Numerous factors account for the urbanization that has transformed Texas over the past forty years. But perhaps the most important is an amendment passed by the state legislature in 1970 that paved the way for restaurants in Texas to sell liquor by the drink. It seems odd, but before then, alcohol was not such a kingpin in the world of upscale dining (today, many restaurants with bars count on making a third of their revenue from the sale of cocktails, beer, and wine).
Texas ranked tenth in the nation for the most green building last year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which assesses states annually according to the amount of their new construction that is certified LEED (for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). In 2012, Texas had over 36 million square feet.
The secret to this East Austin hangout is to come during the week and snag a spot at the bar. There, you’ll be entertained by the creative cocktails that bar manager Steven Robbins whips up; even the classic Pimm’s Cup gets a tasty twist. Bar Bites like duck fat–white bean purée always makes a great start, but a recent visit offered up a few new seasonal dishes such as crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with a relish of capers and green olives.
A steady stream of books about Texas is published every year, yet to date no one has written a history of the transformations that our cities have undergone in the past forty years. But perhaps no one needs to. That history can already be found in the archives of this magazine. Looking through the first 480 issues of Texas Monthly in chronological order, one can witness the profound shifts of the past four decades in vivid detail.
A great capital city, most everyone would agree, should be representative of the state or nation over which it presides. It should be preeminent not only in size but also in learning, power, and wealth. You might say a capital should be a state or nation’s one indispensable city, the sort of hub that back in the Cold War days was on the short list of places the Russkies would nuke if they had only a few warheads to toss our way.
In Texas, that city is not Austin.
Every January of an odd-numbered year, Austin is overrun by lawmakers who arrive to begin a new legislative session. No one knows more about that experience than Midland’s Tom Craddick, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1968 and served as Speaker from 2003 to 2009. He was sworn in for his twenty-third term last month.
Q: Yesterday on my way home I sat on MoPac for hours. Can you tell me why?
Okay, so Mount Bonnell isn’t really a mountain. It’s more like a hill, a limestone crag—the Slacker of mountains, which is perfect, seeing as part of that underachiever-glorifying movie was shot here. In the last scene a handful of twentysomethings run to the summit through the cedar and oak trees, just as young folks have done since the days of the Comanche. They come to look at and listen to the world below. To drink and get high. To whisper and grope.
One Saturday night three years or so ago, I celebrated the impending nuptials of two friends at a dinner party in East Austin. Much wine was drunk, and, I’m relatively certain, at least one joint was passed in the backyard. Not bad, I thought, for a bunch of thirty- and forty-somethings. After dessert, the more resilient of us opted to take the party public.