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

Of course, our first venture to one of Austin’s hot spots coincided with a football game, so everyone, their mom (and grandmother) were there. In other words, traffic and parking soon became a problem. So, naturally, we listened to the GPS and assumed it would steer us in the right direction. We found a parking garage and began our search for the Brass Tap, a sports bar that offered a large selection of drinks and what is described as bar food. Decent, but nothing to write home about. Tragically, we hunted for the place and for about 30 minutes could not find the place. Shortly thereafter, we figured out that the destination was far, far away from us.

“You always said you wanted to hike,” I repeated again to the girlfriend. After navigating and walking a few blocks, we found the Brass Tap, located on an obscure corner. The place had plenty of screens and, despite a few overly-excited fans, it was easy to hear and communicate with the company. Again, there’s plenty of concoctions to choose from and the food is fine, but mostly we were there to watch football games. The staff did seem friendly, but did show a slight resistance to putting on the Aggie game until a legion of us showed up. After a few hours, we headed back (when we might have gotten lost for a minute) and managed to maneuver out of the hub of activity.

The next day, Navina really, really, really wanted to get a smoothie and it dawned on us that we were headed right back to the Domain. Fortunately, we had learned a bit more about the layout of the land and parked at the Nordstrom’s parking garage. While we found the target destination almost immediately, we took some time to explore some of the places where I could get some lunch, because my stomach wanted food.

We wandered down several streets, noting the enormous amount of food options available to us. Despite all of these, though, they all seemed to come with exorbitant wait times. So, naturally, we roamed around more. We walked down the main nightlife section and walked into the Kung Fu Saloon so I could show the GF the stack of massive Connect-4 and Jenga games outside and show her my “Street Fighter II” skills with a broken joystick. The place seems fun and maybe we would have spent more time there another day, but food soon became the top priority as my stomach growled angrily.

On our way towards what I deemed the center of the Domain, we saw an outdoor park area where kids played, couples held picnics and families could rest (by the looks of it). After taking a few steps on the “grass,” I soon learned my feet actually plopped down on Astroturf. Naturally, I grabbed the girlfriend’s hand to ensure she joined me in the experience.

After checking more than a few places around that particular section, we settled on eating at the Yard House. Sure, the host told us the wait time could be more than an hour, but it ended up being about 25-30 minutes.

As a fan of Cajun food, it took me no time to order the Spicy Jambalaya. I can honestly say, this is the best Jambalaya I’ve ever eaten. Of course, it was so good that I had to share it with my significant other, and she too savored the Cajun flavors. I should note that while delicious, the dish isn’t really spicy, if that is what you are looking for. However, upon our return both the girlfriend and I have vowed to order this again so each of us would have a serving.

After a day of discovery, we had no issues finding the car this time. Parking garages are free and assigned a color, and I think we figured out that you just find the one closest to where you are going. Before we left, Navina got 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 about the Domain, visit www.simon.com/mall/the-domain.