Austin summers have a way of turning our thoughts to water–drinking it, swimming in it, or enjoying a view of it from a fabulous patio. I can’t get enough.
Austin blesses us with an abundance of heavenly bodies of water and cool restaurants overlooking them. We all know about The Oasis and its spectacular sunset views. It is well-known for a reason–almost everyone has an Oasis story to share.
Yet, there are a few places, old and new, that may not be on your radar yet. Even non-swimmers can appreciate these stunning views and mild breezes. It’s time to put on your sunnies and flip flops, and leave your Type A tendencies at home. These 8 waterfront restaurants will teach you how to tap into your tranquility and quiet your busy mind.
Disclosure: A few of these places have comped food or drinks for me in the past, but the opinions are my own.
1/ Ski Shores
This charming, casual restaurant on Lake Austin oozes happy lake vibes. Ski Shores brings me back to a happy place lodged somewhere deep in my memory.
In the 65 years it’s been in business, Ski Shores has been the scene of many a memorable meal. Show up by land or by lake. Ski Shores has its own convenient dock, in case you can procure a boat for the trip. Float On Boat Rentals has the hookup if you want to rent one for the day.
Ski Shores makes its famous fried catfish using the original recipe. They’re good with comfort food here: burgers, fried okra, and fried chicken. My favorite is the Black and Blue burger.
Ski Shores has a full cocktail menu, desserts, playscape, and small dog run. Friday evenings, watch a movie with free s’mores for the littles.
The service is friendly, but remember you’re on lake time. Expect a laid-back atmosphere and let yourself fall into the rhythm. Take time to appreciate turtles, swans, and giant carp as they swim next to your table.
2905 Pearce Road – Website
2/ Shack 512
Shack 512 is a spot on the Volente side of Lake Travis where you can chill out and catch a killer sunset. The extensive menu, well-shaded tables, and upscale lakeside decor impress even the jaded among us.
This waterfront restaurant remodeled extensively this year, due to damage from major flooding in 2018. The team has done a fine job rebuilding, and everything looks in tip top shape.
Shack 512 takes pride in its extensive menu, and rightfully so. My table feasted on many thoughtfully prepared dishes when we visited. The bacon-wrapped shrimp “bobbers” in a bourbon glaze hit the spot. I could have made a meal out of this appetizer alone.
We also tried the refreshing sunset berry salad, satisfying steak kabobs, and a pimento burger with rosemary fries. The unanimous favorite among my friends was the Texas Alfredo pasta, served with a parmesan chicken breast. Pickled jalapeños and jalapeño juice (!) really brought the Texas to the plate.
Shack 512 earns bonus points for lakeside s’mores you can make right at your table.
8714 Lime Creek Road, Volente, TX – Website
➡️ Keep reading: No Bad Days: Insider’s Guide to Lake Travis
3/ The County Line on the Lake
Another long-time Austin institution, The County Line has been making solid, familiar barbecue for 44 years. The lakeside location is in a repurposed lake lodge on Bull Creek, near Lake Austin.
The County Line on the Lake location is a perfect place for a large group. I first went there for a UT graduation party. It’s rustic and casual. The vibe is fast-paced and bustling inside, and relaxed outside on the redwood deck.
I recommend the German-style sausage or pork ribs, and the bread is famous in its own right. If you’re a fan of fatty brisket, then The County Line will not unseat Austin’s brisket demi-gods, as it favors a leaner cut. But it’s definitely a fun night out, and especially good for family-style fun.
5204 FM 2222 – Website
4/ Tillery Kitchen & Bar
This beauty of a patio overlooks the Colorado River in east Austin. The first time I saw the spacious wooden deck, revealing the spectacle of the mighty Colorado River below, I was smitten.
Tillery Kitchen & Bar provides easy access to a beautiful river view, from the heart of east Austin. As such, it’s an enticing happy hour spot, with an extended happy hour from 3-7 p.m. It’s easy to destress there, sitting under a shady tree and gazing at the water. Try it and thank us later!
Tillery has a full food and cocktail menu. I am a fan of the grilled Caesar salad (it may sound weird, but trust me), creamy mac n’ cheese with bacon, and the sage margarita. When I close my eyes, I can picture myself there now.
3201 E. Cesar Chavez St. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: 5 East Austin Patio Bars for Happy Hour Bliss
5/ Hula Hut
Hula Hut feels like your old favorite Hawaiian shirt. Sure, it’s slightly less vivid through years of wear, but it’s soft and comfy. And oh, the stories that shirt could tell!
Hula Hut has served lakeside “Mexican food with a surfer twist” for 26 years. The decor screams “tiki.” The Tex-Mex staples enhanced with Polynesian flavors are filling and good.
Where else in the world can you nosh on queso and “tubular tacos,” while your friend gobbles down coconut shrimp or a Hawaiian BBQ pork sandwich with grilled pineapple slices?
Meet in the middle with the Mexonesian shrimp flautas, made with wontons and served with Polynesian plum sauce. I’m a bit sad not to see my go-to shrimp wiki-wiki po-boy on the menu anymore, though. The view and a stiff margarita will console me.
Hula Hut also has a boat dock if you plan to arrive in style. Dust off that captain’s hat and go!
3825 Lake Austin Blvd. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: 6 Refreshing Mojitos to Beat the Heat in Austin
6/ The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge
I discovered The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge while researching my Insider’s Guide to Lake Travis. It’s a beautiful spot, decked out in maritime kitschy style with Austin-y energy.
I’d love to go back for happy hour after a day on the lake. Enjoy a hearty brunch under the lighthouse, while planning your boat launch from Briarcliff Marina directly downhill.
513 Sleat Dr., Briarcliff, TX – Website
7/ Mozart’s Coffee Roasters
You may think of holiday light shows when you think of Mozart’s, but this adorable coffee and pastry spot offers a waterfront view of Lake Austin year-round.
For 26 years, Mozart’s has been serving up strong coffee, live music, and both sweet and savory baked goods.
3825 Lake Austin Blvd. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: 8 Restaurants With the Best Views in Austin
8/ Oasis Texas Brewing Company
Oasis Texas Brewing Company is a craft brewery with a world class lake view. Its Luchesa Lager won a 2017 silver medal at Great American Beer Festival.
I’m drooling over the description of the rye brisket sandwich. I need to check this place out, and soon! My foodie friend who knows a thing or two about craft beer, Dawn the Gourmand, swears the place is fabulous. What’s not to love?
6650 Comanche Trail Suite #301 – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Austin’s Newest Brewery Preps for Biggest Beer Festival in U.S.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite waterfront restaurant in Austin?