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It might be a bit reductive to call Austin a college town, but that's what makes it so good. It certainly benefits from the creativity and industry of college living, but there's a lot more to do than go to gentrified lunches and cool, underground shows.

Recognizing this special balance, financial website WalletHub has declared Austin the No. 1 college city in the United States for 2023, beating out some obvious contenders like Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to being the best city overall, Austin also tops the large cities list, and is one of only two Texas locales represented in the top 10 of any category; the other is College Station, No. 6 on the small list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

And how did Austin make the grade? WalletHub looked at key metrics across three categories to determine the rankings.

Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics.

Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

And perhaps unsurprising to those who currently reside in Austin, the Capital City ranked worst in "wallet friendliness,” at No. 204 out of 415.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Houston (No. 64), Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169).

Dallas landed well down the list in every category: wallet friendliness (226), academic & economic opportunities (168), and social environment (147).

Fort Worth fell even farther down the list in the same categories: wallet friendliness (242), academic & economic opportunities (201), and social environment (149).

Notably, cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

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Speakeasy with secret red phone booth entry is dialing into The Colony

Speakeasy News

A speakeasy bar concept from Atlanta that's been plotting a DFW location for a couple of years is inching closer to reality. Called Red Phone Booth, it'll open in the Grotto at Grandscape, at 5774 Grandscape Blvd. #100 in The Colony, and a release says it's coming in March.

Red Phone Booth features old-school Prohibition-style cocktails, cigars, and small plates. It's owned and operated by Stephen de Haan with actor/whiskey and cigar enthusiast Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, Clarice and The Kids Are Alright).

The Grandscape location was originally forecast to open in 2021, back when speakeasy bars were an up-and-coming trend, remember that? One presumes the delays were pandemic-induced.

The lounge will be open to the public, but customers must know the secret phone number which they can procure only from another member, local hotel, or restaurant. They dial into an antique red phone booth to gain entry.

The cocktail menu features spirits such as bourbon, whiskey, scotch, tequila and Japanese whisky, made with fresh juices and hand chipped double-reverse pass osmosis ice.

Exclusive member tasting events will allow members sample flights of whiskey, bourbon, scotch, or tequila.

Food includes Italian-inspired appetizers such as Stuffed Peppadew Pepper, Insalata di Bistecca, and star-shaped Neapolitan pizzas.

They currently have two locations in Atlanta, plus one in Nashville, and another opening in Florida later in 2023.

In a statement, de Haan says they were introduced to Grandscape by family and thought it would be a good addition to the various shopping, dining, and nightlife options there.

The grand opening scheduled for March 3-4, but they are ready to sell memberships now, which range from $350 to$5,000 for an Executive Membership which includes 4 individuals.

Favorite Texas jeweler launches new Yellow Rose collection at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Cowgirl up

There's big beads-and-bangles news coming from a tiny house set up on the west side of the Metroplex - at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Popular Texas jeweler Kendra Scott has launched a new ranch-inspired capsule collection called (what else?) Yellow Rose by Kendra Scott that'll be sold across the rodeo circuit in major Texas cities this year. But before it saddles up and rides into Houston, Austin, or San Antonio, the collection has lassoed its big reveal in Cowtown.

Visitors to the FWSSR will find the Kendra Scott tiny house pop-up shop on the Go Texas Plaza at the Richardson-Bass Building on the Stock Show grounds. It will be open through the duration of the FWSSR, which runs through February 4.

Inside the tiny house is the new 56-piece Yellow Rose collection, all inspired from time spent on Scott's family ranch, the designer says. The line was conceived with the "modern cowgirl" in mind and even includes a suite of pieces sculpted to look like Scott's beloved horse, Beau.

"Keeping innovation at the forefront, Yellow Rose by Kendra Scott spotlights the traditional designs and materials that are synonymous with the Southwest, while seamlessly blending the bright, colorful style and versatility that the brand is known for," a release says.

Highlights include a one-of-a-kind Bronze Veined Turquoise Magnesite Red Oyster in a beaded collection that is reminiscent of a Southwestern sunset, as well as heritage Kendra Scott pieces in new vintage gold and silver metals.

And, cowboys haven't been forgotten by Kendra. The Scott Bros. by Kendra Scott collection includes the popular Cade & Grey bracelets in genuine stone, like African Turquoise. Price range from $70 to $80.

While the Yellow Rose Collection is available online, a special artisan collection of artisan jewelry is available exclusively at the Texas rodeos. Every piece can be found inside the Kendra Scott Tiny Home at FWSSR.

Jewelry prices range from $60 to $298, with rodeo exclusives ranging from $98 to $5,500.

In additional to shopping for jewelry, guests can pop in the tiny house pop-up to create a one-of-a-kind hat via Kendra Scott’s Color Bar with Hat Customization. Rodeo attendees can personalize GIGI PIP hats with bands, pins, feathers, and more adornments. Hats start at $112, with customization accessories ranging from $2 to $48.

Kendra Scott is also the presenting sponsor of the Bubbles & Bites Brunch Tasting at the FWSSR on Sunday, January 29. Attendees can sip sparkling wine paired with bites from nearly a dozen popular Fort Worth eateries during the brunch-time event. A few of the participating restaurants include Atico, Don Artemio, Joe T. Garcia’s, and Wishbone & Flynt. The event, which will run from 11:30 am-1 pm, and tickets are $50-$65.

Scott herself will not be in attendance at the brunch, but guests will be able to shop the Yellow Rose Collection on site.

Once FWSSR wraps up, the Kendra Scott team will head to the rodeos in San Antonio and Houston to showcase the new collection to even more Texas shoppers in person. The adorable tiny house, however, will not go on the road with them.

Photo courtesy of Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott Yellow Rose Collection pieces.

New drink shop in North Dallas has kava, coffee, and vegan treats

Coffee News

An unusual drink shop with many interesting extras is coming to North Dallas: Called Kava Culture, it's part of a Florida-based chain, opening a location at 14856 Preston Rd. #212, in Pepper Square, next to Trader Joe’s, in a space that was previously a Smallcakes cupcake shop.

According to owner/franchisee David Darrigan, it'll open in late March.

Kava Culture is named for kava, a root from the South Pacific Islands with an earthy taste that's embraced by fans for its relaxing and mood-enhancing powers. It's been used as an herbal dietary supplement for decades for relaxation and to combat sleeplessness, menopausal symptoms, and other uses.

The Kava Culture chain was founded by sisters Caroline and Jacqueline Rusher, who opened their first location in 2017 after discovering the root's beneficial effects. There are currently about a dozen locations, primarily in Florida.

The menu features kava "teas," flavored mocktails, and drinks on tap that are made from a base of finely-ground kava, combined with juices. Popular flavors include:

  • Peanut Butter Cup, with chocolate, peanut butter, and almond cream
  • Churro Cha Cha, with chocolate or vanilla, cinnamon agave, and coconut cream
  • Mango Bango, with mango nectar puree and agave
  • Choco-Cherry, with cherry, chocolate, and almond cream

They also serve coffee, with beans and equipment provided by Lemma Coffee, plus vegan snacks and treats.

Darrigan opened the first Kava Culture shop in Texas in Denton in November 2021. He's an ER doctor who became interested in kava as an alternative to alcohol.

"I see the negative effects of alcohol and addiction all the time, and I have a passion for trying to provide healthy alternatives," he says.

He says the drink provides a natural buzz, and makes people more social. It's also said to have a "reverse tolerance" — meaning that the more you drink, the less you need to you feel the beneficial effects.

Like the original location in Denton, the North Dallas is next door to a Trader Joe’s, which Darrigan says is no coincidence. "It's the same customer demographics: healthy, open to trying new things," he says.

The shop will be open 8 am to midnight on weekdays, and until 2 am on weekends. Darrigan hopes to duplicate the community spirit he's created in Denton, with a pet-friendly space hosting everything from game nights to karoaoke to knitting clubs.

"Everybody sits around the bar and talks, it's all about community and bringing people together," he says.