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, a site with data on no-kill cities, and, 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. 



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:

The Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Logo

Austin is currently the 16th most healthy city in the United States, according to 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 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:

The Ramen Tatsu-ya Logo.

“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

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 “It’s the soul food of Japan.”

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

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

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 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

Black Star Co-op: Preserving a Cooperatively-Owned Business Model Despite Economic Troubles

By: Ross Milvenan and David Lopez

Andy Martinec wakes before dawn, ready for a long day’s work. He puts his hair in a bun and pulls on denim cut-off shorts and a T-shirt. His job? To turn several 55-pound sacks of a grain into something many Americans love – beer.

Andy Martinec is a beer team leader at the Black Star Co-op brewpub, one of the few remaining co-op brewpubs in the nation. Despite facing economic shortcomings in the past few months, Black Star Co-op maintains its consumer-based cooperative business model and continues to pay livable wages to its workers.

The Black Star Co-op Logo  Photo Credit:

The Black Star Co-op Logo

“You’re coming in here buying a pint of beer with money that is going towards supporting a company that is paying living wages,” Martinec said.

A living wage is commonly defined as the amount of income needed to provide a decent standard of living. Black Star currently pays $12 or $13 per hour to its employees plus healthcare and dental benefits. They believe the restaurant industry’s typical two-wage system is unfair to the workers and frequently leaves them exploited and underpaid.

“Remuneration, or the total sum of the money that we pay to our workers in wages and benefits, is extraordinarily higher than any other restaurant in the industry,” Martinec said. “But we pride ourselves on that because we want to have a hospitable environment for our workers.”

There are currently 14 cooperatively owned breweries in the United States, according to Due to an increased focus on worker’s rights, participation, and community, co-op breweries can face certain economic obstacles that conventional breweries do not. As a result, many of them are struggling.

In 2017, the co-op experienced a 14 percent decline in sales from the previous year, according to co-founder Johnny Livesay. This is partially due to increased competition in the Austin market for craft brewing. The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission issued seven new brewpub licenses in Austin in 2016.

“2017 has been another challenging year for the co-op,” Livesay stated in a blog post on behalf of Black Star. “We can say things are improving somewhat, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

Black Star was the world’s first democratically self-managed brewpub when it opened its doors in 2010. The brewpub now currently maintains about 3,500 member-owners who share a stake in the business. The daily business operations are run democratically by a worker’s assembly, whose aim is to give all workers a voice in the operations. There is also a board of nine directors handling long-term decision-making on behalf of the organization, whom are elected every three years in a democratic process.

Livesay along with the worker’s assembly and the board of directors are reluctant to alter their business model, but realize the reality of their situation. Some members of the board have proposed having the co-op’s self-managed operational body managed by a general manager who is also an employee of the board.

“This would be a major departure from the current structure,” Livesay wrote. “But one that could be welcome at this stage in our life cycle.”

Chris Byram is the lead cellarman at the brewery, who provides assistance to the head brewer throughout brewing process. Byram has been with the brewpub for just under a year after a few negative experiences working in the service industry.

He is enthralled with the process of the cooperative and how they handle business.

“It’s about having a different shared face, you have partners and a partnership instead of a top-down management,” he said.

Byram believes the sense of community with locally owned, independent breweries is evident. Byram said brewpubs in Austin differ mightily from the large-scale, nationally known operations like Coors or Miller-Busch.

“We’ve always experienced a great community of sharing and brotherhood, everybody is sort of willing to help out … if another brewer needs grain or yeast we’re happy to help them out,” Byram said. “It’s an equal exchange. At the end of the day they’ll pay us back or give us another couple sacks of grain.”

Although the collective nature of the brewpub is beneficial for brewers and pub-goers sometimes it can complicate long-term goals and dilute the efficiency of the operation.

“Decision-making can kind of drag its feet. It does get a little frustrating at times where everybody kind of has their own view what’s best for the business,” Martinec said. “But it keeps everybody in check.”

Andy Martinec, head brew master, with Black Star Co-op's house IPA.  Photo: Black Star Co-Op/Facebook

Andy Martinec, head brew master, with Black Star Co-op’s house IPA.
Photo: Black Star Co-Op/Facebook

Lily Shebell is a frequent customer at Black Star Co-op who prefers the brewery’s communal vibe as compared to some of the other larger breweries in Austin.

“There are always nice people who work here. You see familiar faces all the time,” Shebell said. “And it’s a laid back atmosphere. That is why I come here.”

Livesay said only time will tell with regard to Black Star Co-op’s future, but they are open to change as long as they maintain the needs of their members.

“We are expecting, and open to change,” Livesay wrote. “As we continue to work towards improving the co-op, please join us in furthering the co-op’s success by coming in for a pint, or a burger, over the next few months.”


Graphic New

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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What is Cruelty-Free?

How to be cruelty-free:

So, you’re thinking about transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products? But you’ve already invested so much time and money creating a beauty empire that lives in a suitcase sized beauty bag, and you’re scared of starting over.

Well,  you don’t have to– according to cruelty-free makeup artist Rebecca Seals.

Jkissa shares a vibrant beauty look created with all cruelty-free products for her 296 million Instagram followers.

Jkissa shares a vibrant beauty look created with all cruelty-free products for her 296 million Instagram followers.

The local makeup artist offers tips on how to begin the transition to a cruelty-free makeup routine; ones that don’t require you to throw out your life savings in makeup.

“I understand the stress of those making the switch to cruelty-free,” she said, “When someone makes that decision they usually get this urge of passion and want to throw out every product they have that isn’t cruelty-free.”

But Seals recommends starting small for first timers and slowly incorporating more and more cruelty-free products over time.

“Take the three products you used most and buy them cruelty-free,” Seals suggests, “That’s the easiest and biggest step that will pave the way for a complete transition to cruelty-free.”

Jkissa (who does not give out her real name), also known as @jkissamakeupis a beauty blogger with close to 3 million followers on Instagram and Youtube. She shared her decision to become cruelty-free and vegetarianism began with her retreat with Lush, a 100% vegetarian cosmetics brand, to save sea turtles.

Jkissa with her dog Tsuki, @itmetsuki. After Jkissa rescued Tsuki, the dog developed cancer and had a leg amputated."

Jkissa with her dog Tsuki, @itmetsuki. After Jkissa rescued Tsuki, the dog developed cancer and had a leg amputated.”

“Seeing the damage we as humans are doing to them was really influential,” she said.

Jkissa urges her followers to do their own research before purchasing a product and points them to Logical Harmony for reliable, cruelty-free information.

Rochelle Rae, of Rae Cosmetics in Austin, advises those desiring to go cruelty-free to visit PETA’s website for a list of harmless products.

“Their website lists cruelty-free and non-cruelty-free cosmetic brands,” Rae said in an interview, “That’s a great place to start.”

What is cruelty-free?

In the world of cosmetics, there are multiple levels of production to make a beauty product ready for buyers, and testing is one of them.

Beauty product testing is not regulated by any government agency, therefore it’s up to the cosmetic brands themselves to define what cruelty-free means to their company and consumers.

This gray area can create confusion for consumers desiring a certain kind of product.

But, cruelty-free makeup generally means the product was not tested on animals during any stage of manufacturing.

Brands like Urban Decay and NYX adhere to these guidelines and are marked with “cruelty-free” logo on each product.

Some brands never test on animals and will make it known on their websites, such as Benefit Cosmetics or MAC, but aren’t considered cruelty free. Why?

If you look more closely, websites like these will read, “Some governments require animal testing before the product can be sold.”

According to the PETA website, the biggest obstacle to making beauty products cruelty-free is global expansion. China, where many makeup brand parent companies are located, requires animal testing before a product can go to market.

For this reason, Benefit Cosmetics and MAC cannot officially be labeled cruelty-free.

NARS announced their expansion to the Asian market; a shock to many consumers.

Though labels aren’t everything, as some brands do not test on animals but aren’t identified as cruelty-free. If you aren’t sure, it’s always best to do research on the brand you’re interested in.

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Increase in Rabies Cases in Austin Over the Summer


A bat at Austin Bat Refuge. Photo by Kelsey Machala

A bat at Austin Bat Refuge. Photo by Kelsey Machala


By Nancy Huang

Let’s say you walk into your living room and, lo and behold, you see a bat in the rafters of your ceiling. Or maybe it’s dozing on the floor. You’re not completely sure what to do–bats aren’t a common animal. Believe it or not, there is a proper way to handle of bats in residential areas, and it will minimize harm for both yourself and the animal.

According to Kelly Carnes from Bat Conservation International, there are approximately 1.5 billion bats in Austin.

“Austin has one of the largest urban bat populations in the country,” Carnes said. “It’s not unlikely that Austinites will find a bat taking shelter in their homes.

Bat being fed a worm at Austin Bat Refuge.

Bat being fed a worm at Austin Bat Refuge. Photo by Kelsey Machala

Bat season in Austin is between March and November, according to the Travis County Health Department website, and comes with a rising risk of rabies cases.

During the summer months Austin’s Mexican free-tailed bats roost in high and dry places, including some houses and residential buildings. Proper removal of the bats should ensure no exposure, but people who aren’t aware are putting themselves in danger.

Rabies is a disease that affects mammals. It is fatal, and usually passed from animal to animal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, rabies exposure occurs only when “a person is bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal, or when abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes are contaminated with the saliva, brain, or nervous system tissue of a potentially rabid animal.”

Merely touching such an animal, or contact with its urine or feces does not constitute exposure.

Cleaning a bat at Austin Bat Refuge.

Cleaning a bat at Austin Bat Refuge. Photo by Kelsey Machala

According to the Austin Texas Government website, when bats are found in residential homes owners should stay calm and do the following: Isolate the area and close the door, and open a window in the room. There is a high chance that the bat will free itself if left alone.

This strategy works for the entire summer except during the months of June and July–inexperienced young bats may be trapped inside during this time period, and unable to escape.

Carnes said the risk of rabies is lower than people think.

“This time last year, there were only 4 percent of tested bats that had rabies,” Carnes said. “It’s unlikely, but health organizations take precautions because rabies is so contagious.”

Always wear gloves when handling bats.

Always wear gloves when handling bats. Photo by Kelsey Machala


Texas Parks and Wildlife makes it  clear that nobody under any circumstances should touch a bat, alive or dead, with their bare hands.

If the bat is resting in someone’s home, then putting a container over them and then sliding a cardboard sheet under it, all while wearing rubber gloves, is the best way to remove a bat.

If anyone is bitten by a bat, people are instructed to call the Austin Animal Center at 3-1-1, or the Austin/Travis County’s Disease Surveillance Unit at (512) 872-5555.


Texas Chili Queens

Texas Chili Queens: Adding Flare to Stand Out in Austin’s Crowded Food Truck Scene

By: Ross Milvenan

Austin now has the fastest-growing food truck industry in the United States, with over a 600% growth in food trucks since 2010, according to a report from the Economist.

With nearly 4 food trucks per 100,000 people in Austin, the novelty of these mobile eateries seems to be vanishing. With this abundance of food trucks in Austin, food truck owners like Ed Hambleton of Texas Chili Queens are bringing a unique spin to their businesses as they try and stand out in a saturated Austin market.

Ed Hambleton is the owner of Texas Chili Queens food truck, but his drag queen persona Edie Eclat runs the day-to-day operations. This involves interacting with customers, cooking the food, and serving up innuendos.

Edie Eclat working in the truck. By: David Lopez

Edie Eclat working in the truck. By: David Lopez

“I am not attacking anyone, I am not making fun of anyone, the drag queen does not harass you, but just lightly plays with you,” Ed said. “It just allows people to spice up their day, both figuratively and literally.”

Ed said he incorporates this twist into his food truck because it is good for business. He believes a key to success in this market is to get people excited about more than just the food.

“This makes it more memorable and generates buzz, traction and interest,” Ed said. “People will remember you based on the experience they had, and we definitely give people a memorable experience.”

Ed chose to serve a food that he believed was “lacking in the culinary landscape of Austin.”

“A lot of the food trucks in Austin have forgotten we are in Texas,” Ed said. “I get it, Austin loves to be healthy, but we need to go back to Texas roots.”

Ed also believes serving exclusively chili gives his food truck an advantage over others in Austin.

“It is the perfect food for a food truck,” Ed said. “One of the geniuses of it is that the chili is already made, and wait times are super low.”

Ed wants to eventually grow out of his food truck and enter into a brick and mortar establishment. He also believes that his restaurant could expand to other places as well.

“Since Texas is such a culturally distinct thing in the U.S. and the world, this could have global appeal,” Ed said. “You may see a Texas Chili Queens restaurant in Berlin, Tokyo, or Tel Aviv.”

While Ed believes the uniqueness of food trucks may be fading, he does not believe the era of food trucks coming into Austin is over.

“The glory days are over and the novelty of the food trucks are starting to wane,” Ed said.

“I think food trucks will continue to roll into town,” Ed said. “But they won’t have the same cachet as they once had.”

Chili Dishes available at Texas Chili Queens. Photo: Texas Chili Queens/Facebook

Chili Dishes available at Texas Chili Queens.
Photo: Texas Chili Queens/Facebook

In 2016, 61 Austin restaurants, bars, and food trucks closed their doors, according to Eater Austin. While many food trucks in Austin have been forced to shut down, others have been able to sustain their success despite the increased competition.

UT alumni Edward Sumner and his lifelong friend Bernard Goal opened The Don Japanese food truck in the summer of 2015.

Despite struggling at the beginning, Don’s became very popular among UT students and frequently had a lengthy line and would run out of food. Last April, due to the restaurant’s popularity, the restaurant upgraded to a brick and mortar facility.

Co-owner Bernard Goal does not believe that a twist is necessary for food trucks in Austin to be successful. He believes the key to success in the food truck business depends on three important principles: product, service, and economics.

“You must have a good product, provide good service to your customers, and do so at a price that appeals to them and at a cost that is sustainable for you,” Goal said.

“Excelling in all of these will help a food truck stand out from the others in Austin.”


The Texas Chili Queens food truck offers five menu items. All inspired by these 5 cities in the state of Texas.

The Texas Chili Queens food truck offers five menu items. All inspired by these 5 cities in the state of Texas.