This afternoon, let’s talk about one thing everyone loves: Austin, Texas. For our next city guide, we’re visiting the city known for live music, breakfast tacos and public swimming pools. Here, Currie Person, owner of one of our favorite home stores Spartan Shop, shares her insider tips…
Currie Person: I grew up in Austin; and after spending some time on the east coast, I moved back nine years ago and opened Spartan Shop. Despite being landlocked in the middle of a sprawling state, Austin has an easy breezy, coastal sensibility. You’ll find locals hanging out in the sunshine enjoying micheladas (a beer cocktail) or taking a dip in a swimming hole. When friends visit, they always one question, with a hint of jealousy: “Does anyone here work?” Good times are what Austin does well.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
WHERE TO EAT
Austin is the land of the breakfast taco. There are tons of delicious options, but Taco Deli in Rosedale is a personal favorite. (They even catered my wedding reception.) Grab a “Jess Special” — with migas (scrambled eggs with tortillas), jack cheese and avocado — and a coffee from Houndstooth next door.
For lunch or dinner, stop by the Vietnamese cafe and French bakery Elizabeth Street Cafe in Bouldin. The interior is cheerful and pretty, and there’s a great patio. Order the delicious pho and a housemade punch, like the “Shady Blonde” with sparkling wine, Lillet Blanc, grapefruit and thyme. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, stop by during breakfast instead and order the chicken and rice soup with jalapeño and a Vietnamese iced coffee (made with sweetened condensed milk).
For a blow-your-mind meal, make a reservation at Uchiko, a Japanese farmhouse in Rosedale. If you feel like splurging, order the chef’s tasting menu and let them impress you with inventive plates with unexpected combinations like raw tuna, goat cheese and apple. Plus, the staff is always uncommonly kind and accommodating to dietary restrictions.
If you skipped dinner to see music and are feeling hungry later in the night, slide into the bar at Justine’s (in Govalle) for a French 75 and a bowl of Bolognese big enough for two. You can also choose a vintage record from their collection to spin into the wee hours.
Laguna Gloria’s “Drift-In” theater
WHERE TO HANG:
Go for a swim at Barton Springs in Zilker Park — a 1,000-feet long spring-fed swimming pool with a year-round of temperature of 68°. It’s a national treasure. If you’re with little ones, try the shallow Deep Eddy in Eilers Park. If you are up for venturing outside Austin, visit the nearby Krause Springs in Spicewood, which has a manmade pool and natural pool fed by springs; and the stunning Hamilton Pool (with a waterfall!) in Travis County.
Two-step around the dance floor at the Broken Spoke in South Lamar (frequented by Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton) or Donn’s Depot downtown, which is made up of an old train depot and rail cars. These honky-tonks are the real deal — they haven’t changed in decades. For other musical adventures, check out who’s playing at The Sahara Lounge, The Mohawk, The White Horse or The Continental Club.
Stop for a drink in Hotel San José’s courtyard garden in South Congress. Hotelier Liz Lambert has managed to capture that distinct Austin energy in her lushly landscaped property. Try a “Champassion” (Champagne and passionfruit) along with their delicious olive and cheese plate.
Attend the new “Drift-In” theater, where you can anchor your canoe (!) at sunset to watch an outdoor movie in the secluded lagoon of Laguna Gloria. The screening takes place on the lakeside grounds of a 1913 Mediterranean-style villa downtown, as part of The Contemporary Austin. The screenings have ended for this year, but stay tuned for next summer.
WHERE TO SHOP
Since we opened our doors at Spartan Shop in Zilker, we’ve worked with independent designers to curate our selection of home goods, jewelry, accessories and apothecary. We love to welcome friends into our bright space for art openings, trunk shows or a simply a glass of wine and a chat at the end of a long day.
Visit our neighbors, JM Dry Goods, in our combined space. They are old friends of mine, who regularly travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, returning with gorgeous handmade clothing, textiles and baskets.
One of the few walkable stretches in town is South Congress, and it has a solid lineup of shops including Stag (for men), Sunroom (for women), Feathers & Prototype (vintage clothing) and South Congress Books, where you can find an unusual collection of vintage books focusing on art, photography and music.
In Clarksville, Kick Pleat carries a beautiful collection of women’s designers in an airy space. Afterward, shop for cool workout attire at Outdoor Voices’ first retail store, tucked away on a nearby side street.
Hotel San José
WHERE TO STAY
Three of my favorite boutique hotels in the entire United States happen to be in South Congress — Hotel San José, Hotel Saint Cecilia and the South Congress Hotel. They’re all carefully designed, without being overly flashy or trendy. Hotel San José is a revamped 1930s’ motor lodge, Saint Cecilia is a southern oasis (the suites have wraparound porches) and South Congress Hotel has a fun, modern vibe with a rooftop pool.
If you’d prefer to rent a house, I recommend staying in Travis Heights. You can walk or bike to the all great spots in South Congress. It’s also close to Lady Bird Lake, which has a jogging trail and water sports (kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, etc.).
June through September can be scorchingly hot, so plan activities and attire accordingly. The compensatory AC in Texas can be a bit intense, too, so bring a light layer for indoors. As for driving, unless you plan to stay super central and not venture too far, a rental car is pretty necessary, especially now that Uber and Lyft have pulled out of town.
Thank you so much for the tour, Currie! Have you been to Austin (or do you live there)? What else would you add?
(Graphic Design by Miss Moss. Top Austin photo by Daniel Seung. Photo of Currie by Chantal Anderson. Elizabeth Street Cafe photo by Molly Winters, styled by Mary Kathryn Paynter. Photos of the outdoor theater by Brian Fitzsimmons. Spartan Shop photo courtesy of Currie. Photo of the Hotel San José pool by Julia Amodt. Hotel San José cocktail via their Instagram. Austin wall photo by Mary Summers-Hafner.)