South Austin can refer to any part of Austin, Texas south of Lady Bird Lake and the downtown area, although many people use it to specifically refer to the south-central area directly south of downtown in the 78704 zip code. 78704 is bordered by Lady Bird Lake to the north, I-35 to the east, Ben White Blvd (Hwy 290/71) to the south, and Mopac (Loop 1) to the west. The area is a very popular neighborhood for young people and has historically been the center of Austin's counterculture, although it has been rapidly gentrifying in recent years. The area contains several attractions for visitors.
South Austin is easily accessible. From Downtown, head South either by foot, bike, or car and cross Lady Bird Lake over the Congress, 1st, or Lamar bridges.
You will need motorized transport from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Bus or taxi are available. If traveling by car from the airport, take Ben White Blvd (71) West, then turn right on Riverside Dr. Take Riverside to S. Congress.
- The Continental Club, 1315 South Congress. This legendary South Austin venue was opened in 1957 and for nearly four decades has been serving up the best live music Austin has to offer. The venue is small so get there early if you want to get in.
- Riverside. The first street on the south side, parallel to the Colorado River (not to be mistaken with 1st Avenue that runs north-south on the south side) one block west of Congress. As you travel east past IH 35, you will get into Austin's version of Mexican night life. During the day you can eat in a wide variety of Mexican and Chinese restaurants, some very good and inexpensive, shop in a variety of Latino-oriented stores, visit the Mexican Flea Market one block north of the Riverside and Pleasant Valley intersection (weekends only), or visit the Riverside Austin Community Campus. At night from 11PM to 2AM East Riverside becomes the Latin party alternative to the famous 6th street in downtown.
- The Cathedral of Junk, 4422 Lareina Dr, ☎ +1 512-299-7413. An art installation in Austin resident Vince Hannemann's back yard built over 20 years from scrap metal and other junk, now standing at three stories high. A very interesting sculpture and probably something you probably find in the guidebook. Austin. Free entry but donations are welcomed. Call ahead to check if he's open.
- The Museum of Emphmerata. Is an occasionally opened museum in the front room of someone's house. As above, it's best to call ahead.
- First Thursday, South Congress Ave.. Every first Thursday of any month, lots of shops have deals and there is a festival atmosphere around South Congress.
- Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd (1/2 mi W of South Lamar), ☎ +1 512 974-6700. Austin's city park, near downtown, it is the home of Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Garden, Zilker Hillside Theatre, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, and soccer fields which, in October, host the annual Austin City Limits (ACL) festival. The park is free, but parking is $3 during peak usage.
- Barton Springs Pool, 2101 Barton Springs Rd (Enter through the main area of Zilker Park, NW of Barton Creek), ☎ +1 512 476-9044. 5AM-10PM; Closed Th 9AM-7PM. Nothing beats the heat on a hot afternoon like a dip in Barton Springs Pool. This natural spring pool is fed from an underground aquifer, keeping the water between 68°F and 72°F (20°C-22°C) year-round. Entrance fee varies from free to $3.
- Kayak on Lady Bird Lake, 2201 Barton Springs Rd. (In Zilker Park). Rent a kayak. Zilker Park Boat Rentals is along the Barton Springs Creek. Just paddle down to Lady Bird Lake and see great views of Downtown Austin. Turtles are common in the lake and creek. Paddle over to the southern part of the Congress Ave. Bridge and hear the squeaking noises of the bridges 1.5 million resident bats (don't hang out under the bridge-- bat guano is a problem).
- South Congress Avenue (SoCo). Main drag in South Austin that features upscale boutiques and condos alongside more traditionally "hippie" places.
- Studio2Gallery, 1617 South Lamar. This gallery features original work by contemporary regional, and national artists.
- 1301 S Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 440-7488. Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM-11PM, Friday-Saturday 11:30AM-12AM.
- 3100 S Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 851-2697. Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM-10PM, Friday-Saturday 11:30AM-11PM.
- 9600 S I-35, ☎ +1 512 282-2697. Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM-10PM, Friday-Saturday 11AM-11PM.
- 2901 S Lamar Blvd, ☎ +1 512 447-2697. Sunday-Thursday 11AM-11PM, Friday-Saturday 11AM-12AM.
- 4477 S Lamar Blvd, ☎ +1 512 891-0573. Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM-11PM, Friday-Saturday 11:30AM-12AM.
- Artz Rib House, 2330 S Lamar Blvd, ☎ +1 512 442-8283, e-mail: email@example.com. Monday-Saturday 11AM-10PM, Sunday 12PM-9PM. Excellent ribs, as the name implies. Often has live bluegrass music. Dinners $7-17.
- Bakehouse Restaurant & Bar, 5404 Manchaca Rd, ☎ +1 512 443-5167. A South Austin tradition. They have one of the most inexpensive and hearty breakfasts around. Their fresh fruit and texas toast sitting next to your eggs make it worth waking up in the morning.
- Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, 1501 S 1st St. Great Coffeehouse with an all vegetarian menu.
- Casa de Luz, 1701 Toomey Rd. Austin's only completely vegan restaurant. A meal includes a drink and it's all you can eat. They have several different types of specialty meals each week such as Guatemalan or Caribbean night. The atmosphere is fantastic as it's located right by Barton Creek surrounded by lush vegetation.
- Casa Garcia's. Sunday-Thursday 7:30AM-9PM, Friday-Saturday 7:30AM-10PM. Tasty Mexican fare with friendly staff. $8-16.
- Catfish Parlour, 4705 E Ben White Blvd, ☎ +1 512 443-1698. Daily 11AM-10PM. All-you-can-eat catfish with hushpuppies on the side is a true Southern experience. $15-20.
- Curra's Grill, 614 E Oltorf St, ☎ +1 512 444-0012. Sunday-Thursday 7AM-10PM, Friday-Saturday 7AM-11PM. An Austin original, this restaurant brings outstanding traditional interior Mexican food. Some of the best pork recipes around and you will not find better Mexican style seafood dishes anywhere in the city.
- El Gallo, 2910 S Congress Ave (across the street from St. Edwards University). Tuesday-Thursday 11AM-10PM, Friday 11AM-11PM, Saturday 8AM-11PM, Sunday 8AM-9PM, closed Monday. Norteño-influenced Tex-Mex. They still have cabrito as well as all the normal fare. Yummy and relatively inexpensive. Dinners $11-15.
- El Rey, 4109 S Capital of Texas Hwy, ☎ +1 512 443-1911. If you don't think Tex-Mex should resemble the Taco Bell menu, check out El Rey. Sonoran specialities. Good Mexican food right next to Texican Cafe (formerly the Trudy's South Star location) and they hardly ever have a wait.
- Green Mesquite BBQ & More. The original location on Barton Springs is in a funky building with a good biergarten in back with entertainment. BBQ is decent and the sides are good. All-you-can-eat BBQ $14.
- Guero's Taco Bar, 1412 S Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 447-7688. Monday-Friday 11AM-11PM, Saturday Sunday 8AM-11PM. High-class, sit-down Tex-Mex in the middle of the South Congress maelstrom. Always busy, always Austin. Lots of musicians frequent the place when they're in town. Many famous Austinites, and wanna-be Austinites have visited, including President Clinton, (then-)Governor Bush, and the rest of the Bush clan. Live music. Great atmosphere (You saw it in Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse flick "Deathproof")! And some pretty tasty tacos too! Dinners $9-14.
- Hai Ky. Consistent fresh, high quality Vietnamese food with great bowls of pho, delicious stir fries and noodle dishes, bubble tea and friendly service. At 1931 E. Oltorf about 3/4 mile east of I-35 in a strip shopping center on your right just past the Whataburger. Locals in the know and Asian students yearning for a genuine taste of home frequent this small restaurant. Great electronic music adds to the casual ambience. Best Vietnamese food in Austin. Very affordable and now serves imported beers. Great staff w/ mellow ambiance. Two thumbs up.
- Kerbey Lane Cafe. 24 hours.
- Little Mexico Restaurant, 2304 S 1st St, ☎ +1 512 462-2188. This restaurant has some of the finest enchiladas of a Tex-Mex style. Nothing at all bad on the menu either. It's one of those places mostly only the locals go to so keep it quiet. Also a good place to spot hungover Austin luminary musicians easing that Sunday morning pain. Little green and red building on the West side of S 1st, just a bit north of Oltorf. Good margaritas, Negro Modelo and XX are available. Good homestyle interior Mexican dishes as well as Tex-Mex. If you want to be trendy go to Guero's, if you want to eat, check it out and you won't be disappointed. Live music on Thursday nights.
- Magnolia Cafe, Two locations: 1920 South Congress and 2304 Lake Austin Blvd. Always open. Great place to get a short stack for breakfast. The dinner specials are pretty tasty and fairly inexpensive.
- Marco Polo, 2200 S I-35 (at Oltorf), ☎ +1 512 445-5563. Mediocre buffet during the week, but excellent dim sum on weekends.
- Maria's Taco Xpress, 2529 S Lamar Blvd, ☎ +1 512 444-0261. Monday 7AM-3PM, Tuesday-Friday 7AM-9PM, Saturday 8AM-9PM, Sunday 9AM-2PM. Maria's features some of the best breakfast tacos in town. On weekend mornings there is usually a line from the counter out the door, so if you don't want to wait call in your order. They only take cash, so be prepared. Live musicians featured on Sunday mornings and weekday evenings out on the patio.
- Matt's El Rancho, 2613 S Lamar Blvd (1/2 blk N of Manchaca), ☎ +1 512 462-9333, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM-10PM, Friday-Saturday 11AM-11PM; Closed Tuesdays. The quintessential Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, you won't find anything non-traditional or creative here. It has been around for over 50 years and for good reason. The first thing to order is the first thing on the menu: the "Bob Armstrong Dip." Watch out for the strong margaritas! Complete dinners $12-18.
- Romeo's. Italian food. One of the few restaurants that is casual and romantic. Has a great outdoor patio.
- Sandy's Hamburgers, 603 Barton Springs Rd, at First and Barton Springs. Great burgers, milkshakes. Better than the Whataburger next door. Great people watching. Their soft-serve ice cream is worth the lines.
- Shady Grove, 1624 Barton Springs Rd. Indoor & outdoor dining with a fun and eclectic atmosphere. Home-style foods such as frito pie & chili can be made vegan (even the Worcestershire is vegan).
- South Congress Cafe, 1600 South Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 447-3905. Monday-Friday 10AM-4PM and 5-10PM, Saturday-Sunday 9AM-4PM & 5-10PM. In the heart of South Congress Avenue, this cafe serves up spectacular and inventive fare. The tomato soup with stilton cheese is tasty to start, and the blackened tuna tacos are downright phenomenal. Mains $10-25.
- T&N Cafe, 6705 Hwy. 290 W.. Located in the same plaza as the Oak Hill Burger Tex near the Y. Excellent Vietnamese pho and bun dishes and few unusual items like curry. Popular for lunch with the nearby Freescale folks. Friendly family service. You can bring in your own beer. Highly recommended.
- Torchy's Tacos. Monday-Thursday 7AM-10PM, Friday 7AM-11PM, Saturday 8AM-11PM, Sunday 8AM-10PM.
- Trudy's, 901 Little Texas Ln, ☎ +1 512 326-9899. Monday-Thursday 4PM-2AM (Bar: 2PM-2AM), Friday 11AM-2AM, Saturday 9AM-2AM, Sunday 9AM-2AM (Bar: 10AM-2AM). Happy Hour Monday-Friday until 7PM.
- Uchi, 801 S Lamar Blvd (0.2 mi N of Barton Springs Blvd), ☎ +1 512 916-4808. 5PM-10PM, Friday-Saturday 5PM-11PM. Creative seafood and Japanese cuisine, including sushi/sashimi. A good place to see and to be seen, dress is nighttime-casual to formal but, like almost anyplace in Austin, jeans are acceptable. Reservations are strongly recommended. Entrees $10-$30.
- Vespiao. For a taste of Italy nowhere in Austin is better. Extensive wine list and beyond excellent food.
- Jo's Coffee, 1300 S. Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 444-3800. Hip coffee spot right on South Congress, all outdoors. You can often find bands playing on the patio right off the street.
Almost all of the restaurants listed above have a full bar available and are suitable for grabbing a few drinks without having to order food. If you're looking to hop from bar to bar, listen to loud recorded music, and don't care about food, heading into Downtown Austin might be a better option.
- Doc's Motorworks, 1123 S. Congress, ☎ +1 512 448-9181. Full bar, and over 30 beers on tap in a laid-back atmosphere. Has a great patio to enjoy the warm weather. Food also served. Tuesdays is a great night at Doc's where all Texas beers are $2.50/pint or $9/pitcher. Tuesdays is also "gringo bingo" night - traditional bingo but with a Tex-Mex twist.
- Snack Bar, 1224 S Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 445-2626. 9AM-10:30PM Sun-Wed, 9AM-12AM Thu-Sat. Next to the iconic Austin Motel in SoCo. Organic & local as possible, yet affordable, global cuisine for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Tight wine list & local brews on tap, plus kick ass coffee & tea, with a fabulous patio for people watching. Dogs always welcome!
Austin is The Live Music Capital of the World, and South Austin has its fair share of live music venues. Many of the restaurants and coffee shops in South Austin have live music. Some venues of note include The Continental Club, Threadgills, and Gueros Taco Bar.
- Austin Motel. The one, the only, located in colorful, wonderful South Austin.
- Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs, ☎ +1 512 477-1234. A beautiful hotel on the south shore of Austin's Town Lake close to downtown.
- Hilton Austin Airport, 9515 New Airport Dr, ☎ +1 512 385-6767. The Airport hotel. This cylinder-shaped hotel is on the grounds of Austin-Bergstrom International airport.
- Hotel San Jose, 1316 S. Congress Ave., ☎ +1 512 852-2350. Boutique Hotel right in the heart of SoCo. A very trendy place, but more expensive than many other options in the area. It's also a popular spot to hang out for locals to have a drink or two in the evening around the beautifully landscaped pool.
Free Wi-Fi is available at many of the local restaurants and coffee shops.