Love, Austin

Three couples invite us in for a sneak peek of how they throw a special date night.

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Despite only “officially” being together for a year, this pair’s love story begins back in the fall of 1999. “We were college sweethearts. We met … at the University of Texas and shared a magical time there together,” says Jennifer Rose Smith, art director for Camille Styles.

Though the duo spent the next decade apart, traveling and living in different cities, they remained friends. “Michael is just this beautiful soul,” says Smith. “He’s one of the last real gentlemen—ask anyone who knows him.”

Now back together and experiencing a dating “renaissance,” Spruiell and Smith seek out intimate places for their date nights. “We seek out dark and cozy atmospheres like Justine’s where they play good music and time just sort of melts away.” If they’re looking for adventure, the couple will head to a dark bar like The Cloak Room or catch a show at The Cactus Cafe. “The best nights end up with a discovery,” says Smith.

Not that this couple needs a fancy restaurant to enjoy a romantic evening. Spruiell and Smith will often just pop open a bottle of wine, throw on a record and grab a seat on their balcony. Says Smith, “[We can] keep that conversation going on the balcony into the very, very late hours of the night.”


“One night we wandered into the grocery store and ended up eating at the pasta counter. We liked the dish we ordered which was a simple—but spicy—spaghetti in olive oil. Michael suggested it might be something we could make ourselves so we watched the guy carefully the next time we went in. Neither of us has much experience cooking, so you can imagine our surprise and delight when the first attempt was a success. Now it’s one of our trusted meals to make at home. I’ll light a few candles, Michael throws on a good record, we’ll open a bottle of wine, and suddenly you’ve got a very decent Tuesday evening.” - Jennifer Rose Smith



They say love is about being at the right place at the right time—or the right New Year’s Eve party. Though Shane and Catherine Stiles both attended Texas A&M University, they didn’t meet until a chance encounter in Austin brought them together.

Catherine, who was living in Houston, came to town to celebrate New Year’s with her sister and ended up at the same party as Shane. “I ended up talking to him for a long time,” says Catherine, who recently stepped down from her role as director of media and public relations for My Fit Foods.

Eight years, two kids and a few career changes later, the couple, who owns the uber-successful Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, find that keeping the magic alive begins at home. “We have a three-year-old and an 18-month-old, so our date nights are few and far between,” laughs Catherine. As a result, Shane and Catherine have crafted a home perfect for hosting friends and family—and epic backyard blowouts. “Our house is set up for entertaining so we can entice people to come to us.”

When the couple does hit the town, they stay close to their Northwest Hills neighborhood, hitting up hot spots like Uchiko and Fonda San Miguel. They are currently working on a new project, Barbecue Wife Bloody Mary Mix.

As for a fun night out, that involves an overnight babysitter, says Catherine. “The girls still wake up at 6 am, no matter how you feel!” she jokes. Pair that with a night full of good food and live music at The Moody Theater and you have the Stiles’ perfect date night—and a classic Austin night on the town.



This musically-inclined couple’s love story has taken them from New York City to Washington, DC to now, fittingly, the Live Music Capital of the World. The pair met while they were living in New York, and began their relationship as friendly acquaintances who would occasionally jam together. “I always thought Carl was cute and sexy, super smart and creative,” Nikisha gushes. “He seemed like the most normal person I had ever met.”

After spending time as friends, Carl texted Nikisha to go out on a date and the rest is history. “We found out we had way more in common [than we thought],” says Nikisha. Since that first date, the Brunsons have embarked on one adventure after another. “He proposed after three years, we were engaged for seven months, got married in Big Sur, moved to Virginia and a year later, we moved to Austin,” Nikisha explains.

Though the family, which includes Nikisha’s son, hasn’t been in Austin very long, their love of music and community has made them feel instantly at home. Nikisha says their perfect date night would include a show at the Mohawk and stops at East Austin haunts like Whisler’s and Bufalina. As they learn more about their new hometown, Nikisha says they find themselves in awe of Austin’s creative folks. “We’re inspired by how creative and how smart [Austinites] are. They have their stuff together,” she says.

For the Brunsons, who note that church also plays a vital role in their relationship, a perfect night sometimes doesn’t even mean hitting the town. “We want to come home and make music together,” says Nikisha. Though they may have just arrived, it seems this creative couple has already embraced the Austin ethos.

Nikisha's signature Jamaican Curry Chicken is always a hit. It's made with coconut rice, beans, kale and vegan tapioca pudding. She loves sharing healthy recipes on her blog,


Photography by Kate LeSueur

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