98 San Jacinto Blvd., Downtown
We’re always delighted when a trip involves staying at the Four Seasons. Who isn’t? And to be clear, there are things to love about the Four Seasons Austin. The grounds are beautiful, the cocktails have alcohol in them, and the lake-view rooms have views of the lake. Then there are the things that are harder to love. A recent renovation transformed the property from charming Texas hotel to soulless Texas hotel—with overall décor that is somehow a combination of greige and lonely. Even the suites feel impersonal and corporate—and showers are unreliable at best. But all that failed water pressure doesn’t come cheap: A suite for one night will run you a few thousand dollars.
milk + honey
100A Guadalupe St., Downtown
If you’re in need of a wax, a quickie facial, a mani/pedi, or just about any self-care treatment you can think of, milk + honey is the spot. It’s ideal if you need to be in and out, but it’s also a solid option if you want to spend an afternoon with friends thanks to the serene lounge area, where you can hang out between treatments. If you’re after a one-and-done style pampering, go for the “Spa Partisan” that packs in a body polishing treatment followed by a steam under a canopy, and a 60-minute body butter massage. (It’s as good as it sounds.) Facials—which are anywhere from 60- to 120-minutes long—are completely bespoke. The estheticians take the time to talk to you about your goals, then create a treatment with decongesting ultrasonic therapies, gentle extractions, fruit acid peels, and powerful peptide treatments. End your experience by wandering through the smartly curated shop—we love to stock up on Osea’s clean skincare. They have three other locations throughout Austin, and one in Houston, but the 2nd Street District location is the flagship.
Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
915 N. Lamar Blvd., 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.
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.
JM Drygoods (Closed)
215 S. Lamar St., Downtown
A store full of vacation-ready pieces you’d normally have to travel for? Shop owner Michelle Teague has you covered. Here, she stocks the leaf pine shelves full of beautiful, handmade clothing and accessories by artisans from Oaxaca. Not to be missed are a few of her other travel finds: packable canvas hats, linen spray from Coqui Coqui, handmade incense from the Yucatan, and a striped hammock from Brazil.
500 W. 5th St., 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.
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.
The Side Bar
602 E. 7th St., Downtown
Located a block off of Austin's somewhat infamous "Dirty Sixth" (aka East Sixth Street), which is packed with rowdy nightlife, The Side Bar's crowd still skews young, but it's a decidedly more low-key, sit-down-and-chat destination. A favorite Austin dive bar, locals come to play pool, listen to the jukebox, and hang on the outdoor patio.
The Gingerman (Closed)
301 Lavaca St., Downtown
Beer aficionados will appreciate the vast on-tap selection at The Gingerman, as well as their casual outdoor beer garden. Other locations have sprung up around the country but The Gingerman has been a fixture in Austin since 1994 (although their current location is a block from the original).