Austin is a city that gets talked about a lot. Everybody knows somebody who knows something about Austin. They’ve embraced the mantra “Keep Austin Weird”, and trust me, they do. I find a lot of similarities between Austin and my own hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. Both cities are a blue blip in a very red state, but both are so much more than their politically liberal leanings. Both could easily play leading roles in a foodie’s dream and both are powerhouses of culture.
My husband and I spent about 5 days in Austin in early January. It was his first time visiting, and my third. Both of my previous trips were to attend SXSW, so my experience was a bit limited, but this was an awesome visit and we’re already making plans to go back. Based on my experiences, I have a few recommendations of things that you shouldn’t miss if you visit Austin.
What to Do
This is my top recommendation for how to spend some of your time in Austin, and it includes eating at some of the city’s best food trucks. We love doing food tours in cities we visit and Austin Eats didn’t disappoint. I wish we’d had more time in Austin so that we could have done more than one of their tours, but we participated in their Best of Austin Food Truck tour and it was pretty amazing! The tour started with fresh Golden Eggs from Sandra Bullock’s Walton’s Fancy & Staple (seriously, look these up – they’re amazing), then visited the Cocoa Puro tent at the Saturday SFC Farmers’ Market. All items sold by vendors at this farmers’ market have to be produced within 150 miles of Downtown Austin.
Other stops on the tour included Kerlin BBQ, where we sampled a fantastic BBQ brisket & cheddar kolache; la Barbeque, where we skipped the line that was forming before they opened, and had the best brisket and pulled pork of our trip, alone with homemade pickles and a really unique cole slaw; Tumble 22 for some Nashville Hot Chicken and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka; Lucky’s Puccias, in the courtyard of Mort Subite Belgian Pub for puccias, a tasty authentic Italian sandwich made with bread baked in the wood fired oven inside the food truck; and Churro Co. for an incredible s’mores churro. All of the food and beverages are included throughout the tour and you absolutely will not leave hungry.
This is an adorable little area (just a couple blocks) where old homes have been turned into restaurants and bars. It’s adjacent to Downtown, and where our Airbnb was. There are food trucks interspersed throughout the area, so if you’d rather have food from a truck, then grab drinks at one of the hip little bars along this street, you can absolutely do that.
If you’ve got a rental car, I definitely recommend going out to check this out. The bridge is stunning, but the view is even more spectacular. It can be a little confusing to find, as there aren’t any signs and it seems to be a bit of an unofficial park area. If you see people parked on the side of the road, just before you are about to cross the big bridge, you found it. You’ll park where they are, then climb up. You won’t regret the mini hike. The view from the top is AMAZING!
This spot started as the beginning of a building and the project was never completed. Now, it’s an outdoor gallery where artists use spray paint to create amazing art on the concrete foundation of the building. There’s also a great, unobstructed view of Downtown Austin.
One of the better presidential libraries I’ve been to. LBJ was the one who created many of the social programs we work with today. It was interesting to see how they all started. There’s a neat feature in this library where they allow you to listen to phone conversations LBJ had with many people, including Jackie Kennedy, right after JFK was assassinated. It’s really interesting. It’s on the UT campus, but they have a designated parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any problems.
If you like art museums, this is a great one. The entry way is beautiful and they just opened a brand new building (it opened right after we left Austin) that looks amazing. This one is also on the UT campus, but there’s a public parking garage that makes things easy.
Where to Eat
This is a Detroit-style pizza spot that started as a food truck. I recommend checking out the original (behind Craft Pride at 61 Rainey Street). They have an amazing patio in the back yard, where the food truck is, and Craft Pride serves all kinds of Texas craft beer. The pizza is amazing, and it’s a spot I go back to every time I’m in Austin.
This isn’t the original location (that’s in Portland), but it’s just enough of a taste of Austin’s 6th Street to be enough for me. 6th Street is Austin’s Bourbon Street and can be a little overwhelming. I recommend going long enough to grab a doughnut and catch a little live music.
This is a food truck that only sells donuts. There are great combinations and they’re all really good. This is a popular place, so don’t go unless you have 30-ish minutes to spare.
Torchy’s is always on the list of recommendations when you’re talking about Austin. If you like tacos, you’ll like this place, and they even have a “secret” menu. It’s an Austin chain, but they’re spreading to other places across the country (Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma right now). but they know what they’re doing. There are lots of locations all over the city and all have different features. Check out their website to find the location that best fits your needs.
We stopped here on the way back to the airport. It’s a small food truck attached to a brewery in a really industrial-looking area. If you’re using GPS, you’re going to think you’re in the wrong place, but you’re not. They have a really nice outdoor area and the food is unique and really good.
If you like biscuits & gravy, definitely check out this food truck. Lots of combinations and they’re all amazing. It’s also around the corner from a great coffee shop, The Flightpath Coffeehouse.
This is one you’ll have to drive to. It’s about 30-45 minutes outside of Austin, but it’s worth it. It’s one of the more famous BBQ spots in the country. They have amazing food, but it’s super popular, so I recommend it for lunch rather than dinner. We actually went as soon as we got off the plane and got our car in Austin, since we couldn’t check into the Airbnb until later in the afternoon.
No matter what you choose to do or where you choose to eat, Austin has something for everyone. What are your favorites?