Establishment neighborhood
Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
915 N. Lamar, Downtown
Austin is one of the few cities that can pull off a really well done drive-through. Fresa's is all about chicken—tacos, bowls, salads, wings—although there is usually a beef and shrimp plate, and you can order the salads sans meat. The have a handful of grilled sides, including, of course, Mexican street corn. The Downtown location is the original one and is to-go only; in addition to lunch and dinner, they do breakfast tacos until 11am on weekdays and until noon on weekends. The second location in Bouldin is larger; it has a dining room and outdoor patio (plus a full bar) in addition to a go-to window, so you have the option of eating there. They do lunch and dinner here only—the take-out window opens at 8am, though, with dine in starting at 11am.
Kick Pleat
624 N. Lamar Blvd., Downtown
Wendi Koletar knows a thing or two about what Austin women want to be wearing. For more than a decade, the Texas native’s unerring edit has made way for wearable, up-and-coming labels like Jesse Kamm, Demylee, and Apiece Apart presented in a raw, light-filled space. She takes particular (and well-deserved) pride in her shoe selection—look for mules by Mari Giudicelli, Chelsea boots by Common Projects, and slides from Maryam Nassir Zadeh. The jewelry is a mix of earthy designs by Lizzie Fortunato and sculptural cuffs from Sophie Buhai. on.
Wu Chow
500 W. 5th Ste., Downtown
Austin has its fair share of high-end Chinese restaurants but Wu Chow has made a something of a name for itself thanks to the mix of solid regional dishes, tiki décor touches, and hip-hop soundtrack. Classic dishes are reinterpreted with local ingredients. For example: traditional Hong Kong honey prawns with pecans shows up on the Wu Chow menu as gulf shrimp with Texas pecans; there’s also Shanghai soup dumplings and Cantonese lobster with ginger and scallions. Don’t miss the dim sum, served on Sundays from 11am to 3pm.
La Condesa
400A W. 2nd St., Downtown
Downtown Austin fixture, La Condesa, has gone through a series of kitchen staff changes in the past few years, and is now helmed by Texas native, Chef Rick Lopez. The food—a combination of small plates and a tight edit of Mexican-focused entrees—remains excellent. Start with the guacamole tasting, a sample of all of La Condesa's seasonal salsas and guacamoles (there's one with chipotle purée and another with jumbo lump crab). The tacos (which come in two's) are nice for sharing, and add the elotes side (authentic Mexican corn) to whatever you decide to order for dinner. If tequila is your thing, they've got a solid selection, and their signature margarita with fresh pineapple and lime juice is very satisfying. The atmosphere is lively whether you're sitting on the outdoor patio or at a table inside the split-level restaurant; there's also a gorgeous private event space.
506 West Ave., Downtown
Irene’s is the epitome of a neighborhood joint: housed in a former auto body repair shop and named for one of the proprietor’s beloved grandmother’s, it’s the kind of spot locals flock to thanks to its wraparound outdoor patio, and a walk-up window counter that serves breakfast pastries and coffee from 7am on. Inside, a neon sign, salvaged airplane panels, and, yes, an upright piano greet diners who appreciate a little kitsch, but you should really come here for the comfort food. Think: sea-salt popcorn and pimento cheese snacks, pulled chicken and avocado sandwiches, and farro and mushroom salad.
208 W. 4th St., Downtown
This pre-Prohibition-style, New Orleans-inspired craft cocktail bar is a great option for drinks and light dinner. Though it began as Austin’s first absinthe bar (the infamous green liqueur was legalized in the U.S. in 2007), their dinner menu, curated by executive chef John Lichtenberger, is worth a trip, too. The riffs on French standards like duck confit, bouillabaisse, and escargots are beloved, as are their only-in-Texas specialties, like Texas wild boar with polenta, braised short ribs with duck-fat mashed potatoes, and lamb bourguignon sourced from a nearby ranch. As for the cocktails, the go-tos (besides absinthe, of course) are gin, whiskey, vodka, and rum concoctions—some original, like the Fig Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, house cherry vanilla bitters, fig foam), some reinterpretations of tried-and-true favorites, like Sazerac (a New Orleans classic).
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