Austin, Texas — The Short List

The places to go. The things to eat.

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In a month, we are going to have a couple thousand friends from around the country, from around the world, visiting the wackiest and most endearing city in the world for the IF:Gathering. My hope is that each visitor will fall in love with this city I love so much and return often. {Heaven knows, we don’t need anyone else moving here.}

Here’s my shortlist of where to go, things to do, and places to eat {something I take very, very, very seriously}. 

Torchy’s TacosThe best LUNCH tacos in all of the land. {Yep. In this town, you must specify.} My usual order — a Mr. Orange on corn and a Brushfire on flour. I can’t touch the Green Chili Queso because I have a real problem and once I start, I cannot stop. Visit 1 of their 16 Austin locations, you won’t regret it.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar – You might have to stand in line at either of Hopdoddy’s two Austin locations, but their food is worth the wait. Their burgers, and fries, and milkshakes will change your life. I have never tried a burger there I didn’t enjoy but I think the Goodnight/Good Cause is my very favorite. Be warned, it’s got a kick!

La CondesaI dream about La Condesa’s Modern Mexican Food. Their guacamole sampler with chipotle and almond guacamole, lump crab cake and apple guacamole and a seasonal guacamole is YUM. And so is everything else on their menu! Mexican corn. Tortas. Tacos. YUM.

Sway Thai food like you’ve never had it before. Sway is beautiful; the food is delicious; and the ambiance is perfect for a girl’s night out on the town. My tip — get several dishes and share family-style.

Elizabeth Street Cafe – Elizabeth Street is probably my very favorite. It’s french and vietnamese, vietnamese and french. You’ll find everything from buns and bahn mis to croissants and macarons. All incredible. If you forced me to pick my favorite meal to eat at Elizabeth Street, I’d tell you brunch and I’d mean it. But lunch and dinner are good too!

Matt’s El Rancho – Open since 1952, Matt’s El Rancho is somewhat of an institution renowned for their Austin-Style Tex-Mex. Their Bob Armstrong Dip has been called “legendary” and was voted the “Best Queso in Austin” by The Queso. If the weather is nice, Matt’s patio is a great hang.

Radio/Veracruz All Natural Food Truck – Radio is one of my favorite coffeeshops in Austin. They serve great brew. And don’t miss the Veracruz All Natural truck that is parked out back. Veracruz’s breakfast tacos had Emeril going back for seconds. 

Whole Foods Flagship Store on West Sixth Street – This grocery store will blow your mind. The 80,000-square-foot store sits below the global headquarters of Whole Foods Market Inc. Fodor’s described the store as “both a showcase for the company’s philosophy and one of the most entertaining supermarkets you’ll ever visit.” They have a bbq counter, a taco bar, a sushi place, a beer cellar, an Italian restaurant, a dim sum cart and my favorite — a seafood market — all for your enjoyment.

Central Market – Another grocery store on my Austin short list?!? Yes. I like grocery stores and Austin is home to the best in their class. H-E-B opened the first Central Market in Austin ten years ago and it was quickly deemed “an amusement park for food lovers.” One of Austin’s most popular tourist destinations, Central Market hosts an average 2 million visitors each year. I guess I’m not the only grocery store lover?!?

Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail – If the weather is nice and I’m not at work, you’ll find me at the Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail, or Town Lake as us locals call it. Enjoy over 10 miles of trails and experience up close some of Austin’s favorite landmarks — Zilker Park, the South Congress “Bat” bridge, and Barton Springs. I like to park at Austin High and do a 3ish mile loop that circles back at Lamar.

Texas State Capit0l – Like any proper Texan, I’d be remiss to not encourage you to visit the Texas State Capitol. Completed in 1888, the Capitol houses the Texas legislature and the office of the Governor. Tours are free and last about 30 minutes or you can just do a self-guided tour of the Capitol and its grounds.

South Congress Avenue – South Congress Avenue is a great place to stroll, browse interesting stores like Uncommon Objects, grab some grub, refuel with a cup of coffee and some kicks at TOMS, and of course, people watch until you are cross-eyed.

Mount Bonnell – Mount Bonnell is a few miles outside of downtown but, oh my, the view is worth it. You’ll get a nice little workout climbing the stairs and then I suggest you find a perch to cool down and watch the sunset over Lake Austin and the surrounding hills.

Lake Austin – Speaking of Lake Austin, there’s a great little marina on the lake called Oyster’s Landing that houses The Hula Hut, Abel’s on the Lake, and Mozart’s Coffee. Not far at all from Downtown but it always helps me forget my troubles like I have escaped to a tropical paradise for an hour or two.

Austin friends and aficionados — What spots am I missing? What’s on your short list?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Lori

    Our daughter used to attend UT and although I haven’t been to Austin in a couple of years, we always loved The Clay Pit for amazing Indian food. Also, the ancho chile fudge pie at Z’Tejas is to die for….

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  • How is there no mention of BBQ on this list?!? Please, allow me to fix that:

    Sure, there’s Franklin and La Barbeque – both are good and famous for a reason. But my favorite has quickly become Micklethwait (or as my boss refers to it, the #2 BBQ joint in Austin – Franklin being #1 & La be #1.5). Their sides are phenomenal, their brisket spectacular, and their pulled pork is the stuff of dreams! Not to mention, it’s super cute! (Just watch out for the grackles! Those things are NOT friendly!!)