What should we call the northwest corner of downtown? That’s the latest burnin’ question we asked our readers earlier this month, in an effort to define the identity of a growing neighborhood that we’ve seen called Uptown, North Side, Museum District, and so forth. We ended up with 75 responses — and counting — from Austinites willing to humor us on the subject.
That’s a decent turnout, but not quite enough to really nail down public opinion since we didn’t force people to choose from only three options or anything like that — we did this survey completely freestyle and have no regrets. Still, there were a few trends on display, with a couple of names and naming conventions (seemingly endless permutations of “West,” “Capitol,” and “Capital,” which seems to point towards something) popping up several times. Let’s run ’em down and snatch this district’s title back from the big bad algorithms:
Though I wasn’t super jazzed about it before, the big winner from this survey was West Capitol, with 12 votes — 12 out of 75 is pretty solid considering, again, that we weren’t limiting people to a particular list of names. Capitol West, Capitol Hill, and North Capitol each also caught two votes apiece.
North End is next in line with five votes. This one doesn’t really rev me up, but it’s a likely contender just the same. It’s certainly more interesting than Uptown, which caught four votes but still doesn’t make any damned sense because this neighborhood is inside downtown so it can’t also be uptown, at least in my book. (Some kind soul saw me complain about this in the previous article and gently suggested Midtown instead — thank you, kind soul.)
There’s actually even more of a precedent for Uptown than we previously discussed. A reader informed me that the El Mercado restaurant at 1702 Lavaca Street used to be called Jorge’s Uptown Enchilada Bar back in the 1980s, which means I’ve got to take Uptown seriously as a name despite my personal feelings on the subject. Here’s a chili recipe the restaurant submitted to a cookbook back in 1992, which looks pretty good except I’d recommend using masa harina as a thickener instead of cornstarch and water:
Between this and the Texas Chili Parlor, which also sits inside the neighborhood’s general boundaries, I’d be down to call this area the Chili District, but nobody suggested that on the survey.
South Campus and Dog & Duck each got three votes. South Campus is plausible because we’ve already got West Campus, North University, and possibly East Campus if you accept the naming convention suggested by this parking garage. Still, considering the district only really has one student-oriented apartment complex and there’s honestly not much university-related going on there, it’s an edge case. On the other hand, Dog & Duck should be self-explanatory for many locals and I totally love this idea, since it’s kind of charmingly odd if you don’t know about the former bar — “Keep Austin Charmingly Odd” is the slogan, right?
But in the end, my favorite name from this survey only got one vote — and that’s fine, because true genius often speaks softly. A reader suggested calling this part of town North By, playing off the fact that most people shorten the name of the SXSW festival to “South By.” Plus, the new SXSW office building is smack in the middle of this district at 1400 Lavaca Street!
“It’s quirky. And oddly open-ended, and open to interpretation,” our anonymous reader explains. I couldn’t agree more, and though West Capitol clearly has the popular vote, I’m still going to try and drop North By in our stories about this area and see which one sticks. What do y’all think?