Archive for: August 2017

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Austin Named America’s Most Dog-friendly City

By Nancy Huang

Video by Kelsey Machala

 

Peanut, a mixed beagle, jumps onto her owners Jordan Tucker and Kennedy Paris when they come home. Peanut, friendly and excitable, circles the coffee table three times, barks at the window, and obediently sits when Paris tells her to.

 

Tucker, an English student at UT Austin, said that when she and her girlfriend decided to adopt a dog it was a split-second decision.

 

“Austin’s a really good place to raise a dog, but we wanted to adopt,” Tucker said. “[Our dog] Peanut moved around from one home to another, five total. Austin Pets Alive was doing a fundraiser with her and a few other dogs in a pen. We literally just looked at her and were like, ‘hey let’s keep her.’”

 

Such on-the-spot decision making was only possible because of how dog-friendly Austin is. “America’s Best Cities to Be a Dog,” a blog post published by air filter business Alen on Friday, lists Austin as number one in the nation for dog-friendly lifestyles.

 

Alen’s website states that Austin’s 167 restaurants, 15 dog parks, five hiking trails, three tours, and seven pet-friendly stores “provide a lot of options for visitors and residents to bring their dogs along most places they go.”

 

The website’s prominent criteria for ranking order was the BSL census (Breed-Specific Legislation), a list of states that have dog breed restrictions. BSL is a law that restricts or bans specific breeds of dogs because of their appearances or aggressive characteristics. 33 states have some form of BSL in place, while the state of Texas doesn’t have any.

 

The data collected came also came from nokillnetwork.org, a site with data on no-kill cities, and BringFido.com, which lists 315 dog-friendly restaurants in Austin.

 

Austin is the country’s largest no-kill city. No less than 90 percent of the dogs in local shelters are adopted out.

 

Paris, Tucker’s girlfriend, has family in Austin and grew up in a house of three dogs.

 

“Me and all my friends with dogs just get together with all our dogs and drive around the city to hang out,” Paris said. “There’s never really any trouble finding a place to hang out.”

 

According to Tucker, Peanut’s favorite place to go is the Zilker Dog Park, one of the main off-leash areas in Austin.

 

“She’s a happy nut,” Tucker said, before telling her dog how lucky she was to be in Austin.

 

Here is a graphic informing what the top cities in the US are to be a dog,

 

Top 5 US Cities To Be A Dog (1)

Austin’s Transportation Struggle

 

AUSTIN, Texas – Like cars in the night, they come and they go. Through break-ups and make-ups, ridesharing services and the city of Austin shared a tumultuous relationship until one gave into compromise and decided to make things work for the community.

The rollercoaster of emotions took a toll on Austinites when Uber and Lyft had a falling out with the Austin city government in May 2016 forcing alternative options to rise.

The city demanded the ride-sharing services require fingerprint testing background checks of all drivers. But Uber and Lyft argued that was an unnecessary cost they did not want to cover. They threatened to leave, and after Austinites sided with the city in a vote, they did–for a year.

Residents from Austin who depended on the service felt an immediate loss.

“I was an avid user of Lyft and Uber-so were a lot of my friends,” said Eric Shea, 24, a member of the Austin community and Mueller area resident, “Many of us don’t own a car and used a combination of public transportation and ridesharing apps.”

During the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Abbott signed a statewide ride-hailing law that did not require fingerprint testing. So, Uber and Lyft made-up with the city and citizens they left stranded and returned to Austin in May.

The two ride-sharing giants were welcomed with open arms by the very people that drove them out.

But watch out Lyft and Uber, there’s new transportation in town. And it’s offering free pickup and drop-off services, until June 2018, that is.

Pickup is sponsored by CapMetro, a public bus service in Austin. The new service is the first transit agency to operate a ridesharing service using their own vehicles. Pickup began its pilot service in June 2017 offering free rides to everyone within the service area.

As the way people use transportation is changing, with increasing popularity of ridesharing services, we are looking for ways to integrate this into our public transportation service,” said Mariette Hummel, a spokeswoman for CapMetro, “This is a pilot, so it’s important to us to find out what works and what doesn’t.”

Now until June 2018, rides are free on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. within the pilot service zone.

According to the Cap Metro website, Pickup will service a select part of Northeast Austin (see map for detailed locations). cap metro

“The route was chosen because it’s a diverse area including schools, a pool, shops and residential areas,” said Hummel, “It also includes both Mueller and senior living centers.”

  The cost of the service after the pilot program has yet to be determined, according to Hummel.

“I’ll definitely take advantage of the free service,” said Shea, “But I would love to know how much everything would be after this pilot program. I just don’t know if I would use it enough to get my money’s worth.”

With a heavy target to the right demographics, CapMetro’s Pickup service seems like a reliable transportation service, but all will be determined once the pilot program concludes and they start playing with the big boys. 

new-piktochart_23882563_a79e12b9770f5f69f95f9fdf0f26af78cc4300ae

 

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar

The People of Austin Embracing Eastern-Based Cuisines

By: Ross Milvenan and David Lopez

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar is now the hottest restaurant in Austin, according to Eater Austin.

Traditionally, Tex-Mex and barbecue have dominated Austin cuisine, but the success of new restaurants offering more eastern-based cuisines show the people of Austin’s shifting culinary needs and desire for authentic dining experiences. The recent success of Kula Sushi and Ramen Tatsu-ya displays this shifting appetite.

Kula Sushi brings freshness and flair to Austin sushi

Kula Sushi opened its first location in Irvine, California in 2009. Since then, they have opened 13 locations across the United States. The Austin location was opened in May, and has been the most popular location despite being in its early stages.

“Everyday we are busy,” said Joyce Rivera, head server at Kula. “We have regular customers that come three to four times a week. They just can not get enough.”

The Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Logo  Photo: kulausa.com

The Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Logo
Photo: kulausa.com

Austin is currently the 16th most healthy city in the United States, according to Forbes.com. Kula’s success could be partially due to the emphasis they put on healthy ingredients. Kula proudly states that they are part of the “food revolution”, aiming to provide natural, organic and additive-free food.

It has been our fundamental principle to prioritize customer’s health over anything,” according to Kula’s website. “We are proud to say that all foods are served fresh and safe at our restaurants.”

“Everything you see here is fresh,” Rivera said. “We don’t use any chemicals or imitation crab or shrimp … It’s all real.”

Rivera also said she believes one of the reasons Kula has been so successful is because the people of Austin now want uniqueness in their dining experience. Kula serves “kaiten-zushi”, or rotating sushi, on a conveyor belt that wraps around the restaurant.

“People in Austin are always looking for something different,” Rivera said. “Kula is different from even other sushi places … We are very unique.”

Each seat has access to the two levels of the conveyor belt, the ordering panel and the Bikkura Pon game.  Photo: Kula Revolving Sushi Bar/Facebook

Each seat has access to the two levels of the conveyor belt, the ordering panel and the Bikkura Pon game.
Photo: Kula Revolving Sushi Bar/Facebook

Kula offers food in a way that may be unique in Austin, but in no way unique in Japan. In fact, “Kaiten-zushi” is a subset of Japanese cuisine common throughout Japan. Kula aims to give an authentic Japanese dining experience and believes this element allow customers to have an experience that they will not find in other places in Austin.

“We have a Kula culture,” Rivera said. “We want people to enjoy the Japanese environment … We want them to feel like they are in a Japanese sushi bar.”

Local Ramen restaurant gives authentic Japanese experience with every slurp

Ramen Tatsu-ya has recently been named one of the 12 best new restaurants in America, according to eater.com. Ramen Tatsu-ya is another restaurant offering eastern-based cuisine in Austin that has become very popular, even having a long line out the door on most nights.

However, founder Tatsu Aikawa was initially unsure of how an exclusively ramen restaurant could do in a Austin market dominated by Tex-Mex and barbecue.

The Ramen Tatsu-ya Logo.  Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The Ramen Tatsu-ya Logo.
Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

“When we opened Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin in 2012, we were the first ramen shop in the city, and we didn’t want to Americanize it,” Aikawa told Bon Appétit magazine. “Austin’s preconception of ramen was ‘Oh, the packet stuff?’”

However, in due part to a Austin market that was lacking in eastern-based cuisine options, Ramen Tatsu-ya began to generate a lot of buzz and popularity.

“The business is beyond our expectations. We were thinking like a hundred bowls for lunch and dinner. We’re doing two to three hundred at dinner,” said Aikawa in an interview with eateraustin.com.

Aikawa also wanted to give the people of Austin an authentic eastern-cuisine. Aikawa said when he started the restaurant there was a definite need for ramen in Austin and he wanted to help expand the people of Austin’s global palate.

“We want to educate people on what ramen truly is,” Aikawa wrote on ramen-tatsuya.com. “It’s the soul food of Japan.”

The “Ol’ Skool”, one of the seven bowls of ramen on the Tatsu-ya menu.  Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The “Ol’ Skool”, one of the seven bowls of ramen on the Tatsu-ya menu.
Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The Asian population in Austin is also growing. Currently, the percentage is just under 7% of the population, but this population is doubling every ten years, according to austintexas.gov. As Austin continues to diversify, it is likely that more and more people will crave cuisine that gives them a sense of sentimentality to their original roots.

Aikawa believes one of the best parts of cities offering dishes from across the world is the impact that these dishes can have on people.

Anywhere you go in the world, there’s a certain dish that evokes an emotional or nostalgic response,” Aikawa said.

What’s next?

Both Kula Sushi and Ramen Tatsu-ya have plans of expanding into other cities in the near future. Hopefully, other cities are as willing as Austin is to embrace these eastern-based cuisines and enjoy an authentic Japanese dining experience.

 

Sushi Graphic

Black Star Co-op

Businesses Struggle to Survive on The Drag

 

By Nancy Huang

Following the leave of Pizzeria Vetri from Urban Outfitter’s Space24 Twenty in January, Symon’s Burger Joint on Guadalupe has closed, leaving new space for other local vendors to open up shop.

Nathan Smith, a commercial real estate agent for Austin Tenant Advisors, said the In-N-Out hamburger chain, which opened last year, might have contributed to Burger Joint’s closing.

“Areas with high business traffic like Guad don’t do well with restaurant repetition,” Smith said. “It doesn’t work when there are two burger joints sitting that close to each other.”

Smith said the rent was already rising when In-N-Out Burger opened on Guad. With Symon’s Burger Joint closing, other restaurants have the opportunity to move into these spaces.

Husband and wife business partners Courtney and Ron Lunan are moving their mobile coffee shop, Lucky Lab Coffee, into the vacated space in September. This new move signifies a big change; the coffee truck company is opening its first brick-and-mortar location.

Along with Lucky Lab Coffee, hot dog spot Frank will open up a location in Symon’s Burger Joint’s counter space. This will be Frank’s second Austin location and third overall. Other Frank locations include the original on West 4th Street and one in San Antonio.

Rachel Albright, creative director for Urban Outfitters, said pop-ups are what keeps these spaces exciting.

“[Urban Outfitters is] always keeping things fresh with different vendors,” Albright said. “For a space like this that’s so close to students, we have a kind of access to campus life that no one else has. We want to make the best of it.”

Urban Outfitters properties like Space24 Twenty have opened up in cities like LA and Williamsburg. Austin is the third city where a communal entertainment and eatery space has been built.

“We chose Austin because the culture of this town grants us a lot of permission to have fun,” Albright said. “We’re trying to stay relevant by really listening to the students on campus. We want them to like our space.”

Fourth year Plan II and History major Thanh Bui said she likes Space24 Twenty, but all the closings and moving businesses are a turnoff.

“Every time a new business comes in, it’s like a new thing and of course people are interested,” Bui said. “But then, after the restaurant’s been there for a while and it’s even established a relationship with students and the campus, it leaves and we’re left with a new one. Personally I don’t think that kind of thing will attract more customers.”

Bui said all the recent closings on Guadalupe and other parts of Austin are indicative of a wider issue.

“So many things are changing on Guad,” Bui said. “It’s hard to tell if this place even has a culture anymore.”

College Chaos Consumes All

Sarah Potts is embarking upon the next chapter of her life and beginning her freshman year at the University of North Texas in Denton, while college senior Garrett Shuffield is nearing the end of his undergraduate journey at The University of Texas at Austin. Both are in very different stages of college life but look enthusiastically ahead to what lies before them. Potts and Shuffield tell of their experiences that brought them to this moment and of personal goals they hope to one day accomplish.

 

Sarah Potts has big plans to attend the University of North Texas in Denton this fall. She will major in biology and hopes to make her way to medical school following graduation 2020. Excited yet nervous to take on life after high school, Potts is looking forward to the unknown experiences her freshman year will bring.

“I think I will change my major simply because I’m not too sure of the one I have now,” Potts said, “everyone I’ve talked to about picking a major told me to be open about the possibility of changing it and to focus on finding what I love.”

Graduating from a charter high school in Houston, Texas, Houston Academy for International Studies, Potts left high school in May 2017 with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

On how she feels about being her own for the first time, Potts felt more eagerness than apprehension.

“It’s definitely going to be something different,” she said.

“I’m more excited than nervous. Now, I have the luxury of my mom. In two weeks, I’ll be on my own and have to deal with a responsibility I’ve never had. It’s thrilling.”

With a smile on her face, Potts talked enthusiastically about who she hopes to be instead of where she wants to be after college.

“I think my next four years will be really discovering who I am and finding out what means the most to me.”

 

Garrett Shuffield is a fifth-year student in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. Soon he will graduate with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in accounting. A few weeks ago he decided to go to law school.

Though he seems to have it all figured out, Shuffield is just one of the many students whose college career boasted twists and turns hurdled with difficult decision after difficult decision.

When asked if this is where his college freshman self-thought he’d be nearing graduation, he laughed.

“OH man, no not at all,” he said.

Shuffield began his freshman year as an electrical engineering major.

“I thought I wanted to make the next iPhone because I’m a super Apple geek tech fan,” he said, “But I quickly realized electrical engineering is the study of electricity, which is SO boring.”

After a  harsh realization, Shuffield dropped all engineering classes and called home, admitting early defeat to his mom and dad.

But thanks to some helpful advisors, Shuffield was able to add other courses to his schedule after the drop course deadline.

He spent the next year working hard to make the best possible grades to transfer into the business school.

Fast-forward one year, and that’s exactly where he was.

“Within two weeks of my first accounting class, it clicked, it made sense,” he said, “I was enjoying it and everyone else was miserable.”

And with positive change followed more big goals.

“I thought that I would just enter the big four accounting world as a tax accountant,” Shuffield said, “But more recently as I’ve thought about where I see myself in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years down the road in my career, I realized that more of my interests and my goals align better with the legal aspects of tax-tax law.”

Shuffield is taking the LSAT in December and hopes to start law school next fall.

Shuffield believes college taught him, not only how to learn, but how to solve problems unexpectedly thrown his way.

“I’m very excited for my future,” he said, “I have no idea what it’ll hold.”

“The past four years have taught me that everything can change at any time. But I’m excited to see where I end up, what I do, who I meet and hopefully change the world,” Shuffield said.

 

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