4807 Airport Blvd., Hyde Park
Bullfight is a part of a string of spots that have popped up recently along Airport Boulevard making for an unlikely new restaurant row. Chef-owner Shawn Cirikel tackled Spanish cuisine with a pleasantly straightforward tapas menu, including tomato gazpacho, paella, and croquettes. The grilled branzino with cauliflower, eggplant, and pistachio is insanely good, too.
1602 S. Congress Ave., South Congress
The brass accents, black and white tiles, and sleek furnishings at South Congress Hotel’s American grill feel both modern and classic. The best dishes are indulgent, like the Central Standard’s cheeseburger, which is served with cremini mushroom butter, aged cheddar, and smoked bacon. The pastry chef Amanda Rockman (who was previously at Nico Osteria in Chicago) makes a compelling argument in favor of saving room for dessert, though: her tarts, cakes, and corn fritters can make eyes water. The warm wraparound patio has an enticing weekday happy hour, too, with half-off drinks and select food dishes.
Clark’s Oyster Bar
1200 W. 6th St., Clarksville
If they weren’t already, Clark’s cemented the place of restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman (owner of the uber-popular Perla’s) as the utmost authorities of Austin’s seafood scene. The small space has a clean, nautical vibe that’s faintly reminiscent of the Hamptons, with a subtly East Coast menu to match; ideal for a more intimate dinner or brunch. Our suggestions? Cold water oysters (a must) and their famous fries, ceviche, the cooked kale salad, and the wood-grilled shrimp toast (a divine compilation of aioli, smoky shrimp, and crunchy sourdough). In our humble opinion, this is by far one of the best Bloody Marys in the city.
2027 Anchor Ln., East Austin
Contigo is a bit removed from the center of Austin, which adds to the ranch-like quality of the restaurant. A spacious outdoor patio with picnic benches and umbrellas makes it a fun place for Sunday brunch, and also a pretty space at night when the strings of outdoor lights are illuminated. The menu, which changes regularly, has a few game-inspired dishes and Texan twists on American classics, plus really good drinks.
Elizabeth Street Café
1501 S. First St., South Congress
Austin's South First is a gem of a street and this is one of the top highlights. A Vietnamese café plus French bakery, Elizabeth Street Café combines the best of two worlds. The bakery makes two different kinds of baguettes daily (order the bánh mì to try), croissants, and a variety of pastries including macarons. Stumptown is the house coffee, and you can get traditional Vietnamese coffees with classic café du monde chicory. In addition to bánh mì, the restaurant also serves spring rolls, pho, and spicy curries. The interior is exquisitely pretty, clean, and bright, decorated with oversized framed mirrors and divided by an open arch. The chic neon touches on the side patio follow suit.
Fonda San Miguel
2330 W. North Loop, Allandale
Fonda San Miguel underwent a renovation in the last decade, but the bright decor here still speaks to its impressive 1970's roots. Of course, though, the mouthwatering Mexican food is the reason this restaurant is still open forty-plus years later. In fact, they make the same tortilla soup recipe from 1975; locals love everything from the classic enchiladas to the chile rellenos and Gulf shrimp dishes.
1412 S. Congress Ave., South Congress
Guero's is one of those places that's on every visitor's hit list. In a town where margaritas, tamales, and enchiladas are fuel, this South Congress taqueria doesn't disappoint. (It helps too, that they've been around since 1986.) Service is friendly and the vibe is lively and casual. On Sundays, it's practically a ritual to nurse a hangover in the restaurant’s Oak Garden with an order of migas—a plate of scrambled eggs, tostadas, and pico de gallo. There's a vegan menu, too.
1209 E. 11th St., Central East Austin
Situated on top of a hill overlooking downtown, this former 1950s pharmacy has been turned into a farm-to-table hotspot with a line on the weekends that wraps out the door. Thankfully, the owners restored many of the old pharmacy’s charming details: there’s a pentagon-patterned floor, antique wooden display cases, and a photogenic tin roof. The breakfast menu is deceptively simple: the fried egg sandwich features avocado, aioli, fried green tomato, and eggs in a bowl, which includes mozzarella curd, sautéed kale, and zucchini. Local pride extends to its produce as well—many of the local veggies are picked from nearby Eastside Urban Farms so it’s all very fresh. During the day and into the evening, the raw bar, with its mix of East and West oysters, is a happy hour favorite, especially when paired with a grapefruit jalapeno margarita.
3110 Guadalupe St., Central Austin
Husband-and-wife duo Bay and Lindsay Anthon melded their love of craft beer (him) and French background (her) into Hopfields, a sophisticated neighborhood gastropub, which opened in Austin in the fall of 2011. The rotating tap list is a big draw (but there's also a wine list), and regulars love the steak frites as well as the Pascal burger served with camembert, cornichon, whole grain mustard, and caramelized onions.
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.
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