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Jan 13, 2010 06:24 AM

Visiting downtown Austin in March

Good morning all. I'll be in Austin for two days this March on business, staying at the Omni downtown. I'd appreciate a couple of lunch and dinner recommendations. Lunch must be within walking distance. For dinner I'll go wherever my feet or public transportation will take me. I like reasonably priced casual places (hole-in-the-wall is good!) and am particularly interested in local or regional specialties. Ethnic is also good.
Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. Chez Nous for french food
    Carmelo's for Italian (doesn't get much love on this board, but I love the food, service and ambience)
    Parkside on 6th street for raw bar & seafood
    Habana on 6th st. for great cuban sandwiches
    Finn & Porter in the Hilton is a higher end seafood place that has been redone since I've been there
    I love Eddie V's for both seafood & steaks-great HH specials on apps. in the bar

    1 Reply
    1. re: amykragan

      Didn't the Habana downtown close? It's a sports bar now, I think.

    2. you might like checking out Frank's (an upscale hot dog/sausage place) which is in walking distance for lunch.
      Ironworks bbq is also downtown for decent bbq (not as good as the out of town places, but still)
      i'd recommend checking out for dinner the South Congress Cafe
      and El Pastor taco truck for great tacos el pastor (on E. Riverside) this would require a bus or taxi ride if you're so inspired
      Cisco's on E. 6th serves migas and biscuits. it's been around forever, and i like the migas.
      Taquería Chapala is not the best but offers cheap and pretty flavorful tex-mex. i like their salsa

      1. As one who works in that area I can tell you more places that are somewhere between "avoid this" and blah" than places I'd seek out. Mike's pub on 7th, across from the Driskill is a local institution that makes lovely burgers ("see your face in the bun" greasy...delish). I also like Louie's 106, usually for their raviolis or whatever is roasted that day. Ok, there are to you can walk to for lunch. For dinner, if you want to sample Tex-Mex, there are tons of choices, but most seem to have only a few items that are standouts. Like the carnitas puffy tacos at Angies or the plebian but tasty cheese enchiladas at Enchiladas y Mas. If you can drive a little farther (1/2 hour to an hour, dpednign on traffic), that is a prerequisite to a "great" (as opposed to really good but not great) BBQ experience. Most will steer you to Smitty's or Black's in Lockhart. I'd go north to Taylor instead (Mueller's).

        1. I don't know how the chowhounds feel about it, but the Texas Chili Parlor is a hole-in-the-wall that serves a regional specialty (chili). You could walk there by going north on Congress, crossing the Capitol grounds to 14th & Lavaca. It's on Lavaca between 14th and 15th. Apart from the chili, which I reckon is as good a version of proper Texas chili as you're going to get in a restaurant, it's nothing special but is packed for lunch every day. Get there by 11:30. By 11:45 it's pretty jammed.

          I second the Mike's pub recommendation. If you're looking for a downtown hole in the wall lunch joint.

          4 Replies
          1. re: The Eater

            I love Texas Chili Parlor. That's a great rec! Watch out because the "hot" is REALLY hot. It's also a great place for a real Austin-y experience. And, a bit of trivia... it was in one of the Grindhouse movies.

            I'd add recs for Casino El Camino - giant burgers in another funky Austin joint. And for Lambert's "fancy bbq". You have to try the mac and cheese there.


            1. re: The Eater

              I'll second the TCP recommendation with two caveats. One, the service can be spotty at best. Two, the meat is more chunky than most chili is. Having said that, though, their chili has among the best flavor I've had in a restaurant's "bowl of red."

              1. re: exlnghrn

                Good point, exlnghrn. Service can be Austin-slackerish. Could it be that after almost 5 years in this town, I've become desensitized to that? Last time we went, though, the girl was totally on top of everything and really nice. To your other point, I think the reason I consider this chili "special" and worth recommending is the "chunky" meat. But, I should have remembered to give a heads up to that for a visitor unfamiliar with that style of chili. The chili meat isn't ground... it's more like hunks of brisket?

                fisher, I meant to give a heads up on Casino El Camino's hours, should you choose it for lunch. They open at 4pm most days and stay open til 2am. Only on Fri, Sat, and Sun do they open at noon.

                1. re: stephanieh

                  At the Chili Parlor, you gotta sit in the first room, towards the back half by the restrooms (I'm there every few weeks as I work in the area). Best service at lunch.

            2. Depending on when you're here, downtown Austin could be extremely crowded due to SXSW. I think it's March 16-21 this year.