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First Time in Austin - What not to miss?

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hi all!

I am venturing to your lovely city to see if I want to relocate. Seeing as I am coming from Chicago - which has some GREAT food, I need to get a taste of Austin.

We will be staying downtown and would like to hit some areas within the city - since I am a city dweller. :-)

Any recs on upscale dining - veggie/vegan - Tex Mex - sit down breakfasts - unique experiences - etc? My mom is with me this time so although Hole in the Walls are my favs, she will get freaked.

thanks so much and I am so excited about coming to visit!

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  1. Well, since you'll be downtown, I'd rec Manuel's on Congress for their happy hour. Half-priced appetizers are a real treat. I suggest the chicken mole, huegos and chiviche.

    1 Reply
    1. re: amysuehere

      The "must try" is Nu Age, on exposition. Vegan gourmet cuisine, and everything is terrific; especially the Thai Tofu Wraps.

      I agree about Manuels, on Congress Ave between 3rd and 4th Streets.. Not quite as elegant as Fonda San Miguel, but much better value for money, and located in the "entertainment district" for an enjoyable stroll after dinner. Walk West on 4th Street, and then back to Congress and walk East on 6th Street.

      Please skip Threadgills. For vegetables, all my Moms adore Eastside, on Manor (pronounced may-nor) Road, just east of I-35. They have a garden in back that is fun to stroll. Get reservations: 512-476-5858.

    2. A few rec's from me:
      Upscale Dining-Eddie V's; Vespaio
      Breakfast-Las Manitas Avenue Cafe
      Veggie-Thai Passion, Shady Grove
      Tex Mex-Guero's; Maudie's
      Casual-Moonshine

      1. t
        Tha Groovin' Gourmet

        Seeing as Chitown is a serious foodie city, here are a couple of places I would take a Windy City 'hound to make the best impression:

        Castle Hill - unpretentious New American, reasonably priced

        Fonda San Miguel - we are big fans of Rick Bayless, and Miguel Ravago of FSM is every bit the expert on real Mex cooking. The Sunday brunch is an experience not to be missed

        And I'll probably get slammed, but everyone should go to Threadgill's at least once. Great place for a veggie fix, and the history is inarguable.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

          I second all of these, including Threadgill's - I haven't figured out the recent bias of the trendy against it. If anything, Threadgill's is even better now than back when it *really* looked like an old Gulf station. The veggie dishes are super.

          For TexMex, a lot of native Texans (including me) think Las Colinas (way up on Mesa on the NW side of town) is hands-down the best TexMex in the city. They certainly have the best Chiles Rellenos, and are packed to overflowing the sidewalk benches on Thursday (the famous Stuffed Avacado Special) and Friday nights, so get there early or pick another evening to avoid the wait. Not open on weekends, because they don't have to be - yep, they're that good.

          1. re: Dub Dublin

            I don't belong to "the trendy," so I can't explain why "they" don't like Threadgill's. (Unless trendy means the general consensus on this board?) And I have no idea if the restaurant has improved on itself since it opened, since the first time I ate there was within the past five years or so.

            But, I can tell you that I think that there are other places in town that do a better job with the same kinds of food (CFS, meatloaf, fried chicken, down-home sides), such as be Tony's Southern Comfort, Gene's, and Hoover's.

            I might just check out Las Colinas, though. Thanks for that.

        2. Here are some of my thoughts. I was thinking both of typical austin places, as well as good vegetarian and local food. I stayed away from expensive joints, since you have recs for that already.

          If you find yourself in need of good cheap HEALTHY eats downtown, (just not on Sunday), hit Marakesh for some good middle eastern food. Get a mezze platter and share it, sit in the window, and watch congress avenue go by.
          It's on the west side of congress, somewhere around 8th street. I'm not saying it's a must-try, but good to know it's there if you ate too much enchilada plate for lunch.

          Las Manitas is a must for b-fast or lunch. Migas con Hongos are my fave.

          One of Austin's best bakery's, if you want breakfast or a delicious treat, is Sweetish Hill Bakery on West 6th street.

          I'm hearing great stuff about Enoteca Vespaio, the less expensive, more relaxed sister restaurant of Vespaio. What you will find there is a cultured, kind of new-austin experience. Don't know if you can reserve, so if you want to go there and not wait a long time, try an off hour. Also, they do a brunch that is very popular.

          I second Thai Passion. They're open til 3am!

          Also, Thai Tara on west 6th. Less expensive than Thai Passion, and very good. Service can be slow.

          I really like Cipollina, on West Lynn. It's upscale food, but casual, counter-service atmosphere. They have amazing pizzas and good wine. A nice place to linger and not be bothered by a waiter. Locals sit outside with their dogs while they eat prosciutto pizza. Plus you can check out the cute and desirable Clarksville neighborhood. and the pistachio cookies are mmmm-good!

          I recommend Polvo's for tex-mex for lunch or dinner. They're on the west side of S. 1st street between Oltorf and Riverside (a few minutes from downtown by car). They have a wide variety of veggie options (and when they say veggie, it doesn't mean just beans and cheese), as well as grilled fish, and the tex-mex standards, which they do very well and with an interior mexican flair. Inexpensive, but high quality. It also has a classic south austin laid-back atmosphere.

          Enjoy!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chow-a-holic

            Ditto on Pulvos. Interesting menu with some creative selections and a very good salsa bar. Eat outside on the patio.

            We really enjoyed the Texas Chili Parlor - especially the XX Chili, a really good bowl of Chili Colorado. It is located near the U of T.

          2. I also agree that Castle Hill is fantastic. I hate to overstep another recommendation but I am totally unimpressed with Maudies. I think El Chile is worth a visit (get the orange-pepper margarita- can't remember the name) as well as Polvos.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Christine

              If you are in the mood just to grab a few tacos, rather than a sit down meal, try El Chilito just down the road from El Chile, their sister restaurant.