Earlier today, I found out that a friend of a friend is headed for Austin and in need of some recommendations for the eating and the drinking and such. I've been itching to do a "My Favorite Austin Stuff" post for a while now (You can see all my Austin posts right here.), and so I'm glad to have the kick in the butt. Shall we begin at the beginning? (By which, of course, I mean breakfast tacos.)
Austin is easily the breakfast taco capital of the world, and everyone has an opinion. My favorites can be had at Taco Deli, where the Jess Special and Vaquero are tops. My friend Louisa is especially fond of the Otto, and you can't go wrong by combining the chorizo with the Mexican mashed potatoes for one perfect, indulgent start to your morning.
Special mention to The Dirty Sanchez at Torchy's (pictured above), which is my other favorite Austin egg-based taco, though the rest of their menu - save the queso - pales in comparison.
Go here. Order the migas and a side of sausage. Or the cornmeal pancakes with chocolate chips. (But, actually, just order the migas - and make sure they're of the Spicy Love butter variety.)
Actually, 24Diner is open, well, 24 hours, and serves all meals. I'm partial to their breakfast, though, where I typically order the hash - veggie or non-. Their veggie burger is delicious, too, especially when topped with a fried egg. (Notice a theme?)
Elizabeth Street Café
They serve lunch and dinner here, too - and Louisa assures me that the banh mi rock - but I've only been for breakfast. The menu has French pastries and savory Vietnamese specialties (the sticky rice with ginger sausage is heavenly), and the coffee is out of this world.
Uchi is possibly my favorite place on Earth to eat right now, for reals. It can be hard to get into, so be prepared to wait for a table. (If you're lucky, you'll wait next to Elijah Wood, like we did last time. And then Dominic Monaghan showed up. Really.) I can't tell you enough times to order at least one piece of the scallop sushi - and the foie gras ngiri isn't to be missed. Sounds odd; tastes amazing.
Uchiko is Uchi's younger sibling, but is just as awesome. They have sushi on the menu here, too, but they feature what they call Japanese farmhouse cooking - things like grilled shishito peppers, crispy brussels sprouts and eggplant tempura. (All of which must be ordered.)
Some of the best Thai food I've had, hands down. They particularly excel at grilled meats, so order anything that comes from, well, the grill. Especially if it's served with pickles, lettuce or any kind of sauce. And the special beef curry is to die.
Justine's is at the center of the East Austin explosion, and for good reason. It's a tiny little bungalow with as many tables inside as out, and the food is classic French brasserie - but with good, American-style cocktails alongside. I love the steak, the ratatouille, and the salade de crevettes, with butter lettuce, snap peas, and shrimp, all tossed with a creamy tarragon dressing.
Make sure you order the chicken salad. (The other food is great, too, but the chicken salad is magic.)
I don't really have anything to say, other than 1) you must go, and 2) get there crazy early, like 10:45 early.
Coffee, Booze, Movies, Ice Cream & Massages
When I try to explain how awesome the Alamo is, people never have the reaction I want. So, you should probably just go and see what all the fuss is about. The beer is great, the food is terrible for you and delicious, and you get to watch a movie to boot. Try to go to a special show, like a Sunday brunch musical, or a Princess Bride quote-along. Oh, yes.
They have a few spots around the city, and all feature the Turbo, which is possibly the only frozen coffee drink worth having, ever. It's insane. (When they showed up at the SXSW convention center concession stands this year, I nearly cried with joy.)
Amy's Ice Creams
Amy's is like Cold Stone - all the mix-ins, but with good ice cream, the kind that doesn't coat your mouth with that nasty sticky crud. It's delicious. And the hot fudge is insane. It's worth getting a cup of it on the side.
This Sixth Street cocktail bar used to be a rub-and-tug joint up until very recently - this winter, to be exact. It's since been power-washed and turned into a teeny, very dark spot for interesting booze. I didn't love all the cocktails, but it's worth a visit just for the atmosphere. Also, you could always just order a Manhattan - I'm sure it would be beautifully made. (You need a reservation, which you can take care of online.)
Milk & Honey
Consistently the best massages of my life. Truly. And way cheaper than comparable treatments in New York. Make a booking if you can squeeze it in; you won't be sorry.