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Welcome to Cardinal Directions - a catalog of my favorite food & travels to help you navigate New York & beyond.  

 

 

The Getaway: Austin

The Getaway: Austin

Austin is one of my favorite cities in the US and I recently had the chance to go back for the SXSW EDU conference. It's always nice to escape Manhattan for a while and Austin was the perfect intermission. Lively yet laid back - the city is the energetic & overly expressive younger-sibling to Dallas & Houston. It's also home to some incredible eats - read on for my hit list of things to do on your next long-weekend there.

Navigation & Housing

Texas is a driving state, and Austin is no exception. Ubers are relatively cheap, but public transportation is sparse and I would highly recommend a rental car if you plan on visiting.  

In terms of housing - Austin has a myriad of adorable Airbnb's available. If you can, I would look for something in the heart of downtown or near Rainey Street. If you're worried about expenses, east Austin is a relatively cheap place to stay close to downtown. 

Cafes & Donuts

Austin is home to some of the best all-day cafes and Halycon is my favorite. Come in the morning & settle down with a breakfast sandwich & some work, or pop by with friends for lunch. If you're looking to have a low-key evening, the cafe stays open until 2am & also serves up cocktails (and smores).    

Factory Cafe is another great option which is well-stocked with an endless array of inventive espresso drinks, delectable brunch items (chicken & waffles always) and other beverages. Warning: they don't supply wifi, so if you're planning on hanging around, bring a hotspot. 

Blenders & Bowls is part yoga studio, part juice bar and is a great place to start your day feeling fresh. They do a killer matcha latte & have a prodigious menu of acai bowls (a recent obsession of mine). From classic fruit bowls to cucumber & cayenne - their concotions run the gamut, but all of them hit the spot.

I never visit a city without hunting down one or two new dessert spots. This past trip, I found myself at Voodoo Doughnuts 4 / 4 days and I'm not even embarrassed about it. They make amazing yeast donuts and a lot of them are vegan friendly! My personal favorite is the longhorn cream (maple icing + vanilla cream filling) or really anything that involves their maple glaze.

If you require more diversity in your routine, Gourdough's is another awesome donut spot & Cooper's Barbecue whips up some scrumptions cobblers.  

Barbecue, tacos & everything else

Unless you're vegetarian or vegan, if you leave Austin without trying the barbecue & tex-mex, I'm not entirely sure why you came (jk there are lots of beautiful places to see - but please eat the damn barbecue). 

Franklin's is probably the best known barbecue spot in Austin. It's also the hardest to get into. If you have a big group, order in bulk ahead of time. If not, and you happen to be impatient like me, try these alternatives:  

An Austin-ite approved routine: kick off your order of breakfast tacos at Veracruz & walk over to Kerlin's to put in your BBQ order while the tacos are being prepared. It's a winning, if not slightly excessive combination.

For those wiling to make a trek, The Salt Lick is a fun place about 40 minutes outside the city. It's an enormous space filled with long wooden tables, cornhole & all-you-can eat barbecue platters. It's also BYOB so grab a case & make a trip out of it with your friends.

Tacos: I already mentioned Veracruz, which is a must-try for breakfast tacos, but Torchy's is another classic Austin fast-food staple (make a second pit stop at Chuy's to really satisfy your tex-mex craving). Be sure to also try out some of the food trucks - they're quite the institution in Austin & make some of the most delicious tacos (and pupusas!) in the city.

Vegan & Vegetarian: For my vegan & vegetarian friends who have been reading this post in mild despair - fear not, there are great options for you as well. Flower Child (all vegan) and Bouldin Creek Cafe (all vegetarian) are two of my favorite spots in the city.

Flower Child is a gorgeous cafe - it's bright & airy and feels like the laid-back version of a park avenue juice & sandwich shop. Bouldin Creek rocks an entirely different vibe, but is equally enjoyable, with colorful mismatched furniture & decor.   

Nightlife & Activities

Rainey Street is an Austin must-see - day or night. Lined with old southern houses renovated into bars, it will feel like you're grabbing drinks on your friend's patio. 

Banger's is a favorite of mine. It's an amply stocked beer garden that serves up assorted sausages & delicious sides (get the mac 'n cheese). It's great for lunch or dinner, but jazzes it up with live music at night. Even if you don't make it to Bangers, definitely make a trip to Rainey and wander the lane of cheerfily lit patios - I'm sure you'll find something to suit your fancy.

If you're trying to have a slightly more aggressive evening, cab on over to dirty 6th for a hilarious evening of blurry details. 

Sprawling parks & lakes are part of the landscape of the city, and Barton Springs & Zilker are great places to get started (note: Zilker also hosts free concerts on the grass during the summer). For my waterbug friends, grab a paddleboard or canoe and head out onto Ladybird Lake.

If that's not quite your speed, grab a case of beers and go tubing on the river for a lackadaisacal, sunburnt afternoon. Last but not least: Mount Bonnel. It's more of a humble hill than a mountain, but it's a great place to post up & take in the sunset.

South Congress is one of the central streets running through downtown & it's a nice way to kill an afternoon. Start with brunch at South Congress Cafe & then make your way down the block for some interesting window shopping. For those of you looking to really embrace your southern roots, pop into Allen's boots & try on a new pair of leather cowboy boots for size.  

 

Austin is a remarkably fun city and I'm sure I didn't adequately capture all the great things to do there in this post. But hopefully I gave you all a place to start - make the trip sooner rather than later if it's already on your list. 

Cheers! And subscribe below to keep up with all of my foodie adventures!

Sustainable sushi at Mayanoki

Sustainable sushi at Mayanoki

Playing with food at Traif

Playing with food at Traif