They say everything is bigger in Texas, but in Austin, it’s the small-town feel that really sets this bustling city apart. A laid back place that celebrates community, encourages individuality and boasts gorgeous scenery to boot, it’s also a haven for creatives — that’s why we asked a few of our favorite locals to give us the lowdown on their hometown. Here, the top places to eat, drink, play and people watch.
WHERE TO EAT
“The list of places to eat and drink can go on and on in a town like this,” says Jill Bradshaw, owner of Friends & Neighbors. “There’s something amazing in every category of cuisine.” She recommends Launderette (above) for their fun atmosphere and diverse menu.
Launderette, 2115 Holly St
ARO boutique’s Leslie Hernandez agrees and adds Elizabeth Street Cafe to her list. “They both have incredible food, drinks and beautiful interiors.”
Elizabeth Street Cafe, 1501 S 1st St
For lunch, designer Miranda Bennett is all about the deli counter at Wheatsville, a grocer that sells thoughtfully sourced products. If it’s a special occasion, she has a couple favorites — Justine’s, a French brasserie, or Josephine House (below), the more casual sister of fine dining restaurant Jefferey’s.
Wheatsville Food Co-op, 3101 Guadalupe St.; 4001 S. Lamar Blvd.
Justine’s, 4710 E 5th St
Josephine House, 1601 Waterston Ave
“It’s rare that a week passes without several trips to Taco Deli for tacos,” admits Olive boutique owner Laura Uhlir, adding that she swears there’s not a bad one on the menu. She’s also been really into Unit-D (below) for Neapolitan pizza lately. “It doesn’t hurt that it’s a few blocks from my house too.”
Unit-D, 2406 Manor Road
“You can spot us having a breakfast or lunch meeting at Café No Sé — a fresh and delicious restaurant in the new South Congress Hotel,” adds Stephanie Beard, designer of Esby Apparel. “We also love a great bottle of wine, house made mozzarella and handcrafted neapolitan pies at Bufalina for dinner.”
Café No Sé, 1603 S Congress Ave
Bufalina, 519 E Cesar Chavez St #200
WHERE TO DRINK
“For drinks, sitting outside with pizza and a glass of wine at King Bee,” Miranda says, referring to the vintage detailed pub. Both Stephanie and Laura name Weather Up (above), an offshoot of the NYC bar, as one of their go-to’s — Jill agrees and adds drink.well., a gastropub known for its innovative drink menu, to her list. “Both make excellent cocktails and they change them up all the time,” she says.
King Bee, 1906 E 12th St
Weather Up, 1808 E Cesar Chavez St
drink.well., 207 E 53rd St
Laura doesn’t need to go very far for a nightcap, though. She also recommends her “favorite dive bar across the street from the shop, Longbranch Inn, for cocktails.”
Longbranch Inn (above), 1133 E 11th St
“For drinks, I hit up San Jose Hotel and hang out at the pool area,” Leslie says. “It’s relaxing and I love that it’s hidden from the busy street of shoppers and feels like you’re walking into a secret garden with a pool.”
Hotel San Jose (below), 1316 S Congress Ave
WHERE TO WATCH LIVE MUSIC
Austin is nicknamed the “Live Music Capital of the World” for a reason and, as such, there are more than plenty of places to catch a show.
“The Gallery, which is above the Continental Club, is one of my favorite spots because it feels like you’re sitting in your cool friend’s living room,” Leslie says. “Hotel Las Vegas is good too for emerging artists, we recently saw a Brazilian band with our friends, the venue is a mix of indoor and outside.”
The Continental Club (above), 1315 S Congress Ave
Hotel Vegas, 1502 E 6th St
“On a nice night, I love going to Cheer Up Charlie’s or Mohawk to see a band because they have shows outside,” Jill says. Laura agrees completely. At either of those Red River spots, “You’re bound to catch something good.”
Cheer Up Charlie’s, 900 Red River St
The Mohawk, 912 Red River St
“It’s also fun to take your chances on winning tickets to a live taping at ACL Live,” Stephanie adds. “They announce their upcoming shows here and you might be lucky enough to snag a pair of free tickets if you enter the drawing.”
ACL Live at The Moody Theater, 310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd.
As for Miranda, her jam is Sahara Lounge (above), which has a Texas juke bar vibe with an African twist. “Bring your dancing shoes.”
Sahara Lounge, 1413 Webberville Rd
BEST WAY TO ENJOY THE OUTDOORS
It’s a general consensus: when in Austin, go to the water. “No matter where you are, as long as you are in or near water you’re having the best day ever,” Jill says. “There are so many places to explore, there’s no way you can know all of them even after living here 10+ years. Explore Texas, get in some water.”
“Swim. Swim. Swim,” Laura insists. “Texas summers are rough. When I’m not at the shop I’m most likely in a pool or hunting down a swimming hole.”
Miranda continues, “There are a ton of options, but I like to keep it simple with Barton Springs and/or the boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake.”
Lady Bird Lake, Sandra Muraida Way and W. Cesar Chavez St.
Stephanie also recommends Barton Springs (“where the water is always a cool 68-degrees,”) along with the Greenbelt for shaded trails and refreshing swimming holes. “If natural bodies of water isn’t your thing,” she continues, “head over [to] the Deep Eddy Pool — a man-made pool that happens to be the oldest swimming pool in Texas.”
The Greenbelt, 3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy.
Deep Eddy Pool (above), 401 Deep Eddy Drive
“Sometimes just sitting outside on the patio at one of my favorite spots and having a drink with friends and family is the best way for me to enjoy the outdoors,” Leslie says. “It’s nice in the evening because it’s not so hot and Austin has so many unique places to go… It’s kind of our thing to go try new patio spots all over the city.”
WHAT TO WEAR
“As Austin itself changes, I think it’s style changes as well,” Jill says. “Austin remains a very casual town, not putting a lot of emphasis on dressing up, but that’s slowly changing. People are embracing their own unique styles. As a shop owner who sells a lot of vintage clothing, I carry a pretty wide variety of styles from bohemian to modern, casual to dressy and there’s a customer here for all of it. Everyone has a different style here and that’s part of why it’s so great.”
Miranda agrees, describing the city’s style as “laid back and personal.”
“Austin is growing fast, there [are] tons of people moving in from New York, California and from all over but I think this makes Austin an eclectic city when it comes to style,” Leslie says.
“Austin style is pretty casual but the main rule here is anything goes,” Stephanie continues. “Because of the hot hot summers, we stay relaxed and cool in flowing dresses and comfortable slides. We love to accessorize with fun sunglasses and summer hats.”
And, of course, “Denim is always appropriate,” Laura adds.
HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT DAY IN AUSTIN
According to Miranda, a perfect Austin day starts off with a bit of nature and ends on Congress Avenue at a music venue. “Walking my dog along Boggy Creek, meeting up for a swim at the Springs, frozen rosé in the courtyard of Hotel San Jose, dinner at Café No Sé and music and a night cap at the Continental Club,” she says.
Stephanie also recommends frozen rosé (“frozé”) at Hotel San Jose (above), after spending time outside and tucking into some tacos. “Once awake, if it’s still cool outside, a stroll around the boardwalk with the dogs is ideal,” she says. “Afterwards, we love to grab a couple of breakfast tacos and an iced latte at one of the many local coffee shops. Afterwards, suit up and find some water.”
For Laura, it’s a no brainer. “Sleep in, the one-two punch that is coffee-tacos at Houndstooth and Tacodeli (brilliantly right next door to one another), pack up a picnic, head out to the Greenbelt or another swimming spot, spend the afternoon in the sun, grab a juice on the way home from JuiceLand, rinse off, drinks – while my hair’s still wet – somewhere with a great patio, gorge myself on sushi at Uchiko, wrap it up with a late movie at the Alamo and a salted caramel milkshake.”
Uchiko, 4200 North Lamar
Jill also cites Uchiko as an essential place to stuff your face, alongside homestyle eatery Mi Madre’s and Philly-style sandwich and soda joint, the Republic of Sandwich. First, though, “Sleep in,” and then “get brunch at Mi Madre’s, grab a sandwich to go from The Republic of Sandwich, drive to Krause Springs, hit up some antique stores on the way back, grab a happy hour cocktail (this town is filled with insane happy hour deals), then finish it off with a gourmet meal at Uchiko. Perfection.”
Mi Madres, 2201 Manor Rd
The Republic of Sandwich, 2320 Hancock Dr
Krouse Springs, 404 Krause Spring Rd
“I’ve been antique and vintage shopping in Austin for years, when I lived in the East Coast, I could never miss hitting up my favorite stores when I came back into town,” Leslie says. “Finding some hidden gems and meeting friends for drinks would be the perfect ending to my day in Austin.”