Where to Drink, Eat, Stay, and Do in Austin, Texas

Austin City Guide

With its live music, thriving food scene and proximity to the gorgeous Hill County, Austin is must-visit city. It’s no wonder people are moving here in droves from tech companies to chefs to those fleeing colder climates and high rents.

Austin Terry Black's BBQ Beef Ribs

Food

This list is by no means exhaustive and unfortunately light on food trucks but a few highlights from my trip.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden for the Big Band Brunch every Sunday. 30 house made sausages + 100 beers on tap to enjoy in the beer garden + live music + surprisingly mellow crowd = perfect Sunday. Get there before 10:30am to avoid the line.

Torchy’s Tacos began as a food truck and is now an Austin institution with over 30 stores throughout Texas. Breakfast tacos are a must-try, particularly the Migas, packed with scrambled eggs, crisp corn tortilla strips and green chiles. Brisket is quintessential Texas and the smoked beef brisket with grilled onions and jalapeños will not let you down.

Juice Austin truck on South Congress is delicious antidote to meat-heavy meals. Fruit and vegetable juices as well as a satisfying kale salad in honey lime vinaigrette, avocado,carrots, sesame & sunflower seeds. Burro Cheese Kitchen sandwich truck is next door and will make your grilled cheese dreams come true. Build your own or try one of the favorites: Waylon & Willie sour dough, aged cheddar, gouda, carmelized onions, pepperocinis, spicy maple and bacon sauce.

Serving a proper Italian gelato in cute shop lined with plants, rustic white wood walls and bright yellow chairs, Dolce Neve has 18 handcrafted flavors made daily. Enjoy flavors like ricotta & pistachio, salted caramel & pretzel, and fromage blanc with strawberry while lounging on the patio.  The newly moved Lick has unique pairings like orange and Texas fennel, grapefruit and champagne marshmallows, and roasted beet and mint ice-cream all made from local family owned dairy in Texas and the waffle cones are made in-house. Vegan options as well.

Grab a Stumptown coffee and croissant from the French bakery or take a seat on the garden patio and settle into a breakfast Bánh Mì at Elizabeth St. Don’t be surprised if you have the urge to stay through lunch with a delicious bowl of phở.

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Do

Live music, festivals and events check out Austin Insider Blog.

Watch the largest Mexican free-tailed bat colony in North America emerge from the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset every night for their feeding. Cold weather and rain keep the bats in but the warmer months draw more bats, up to 1.5 million. Get to the bridge early to secure a spot, About Austin has tips on peak bat time and sunset times throughout the year. You don’t want to miss this!

Enjoy the 10 miles of hiking and biking trails on the Ladybird Lake.

Since 1984 the Mexic-Arte Museum has been exhibiting Latino/a art on Congress Avenue with the current exhibit, “Obra Gráfica: Selections from the Mexic-Arte Museum Print Collection features the Museum’s growing contemporary print collection including new works by Alejandra Almuelle and Michael Menchaca.”

Hamilton Pool – A favorite Austin swimming hole with a majestic 50-foot limestone waterfall about 45 minutes drive from the city. Make sure you get there before 11am as they fill up quickly, $15/car. Reservations will be taken soon for mid-May and presumably through the summer.

The good news if you are turned away from Hamilton Pool you have Hill Country to explore. A mile up the road is Westcave with hiking trails, field trips and group canyon tours. Thirsty? Another mile up the road is Westcave Cellars. Reimers Ranch is perfect for swimming, fishing, biking and rock climbing.

AO Austin has  “Austin + Hill Country in 90 Minutes” tour that is a great way to see and learn history of Austin neighborhoods as well as get a sense of what Hill County has to offer, all in a very comfortable 14-passenger Mercedes van.

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Stay

Hotel Van Zandt is a beautiful ode to music, from the record bird installation in the lobby to live music Monday through Saturday at Geraldine’s. The rooftop pool has incredible views and fire-place to keep you cozy in the evenings. The many restaurant and bars on Rainey Street are a block away.

The newly built JW Marriott is close to Rainey Street, 6th Street, Ladybird Lake path, and South Congress Avenue. A block away you can catch the 100 bus to the airport ($1.75) and you only have to walk two blocks away to the Congress Avenue bridge to jockey for space to watch the bats come out every night.

Bungalow-style converted motel, Hotel San Jose is minimalist, trendy, and popular live music venue in the heart of South Congress Avenue.

The historic and luxurious Driskill Hotel is on the famous 6th street (on the west-end of “dirty sixth”). Come for a drink in the lobby at the Driskill Bar to see the stained-glass dome and marble floors without having to splurge for a room.

Quiet and cozy boutique Hotel Saint Cecilla with a view of downtown and close to South Congress but is so pretty and relaxing you might find it hard to leave this urban oasis.

Chicago Athletic Association Hotel – Michigan Avenue

Chicago Athletic Hotel Michigan Avenue

Built in 1890 as an athletic club, now a popular hotel and home to one of the best rooftop terrace views at Cindy’s, Cherry Circle Room restaurant, a huge game room and 8-seat bar Milk Room there is no shortage of things to do. Shake Shack is on the first floor as well.

Lunch at the Beautiful Chiltern Firehouse – London

Chiltern Firehouse London Hotel

Chiltern Firehouse, once the Marylebone Fire Station built in 1889, has been transformed into a luxury hotel and restaurant by André Balazs (The Mercer, Chateau Marmont) and is favored by celebs and posh Londoners.

The proper doorman will guide you past the gates, through the patio and  into the plush dining room with red leather booths, cream and red patterned fabric ceiling and bustling wait staff attending to all of the beautiful people’s needs.

Go for the scene and drinks. For food, breakfast or lunch is your best bet price-wise – sit at the bar along side the kitchen to see all of the action.

Peek inside:

My favorite part of lunch: Dark Chocolate Tart with clementines and whipped ricotta.

Chiltern Firehouse London Dark Chocolate Tarte

Rest of lunch:

Sip Cocktails in Hidden Underground Station | Cahoots, London

Cahoots Katherine Hepburn & White Cloves of Dover London

“Cahoots, where the spirits run high and drinks never run dry.” Secure your reservation, memorize the password and make your way to this secret-ish underground station with a 1940s vibe in London. Once you receive the go ahead, head down the stairs and step back in time to a world of debauchery and fun. Cahoots is a unique experience, here is a peek into this hush-hush hot spot:

-Reservations are recommended or be prepared to wait in line
-Along with the incredible experience, Cahoots has spectacular service to help you figure which of the over 60 cocktails is for you.
-The food menu, dubbed “Rations”, has enough options to serve as dinner.
-Check out the cheeky posters in the loo.

Cahoots Entrance Kingly Court London

Entrance | Cahoots, London

The Underground station is lined with subway tile, crates for tables, an old subway car section and of course sandbags for fortification – we are in newly post-war London after all.

Grab the newspaper menu and peruse the dozens of drinks while taking in the old-timey music. Wine and champagne are available as well. Some favorites:

White Cloves of Dover: Clove-and-orange-infused Bacardi Carta Oro rum, amontillado sherry, cinnamon syrup, fresh lime, cranberry juice and raspberry

Katherine Hepburn: Earl-Grey-tea-infused Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, Saint Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime and honey syrup

Gracie Fields: Ketel One Vodka, rose liqueur, home-made rhubarb-rose-peppercorn syrup with Prosecco foam

White Cloves of Dover | Cahoots, London

White Cloves of Dover |Cahoots, London

Rations: Meat + Pickles, Bangers + Roasties, Smoked Almonds

Cheers!

Cahoots Mind The Gap Kingly Court London

Strike Gold from Drinks to Desserts at Oro | SoMa, San Francisco

Salted Date Ice Cream | Oro

Salted Date Ice Cream | Oro

The salted date ice cream with cardamom marshmallow and sesame chocolate granola from Oro in San Francisco is a must order. Spicy, herbal, citrus flavor of the soft marshmallow with the crunchy sweet granola is heavenly.

Chefs from SF favorites Commonwealth and Foreign Cinema bring you California/Mediterranean cuisine in industrial but warm space with concrete walls, marble bar, Edison lights and brightly colored local art. Be sure to check out the cocktails, blind tasting menu and the crispy, juicy roasted chicken – great for a group or a date.

The Food/Drink:

Roasted Chicken | Oro San Francisco

Roasted Chicken | Oro San Francisco

Must order: Continue reading

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Want To Sip Cocktails Underground in London?

Gracie Fields Cahoots Soho London

If cocktails served in a secret-ish underground station with a 1940s vibe in London sounds intriguing – stay tuned for more on this hush-hush experience.

For now I leave you with the Gracie Fields: Vodka, rose liqueur, homemade rhubarb-rose-pepper syrup with Prosecco foam. Cheers!

Here’s Your Lunch Deal of the Week – Cherry Circle Room | The Loop, Chicago

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Wild Sausage Sandwich

Step back in time to a private old school club with rich leather booths, wood paneling, and an air of exclusivity at the Cherry Circle Room in the renovated Chicago Athletic Club Association Hotel. Pickelhaube helmets, framed crest banners and rabbits with swords and shields on the dinnerware lend an air of military/secret society mystery.

The best way to get a delicious meal at a fraction of the regular cost is during Restaurant Week – through Thursday, February 4th. The 3-course $22 lunch menu is a bargain, the lunches below come in at $43 and about $37 ordered a la cart any other time.

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Chicory Salad

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Chicory Salad

Drawing inspiration from the Chicago Athletic Club menus as far back as 1890 yet keeping with seasonal ingredients, Cherry Circle Room serves Continue reading