After college, I was fortunate enough to enjoy living in Austin for a couple of years. I love that city so much and it holds a special place in my heart. I love that no matter how long you live there, there is more exploring to be done. My husband and I make multiple trips to Austin per year for “vacation”, and it really is the perfect getaway! Austin is a foodies paradise. Plus, on a pretty day everyone is outside enjoying the city and what it has to offer. I have put together a list of my personal favorite restaurants and things to do in Austin. I am certain there are tons more great places to eat and explore than what I have provided, so don’t think that just because it is not on this list you shouldn’t try it if someone else recommends it!
Hotel Saint Cecilia – Located in the South Congress District. This hotel may be pricey, but it is totally worth the stay if you are wanting a quiet and romantic getaway or a fancy girls weekend with a few of your girlfriends. The vibe is artsy and low key…pretty much the perfect setting to your weekend stay in Austin. Just check out the pictures of their poolside and the breakfast we enjoyed on our bungalow balcony!
Hotel San Jose – The sister hotel to Hotel Saint Cecilia, Hotel San Jose is also located in the South Congress District. It is an “urban, bungalow style” hotel. Everything about this hotel is awesome, I want to recreate the vibe in my own backyard right now. You have to book months in advance, as there are only a few bungalows available and they are always booked. If you cannot stay here, I recommend dropping by for a drink in the afternoon, but fair warning: beer and wine only!
South Congress Hotel – This is my most up-to-date favorite, but it’s hard to snag a room. Right in the heart of the fun and festive South Congress, the South Congress Hotel has access to some of the best food and shopping in town. I love their simple, yet stunning rooms, the friendly staff, and wonderful service. I think South Congress is a better “bang for your buck” than the San Jose, personally.
Hotel Van Zandt – Located in the fun, funky, and vibrant Rainy Street District, this Kimpton hotel is lovely with beautiful rooms, great service, and I love it’s location. When we lived in Austin, Clayton lived on Rainey street (although it’s a totally changed since we were there) so we love staying here and walking the streets of rainey at night to eat, drink, and be merry!
Elizabeth Street Cafe – an adorable French Vietnamese restaurant located in South Austin. The atmosphere is quaint and the food is delicious. My go-to order? For the table: the fried springrolls and the niman ranch pork belly steamed buns. For me: the chicken breast and lemongrass skewers pho. I also love thier pork bun.
Perla’s – this place is great for dinner and lunch, do not get me wrong. But, my favorite way to enjoy perla’s is a mid afternoon snack of oysters and one of their delicious cocktails while people watching on South Congress Street. You have to get a huge tray of oysters, their ceviche, and a mexican martini. Pure bliss.
South Congress Cafe – this is my favorite brunch ever. No joke. I dream about their bloody mary’s pretty much every Sunday and wish I was there. It absolutely without a doubt has the best bloody mary ever! If you think there is one better in the world, please let me know. Everything on the menu is amazing. If I had to narrow down some favorite: the gumbo, the blackened tuna tacos, and the steak and migas eggs benedict. But really, you can’t go wrong. If there is a wait, don’t be all boring and eat somewhere without a wait. Put your name on the list, give them your number, and go to some nearby shops (Tesoro’s and Uncommon Objects are my favorite shops!) The wait is never as long as they say.
Emmer & Rye – I absoulely love this restaurant, located on the fun and festive Rainy Street. In fact, Emmer and Rye is one of my favorite restaurants ever, regardless of the city I am visiting. The staff is excellent (if you can, ask for Alex to be your server. He is incredible) and the food is so fun and delicious. There are two ways to din. One is off the menu which offers small plates, pastas, and desserts, which are all meant to be shared. In addition to our printed menu, guests can also order directly off circulating carts that stop by during their meal to try ‘dim sum’ bites. We do both because, well, that’s how we roll! Be sure to get their cacio e pepe if it’s on the menu. After you dine here, walk around Rainey Street for some post dinner drinks and fun!
Franklin’s Barbeque – If you are a BBQ lover, this is worth the wait. Fair warning: you will have to arrive by 10am to wait in line for it to open at 11am. You want to be closest to the front of the line as possible because when they run out of brisket or ribs (which they will) its not worth the trip! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the wait!
Launderette– For lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with this adorable and delicious spot!!
Bufalina – the cutest and most delicious little pizza joint you ever did see!
Polvos Tex Mex– As far as good old fashioned, nothing glitzy tex-mex goes, Polvos is by far our favorite! It’s absolutely delicious and their salsa bar just sells me!!
Blue Dahlia Bistro – this is quite a wonderful lunch spot. This European bistro serves delicious, yet simple food that is mostly local and organic. You really feel like you are in Europe when you eat here!
The Odd Duck – a restaurant specifically designed for adventurous and hipster foodies, I can’t help but love this place. The menu is innovative and creative and *everything* i’ve eaten there is delicous! Highly recommend eating here!
Qui – Located in East Austin, this place is very unique. If you are not an adventurous eater, I wouldn’t recommend this place. But, if you are a foodie and open to unique bites, than Qui is a must visit. I went with my Husband and we ordered 6-8 dishes to share. Plus, dessert; which was a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich! What? Yes, it was all delicious. Not to mention, top chef winner and restaurant owner Paul Qui is frequently there walking around his own restaurant checking on his customers. Seeing him alone made my night, I am a huge fan.
Justine’s Brasserie – located in East Austin, this French restaurant is a magical and dreamy experience. You dine under festive lights outside while listening to french music in the background! I don’t think you can beat that. This casual spot is a must visit and please, don’t go here without trying the escargot and the cheese platter!
Uchi – if you are wanting to throw down some money on the best sushi of your life, Uchi is the place for you! Make reservations long in advance and enjoy one of the best meals of your life. You have to order a lot of items from the menu to get full. some must orders?: Maguro Sashimi with goat cheese, hama chili, machi cure, and the bacon steakie. You’ll need more food than that (even if there is just 2 of you) and it will all be out of this world.
Lenoir – my husband took me to this spot for Valentine’s Day when we lived in Austin. It was the perfect, romantic, quaint little spot. You feel like you are in someones home for a fancy dinner. It’s menu is pre-fixed and is Mediterranean inspired that changes with the seasons.
Clark’s Oyster Bar – Located on West 6th, another spot owned by the same people as Perla’s. They always do a great job! Great for lunch or dinner, but in my opinion more of a lunch spot. To order: oysters (of course), and the Clark’s Cioppino soup is TDF.
Austin Greenbelt – The Austin Greenbelt is probably my favorite get active activity in Austin. Its a good hike plus, if you want to go swimming, go swimming! I typically don’t go for the swim but should, I usually just do the hike and put my feet in the water for a quick break! Such a wonderful stroll but beware of bikers!
Barton Springs Pool – a man made pool that is fed from underground natural springs. It is the best relief from Summer heat there is in Texas! You get the true Austin experience, I mean real hippies basically live here. Not hipsters, I mean hippies.
Zilker Park – Go walk around zilker park. Walk up the hill and visit the JuiceLand (2307 Lake Austin Blvd.) If you are really feeling festive, pack a picnic and a frisbee, soccer ball, (something!) and enjoy a day at Zilker!
ACL Live – be sure to check out what artists are playing the weekend you visit Austin at ACL Live. ACL live is attached to The W Hotel in Downtown Austin.
Stubbs – Also make sure to see who is playing at Stubbs. Another awesome live music venue. I’ve heard their gospel brunch is pretty amazing, too.
Mohawk – yet another great live music venue. Check and see who is playing while you are there!
Rainy Street – a great street to bar hop either at night or during the day. It is a bunch of old houses turned into bars and restaurants. One of my favorite drinks of all time is the Pickle Martini at Icenhauers. I also love the indian food at G’raj Mahal Cafe! yum.
West Sixth – Once again, another bar hopping experience. Always a good time!
I always scroll through Thrillist when I am going into town to see if there are any cool events, concerts, festivals, etc. going on during my visits to Austin.
Tesoros – located on South Congress. When I am brunching on South Congress, I always make it a point to drop into here and hunt for unique, global, worldy objects for my home.
Uncommon Objects – the name of this place says it all. They have the most random finds ever, but some of the items I cherish most in my home. Its a truly unique antique shop that I can’t get enough of located on South Congress.
Goorin Bros Hat Shop – a really badass hat store located on South Congress. We had so much fun shopping in here.
Wildflower – Located on Lamar, this place offers high end furniture and organic bedding. I usually do not actually purchase anything here, its way out of my price range; however, just looking at their stuff is satisfying to me. It is gorgeous. I’ve splurged a couple of times on bedding and towels. So worth it.
The Domain – luxurious shopping. It is not in the heart of Austin but its open aired, pedestrian friendly shopping is very pleasant! Its not all just luxurious, they have one of the best Zara’s I have ever been to! If you go visit, you have to eat at North. So damn good.