a weekend in Austin -- where to eat, drink, shop and stay
Wow, I have been meaning to post this for a seriously long time. So here you have it, the long awaited travel guide to Austin! I lived in Austin for a year while I studied at UT Law School, so I got to know my way round pretty well. Being an avid foodie I took every opportunity to try new restaurants and bars, so I thought I should let you guys in on it too. I was back in Texas over the summer, in Dallas, so it seemed natural that we should take a trip to Austin to reminisce a little and have some good food. My boyfriend lived in Austin for 5 years, so our combined expertise is pretty far-reaching. I’ll give you the run down on where we visited this time around, then list a couple more places that I love and that you shouldn’t miss out on!
Where to eat in Austin:
If you live in Austin, you’ve probably heard of Jeffrey’s, or it’s sister restaurant Josephine House. Located in the Clarksville neighbourhood, this is the perfect spot for a fancy celebratory meal. The decor, particularly in the bar area, is classic and cosy. It’s the kind of place you’d want to tuck yourself into a booth and sit and chat languidly over cocktails. The service is absolutely seamless and the food is elegant and complex. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Go for happy hour.
Jeffrey’s offers happy hour between 4.30 and 6.30pm Tuesday to Sunday, and all night on Mondays. It is such a good deal, with all the food on the bar menu half price, and $2 off any cocktail, beer or glass of wine. It’s a great opportunity to experience Jeffrey’s on a smaller budget, and such a sophisticated environment to spend happy hour in. The food is New American with a French twist, and absolutely delicious. Don’t miss out on the Baked Alaska for dessert, it is served on fire! Very dramatic and a great end to dinner.
Noble Sandwich Co
Up on Burnet Rd in North Austin, the Noble Sandwich Co is a great little spot to pop in for lunch. Famed for their delicious meaty sandwiches, this is somewhere that has been on my list of places to try for ages. The sandwiches are delicious. The kind of saucy, meaty, juicy sandwiches that are messy but oh so worth it. I opted for the seared beef tongue with smoked green onions, red pepper relish and aioli. I love that they offer something like tongue which you rarely see outside of the taco context. Their famous Noble Pig sandwich is filled with three kinds of pork, provolone, spicy mustard and bacon. Hello. Bacon, pulled pork and spicy ham. Yes please. All the sandwiches come with house-made pickles and a handful of crisps (chips). Take a seat on the shady patio and enjoy, they also have a couple of local beers and ciders if you fancy a drink.
Emmer & Rye
Where do I begin with this place. I have been lusting after a dinner at Emmer & Rye for a very long time. The chef, Kevin Fink, found himself on Food & Wine’s best new chefs list in 2016, and the restaurant landed a spot on Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America last year too. They thoroughly deserve it. The restaurant focuses on specialty grains, and grinds them in-house to make flour for their breads and pasta. The cocktails are divine, and the wine list boasts eclectic choices like orange wine made by nuns in Italy. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and exude enthusiasm for the food and wine. You order a variety of small plates from the menu, under the guidance of your server, then pick from the beautiful “dim sum” cart that is wheeled around periodically. Expect little delicious morsels of steak tartare, or slightly bigger plates like the most flavoursome potato salad. The words potato salad really don’t do the dish justice. This is the kind of restaurant that will make you rethink your own approach to cooking.
With both a food truck and a brick and mortar venue, Garbo’s is making delicious and reasonably priced lobster rolls super accessible in Austin! At $14, I dare say this is the best value lobster roll you’re going to find. The restaurant is stylishly furnished inside, with a bright and buzzy atmosphere. Don’t let the low-key strip mall location put you off. They also have a couple of delicious wines by the glass, but they are pretty pricey considering the location. But be sure to go there for the lobster rolls. Buttery, sweet and succulent. They serve both Maine and Connecticut style so no-one feels left out!
A great, under-the-radar spot for tacos. We stopped by for some breakfast tacos and they were delicious. There are plenty of options to choose from and they come generously filled, with zingy salsas on the side.
This seems to be THE place to come for brunch in Austin. They have two branches, but don’t take reservations so be prepared for a wait. Fear not, they provide coffee and water for waiting customers, and plenty of fun games to play to pass the time. The service is cheery and friendly, and you will be bowled over by the choice on the menu. They have tonnes of different benedicts, and you can get two different styles on one plate if you’re indecisive. Yes, the OMG french toast is as good as it looks and sounds. The cold brew is smooth and (for once!) reasonably priced. They also have a really wide range of brunch cocktails if you fancy a little boozing.
Before I say anything else, I will inform you that this place is open 24/7. So no matter what time of day or night, you can get your doughnut fix. They also have a range of vegan doughnuts, so everyone is catered for! Big, squidgy and loaded with delicious toppings, the doughnuts are so, so good. They even have one called the Mango Tango which is filled with mango jelly and topped with vanilla frosting and Tang powder. Unusual and oh so good. Seriously, get a box of 6. You’ll regret only getting one.
Where to shop in Austin:
The Domain development in North Austin has come on leaps and bounds over the last year. It is filled with great places to eat, shop, drink and stay. Sugarfina is a beautiful shop, selling these gorgeous little boxes of chocolates and candies that you can combine in a custom gift box. They also do personalised ones for wedding favours etc. The staff are really friendly and there are free samples! With so many different varieties to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect gift for that special someone, and probably a little something for yourself too.
Chances are, if you’ve seen a prop you love in someone’s blog post, it’s from this shop. They sell a fantastic range of reasonably priced glassware and dishes, as well as some elegant statement pieces and barware. The furniture is absolute eye candy. Alas, I currently have no abode of my own to furnish, so I resisted! You can also buy online ahead of time and pick up your purchases in-store, carefully wrapped and boxed which is perfect for travellers.
The Austin Wine Merchant
If you happen to be in Austin on a weekend, be sure to pop by the Wine Merchant in the afternoon for some wine tasting. Every week, between 12 and 3pm, a different wine supplier offers tastings and answers questions. The staff here are very knowledgeable and will
be able to tempt you with something delicious, no matter what your price range. They also have a great range of niche liquor and bitters, as well as some beautiful (but pricey) glassware.
Where to drink in Austin:
The Roosevelt Room
This is definitely the place to go if you want a wide range of excellent cocktails, ranging from the classic to the completely innovative and eclectic. The Poet’s Muse is made with shiitake mushrooms and pistachio milk, and is absolutely divine. In fact, it won Bombay Sapphire’s most imaginative cocktail in 2015. One sip and you’ll see why. My other favourite on the list has to be the Cigar Box, on the right below. Smokey mezcal, flaming cinnamon, tobacco essence…so good. They have also started serving a few bar snacks in case you get peckish! Above the bar is a huge board with a range of classic cocktails, listed by era. SO whether you prefer prohibition-age cocktails or a tiki concoction, they’ve got you covered.
The Lobby Bar at The South Congress Hotel
The atmosphere here is laid-back cool, the decor is Pinterest-worthy, and the drinks are delicious. To top it all off, the bar snacks are the perfect size, and during happy hour (Mon-Fri 5-7) some are $2 off. While you’re here, take a look around the hotel. They have a snazzy little shop and a few dining options too. You might just find yourself wanting to stay here on your inevitable return visit to Austin!
Yes, this is a bar inside a parking garage. And yes, it is as cool as it sounds. The decor is elegant, the cocktails are well executed, and the bar is always buzzing. The Indian Paintbrush was named the Official Drink of Austin in 2015, so definitely try it if you pop in! This bar holds a special place in my heart as it was where my boyfriend and I had our first date, so we had to go back to reminisce! And yes, before you ask, they have happy hour. 5-7 Monday-Friday.
Blue Cat Cafe
Cat heaven! This lovely spot houses rescue cats and kittens in need of a home. You can come, chill out with a drink and/or some food and enjoy the animal company. Depending on the strength of your will power, you may end up going home with a new adopted furry friend. They have a great range of coffee-based drinks and some delicious kombucha! Very reasonably priced, and you only pay an extra $3 each to enjoy the cat company if you buy a drink. Open until 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Where to stay in Austin:
When I lived in Austin, I lived on the East side. It’s full of restaurants, bars and food trucks and is really vibrant. There are some brilliant Airbnb’s here, this is the one we stayed at during this trip. If you’re an animal lover, this is the place for you. They have two gorgeous cats and the friendliest dog I’ve ever come across. Plus it’s walking distance from the Blue Cat Café!
Other great spots:
Head here for innovative New American food in small plate format, quirky cocktails and a great buzzy atmosphere.
Happy hour offerings include $1 oysters and $6 martinis. What more can I say. Live jazz and a classy old-school lounge vibe just tops it off.
Taco More (on East Riverside)
Quick, cheap and delicious, Taco More is my go-to spot for great Mexican food in Austin. This is when a midnight snack turns into a whole second dinner…
Luxe Detroit-style pizza with several locations around Austin, some in food-trucks next to bars. Beer, cocktails, pizza. Hello!
Austin may be famed for Franklin’s or La Barbecue, but this food truck on the East side provides just-as-good barbecue without the crazy lines and wait time.
Luke’s Inside Out
Just down the road from Odd Duck, this food truck turns out some absolutely delicious sandwiches. Right next to Gibson bar if you get thirsty…
I love the outdoor area here, it feels like a little corner of Italy on a sunny afternoon. Happy hour is 3-7 daily, and the wine and cocktails are fab.
Olive & June
A great Italian spot in Austin with wonderful pasta and some awesome wine offers on Monday nights (1/2 off all wines by the glass).