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Nov 11, 2004 02:50 PM

A Few Days in Austin

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I will be spending a few days in Austin next week, staying at the Radisson hotel on Cesar Chavez street downtown. I will not have a car. Can anyone out there recommend some good places to eat that are not too far from my hotel?

I recognize that there are many discussions of places to eat in Austin already posted, but since I am a complete stranger to the city, I don't know whether the places mentioned are near or quite far from where I will be. On the other hand, if you think there is some utterly essential Austin restaurant that requires a cab or bus trip, I'll do it.

What am I looking for? I come from a city with excellent restaurants, especially Asian restaurants. What I'd especially like to find are places unique to Austin or Texas more generally. So I might pass up the best French, Italian, or Chinese restaurant in Austin in favor of a great barbeque place or SW or another sort of restaurant that has a particular charm, is a local institution, or has a notable character as chef. Local rather than expensive is the word.

Somewhere I came across a glowing recommendation for Ruby's BBQ. Is this an obvious choice?

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  1. Here's some of my favorites that are walking distance from your hotel:

    Iron Works BBQ- It's not the locals favorite BBQ, but it is damn good, and very close.(Cesar Chavez@Red River)

    Threadgill's- an Austin institution, home cooking,live music, and it's just across the river. I'd get the Chicken Fried Steak. Riverside at Barton Springs

    Guero's- another Austin institution-great Tex-Mex, breakfast, Ritas, lots of locals, as well as visiting musicians. It's maybe a mile across the river, but a nice walk.

    Jo's Coffee Shop-cool, funky; it's just before you get to Guero's.

    Thai Passion- nothing fancy, but consistantly good Thai food. 6 blks. north of your hotel, 6th @ Congress

    Driscoll Hotel- historic Austin hotel, expensive, but one of the best young chefs in the country(David Bull). Worth it(IMO). Brazos/6th St.

    Kenichi-closest sushi/Japanese that I can think of. Very good.5th at Colorado(?)

    Alamo Draft House-catch a quirky flik, food and beer/wine, served while the movie is playing. An Austin legend. Colorado near 4th, or pretty close.

    Bitter End Bistro-a fantastic brewpub, with great food, and atmosphere. Colorado around 3rd St.
    That should keep you busy without getting a car.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Frank M

      Couple other additions in walking distance:

      Mexican Margarita on the outside deck at the Cedar Door on 2nd

      Manuels or Las Manitas on Congress for Tex-mex

      No car needed for any of these.

      1. re: Frank M

        Thanks to you three (and any others who may post in the next couple of days).

        Your suggestions all sound good. I'll be able to get to only a few of them, alas.

      2. I would agree with Mike about Las Manitas (breakfast or lunch) and disagree with Frank regarding Iron Works, Threadgill's and Guero's. As you might note in several threads below, there really is not a great BBQ place in Austin, but some of the best BBQ in the country within a 30 minute drive. Lockhart would be my top rec. as there are two or three great BBQ places there. Even a 20 minute trip east out US 290 to Southside Market in Elgin would be worthwhile if you have a car. If not, I would send you to Ben's Longbranch BBQ on E. 11th Street, just across I-35. He has some good stuff, especially the beef ribs. Probably not walking distance, but a 5 minute cab ride.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rick Smith

          I read in American Airlines Magazine about a great BBQ restaurant north of Austin and now I cannot remember the name. I see that you say "Lockhart" has several good ones, but I am looking for the one outstanding example.

          My son is going to be with me for a couple of days and we like Mex and BBQ. I have been to Guero's and was unimpressed. Our Mex in San Diego is much better.

          I also read about Las Polomas and wondered if you knew about that one.

          I would appreciate any rec. as your take on things Austin seems close to mine.


        2. My recs, for what they're worth.

          I agree NOT to go to Iron Works or Ruby's. blech. Ben's Longbranch isn't bad and yes, it's close. It's been ages since I've been, but Stubb's has music and fairly decent bbq (but actually I like their chicken fried steak much better).

          If you can afford it, I would highly recommend Driskill at night. (don't go to the cafe, it stinks for some reason).

          Manuel's on 4th and Congress does an EXCELLENT happy hour and is an easy walk. You must try the mole and the chiviche. YUM! (in fact, i'm gonna suggest it for our gang for happy hour tonight).

          Sounds like you come from a pretty happening place, but for great fun, I do enjoy the Alamo Drafthouse (they play funky, fun movies at the one downtown). The chicken pesto pizza is to die for. It's actually my most favorite pizza in town. It's a very "Austin" thing to do.

          Also very "Austin" is Esther's Follies (Pool) on Sixth Street. Politica musical/humor. Been running for as long as I can remember and I always take my out of town guests there.

          Have fun.

          4 Replies
          1. re: amysuehere

            I guess there's nothing like someone recommending a barbeque joint to stir up controversy. Folks seem to get passionate in defense of their barbeque preferences, but the differences between the ones I've been to seem to me much less than the similarities, at least at the level of the food.

            While my city (Vancouver, BC) has wonderful restaurants (as I've said), we really do not have even above average Tex-Mex, no real Mexican, and no SW. I see already that I'll have a fine time with the recommendations so far. Maybe I'll even be able to get out to Fonda San Miguel.

            1. re: Steve S

              From your hotel I would go south on Congress to Guerros for one the of best Tex Mex places in town, and the scene is pretty happening as well. Very short cab ride ($5 including tip)Could walk back if you need to work off the mole beef enchaladas that I would get if I were there. I always take my out of town guest there and they ask about it when they come back.

              1. re: treese


                I'm a big foodie and have worked in many of the restaurants in the Austin area. I would suggest Wink on lamar and zoot. Both are privately owned and operated by chefs and have even been spoken about nationally. Wink offers smaller portions so you can enjoy more and Zoot offers Eclectic american.

                Great chefs as well.


                1. re: carolyn

                  I know the original poster is no longer in need, but being the dork I am, I have to post.

                  Go to wink if you want an amazing experience that will drain your wallet. The tasting menu...droool.
                  Wines matched to food
                  Many courses, small, perfect for savoring
                  some come as great surpirses
                  Maple braised boar belly on a bed of winter greens
                  I had that once and I shall never forget it
                  It's also where my wife learned why I love sweetbreads.
                  They use local meat and produce and develop the menu around what is available. Could you ask for more?

                  Zoot, on the other hand, I have found to be entirely forgettable, and I have eaten there more than once. Usually it is at the request of someone else and I decide to give them another chance.
                  Not bad, just not memorable. I'd take dinner at Threadgill's over it.

          2. Do you want places to walk to only? What is your max cab ride fare to get a good dinner?

            1. Thanks again to all who posted.

              I only had a few days, and one night just went along with a group to a somewhat better than average Tex-Mex at 11th and Red River, with a name like Serocco's (more or less). Another night we went to Threadgill's, which was a little disappointing. I know--some of you said not to, but a local I talked with waxed enthusiastic. And I just wanted to try it. Big portions, not bad but not terrific either.

              I did, however, get to Manuel's and was impressed. Here is sophisticated cooking, and all that goes with it (good service and ambiance). My dinner was so good that I managed to sneak back for brunch as well. Their migas is (are?) just in another league from the breakfast place across the street, Las Manitas. Of course the price is a little higher, but well worth it.

              I think Manuel's would rate pretty high in nearly any city. The Austin "institutions" leave me cold, though I understand how others might like heaps of decent food and lots of noise, but it's not for me. (We couldn't even get in to Chuy's it was so crowded.) Too bad I didn't have enough time to check out the rest of the suggestions.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Steve S

                Good call on Manuel's, bad call on eveything else. Sorry you got stuck with a bunch of locals with "touristy" taste. You were warned about Threadgill's, I'll leave it at that. Serrano's has "above average Tex/Mex"? Uh, no. It is a local chain that has two-for-one dinners most nights just to get people to eat there. There are at least a hundred (literally) better Tex/Mex places in town. Chuy's is much more of a drinking place than eating place and also is very average at best, but tourists buy into it. What about the BBQ recs. you got here? Maybe next time you will be able to follow some of the good advice given here and lead your Austin friends to some much better "Austin institutions".