Austin & why it will always have my heart

austin town lake boardwalk at sunset
shot with my iphone 6 from the Austin boardwalk

I left Austin for the main purpose of venturing out and experiencing more places in the world. I always imagined myself settling down there but the world is calling out to me to see it first. I loved the size of Austin, just around 1 million, & the general vibe. The people are young, stylish, and often entrepreneurial. We appreciate local businesses, staying fit, and good times. The city is definitely getting more crowded with Californians and tourists following the hype, which certainly has its’ pros and cons. The prices have gone up but the standards of entertainment and food are getting higher. Since I have left it seems that I am getting asked more often of my favorite places. So here is my Austin best of the best from a former local of 10 years. These should be taken with a grain of salt as I generally only went to places that I could bike to from my various homes off South First & the east side – therefore I rarely ventured north of Koenig/2222 or south of 290, but really, who needs to? My heart would break if I no longer had a reason to visit this amazing city. Luckily I still shoot here often with a slew of friends to host me when need be. Thanks friends!

Best Things to do in Austin :

Barton Springs Pool – It is oh so cold but Texas can be oh so hot. Natural spring waters always chilling at 68 °F (20 °C).

The Capitol – Even I still like going to the capitol, the grounds are always perfectly manicured and it’s a really nice visit. It’s free to go inside. P.S. Texans are pretty proud of the fact that it’s taller than the U.S. Capitol.

South Congress Bats – It took me years to finally see the bats, while they are year-round, they’re best seen in the summer time when the days are longer. The best veiw is from one of the tour boats that goes around Lake Austin.

Hamilton Pool – About a 45 minute drive and a little hike, a really unique cove of water. It’s packed when the weather is nice for swimming.

Best Pizza in Austin :

Via 313 (4 locations) – There are a few food trucks located in town serving this thick Detroit style pizza. Be prepared to not want to move after this meal.

Home Slice (South Congress) – One of Austin’s staples. Avoid the restaurant (closed on Tuesday’s) and go next door to the home slice to go for a slice or two. Something about the flavors of their New York style thin slice are on point.

Bufalina (East Side) – A small Italian joint on the east side. Go early or go late. One thing you will learn about Austin restaurants is that they rarely accept reservations and Bufalina is no exception. They’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays and almost every other night will have a line out the door, while you can order drinks at the bar there isn’t much of a waiting area.

Best Nice Dinner Restaurants in Austin :

Odd Duck (South Lamar) – It’s a bold statement to say that this is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in town. Formerly a food truck turned restaurant. It’s like… tapas style with really unique dishes. The menu is always changing so every time you go it will be something new, seasonal, and delicious. I once had the best tacos ever here, goat brain, no joke. Make a reservation.

Parkside (Downtown) – If I’m going to dish out on a meal I want it to be good, obviously, so I think it says a lot about a place if I’ve been there multiple times to dish out. The food is modern and delicious. Make a reservation.

Uchi (South Lamar)- Some of the best sushi you’ll ever have. My personal recommendation is to find a spot at the sushi bar and do chef’s choice. You won’t be disappointed. Make a reservation.

Sway (South Lamar) – Modern Thai with an emphasis on seafood. Save room for dessert.

Launderette (East Side) – Cool for many reasons but bonus points because it was actually a place to do laundry at one point. Modern delicious food seemingly on its’ own in a neighborhood on the east side of Austin.

Best Tacos in Austin :

Torchy’s (multiple locations) – I wouldn’t be a true Austinite if I didn’t have Torchy’s somewhere on the list. Their tacos are massive and unique, I would never be able to eat two and bonus their queso is also the bomb. Walk away feeling stuffed, no doubt.

El Chilito (3 locations) – If you don’t have a breakfast taco while visiting Austin consider your trip unfulfilled. This is an easy place to call up a few tacos in advance and pick up quickly. My favorite is the Chicon.

Veracruz (3 locations) – My personal favorite taco spot. I used to live down the street from this taco truck but frequented less as it became more popular, once I encountered a 45 minute wait. But they’re so good!

Best Brunch in Austin :

Takoba (East Side) – Sometimes a wait. They have a huge patio perfect for the fantastic weather we (usually) have in Austin. Mexican brunch with $7 mimosa carafe guaranteed to give you a 5pm hangover 🙂

Bangers (Rainey) – The most traditional beer garden you’ll find in Texas with big brats and big beers. Almost always a wait but always a blast. They usually have music going on the weekend, last time I witnessed a jazz band playing “wiggle”, it was a site. Home of the ‘manmosa’, the 1 liter mimosa.

South Congress Cafe (South Congress) – A classier place that makes my top list because they serve brunch every day of the week! I miss out on brunch often due to work on the weekends so I’m happy to be able to enjoy during the week too.

Best BBQ in Austin :

Franklin (East Side) – I will start by saying that I am no expert when it comes to BBQ. I lived directly across the street from this establishment for 4 months and still never stepped foot inside but this wouldn’t be a complete list of the best if it didn’t include BBQ. So here I am writing of a subject I know little about. BBQ. The hype with this place is real and massive. You go early in the morning with beer and breakfast tacos waiting for the doors to open at 11am. Get cozy, on weekends the line usually starts around 8 but I have heard from many sources that it is indeed worth the wait.

Salt Lick (Hill Country) – This place is huge. Big enough to also be a wedding venue! While I’ve never eaten Franklin BBQ, I’ve had Salt Lick more times than I can count thanks to attending so many weddings. It’s truly an experience here. Save room for the cobbler, it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Best Chill Places to Drink in Austin :

Rio Rita (East Side) – With couches & delicious cocktails reasonably priced, I have always loved the vibes here. My favorite drink is the Royale strawberry vanilla vodka and champagne.

Javelina (Rainey) I have a lot of ‘default’ places to go and this is one of them. Good drinks, usually not crazy packed, and an inside and outside area. Not to mention, it’s on Rainey St so if you have the itch to go somewhere else, go next door.

Lucille’s (Rainey) – Speaking of next door, this is almost directly next door to Javelina but is also one of my favorites. They have a few outdoor & indoor games with a bit of classier vibe and menu.

Side Bar (Downtown) – Located just off the hustle & bustle of 6th street without the 6th street vibes. Heavy pour drinks with a solid indoor and outdoor scene with pool & darts.

The Driskill (Downtown) – The Driskill is another Austin staple. One of the most historic places in Austin, we were established in 1839, so we have nothing on Europe… Alas, it’s known to be haunted, and is a good classy place to have a drink before hitting the town. It’s also one of the most popular Austin wedding venues, on a Saturday night it’s not uncommon to see a handful of couples getting hitched.

Best Day Drinking in Austin :

Moontower Saloon (South) – Huge outdoor grounds with all the games you could want and a few trailers serving food. I would have gone here a lot more often it wasn’t south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Whip In (South Congress-ish) – Part convenience store part bar. With a huge selection of booze and modest selection of food with the occasional evening jams.

Jester King Brewery (Hill Country) – Amazing pizza and amazing beer. So many delicious sour beers to be had. Alas, it’s only open on the weekends and is a bit of a hike out of Austin.

Best Fun! Places to Drink in Austin :

The White Horse (East Side) – I love the white horse. It’s one of the more ‘Texan’ places you’ll visit in Austin. We often would end the night here with a taco from the food truck outside. At 7pm on Friday nights they’ll teach you how to two-step. Don’t be surprised if when you’re watching everyone else dance that someone doesn’t swoop you up and spin you around.

Ego’s (South Congress) – Get your karaoke on every night of the week. As expected the weekend will be a long wait to sing but the talent is actually pretty damn good.

Kung Fu Saloon (West 6th) – Play skee ball, take a pickle shot, & try not to get hurt by a falling block from giant jenga.

Firehouse Lounge (Downtown) – It also happens to be a hostel. Go through the hidden bookshelf door inside or just go in from the outside door (not as cool). They often have live music and always have great cocktails from some of the best bartenders in town.

Jackalope (Downtown) – This place may literally be the only place on 6th st that I go to. They have a fun brunch and I’ve always enjoyed the environment inside, it still is definitely a 6th st vibe though. Their pizza is perfect for a late night snack.

Best Clubs to Dance :

Barbarellas (Downtown) – If you don’t like barb’s I’m not sure that we can be friends. It’s packed after midnight but often dead before 10pm. They’re also one of the few places open until 3am in Austin (not serving alcohol past 2 still of course). The music is the best of any club I’ve ever been to and they usually have a different theme every night, saturday night is my favorite.

Volstead Lounge (East Side) – They have a huge outdoor area that is chill with food trucks and a small indoor area with great music for dancing.

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