insider outsider guide to Austin, TX

QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: I’m currently visiting my boyfriend who lives in Austin. This is my second extended visit, and when I come I typically stay for a couple of weeks. I still feel like I haven’t gotten a taste of what Austin has to offer. We went to First Thursday, and I love Trudy’s. Per one of your older blog entries, we visited Mozart’s last night, and I really enjoyed it. Are there any other places you can recommend? They can be things done during the day alone while he’s at work or things we can do together.

straight up advice

Here’s what I can offer as someone who’s lived in Austin for the past SIX years (am I the only one who’s just realizing it’s been that long?): a sense of miss. I know what I miss about Austin already, just a few weeks out. Aside from missing my friends, I can say this: the people in Austin are all smart or interesting. I’ve never (aside from NY transplants) met anyone living in Austin who isn’t really interesting. Yes, huge sweeping generalization, but huge truth. So, I say, go meet some people!

The shops on South Congress are a great way to spend a day alone. Aside from American Apparel, the stores are unique and have that special Austin flavor. Austin, above other cities I’ve frequented, is whatever you want it to be. It’s granola, old school country, lots of ink, live music black jeans – anything goes, old Dallas gone Austin Country Club, fundraisers up the waz. So, I’ve asked this very question of one and all in Austin, and here is what was shared with me:

Blues on the green in Zilker park
Mana Culture on South First (add feather or sparkle hair extension, etc. to your hair)
Texacana Café on 360
The Drag – Guadeloupe (I have personally never understood the draw)
Toy Joy
East Side Café
Ride the Train at Zilker Park
Kayaking on Ladybird Lake (Lake Austin)
Barton Springs
Amy’s Ice Cream (local version of Cold Stone Creamery/ Steve’s Ice Cream)
Chevy’s for Creamy Jalapeno Dip
* Alamo Drafthouse – ABSOLUTELY, and you must order fried pickles
Salt Lick
Sandy’s for fries and frozen custard
Hyde Park Grill – people rave about the fries, but this place (and its fries) do nothing for me
Perla’s – yes and yes. Holy fcuk, go now. Frozen drink special each day is almost always fantastic. Get the lobster roll and split it as an appetizer.
Mayfield Park – special place in my heart from my time with the Girl Scouts. It’s a park with koi and peacocks.
Lake Travis, skip Oasis and head to Iguana Grill

go ahead, ask

If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.



    1. The Drag is not what it used to be. It used to be *way* more indie, but in the past decade+, it’s been overtaken by corporate chains (due to increased rents, I believe). When people refer to The Drag, they’re probably infusing some nostalgia, including their college days at The University of Texas (which is right across the street). It *used* to have the same feel that epitomized the film Slacker.

      Can I add some things to your Austin list?

      Deep Eddy swimming pool (spring-fed, partially shaded, and just as cold as Barton Springs)
      tons of food trailers all over Austin:
      Whole Foods Market flagship store (aka Disneyland for adults)
      Central Market
      Half Price Books
      breakfast tacos – everywhere (Torchy’s, Tacodeli, etc.)
      Mexican food – everywhere
      chips and salsa – everywhere
      coffee shops: Spider House, Cafe Medici (really good coffee), Pacha on Burnet Rd. (secret Pacha latte recipe)
      barbecue (although I’m a vegetarian): latest and greatest I’ve heard is Franklin Barbecue, where people will wait in line outside (in 100+ degree weather) for over an hour; they sell it until they run out, and then they close shop for the day
      Casa de Luz – delicious and refreshing food in a tranquil environment
      farmer’s market – lots of them, but I go to the one downtown on Saturday morning
      lots of good restaurants – check out Edible Austin
      hipster watching – all over, but especially on the east side
      Just found out about this place, although, I have yet to try it: Contigo Austin – looks cool

      1. Author

        Love the additions, except for Spider House. That place makes my skin crawl, and that’s nothing to do with the name. Epoch Coffee House is very cool visually. I would leave Half Price Books off the list too. Also if La Condesa wasn’t on my original list, it should be… along with a drive to Lockhart TX over Dripping Springs for the Salt Lick.

  1. The Drag was appealing to me as a teen because I was from a small town and it had a head shop! Right by campus! Bongs were so exotic.

  2. You mean Chuy’s, not Chevy’s right?

    Adding: Blanton Museum of Art, Uncommon Objects, Antones

    Austin misses you!

    1. Author

      I have no idea if it’s Chuy’s or Chevy’s for that specific recommendation. It came to me from my girl scouts.

      Though, I’d add that HULA HUT is a fun stop when it’s not too hot outside.

  3. This list makes me LONG for Austin and my UT days. Wholly agree with KB that the drag is mostly visited for nostalgia purposes. My addition would be catching the gospel brunch at Stubb’s on a Sunday morning or getting two-step lessons at the Broken Spoke.

  4. I don’t frequent Spider House like I did in my college days, but everyone else seems to like it (even though they’re not college-age anymore). I understand what you mean about ‘makes your skin crawl.’ Frankly, most coffee houses feel too dirty to me these days, so I just get my jo to go (and, btw, although Jo’s may be good for people watching, their coffee is horrible). Epoch definitely feels dirty to me. I would go there for a brief stop (which I did last week), but I wouldn’t hang out there to do work.

    Yes on La Condesa! Hula Hut and Mozart’s are okay (located beside each other), but the clientele tends to be frat boys.

    Again, I’m a vegetarian, but Lockhart is definitely famous for their barbecue (ate there as a kid).

  5. Yes, yes, and yes. Especially the addition for the food trucks. South Congress is one of my favorite places — you hate to hit up the Big Top Candy Shop. As for the drag, it was cool when I moved here …14 years ago. it mainly appeals to college students, but it’s nowhere near as cool as it was when I was a freshman and it had cool local music shops and eateries. Now it’s all commercial.

  6. I’d add East 6th St. It’s where all the poor artist’s hang out these days. It’s more hipster than frat. There’s also an awesome French bistro on East 11th St. called Blue Dahlia. They have caramel sea salt gelato that is to die for. Seriously, I cried. They have a great cheese board too :)

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