Central Austin: Dining, Nightlife, Arts and More

Spend time in world-class museums, discover hidden gems, shop offbeat vintage stores and roam the sprawling campus of the University of Texas at Austin. 


DINING

Epicerie Breakfast Bowl and Latte.
épicerie Breakfast Bowl and Latte.

Drive up and have a charcoal-grilled burger at Top Notch, a spot that movie buffs will recognize from cult classic Dazed and Confused. Barbecue is what’s cooking at Stiles Switch BBQ, where you’ll find slow-smoked meats and local craft beers on tap. A decadent dinner at Fonda San Miguel is like stepping into old Mexico, while roasted chicken and a glass of wine at épicerie evokes a classic European bistro. Komé serves up homestyle Japanese dishes and sushi. Succulent-studded Picnik is a beautiful restaurant that’s also a sure bet for anyone with dietary restrictions. Honest Mary’s is honestly healthy, offering build-your-own grain bowls and clean proteins. Campus staple Texas French Bread is lovely and light-filled, with a thoughtful wine menu. You can take their incredible baked goods to-go, but we recommend you sit and stay awhile on their lovely patio. The James Beard-nominated team at Barley Swine will introduce you to new ways of thinking about food with their incredibly creative dishes. And, for something easy and fun, have a bratwurst and brew at Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden at The Linc

NIGHTLIFE 

Interior of Lala's Little Nugget Bar.
Interior of Lala’s Little Nugget Bar. Photo credit: Lala’s Little Nugget Bar.

Some of Austin’s greatest musicians got their start at Hole in the Wall, and this dive still hosts live music. Scrawl your name on the wall and pull up a rickety chair. The Little Longhorn Saloon is a real honky-tonk, with regular live country-and-western music and Chicken Sh*t Bingo on Sundays, which you’ll have to see to believe. For more quirky fun, check out Christmas-themed bar Lala’s Little Nugget, where the jukebox only plays oldies, and the carnival-themed Carousel Lounge. Pull up a barstool at Night Owl, which has craft cocktails but still pulls off a neighborhood feel, or play a board game or three at Vigilante. For a super-tasty burger, squeeze into Hopfield’s, which also boasts an extensive craft beer menu with rare offerings. Stop into Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and pick up artisan cheeses or learn more about your favorite food group during their Cheese House classes. 

INSIDER TIP: Take a guided tour of the scenic University of Texas at Austin campus, offered year round. Or snag a ticket to a football game and join in a rowdy tailgate party. 

ARTS 

LBJ Library Great Hall.
LBJ Presidential Library and Museum Great Hall. Photo credit: Lauren Gerson.

Reflect on antebellum architecture at the Neill-Cochran House Museum, where you literally step into a piece of history. The campus at the University of Texas at Austin is the epicenter of art and history in Austin. On-campus Harry Ransom Center is totally free and puts on exhibits of literature, film, art, performing arts, photography and more. Visit the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum to learn the history behind the formative years of Lyndon B. Johnson. The Blanton Museum of Art has rotating works from all eras, along with fun, art-filled events like the B Scene. Take in a flick at the AFS Cinema, a two-screen art house theater with a full bar. 

SHOPPING

North Loop stores Room Service Vintage and Blue Velvet are fantastic vintage finds. Room Service has bigger items and kitsch, while Blue Velvet stocks mostly clothing and accessories. Stop into Monkies Vintage and Thrift for retro tees and western wear. Atown doesn’t carry vintage gear, but they do have fresh-baked cookies and a huge variety of locally made gifts and collectibles. 

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