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The Estate | Itinerant soldier

AUSTIN – Recently my girlfriend Navina Bhatkar suggested we go to the Estate in Austin to meet some of her friends. For the uninformed, The Domain is an upscale mall in North Austin that offers a variety of ways to spend your money. Whether it’s meeting up with friends at restaurants, holiday shopping, or even checking out Austin’s nightlife, the area has something for everyone.

Of course, our first adventure in one of Austin’s hotspots coincided with a soccer game, so everyone, their mom (and grandma) was there. In other words, traffic and parking quickly became a problem. So naturally we listened to the GPS and assumed it would point us in the right direction. We found parking and began our search for the Brass Tap, a sports bar that had a great selection of drinks and what is described as bar food. Decent, but nothing to write home about. Tragically we searched for the place and for about 30 minutes we couldn’t find the place. Shortly after, we realized that the destination was far, very far from us.

“You always said you wanted to hike,” I repeated to the girlfriend again. After browsing and walking a few blocks, we found the Brass Tap, located in a dark corner. The place had a lot of screens and, despite a few overly excited fans, it was easy to hear and communicate with the company. Again there are a lot of concoctions to choose from and the food is good, but most of the time we were there to watch soccer games. The staff seemed friendly, but showed slight resistance to playing Aggie until a legion of us showed up. After a few hours we got back (so maybe got lost for a minute) and made it out of the activity center.

The next day Navina really, really, really wanted to have a smoothie and we realized we were heading straight back to the estate. Fortunately, we had learned a bit more about the layout of the grounds and parked at the Nordstrom parking lot. Although we found the target destination almost immediately, we took the time to explore some of the places I could have lunch as my stomach wanted food.

We strolled through several streets, noting the enormous amount of dining options available to us. Despite all of this, however, they all seemed to come with exorbitant wait times. So, naturally, we wandered around more. We walked through the main nightlife section and entered the Kung Fu Saloon so I could show the GF the stack of massive Connect-4 and Jenga games outside and show him my “Street Fighter II” skills with a broken joystick. The place seems fun and we might have spent more time there another day, but the food quickly became the top priority as my stomach growled in anger.

On our way to what I considered the center of the estate, we saw an outdoor park where kids played, couples had picnics, and families could rest (if you are to believe). After taking a few steps on the “grass”, I quickly learned that my feet actually collapsed on the Astroturf. Naturally, I grabbed the girlfriend’s hand to make sure she joined me in the experience.

After checking out more than a few places around this particular section, we decided to eat at the Yard House. Sure, the host told us the wait time could be over an hour, but it ended up being around 25-30 minutes.

As a fan of Cajun cuisine, it didn’t take long for me to order the Spicy Jambalaya. I can honestly say this is the best Jambalaya I have ever had. Of course, it was so good I had to share it with my significant other, and she too relished the Cajun flavors. I have to note that while delicious, the dish is not really spicy, if that is what you are looking for. However, when we got back the girlfriend and I vowed to order it again so that each of us had a serving.

After a day of exploring, we had no problem finding the car this time. The parking lots are free and assigned a color, and I think we understood that you just found the one closest to your destination. Before we left Navina had her smoothie and our experience turned out to be a fun and enjoyable day. I’m sure more fun days are on the way.

For more information on the Domaine, visit www.simon.com/mall/the-domain.