During a rare winter storm in Austin, Texas, I stayed at The Wayback Austin. While there I got to know owner, Sydney Sue, and Property Manager, Malenny Vasquez. I got their take on what locals do in Austin, TX and Texas Hill Country including their favorite spots on property and secrets others may not know.
Y’all know my motto. There is no better way to get to know an area than by taking a recommendation from a local. In my case, I got to hear from a new Austinite, Property Manager Malenny Vasquez, who has been in Austin for 5 years now, and long-time Austinite or “unicorn” and owner of The Wayback, Sydney Sue. “Unicorn” is a local term for the rare few who were born and raised in Austin, Texas, and still live there. She takes us behind-the-scenes and reveals the unspoken local tips on and off property that you won’t find written on social or online. What locals do in Austin includes Texas Hill Country wineries, dive bars, iconic BBQ joints, fire pits by The Wayback Cafe, hidden local hikes, and more.
1. How did The Wayback come to be?
I knew there was a reason The Wayback and it’s small local touches had caught my eye to begin with…Sydney explained that The Wayback was inspired from their own personal experiences such as her mother living in a cottage growing up, and places such as the Hob Knob on Martha’s Vineyard (which I myself visited this summer!) and Kinsterna, Greece (which after looking at the website is now on my list). It’s the little touches at all of these properties that makes them so unique–from cookies upon arrival, to organic bath salts, local coffee, and more.
When The Wayback was sold to Sydney and her mother, they promised to keep the natural landscape and make it a gathering place for the local Austin community. They would clear out the back lawn and make it a communal spot for guests and non-guests to catch the sunset over the 300+ heritage oak trees.
Texas Hill Country Getaway near Austin
2. What’s something unique that guests might not know about the property?
Creating The Wayback was a 4 year process. But what if I told you that everything you see was designed by Sydney and her mother, Vicky? Both are recreational painters who had a vision and were able to execute on it flawlessly.
“We designed everything on graph paper with a pencil. When we tell people this, they think we are crazy, but its true. We knew what we wanted and had to draw every square inch of the property before handing it over. No one was going to see our vision like us. We are still growing and developing The Wayback daily to make it a better space for our travelers to enjoy.” – Sydney Sue, Owner of The Wayback Austin
Property Manager Malenny on the other hand, shared a few features and anecdotes that people may not know about The Wayback:
- A roadrunner comes to visit every so often on the back lawn alongside deer.
- The property hosts fire pits on weekends, Friday and Saturday from 6PM – 9PM. The fire pits are open to guests and non-guests alike. You can grab a cocktail from The Wayback cafe, sit by the fireplace and roast some s’mores provided by The Wayback, while enjoying some live music.
- When The Wayback Cafe first opened, they didn’t have a liquor license. What many people don’t know now is that since their opening, they now have a liquor license and quite a selection of drinks. The bartenders get super creative with the cocktails as well…think Rum Negronis inspired by St. Kitts.
- Owner Sydney Sue actually started a global paint swap program with other artists and boutique hotels across the country as far as Australia. Who knows, maybe you’ll find one of their pieces of art in your cottage…
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3. What’s your favorite thing about The Wayback?
Sydney says the cottages are her favorite thing about The Wayback: “The uniqueness of staying in your own cottage and being able to walk dinner…it’s a very European experience that I wish Texas had more of.” Sydney uses a very simple organic design that encompasses holistic living and atmospheres that make you feel at home.
Malenny on the other hand can’t get enough of the pool–and I can’t blame her! Unfortunately, due to the weather we weren’t able to enjoy the pool area, but I could only imagine how peaceful of a retreat it must feel like in the middle of the hills.
4. What are some local recommendations for what to do in Texas Hill Country?
First and foremost, the winery scene. What locals do in Austin is explore Texas Hill Country’s winery scene, which has been compared to the Napa Valley of Texas. Many don’t know that there is such a large and high-quality winery scene out here and miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience. Sydney and her husband, who happened to be grabbing brunch on property, proceed to share a map with Pat and I. They proceed to circle all their favorite local wineries in the Spicewood to Fredericksburg area. This was a display of the very warm and common Southern hospitality Texas is known for. There are so many wineries, you could spend multiple days getting around this area. We tried to check as many off our list as we could, but if you know me, as of late I have a low tolerance, so we didn’t get very far on our excursion…!
In addition to wineries, both Sydney and Malenny mentioned that one of their favorite places is Common Ford Ranch, just 5 minutes from The Wayback. It’s a beautiful hike along Lake Austin.
One Day in Texas Hill Country: Wineries & BBQ
5. What are some can’t miss local places to shop, visit, and eat?
If you’re wondering what locals do in Austin, the answers can be found in a booklet in each cottage at the Wayback. Sydney and her team have compiled lists of their personal favorite local places to eat, shop, and visit in the area. The list spans everything from vineyards, hikes, breweries, olive oil tastings, apiaries, farms, cideries, shopping, spas, art galleries, alongside various food stops. Like I said, there is a lot to do both in Austin city and in Texas Hill Country. There is something for everyone, even when it comes to food–thai, bbq, pizza, tacos, farm to table, juices, ice cream etc. Sydney and her husband shared their personal faves with us. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get to them because of Winter Storm Uria:
- The iconic Salt Lick BBQ in Dripping Springs
- Pool Burger, a Tiki dive bar in Tarrytown
- Deep Eddy Cabaret, a dive car in Tarrytown
- Little Deli & Pizzeria in North Texas
6. What is the one dish people have to try at The Wayback Cafe, which is open to guests and non-guests for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner?
According to Sydney, for brunch you have to have the chicken and waffles. Patrick had these and they were definitely worth the rave. For lunch, the roasted cauliflower and chickpea puree. And for dinner, the Texas red fish.
Malenny also mentioned the iconic chicken and waffles as one of the must-have items on her list. But she had to call out the newly added crab cake benedict, which Pat had on his first day, as well as her personal favorite the avocado toast, which I had on my last day there. They work with local farms as much as they can for all their food and ingredients.
7. Austin is up and coming. What is something locals do in Austin that the rest of the world may not know?
Speaking of working with local farms…Sydney mentions that when in Austin, you’ll notice there are very few chain restaurants or establishments here. What locals do in Austin is support locally owned businesses. It’s very important to Austinites to keep things local. After all this is what makes Austin so special, and Patrick and I can attest to this!).
>> Next: Texas Hill Country Getaway Near Austin: The Wayback
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