Jan 24, 2024 - News

My very best Austin day with PJ Raval

Photo illustration of PJ Raval and the Austin skyline.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of Erik Tanner.

We recently caught up with PJ Raval, a University of Texas professor and documentary filmmaker, to ask about his ideal Austin day.

  • His latest film, "Who We Become," a wonderfully kaleidoscopic tracking of three young Filipinas in Texas as they navigate social justice protests and the pandemic, was recently released on Netflix.

Background: Raval has lived in Austin on and off since 2000, when he attended UT for graduate school.

How do you start your day?

"I like to frequent places that capture old-school Austin, and I go to Cherrywood Coffeehouse, my neighborhood cafe, all the time. I like to get the luna taco — with egg, black beans, soyrizo, potatoes and green onions."

Tell us what other old-school Austin places you like.

"The other night I went to the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex. My partner founded a queer transmedia arts festival, and it's held at the Vortex. There's so much charm and energy to it. At Patrizi's, right nearby, I like the cacio e pepe or the Leopold or the Diavolo. It's all super good. Or I go across the street to grab something at Vic and Al's. Or I like to go to Mi Madre's on Manor for their chicken mole enchiladas.

"These are places that are funky, eclectic, but real — they don't feel corporate, and that's the point, right? They're intimate, personal kinds of spaces."

How about for art or music?

"The Museum of Human Achievement, an arts space off of Canopy, feels very much like Austin. Crazy, absurd, bold, just out there, fun and not taking itself too seriously. Also the Blue Starlite Drive-in — that's really crazy, just a projector in a field. Cheer Up Charlies is new-school-old-school."

You're in the movies. Where do you like to watch films?

"My go-to place to watch movies is the Austin Film Society Cinema. They're curating historical, contemporary, hard-to find films, very much in spirit of Austin. Austin so much was founded on the indie-spirit of filmmaking, and that's embodied in AFS Cinema for me."

It's dinner time: What's one more favorite Austin place to grab a bite?

"There's really amazing Vietnamese food here in Austin, and my absolute favorite is Sunflower. The Vietnamese crepe with seafood is next level. It's an immigrant-run, mom-and-place. Here you get just the best salt and pepper tofu."


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