Austin has something for everyone. Even those who don’t live here can easily find an excuse to visit the 512. Be it our Instagram-able food, waterfront views or our myriad of festivals, Austin attracts visitors like bats to the Congress Avenue bridge.
But where does it all end? Can’t we have our city to ourselves every once in awhile? Thankfully, there are a few places in the corners and crannies that the tourists haven’t discovered yet. These places offer everything Austin is known for, but they’re a bit quieter about it.
No lines, wristbands or badges, just authentic Austin for locals. So let’s take back our city! But shhh…don’t let anyone else know about it.
Austin for Locals: Food
When it comes to the gastronomic fingerprint of our city, there seem to be a few themes everyone follows. Craft is key; food trucks are cool; don’t forget the queso; and make sure it’s fresh. These next eateries follow the local rules, but add their own spin on Austin cuisine.
Salt and Time
Sure, Austin is known for BBQ. But that doesn’t mean smoked is the only way carnivorous Austinites have to eat their meat. Head to the eastside and check out Salt and Time, tucked away in a modest strip mall. This butcher shop and salumeria recently added a full-size dining room and expanded their menu.
Start with an incredible charcuterie board before you move on to the main event. Dinner options range from high-quality wagyue beef steaks to juicy hamburgers. Salt and Time has even put their own meaty spin on brunch, with pork ribs and waffles, and chilaquiles stacked high. Wash everything down with a local beer on tap and then grab a cut of meat to prepare at home.
1912 E. 7th St. – Website
SPUN Ice Cream
If you’re still hungry, go next door to check out SPUN, Austin’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlor. If local artisanal meat and scientifically-delicious ice cream don’t scream ATX original, then I don’t know what does.
1912 E. 7th St. – Website
Before you even have a chance to look at the mouth-watering menu at Patrizi’s, you’ll be greeted by one of the food truck’s team members, who’s prepared to describe in delicious detail every specialty the kitchen has to offer. The passion of the Patrizi’s crew makes their hand-rolled pasta and artfully-crafted sauces, salads and other creations all the more incredible.
Sure, eating from a paper boat while standing up can be a novelty from time to time. But at Patrizi’s, you get the food truck experience and the luxury of a table and chairs, underneath strings of twinkling lights on the back patio of the Vortex theatre.
2307 Manor Road – Website
This little blue Riverside restaurant is easy to miss, but worth circling back for when you do drive past it. Don’t be fooled by size or location because this taco joint packs a punch.
Walk in to be greeted by loud ranchera music, tables a-buzz with a mix of English and Spanish, and the smells of sizzling meat, grilled vegetables and spices. El Taquito offers a variety of tacos, tortas and specialty plates.
You wont find Tex-Mex here. Instead of orange queso dip, the menu boasts queso fundido–fried cheese–which I argue is better than the normal Velveeta-esque ATX favorite. Who doesn’t want to scoop thick, bubbly cheese off a sizzling plate into a tortilla?
The margaritas are larger than life, and come in exciting flavors like mango, tamarindo and original, and are always a happy hour special. Best of all, El Taquito is open until 3 a.m., so you can satisfy your taco craving anytime.
1713 E. Riverside Dr. – Website
Austin for Locals: Night Life
We all have our Dirty Sixth alternatives. East Sixth is great for dancing if you don’t want free shots and booty shorts thrown at you. Rainey Street is awesome if you want to feel like you’re at a cool stranger’s house party. But even these local hangouts have tourists seeping through the cracks. Sometimes it’s best to look right under your nose, in the most unlikely places, to find that Austin for locals night scene.
We all need a dependable dive bar in our lives. Mug Shots sits close to the heart of Dirty Sixth, but it’s far enough away that you can retreat to a quite corner booth for a little peace, without having to worry about someone elbowing you or knocking over your drink.
407 E. 7th St. – Facebook
The Grackle bar is much easier to stomach than its winged namesake. This East Sixth haven has a little bit of everything: darts, a jukebox and a spacious patio. If you’re a whiskey aficionado, give The Grackle a try. Their selection is pretty impressive.
1700 E 6th St. – Facebook
Head way south to this outdoor nighttime playground. Moontower Saloon offers sprawling picnic tables, food, drinks and often live music. It’s worth the drive down south and makes for a great night in the open air, without the crowds the downtown Austin bar scene is known for.
10212 Manchaca Road – Website
If you’ve ever seen Sahara Lounge by the light of day, you probably haven’t given it more than a glance. Inside this unassuming building is a cultural explosion that rumbles awake almost every night of the week.
Sahara Lounge serves as the home base for many of Austin’s international music groups, from African-influenced rock to Brazilian drum circles and everything in between. This sweet little hole-in-the-wall offers an incredible music and dance scene. Best of all, on most nights the owners cook up a big crockpot of beans and rice that’s up for grabs, in case all that grooving makes you work up an appetite.
1413 Webberville Road – Website
Austin for Locals: Family Fun
When the kids need an escape, too, the outer reaches of town offer just what the family needs.
People who live in Austin seem to stay forever young. It must be that spring water we spend so much time swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding in. At Pinballz Arcade, you can really celebrate your youth. Any arcade addict will go head over heels for this blinking and buzzing indoor game park.
8940 Research Blvd. – Website
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Even visitors explore our peaceful nature escapes, but one outdoor beauty that still goes fairly unnoticed is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Just a short drive south on Mopac, and you’ll be surrounded by the serene beauty of native Texas flora and fauna. Bluebonnets are a protected species, so that’s one thing tourists can’t pluck and take from us!
4801 La Crosse Ave. – Website
Now take back the city and explore these less-touristy treasures!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your top recommendation when it comes to experiencing Austin for locals?