South Congress may be infamous for its popular cluster of high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants, and food trailers—but just one street over is a slightly more humble neighborhood with a quirky assortment of shops, food trailers, and murals of its own that just beg to be explored.
For those who haven’t dug too far into this south-central territory, I’d like to share some highlights of what South 1st has to offer.
First: Grab Some Coffee
There are several places on South 1st to get a decent cup of joe. But I want to highlight Once Over Coffee Bar in particular, as it’s spring and their porch is the perfect hideout.
Ask the knowledgeable barista about coffee and espresso options, and then make your way to the back of the small shop and step into another world. The back patio is strung with lights and surrounded by green. It abuts Bouldin Creek, which is currently gurgling from recent bouts of rain and providing a serene and unexpected interlude to the bustle of the street. It’s the perfect way to greet a morning.
If you’re looking for a place to relax at the end of your day, Once Over also features an Austin Beerworks selection and Fireman’s #4 for only $3 a brew.
Go Back in Time to Shop
South 1st has several vintage and novelty shops. One is Flashback, where clothes swing from the colorful porch, inviting you in to rustle through the selection yourself.
Here, you can find a funky outfit for a night out, or more eccentric items like a row of hanging girdles, an overflowing basket of ladies’ gloves and an extensive collection of women’s cowboy boots. One room in the converted house is dedicated to men’s clothes—a notable find was complete suit sets of a unique variety in good condition for $40 and up.
Keep an eye out for Amelia’s Retro-Vogue & Relics across the street, as well as album stores End of an Ear and Turntable Records for a complete vintage experience.
Sweet Treats After Eats
After you’ve eaten at one of the classic South 1st fooderies—such as the vegetarian Bouldin Creek Café or the saucy neighborhood joint Freddie’s Place—you must indulge in some sweets.
Your eyes will be too big for your stomach every time you go to La Mexicana Bakery, where the shelves of sweets seem to stretch endlessly. The pan dulce is soft and fresh, and empanadas are stuffed with pineapple, apple or strawberry. There are cornucopias filled with custard, rows of tres leches cake, churros and cookies.
You may need a couple of trips to determine exactly what everything is—otherwise you’ll be asking questions all day. Also, don’t hesitate to get a lot. It’s cheap and you can keep your stash for later.
So, since you’ll be saving your La Mexicana baked goods for later…hop on over to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop to sin in the best way possible: with a cupcake. I have been told to arrive by 3 PM for the full selection, but even in the evening there are delectable choices to pick from.
The last selections I enjoyed were Jack’s Lemon, Malt Shoppe (chocolate with malted cream cheese icing and a malted chocolate candy on top), Marilyn Monroe (vanilla with buttercream icing), Champion Carrot Cake, Chocolate Covered Cherry and Waffle King.
Stretch Your Brain at CRAFT
CRAFT is a space where you can work out your creativity—whether alone or with friends and family. You can walk in for $10 an hour and use the crafting tools and supplies CRAFT has collected to make something entirely your own.
There are also third party activities that take place here, like artisan workshops hosted by LeafDistrict where you can learn screen printing, bookbinding, weaving and a multitude of other crafting skills.
To take a break from consuming, eating, and walking on your day out on South 1st, try creating!
Document Your Day with Iconic Austin Snapshots
Sometimes, it’s okay to be that person. South 1st Street has artwork on nearly every building, some of which is truly iconic. Don’t feel ashamed about snapping a photo in front of the Austin mural, which was restored in November of 2013 to its bright, original glory.
And don’t forget to visit the “Welcome to South Austin” pop-up in front of the food trailer park on Live Oak, featuring the beloved Austin personality Leslie and other local celebrities.
South 1st may not be as crowded as its big brother to the east, South Congress, but it has a charming character all its own. Use this article as a guideline for your day trip, but don’t hesitate to wander into that tiny store with a hand-painted sign.
@erinmayyyy wants to know:
What are your favorite stops along South 1st Street?