Boston/Cambridge Hound visiting Austin
My family will be visiting Austin in February and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated - we love all types of ethnic food, breakfast dives, coffeehouses, etc. I have well behaved 3 year old twins, so nothing too fancy - they LOVE sushi, and Japanese, in general.
We'll be staying at either the Austin Motel or just down the street, but will have a car.
A few of my favorites:
A breakfast dive - Always classic is Las Manitas. It's a little Mexican diner downtown on Congress. Service ain't always with a smile, but the food always makes up for it. They have the best migas. It's an institution, but not a tourist trap. Plus it's in a walkable area. You could even walk fron your hotel. If the weather keeps up, you might not even need a jacket!
For casual, inexpensive sushi - Sushi Niichi. On 24th at Rio Grande (in the area of the UT campus). The bento boxes are an amazing value, and the food is tasty. I think the staff is a family, so it has that special welcoming feel. Also, right next door is Momoko, a japanese gift shop and bubble tea parlor.
For a larger, more well-established and talked-about sushi restaurant, Musashino. If you can go at lunch during the week, you'll not only find good sushi deals, but you can have authentic GOOD ramen. There are a few other places in town that serve it, but Musashino's the only one that does it justice. The Miso ramen is my reccommendation. On a cold day, it's a beautiful thing. On second thought, it's made with meat broth and garnished with pork, so you might stick with the sushi.
Polvo's on S. 1st street - great tex-mex, lots of fish and GOOD vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian there doesn't mean just beans and cheese - you can actually get vegetables. This one's pretty much in your neighborhood.
For coffeehouses, you'll no doubt spy Jo's on your street next to the Hotel San Jose. It's an outdoor patio place and is an interesting and hip scene, often with lots of dogs. A good place to read the paper and watch the world go by.
Another one is on S. 1st street (parallel to S. Congress - at the cross street Elizabeth). Called Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse. You could walk there from your hotel) It's kind of a south austin hippy establishment, with cheap healthy food as well.
For Thai - Thai Tara on W. 6th at Nueces is excellent, though the service can be slow (and kind of strange - though usually very nice). When they say spicy, they mean it!
Also, if you're downtown during the week for lunch, Thai Passion on Congress has an unbeatable lunch special - curry of the day, about 5-6 bucks. Thursday's panang is my favorite. Full of green beans.
FYI - the childrens museum downtown, with its interactive exhibits, may be something of interest.
For really good South Indian food in the street-food style, you could head wayyyy up north on North lamar, past 183 to Swad. It's really fun to eat there with a group and get a bunch of stuff and share around. Oh, did I mention it's entirely vegetarian?
Hope this helps! If you have any specific questions, feel free to let me know.
Cosmic Cafe isn't too far...vegetarian and a blend of a couple ethnic cuisines.
Right across the street from that is Cippolina, an "Italian deli-grill-bakery". They make the best Italian style pizza in town, IMHO. Thin, airy, crispy crust...not too heavy on the toppings.
Back down on S. Congress is Nueva Onda, open for breakfast or lunch. Lots of non-meat/chicken options. (It's actually just off a little side street on S. Congress...College Ave.).
Right by your room is El Sol Y La Luna...highly recommended. I prefer it to Guerros.
If you are up for a little stroll with the kids hit the Barton Springs Greenbelt, and enter at the location just across from Taco Deli. The greenbelt has trails for hiking and biking, some rock climbing, etc. Some folks take their dogs to play in the springs. Taco Deli is on the corner of Barton Skyway and Spyglass right next to the greenbelt entrance, and is open for breakfast and lunch.
Or just hit Taco Deli and enjoy food on their deck. I love their salsas. Beware of the "creamy" looking green one. It's pretty much jalapeno paste (I love it, btw, but it's hot).
Another outdoorsy option is to hit the Town Lake Hike and Bike trail around the river. I like to park near Riverside and Lamar at the parking lot of the Zach Scott Theater. Afterwards, the new Whole Foods flagship store is a few blocks away. If you like Whole Foods, you really have to check out this monstrosity at 6th and Lamar. If it's a nice day, you could even go there first and grab stuff to have a picnic (they have TONS of prepared ready to eat stuff) then go over to Pedestrian Bridge over Town Lake (part of the trails) that's just next to Lamar & Riverside. There's tables and stuff, and it's a great place for people watching. (Picnic in February!!?? you say? The weather here has been very warm this "winter"...it may not be as ridiculous as it sounds).
Hope you enjoy your trip.