Austin Throwbacks: My Favorite Places at Home

barton springs pool
central market
shady grove
blue dahlia bistro
magnolia cafe

After several moves all over the country, I’ve found that more often than not, people assume I’m originally from California, since I never shut up about it. But actually, I grew up in Texas. Specifically, Austin.

What I’m about to say next is most definitely a little blasphemous: I don’t love Austin the way the average person — native or visitor — typically does. For me, it was a good place to grow up. I sorta prefer living elsewhere. (Don’t hate me).

BUT. That being said, you can’t live in a city for 18 years (and visit for many years thereafter) and not hold a few places very near and dear. I recently had a friend ask me for recommendations on where the hip, cool places were to eat and visit in Austin, and I realized I had no recommendations to give her. I just don’t visit enough, and truthfully, Austin has changed SO MUCH from when I was growing up there and going back frequently. Each time I go back, it’s amazing to see how much the city has grown and evolved!

I may not know the newest and hippest places in Austin, but I know the places I would go if I were in town and meeting up with friends. In fact, I’ll probably hit up one or two of these while I’m there this coming weekend for a wedding. So here they are, a few recommendations for the Austin I remember as a kid — when ACL was just a broadcast on PBS, and SXSW was a small music festival.

One thing which I realized I neglected to put in my round up (and leaving it out IS blasphemous): Amy’s Ice Creams. Mexican Vanilla, FTW you guys.

Current Texans/Austinites — any that I missed? Share in the comments!

Image of Barton Springs via Alex Archambault

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  1. 3.27.14

    You just listed every place I hung out at while I was a student at UT. This list was a total throwback. I’d also add Kerbey Lane (for the pancakes) and the Broken Spoke for country music and dancing. I don’t know the new trendy places either (though I am dying to try Foreign & Domestic).

    PS: I think Austinites would LOVE to hear someone say they don’t want to move there!!

  2. 3.27.14

    I grew up in Dallas and have visited Austin a handful of times (and feel similarly on the “love it but don’t want to live there again thing”)- I’m so glad Central Market made your list! It’s such an experience, one that you can’t get from just Whole Foods. I’m ALL about the Tex Mex when I’m home… but I’m sure you could make an entire list with those places :)

  3. 3.27.14
    Allie said:

    I moved to Austin three years ago (from NYC!) for grad school and I’m one of those who will probably never leave. It took me a while to find somewhere that felt like “home” even when my family is thousands of miles away, but this is it. Here a few of my favorite recommendations to give visitors and guests:

    – HOPE Outdoor Gallery (huge public graffiti park right off Lamar)
    – Alamo Drafthouse or Violet Crown Cinema (sip on a drink and eat dinner while watching a movie)
    – Drinks at the Driskill Hotel (6th)
    – Kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake
    – Walking Around South Congress (or better yet – take the walking food tour!)

    – Hotel San Jose (S. Congress)
    – Lucille’s (Rainy St.)
    – Spider House (Fruth St.)
    – Easy Tiger (E. Sixth)

    Food (too many amazing restaurants to even name, but these are my favorites):
    – La Condesa
    – Josephine House
    – Sway
    – Uchi
    – Elizabeth St. Café
    – Moonshine
    – Parkside
    – Hillside Farmacy
    – Kerbey Lane
    – Banger’s
    – Hope Doddy Burger Bar

  4. 3.27.14
    Sonya said:

    I’ve never been to Austin. And it has been years since I’ve been to Texas. I think I need to go, this year. I think I would love it.

  5. 3.27.14

    Recently visited Austin and I loved the Milk and Honey spa, Driskill for drinks and obviously all the food trucks! Wish I had this list before I went but need to keep these in mind for next time.

  6. 3.27.14
    Lily said:

    I’ve never visited Austin but it’s high on my getaway to-do list! I’ll add these spots when I finally make it!

    xo Lily

  7. 3.28.14

    We have Central Market in Dallas, too. It’s my go-to…I’ll always choose it over Whole Foods!

  8. 4.2.14

    Perfect picks! I lived in Austin for eight years and couldn’t pick “classics” any better. I so miss Central Market (and of course my beloved Uchiko).