This post is long overdue. I have a smattering of photos spread between my phone and about 4 memory cards that I’ve taken over the course of the last 2 years with every intention of posting but alas never did. Y’all, it’s happening now and I’m so excited. Excited in that way you get when you think of the perfect present for someone, they love it, and you feel like you’ve done good. I want to do good by you.
I got my first taste of Austin back in high school when I would drive up from San Antonio with my girlfriends. We’d get all turned around with the one way streets and ultimately find our way to Buffalo Exchange feeling so cool. This last trip to Austin was my 20th in 2 years. Austin is one of those cities that has so much hype built up around it and it’s not until you visit that you realize it exceeds it and in such a humble fashion too.
Austin is known for a few things, and I’m pushing beyond the obvious (SXSW, barbecue, tex-mex, live music, general weirdness): craft beer, dog friendly everything, food trucks (ay yay yay the food trucks!!!), bright colors, nature and being the best kept secret of the south/southwest that everyone has a really hard time keeping. If I spent this post telling you everything about every trip we’d literally be here forever. I get so excited anytime I get to talk about the best breakfast taco I ever ate or the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the happiest place on earth because really Austin is just like Disneyland for adults.
Instead, I’ll tell you some of my favorite things to eat, see and do in Austin. Grab your drink of choice and fill up, y’all.
For breakfast tacos, go to Vera Cruz (the trailer on E Cesar Chavez), order 2 bacon egg and cheese and 1 migas, a strawberry augas fresca and load up on the salsa situation at the bar. Take a few extra and eat them as shooters because they’re that good.
Biscuits and Groovy should be your go-to when you’re craving a little Southern somethin somethin and your only plan for the afternoon is to nap. Get there before 10:30 if you want fresh squeezed orange juice (you do). Order the Gloria Gaynor and ask for it extra spicy.
If you’re looking for breakfast all day erry day, head to 24 Diner. Order the chicken and waffles, a hash, and a waffle sandwich and split it with your friends so that everyone leaves happy.
I’ve only gone to Kerbey Lane Cafe (the central ATX location) for breakfast/brunch, but they also do breakfast 24/7. And their queso is what dreams are made of. If you feel weird ordering queso in the morning (which, you shouldn’t) get yourself an order of the Eggs Francisco which is a fresher, lighter version of an eggs benedict except that it’s loaded with melted white queso. Oops. Then, because you’re really feeling wild, order a shortstack of the cinnamon roll style pancakes and experience love.
Gourdough’s is a legend in Austin. There are two Public Houses which I’ve never been to although I hear the doughnut burgers are what Texas State Fair dreams are made of. Instead, I spend my time eating fried dough covered in 26 different forms of sugar from the trailer on South 1st.
Chilantro and East Side King share the same part of my heart. Don’t leave Chilantro without trying the kimchi fries, and if you go with enough people, you could basically order one of everything off of the East Side King menu.
Since we’re on the topic of Asian fusion, head on over to Elizabeth Street Cafe (right next door to the Gourdough’s trailer!) It’s probably the cutest restaurant you’ve ever seen. Like, if the coolest hippest brightest dollhouse were to come to life and serve amazing Vietnamese food, this would be it. Order an iced jasmine blueberry green tea, the lemongrass chicken pho or pork belly banh mi, and their daily macaron. And if their daily macaron is passionfruit, order two.
Via313 (the one behind Craft Pride) is where you want to be on Thursdays. Live music, bomb beer, and the kind of Detroit style pizza that makes you reprioritize your entire life and question why you ever joined the NYC vs. Chicago debate when clearly Detroit is where it’s at. And it’s at Via313.
Chuy’s is as chain of a restaurant as any chain restaurant I’ve seen, but the original started in Austin which makes me feel a bit more credible about eating there. There’s nothing fancy about the food except that it’s truly comforting tex-mex done right. Simple ingredients, big portions, margaritas from slushie machines and a happy hour nacho bar served out of the trunk of a car, literally. Oh, and did I mention that it’s Elvis themed? Super apropro. I go to the one on Barton Springs.
And barbecue. Let’s talk about barbecue. It’s a religion in Texas the same way that hummus is a religion in Israel and bagels are a religion in New York. You’ll find several dozen quality spots, but my two favorites are Franklin’s and La Barbecue. The first is an institution, the second is starting to be. Both technically open their doors at 11 but if you show up to Franklin’s past 8am to wait in line forget it. With La Barbecue, you’re safe up until 9:30 at which point you may be too far in line to get a beef rib. I think the most useful thing will be a quick lesson in pound to food conversion: the picture at the top of this post contains 1 pound of brisket (lean), 2 pork ribs (about 3/4 pound), 1 beef rib (about 1 pound) and 2 sausages which nets out at roughly $75 before tip. It could easily serve 3-4, but we ate it between the two of us because, life.
Last thing(s). If you’re looking to kill some time, here’s a collection of my favorite Austin hobbies in no particular order except for Whole Foods being first because *insert praying hands emoji*.
Whole Foods hails from Austin, so it’s no surprise that the store on North Lamar is like a health nut candy land. It’s better than any Whole Foods I’ve ever seen. I’ve literally spent entire afternoons just walking up and down the aisles with a smoothie from the juice bar in one hand and a barbecue sandwich from the smoke pit in the center of the store in my other hand. Balance folks, balance.
If it’s raining, hop on over to the LBJ Library on UT’s campus and dive into history, specifically LBJ’s history. Then stop by the gift shop and pick up some Texas margarita taffy and bring it up to your coworkers in New York who won’t like it.
South Congress may be my favorite neighborhood to walk through in Austin – the typography on storefronts, the dog adoption fairs, the vintage and knick knacky stores, the Home Slice and the More Home Slice. Take a midday stroll and get lost here, or don’t because it’s really just one main street going up and down so you can’t get lost but if you walk North enough you’ll hit downtown so there’s that.
The best time to go to Town Lake is anytime, except when it’s pouring and you’re on a kayak and it’s starting to flood and you freak out and lose your paddle because that would be the worst time – speaking from experience. We routinely rent kayaks from Zilker Park Boat Rentals riiiiight by Barton Springs but make sure to wear sunscreen because the Texas sun is brutal even in Austin where everything is chill. Feel like staying on your two feet? Spend a couple hours walking the trail around the lake. It’s beautimous.
If you’re in season, go check out the bats that fly out from under the Congress Ave Bridge (the same bridge that you’d walk across if you went from SoCo to downtown) right around dusk. You can either get tickets to a boat and see them from the water, which is awesome, or you can just park and stand alongside the bridge.
Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crown are probably my two favorite movie theaters in Austin. The first serves you dinner while you watch and the second is super cozy and lets you bring in cocktails from the bar into the theater. Pro tip: if you’re going to Violet Crown, get tickets for the front row where you get to sit in the comfiest looking arm chairs with ottomans.
Last but certainly not least, for a chill morning or afternoon head on over to BookPeople to grab a coffee and get lost in their aisles and aisles of books. They’re the biggest independent bookstore in Texas, and they’re just great.