Our very own David Gill, VP of Consumer Insights, is a native Austinite and has been since the age of two. He has the inside scoop on the best places to visit when you’re in Austin and we’ve compiled his top places for food and drinks, music, and outdoor fun!
Per David, this list is “a 100% biased, thoughtfully curated list of things to eat, drink and see in and around Austin, TX with insider tips for the intrepid traveler or newcomer. Not intended to be a catch all list because every occasion is unique.” So, from us to you, enjoy!
First, a Drink:
In Austin, we love our happy hours and I generally try to think about it like this: margaritas, cold beer or fancy cocktails.
The best frozen margarita in town is Fonda San Miguel. But truthfully, most Mexican restaurants and most bars will make a margarita that is 1000% better than the one you had at the Denver airport that one time.
For cold beer, I like Hopfield’s great beer selection and a delicious Euro menu. The Pascal Burger rivals any burger in town. Central Machine Works is a good bet for lots of local taps with plenty of space for larger groups. For a pub straight out of the old country, try the Draught House, a Bavarian/Tudor style venue in operation in Austin since 1969.
Lastly, there are cocktails, Gabriela’s or Licha’s on the east side will quench your thirst. The North Loop area has a couple gems as well, including DrinkWell and The Tigress. Need to escape on Dirty 6th? Speakeasy Midnight Cowboy is your spot.
BBQ… what we all came for:
Of course, Franklin’s is delicious every time, but he will tell you himself that his secret is just consistency. You can get BBQ that is 99% as tasty as Franklin’s at Terry Black’s or Stiles Switch (okay, maybe 90%). If you like brisket and have never had a beef rib, get a beef rib. You will have to take out a line of credit, but it’s worth it. Never order pulled pork at a Texas BBQ joint – that’s not a thing and if it’s on the menu it’s for tourists.
An important note on this topic – don’t go to a famous Texas BBQ place and order the turkey. The holy trinity is brisket (lean or moist, try both), pork ribs and sausage (sometimes just called ‘hots’). Get the trinity between you and a pal and you can’t go wrong. Keep in mind that traditionally, BBQ is a lunch meal, not dinner. The more authentic the place is, the more likely it is that they begin running out of various things by late afternoon.
All things Mexican and Tex-Mex:
If you’re looking for classic Tex-Mex, try Matt’s El Rancho, Cisco’s, or Mi Madre’s. Classic generally means too much cheese. In the best way.
For some serious upgrades, try Polvo’s, Comedor, or El Naranjo. Although not mentioned in the drinks section, all these spots have amazing margaritas. The correct answer to “salt?” is “yes.”
Tacos (which wholly deserves sub-categories):
For authentic tacos, go for Nixta, Vaquero Taquero, Cuantos Tacos, Discada, or pretty much any truck on the east side that has at least three people hanging out.
Breakfast tacos – my general take, with few exceptions, is that there are several requirements for authentic breakfast tacos:
- Price per taco should be under $3.
- BTs should be on the small side and generally come in threes, all snuggled up cute together in a paper tray or foil.
- No more than three ingredients. Yes, cheese is an ingredient. Salsa doesn’t count.
- Flour torts (homemade if possible), no corn. Corn has its place but not for BTs.
- You have to get both sauces (green and red).
For the entertainment and outdoor fun seekers:
If you’re looking for a music venue, look no further than The White Horse, hands down my favorite go-to if you don’t have any other plan. It draws a diverse crowd, beer is cheap, the AC isn’t great but I’ve never had a bad time. For a full list of who’s playing around town, check our alt-monthly, the Austin Chronicle. If you are DIY music, the karaoke place is Ego’s – in the basement of an office building on South Congress.
For those seeking a cool down during the summer heat, check out Barton Springs and Deep Eddy. Barton Springs is an Austin staple. It can be crowded on weekends, but if you’ve never been, it’s bucket list stuff. The term “pool” doesn’t really describe it – it’s the 4th largest natural spring in Texas and chugs out 31 million gallons of 68-degree spring water every day into a natural limestone basin.
Deep Eddy is Barton Springs’ lesser-known cousin. Also a spring fed pool, it’s popular with Austin natives and has lap lanes and plenty of shade under big cottonwood trees. It is the oldest public swimming pool in Texas.
Lastly, if you’re looking to get in a round of golf during your Austin trip, Austin is known for year-round golfing. Although I’m not an avid golfer, I do like to go out and hit the ball around. So, these recommendations are NOT for big-time golfers, but if you’re a big-time golfer you don’t need my list, let’s be honest.
Hancock is the front 9 of the first Austin Country Club, so it has some historical caché. It is challenging for a 9-hole course, with quite a bit of elevation change back and forth across Waller Creek, and Rounds are $17 so the price is right.
The other mini course worth mentioning is Riverside. The fabled Harvey Penick was the pro here for 50 years and his home sits directly behind the tee box on hole #5. Penick taught Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite on this course, designed by J. Press and Perry Maxwell.
If you’re looking for something more informal and relaxed, check out Butler Pitch and Putt – it’s a fun Par 3 course just south of downtown. They have rental clubs and have recently revamped the whole experience to include pimento cheese sammies and a beer cart. Good times for amateurs just looking for a fun outing.
We hope you found a new place to check out during your time in Austin, TX—We sure did! Hopefully you found your spot for post-DealMaker meetings and nighttime networking. We’ll surely see you around!