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3/16/11: First day of SXSW

My first day of South By Southwest each year tends to follow a pattern. I usually start the day with a visit to The Omelettry, a quaint breakfast place on Burnet Road justifiably famous for its omelettes and biscuits. Breakfast is generally my favorite meal of the day anyway, and it is especially important during SXSW, which requires so much walking each day. From there, I usually head down to the Austin Convention Center for conference registration, which is generally easy for me, as I am usually a mentor or a speaker.

Since registration puts me at the Convention Center, I usual head straight into the trade show, which is always a lot of fun, especially on the hybrid day when the tech side of the conference is concluding and the music side of it is just beginning. There are all kinds of tech companies showing off new devices, new services or new technologies, as well as all kinds of music companies and music commissions. On this particular year, the Memphis Music Foundation had a special booth, where I ran into some folks I knew.

Out and about in downtown, there were crowds, but not as many as there would be later in the week; all the same, the city had the streets blocked off in anticipation. Once the music week gets under way in earnest, there is an endless array of day parties, live shows, free food, free drink and street performers. It becomes practically sensory overload, a musical equivalent of Mardi Gras with a million people descending on Texas’ capital.

Having eaten at Saltgrass the night before, I grabbed my first Austin dinner at Texas Land and Cattle Company. Both restaurants have great steaks, but they are somewhat different. Texas Land and Cattle is especially known for their smoked sirloin, which is sliced a lot like roast beef; it is coated with black pepper, and has a spicy kick. Also, because it is slow-cooked, it tends to be more tender than sirloin usually is.

For after-dinner dessert and coffee, I headed to another one of my favorite Austin hang-outs, a dessert bar called Dolce Vita on Duval near 42nd in a neighborhood called Hyde Park. In Italian, “Dolce Vita” means “sweet life,” and the name is quite appropriate for this charming cafe, which features espressos, gelatos, sweet pastries and occasionally a DJ late at night. Although there is no end to Austin coffee options, Dolce Vita is always one of my favorites.

After dinner, I decided to head down to Sixth Street to see what was going on. Although there were large crowds, there was nothing musical to really grab my attention. Instead, I was attracted by a local restaurant that had been converted into the CNN Grill at SXSW. The place was full of diners, but I soon learned that it was invitation only, and I could never learn how one obtained an invitation. Thoroughly tired, I went back to my hotel room to get some rest.

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