Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas Travel Guide

Hidden Gems: Athens, Georgia travel guide // feastandwest.com

I’m excited that Becca of the blog Two Places at Once joins us for today’s Austin, Texas travel guide! 

I’m so excited to share a little bit of Austin with y’all today! I’ve lived in the live music capital of the world for three years now and I still feel like there are new places and things for me to try. I absolutely adore the city of Austin and I hope this guide gives you some great ideas for your next visit!

I’ve found that Austin truly does have its own culture. Over the last 30 years, Austin has grown tremendously. What used to be a sleepy college town that happened to be the capital of Texas has turned into a large metropolis that attracts big and small businesses alike. Austin is an odd mix of hippies, college students, government, families and everything in between. Somehow, it works.

Click through to see Becca’s Austin, Texas travel guide!

Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
Franklin Barbecue
Eat + Drink

EAST
Easily my favorite part of town, East Austin is full of quirky spots, great people watching and innovative food.

  • Takoba — This is my go-to restaurant for Tex-Mex. Takoba has a great outdoor patio, traditional margaritas and chips & salsa that are to die for. It’s super affordable too!
  • Franklin — You can’t travel to Texas without sampling some of the BBQ. Franklin has been ranked the number one BBQ joint on a number of lists time and time again. What started as a simple food truck, has become something of a sensation. Be prepared for a wait though. I stood in line for 3 hours before eating. But that’s the fun of it!
  • East Side Showroom — Since we’re speaking of hidden gems, I have to tell you about East Side Showroom. It’s a hole in the wall, for sure, but it’s on the fancy side for dives. The drinks are outstanding and the atmosphere is cool yet laid back.
  • East Side Cafe — This restaurant serves American style food with a twist. Usually they serve a blue plate special that changes every day. The restaurant is actually located in an old house that gives the place a very homey feel. I love East Side Cafe for brunch, lunch or dinner.
  • Blue Dahlia — Upscale soups, salads and sandwiches. I love meeting girlfriends here for lunch or brunch.
  • Hillside Farmacy — Built in a totally restored pharmacy, Hillside Farmacy focuses on locally sourced, organic foods. They serve anything from sandwiches to pork tenderloin. I love this restaurant for its simplicity.
  • Whisler’s — What a gem, indeed! This is a great bar for a laid back atmosphere without the crowds. Some of the really popular places in Austin can get a little overwhelming and Whisler’s isn’t like that. They do a great job of staying just below the radar. Definitely worth checking out for cocktails. For a full review, feel free to check out my Austin Find post!
  • Contigo — Another farm to table restaurant that makes some of the best dang food I’ve had in Austin. I don’t think I’ve had a bad meal there yet. Some of the tables are set up family style but there are other, more-private tables. Overall, the restaurant is great at building a sense of community and creating wonderful food.
  • Jacoby’s — A ranch to table restaurant that serves us some of the best mac & cheese I’ve had as an adult. The owners also manage a ranch and all of the meat is sourced locally from the ranch. It’s a little on the pricey side, but totally worth it.
Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
Whisler’s

DOWNTOWN
I tend not to go downtown as much because parking is tough, but there sure are some gems downtown!

  • La Condesa — This is an upscale, modern Mexican restaurant. It’s great to meet girlfriends for drinks or for a date night. It’s located right across from ACL Live so it’s also a great place to stop before catching a concert.
  • Moonshine Patio and Grill — Moonshine is known for it’s absurd buffet style brunch on Sundays. It’s all you can eat and overwhelmingly delicious. They serve regular meals throughout the week as well. It’s a fun scene located just next to the convention center.
  • Lambert’s — I’ve had the best deviled eggs here. I don’t know what they did to them, but I couldn’t have eaten an entire plate. Lambert’s is also known for its creative use of BBQ. They also serve brunch on Sunday’s with killer bloody mary’s.
  • Easy Tiger — A German style beer garden and bake shop. In the morning, you can sample their breads and then in the evening you can sit down for a beer right along the creek. It’s one of my favorite locations downtown.
  • Max’s Wine Dive — Known for its fried chicken and champagne combo. If anyone can get away with it, it’s Max’s! In addition to that fun combo, they also act as a regular wine bar and restaurant. Another fun place for a night on the town or a low-key drink with friends.
  • Stubb’s — Stubb’s is one of the première music venues in Austin. They host a variety of concerts throughout the week and have a great indoor/outdoor venue. They also happen to serve some darn good BBQ.
  • Peche — Peche serves up prohibition style cocktails that are expertly crafted. It’s located in the Warehouse district downtown and it’s quite the gem.
  • Scholtz Garden — This is the oldest bar in Texas. It’s hidden away now, but it’s worth finding. This is a very popular venue to watch UT sports. It’s even considered a historical marker!

SOUTH
South Austin has exploded as of late, especially the SoLa corridor. You can find a little bit of everything.

  • Lick Ice Cream — Oh boy, don’t even get me started about this ice cream. It’s nowhere near my house and yet I’ll travel through rush hour traffic just to get one of their scoops. They make flavors like beet and mint, Texas sheet cake and chocolate with olive oil and sea salt.
  • ABGB — The Austin Beer Garden and Brewery combines two of my favorite things – pizza and beer. It’s in an old warehouse just off Lamar. They brew their own beer and make classic pizzas by the slice or pie. This is a great place to hang on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Guero’s — Fun fact- Guero’s was the first restaurant I tried in Austin. I couldn’t resist the classic tex/mex offerings! Their margaritas are made from only the purest ingredients. Guero’s even serves chips with three different salsas. I’m a big fan of their picadillo tacos.
  • Curra’s Grill — Curra’s is known for its avocado margarita. It sounds so weird, but just go with it. Trust me, it’s so good. And Curra’s has so much more to offer than just drinks! They serve Tex-Mex with a twist. A lot of locals go here for the dive-y atmosphere and off the beaten path feel.
  • South Congress Cafe — Cafe/diner style on South Congress. The restaurant itself is funky and eclectic. The food is traditional yet creative.
  • Hopdoddy — I think Hopdoddy has one of the longest waits for food (other than Franklin) in Austin. Again, it’s so worth the wait. The burgers are outstanding. They serve beer to you in line so that makes the wait more bearable.
  • Home Slice Pizza — I’m a big fan of pizza and Home Slice does a great New York style pizza. It’s just greasy enough without being too filling. You can stop by for lunch and just grab a slice or take a pie home for dinner. They change up their offerings every day so you can always try something new!
  • The Broken Spoke — What used to be considered way south of town has become a more central park of south Austin since the city has expanded so much. Located right in the thick of it is one of the oldest dance halls in Texas. Even as Austin changes, The Broken Spoke remains the same. It offers a genuine Texas feel and country music.
  • Matt’s El Rancho — Apparently, it’s world-famous. You can’t make a trip to Austin without stopping at Matt’s El Rancho. It’s one of the classic, original restaurants in Austin. Matt’s El Rancho has an old Austin vibe for sure with its neon signs and family appeal.
  • Bouldin Creek Cafe — I frequent Bouldin Creek Cafe for brunch. It’s great to stop by before going on a hike, bike ride or long walk. I love taking visitors here because it has such a great south Austin feel.
  • Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop — Remember when Kanye and Kim got married? Well, Sugar Mama’s made their wedding cake. She’s that good. The bakeshop now has two locations because the demand is so high. My favorite cupcake to date is the baklava flavored cupcake.
  • Ch’Lantro — The food truck sensation now has a brick and mortar location on south Lamar. Kimchi fries are a must.

CENTRAL
I lived in Central Austin for a while and it’s one of my favorite areas. It’s family friendly, yet full of hippies.

  • The Noble Pig — Noble Pig has become such a phenomenon in Austin that it now has two locations. They cure all their own meats and do almost everything in house. Diners, Dive in’s and Drives has even featured this restaurant! They’re known for their noble pig sandwich that features three forms of pork.
  • Pinthouse Pizza — Another restaurant that serves my favorite combo. Pinthouse is super close to my house so I end up visiting at least once a month. The crust is perfect and Pinthouse offers great toppings along with beer pairings.
  • Hyde Park Bar and Grille — Another long-standing restaurant in Austin, Hyde Park Grille is located in one of the older neighborhoods in Austin. They brag about their fries and with good and with good reason! Apparently they use a special batter which makes them irresistible.
  • Russel’s Bakery — Strawberry butter. That’s all I’m going to say about this one. Just kidding! Russel’s is a great breakfast place. The coffee is strong and the food is the perfect was to start a Saturday morning.
  • Kerbey Lane Cafe — The perfect spot for breakfast or brunch. They make wonderful migas, fluffy pancakes and strong coffee. It’s open 24 hours. You can’t really go wrong here.
  • drink.well — I discovered this bar by accident. They serve wonderful craft cocktails in a friendly neighborhood way. Drink.well is actually the bar that introduced me to the gimlet and it’s one of my favorite drinks now!
  • Uchiko — Paul Qui is almost synonymous with Austin after his stint on Top Chef. His restaurant group is ridiculously successful, but I think my favorite (and most affordable) is Uchiko. You can sit right in front of the chef as they prepare your sushi. I typically don’t love sushi, but Uchiko does it so well that I keep going back for more.
  • The Peached Tortilla — I can’t get enough of The Peached Tortilla. One of their most famous dishes is their bacon jam fries. Need I say more?
  • Mandola’s — One of the few traditional Italian restaurants in Austin. I used to live within blocks of Mandola’s and ordered take out at least twice a month. Their bread comes with every meal and it’s so buttery. The Italian wedding soup is some of the best I’ve had. This is a great restaurant for families and date night!
Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
Zilker Park
Explore
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — If you travel to Austin in the spring then your bound to experience the phenomenon that is bluebonnets. Before moving to Texas, I was totally unfamiliar with the bluebonnet, but it’s a beautiful blue wildflower that grows everywhere in Austin in the spring. The Wildflower Center is the perfect way to see all the different types of wildflowers.
  • Zilker Park — Best known for being the site of ACL in the fall, Zilker Park is a wonderful city park for Austin residents through the rest of the year. The park boasts beautiful views of the city scape and great walking trails. It’s a fun place to host a picnic, hand with friends or just enjoy the lovely Austin weather. A kite festival is held annually in Zilker Park and it’s one of my favorite festivals of the year.
  • Barton Creek Greenbelt — I love the Greenbelt. It feels like you’re so far from anywhere and yet you’re just miles from downtown. The Greenbelt features hike and bike trails, rock climbing and much more. There are three access points to the Greenbelt so there’s plenty to explore. When the creek is running, it’s even a great place to swim!
Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
The Greenbelt
  • Barton Springs Pool — One of my favorite parts of the city. Barton Springs Pool is a totally spring fed pool that then flows into the Colorado River. It’s just south of Zilker Park. You can spend a morning out in the park and then cool off in the springs. It’s so relaxing to visit the springs. During August, when it’s over 100 degrees, the 68 degree water is the only thing that cools me down.
  • Violet Crown Cinema — Don’t worry, I do realize that you can go to a movie theater in any city. But the Violet Crown is a different experience. The theater is locally-owned and only features independent films. Instead of sitting in a theater with hundreds of other people, their theaters only seat 20-30. On top of that your seats are reserved in advance! They also serve food and offer a full bar. Now that’s the kind of movie experience I like.
  • Peter Pan Mini Golf — You’re probably thinking, “mini golf, so what?’. But it’s so much more than that! Peter Pan Mini Golf has been around for ages and is an icon in Austin. It’s great for all ages. You can even BYOB!
  • SXSW — I can’t make a list about Austin without including a music festival. SXSW is held in March each year for two weeks. It literally takes over the city. Local bands, indy bands and major headliners are all involved. As an Austin resident, I enjoy finding the free shows around town instead of buying a pass.
  • Austin City Limits — I’m embarrassed to say that I have yet to go to ACL. I plan to this year though! There’s always an amazing line up and I can’t wait to experience such a huge festival.
Shop
  • First Thursdays on SoCo — On the first Thursday of each month, artisans get together around the south Congress area for an informal market. Restaurants in the area offer discounts and some of the stores provide drinks and snacks. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to stroll up and down the street, people-watch and grab some good food.
  • A-Town — This is one of my favorite stores in Austin. A-Town features local artists throughout the store. The prices are reasonable and the products are really unique.
  • Kendra Scott — The flagship store of this legendary jewelry designer is on south Congress (although it may be moving). Her jewelry is so recognizable and really well made. I love that her pieces make such statements.
  • Waterloo Records — Since moving to Austin, my husband and I have begun collecting records. We have quite a collection now and Waterloo is one of our favorite spots to visit. Waterloo has a great dollar bin section, but they also offer current records, CDs and tapes.
Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
Lost Maples
Hidden Gems: Austin, Texas travel guide // feastandwest.com
The Old Grist Mill
Road trips
  • 2 hours: Vanderpool, Texas — About two hours southwest of Austin. Lost Maples State Natural Area has great hikes and trails. I’d recommend visiting in the fall when the leaves change.
  • 2.5 hours: Fredericksburg, Texas — Fredericksburg is known for its antiquing, shopping and restaurants. It’s great for a day, a girl’s weekend or a romantic weekend.
  • 1 hour: Gruene, Texas — Pronounced like the word “green,” the town of Gruene has the oldest dance hall in Texas. The Old Grist Mill is also in Gruene. It’s a restaurant located in an old mill right on the river. Speaking of rivers, you can also float the rivers in Gruene… it’s the perfect activity on a hot August day!
  • Hamilton Pool: About an hour from Austin. Only 75 people are allowed in Hamilton Pool park at one time so it’s worth waking up early to make sure you get in! Hamilton Pool is a swimming hole near the Pedernales River. The pool is a wonderful quiet escape from your daily routine.

Becca DavisBECCA DAVIS // hg-facebook hg-facebook hg-pinterest  hg-instagram  hg-bloglovin

Becca is the girl behind the blog Two Places at Once. Originally from Florida, she now resides in Austin and has been transformed into a Texan. She enjoys spending as much time as possible in the kitchen, trying all the great restaurants in Austin and curling up with a good book. On her blog, you’ll find easy, homemade recipes with whole ingredients that anyone can make!

The Golden Ratio Guide:

Mix the perfect cocktail, every time

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. Courtney Leigh says

    This list is awesome and so thorough!! The only thing I would’ve included are some of our awesome music venues like Cheer Up Charlie’s (always free!), The Mohawk, Stubb’s, and The Blackheart (also always free!). There are some restaurants on here that I’ve yet to try. I went to Whisler’s for the first time this past SXSW and fell in love. It’s just as you describe it. Super chill but just under the radar. Great post!

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!