As a born and raised Angeleno, many people questioned my move to Texas a few years back. I was almost surprised at how many people, both in and outside of Texas, had a hard time understanding why I'd move to San Antonio and later, Austin. I found that the lonestar state had plenty to offer, and much like California, was as diverse a place as any.
Here's a list of some of my favorite restaurants, bars, and things to do in Austin:
Polvo’s (2004 S 1st Street) Located just a touch south of downtown. Bomb Mexican food, big salsa bar.
Franklin’s BBQ (900 E 11th Street) This place is one of the most famous BBQ spots in the city. Chef goes here in Chef. People line up hours before they open for a taste.
Hoover's Cooking (2002 E. Manor Road) Located in a mini mall, this place doesn't look like much on the outside- but it's some of the best soul food/bbq. Inexpensive, good quality.
Hillside Farmacy (1209 E 11th Street) This was my favorite place for brunch. Great for happy hour too. Beautiful setting in east Austin. A kind of WWII era pharmacy vibe. Delicious new American food, yummy kind of higher end sandwiches, fair prices. House punch bowls are killer.
Contigo (2027 Anchor Lane). Just northeast of downtown. An outdoor bar & restaurant, small plates. An eclectic crowd of hipsters, new parents, and dogs. Beautiful during sunset. There can be a long wait on weekends.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar (2 locations. 1400 S. Congress Ave) Really good, build your own, burgers. Their set menu is great too. Go hungry.
Easy Tiger (709 E. 6th) Cool location downtown. Beer garden, sausages, ping pong.
Justine’s (4710 East 5th Street) Beautiful, dark, deliciously authentic French restaurant located in east Austin. Great food, drinks, service.
Tommy Want Wingy (601 W Live Oak) A food truck, chicken wings only, located just south of downtown.
A note on breakfast tacos: Everywhere you go will have breakfast tacos and for the most part, they will all be good…but here are my favs:
Juan in a Million (2300 E Cesar Chavez Street) Legit east Austin taco spot. Breakfast tacos, huge portions. Inside/outside seating. This place can have long lines on the weekend.
El Chilito (1617 E 7th Street) East Austin taco spot, really good breakfast tacos and breakfast burritos. Small, outdoor seating only. This was my favorite spot to visit when I lived in Austin.
Sway (1417 S 1st Street) Located on a cool strip just south of downtown. I know you like Thai, and while I can’t say I’ve been here, this place always got rave reviews. Not authentically thai, more upscale, beautiful restaurant.
Kome (4917 Airport Blvd.) Contemporary, home-style Japanese food and sushi. Casual but hip. Located just north of downtown.
Uchi (801 S. Lamar Blvd.) Highly regarded, super expensive sushi on S. Lamar- a hip street not too far from downtown.
Hoboken Pie (718 Red River Street) Downtown Austin, located on one of the most famous streets in Austin. Super bomb pizza. Thin crust.
Homeslice (1415 S. Congress Street) Perhaps the most famous pizza place downtown, located on the most famous street in Austin. Thin crust.
Eastside Pie (1401 B Rosewood Avenue) East Austin Pizza shack, cool area. Thin crust.
Yellow Jacket Social Club (1704 E. 5th Street) My favorite bar in Austin, just east of downtown. Great scene anytime, night or day. Good brunch, cheap drinks. Beautiful outdoor area. Biker bar.
Whitehorse (500 Comal Street) Only about a block away from Yellow Jacket and other bars. Whitehorse has a lot of history, line dancing and live music. Cheap drinks, outdoor patio. Possible cover.
Shangri-LA (1016 E. 6th Street) Personally, one of my favorite bars in Austin. Typical East Austin crowd, hipsters, some college kids...cheap drinks and a perfect backyard with plenty of tables. $2 Thursdays, Royale with Cheese food truck in back, only 5 minutes walking distance from food truck courtyard and other bars.
Liberty Bar (1618 ½ E 6th Street) Dirty and cheap-fun, packed on weekends. Huge patio in the back, East Side King food truck in back run by Paul Qui, Asian-fusion snacks. Try the curry buns.
Eastside Showroom (1100 E 6th Street, 78702) Beautiful, Prohibition era bar. Small, dark, nice back patio. Beautiful cocktails. Can be a bit pricey.
Carousel Lounge (1110 E 52nd Street) Just north of downtown, a cash only dive bar. Pretty sure you can bring your own mixers. It's a David Lynch-esque surreal, creepy circus. Live music.
Weather Up 1808 E. Cesar Chavez St. Just east of downtown. A little brother to an NYC bar. Dimly lit with a bit of a Prohibition era vibe, indoor/outdoor seating. Cocktails only.
Longbranch Inn (1133 E. 11th Street, 78702) Just east of downtown. Total dive bar, might even smell bad. Cheap drinks.
The Lounge at the Hotel San Jose 1316 S. Congress. Downtown. Have a drink at the outdoor bar of this beautiful boutique hotel. A bit of an Ace Hotel kind of vibe..hip visitors and stylish locals.
Horseshoe Lounge (2034 S. Lamar Blvd.) Just south of downtown. A bit of a dive with a horseshoe shaped bar.
Lala’s (2207 Justin Lane, Austin, TX 78757) Located in north Austin. A total dive bar decorated in a Christmas theme 365 days a year. Cash only. Pretty sure you can smoke inside. This place is rumored to be in perpetual holiday mode because the owner’s son went away to the Vietnam War during xmas and never came back. A place for real odd characters.
See a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse (many locations around town, recommend the S. Lamar location because it was recently renovated and centrally located.) Be waited on while you watch your movie, with access to a full bar and menu.
Barton Springs Pool (2201 Barton Springs Road) A public swimming pool located in Zilker Park. A hilly area to tan, cold natural spring water to jump into. A place I’ve heard hasn’t changed since the ‘70s, possible live music, tons of Austin’s best looking hipsters. 2 entrances, free parking, probably costs about $2. Food/drinks prohibited.
Jacob’s Well (1699 Mt Sharp Road, Wimberley, TX 78676) Located in Hays County, about an hour west of Austin, this is a gorgeous, small swimming hole. The drive is really pretty, I suggest doing this on a day off and leaving before noon. Cold, clear water...cliff jumping into the deep blue eye of the well is unreal.
Hamilton Pool (24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620) A little less than an hour west of Austin city limits. Might want to check website to ensure they are open. A natural grotto carved out of limestone, small beach area around a 50 foot waterfall. $15/vehicle.
Farewell Books (913 E Cesar Chavez Street) Located just a touch east of downtown. Artbook store, boutique, a fun little scene.
ColdTowne Theater (4803 Airport Blvd.) Just north of downtown, live comedy/7 nights a week. A small improv theater. BYOB.
East Austin Succulents (801 Tillery St.) A beautiful, open-air cacti nursery.
Dazed & Confused: Top Notch Hamburgers is still a drive in fast food joint, looks just like it did in the movie.
Pendleton Outlet Store: Located about 25 minutes south of Austin in a college town called San Marcos. The outlets are huge and the Pendleton shop has everything.
Bussey’s Flea Market: About 40 minutes south of Austin. Half crap, half rusty Texas gold you’ll know this outdoor flea market by the mammoth paper mache armadillo outside. Open on weekends only.