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20 Austin Restaurants Not to Miss

20 Austin Restaurants Not to Miss

Living in a city that’s become such a hot destination spot has many perks — one of the best being that there are now endless options for fantastic food in Austin. But how do you sort through the clutter when there’s a new “hip” and “must-try” restaurant on every corner?  Here to help you out is our iGnite team of Austin locals, sharing our favorite spots.  Go with one of these the next time you’re visiting Austin, or, if you’re a fellow local, the next time you’re looking for a great meal or place to take your out-of-town guests, and you can’t go wrong!

Dinner & Drinks

Vino Vino

Vino Vino: “Easy to get to and easy to park, this cozy eatery has the absolute KINDEST staff you will ever meet in your life. They have known you forever from the moment you walk in the door, and the food is fresh and unique, with flavors and textures that dance on your tongue. The wine choices are diverse, and my husband and I go crazy, ordering and splitting delicious things. I love this place…ask to say hi to Kelly, the manager, because he will make you happy that you have just made a new friend.”
Cary

Justine’s Brasserie

Justine’s Brasserie on east 5th: “Such a treat! It has a great inside vibe and a wonderful outside atmosphere as well. Totally delicious French experience, but with a casual Austin flare. The food is delicious and their specialty bar drinks are fantastic! For a cocktail, try the refreshingly lemony French 76. They have wonderful appetizers — I recommend the smoked salmon, then go for a classic, Steak Frites! They also have one of the best burgers in town!  Take your time and enjoy the evening 🙂 ”
Sha

Launderette

Launderette: “This darling restaurant is located in an old laundromat in East Austin. It has an extensive veggie section to the menu with yummy brussell sprouts, zucchini salad, cauliflower gratin and more. It is portioned to share, so it’s perfect for date night or to go with girlfriends!”
Delaine

Perla’s

Perla’s: “One of my favorite “fancy” spots! I love seafood, and I think Perla’s has a wonderfully varied menu. Plus, the champagne cocktail and hushpuppies are amazing!!”
Molly

Second Bar + Kitchen

Second Bar + Kitchen downtown at 2nd & Congress: “This place is great for high quality late-night dining. I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve gotten here. Unlike most restaurants, they serve dinner until 11:30pm Sunday-Thursday and until 1:30am Friday & Saturday! It’s the perfect fun place to grab a really great meal after doing something fun downtown when you want to stay in the thick of everything! With everything from black truffle pomme frites, to cheese boards, yummy small plates, soups, salads, incredible pizzas, steaks, seafood and a huge drink menu, you really can’t go wrong 🙂 We go here every time my in-laws are in town because they just can’t get their last meal there of their minds!”
Catherine

 Zax Restaurant & Bar

Zax is definitely at the top of my list because it is centrally located, has great quality and a great variety of food, and it’s one of the few places that all 5 of my family members love! Thus it has become our Easter brunch spot (they have GREAT brunches), nice family dinner spot and great place to take out-of-town guests. I can order Zax Salad with jerk salmon, my husband can get the Sesame Crusted Tuna, my son Mitch always gets the Classic Burger, daughter Maggie goes for the Chicken Quesadillas and daughter Sarah loves the Frenched Pork Chops. Also, Zax is my favorite spot to meet a friend before going to A Christmas Affair at the Palmer Events Center….their Tortilla Soup and Salad are the perfect pre-shopping meal in November!”
-Amy

Mexican & Tex-Mex

Matt’s El Rancho

“We LOVE Matt’s El Rancho. From the placemats with pictures of the 1950’s unlikely young athlete who started the restaurant, to a window into the tortilla-making room (awesome for keeping the young ones intrigued)…Matt’s is just a happy place. Every time we are there, at least three tables around us break into the happy birthday song, and (I swear, just look around), EVERYBODY is smiling. Try the fish tacos…very fresh with a delicious sauce…and the traditional basket of gigantic chips is my warm blanket. When I recently took some friends who don’t get the whole “basket of chips” thing where they live, I realized, for the first time in my life, that I probably eat at least four full tortillas before I actually get my meal at Matt’s…which is really okay…it is…it’s just what we do!
Cary

Fonda San Miguel

Fonda San Miguel is at the top of my list for best interior Mexican food, beautiful decor, always delicious, fresh and dependably good dishes and a great place for happy hour with the hubster or girl friends!  I love their margaritas, salsas, Ceviche las Brisas and redfish!”
Amy

“An oldie but a goodie! I love to go meet girlfriends here for happy hour in the lounge/bar area. Wonderful atmosphere and yummy appetizers — go early on Tuesdays for half-price apps!”
Delaine

Trudy’s

Trudy’s on 30th Street has been my go-to Mexican spot for 9 years! The food and drinks never disappoint, and it’s always fun on game days. When my husband and I can’t think of where to go on a Friday night, we walk over there!”
Molly

Kid-Friendly

Hat Creek Burger Company

“Given the season of my life, my husband and I don’t find much time to go out alone and without our small children, therefore my current favorite Austin restaurant is Hat Creek Burger Company. There are many reasons why I love Hat Creek, with one being that it is totally kid-friendly. At all of their locations there are super fun and creative play areas for children, as well as an outdoor area with flatscreen t.v.’s that allows mom and dad to watch their children while sneaking some peaks at whatever sporting event they have playing. And, it’s super easy for the kids to run from the play area, grab some food, and go play some more. On top of that, the menu is simple yet delicious! They serve hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers (the Hot Dang grain burger created by my good friend Martha Pincoffs!), gluten-free nuggets, regular French fries and sweet potato French Fries (my personal favorite), salads, beer, wine and milkshakes! Does it get any better than that?! In addition, all of their meat is high quality and they are now serving breakfast. I also love Hat Creek because it’s locally owned by Austinite Drew Gressett. As a cherry on top, Hat Creek partners with Mobile Loaves & Fishes and makes 100 fresh burgers everyday and delivered free of charge to those in need in Austin. Now, that’s big time! So, for all of the reasons listed, Hat Creek Burgers is my favorite Austin restaurant 🙂 ”
Neissa

Lunch/Casual

FoodHeads

FoodHeads is my all time favorite! It is located on 34th Street close to Guadalupe. Best food ever! Great salads, amazing sandwiches and even delectable desserts!! I had a big warm brownie covered in chocolate sauce with vanilla ice cream for dessert the other day and it was SOOOO good. It is an old cozy house with indoor or outdoor seating. Very casual–perfect for lunch after workouts in your sweaty gear! The only bad thing is they are not open for dinner : ( Fresh and home made — yum!”
Kathleen

“I love the casual cafe atmosphere and the food is AMAZING! It offers unusual combinations and variations on classic Austin breakfast/brunch/lunch fare, and wholesome, nutritious, locally-sourced ingredients.  I often go with a group of friends for brunch or lunch after a morning run or workout, but I also go with my family — my kids love it too! I usually get the squash sandwich, and they make it vegan for me by leaving off the cheese and pesto and adding avocado instead. I always ask for an extra side of their home-made pickles — so good! They’re the owner Chip’s secret recipe. I also love their breakfast tacos and again they put together wonderful vegan combinations for me; oh and their homemade salsa is the.best. Finally, what I love most about FoodHeads is the people that own and run this little slice of heaven, Chip and Candi Wendt. They are dear friends of mine and just wonderful human beings, and they put their heart and soul into their cafe — they love love love their employees, love love love their customers, and take pride in every plate of delicious food that they serve.”
Alli

Galaxy Cafe

Galaxy Cafe: “The perfect girls night restaurant! Our 6pm evening group eats at Galaxy sometimes after class for a healthy and delicious dinner. When I go to Galaxy, I always seem to stay for a long time visiting with friends and never feel like the staff is rushing me to leave!”
Molly

Mother’s Cafe

Mother’s Cafe has been at the top of my list since I discovered it back in the early 80’s when I moved to Austin. It is my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Austin! It has a cool, eclectic, granola-head vibe, and every dish is wonderful and fresh. You can’t beat the Bueno Burger and side salad with the famous Cashew Tamari dressing. I go there every Mother’s Day with my family (along with other times during the year) and love to sit in the outdoor area with all the plants and goldfish pond.”
Amy

Italian

Juliet Ristorante

“A new favorite of mine is Juliet on Barton Springs Road! Excellent pasta and pizzas and a great wine list. The gluten free pasta is very tasty too.”
Betty

Pieous Pizza

Pieous Pizza is one of my absolute faves! It’s authentic wood-fired Neopolitan pizza in its purest, simplest form- so delicious!  It’s a bit of a drive — it’s right by the Nutty Brown cafe in Dripping Springs, but worth it!  They have incredible salads too, all farm fresh ingredients, homemade dressings, good wines and a fun casual atmosphere.  Get there early though because they run out!”
Jill

Southern Home Cooking

Fixe

“I love Fixe, it’s a fairly new southern cooking restaurant downtown. I love the interior and the atmosphere. The Fixe biscuits are to die for and the deviled eggs are so yummy… and the fried chicken, so if you are in the mood for Southern food and a new downtown hot spot, this is the place. Great cocktails also!”
Jill

Grab & Go

Fresa’s

Fresa’s is healthy drive-thru on Lamar! An Austin-owned restaurant where you can get fresh local chicken, homemade corn tortillas, salads, grilled vegetables, home-made ice creams and more. Their breakfast tacos are great too!”
Delaine 

Royal Blue Grocery

“My husband and I love going to pick up some fun things at Royal Blue Grocery and either taking it all for a picnic or sitting outside in their patio area and eating a casual and tasty, light meal. Their shredded chicken salad is the best in town!”
Catherine

Sushi

Komé Sushi Kitchen

“My husband and I love sushi and enjoy the experience of trying new sushi rolls, but sushi is expensive! Our favorite new spot is Komé on Airport Blvd. It’s delicious, fairly inexpensive (for two people with wine and food, we can eat for $50 total!) and a fun atmosphere. When you walk into the restaurant, all of the sushi chefs greet you out loud with a fun phrase!”
Molly

Cocktails

Garage Cocktail Bar

Garage is a small, moody bar actually hidden away inside a parking garage downtown! You feel like you’ve discovered something secret when you come here. It’s a great place to grab drinks with a group!”
Catherine


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24 Great Summer Reads

by Catherine Hearn

by Catherine Hearn

Summer has arrived, and we are having visions of lying in a hammock with a great book. So, we asked some of our bookaholic iGnite members (thank you Leslie McConnico, Jane Flieller and Kathy Huffaker!) what they recommend curling up with this summer. So here you have it — straight from our Monarchs themselves — our Great Summer Reads:

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And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner | New novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. This one is hard to put down!

Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner | “These are modern classics in my opinion.  Though very different, both are wonderful, insightful novels that have lots of personal insights.”  -Kathy H.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (Historic Fiction) | In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Beyond the Sky and Earth: a Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa | “The author shows great courage in taking a job for 2 years teaching English in a remote Himalayan village and her eyes  were opened (as well as mine) to a very different culture, mindset and spiritualty.  It is much more than just a travel book.” -Kathy H.

Charlotte’s Web (Audio Book) by E. B. White | “Although this is a children’s classic, when E. B. White reads it everyone will love it.” -Kathy H.

Citizens of London by Lynne Olson  | This is a behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London.  “If you like history, this book gives great detail of WWII.” -Jane F.

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The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride | “Very powerful!” -Kathy H.     Amazon Summary: The biracial son of a Jewish mother tells the story of how she raised her 12 children” in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Mommy,” a fiercely protective woman with “dark eyes full of pep and fire,” herded her brood to Manhattan’s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect.

Julia Child: My Life in France (Audio Book) by Julia Child“The story in her own words (read by Flo Salant Greenberg). Julia tells about her years in France where she learned to cook and found her true calling.” -Kathy H.

My Antonia by Willa Cather | “Published in 1918 it is the last in her “prairie trilogy”.  I consider it a classic.  It is beautifully written and is a book you can relax into.  It is the story of several immigrant families who move to rural Nebraska.  Anything by Willa Cather is a step back in time  but a look into that time that will engross you.” -Kathy H.

The One Thing by Gary Keller (self help book)  | The ONE Thing is about getting extraordinary results in every situation.   What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  Gary Keller has identified that behind every successful person is their ONE Thing.  “I wanted to read this book since Gary Keller is the cofounder and chairman of the board of Keller Williams Realty International, which is the largest real estate franchising company in the U.S.  He built this company from a single office in Austin, TX by using his skills as a teacher, trainer, and coach. Gary defines leadership as ‘teaching people how to think the way they need to think so they can do what they need to do when they need to do it, so they can get what they want when they want it.’ Gary’s ONE Thing is teaching.” -Jane F.

The Palace Walk by Naquib Mahfouz | This is the first in The Cairo Trilogy.  This trilogy starts in the 1920s in Cairo. These books give me a look into a culture that I knew nothing about.  This trilogy could keep you engrossed all summer!” -Kathy H.   Amazon summary:   The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence.

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain | “I loved this book and didn’t want it to end.  It is the story of the love affair and betrayal of the famous couple Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley.  Set in Paris in the 1920s during the time of Gertrude Stein and her famous Salons.  So interesting!”  -Kathy H.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett | “Published in 1989 it is set in the 12th century and tells the story of the architects, builders and the peoples around the building of gothic architecture, most specifically, the cathedrals.  It is a long, exciting, gripping read. It was also an Oprah Book Club choice.” -Kathy H.
      

Promised Lands by Elizabeth Crook | “This historical fiction novel chronicles the Texas Rebellion and the scene about the Battle for Goliad stayed with me for a long time.  It is my favorite Texas historical novel so far!” -Kathy H.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles | Amazon Summary: This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani | Amazon Summary: Beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani returns with the most epic and ambitious novel of her career—a breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker’s Wife is replete with the all the page-turning adventure, sumptuous detail, and heart-stopping romance that has made Adriana Trigiani, “one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today). Fans of Trigiani’s sweeping family dramas like Big Stone Gap and Lucia, Lucia will love her latest masterpiece, a book Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, calls “totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream.”

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See | “This is a wonderful story of friendship set in 19th century China in the time of bound feet and almost total seclusion of the wives and daughters.  The story is told by the 80 year old Snow Flower looking back at her life.” -Kathy H.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy | “Makes you want to travel to  Charleston.” -Leslie M.    Amazon Summary:  Leopold Bloom King has been raised in a family shattered—and shadowed—by tragedy. Lonely and adrift, he searches for something to sustain him and finds it among a tightly knit group of high school outsiders. Surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, as well as Charleston, South Carolina’s dark legacy of racism and class divisions, these friends will endure until a final test forces them to face something none of them are prepared for.  Spanning two turbulent decades, South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest: a masterpiece from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Audio Book) by Betty Smith | “This audio book is so engrossing, an American Classic.  You will laugh and cry and wish it wouldn’t end.” -Kathy H.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand  Amazon Summary: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini | In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. Sidenote: the author’s story is really interesting too! 

  

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson | “This is such a fun read, as are all Bill Bryson’s books about his travels!  He sets out to walk the Appalachian trail with an overweight, smoking, donut eating high school friend.  Very funny.  His books are also great as audio books, as he reads them himself.” -Kathy H. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed | “This is a ‘wild’ story of a young woman rocked by the death of her mother and divorce who takes off totally unprepared to walk the Pacific Crest Trail.  Some people have a hard time getting into this story as the beginning is a bit disturbing but if you stick with it you will be alternately entertained, horrified and enlightened.  I loved this story.” -Kathy H.

Wild Swans: the Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang | “This is one of my favorite reads. It is not a short read, but worth every page.”  -Kathy H.   Amazon description: The story of three generations in twentieth-century China, it is an engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love.