The Best of AustinNovember 2, 2011

This morning I had a craving for a chai tea latte. A pretty intense craving. And I had some free time and some errands to run, so I thought – why not? and hopped in the car. But did I go to the closest coffee place in order to fulfill this craving, as most sensible people would? No. I bypassed the Starbucks just around the corner, and the local Cafe Java, which is good for food but not spectacular on lattes. Because this wasn’t just any old craving. This was a craving for THE BEST chai tea latte available, and that meant driving a tad (ok, more like 2 miles) out of my way to Genuine Joe Coffeehouse, where there was luckily no line at the moment and I promptly ordered a mondo chai tea latte to go. Was it worth the extra time and drive? Absolutely. It’s liquid candy.

This got me thinking about other Best in Austin places that I would go out of my way to obtain whatever it is they are best at. And I thought I’d share that list here. Bear in mind, these are all based solely off of my personal opinion and obviously limited to places I’ve been. But if you live in or are visiting the great Austin, TX, give these a try:

Best Chai Tea Latte
Genuine Joe Coffeehouse – if the above didn’t clue you in. This is where my writers group meets sometimes, and it’s generally a good venue for hanging out, aside from the awesome lattes. Very comfy couches. I’m sure their coffee is good, too, if the chai latte is any indication, but I don’t drink coffee, so can’t say for sure. Also good smoothies.

Best Tacos
Torchy’s Tacos – multiple locations, tons of quirk-ily named and nom-worthy options. I’m partial to their breakfast tacos.

Best Place for Steak
Austin Land & Cattle – Not to be confused with Texas Land & Cattle, which is a separate entity. While unassuming-looking from the outside, the inside is quite nice (i.e. wouldn’t hurt to dress up just a tad) and the food is awesome.

Best Romantic Dinner
The Emerald Restaurant – While far too pricey to visit frequently, this is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion with a special someone. A multi-course (and extremely delicious) dinner in a quaint Irish cottage setting, served by an actual Irish family – think candlelight, fine china, and a waitstaff who don’t rush you or intrude, but are genuinely friendly.

Best Mexican Food
Casa Garcias – As you might guess, there are a TON of Mexican food places in Austin. And since my boyfriend loves Mexican food in an almost unhealthy way, we have become quite the connoisseurs and tried out many, many places. Casa Garcias wins, hands-down, for breadth of menu, quality of food, and general tastiness. Multiple locations, though we frequent the Round Rock one.

Best Place for Local Handmade Goods
A-Town – clothing, jewelry, decor, paper goods, etc. Fairly new, but also fairly awesome. I’m hoping to eventually sell DA stuff from there.

Best Place for Global Handmade Goods
Ten Thousand Villages – home decor, jewelry, bath stuff/soaps, etc. from all around the world. I get a lot of picture frames and figurines here.

Best Movie Theater
Flix Brewhouse – movie, dinner & microbrews ,what could be better? Their only location right now is up in Round Rock (where I live) so if you’re farther south in Austin proper, try out Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin staple – not quite as nice, and they don’t brew their own beers, but still quite good.

Best Bookstore
BookPeople – The inventory selection and size of a big chain retailer, with the charm and friendliness of a local business. They also host lots of author/book events. For used/library books, check out Recycled Reads – I scored a whole big tote bag of books for only about $20 last time I went, and it supports the local library. Speaking of libraries, if you’re a resident and don’t want to spend big bucks on books, both the Austin Public Library and the Round Rock Public Library are stellar.

Best Art Supply Store
Jerry’s Artarama – Seriously, they have everything. This is where I get all of my inks, brushes, jars, etc. for screenprinting.

Best Hiking
The Barton Creek Greenbelt – I love that there’s a place like this in the city, but it doesn’t feel like it’s in a city. A couple miles long, hike & bike trails. You can hike on the creek bed itself in drought seasons, but when water’s up (rare, unfortunately) it’s a fun place to swim as well.

Best Swimming
Krause Springs – Ok, a bit outside of Austin, but still my favorite place for swimming. Reliable water levels, very pretty and relaxing. They’ve got a great garden with all sorts of plants, sculptures, and butterflies, as well.

Best Day Trip
Enchanted Rock / Fredericksburg – Go hike and enjoy the great views from atop Enchanted Rock, and then stop in Fredericksburg on the way back to Austin for some German food and local shopping.

Me with Austin skyline

Me, almost a year ago, with Austin skyline in back.


8 Comments

  1. Nancy

    Like your picks although if you feel like slumming abit and still feel like a locavore try the Hoffbrau on 6th St for steaks. Very old time Austin since the 70′s or earlier. Last time I was there the waitress ran through through the steak list, – big pause – then said – chicken like it was a sin for them to be serving chicken. I think it’s still there and hopefully hasn’t changed.

    Thanks for the Casa Garcia. We will have to try it. The others we;ve tried ^^

    Reply
    1. Amanda

      I will keep that in mind! Yeah, there’s definitely lots of steak places I haven’t been to in Austin; AL&C is just the best of the ones I have been to so far. :-D

      Reply
  2. Galia

    I live in austin, and I love all the places you mentioned (that I’ve tried, at least). I especially like BookPeople and Jerry’s Artarama. Nice list!

    Reply
  3. Tim

    I need to find a good magic shop in the area. Wish that was on your list…

    Reply
    1. Amanda

      If I come across a good one, I’ll let you know.

      Reply
  4. Ketrin

    I live in Austin!! Thanks for the great tips! I am about to do a post over my favorite cheese/wine dives!
    Always nice to find local bloggers! Have a great rest of the week.

    ketrin

    Reply
    1. Amanda

      Well hello fellow Austinite! :-D I’ve put your blog on my reading list – I love reading other local bloggers.

      Reply

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