A Weekend in Austin, Texas
The Daily Meal's Austin City Editor outlines a weekend itinerary packed with Tex-Mex cuisine and atmospheric eclecticism
Although one could easily take a week to explore Austin, Texas, the city is small enough to spend a relaxing weekend dining and exploring and not feel overwhelmed. A mix of Austin’s best restaurants sprinkled with visits to a few eclectic attractions is the ideal ways to explore this city deep in the heart of Texas.
4 p.m.: Tex-Mex is a must in Austin, and Trudy’s has one of the most extensive menus in the area for gringo-accessible Mexican. On Fridays, Trudy’s tart Sangria Margaritas are on special. If the weather is nice, snag a spot on the patio and start with a round of margaritas with the Queso Especial. Those with a heartier appetite should try the fried, stuffed avocados or one of the chile rellenos.
6 p.m.: After Trudy’s, take some time exploring Guadalupe Street or "the drag," as locals affectionately call the street located along the University of Texas campus. After browsing quirky toy store Toy Joy’s trinkets and curiosities and video and DVD emporium I Luv Video, soak up the art shack aesthetic over an iced coffee or tea at Spiderhouse.
8 p.m.: End the evening with cocktails and dinner at the East Side Show Room. The 1920s-inspired bar and restaurant features Roaring Twenties décor, including constant screenings of old silent films. You might even get lucky and catch a live band while you’re there. One of the best specialty cocktails is the Campari- and rum-infused Fur Elise. If you’re still hungry afterward, stop for Asian fusion treats at the East Side King food truck.
9:30 a.m.: No trip to Texas — or Austin — is complete without feasting on Texas barbecue. If you want a shot at getting some at Franklin Barbecue, get in line early. Opened in 2009 by Aaron and Stacy Franklin, Franklin Barbecue serves meats by the pound, with a focus on all-natural brisket and pork spareribs. "We still do it the old-fashioned way; we spend long hours smoking the meats over oak," said the folks at Franklin Barbecue to The Daily Meal. "Order brisket by the pound and get your choice of lean or fatty. Throw it on a piece of white bread with pickles and onions, and go to town."
11 a.m.: If you slept in, start the day strolling South Congress and Milton Street and dining at Vespaio. This bistro serves Italian pastries and coffee for breakfast and antipasti, salads, wood-fired pizzas, and pastas for lunch. Try the fontina cheese stuffed into crispy risotto balls. Walk off your meal by checking out shops like Uncommon Objects and Yard Dog art gallery. For a post-lunch treat, walk over to the food truck lot across from Vespaio and order a treat at Hey Cupcake!, or if it’s a warm day, you can’t go wrong with a cactus juice snow cone at Frigid Frog.
4 p.m.: Make room for more Texas barbecue by waking in Zilker Park, which surrounds Lady Bird Lake. Park highlights include the Hillside Theater, a botanical garden, and Barton Springs.
6:00 p.m. For those who like tunes with their barbecue (and didn't get up early enough for Franklin Barbecue or want a double dose of barbecue), head to Stubb's BBQ which serves Texas barbecue with and a side of live music.
10 a.m.: Any of the five Kerbey Lane locations are a great way to savor a full breakfast before another day of sightseeing. The mod diner décor makes Kerbey Lane a bit of a site itself. The 24-hour breakfast spot uses all fresh, local ingredients to make its dishes, like gingerbread pancakes and migas (scrambled eggs with pico de gallo, cheese and tortilla chips).
12 p.m.: Mount Bonnell, alongside the Colorado River, offers a beautiful view of Lake Austin and a great photo-op as well as a picnic. The stairs make it an easy climb that will get you back to your culinary tour in no time.
2 p.m.: If you’re not from Texas, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum gives a comprehensive look at Texas’ history. You’ll get a sense of why people are so proud to be Texan. If you need to take a moment off you’re feet, you can also see various historical films at the IMAX theater.
5 p.m.: Rainey Street has flourished into a hip Austin drinking spot. Don’t miss the chance to Hula-Hoop at Lustre Pearl, or soak in the retro honky-tonk feel of Clive Bar. Try more food truck fare from the roaming G’Raj Mahal Cafe, which serves Indian fare, or enjoy a sit-down Mexican meal at El Naranjo.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A Long Weekend in Austin was originally published on Nov. 12, 2012. The original story incorrectly noted the time to arrive at Franklin Barbecue. As The Daily Meal has previously reported on May 2, 2012 in How to Get to Franklin Barbecue: Wake Up Early or Pay Someone Else To, barbecue lovers are advised to arrive at Franklin Barbecue by 9:30 a.m. at the latest.