The college kids dig Sixth Street, hip cats dig the east side, and shoppers flock to South Congress or The Domain. But there’s a rad collection of bars, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment in the heart of downtown, in Austin’s 2ND Street District.
While many locals buzz through the district as they flock to ACL Live, there’s plenty to savor at all times in this hip, bustling area. I used to work steps away and spent many an evening walking the street, so here are some personal recommendations for this awesome avenue.
Eating and Drinking
How’s this for a trifecta of awesome? Legit interior Mexican food spiced with Austin influences, in a cozy yet upscale ambiance minutes from The Moody Theater. What more could you ask for? Locals already know La Condesa as a mainstay of Austin’s culinary scene, but you may be sleeping on the fabulous brunch and happy hour available here.
For your midday meal, the chips and guac tasting is a must experience with the sensational carne guisada torta (beef cheek, mole amarillo, black bean puree) and huevos Condesa coming in as a close second.
And for a date night dinner, indulge in the pescado a la parilla (oak grilled fish with white beans and mint chimichurri), paired with one of over 30 mezcals. Finish with an authentic churro for a lovely evening, guaranteed.
400 W. 2nd St. A – Website
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Mostly known for the iconic “I Love You So Much” mural on South Congress Avenue, Jo’s 2nd Street location delivers its signature coffee with so much more. From delicious rock star burgers (two for one on Tuesday evenings) and standout sandwiches, Jo’s has lunch and dinner on lock. And of course, the coffee is a thing of beauty.
Need a 2nd Street pro tip? Jo’s housemade breakfast tacos are legit. Packed to the edge with fluffy eggs, fresh toppings, and crisp bacon (my go-to), they’re the finest you’ll find in the area. One’s enough for a sensible meal, but let’s be honest. Tacos are like shoes. They always come in pairs.
242 W. 2nd St. – Website
She’s Not Here
A newcomer to the 2nd Street roster, She’s Not Here adds Pacific-inspired Asian cuisine to the already foodie-friendly district. Sushi and cut rolls are the name of the game here. From standards like spicy tuna to bizarre concoctions like the Maki Balboa (salmon, cream cheese, capers on an “everything bagel”) and Krab Butter (kani kama, arugula, cucumber, brown butter ponzu), every bite is an adventure.
She’s Not Here also offers standout tempura (shishito peppers for the win) and sizzling clay pots. I haven’t tried it yet, but the sticky coffee pork is receiving rave reviews from folks in the know. And don’t forget about the other worldly cocktails and great happy hour. Check them out and fall in love!
440 W. 2nd St. – Website
If you zip past this shop thinking it’s designed for tourists, then you’re sorely mistaken.
While nobody can deny it’s a wonderful place for out-of-towners to pick up “Keep Austin Weird” shirts and Austin City Limits paraphernalia, Austin Rocks carries a wide variety of local fashion from up-and-coming designers. ATX chic is a thing and Austin Rocks maintains our tradition of classy casual with an eye towards the latest trends and traditional looks. All with a rock-and-roll edge that’s distinctly ATX.
301 W. 2nd St. – Website
League of Rebels Menswear
Speaking of Austin chic, our fair city is also home to the “flip flop workwear” style. Once a week, I wear sandals and shorts into the office simply because I can (and because it’s 100 degrees outside). But sometimes, I need to look snazzy. League of Rebels checks nearly all my boxes.
From business casual jackets and shirts to full-on tuxedos, Rebels offers a full suite of men’s essentials. And if you’re buying a suit, the local shop offers on-site tailoring to ensure the perfect fit. They even do appointment-based personal service, so even the most color-uncoordinated fella can find the perfect look.
And while prices are higher than your big box men’s stores, I’d rather spend $800 on a jacket that’ll last me 15 years than $400 on something that’ll barely survive five. Every man should have a couple of high quality garments in his closet and League of Rebels is a great place to get them.
411 W. 2nd St. – Website
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Never has the name of a store been more apt than Toy Joy. Considering its packed to the gills with toys for every age group, if you don’t leave bursting with happiness, then you probably walked in blindfolded. From board games to books to more Sailor Moon gear than a sensible person could possibly need, this land of all things fun is downright magical.
For years, my office Secret Santas and White Elephant gifts were bought at Toy Joy, and were always a success. Big props to my “How to Speak Droid with R2D2” communication manual and “William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back” book. What can I say? Star Wars is a crowd pleaser, as is the fantastic shop where I found these treasures.
403 W. 2nd St. – Website
Despite a four-year stint working in the women’s fashion industry, the latest looks and trends are no longer on my radar. Enter The Austinot’s resident queen of style, Brittany Ballard, with this recommendation.
Luxe Apothetique offers a whole lot of everything. Come for a wide variety of fashion-forward tops, dresses, and mountains of accessories, stay for the insane collection of cosmetics, creams, and beauty products.
And for us dudes, Luxe has a small collection of men’s hair and skincare on offer. I’ll be honest, I need me some beard conditioner, and Luxe is a spot where I can grab some. And the prices are extraordinarily reasonable, especially for a boutique. Indulge and treat yourself!
201 W. 2nd St. – Website
Living It Up
The Moody Theater
It’s an easy recommendation, but one of Austin’s most iconic venues can’t be ignored. From the Willie statue out front to the walls full of guitars, memorabilia, and photos, The Moody Theater drips with music history.
Catching an Austin City Limits taping or ACL Live performance are bucket list Austin experiences. The acoustics are astounding; the ambiance is stellar; and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I’ve been everywhere from on the floor to up in the balcony, and it’s all been amazing.
If it’s been a hot minute since you caught a show at The Moody, then make a point to fix that glaring issue as soon as humanly possible.
310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd. #1B – Website
3TEN ACL Live
It seems almost criminal to talk about ACL Live and not mention its little brother downstairs. A small space with big aspirations, 3TEN provides the quality you’d expect from the ACL brand in a small, intimate setting.
Allow me to clarify: small without compromise. The sound is fantastic; the lighting’s great; and with small tables both inside and on the patio, the entire venue has a vibe that’s more Antone’s than Swan Dive.
And the event calendar is packed with quality. Case in point, this month Matthew Sweet, The Rocket Summer, and Steven Page (ex Barenaked Ladies) are on the schedule. A fantastic venue all around.
310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd. #1A – Website
Whenever I need a fancy beard trim for a TV appearance or wedding, I head to Finley’s. This throwback barbershop caters to the guys like few haircutters do.
From classic trims to luxurious hot lather shaves, it’s always fun to indulge in masculine pampering. And for the most adventurous of fellas, Finley’s offers full facials complete with exfoliation scrubs, massage, and clay masks.
Add to the mix a team of professionals who are not only highly skilled but gifted chatters (required for the classic barbershop feel), and you have a hairstyle haven.
237 W. 3rd St. – Website
Violet Crown Cinema
When I worked in the neighborhood, I was a frequent patron of the wonderful Violet Crown Cinema. Independent through and through, this four-screen theater specializes in indie films and limited release flicks, while occasionally showing the odd Hollywood blockbuster.
And if you’re looking for more than popcorn and candy to go with your Richard Linklater film, Violet Crown sports a serious bar and food menu. The chicken pesto pizza is spot on and the hogwild panini (pulled pork, ham, bacon, Swiss cheese, spinach) will rock your socks.
And for the thirsty, the full bar features lovely cocktails, wine, and craft beer. Expand your film horizons and palate with this awesome local cinema.
434 W. 2nd St. – Website
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of 2nd Street spots. And as always on The Austinot, this list is hyperlocal. For a full guide to the area, visit 2ndstreetdistrict.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Where’s your favorite place to eat, drink, or shop within 2ND Street District?
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