Downtown Austin is a Vibrant, Dynamic Hub of World-Class Shopping, Diverse Dining and Legendary Entertainment
Known for its legendary entertainment, there’s a lot more to the “Live Music Capitol of the World” than bright lights, dance floors and the irresistible twang of a pedal-steel guitar. In fact, downtown Austin is the hub of everything that makes the city such an attractive destination for home buyers from across the country and around the world.
With a growing reputation as a culinary paradise, downtown features fine restaurants with exotic international cuisines as well as casual, family owned eateries serving down-home traditional Texas comfort food. There’s also a variety of high-end and elegant wood-paneled cocktail bars in addition to fun and frisky youthful watering holes – many with live entertainment. And during the day, there are eclectic boutiques and cozy coffee shops along with world-class shopping destinations, such as the incredible 80,000 square foot Whole Foods flagship store.
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Shopping is King of the 2nd Street District – Men’s And Women’s Fashion, Home Décor, and a Uniquely Austin Toy Store
The list of high-end retailers packed into this convenient shopping district is almost unbelievable. Boutiques such as Luxe Apothetique, Langford Market, and Etcetera Etc. delight their customers with beautiful, up-to-the-minute fashions. Estilo, Urban Outfitters and others stock classic fashions and new looks for both men and women, while Bonobo’s caters to men interested in finding clothing to look their best. Sikara & Co. – as well as a number of the boutiques – feature stunning, hand-crafted jewelry, while stores such as Mercury Design Studio, Design Within Reach, and BoConcept sell swanky, sleek furniture, antique surprises, and other upscale home furnishings.
And 2nd Street shoppers love the never-ending surprise of Austin’s Toy Joy – a unique toy store that is as much fun for adults as it is for the kids. With a blend of the whimsical, bizarre, retro, and just plain fun, Toy Joy puts a smiley face on shoppers of all ages.
Take Your Seat at Austin City Limits LIVE!
While 2nd Street is most famous for its luxury shopping destinations, it also has a few incredible entertainment and dining opportunities as well. The ever-popular Austin City Limits has established itself as a first-rate 2nd Street music venue. Seating more than 2700 people, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The acoustics are marvelous, and the acts are world-class.
But music isn’t the only entertainment option in this popular little district. Violet Crown Cinema is a locally owned and operated cinema with four screens devoted to independent, documentary and international films. The theaters are decked out with deluxe seating and marvelous sound and projection technology. Violet Crown’s Bar & Cafe offers a full cocktail bar, gourmet appetizers, and standard concession fare.
The Enticing Aroma of Gourmet Coffee and Distinctive Flavors of a Wild Game Trio
Jo’s Coffee House in downtown’s 2nd Street district serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and really fine espresso and coffee drinks. The sandwiches sound simple – tuna salad, BLT, pulled-pork BBQ – but each is crafted with care and elevated to special deliciousness.
Malaga Tapas Bar, La Condesa Interior Mexican Food, Congress, and TRACE Austin all offer an upscale experience and fine food. TRACE Austin is famous for their exquisite and elegant dining experience including such dishes as the Wild Game Trio, with seared antelope loin, smoked venison chili, and wild boar sausage, braised greens and house-made pickles.
Put on Your Dancing Shoes! Live Music is the Warehouse District’s Heartbeat
The Warehouse District is thick with a variety of places to enjoy a drink, share a dance, or just sit down and dine. A few of the most popular traditional bars include Speakeasy, Ginger Man, Péché Absinthe Bar, Mulberry Wine Bar, and the War Horse. Many of bars in the area also feature dancing, while places like Hangar and Soma, are specifically built for cutting a rug and dancing the night away.
The Warehouse District has also gained a reputation for upper-end dining, though street carts and trucks like Surf-N-Turf Po’boy and Crepe Crazy provide ridiculously delicious food at truly reasonable prices. A handful of the popular upscale restaurants include Bess (Sandra Bullock’s place), Arro French Restaurant, Maiko Sushi and Japanese Restaurant, 219 West, and La Traviata. Diners who are attracted to Arro for traditional French comfort foods — something like lobster bisque and croque monsieur, or bone marrow and bouillabaisse, leave feeling over the moon with the authenticity and quality of the food and the laid-back atmosphere.
Market District – Austin’s Organic Food and Couture Fashion Destination
At the west end of Downtown, the Market District has emerged as a destination for shoppers in search of anything from an innovative meal to a pair of upscale jeans. Among the most obvious landmarks is the international headquarters and flagship store for Whole Foods Market, the most successful natural foods retailer in the world. The 80,000 square foot store covers two floors of great, healthful foods – from fresh organic produce and grass-fed beef to prepared meals and even several mini-restaurants. They also host ice-skating on the roof during the holiday season. But Whole Foods is just one of the distinctive stores that draw people from all over Austin to this corner of downtown.
BookPeople – Austin’s biggest locally owned bookstore is across the street with Anthropologie and its collection of stylish women’s wear. Austin icon By George sells fashionable, trendy, and classic looks. Other boutiques nearby include Hem custom blue jeans and Free People, to name just two.
Good Old-Fashioned Burgers or Visionary Farm-to-Table Cuisine
Visiting the Market District means easy access to some of Austin’s quirkiest casual and upscale food. For a good old fashioned burger in an iconic local burger joint, Austin has been going to Hut’s Hamburgers since 1939. Their famous Dagburger – double meat, double American cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomatoes – is a favorite on the menu along with the Allen Freed, the Alley-Oop, the Chubby Checker, and many others. It’s “sister” restaurant, Frank and Angie’s Pizzeria, is just out back.
For upscale food, there are a number of choices – from the comfort foods with an upscale twist at 24 Diner, the elevated diner fare at Counter Café (open only for breakfast and lunch), the aptly named Bacon, or Wink – Austin’s pioneering farm-to-table success story. Wink embraces the slow food concept – the opposite of fast food. The menu offers what is local, sustainable, and fresh. Because they are literally seeking the freshest ingredients daily, Wink writes its menu each day to suit it to the most remarkable and high-quality ingredients they can find.
6th Street District – Legendary Live Music and High Energy Nightlife
6th Street has long been synonymous with the most highly charged segment of Austin nightlife. Popular nightlife spots include Casino el Camino, Jackalope, BD Riley’s Irish Pub, Old School Bar & Grill and many others. The Violet Crown Social Club, Midnight Cowboy, The Library Bar and Maggie Mae’s are just a few of the nightlife venues featuring live music that are usually hopping from Happy Hour until closing.
Austin’s famous Alamo Drafthouse Theater took over the vintage Ritz Theater in the heart of the 6th Street Entertainment District and now offers their unique blend of dinner and a movie in this attractive and historic building.
Escargot and Duck Confit or Peruvian Pork Belly Sandwiches
While nightlife is by far the biggest draw on 6th Street, there are a number of popular casual to fine dining establishments, as well. A few of the more upscale include Chez Nous, a casual but refined French bistro; Parkside, a fine dining seafood and steak restaurant; and The Backspace, serving gourmet pizzas and antipasti with along with an extensive wine card.
Casual places include the little walk up counter at the back of Casino El Camino that serves some of the best hamburgers and chili-cheese fries in Austin; The Best Wurst serving creative and irresistible brats, wursts, and hot dogs from a cart; and the surprisingly awesome Llama’s Peruvian Creole with its outstanding Pork Belly Sanguche or Lomo Saltado.
Rainey Street – Austin’s Newest and Hottest Downtown Destination
While 6th Street nightlife gets most of the attention, the emerging scene on Rainey Street is where downtown’s hip early adopters can be found drinking, dancing and having a good time. The length of the nightlife segment of Rainey St. is less than a quarter mile, but there are 18 of the hottest Austin bars and restaurants packed into that little strip.
A few of the most popular bars include Lustre Pearl, Icenhauer’s, Clive Bar, Javelina, and Craft Pride. Craft Pride stands out for its dedication to – you guessed it – craft beer, wine, and even cider. So what is Craft Pride most proud of? They boast 54 taps, two casks, and represent 20 Texas breweries.
Enjoy Conchinita Pibil and Other Interior Mexican Delicacies – or Almost Any Cuisine from an Eclectic Assortment of Trailers
South Congress has lost its encampment of innovative food trailers, but now Rainey Street has an impressive array of its own. From Indian food at G’Raj Mahal, Spanish tapas at Tapas Bravas, as well as Thai, Greek, and assorted Mexican and taco stands – there are plenty of delicious bargains at hand after visiting one of Rainey’s many watering holes.
Perhaps the biggest surprise among the restaurants and relatively inexpensive, youthful spots on Rainey Street is El Naranjo and its sublime selection of authentic traditional Mexican dishes. The founders, who previously ran a successful restaurant in Oaxaca, have brought their experience here to create excellent rellenos, conchita pibil, fish in achiote sauce, mole dishes, and more. They serve three different styles of mole sauce over a choice of Niman Ranch pork chops, Hudson Valley duck breast, free-range chicken, fresh market shrimp, or vegetables.