Welcome back friends! I hope you all had an amazing weekend. Today I’m finally getting around to sharing my Austin trip. My best friend and I went down to celebrate our six year friendiversary (the significance of six years is thanks to this Lady Gaga song we had on repeat in our college dorm back in the day). It took a bit longer to assemble this one than my Providence and Philadelphia guides so please forgive me for jumping out of order!
Where To Stay: Hotel San Jose. Tucked away off of South Congress hidden inside a lush garden oasis is a courtyard of bungalow style hotel rooms. They really feel like a ‘home away from home’ as locals swing by for happy hour and a courtyard brunch, or as you walk right out the door and onto the street of one of Austin’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
Where To Eat: The food scene in Austin is absolute heaven. I honestly wish I had more than three meals a day just so I could have had an opportunity to try more of the places on my list.
The first group up is the chains. In-N-Out, Whataburger, and Mooyah are bountiful in Texas and in my opinion you absolutely cannot go wrong with a burger at any time of day, but especially as a late night option. The real rockstar in my book was Torchy’s Tacos. Damn Good tacos, as they “warn”, for a price so reasonable I think my jaw legitimately dropped the first time I went to hand a cashier my credit card. Also their guac is subtly spicy in a way I have never experienced out here on the East Coast. All this in a fast casual joint? 10/10 would recommend.
You cannot go to Texas and not get barbecue. That’s just sacrilegious. The first place on your list should be Rudy’s. Apparently people line up at crazy hours to get a bite of Franklin’s, but if that’s not your scene I guarantee Rudy’s will not disappoint you. A charming country store, Rudy’s gave us the biggest and most Texan welcome. After hearing we were first time customers, they started whipping up a batch of their most popular items as samples for their “friends from Boston”. Seriously the kindness and hospitality just absolutely floored me. Also it’s fantastic to be able to try a bit of everything before you make your move. Every piece of meat was more delicious than the last, but you absolutely cannot leave without trying the creamed corn or the spicy pinto beans! (Pro tip: grab some barbecue sandwiches from Rudy’s and take them with you on a “hike” (slighly elevated stroll) up Mount Bonnell and enjoy your barbecue with a view)! An added bonus: everything here is super affordable, so you definitely won’t feel bad about going back a second (or third) time.
Another barbecue option I would definitely recommend (though it is a bit pricier than Rudy’s) is Salt Lick. We tried this one in the Austin Bergstrom Airport, which was a bittersweet way to say farewell to Texas, with one last barbecue sandwich for the road.
The 2nd Street District in Austin is bursting with life. Downtown Austin combines the best of weird Austin with Texas hospitality. You could easily spend a day here popping in and out of all the different shops and restaurants. We visited La Condesa for some modern Mexican, and were able to sit outside under twinkling cafe lights comfortable in the upper 70 degree weather, and it was absolutely perfect. La Condesa is one of those places that instantly snatches up real estate in my heart with their interior design, from succulents and long wooden tables to bright colorful accents and crisp white chairs. Add in an al fresco patio and you already have a winner in my book, but it’s worth noting that the food is actually quite delicious also ;). We also stopped by La Condesa’s neighbor, Numero28, and were equally impressed. We had a beautiful lunch spot out on the patio, paired with a delicious panini made on pizza dough and a fresh Italian salad. I was pretty shocked to find such authentic Italian in the middle of the United States, but Numero28 really impressed me. The staff is incredibly passionate about their menu, and can go in-depth on everything from the pizza dough practices to the extensive wine list. One of our dining neighbors was really giving the server a run for his money with outlandish wine questions, but he volleyed them all with ease, relying on the depth of his knowledge. I was quite impressed!
The Oasis is a place you really shouldn’t miss if you are looking for something with that ‘wow’ factor on your trip. I cannot lie to you guys and say the food was anything more than mediocre because it wasn’t, but the views definitely make up for it. The Oasis property includes a brewery and sprawling restaurant, complete with three levels of decks overlooking the sunset on Lake Travis. I specify sunset because the Oasis is known as the sunset capital of Texas, and on this front they definitely do not disappoint. They don’t take reservations, so I would recommend getting there 45-60 minutes before sunset. You’ll probably still face a wait, but you’ll get to watch the sunset throughout your meal which will be well worth it! I probably could have gone around the grounds with a DSLR taking photos and be totally content, but here are the ones I managed to snag with my iPhone over dinner!
Another place of interest to me that might benefit my fellow Bostonians out there is B.D. Riley’s. This Irish Pub on Sixth Street is the official Patriots fan club of Austin and home to our fellow Pats fans! Jenn and I stopped in Sunday afternoon to catch the Patriots game and this place was absolutely packed with Patriots fans decked out in their jerseys for game day. It was so cool finding the home where so many New England fans gathered and connected with each other over our beloved Brady!
Opt Outside. There is no shortage of outside activities in Austin. The aforementioned Mount Bonnell is a great activity, albeit a short one, and may be out of the way if you’re staying downtown and not planning on venturing to the northwest part of the city.
We took a beautiful walk along the new Boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake and took in all the beauty of nature and the unobstructed views of downtown Austin. The boardwalk was a great home for everyone to coexist, runners and bikers exercised, moms pushed strollers, and Jenn and I strolled leisurely chatting about the 40 degree weather we were returning to back home! We also went to Zilker Metropolitan Park, home of Austin City Limits music festival.
The Domain is a sprawling outdoor mall that I would probably spend too much time (and money) at if I lived in Austin! Being able to shop outside in beautiful warm and sunny weather is something I will sorely miss over the New England winters. There is no shortage of restaurants with outdoor patios to dine at, and there is definitely a store for everyone!
South Congress was one of my favorite parts of Texas. I loved the feeling that I had traveled back in time as soon as we crossed over Lady Bird Lake. Everything from a cowboy boot shop to a Warby Parker store can be found here. The flagship Torchy’s Tacos takes up an entire block and looks like Radiator Springs (a fictitious town off Route 66 in Disney’s Cars). The Austin Motel actually has a drive up check in spot and red and white striped umbrellas like something straight out of the 1960s (I actually have zero idea if this is even close to being historically correct, but that’s the vibe I got. Please correct me if I’m mistaken)! We walked up and down this street checking out the cafes and food trucks, window shopping antiques and Kendra Scott jewelry. The character of this eclectic little street just tugged at my heart strings and I wanted to do all of my Saturday shopping there every week! South Congress is also home to the popular Continental Club, and its sister bar the Continental Club Gallery, which are among the many reasons I recommend staying at one of the charming hotels on South Congress!