36 Hours in Austin
Our recommendations on how to spend 36 hours in the sprawling capital of Texas. Check out our full "36 Hours in Austin" guide for more recommendations, location details and price information: http://nyti.ms/1pb5cT0
- •Shop along South CongressWhile South Congress Avenue has been a countercultural favorite for generations, new arrivals are refreshing this colorful strip south of the Colorado River. The recently opened Revival Cycles stocks cool jeans from Austin’s own Traveller Denim, next to the sleek South Congress Hotel, whose lobby bar has become a destination in and of itself. Across the street, Cove offers casual women’s clothing. And the well-established Stag Provisions keeps giving old fans a new reason to shop.
- •French-inspired food at Hopfield'sIt might sound like this place is all about the suds, but locals love Hopfields for such French-inspired fare as steak frites with Dijon mustard, house-made pâtés, and the Pascal burger (with Camembert, cornichons, whole grain mustard and caramelized onions), which many call the city’s best. At just over four years old, Hopfields is nearly a veteran now, but keep an ear out: Rumors of a coming second location abound.
- •Don't miss the musicBetting on Austin's claim as the Live Music Capital of the World, Geraldine’s — the stunning fourth-floor bar and restaurant inside the new Hotel Van Zandt — offers live concerts 365 days a year. (Geraldine’s is named after a neighborhood guinea fowl, who moved on to the great farmyard in the sky after being hit by a car in 2014.) Geraldine’s offers killer views of the downtown skyline, as well as up-close views of musicians.
- •Drink on Rainey StreetCheck out the numerous watering holes on nearby Rainey Street, like 2014’s Container Bar, built out of shipping containers. Many popular Austin destinations were constructed inside Rainey’s historic bungalows, like Javelina, a friendly roadhouse with communal tables and outdoor seats that face the evening parade.
- •The burgeoning barista sceneAustin offers plenty of options for a morning pick-me-up, from old favorites like the original location of Caffé Medici on West Lynn Street to newer spots like Radio. Before you explore the shops and restaurants in the South Lamar neighborhood, start at Picnik, a coffee trailer that serves high-grade java, including upgraded options with grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil. The pastry case includes Paleo-inspired treats.
- •Punk ramenThe hottest new arrival on South Lamar is the second location of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, a Japanese noodle bar. With its plywood furniture and Rancid soundtrack, Tatsu-Ya feels like a punk club, albeit one with a popular weekend lunch that brings in a crowd ranging from university students to Japanese families and grandparents. Stick with the Ol’ Skool ($9.50) or dig into the richer, almost creamy tonkotsu ($9.50), dressed up with toppings like brussels sprouts, garlic or chile “bombs.”
- •Instruments to goTake inspiration from local musical talent and shop for instruments as souvenirs. Start out at South Austin Music, a favorite for electric guitars and effects, then head north across the river to Hill Country Guitars, where a gorgeous, Sitka-topped acoustic from the local luthier Collings Guitars will set you back a cool $4,568. Farther north, Austin Vintage Guitars offers collectible models from brands like Fender, Gibson and Danelectro, as well as guitar picks, slides and T-shirts.
- •New 'cueIn the old days, lovers of great barbecue knew to leave Austin for smoke pits in nearby towns like Lockhart and Driftwood. Then came East Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, frequently called the best in the country. With the line often stretching for hours, you can get a quicker snack at Micklethwait Craft Meats, which serves fall-apart smoked brisket, massive beef ribs and flavorful specialty sausages. (The backyard party vibe is another draw.)
- •My beautiful laundromatMany of Austin’s coolest restaurants are less than a year old. Among the best new arrivals is Launderette, where Rene Ortiz extends contemporary Mediterranean cuisine to include influences from regions like North Africa and the Levant: rich beet hummus and crisp flatbreads accompany a creamy labneh appetizer, and the juicy house burger arrives on a fluffy challah bun. Excellent cooking and a fun-loving crowd in this former laundromat make up for the kitsch soundtrack and hit-or-miss service.
- •Craft cocktailsCheck out the expanding bar scene in downtown’s Warehouse District with a sampling of craft cocktails at the new Roosevelt Room, which lists its mixed drinks by era of origin, from classic “early years” concoctions like the Brandy Crusta through Prohibition-era favorites like the Blood & Sand. Intimate booths and videos projected on the wall give an underground character to the long, dark space. Afterward, see how the newcomer compares with an old favorite like Péché, just two blocks away.
- •Taco BBQThere’s no better morning-after restorative than Valentina’s, which combines classic Texas barbecue with authentic Mexican fare. Fans followed this food trailer’s move from downtown to a parking lot in South Austin, lining up for potato-egg-and-cheese breakfast tacos with house-made chorizo ($3), as well as lunch tacos like the smoked-brisket taco, topped with guacamole and a mild tomato-serrano salsa ($5), and the pulled “pollo” chicken taco, dressed with spicy tomatillo-habanero sauce ($4).
- •To the hillsThere are many reasons to head to Hill Country, the undulating landscape that starts just outside Austin, but for beer fans, ground zero is Jester King, a brewery and beer garden set on a working ranch. After sampling rare drafts like El Cedro, a cedar-aged farmhouse ale, direct your designated driver to Revolution Spirits, a distillery that makes raspberry, apricot and cherry liqueurs with fruit pulp left over from Jester King’s brews, as well as Austin Reserve, a richly aromatic gin.