November 16, 2022

A Newcomer's Guide to Austin

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Cosette Eliason

A Newcomer's Guide to Austin

Here’s your guide to explore the hot spots of Austin in the most efficient and fun way possible.

Think of this list as a way to experience a normal day in Austin, just like you would as a local! I'll throw in special places so you can treat yourself along the way, but I want this to be your guide to a realistic Austin lifestyle.

What would life actually look like if you lived on the East Side? How far out from downtown is really too far for your priorities? What neighborhood vibe makes you feel your best? I want this guide to help you answer some of these questions.

I can't wait for you to discover this city's hidden gems and fall in love with it as much as I have over the years.

So without further ado, let's dive into some of my go-to spots here.

I’ll continue to add as I discover new spots, so please send along any of your favorites if I’ve missed them. 

Austin is all about supporting local businesses, and the city is truly a bottomless pit of fun and interesting local joints. Let’s get to it!

East Austin

I had to start here, as East Austin has my heart! I have personally only lived on the east side (since 2018) and I am most familiar with it.

This is one of the most diverse areas in the city and one of the coolest spots to be. If you're from NYC, I'd compare it to the Brooklyn of New York. There's a rich combination of old houses, hole-in-the-wall dive bars, and newly built high-rises and homes, so this area straddles the line between historic and modern.

There's a mix of Austinites, as well as many young folks, but the neighborhood is rapidly changing and continues to evolve month by month.

The main streets like Cesar Chavez and East 6th Street are lined with breweries, outdoor coffee shops, delicious restaurants, and trendy cocktail bars. This is somewhere you could spend an entire day walking, working, and hanging out, and know whether it's for you by the end of the day.


Desnudo Coffee: Hands down the best coffee in town! This little trailer is owned by two brothers who have a passion for helping small coffee producers and bringing the best coffee to consumers.

Flat Track Coffee: Centrally-located coffee shop connected to Cycleast, a bike shop.

Fleet Coffee: Small shop that operates out of the cutest Dutch door you’ve ever seen. They have shaded outdoor seating and serve Vaquero tacos and Sour Duck pastries.

Flitch Coffee: Coffee shop that operates out of a Spartan trailer. They have ample outdoor seating and a Pueblo Viejo truck on site (best breakfast tacos).

Greater Goods Coffee Roasting: They have two coffee shop locations, but their HQ is located on the East Side on East 5th Street. HQ is beautifully designed with ample comfy seating and lots of natural light, making it a treat to co-work from. They serve Sour Duck pastries and are dog friendly on the patio and inside. 

Palomino Coffee: The owners of Flat Track also own this second vibey coffee shop with indoor and outdoor seating. They serve TacoDeli tacos and Sour Duck pastries. Great for co-working.

Wright Bros Brew & Brew: Coffee by day, beer by night (or whatever floats your boat!). They have indoor and outdoor seating, both of which are dog friendly. They also serve pastries and sandwiches.


Birdie's: Walk-in only wine bar with delicious Italian-inspired food. Indoor seating is limited, but their outdoor area is large and good for parties of 2-8 folks. Their pasta dishes and desserts are particularly special.

Bufalina: Austin staple serving up artisanal personal pizzas. The East Austin location should be returning in November or December 2022. Their second location up north, Bufalina Due, is operating normally in the meantime. 

De Nada Cantina: Quick and casual spot for some tacos and a margarita (or 2!). Their queso and shrimp tacos are my favorite.

Discada: Food truck that serves CDMX-style al pastor tacos. Easy, quick, and delicious. Good for groups because they have covered picnic tables next to the truck. 

Il Brutto: Italian spot with good pasta, pizzas, and great cocktails. I spring for the cacio e pepe every time. They have ample indoor, bar, and outdoor seating. Great for groups or an easy date night. They serve a glass of complementary homemade limoncello at the end of each meal for a fun finish.  

Intero: My favorite spot in Austin. It’s a farm to table Italian restaurant owned by husband-wife duo, Chef Ian and Chocolatier Krystal. Their spaghettini is *chef’s kiss* and the end-of-meal chocolate should not be skimped on (my favorite is the peanut butter honey). 

Paperboy: Bumping spot known for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. They feature a walk-up window for quick pastries and coffee, but if you want to eat, reservations are pretty much required unless you’re willing to wait an hour+ for a table. The Texas Hash and cheddar hash brown will take you to another world.

Pueblo Viejo: They have a few locations, but my favorite is the one next to Flitch Coffee. They serve great breakfast and lunch tacos.

Ramen Tatsu-ya: Probably the most well-known and loved ramen bar now with multiple locations. Their east side location almost always has a line wrapped around the block in colder weather. So cozy! 

Sour Duck Market: Casual lunch and dinner spot with ample outdoor picnic tables. Amazing cocktails, fried chicken sandwich, and burger. It's quick, good for groups, and very kid/dog friendly. They also have a walk-in bakery for coffee, bread, and pastries. Most coffee shops in the area feature their to-die-for pastries. 

Suerte: Fancier mexican restaurant with bomb brunches and cocktails. Reservations advised.

Veracruz: Amazing breakfast tacos with a few locations around Austin. The East Austin one is right on Webberville Road next to Fleet Coffee. Order ahead while you enjoy a walk around the area, they can sometimes take 30-60 minutes on the weekends but are well-worth the wait.


Ah Sing Den: Restaurant that has incredible cocktails. Sit at the bar for happy hour for the best vibe and prices. 

Apt 115: Favorite wine bar in all of ATX because their selection is vast and their team is knowledgeable without being snooty. I love to go in for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board. They also serve a full food menu and offer a Chef’s Tasting Menu for an elevated experience. It's best to make a reservation.

Blue Owl Brewing: Local brewery that specializes in sour beer. Perfect activity for a hot day!

Central Machine Works: Beer hall that used to produce airplane parts during WWII. Great for groups and they almost always have live music and art shows on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Lefty’s Brick Bar: Easy-going bar located on E 6th street, right across the street from Whistler’s. Go here after you have a couple cocktails at Whisler’s for cheaper drinks and a chiller vibe.

Nickel City: Neighborhood dive bar on E 11th St that features beer, cocktails, and amazing sliders. Drinks are cheap and the vibe is good!

Whislers: Craft cocktail bar with delicious drinks, outdoor seating, and rustic-chic decor. They have a mix of indoor and outdoor seating. The Golden Tiger food truck on site has the best chicken tenders ever.

Zilker, Bouldin, & Travis Heights

Welcome to the hot spots south of the river!

Here, you'll find delicious food, galleries, vintage and designer shops, and murals! This area has a more luxurious feel to it, especially on South Congress, and is best visited by foot, scooter, or bike. These areas are very neighborhood-y while still being within walking or biking distance of fun attractions. 


Cosmic Coffee and Beer: Outdoor coffee shop and beer garden, all in one spot. They offer great music, a few on-site food trucks, firepits, and a compost garden which grows some of the produce they use.

Merit: A bustling coffee shop with multiple locations. Their south location is located on South Lamar. They have indoor and outdoor seating, and serve TacoDeli tacos, Bakery Lorraine pastries, and bagels. Good for co-working or meeting a friend. 

Mañana: Located in the South Congress Hotel. This small shop also serves pastries, tacos, and various quick bites. There's a courtyard where you can co-work and you're close to other shops, bars, and restaurants.

Patika: Cute spot with ample indoor and outdoor seating. They serve homemade tacos, Rosen's bagels, various pastries, and also feature full breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus. Good for co-working. They also have a location downtown called Patika Luncheonette.

Food & Drinks

Aba: Mediterranean restaurant with a great brunch and lunch. The ambiance, hummus spreads, and cocktails are amazing. Make a reservation well in advance or walk in, join the waitlist (~1 hour), and walk around SoCo.

Café No Sé: A light and bright spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner. They serve great salads, bowls, and sandwiches. Make a reservation or walk in, join the waitlist (~1 hour), and walk around SoCo.

Elizabeth Street Cafe: Adorable French-Vietnamese restaurant with outdoor seating. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekends. 

Home Slice Pizza: Best NY-style pizza in ATX with multiple locations. Thesouth location is located in the middle of South Congress. Grab a slice or a pie, eat it outside on a nice day, and continue window shopping.

June's All Day: Cute café and wine bar with shareable bites and good drinks. Make a reservation or walk in, join the waitlist (~1 hour), and walk around SoCo.

Lenoir: An elevated New American restaurant with an atmospheric back patio and vast wine selection. Perfect for a date night, birthday, or celebration. I highly recommend indulging in their 5-course Chef’s Choice Menu. You can also add wine pairings.

Odd Duck: New American restaurant with an upscale yet relaxed vibe. Great for date-night or a night out with friends. Lots of small plates on the menu so be ready to order and split lots of delicious food!

Otoko: This one's a real treat. Tucked away in the SoCo Hotel, Otoko serves the best sushi omakase and kaiseki omakase in the city. The restaurant has 12 seats and they do 3 to 5 seatings per night. Tickets must be purchased well in advance.

Perla's: Oyster bar on SoCo with indoor seating and ample outdoor seating. They have an always-rotating selection of oysters, cocktails, and one of the best burgers in ATX. Make a reservation in advance or walk in, join the waitlist (~1 hour), and walk around SoCo.

Thoroughbread Bakery: Best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world. Even better than Levain. They also have sourdough bread, traditional loaf bread, and Burridoughs™ available.

Terry Blacks BBQ: 4th generation authentic BBQ restaurant, casual and delicious. The line is usually out the door but it moves relatively quickly (probably about a 45 minute wait on a weekend).

Thai Fresh: Delicious Thai food, coffee shop and gluten-free bakery in one! 

Uchi: The OG in Tyson Cole's Uchi empire and an ATX staple. Make a reservation well in advance or try your luck by walking in at the start of sake social hour at 3:30PM.

Things to Do

The ABGB: Beer garden that's dog friendly and serves delicious pizza.

Alamo Drafthouse: Full-service movie theater with multiple locations that offers snacks, full meals, and drinks.

Barton Springs Pool: The perfect activity for a hot ATX afternoon. Bring a friend, a book, a full water bottle, and card games. Be mindful of the rules, such as no coolers, no alcohol, no dogs, no frisbees/balls, no food. You will be denied entry otherwise. If you’d like to bring any of the off-limit items, go next door to Barkin’ Springs. 

Bouldin Acres: Pickleball, beer, snacks and friends. Doesn't get much better than that.

I Love You So Much Mural: Take a picture with your bestie at one of Austin’s most iconic murals. It’s located on the wall of Jo’s Coffee Shop at 1300 South Congress Ave. 

Peter Pan Mini Golf: BYOB mini golf. Bring cash and be sure to stop at the gas station on the corner for a 6-pack. Bonus points if you walk over straight from dinner at Uchi.

South Congress: Shop, eat, drink, and be merry. This street has everything from Reformation to ample restaurants to Hermès to Lululemon. 

Zilker Park: Pack up your Yeti, pups, Spikeball, and text your friends. There's nothing more local than spending the afternoon hanging out in Zilker Park.

Downtown, Clarksville, & Tarrytown

Downtown Austin is always changing and there's a new skyscraper going up that's taller than the next. Downtown Proper has an interesting balance of historical buildings, as well as brand new buildings designed by the best architects in the world. There are many pockets of downtown, from 2nd Street with brick and mortar shopping to 6th Street with bustling bars and live music.

Tarrytown and Clarksville are highly sought-after neighborhoods because of their proximity to Lake Austin and downtown. Many homes are from the 20s and vary in style, from smaller cottages to grand, custom tudor-style homes. This area is very neighborly, tight-knit, and feels like a small town. Residents also enjoy Red Bud Isle, a huge dog park with a walking loop, and Deep Eddy Pool, a fun swimming hole.


Alta’s Café: Shop right on the Ladybird Lake and the Trail. They serve coffee, smoothies, light bites, wine, and beer, all with a view of the water. They have ample picnic tables that are great for coworking on a nice day.

Better Half Coffee & Cocktails: An all-day café that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Merit Coffee: This location is located in Seaholm. Similar to the South Lamar location, they have indoor and outdoor seating, and serve TacoDeli tacos, Bakery Lorraine pastries, and bagels. Good for co-working or meeting a friend or client. 

Juan Pelota Café: Lance Armstrong’s coffee shop, which is located in his bike shop called Mellow Johnny’s. They serve coffee, smoothies, Quack pastries, and Veracruz breakfast tacos.

Food & Drinks

ATX Cocina: Upscale Mexican restaurant with a variety of salsas and cocktails. Located on 2nd street, so it’s a good place to stop after an afternoon shopping or roaming around downtown. Their queso fundido is amazing. 

Clark’s Oyster Bar: Oyster bar that’s serving Hamptons vibes. If you’re celebrating, I recommend a dozen oysters and some Krug before moving on to entrées.

Fareground: A fancier food court with lots of options. Perfect for indecisive groups trying to satisfy a diverse range of taste buds!

Hestia: Named after the Goddess of the Hearth, this elevated restaurant offers dinner a la carte, as well as a curated tasting menu. Their wine program features over 250 bottles and their bartenders whip up a mean cocktail. Great for a date night or a celebration...or just because!

Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum: Upscale dim sum spot famous for their soup dumplings. Go for Saturday or Sunday brunch and be sure to make a reservation. 

Jeffrey’s: Upscale steakhouse that’s been around since 1975, making it an Austin classic. Reservations are recommended. 

Josephine House: Sister restaurant to Jeffrey’s with an eclectic menu and fine-dining in a more casual setting. 

Nightcap: Bar and restaurant located in a cute and classic Clarksville bungalow. They serve American food and creative cocktails.

Tipsy Alchemist: This bar is touristy, but fun for one drink to kick off ladies night. It’s located in 70 Rainey, which is arguably one of the nicest high-rises on Rainey. 

Things To Do

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake: Also just called “The Trail” by Austinites. It’s 10 miles of paved and graveled walking and biking path around the water. The Trail is one of the most beloved features of our city and it’ll be crowded with runners, bikers, families, and dogs, especially on weekend mornings. 

Deep Eddy Pool & PoolBurger: This is the oldest pool in Texas and one of my favorite local activities, especially on a hot day. This is a natural and freshwater pool that has lap lanes as well as a wading area that’s great for small children. Afterwards, I love to hit up PoolBurger right next door for a tiki-themed cocktail, burger, and side of fries.

Lake Austin: Rent a SUP or splurge on a pontoon with your friends. There’s nothing more Austin than spending an afternoon on the water with some drinks and good friends. 

Sixth Street: Austin’s iconic party street that I’d compare to NoLa’s Bourbon Street. The street is lined with all kinds of bars, most of which feature live music, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings. My favorite spots are Maggie Mae’s, Shakespeare's, and Buckshots. 

Rainey Street: The other party street that is popular for day drinking (and evening drinking). Start on one end and work your way down.

SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown: Located in Republic Square every Saturday 9AM - 1PM, this farmer’s market features some of the freshest meat, produce, and veggies the city has to offer. I recommend picking up some A2 milk from Richardson Farms, eggs from Shirttail Creek Farm, pork from Belle Vie Farm, skirt steaks from Peeler Farms, and veggies and flowers!

Texas State Capitol: You can get a free guided tour of the capitol each day of the week. They generally kick off every 30 or 45 minutes and last about 30 minutes.

Mueller, Cherrywood, & Windsor Park

Mueller, Cherrywood, and Windsor Park are all located in northeast Austin.

Mueller features over 6,200 new homes, and plenty of restaurants and retailers moving in every week. What this area may lack in history, it makes up in convenience and intentional community design. 20% of the neighborhood is made of public green spaces, such as parks, pools, and playgrounds.

Cherrywood and Windsor Park are quiet neighborhoods with charming 1950s-style homes. These areas are perfect for those who want some distance from the action, without being in no man's land.


Halcyon Coffee Bar: With two locations in Austin, this easy coffee shop north location is in the heart of Mueller. Good for co-working with ample seating, coffee, cocktails, all-day breakfast, salads, sandwiches, and snacks. 

Cherrywood Coffee House: A beloved coffee house that’s also known for their extensive burger list. Their food menu resembles that of a diner with an endless selection of coffee and espresso drinks, smoothies, wraps, tacos, sandwiches, salads, po’ boys, beer on tap, and more. 

Food & Drinks

Bird Bird Biscuit: Austinites can’t seem to get enough of their biscuits and chicken. Their sandwiches are made to order until they’re sold out for the day. There’s almost always a line out the door so be sure to order ahead!

Dai Due: A farm-to-table restaurant and butcher shop that sources all in-season ingredients from local farms. You can rest assured that all food you eat is chosen and prepared by the chefs with care and intention. Start with the shared meat plate, chicken hearts, and bone broth, if available.

Hank’s Austin: A bright and airy café serving coffee, lunch, brunch, and dinner. It’s great for taking meetings, co-working, or meeting up with friends for happy hour. 

Things to Do

Texas Farmers’ Market at Meuller: Occurs on Sundays at 10AM to 2PM. It’s a great place to spend the day walking around with your family and dog, all while supporting your local farmers and businesses.

Alamo Drafthouse - Mueller: Full-service movie theater that offers snacks, full meals, and drinks. While they have multiple locations, the Mueller one is particularly nice because the seats recline.

Thinkery: This is primarily a children’s museum that also hosts events at the museum and around Austin for anyone 21+ to meet new people while exploring different places and conversations.

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