so right now, they are strictly a dinner (and brunch on the weekends) spot. I really enjoyed how they divided the entrees—we tasted a plate from almost every section!

It has to be said that VOX doesn’t just look upscale—it definitely is upscale, price-wise. Plates are small and shareable, but not cheap, much like the close-by Odd Duck. Everything was delectable though, and immediately made the dollar sign not matter much (or maybe that was the wine).

We started with the wood-fired oysters, which were insanely tasty, topped with pancetta, garlic butter, and an herb crumble. Then, we ordered the grilled quail with mushroom bread pudding, which was also delicious, but paled in comparison to the poutine (crispy potatoes with gravy, cheese curds, and pig head terrine) that was next. Although at this point, we were stuffed, the “tongue + cheek buns” called to us, closing out the night. They are basically fancy barbaqoa-stuffed rolls and they are phenomenal. We couldn’t finish the third, and vowed to take it home for breakfast the next day—we had big plans for topping it with a fried egg. I will definitely be back one day soon to try the calamari noodles.

If you are a foodie, if you are in Austin, if you have some time to kill before your Drafthouse showing, if you need a chic night out—VOX Table is for you.  Happy wining and dining!



About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

Austin Opera’s Of Mice and Men



Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Combining a love of classic literature and amazing music—it’s not an easy task. I had my doubts when I scored free tickets to the final dress rehearsal for “Of Mice and Men” at the Long Center. Steinbeck and sopranos?! I thought skeptically. Didn’t seem to be a match made in heaven, especially since the novella deals so heavily with Lennie Small’s mental disability. I underestimated the Austin Opera—they skillfully and successfully conveyed all of the intricate themes of the book.

If you haven’t read “Of Mice and Men,” do so—right now! I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed the opera if I hadn’t read the novella first—I definitely recommend reading, then enjoying the performance. But don’t worry, you have plenty of time. The novella is called a novella for a reason—it’s super short (but packed with amazingness). However, as I type this, I’m reminded that I went to the opera with someone who had never read the novella—and he still enjoyed it thoroughly! Maybe the English teacher in me can’t help but push reading on people. I will say, if you haven’t read the novella, the opera could be a little too slow for you. It’s not an action-packed plot or a twisted romantic drama—it’s a character piece.

Corey Bix, who plays Lennie, is making his Austin Opera debut with “Of Mice and Men” and wow—what a debut! It’s not only his insane vocals that will impress you, but simply his presence on the stage. You can’t take your eyes off him as he struggles through life on the ranch; you find yourself rooting for him so relentlessly. That’s how you know Bix’s performance was outstanding—Lennie is a character who you shouldn’t be able to help but love.

The orchestra was phenomenal, the props, backdrops, and costumes were perfect, and they even used a real-life dog and puppy on stage—I loved that extra touch (although, if you know the story, that might not excite you too much). Also, lyrics appear on a screen above the stage, which is helpful if you’re like me, and not always fluent in opera. Every effort made by the composer, director, and cast did not go unnoticed—it was flawless.

Austin Opera is currently selling tickets to only three shows—January 23, 28, and 31—so act soon!


About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com


Marfa, Texas!



Originally published as an article for Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

This is what I knew about Marfa, TX: They have a Prada store in the middle of the desert that’s not an actual store, but rather, art. It sounded downright ridiculous to me.

This is what I now know about Marfa, TX: That Prada store in the middle of the desert may sound ridiculous, but it’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s still ridiculous and I’m not hipster enough to really “get” why it’s ART…but it’s cool too see, sitting there in the middle of nowhere, black widow spiders crawling amongst the designer shoes.

Marfa is one of those bizarre little towns (Texas has so many) that you just can’t help but add to your bucket list for no apparent reason. I knew a little bit more about Marfa than just the Prada store—I’ve heard it called “the art mecca of Texas” a few times, I knew there were a couple big music festivals hosted there, I knew there were teepees to stay in, and I knew Beyonce herself took a road trip there—that was enough for me. I had to go!

First stop: Food Shark. A food truck serving up agua fresca and pork sandwiches. DELICOUS. But honestly, the best part wasn’t the food. The best part was the change I received: a two dollar bill and a Sacagawea coin. I needed that laugh after a 7 hour car ride. Only in Marfa.

food shark

Next up: The Chinati Foundation, a giant contemporary art museum, but definitely not your average gallery. You don’t pay a small fee and walk quietly through rooms of various masterpieces. We paid zero dollars and walked through a field to see huge cement constructions that I can only describe as…kind of eery. That particular exhibit was also going to transform into a concert venue that night (also free). Oh-so-Marfa.


A quick stroll through downtown was next, stopping in a couple art galleries, including Ballroom Marfa, which featured an old truck embedded with multiple species of cacti.


We poked our heads in the town’s grocery store, The Get Go, which was like an entire farmer’s market packed into a tiny bedroom. Another store called Freda sold handcrafted jewelry and ice cream sandwiches. Marfa Book Company was a pretty neat place (as are all quirky, independent bookstores, if you ask me, so I might be a little biased). And then…honestly, that was all there was! Sure, there were a couple more tiny shops, restaurants, and museums that we passed by, but all in all, we’d seen the gist of Marfa in a couple hours, tops. A vehicle isn’t necessary at all—you can walk everywhere. I definitely suggest planning your trip to Marfa either a) around a music festival or b) with multiple other stops on the agenda.

However, the main event, for me at least, was the Prada exhibit. Or, as the artists called it, “a pop architectural land art project.” Huh? It was pretty amazing to stand in the middle of the road, not a car or other building in sight, and stare at the petite room of thousand-dollar purses. It’s hard to explain. Just go and see it for yourself!

The only Marfa to-do item that didn’t get to-done was the Marfa Lights—we would up leaving town early and therefore didn’t get a chance to see if the mysterious lights are real or just reflections of car headlights (that’s the theory floating around the interwebs). More reason to go back for another visit one day! Marfa is a sleepy town with the strangest blend of West Texas tranquility and new-age charm—it’s definitely worth the road trip.

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

Conjunto Los Pinkys: The Sound of Austin’s Eastside


Originally an article I wrote for Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂


Ever wondered what Austin’s East Sixth Street was like in the 1950’s? Isidro Samilpa and Chencho Flores are two musicians from Austin’s Chicano music scene whose careers started there—and are still thriving with weekly performances in the same area, at The White Horse!

Along with Javier Cruz (bass), Clemencia Zapata (drums), and Bradley Jaye Williams (bajo quinto, accordion, voz), these five make up Conjunto Los Pinkys, a traditional “conjunto” band founded in 1991. Conjunto is a Texas-Mexican style dance music which features the button accordion and bajo sexto. According to their Facebook page, “Many international and regional musical styles are represented in conjunto music, including the influence of the Spanish, German, Polish and Czech, American popular music, Mexican-Norteño ranchera, Colombian cumbia, waltz, redova, shotis, huapango, bolero, mambo and country two-step.”

Sounds like a lot all rolled into one sound, right? Well, that’s what makes the experience of seeing them live—and dancing to their music—so, so, so much fun. Don’t know how to dance? Neither do I. However, The White Horse does have a full service bar and there’s a high chance that an adorably wrinkled gentleman in a cowboy hat will ask you to dance and I dare you to say no. You won’t. Plus, just hanging out around the dance floor and watching other people dance (especially the older couples dressed in their Sunday bests) is a blast.

“The White Horse is one of the last places on 6th Street where this kind of culture now exists,” said bandleader Bradley Jaye Williams. “We are thankful to The White Horse for embracing this musical tradition and important aspect of the conjunto music scene—the community.”

Howdy Darrell, booking manager at The White Horse, said that although they are technically a honky-tonk bar, they wanted to include other genres and bands from the community. On the Sunday tardeada (which means afternoon party in Spanish), he said, “It’s a great get together and an important part of the diverse, eclectic musical community we have here in town.”

Conjunto Los Pinkys have recorded two CDs with Rounder Records and have performed at the Tejano-Conjunto Festival and Fiesta de las Flores in San Antonio, Accordion Kings in Houston, Del Rio Cinco De Mayo and Diez y Seis Celebration, The Johnstown Folk Festival in Pennsylvania, Day of the Dead in Birmingham as well as numerous clubs, dancehalls, weddings, anniversaries, quinceñera parties, and church bazaars.

Want more Los Pinkys? There’s a fantastic documentary that’s been made about them. They’re kind of a big deal. Two years ago, Austin’s local PBS-TV affiliate KLRU TV filmed the band at home, on the job, in the recording studio, and at their weekly Sunday dance at The White Horse for seven weeks. The 26-minute documentary “Tardeadas” has aired around the country and is available on KLRU’s website.

Stop into The White House this Sunday Funday for some live music, a cold beer, and a Bomb Taco from the food truck in their back patio area. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be brave enough to dance—the accordion starts at five!

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com


Freelancing for Texas Lifestyle Magazine


september issue

That’s right, I’m officially a freelancer. I, Alysha Kaye, the girl who used to think freelancer meant everything you wrote had to be written for free. It IS a confusing word, you have to admit.

I’m really, really excited about my new gig at Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂 My editor, Elaine Krackau, has been super open to the jumble of ideas that I’ve thrown at her over the past month.

My first piece just came out- a fun little article on downtown Austin’s Hideout Theatre and the crazy mix of improv shows they host. Read it here.

Next up: a piece on Port Aransas’ Sandfest (publishing next week).

Yay for new opportunities and yay for sharpening my writing skills (it’s not like much work has been done on novel #2…) and yay for having something to keep me busy during this long teacher summer!