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Mar 18, 2014 12:53 PM

Coming to Austin for the first time this weekend

I am coming from Boston and meeting a girlfriend from San Fran to spend four days in Austin. We are staying at the HIlton downtown, near the convention center. Would love recs for good breakfast/brunch spots for Saturday and Sunday and good local food for the evenings - casual, tasty, and not over-the-top expensive is what we go for. Thanks!

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  1. Sunday brunch either at Lamberts or Coal Vines. Coal Vines has a $10 full-bottle champagne carafe mimosa for brunch and the food has been quite good.

    Lamberts does a great happy hour (get the boar ribs). Parkside also has a great happy hour and you can sit at the window and people-watch.

    Casino el Camino is an Austin original and is known for it's funky atmosphere, it's surly cooks (you order at the window) and the killer burgers (if you can stand it, the jalapeno bomb is great), Note: I have not been in quite a while and there are rumors the food has really gone downhill.

    The above is all walking distance. If you have a car or don't mind a short cab ride (or even taking the tram in some cases), will open up your options for some more "famous" destinations:

    Melvin's Deli Comfort
    Styles Switch
    Live Oak BBQ

    Place to have a beer for the view:
    Red's Porch
    Green Mesquite - Rent one of the public bikes (I think there's a depot near your hotel) bike to Barton Springs Pool, then bike down Barton Springs to Green Mesquite and have a growler of Shiner in their backyard - wings are very good there, but not much else)
    Lake table at Trio in Four Seasons
    Oasis (need a car to drive to Lake Travis) - DRINKS ONLY the food is horrible and the drinks are expensive, but the view is nice.

    Bit of a Drive but a very Texas experience:
    Ginny's Little Longhorn - Chicken S**t Bingo, y'all!
    Salt Lick (food is awful, but it's byob and the experience is full-on Texas)

    Go dancing at the Broken Spoke (there's usually a very sweet young man and a very much older man there to help the ladies learn to two-step).

    Okay, there's my "shotgun" version of Austin.

    33 Replies
    1. re: amysuehere

      As for Casino, I haven't been in about 6 months, but it was great. Before that it had been a couple of years, and i heard the rumors.

      As for Salt Lick, i think amysue is being too hard on the place. It's not the best BBQ in the area for sure (the 3 mentioned above are all better), but it's not bad, IMO, and I'd wager better than most that you get in Boston.

      1. re: TroyTempest

        Salt lick can be good if your order like this:

        Special sides and baby backs are only on Sundays, so I will only go there on a Sunday.

      2. re: amysuehere

        Perlas for a good cocktail, oysters and some people watching. Excellent time to be on a patio in Austin.

        1. re: lexusalhambra

          I would never suggest to someone from Boston and San Francisco to eat oysters in Austin. They are used to really fresh oysters.

          1. re: topeater

            Don't all the oysters get flown in every day anyhow? I imagine the PEI oysters all flying first class, while the gulf coast ones ride coach.

            1. re: rudeboy

              Aren't they still alive when shucked and served?

              1. re: rudeboy

                Most likely trucks from Galveston or Houston.

                1. re: James Cristinian

                  I know Parkside has oysters on the half shell from both coasts, so you can compare.

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    Yah, austin has oysters now from all over.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      I'm originally from Galveston, and one time we went on vacation through Savannah, and we went to Paula Dean's uncle or nephew or cousin or something's restaurant. And on the blackboard, "Today's oysters, Galveston, Bay".
                      At the time, I thought, "big woo, you know. I came all this way for saomething i could of got fresher back home."
                      They were good, of course. I think we take them for granted.

                      1. re: TroyTempest

                        Your last statement is so true - one of my best oyster memories is eating baked gulf oysters three ways at 43nd St Oyster Bar in Raleigh. I had a job in Amarillo years ago, and we were staying near an oyster bar all the way up in the TX panhandle. Louisiana expats ran the place. Fresh oysters and gumbo there. Not sure if it is still in operation.

                        Where are the most affordable gulf oysters in Austin?

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          My guess, not based on research would be Quality Seafood on Airport.

                      2. re: rudeboy

                        You know the oyster bar at the new Whole Foods over by the Domain is not bad

                        1. re: girloftheworld

                          Haven't tried it, but I did see it. They have oysters from all over, right?
                          The beer bar itself is pretty impressive.

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            yep they do... the prices were not too horrid but the varity was fun..
                            I dont know if you match you beer to oysters like wine but...I know they have a bucket of 99 cent "walking around"beer too

                          2. re: girloftheworld

                            Oyster were horrible at Whole Foods.

              2. re: amysuehere

                I agree with all suggestions except Casino. I simply do not understand the appeal of such a seedy place for a sloppy, greasy burger. Please don't waste your time on that mess.

                1. re: chispa_c

                  What's wrong with sloppy, greasy burgers or seedy places?

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    I think it exemplifies "old Austin." This is one of those places you just squint your eyes a bit and enjoy the vibe.

                    Is it the best damn burger in town? No, but it's pretty good. But what it lacks, it more than makes up for it in the unique atmosphere.

                    You can get urban "gentrified" food in any big city now. What I want when I travel is that hole-in-the-wall with local flavor.

                    One of the best times I had was in Bermuda when someone suggested I call ahead travel to the tip of the island to these two brothers' home for dinner. The food was less than memorable, but the experience was once in a lifetime.

                    1. re: amysuehere

                      Nice post, amysuehere. I stayed with a family in Bangladesh for 17 days and, while the food was awesome, the memories of having that food was priceless.

                      And aren't you supposed to go to Casino already having squinted eyes?

                      1. re: amysuehere

                        If you love sloppy, greasy burgers and seedy places, of course...go...squint your eyes and have a blast. You have your preferences and I have mine. I just thought I'd throw in my dos pesos so Weiszguy had a full picture of this place prior to going.

                        I've been in Austin for 47 years and my family has been here for 3 generations. Casino does not exemplify "Old Ausin" to me at all. Dirty Martin's, yes, Casino - absolutely not.

                        1. re: chispa_c

                          Dirty Martin's used to be old Austin to me, too...until they started buying pre-made patties and not squishing them on the grill. Now, they're nothing special.

                          There was a place in El Paso that made the BEST green chile burgers by pressing minced onions on one side of the meatball and then squishing it down on a super-hot griddle. Apparently, for both Dirty M's and this place, the health department in both cities decided that was a no-no.

                        2. re: amysuehere

                          By the way, Casino is "gentrified" food. Casino may have a Hispanic name but they are not a restaurant created in "old Austin" or of an ethnic Austin Family. My grandmother worked at Green & White grocery store for over 25 years standing right next to her sister while they made the famous tamales sold there. Just because Casino is run down and located on East 6th Street - WEST of I-35 doesn't mean it's grandfathered in as being "gentrified".

                          1. re: slowcoooked

                            All I can say is "wow." You can justify it because, basically, it's a spicy salad with some vodka thrown in.

                            1. re: rudeboy

                              Oh, just now saw the bacon. Well, a little protein is good, too.

                                1. re: slowcoooked

                                  I wonder how much they charge for that? Twenty?

                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                    I've had one with all the veggies*, bacon,cheese,and it was only about $10. This is the first i've heard about the meatball.

                                    *IIRC cukes, olives, pickled okra, pickled onions, celery, possibly more

                                    1. re: TroyTempest

                                      Well, that's a bargain since you don't have to go out for dinner before or after.

                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                        Well, I stayed and had a big ass amarillo burger, but i did split my fries.

                      2. Hit up Chavez for Happy Hour - 4 to 6 everyday, half off all beer, liquor and bar food. Also has a great view of Lady Bird Lake.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: SlickTheCat

                            Yes! I was trying to remember the name. I haven't been, but it has a rooftop and you're not paying Four Seasons prices.

                            We've been waiting for a nice spring day - NOT SxSW to hit it.

                          2. Thanks, all! Sounds like I'd better arrive hungry and thirsty!

                            1. fun diffrent Austinie and inexpensive
                              Biscuts and Groovy food truck
                              counter cafe
                              Marias Tacos
                              Full English
                              ELizabeth Street Cafe
                              Pizza and Drinks at Violet Crown
                              Swifts Attic
                              Barley Swine
                              Qui(higher end not as expensive as uchiko and has cool cocktails)
                              Uchiko( pricey but worth it--order the specials not the sushi)
                              If you are bbq geeks ( i am not) the Franklins Pilgramage is fun .. I met the Wife of Bath and heard some saucy tales during mine.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                Strongly support Via 313's pizza, it's easily my favorite in town regardless of the styles. And as much as I loved the combo of the pizza and Violet Crown - apparently the 313 guys moved down to South Congress. Any ideas if it's a move, or just another truck worth of expansion?

                                1. re: slowcoooked

                                  We had pizzas from their original E. 6th location last night, so I guess that's an expansion. Good for them!

                                  1. re: storefronteats

                                    Oh that's great news. The more the merrier and the violet crown marriage is just perfect.

                                    1. re: slowcoooked

                                      yeah, I'd be bummed if the left the VC parking lot

                              2. Saturday morning
                                republic square farmers market


                                @ 9 am you can eat from

                                recent menu:
                                Duck, Hog Head and Wild Onion Gumbo with Gulf coast rice.

                                Bacon, Chorizo and Egg Taco with chipotle salsa and cortido.

                                Achiote Pork Rib with tortilla casserole, cortido and carrot top sauce.

                                Sprouted Wheat Toast with a duck egg, artichoke, pea shoots, herbs and duck fat hollandaise.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: WesTexas

                                  Also, check out Odd Duck on South Lamar. Really yummy food. Used to be a trailer on the same spot.

                                  1. re: topeater

                                    I don't know if it's very Austinie but it's pretty good food. FYI it's tapas.
                                    If the OP wants fine dining I'd recommend Hudson. Lots of game meat on the menu and the place is kinda cool. But it's not a hip young place at all.
                                    GF had very good oysters at Lambert's for what it's worth.