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Austin is so much more than just hipsters and SXSW

A blue food truck in Austin.

When you think of Austin, what springs to mind? Undoubtedly, it’s SXSW, hipster beards, tech startups and indie bands. And whilst all of these things certainly add to the unique charm and flavour of Austin, don’t think for one second that they define it.

So if those things aren’t Austin, what is?

To find out, we spent the day with Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier, co-founders of Lick ice-cream, just one of many Austin businesses who are helping to define the city as place that, above all else, cherishes entrepreneurial spirit. A place where ‘buy local’ and ‘eat seasonal’ aren’t just tag lines, but philosophies…

What is it about ice cream that makes it something everyone in the world can enjoy and share in?

C: There is so much nostaligia with icecream. It’s a part of everyone’s childhood, I think about half of my childhood memories would be of making ice cream with my grandparents. You associate it with birthday parties and celebrations – it’s seems like momentous occasions and celebrations always have an ice cream component.

A person mixing ice cream in a bowl in Austin.

Why Austin for Lick? Tell us about your journey to get where you are now.

A: I felt like I needed to feel a connection to the ice creams we were making – it ties into the whole “honest ice creams” part. We really wanted to work with local farmers, work with the local dairy, and the majority of the flavours are inspired by the things that I grew up eating. To me that was huge – I knew that was the kind of ice cream that we wanted to make. So I felt like I needed to be connected again to the place where the shop was, and I feel most connected here.

A man is smoking a cigarette in an Austin store window.

How does your commitment to only using locally sourced produce affect the ice cream flavours you create?

A: I think a lot of people think that it would be limiting, but I actually don’t think it is. It helps us be more creative because we use what they grow, or we work with them to grow certain things. So I think it’s actually really helped us. And it takes some of the stress off, because we don’t have to worry about following trends, we just work with the farmers and the growers so that steers the direction we’re going.

Aside from ice cream, what other foods/food joints are necessities when visiting the city?

A: The breakfast taco! You gotta do the breakfast taco. Barbeque – I’d say specifically brisket.

C: There are also so many amazing chefs in Austin. It’s such a unique art and there are so many amazing outlets for that here. So many chefs here aren’t just trying to please the masses, they’re doing their thing.

A man preparing food in a Austin kitchen.

Austin has seen a monumental rise in ‘coolness’ over the last few years – what makes the city such a trendy destination?

C: I think the weather doesn’t hurt! The climate’s great.

A:  Also the slower pace, the access to all of this green space…

C: …and the support for local, small businesses. We’ve been to so many different cities and in a lot of places it feels like you could be in any city – this place isn’t like that. You don’t see a lot of chain stores, the people behind the city are working really hard to maintain that.

A silver trailer parked on an Austin road.

What is your favourite way to spend a weekend in the city?

A: I’d say just a morning walk or run at the lake, tacos for lunch, a craft cocktail somewhere or a craft beer, and then especially on a sunny day, just sitting outside. There’s so much outdoor dining here, so to just sit outside and get a drink or dinner is pretty wonderful.

And of course there’s tonnes of live music – always a place to go and see a great band every night of the week.

C: And then ice cream obviously. Maybe twice.

A man is standing near a body of water in Austin.

How has the likes of SXSW, with hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world, had an impact on Austin and its residents?

C: It’s definitely put the city more on the map and put it on people’s radars, but there’s a part of me that thinks it doesn’t need it. There’s enough stuff going on here that we don’t need to have these big festivals like SXSW or F1. It’s just par for the course of being here, but they have grown so much in recent years. Which is good in some ways, for the tourist trade and businesses, but we’ve always been a festival city, and those events just make it bigger.

A: That said, it also brings so many more creative types to Austin who end up wanting to stay or come back to visit, so in that way it’s incredibly positive. It brings the kind of people to Austin that Austinites want to have here.

A man on a bike in Austin.

Want to see Anthony and Chad’s full guide to their local hood of the 04 and beyond? Head here for more.