New Yorkers suffer exorbitant rents and ridiculous commutes, but we get amazing pizza and Central Park in return. We are masters of the trade off. So when you propose an escape from the city, a skeptical New Yorker might ask, “What exactly am I giving up my breakfast bagels for?” Well, if you’re headed to Austin, the answer is: A LOT.
For the Coffee Lover
The coffee scene in New York City hasn’t always been one to celebrate, but thankfully in the past few years we’ve made some great strides (and imports). So one might be apprehensive about going back to the lost years. Fear not, Austin has a robust coffee scene. Here are some of our favorites:
If we were in Austin right now, there’s a very good chance you would find us at this coffee shop. Lynn would be sipping an iced coffee while she checked her email and Justin would be sitting at the bar, jawing with the barista (something he rarely does). But Houndstooth Coffee is not your average coffee shop; it’s a coffee nerd’s paradise. This locally owned and operated business has a solid reputation for curating an eclectic selection of coffees from local and national sources. When we rolled up to the bar and ordered a drink with espresso, they asked, “Which espresso would you like?” Cue the angels, Justin was immediately in love. Turns out they always have at least two options on hand. If you’re overly serious about coffee, find your fellow obsessives here.
What’s similar in NYC: Culture Espresso or Toby’s Estate Coffee
With its humble roots as a popular trailer on West 4th in downtown Austin, Patika expanded to a brick and mortar location on South Lamar back in 2014. This shop is passionate about consistently producing great, locally-sourced coffees and delicious, house-made, seasonal menus for breakfast, brunch (weekends), and lunch.
2159 South Lamar Blvd
Daily 7:00am – 6:00pm
What’s similar in NYC: Two Hands or Bluestone Lane
Vintage Heart Coffee
When you are looking for a quiet, comfortable, open space to get some work done while drinking some good coffee, Vintage Heart Coffee is where you need to go. Partnering with local businesses is part of their philosophy. Their coffee comes from Austin’s Third Coast Roasting Company, pastries from Russel’s Bakery, and vegan offerings from Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery. They also make their beverage syrups in-house.
1405 East 7th St
Daily 7:00am – 8:00pm
What’s similar in NYC: Gregory’s Coffee (for the space, ubiquitous plugs for phones/laptops, and fast WiFi) and Café Grumpy (for the solid, no-fuss, tasty coffee)
For the Art Lover
There are over one hundred museums and cultural institutions in New York City, from the gargantuan Met to the cozy Frick to the hyper-specialized Ukrainian Museum. There’s no shortage of spaces to explore. But Austin has its own store of impressive art finds, as we discovered. Be sure to check these out on your visit:
Betty & Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria
This art and nature destination affiliated with The Contemporary Austin is located on the gorgeous grounds of Laguna Gloria, adjacent to Lake Austin. Its incredibly diverse ecology serves as a dramatic backdrop for the fantastic array of modern sculptures from such renowned artists as Ai Weiwei, Tom Friedman, Superflex, Tom Sachs and many more.
3809 W 35th St
Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am – 4:00pm
Monday–Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday 10:00am – 4:00 pm
What’s similar in NYC: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at MoMa or Storm King (okay, this one’s outside of NYC)
Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art is part of the University of Texas at Austin, so education is at its core. The faculty, staff and students are active participants. The calendar is chock-full of events and temporary exhibitions, but the permanent collection is enough to capture (and hold) your attention. There’s an extremely well-curated collection of European, American and Contemporary Art. We were particularly impressed by the robust Latin American Art collection.
200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
What’s similar in NYC: Brooklyn Museum (for its eclectic offerings), with art you might just as easily find in MoMa or the Whitney Museum
Ai WeiWei’s Forever Bicycles
The Contemporary Austin collaborated with Waller Creek Conservancy for its Museum Without Walls Program to bring two large-scale installations by Ai Weiwei to Austin’s public. One piece resides at Laguna Gloria, while the other has been installed at the Waller Creek Delta. Forever Bicycles (2014) consists of 1200 bicycles and is displayed where locals can enjoy it as they run and play on a daily basis.
74 Trinity Street
What’s similar in NYC: The public art installations in Madison Square Park curated through the Madison Square Arts program, like Big Bling
For the Food Lover
Okay, it’s not an exaggeration when we say our trip planning often starts with food research. In fact, it’s likely we’ve traveled entirely FOR food. (Japan comes to mind.) So if you’re concerned about not having access to your local pizza place or not being able to get your favorite Peruvian food delivered, relax. Austin has GREAT food. And we’re not just meaning tacos. They have plenty of those, and they are awesome. We’re talking about award-winning restaurants serving top-notch food. These are the ones you shouldn’t miss:
There’s an understanding that Texas makes everything its own. So it should come as no surprise that the team behind Austin’s uber-popular Ramen Tatsu-Ya would conjure up a marriage between a Japanese izakaya and a Texas smokehouse. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya merges the two cuisines with a healthy dose of zeal and ingenuity. This was, far and away, our favorite meal during our stay in Austin. And that says a lot, since we had many incredible meals. The play on flavors, the complex textures, and the unusual presentations left us speechless, only our eyes betraying the delight we experienced during the many courses of that meal. And when we said award-winning, we didn’t mean from a dubious Austin periodical. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya made Bon Appetit’s list of Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America for 2017.
2713 E 2nd St
Tuesday – Thursday: 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 5:30pm – Midnight
What’s similar in NYC: Estela, for its creativity
Épicerie Cafe & Grocery
We’d show up at Épicerie early in the morning just for the excellent coffee and an order of their hot, fresh, enormous beignets. We salivate even thinking about them. And yet, that would gravely undersell the breakfast, which is quite respectable as well. It helps, of course, that the quaint exterior is covered in ivy and the interior space is bright and open, with an integrated gourmet market offering wines, cheeses, meats and other various kitchen staples.
2307 Hancock Dr
Sunday: 10:30am – 3:00pm
Monday & Tuesday: 10:30am – 9:30pm
Wednesday & Thursday: 8:00am – 9:30pm
Friday & Saturday 8:00am – 10:30pm
What’s similar in NYC: Jane or Court Street Grocers
Tucked into an otherwise quiet residential area, this former laundromat is now a hip, elegantly-designed neighborhood cafe with a cozy patio. And it serves up some of the best food on the East Side of Austin. Chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki whip up contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, with myriad regional influences, and incredible desserts. (Sawicki is a three time James Beard Award semifinalist for her pastries). From everything we tried–and we tried nearly everything–there wasn’t a loser among them. There were the fried oysters with jalapeno, lemon and coriander dressing. And the Piri Piri Prawns with crsipy rice salad, tamarind and mint chutney. Launderette was an experience, and one we’ll very happily repeat.
2115 Holly St
Monday – Friday 11:00am – 2:30pm
Sunday – Thursday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday & Sunday 11:00am – 2:30pm
What’s similar in NYC: Spotted Pig, The Smile, or Bar Sardine
If you need ideas for where to stay, we covered some Downtown Austin lodging options in this post. If you know someone who might be considering a trip to Austin, we hope you’ll pass this along!