Making the most of Austin, TX

If the music calls you to Texas, try FSB's picks for the perfect stay.

By Katy Howe and David Whitford, FSB Magazine

(FSB Magazine) -- You could do a lot worse than the hill country of central Texas this time of year. The days are warm (but not too warm), the nights cool; rain is rare and next month South by Southwest, Austin's 21-year-old music, film and interactive-media festival, is in full swing. SXSW (March 9 to 18; offers enough workshops, speakers and trade-show booths to qualify as a business deduction.

If you go, try to get a room at the Hotel San José ( Owner Liz Lambert, 47, is a Texas gal from dusty Odessa who arrived in Austin by way of the Manhattan district attorney's office, bought and renovated the dilapidated San José and reopened to accolades in 2000.

The dining room at Zoot's restaurant
Tears of Joy's house sauces are made in the store.
Outside the hotel San Jose

Even if the Continental Club, known for blues, rockabilly and country acts, were not directly across the street, you would still choose this funky, 40-room boutique, with its clay-tile roof, polished concrete floors, neon accents and music-themed bedrooms. Ask for room No. 50 ($285 on weekends), a suite decorated with Johnny Cash posters, overlooking the courtyard garden and its swimming pool. Note to pickers and crooners: The San José has a 10 percent discount for gigging musicians.

Austin is not short on Tex-Mex joints - notably Texas Chili Parlor by the state capitol or Bill Clinton's reported favorite, Guero's Taco Bar. But for a break from beans and cheese, head to Zoot ( just west of downtown.

Austin native Stewart Scruggs, 46, head chef when the restaurant opened in 1991, gave the 1920s bungalow a design overhaul with mid-century modern furnishings when he and his business partner bought it from the original owners in 2003. A recent three-course tasting menu ($45, or $70 with wine pairings) included sea scallops with shiitake mushrooms and ginger lemongrass broth, crispy pork-belly salad with sunflower sprouts and pickled watermelon and Alaskan wild salmon with lemon crème fraîche. No matter how full you may be, get the sugar-plum soup with honey fritters.

To bring home some local heat, visit Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop ( Named for founder Joy Burleson, the shop has been run by her son, Brian Rush, 35, since 2002. He sells 250 hot sauces, the majority from Texas, and makes Tears of Joy's house brand in the store. (Try the tequila lime flavor.) The hottest bottle in the shop - Blair's 16 Million Reserve - costs $300, though Rush has yet to sell any. "I wouldn't even taste it!" he says.

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