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A Local’s Guide to Austin for ISIT Attendees

By Jeff Andrews

Local Activities

Exercise and Outdoors

Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. Austin has a beautiful and popular trail around Lady Bird Lake (previously called Town Lake), just 5 blocks from the Hilton. You enter the trail on Trinity Avenue, just on the other side of Cesar Chavez (1st) St. We suggest you go right when entering, there will be a few foot bridges to cross the lake to create a loop of desired distance, the longest being about 5.5 miles (going over the bridge under the Mopac freeway to the other side).

Town Lake Kayaking. Kayaks and canoes can be rented on Lady Bird Lake at a few locations, the nearest being near Austin High school at the Austin Boating Club, this is about ½ mile West of Lamar St on the north side of the lake.

Barton Springs. Austin has a one-of-a-kind spring fed pool in Zilker park, about a 2 miles from the Hilton. It is 1/8 of a mile long and cool (70 degrees) all year round. Good either for relaxing or a serious swim.

Mount Bonnell. What passes for a “mountain” in Texas is a gorgeous spot about 3 miles from downtown, overlooking Lake Austin and some of Austin’s most exclusive homes. Take 35th Street West from Mopac (Loop 1) until it curves you up a hill onto Mount Bonnell.

Museums and Cultural Attractions

The Texas State Capitol. Enter on Congress at 11th St. Beautiful rotunda, one of the United States’s most beautiful (and largest) capitol buildings.

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Just north of the capitol at Congress and 18th.

Austin Museum of Art. On Congress at 9th.

Alamo Drafthouse. An Austin original, a unique movie theater showing the best recent and classic movies, while serving tasty food, beer, and wine. Very popular, get tickets ahead of time. Two convenient locations, downtown on 6th Street just a few blocks from the Hilton, and a larger location on S. Lamar, a couple miles away.

Recommended Restaurants

Within easy walking distance

Expensive

Eddie V’s. Arguably the best of a very large number of high end steak and seafood restaurants downtown, and only two blocks from Hilton at 5th and Brazos. Also has a nice piano bar with a half-price appetizers happy hour Tue-Sat 5-7pm and all day Sunday and Monday.

Finn and Porter. The Hilton’s own upscale restaurant has very good steaks, seafood, and surprisingly, probably the best sushi in downtown.

La Condesa. Trendy high-end Mexico-city style restaurant, with an emphasis on seafood. In the new 2nd street district, at the corner of Guadalupe and 2nd.

Fogo de Chao. High-end Brazilian Churruscaria next to a number of other high-end chain restaurants like Flemings steak house and Roy’s.

Driskill Grill. In the historic Driskill hotel at 6th and Brazos, will be a first-class meal all the way. Considered by many the finest restaurant in town. Reservations recommended.

Perry's Steakhouse & Grille. For an impeccable Texas steakhouse experience, this new restaurant in an old bank building is hard to beat. 7th and Colorado. Dinner daily except Sunday, lunch only on Fridays.

Sullivan’s, 3 Forks, Truluck’s, and Flemings can also all be highly recommended in the high-end steak-seafood genre, within walking distance.

Moderate

Chez Nous. Authentic, country-style French food with long-serving staff and loyal customers. Can’t miss with the 3-course menu de jour for about $25. Vegetarian course available. Only ½ block from Hilton on Neches.

La Traviata. Authentic small Italian bistro with lively atmosphere at Congress and 3rd.

Roaring Fork. In the historic Intercontinental hotel at 7th and Congress, very good “Texas fusion” cuisine. Great happy hour just like Eddie V’s (above).

Moonshine. Just behind the Hilton on Red River, for slightly upscale Texas soulfood classics like meatloaf and catfish, but also has good pastas and trendy dishes. A casual atmosphere, also popular for getting after work drinks and for lunch.

Gumbo’s. Authentic Cajun (New Orleans) food served in a classy atmosphere. Seafood here is truly outstanding and prepared in the unique Cajun style. 8th and Colorado in the Brown Building.

Inexpensive

Manuel’s. Also has very good Mexican food and margaritas, in the heart of the downtown nightlife action. Congress between 3rd and 4th.

Iron Works BBQ. Authentic Texas-style BBQ: brisket, pork ribs, sausage, chicken and sides. In old iron shop 4 blocks from the Hilton, Red River and Cesar Chavez (1st).

Mekong River. Best nearby option for Vietnamese and Thai , they do better Vietnamese than Thai. 6th St between Brazos and San Jacinto.

Casino El Camino. Best hamburgers in Austin are served out the back of this dark bar on 6th between Red River and Neches, but be prepared to wait for 30 minutes to get it.

Iron Cactus. With slightly above average Tex-Mex, the main attraction here is the prime location and especially the 3rd floor patio with a view of the 6th street scene, on the corner of Trinity.

Longer walk or short drive

Expensive

Uchi. Best Japanese/sushi in Austin and arguably in Texas, the problem is that everyone knows this and they don’t take reservations after 7pm, so be prepared to wait an hour or more at the bar or outside patio. On S. Lamar.

Vespaio. Outstanding Italian food on South Congress. Like Uchi, getting in can pose problems especially Thursday onwards.

Wink. Trendy restaurant with small portions of delicious gourmet creations, you’ll want to have 3 courses. With an emphasis on local and organic produce, sometimes their justifiable pride in their restaurant comes off to some as a bit pretentious. Expensive food is balanced by a carefully-selected wine list with small markups. Lamar and 11th, somewhat hidden.

Moderate

South Congress Café. Casual bistro with a diverse menu. Good backup if you can’t get into Vespaio (above).

Clay Pit. Stylish Indian bistro with very good food, although purists may not think it completely authentic. Guadalupe and 16th.

Inexpensive

Guero’s. Lovable large Mexican restaurant on S. Congress in an old building, popular with locals and tourists alike.

Farther but worth it

Salt Lick. Legendary BBQ ranch 20 miles from downtown in Driftwood, this will be an unforgettable pilgrimage to the glories of Texas BBQ and an excuse to see the “real Texas” just outside cosmopolitan Austin. In a “dry” county so no alcohol served, but you can bring your own. Inexpensive.

ISIT-Endorsed World Cup Viewing Venues

Champions Sports Bar
4th and Trinity, 1 block from Hilton
Open from 6am for World Cup Games
http://www.championsaustin.com/

Fado Irish Pub
4th St between Lavaca and Colorado, 5 blocks from Hilton
All 64 Games Shown Live. For soccer fanatics, this is the place, but may be crowded for big games especially at lunch.
http://www.fadoirishpub.com/austin/

Nightspots

Austin’s downtown is world-renowned for its nightlife, and in particular its live music. Downtown Austin has four main nightlife zones, each with a different flavor.

6th Street. The largest and most famous drinking strip in the South after Bourbon Streen in New Orleans, the famous 6th street runs from next to the Hilton down to Congress Avenue. It is pedestrian only on Thursday to Saturday nights and has nearly 100 bars catering largely to college students, and others who don’t know where to actually go for better nightlife.

Warehouse District. Centered on 4th Street between Lavaca and Colorado, and spilling over in the surrounding blocks. More sophisticated, and many good restaurants can be found in this general area.

Red River. Running up Red River from 6th to 10th Street are a number of other long-lived bars and clubs of various stripes, many emphasizing live music.

West 6th Street. The newest expansion of the downtown scene runs for a few blocks, centered at around 6th and Rio Grande. Many large, new bars attract a stylish 20’s-30’s crowd. Although many of these places are a bit indistinguishable, several have nice outdoor areas.

Nearby Live Music – Check the Austin Chronicle for Listings

Stubbs. Large outdoor space on Red River and 9th, often with outdoor acts. Well-known for its BBQ sauce but BBQ here is just OK.

Antone’s. A legendary Austin establishment at 5th and Lavaca; nightly shows.

Speakeasy. Jazzy or contemporary music downstairs, trendy DJ scene upstairs on the beautiful rooftop deck.

Cedar Street. Popular open air venue in the heart of the warehouse district, 4th St between Lavaca and Colorado.

Continental Club. On S. Congress, a long-running live music venue that has hosted anyone who’s anyone over the years.

Donn’s Depot. About 2 miles west of the Hilton, if you want an authentic Texas country experience complete with two-stepping (at least on the weekends), this is the closest place to downtown to get it.

For an early evening drink...

Driskill Bar. In the Driskill Hotel, 6th and Brazos.

Club De Ville. Outdoor hipster loungy place with strong drinks; 8th and Red River.

Eddie V’s Lounge Bar. Classy, older crowd. 5th and Brazos.

For Later Night Action and Dancing

Red Fez. Small but lively dance floor in perpetually cool Moroccan-themed nightspot. 5th St near Lavaca.

Sky Lounge. European style nightclub on Congress between 4th and 5th, only open Thu-Sat typically.

Qua. Slightly pretentious nightspot on 4th street in Warehouse district (near Lavaca St), but does have dancing over a large tank with small sharks swimming around.

Oilcan Harry’s. This venerable gay bar and dance club is welcoming of all comers. It is perhaps the only downtown place with reliable dancing until 3am. Next to Qua in Warehouse district.

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