Austin, Texas: Where to eat, drink, shop and dance!
Guided by locals, curated by yours truly.
It's safe to say I fell for Austin hard and fast. This city didn't have to try very hard to win me over. Austin just encompasses all that my little gypsy heart desires.
Tacos: check. Music: check. Great People: check. Good Beer: Check An Abundance Of Neon: check. And a colorfully rich Culture: check check check!
Being guided by a local is the best way to experience a city. (Though I do love a good hunt as well.) Fortunately I had two by my side on this trip: One who currently lives in Austin and one who used to! Double bonus: Traveling with someone who used to live in a city = they know all they cool spots and are just as excited to see them as you are for the first time!
Our first stop in from the airport: The Whip In.
Where to eat in Austin
The Whip In is charmingly bizarre. Who says Indian cuisine and craft beer aren't a perfect pair? The building was transformed in '86 from a gas station (the original sign still remains outside). It went from gas station to craft beer and wine retail shop to then becoming what it is today: a tap room with over 65 drafts, 300 retail craft beers and an insane wine selection that also serves delicious Indian food handcrafted with local farm-sourced ingredients. The staff was very friendly and helpful, creating an atmosphere that makes you feel at home. During the day, remote workers and students can be spotted posting up on their laptops and come night, it transitions into a lively watering hole open until 12 most nights.
Try: Vegan Samosas, Chana Masala, Hops & Grain Zoe Pale Lager
Eat Like a Local
Mary Clare is a local Austinite with an Instagram account dedicated to what she eats called MC's Belly. If you don't want to trust my recommendations, at least check out her top 5 picks:
Nightlife: Where Austin Comes Alive
That night we left our lovely host's house to get a taste of what Austin is really known for, the night life. We met up with another friend who lives in my dream apartment complex. It was a motel from the 1960s transformed into studio apartments, same facade, sign and everything! Austin, your adorable. So we met up, discussed possible destinations and threw back a couple Lone Stars (Austin's equivalent of Chicago's PBR...brewed by them as well).
Drink Like a Local: Austin's Best Brews
Local Austinite Alex has been in the beer game for 5+ years, brewing and working as a beer buyer for Whole Foods. A trustworthy source for these top 5 local brewery picks:
The Grand is the quintessential Austin pool hall. Pitchers of cheap beer, shitty punk bands, and characters looking like they were plucked straight out of Woodstock gathered around tables for some good old fashioned billiards. An eclectic mix, but somehow everyone belongs here.
Try: Happy Hour everyday until 7 $2 Wells, $2.25 domestics or $2.50 Bloody Marys and Mimosas on Sundays
Up next, Barfly's. Came for the neon, stayed for the $3 wells and back patio. What's not to love about a bar who's slogan is "Our drinks are cheap, so you don't have to be."? What they're proud of? Their quaint back patio, billiards and foosball and their Jukebox. (They acutally list their song selection for on their website if you're so curious.)
One more stop for the night, where I truly fell in love with Austin: The White Horse. Folks, this is where the magic happens. Austin's finest honkey tonk. Live music 7 days a week, whiskey on tap, dancing galore, and not to mention a back patio with a taco truck (where I ate the world's most delicious fish taco and cried tears of happiness). If you can only pick one bar to go to while in Austin (though I'm not sure why you'd do such a thing), don't miss White Horse.
Try: Friday night Cajun dancing lessons, FISH TACOS. Do it.
More Great Austin Bars
Okay, one final Bar Round-up because let's be honest, that's what we're all going to Austin for.
The Whisler's: Rustic craft cocktail bar with live music, a huge backyard area and an amazing food truck East Side King Thai Kun.
Try: Hot Toddy, Signature Whisky cocktails, Cabbage Two Ways and Black Noodles at Thai Kun
Bangers: Definitely don't miss Rainey Street on your bar crawl. It's a historic district with blocks of really cool bungalow style bars, restaurants and historic homes. We stumbled onto Bangers, a sausage house and beer garden with over 100 beers on tap. The yard looked amazing and I defintiely would come back here in the Summer for some serious day drinking.
Try: Austin Beerworks Pearlsnap Porter, 512 Wit
Barbarella's: When its time to get your groove on. Tuesdays = Tuesgayz and Thursday = Grits n Gravy. We went here to celebrate my dear hostess's birthday for Grits n Gravy night and I had the most fun. No cover, $2 drinks till 11, and the best music from 50s, 60s & 70s. I turned into a dancing queen.
Try: Thursday Night Grits n Gravy! Doors at 10pm
Party Like A Local: Austin's top 5 Bars
My girl Tori is Texas-born & raised, currently LA living. She knows her way around the city and knows a good time. This trip wouldn't have been as rad without her, so take it from me when I say, go where she tells you. Mary Clare had to throw in a few more for good measure:
Exploring Austin's Sweet Side (In the Daylight)
My lovely guide made it a point to take me here because she knew I'd be obsessed with it. The Spider House is basically a permanent fixture / art installation doubled as a really cool bar, cafe, music venue and chill spot. With seating inside and outside and free wifi, locals gather to work and hang out here all day, and party by night. We entered inside, grabbed Hot Toddys and Spiked Cider and head out back to find a seat near the smokey firepit. The patio was a wonderful menagerie of colors, lights, antiques and people scattered about sipping warm cocktails. We quickly made friends with fellow travelers who were also gathered near the firepit for warmth. This place is a little slice of heaven.
Try: 11-4 Happy Hour Sat & Sun, Tuesday night live music, Hot Spiked Cider.
Juiceland: Hyde Park location. Adorable juice shop & record store complete with murals, pacman and a disco ball. Just another picturesque daytime stop. Scored some great vinyl. They have a great mix of new and old and a nice local selection as well.
Try: Recovery Punch and a shot of Lemon Ginger
South Congress Shopping
Prime shopping & looking destination: South Congress. If you're looking for unique souvenirs, gifts, vintage clothes or oddball Austin gems, this street has everything you didn't know you needed. One of my favorite boutiques we stopped in was Gypsy Wagon. It has really cool local souvenirs, trendy clothes, funny gifts and one of a kind jewelry. My favorite type of shop. I walked away with a hand embroidered cactus pin. Uncommon Objects was a fun antique store to walk though and see some Austin weirdness in past tense. It was pretty pricey as far as antique shops go, but was definitely worth the look. Favorite finds: bolo ties, antique mug shots, cool old cameras.
There are so many other cool things to look at on South Congress including the historic Austin Motel, funny murals, food trucks and neon for days.
Alright, alright alright. Anything I missed? I'm already planning a return trip, so please comment and let me know where I need to go in Austin next time!
Check out the Interactive Map below for geographical locations of all the sweet places I just told you about. Also, sign up for my mailing list below so we can be friends forever!
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