Austin: Morning, Noon and Night
By M. Elise Giller
Austin, Texas, is a veritable playground for eating, drinking and just having fun. The city is both the capital of the state and the home of the University of Texas' main campus. From chowing down on barbecue to shopping for vintage threads to rocking out to live bands, the city offers many ways to have a good time. If you only have 24 hours, here's how to make the most of your visit:
Start with breakfast at Veracruz All Natural, a taco truck on the east side of town. Go for the authentic migas taco: scrambled eggs with tortilla chips, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and cheese in a house-made corn tortilla. And don't miss the aguas frescas — drinks that blend fruits like watermelon and mango with sugar and water.
Next head over to Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, a coffee shop that's great for people watching (look for hip young people sporting mustaches and skinny jeans).
From spring through fall, head to Barton Springs for a dip. If the weather isn't cooperative, check out the Bullock State History Museum to learn all about Texas culture and see a movie at its IMAX theater.
By lunchtime you'll have worked up a Texas-size appetite. Skip the epic lines at places like Franklin Barbecue and head to Freedmen's in the West Campus neighborhood for succulent brisket, ribs and sausage. Don't forget sides like the horseradish potato salad, and save room for the smoked banana pudding for dessert.
Afterward head to South Congress Avenue, a hip strip where you'll find a mix of upscale clothing boutiques like ByGeorge and local shops like Parts & Labour, where you can buy your “Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers (the city's unofficial slogan). Unusual candy shops like Big Top Candy Shop will satisfy your sweet tooth with Necco wafers and egg creams, and the antiques shop Uncommon Objects offers a great place to hunt for souvenirs. Take a break with an iced coffee at Jo's Coffee, or grab a bottle of wine at the Hotel San Jose bar, a lush outdoor haven.
When you're ready, walk a few blocks over to South First Street, another hot spot for vintage shopping and cool restaurants and stores. Be sure to check out New BROhemia for killer men's and unisex vintage clothes and Métier Cook's Supply for the finest kitchenware in town.
Next door to Métier, chefs Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher run Lenoir, a restaurant know for its creative blend of dishes with influences from India, Southeast Asia and the southern United States. The refurbished house with shabby chic décor and a romantic backyard patio are pretty sweet, too.
After dinner head downtown to Sixth Street, the heart of the city's nightlife district. Play shuffleboard and darts at Buffalo Billiards, treat yourself to a craft cocktail at speakeasy Midnight Cowboy (be sure to make a reservation), or take in some live music at the Mohawk, which offers a mix of nationally known and local acts.
All of that drinking and dancing may have you hungry again. Fortunately, Austin boasts plenty of food trucks that stay open until 3 a.m. and even later. Grab a slice of thick Detroit, Michigan-style square pizza from Via 313 in East Austin, or if you're up for a drive, head back to South First for giant donuts loaded with everything from gummy worms to fried chicken from Gourdough's. You won't regret it.