I left Philadelphia with two Northeasterners in tow, ready to show them a little slice of Texas heaven. To start off, we needed to eat BBQ.
My go-to for BBQ is Rudy’s. I KNOW that Franklin’s BBQ is delicious and there’s nothing like looking at the fabulous smoke pit of meat at Salt Lick. For more BBQ love, there’s always roadtripping to Lockhart for a BBQ tour. BUT if you want good without the crazy line (Franklin’s) or the drive (Salt Lick + Lockhart BBQ), then I would recommend a visit to BBQ by Rudy’s Country Store where they sell gas out front and serve you on the fanciest butcher paper. I would recommend the brisket (of course), baby back ribs, and sausage, in that order. For sides, you MUST get the creamed corn. (There are a few locations in Austin but the one we went to was at 2451 S Capital of Texas Hwy.)
Satisfied, we went mural hopping.Greetings From Austin (1720 S. First Street)
I Love You So Much (1300 S Congress- next to Jo’s Coffee)
At Jo’s, I would recommend the Iced Turbo to cool you down. It has coffee, espresso, hazelnut, chocolate and cream. It is YUMMY. While you’re here, make sure to explore South Congress Street! It’s filled with tons of eclectic shops, restaurants, and a variety of food trucks. Recommendations on S. Congress food-wise: Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Amy’s Ice Cream and Hey Cupcake.
Baylor Street Art Wall (11th + Baylor)
You’re My Butter Half (MLK + Alamo- next to United Way for Greater Austin; across from Bennu)
It was nearing sunset so I took the girls to a nice romantic spot: Mount Bonnell!
Mount Bonnell is a gorgeous look out point over the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River. Note: There are a decent amount of steps to get to the top but there’s a railing. It’s nothing too strenuous!
Want to relax by the water with a coffee and perhaps a massive slice of cake? Check out Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. You’ll see lots of students with laptops here because of the free WiFi and big tables but there’s plenty of seating indoors and outdoors. Perfect for soaking rays, people watching and listening to live music (Thursday-Sunday).
Other great lookout points:
The Pennyback/360 Bridge is located at Loop 360 and Lake Austin and has a lookout point adjacent to it. Note: If you’re traveling north, the parking area is before you drive onto the bridge on the right. To get to the top of the cliff, there’s a short but somewhat steep hike.
My favorite view to date is the drive to Oasis, a restaurant adjacent to Lake Travis. The food is okay but the view is amazing.
After all that driving around, it was time for dinner at East Side King. (There are a few locations but we went to the one on South Lamar because of location and ease of parking.) Our favorites were the brussel sprouts salad and the thai kara-age chicken. Note: Crystal had gotten the bento box but since Keyla and I had wanted the same bento box we got it done family style, which was cheaper!
We sat outside to enjoy the nice weather. Not only was there outdoor seating but there was also cornhole and hammocks! Loved it.
With our super early flight, we wanted a chill night out so we headed to Rainey Street. It’s a block or two lined with the cutest bars and a food trailer park in the middle. (If you like donuts, check out Little Lucy’s!) Banger’s, I want to return to you and have the most rustic Texas wedding reception here. But no tattoo, even if it is free.
First breakfast was at Kolache Factory because.. the girls had never heard of kolaches!!! And they approved! Who can hate fluffy rolls filled with deliciousness?! I would recommend the Ranchero.
Second breakfast was at Max’s Wine Dive. Sadly, they didn’t have brunch on Friday (only Saturday and Sunday)! Womp womp. It’s okay because the lunch menu looked goood. Keyla and I had the fried egg sandwich with truffled chips while Crystal had the frito chili pie. I loved both dishes BUT I do have to say that they are a bit heavy. I was only able to eat half of my sandwich. Don’t worry though; I finished it later that evening!
Other brunch options: Taverna ($1 mimosas and bellinis-on weekends-are always a winner; I recommend the hash); Contigo (I love the ranch-style of this restaurant; I recommend the beef tongue hash)
We liked altering activity and food so next up was a little hike at Hamilton Pool! It was a 30 minute drive and a wait once we arrived. (With the weather so nice, the parking lot was full and cars were admitted as ones left.) Note: There is a charge for admissions to the pool. It was $15 per car.
The trail is straightforward and wasn’t too rough. I saw people wearing sandals do it but I would still recommend something more sturdy. NOTE: THERE ARE SNAKES IN THE AREA. Crystal and I MOST DEFINITELY saw a snake in a patch of high grass. And then we ran away screaming. Before you enter the reserve there is a bulletin board about the types of snakes in the area and we think we saw a cottonmouth. It doesn’t matter. It was terrifying.
To the pool!
The water was chilly but nice when we went. The waterfall is absolutely gorgeous and a man laid spread eagle on there for quite a while!
Other fun outdoor trips to consider: Longhorn Caverns (look AWESOME but I’ve never been; 1.5 hours northwest of Austin), Enchanted Rock (a Texas classic; 1.5 hours from Austin)
Dinner on day two was at Torchy’s Tacos. Sorry, my picture was fuzzy from excitement. I LOVE TORCHY’S. Our tacos were awesome but definitely get the green chile queso. It is the best queso ever.
Oh, and we shared a peg leg. Look at the little Corona! So cute!
This night we partied like 21 year olds, which means a visit to Dirty Sixth. We started out the night at Cheers per my college days. (Although I’m told, Shot Bar is the new Cheers? I don’t know. That knowledge makes me feel old.) To begin, FLAMING DR. PEPPERS.
How have people not known of this party favorite?!
There was also the BJ. Delicious and must be taken with no hands. No incriminating pictures shall be posted.
And the night never ends without Best Wurst. My personal favorite is the Italian sausage with everything on it (extra sauerkraut and curry mustard yess).
Other good late night eats: Chi’lantro (for kimchi fries and bulgogi tacos), Kerbey Lane (for All-American breakfast food), and, of course, What-A-Burger (for that Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit)
We begin the day with El Chilito. I opt for the Cherrywood burrito and the Ojo Rojo (horchata + espresso).
After lunch, we changed and headed to Congress Kayaks. TIP: Park near Rainey Street/the Mexican Cultural Center (600 River Street) and walk to Congress Kayaks. It’s about 0.5 miles and you follow the trail next to the lake. Congress Kayaks is located underneath a restaurant. For $20 an hour, we did stand-up paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake!
Other outdoor things to do: Zilker Park (tandem biking, kayaking, swimming at Barton Springs Pool), Hippie Hollow (for you nudists); see the Congress Avenue Bridge bats
To refuel, we went to Tea Haus. It was a little bit of a drive to Tea Haus but it was GOOD. The basil chicken- one of my favorite Taiwanese snacks!- was tender and the brick toast just sweet enough. I got the boba tea; Keyla,the ginger lemonade and Crystal, the sea salt creme coffee. All good but I have to say that the coffee was stand out yummy.
Tea Haus tided us over as we drove to Baguette House for spring rolls and banh mi.
I’ll be real here: I wasn’t in love with the banh mi at Baguette House. My one true banh mi love is Don Cafe in Houston. Toasted French baguette, a nice spread of butter and lots of that pickled daikon and radish.. No other has compared yet.
Now it was time to take the girls to the Drag.
The Drag is what we Longhorns call the part of Guadalupe adjacent to campus. It’s a strip of restaurants and shops. I brought the girls to the University Co-op to check out UT swag and to profess their love to Bevo. Then we headed to Tyler’s where I have purchased many Nike shorts. (If you’re interested in Austin specific souvenirs, check out Sixth Street during the day!)
If you’re hungry near campus, I would go into West Campus and eat at Plucker’s. I would most definitely recommend fried pickles and a Texas Tea with your wings.
We didn’t do any more tourist-y things, but I would say if you’re near campus wander around! If you are interested in tours, I’ve heard great things about the ones for the Capitol and the UT Tower.
Dinner was a mash up of our favorites: Crystal got queso from Torchy’s, Keyla got brisket from Rudy’s and I ordered Pad Thai and Yum Guay Teaw from Madam Mam’s, a Thai place on the Drag. I was a little sad it didn’t taste the same. I would recommend dining in if you go.
One thing we didn’t get to do was find bluebonnets! Usually, you’ll spot a patch driving around in Texas during April/May. If you like flowers, I would say check out Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
As for where we stayed, we used AirBnB, which was awesome! Our host Isaiah was very responsive throughout our entire stay. The place was centrally located, clean and comfortable. I think for the entire trip we used only a half tank of gas!
Overall, our trip was low key and relaxed. We wanted to keep it affordable but fun. It was a great break post-finals and I’m so glad I got to show my favorite city to my girlfriends!