Going to visit Austin
Hi, I am going to visit my sister in Austin in less then two weeks. Yeah! I can't wait, I am so excited. She lives off of Tinnin Ford and told me that she is close to 6th and Congress. I was hoping for some ideas on things for us to do. Good restaurants, night spots, etc. I am really hoping to experience a good sampling of what Austin has to offer. I appreciate all of your suggestions. Thanks.
Recent topics that discuss the requests of out-of-town visitors include the following. It comes up a lot, so you can use the search function to find many more.
More specific to the locations you mention and what's between them, you might check out the quest for deliciousness in this growing series:
If you have specific desires or needs in mind, people are pretty good about making specific suggestions. If you like everything, you can probably pick a thread at random and try whatever it suggests.
Well, I am mainly looking for maybe some BBQ, some typical Texas or Austin food (Chicken Fried Steak), late night eating (something for after we go out and check out the nightlife), and good happy hour spots. We aren't looking for anything expensive. Just someplace where two girls (24 and 28 years) can go out and have a real good time. Thanks.
BBQ - Salt Lick in Driftwood (30 min south if your staying near DT/SoCo) is where I take my out of town/state friends...it is all you can eat BBQ, great pork ribs, brisket, sausage and its byob or liquor (bring a keg if you want). on the weekends it can get crowded so expect a wait and usually live music. Something simplier and closer, on UT campus/the Drag (Guadalupe St), Ruby's BBQ...has all natural beef brisket and great spicy beans and other good BBQ
Threadgills is good for fried (chix, steak, green tomatoes, orka) food items / southern cooking w/ lots of veggie options and once again usually live music in the evening...its located near SoCo area
Moonshine on Red River has a pretty good sunday brunch w/ decent AM drinks as well...
Late Night food: Magnolia Cafe and Kerby Lane, get the queso at either...good for sobering up
Happy Hour: 219 West in Downtown area is great for HH, 1/2 price tapas till i think 7-8 every weekday and also decent drink prices and a good "scene"
Tex-Mex (a must if you havent had it): I am a fan of Chuys on Barton Springs and also Trudys, get the mexican martinis or a margarita, but there are a TON of tex-mex options and favorites vary from person to person...
South Congress Cafe (on South Congress...) is owned by Trudys as well...the food is different than Trudys and pretty good...but more importantly has a HH everyday from about 1-7 w/ great drink prices on mojitos and beer, great for a quick drink or two or three while walking/shopping on SoCo
All the above places are also priced cheap to moderate so none of them should break the bank...
Austin has way too many good (local, non national chain) food spots for just one trip, but enjoy what you can.
I have to respectfully disagree with the recs for Magnolia, Chuys, and Trudy's, though it's true that everyone's tastes vary. You can find much past discussion on both places by doing a search. For late night after bar chow, you'd be better off going to Sam's Barbecue on east 12th, which is open until 3 a.m. Many 'hounds find the barbecue in Lockhart (@ half an hour away) to be the best in central Texas, so if you're into that, it might be worth the drive. The three biggies there are Kreuz's (sp?), Smitty's, and Black's, with opinions varying as to which is the best. Personally, I think it depends on the day; it's hard to get excellent results during each and every smoke run. (My respect for pit masters and mistresses has grown immensely over the summer because Mr. Diva and I bought a smoker and are learning to use it--it ain't easy, though we've had some success).
For Tex-Mex that has the atmosphere and scene it sounds like you're looking for, I would recommend El Chile over Chuys and Trudy's. I don't absolutely love this restaurant, but in my opinion, it's quite a bit better than Chuy's and Trudy's.
And if you do a search for happy hours, you should come up with some hits. Several restaurants around town offer half-price appetizers during happy hours.
I have to also disagree, this time with the Threadgill's rec. I went with my brother and sister in law a few weeks ago, and at first we were excited by the menu offerings: lots of old-fashioned, all-American comfort food. But everything we had, except for the au gratin potatoes, was utterly tasteless. Luby's is vastly superior.
Specifically: the mac and cheese was gray, watery, and tasteless.
The chicken fried steak was very tough and seasoned with only a touch black pepper (except for the gravy, which appeared to be seasoned with nothing at all). And it was odd: as if someone chicken-fried a large piece of steak, then somehow removed the steak and replaced it with a smaller one: there was hollow crust all around the meat, a good inch and half. I'm not saying that's what they did, but something in their process is not right.
Green beans were disappointingly boring: steamed, unsalted.
Pecan crusted chicken was gross in appearance and null in taste.
Okra was passable.
Bread basket was weird: kind of spongey rolls, and cornbread that was vaguely dotted with jalapenos: not enough to really flavor it, but just enough to give the cornbread a weird off taste.
I was shocked that any place could get away with serving food that was just so utterly tasteless. Seriously, even a light hand with the salt would have elevated everything to passable, but I've had tastier food out of a plastic Healthy Choice tray.
So if you wouldnt rec Threadgill's where would you recommend...lubys? Most of my recommendations were based on average prices, close to downtown or SoCo area and local austin places along w/, in my opinion, decent to good food. So for someone coming to austin, i wouldnt say Lubys, a cafeteria chaing??...but thats me.
As far as Tex Mex goes, I hadnt thought about Manor Rd, but yes, ill second El Chile for atomsphere and food along w/ Vivo's, at least for atomsphere...but then again theres lots of options on Manor Rd. Even Hoovers for comfort food, even though I think Threadgills is better, especially for your money (all you can eat sides/veggies)...
Going back to BBQ, and the other suggestions someone had, once again lots of tastes vary when it comes to BBQ and the vast number of options in or around austin, but Ill stand by Salt Lick for the experience, atomsphere and good bbq...and Rubys was just something local and closer than a drive to salt lick.
I will admit i ahvent been to sams bbq, but now want check it out.
I you like homestyle cooking, I find that Tony's Southern Comfort is better than both Threadgills and Hoovers. I have not been to Ben's Longbranch so I can't comment on the food firsthand, but it gets rave reviews on this board.
Wihtin the city limits, Sam's and House Park BBQ are my hands-down favorites.
Sorry for any ambiguity, I did not meant to recommend Luby's to out of town visitors. I was merely trying to underscore that I think Threadgill's is a very poor choice, for anyone, based on food. The decor, location, price was fine, but the food was not worth any of it.
KellBell, what follows is my opinion as a 26-yr old female student who has lived in your sister's neighborhood since May 2006.
For homestyle cooking, otherwise, I couldn't say, since I haven't been to many of those kind of places in Austin. I have been to Ben's Longbranch BBQ, many times, and always enjoyed it. But you'd have to really be in the mood for some "atmosphere," since the dining room is quite bare bones. They have a patio, but it's probably not ideal for a girls' meal out, unless you want a very casual lunch spot. My favorites there are the pork butt and ribs. The mutton is good, but a little fatty and boney. If you are happy to chew around that, by all means, go for it. They serve very tasty green beans, as well, with lots of garlic. On Wednesdays, they do soul food. I've unfortunately never been. I also love their peach cobbler, and the potato salad is almost exactly like my grandma's, but tastes differ so much. Ben's is on the sweeter side. I love Ben's, and I encourage you to go there because, unlike Salt Lick or Rudy's, Ben's is run by a sole proprietor under threat of gentrification: his little place is being dwarfed by condos. There's also Iron Works, right on the southeast edge of downtown.
Given your location, KellBell, I strongly encourage you to grab lunch from El Pollo Regio (on Riverside, the huge shopping center just west of Walgreens, 2 blocks from Tinnin Ford). You can eat outside at the picnic tables or take it to go. It's delicious chargrilled chicken, spiced Mexican- style, and served with 2 kinds of salsa (the green is very spicy), corn tortillas, rice and beans (you may want extra rice for 2). Definitely my strongest pick for this neighborhood.
I haven't been, but based on what I've heard, I think a great pick for you would be the Broken Spoke on South Lamar. It's not far from where you live (10-15 minute by car). They serve food, and have a reputation for a good chicken fried steak. But what makes it special is that they also have live country western music and dancing: it's a honky-tonk (but if you are put off, done be: not sure where you're coming from, but this is Austin, so these won't be scary or cheesy rednecks).
I don't know 6th well enough to make recommendations, other than to avoid it... This board is about food, so it may be venturing too far off topic and out of expertise. The only bar on 6th I've liked is the Jackelope at Trinity. Very rock n roll (they play metal, screen movies like Total Recall, everyone has lots of tattoos), looks like it could be a Robert Rodriguez movie. The drinks vary, though: High Life is the only draft, for example. Apparently they sell a decent hamburger, but I've never tried it.
Late night eating: if you're back in your neighborhood, there are several taco stands open late: you'll see them in the parking lots along E Riverside. There's also Wanfu on Oltorf (from Tinnin Ford, go east on Riverside to the next light, turn left--south--to Oltorf). It's open after hours, it's Chinese, that's about all there is to say. It varies a lot in quality.
Off 6th, the best late night food I found--in fact, the only good food I found-- was a guy selling brats out of a sidewalk cart (closer to I-35). I had the jalapeno brat, in a roll with onions, and it was awesome.
2 girls for brunch/lunch would probably enjoy Austin Java. The big one is on Barton Springs. They have a huge brunch menu, and it's really popular, so you'll get a good eyeful of south Austin folk. The food is not amazing, but it's definitely passable. My sister and I thought they did a good veggie burger.
Another good Mexican place nearby is Curra's on Oltorf, just west of 35. But it's not Tex-Mex, it's interior Mexican. Try the pork in pibil. And the queso is good, too. I'm sure there is more info elsewhere on this board.
Another decent lunch/early dinner option, combined with "thing to do," is to check out Central Market. There's one on Ben White, and the bigger/more elaborate one on Lamar and 35th or so (I forget). It's an amazing food lover's market, with vast produce, seafood, meats, imported goodies, everything. Better than Whole Foods, too. And they have a cafe and tables outside. Check their website and you may find there's live music or something going on.
If you end up going to S Congress (try the Continental for live music and drinks), you might try Homeslice for pizza. Opinion on this board varies greatly about that place, but a lot of people love it. Whatever you do, avoid Doc's. We ended up there inadvertently and it was seriously the worst defrosted hamburger I ever had in my life.
I recently asked about Zax's on Riverside and Barton Springs. Haven't been myself, but am eager to go after the really enthusiastic recommendations. Not very "Austin," though.
Hope any of this is useful to you. It might help to know how long you'll be in town and what sort of things you like.
Oh wow...thank you sooo much for all of your suggestions. These are excellent. I located the Broken Spoke online and we are definately going drinking there. I am coming from Southern California but cowboy bars are our favorite! We find them everywhere we go. My sister just moved there so she does not have any suggestions, and also she is soooo not adventerous. Thank you for the suggestions near Barton Springs, I do know that she said she wanted to go show me that. I am excited now. I'm going to make her try a taco truck on our way back home after a night out.
Thank you for providing a voice of reason.
Threadgill's is plain awful.How they stay in business is beyond me.Their food is devoid of flavor and the decor is Cracker Barrel-esque...but not as good as Cracker Barrel.
If you want a plate of meat and 3[as we call it in the Deep South-a good long drive from Texas]go to Galloway's on E.12th st.This man offers many of the cafeteria mainstays and he has access to spices and seasonings in his kitchen[!].
On Manor there is great food available-east of Cherrywood;avoid El Chile and El Chilito...Vivo[to me] is not worthy of mention...Taqueria Alaynas and El Rinconsito each have delicious tacos of varying stripes...ambience being in the eye of the beholder[I love hunkering down in an asphalt parking lot but am cognizant of the fact that a lot of folks like air conditioning]these two places may not be for everyone.
You mention Ruby's[29th and Guadalupe] which to me is good and has good atmosphere[ac and blues music]but is pricey....Ben's Longbranch is delicious...as is El Pollo Regio.
You've got your game face on for the most part.
Jackalope?Whoa.It's one of my favorite bars and they do offer a good burger[although I wish they seasoned with salt and pepper instead of Soy[which gets old as you polish off a 12 oz hunk of meat.The late night joint on 6th you speak of is The Best Wurst and they do admirable takes on sausage wraps...good hot greasy late night sustenance.Zax is dandy for decent food,a good patio,multiple beer selections and decent pricing.Doc's Motorworks is Waterloo Icehouse's version of culinary 3 card monte....a renamed corporate abyss trying to sound Austin-y.
I agree, scrumptiouschef, that Alaynas and Taqueria el Riconsito have better food than El Chile, but neither serve alcohol, offer tables, or are open in the evening, which I understood to be among the things the OP seeks. My point was that El Chile is aimed at roughly the same audience as Chuy's and Trudy's, but is far better than both. Perhaps Habanero Cafe or Los Comales would be good alternative choices for her for Tex-Mex.
And there's always burger eating and people watching at Casino el Camino.
I'll chime in on Doc' Motorworks. It is local, not corporate if that matters. Its parent restaurant (Waterloo Ice House) has only 6 locations, all of them in their home city of Austin.
It's a fun place to drink beer and people watch, but the food is average. Not horrible, but nothing memorable. Burgers, enchiladas, nachos and such that will not leave much of an impression good or bad.