Austin suggestions - downtown
I'll be in Austin for a conference in October with a group of friends. We'll be there about two and a half days and we're staying at the Omni Austin which is at 700 San Jacinto at 8th Street; we won't have a car.
We are looking for fairly inexpensive restaurant suggestions as well as suggestions on where to go out at night. We're not super trendy so we're not looking for the hottest, most current nightspot; we'd rather have somewhere with good drinks and maybe some good music. As far as food goes - we are eight women who like to eat and appreciate good food and we like just about everything. Extra points for good dessert.
Any suggestions are appreciated! I've been reading other posts but it's hard to tell what's within walking distance of our hotel.
It's been many, many years (too many!) since I've been able to visit Austin, but I still remember one place for outstanding CFS - The Tavern ("Air Conditioned") - their side wall had a sign painted on it that reminded you that "You're never too far - from 12th and LaMar..." Real nice folks that ran it, too...
At the risk of extreme overkill, I would like to re-emphasize the Las Manitas touts. Indeed, were the world just, if you went to Iron Cactus and not Las Manitas you would burst into flames immediately.
I also like the Mercury for live music downtown (it's above Jazz on 6th Street and may have changed names by now). If you'll be in Austin during the first week in October, you can see the Grand Champeen new CD release show there on 10/4. If you like rock music on the loudish side, do not miss it.
Finally, Angie's just across I-35 on 6th street in a little house has outstanding carnitas, or fried pork tacos. They also bring you beers in ice buckets, so you need not wait for backup.
La Traviata on Congress between 3rd&4th is a must; it'll be at the top of your budget. I second the breakfast/lunch recommendation of Las Manitas. Don't forget Mike's Pub on 7th, just east of the Intercontinental, upstairs in the parking garage. Some of the best greasy burgers on the planet. I wish I had one now. Personally, I'd head across Congress on fifth to Kenichi for sushi but mainly for the miso marinated cod. Las Manitas can't be emphasized enough. You must go there for breakfast and lunch.
Two and a half days...I guess that means 2 dinners, two lunches, two nights out.
Food that's good and relatively inexpensive in the immediate area:
Thai Passion, Jazz (food so/so, but one of the only places you can eat and watch a full band in comfort), Iron Cactus, Marakesh, Mekong River.
You might want to have lunch one day at Las Manitas. They have good breakfast also, but no dinner. See the link below for addresses (click around for club listings, cafes, etc., as well as a detailed transit map). You can explore some other areas with a quick bus ride.
I'd take one night, start walking south, stop for a drink at the Cedar Door or Elephant Room, walk across Town Lake, and go to El Sol y La Luna. The usually have some quiet music. You can also go to Guero's, but it's usually pretty packed (I like their orange/achiote roasted chicken tacos). You can go to some of the shops on South Congress (except for first Thursdays, most close by 7 pm).
On the second night, walk up and down sixth street after dinner and just go where the music takes you. If it's not your bag, then walk over to the warehouse district.
Don't know what music you like, but the most "Austin" type places would be the Continental Club, Emo's (I like to go punk-watching there), Casino El Camino, Lovejoy's, Little City (for coffee), Elephant Room for Jazz, Joe's Generic for blues, Ritz Lounge (upstairs), Club DeVille, Rainbow Cattle Co (gay).
Definitely do Esther's Follies if you are here on the right night.
Staying at the Omni but want cheap food? Thats pretty extreme. For Music I say catch a short cab to Continental Club on Congress. You could eat a bbq sandwich fro the guy at continental club b4 the show if you go on the right night (someone help me with his nights).
Another place for a great show if you are in Austin on Oct 10th is Jesse Dayton. He's at this funky little joint called Ego's that night. Jesse is by far my favorite musician to see live. He's a great guitarist, good showman, good writer, and the ladies seem to think he's sexy.