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You have to go to Austin once in your life! Take my guide with you.

March 4th, 2011 9 Comments

If you’re headed to Austin this month for SXSW, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, a Longhorn game, or simply because it’s one of the best city getaways in the US, here’s a helpful list of  hotels and restaurants to help you plan your trip.

I’ll be honest, I’m not an Austin expert, but I can give you solid spots I guarantee you’ll enjoy.

S – L – E – E – P

The boutique hotels and guest houses are what I love about Austin.  My favorite one is  The Hotel St. Cecelia. It combines rock star retro and contemporary style in a historical house on an unbelievably quiet property off the local hipster drag of restaurants and boutiques on South Congress.  Right down the street is its older and more affordable sister  The San Jose and another contemporary hideaway The Kimber Modern.  But if you’d like the same artsy  vibe as The Saint Cecilia, consider one of the two Casa Kenwood guesthouses which are really affordable.

Austin has the typical chain hotels all located in the middle of downtown near the capital and The University of Texas.   The most notable and nicest is The Four Seasons, which is also home to one of the best bar scenes and brunches in town. Others hotels include The Omni and The Stephen F Austin Intercontinental both of which I’ve stayed in and enjoyed.  There’s a Hyatt as well, but it’s not very nice.  The Driskill is the epitome of southern and stuffy, but it’s a lovely place to stay.

E – A – T

When you ask someone who has lived in Austin where to go to eat, they will all recommend the same places.  I’ve been to some, others I haven’t.  Here’s a list that will keep you satisfied and entertained when you’re out and about.


The first thing tourists want to know is, “Where is the best bbq?”

The answer is simple; the journey to get there is not.  Located 45 minutes outside of Austin, Salt Lick has the best bbq in Texas hands down.  Your lips have never tasted brisket so tender and delicious.  Want to see for yourself? Check out this TMIweekly episode I did with the owner who shows you his secret!  It’s a beautiful drive out and once you get there, you’ll want to hang out for a while.

If you truly don’t have time to make the drive, try one of these restaurants downtown:

Do not waste your time at County Line or Opie’s.

Texas is famous for brisket NOT pork.  Your best bet is always to order brisket, pulled beef, or ribs.  We’re pretty good at sausage too.


Eddie V’s – THE steakhouse in Austin with great food and an even better bar scene.  Fancy and expensive, but totally worth it.  Skip the table and dine in the bar for good people watching.

Uchi – The trendy sushi joint that apparently delivers the scene and fresh fish.

Perla’s – Award-winning seafood and oyster bar with a contemporary American menu. Their pleasant patio looks out onto South Congress.  Always packed, get a reservation.

Ranch 616 – The casual place for the wanna-be “cool kids” to hang out (that would be me).  It’s small, crowded, and always yummy.

The Belmont – A younger, trendy scene that serves up steak what they call farm-to-table dishes.  Most people eat somewhere else and then come here for the bar and live music later.  It’s in the center of the action on West Sixth Street.

Maiko – Modern sushi spot next door to The Belmont with solid sushi.  A good option if the Belmont is packed.

Max’s Wine Dive – Big portions of American food with a solid wine list downtown.


Guero’s – Famous taco bar on South Congress.  Great place for lunch and ritas while you’re strolling the drag during the day.

Curra’s – Mexican voted the best in Texas by Texas Monthly and The Austin Journal.

Maudie’s – The favorite Mexican joint of UT alumni, but you couldn’t pay me to go back here again.

Home Slice – Supposedly the best pizza in Austin and I’ll attest it’s damn good. On South Congress.

South Congress Food Trailers – Lining the popular drag are tons of airstream trailers and huts selling everything from Mexican to Crepes, Thai and cupcakes, ice cream, you name it.  It’s a great place to spend the afternoon and get a taste of the local culture.


No one wakes up early enough in Austin for breakfast so you’ll have to wait until at least 9 for brunch.  Always expect to wait.

Four Season’s – The most popular and beautiful brunch on the lake in downtown.

Kerbey Lane There are locations all over Austin.  They look like greasy spoon hippie diners, but the food is really fresh. I’ve eaten here a million times and it always delivers.  Open 24 hours.

Chez Z – Exactly what you would expect brunch to be WITH warm croissants and strawberry butter delivered as you sit down.

M – U – S – I – C

I wish I had more experience with the music scene in Austin because the local artists, which mostly perform rock, blues, and country, are true natural talents.  If you’re in town, you must stop into a bar, grab a Lonestar or Shiner Bock, and listen to whoever is up on stage.

A few places I love:

The Continental Club – A historical landmark dive bar on South Congress, you can’t go wrong here any night of the week. There’s a blues band led by an old homeless guy who plays the guitar with his feet.  I know it sounds weird but he’s awesome!

The Parish – On Sixth street downtown, this is more of a venue than a bar.  Great bands you may or may not recognize here.

Emo’s – A smaller music venue with a reliable schedule.

311 – The live music dive bar on Sixth Street we all loved in college and still do.

Some of the restaurants I mentioned have live music sometimes as well: Salt Lick, Iron Works, Stubbs, Ranch 616, Max’s, and The Belmont.

B – A – R – S

Here’s where my guide gets a little shaky.  I haven’t lit up Austin since college so I don’t really know where to send you.  BUT, my friends love:

  • Paradise
  • Cheers Shot Bar (terrible name but fun)
  • Logan’s
  • Any bar on Fourth Street (the new Sixth St.)
  • Scholz Garden (sports bar near Memorial Stadium for pre-gaming)
  • Four Seasons bar (for after the game)
  • The Belmont
  • Star Bar

T – H – E – O – U – T – D – O – O – R – S

Austin is located in the most scenic part of Texas – The Hill Country.  You should plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible.  Here are a list of activities to consider:

If I missed a place you love, please add it in the comments! I’ll have some of my friends who went to UT contribute their two cents there as well.

For insight on what’s going on RIGHT NOW in Austin go to Austin360 or hit up a local blog called This Life In Austin.

(Photo from here and adapted with instagram)

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  • PiaKae

    Hi, Mary! In the past, I’ve been a defender of yours and always feel it’s so nit-picky to criticize a single spelling or grammar error in someone else’s writing–we all do it. But this is just. . . bad. I’m a high school English teacher. I’d be really upset if a 9th grader had this many errors. Don’t you have a friend who can copyedit for you? Why such sloppy writing? I know you give tips on blogging but you should know professionalism with writing is one of the most important presentation tips.

    Just a sample paragraph of errors:
    “on [AN] unbelievably quiet property off the local hipster drag of restaurants and boutiques on South Congress. Right down the street is ITS[ No APOSTROPHE] older and more affordable sister The San Jose and another contemporary hideaway The Kimber Modern. But if you’d like the same artsy [NO COMMA] vibe as The Saint Cecilia, consider one of the two Casa Kenwood guesthouses which are really affordable.”

    Also, “Do not waist your time at County Line or Opie’s.” It’s WASTE. I feel like people have corrected you on that before.

    Also is this some slang I don’t know? “I lit up Austin since college”

    Anyway I don’t want to embarrass you further but there is more. But, look, I’ve been a fan for a while and noticed the only comments you get here lately are those correcting grammar. Why not take it seriously? It does matter, I’m sure you’d agree.

    • Omgoodness! You’re absolutely right!! How embarrassing!! Obviously I know the difference between waist and waste, it’s and its. Yikes.

      I could give you some insight as to how I am capable of such errors (wordpress typing box is SOOO small for example) but these are inexcusable.

      I wish wish wish I had an editor to catch my mistakes after hours of typing and my eyes start skimming over the words. But as much as I post, that’s a full time job.

      My sincerest apologies.

  • Ok, I’ve corrected the mistakes. I’ll tell you what happened with the hotels so you don’t think I’m a total moron. I rearranged that paragraph several times and took out a lot of details. I didn’t reread the final copy carefully. Still inexcusable.

    I appreciate you taking the time to edit for me. Can I send you posts in the future before publish them and embarrass myself :)

  • PiaKae

    But Mary, many bloggers use WordPress. They never have this many errors. This is not an excuse either: “But as much as I post, that’s a full time job.” I have to agree with other commenters: you’re just not a writer. And that’s the first step to being a blogger. You could do just a photo tumblr with small captions. But your writing always makes me cringe. And it’s okay, not everyone is a born writer. But I don’t know why you insist you are and then blame WordPress and lack of time for this. Millions of other bloggers, natural writers, handle this with little effort.

    • And millions of writers, bloggers, journalists, etc make mistakes too!

      I even came across a typo on NYTimes the other day.

      The first article I ever turned into The Chronicle, they made errors when they edited my work that weren’t originally there.

      I don’t find my consistent errors acceptable. But, everyone knows I’m a bad speller and a bit careless sometimes. So people have either accepted that or left. I suggest you do the same.

  • Sake Bombardier

    “I suggest you do the same.” Oh, Mary. I don’t think you’re in a position to condescend right now. Take your lumps gracefully, or at the very least stop digging. You won’t like China, I’m betting.

  • Another English Teacher

    As a long time reader, I have “accepted” your spelling errors and carelessness/sloppiness. What I can’t accept is your snooty and condescending response to PiaKae. Per your instructions, I will “leave.”

  • Liz

    Protip: You can drag the right hand corner of the WordPress body text box. Drag it downwards, and that makes it taller. I know for sure this works in Firefox. It might even stay that tall, so you don’t have to adjust it every time you post a new entry.

  • Michelle

    I have to agree with Mary on her comment to leave the blog if you can’t accept mistakes and a few misspelled words.

    This is a blog that is supposed to be for entertainment purposes. I’m amazed that people are so critical. I can overlook the grammatical errors to get the info that I need out of the blog.