Culture / Travel

The Austin Only True Insiders Know — an Unconventional Guide to Texas’ Hottest City

BY Brooke Hortenstine // 06.21.17

Today’s Austin is one hotbed of change. Forward-thinkers flock to our state’s capital for culinary innovation, design opportunities, the save-music scene, outdoor pursuits, and a tech circle so accelerated it’s known as Silicon Hills. Such growth — both welcome and unwelcome by locals — is a new cultural landscape springing with high-design hotels, thoughtful restaurants, and well-edited shops.

It also means I need a new hit list to carry with me each time I visit. While some find allure in the newest places to attain their certificates of occupancy, I favor the very best, both new and classic, recommended by natives highly invested in shaping their city’s style.

In my preferred 2C seat on Vonlane’s Dallas-to-Austin luxury-bus route, with a reservation secured at Hotel Saint Cecilia, the 1880s house turned chic hotel, I ring up my cabinet of cultural ambassadors — Courtney Trucksess, sponsorship director of C3 Presents, which produces the famed Austin City Limits Music Festival; James Moody, owner of music venue and bar The Mohawk, and founder of design-and-creative agency Guerilla Suit; Lisa Reile, a hospitality consultant; and Kevin Stewart, founder of Design Hound. All contribute to the uniqueness of the city, not only through creativity, but by propping up the best of new Austin while devoutly defending the old.

In my quest to edit my Austin black book, I meet each for dinner or drinks, as well as one Vietnamese sticky-rice breakfast at Elizabeth St. Café, and we waltz through the best places to dine, shop, drink, see, and stay. For shopping, By George is still the gold standard for Dries van Noten, Lanvin, and the like, but Kick Pleat and Garment Modern + Vintage are also must-stops.

By George

Highly recommended:  a custom jacket from Kathie Sever of Fort Lonesome. The chain-stitchery company has collaborated with labels Madewell and Cobra Rock and is now on my shopping short list. End of an Ear was touted for new and vintage vinyl, and for home decoratives, Spartan stocks a carefully edited collection of beautiful, practical objects.

As for my most favorite subject — dining — we dive deep. Your de facto morning spot, Mr. Stewart? “Paperboy, for their savory toast of the day,” he says. Where to lunch, Ms. Reile? “Try the shrimp Louie from the cold bar at Clark’s Oyster Bar,” she says. Any food truck options, Mrs. Trucksess? “Veracruz All Natural for delicious tacos.” Where am I dining tonight, Mr. Moody? “Justine’s Brasserie, for hours,” he says. “You show up with two people and sometimes end up eating with eight.”

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I heed Moody’s recommendation and order steak frites at Justine’s while watching locals drift in and out. Declining dessert, I opt for a portrait of me as a present for my two boys, from the Lumiere Tintype mobile studio parked in the courtyard. British-American owner Adrian Whipp serves up haunting 1860s-style images on metal sheets; loyal Austinites find his locale only via his Instagram account, @lumiere_tintype.

Liz Lambert, founder of Bunkhouse Group, is one name repeated by all my Austin authorities, as she’s changed the hospitality industry, both in Austin and afar, with her clever take on hotel design and dining. The Standard International Hotels, owned by André Balazs, purchased a 51 percent stake in Bunkhouse Group in 2015. And the news that Lambert will breathe new life into the iconic 1930s Austin Motel on South Congress Avenue was a relief to architectural preservationists.

Alas, all trips must come to an end. While checking out at Hotel Saint Cecilia, Lambert herself was sitting on one of the leather Chesterfield sofas in the patio lounge, deep in thought, watching an unexpected rainstorm roll through.

I wanted to tell her how much I admire her work… but I didn’t. Why interrupt a pensive moment that will surely turn into a new next sublime place to add to our Austin list.

Austin from the Inside
The short list from those who know — and love — Austin.

Courtney Trucksess, sponsorship director, C3 Presents
Patio at Clark’s, best patio spot for oysters and wine. Ladybird Lake Hike-and-Bike-Trail is a must. Pack a lunch for the Waller Creek Pop-Up Picnic. Austin Nature and Science Center at Zilker Park is a hidden gem. A dip in the Deep Eddy pool, the oldest in Texas. The absolute best pancakes are at Josephine House. Guero’s for silver train margaritas and queso. Don’t miss Camp Contemporary at Laguna Gloria, an elevated camp experience of food, wine, live music, outdoor activities, and artist-led workshops for grown-ups benefitting The Contemporary Austin.

James Moody, owner, The Mohawk; founder, Guerilla Suit
See the Cathedral of Junk. Visit the Cloak Room or Don’s Depot. Take in jazz at the Elephant Room. Monday disco sushi at DK Sushi is a must. Rent a karaoke room at the High Ball.

Lisa Reile, hospitality consultant
Call Ceremony for a facial and to pick up handmade face oils by the brilliant Evette Richards. Stop by Canopy and visit Keith Kreeger, throwing a pot, plate, or vase. Go on the East Austin art tour in mid-November. Catch a “show” at Museum of Human Achievement. Jazz Brunch at Hotel San Jose. A show at C-Boys. Happy hour at Jeffery’s for the most amazing $14 bar steak ever. Brunch at Launderette; don’t miss the best zucchini bread of your life — or anything Laura Sawicki makes.

Kevin Stewartfounder, Design Hound
Paddleboarding on Town Lake. An align class with Rey at Practice Yoga. Sundays at Stay Gold for drinks while DJ After School Special spins yacht rock. Hamilton Pool — they take reservations now. Gemelli for Valrhona chocolate gelato.

Café No Se, 1603 South Congress Ave., 512.942.2061,
Elizabeth St. Café, 1501 S. 1st St., 512.291.2881,
Joe’s Bakery, 2305 E. 7th St., 512.472.0017,
Paperboy, 1203 E. 11th St.,
Polvos, 2004 S. 1st St., 512.441.5446,
Veracruz All Natural, 1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., 512.981.1760,

Clark’s Oyster Bar, 1200 W. 6th St., 512.297.2525,
Franklin Barbeque, 900 E. 11th St., 512.653.1187,
Guero’s, 1412 South Congress Ave., 512.477.7688,
Josephine House, 1601 Waterston Ave., 512.477.5584,
June’s All Day, 1722 South Congress Ave., 512.416.1722;
Perla’s, 1400 South Congress Ave., 512.291.7300,


Chicon, 1914 E. 6th St., 512.354.1480,
Contigo, 2027 Anchor Ln., 512.614.2260,
Dai Due, 2406 Manor Rd., 512.524.0688,
Emmer & Rye, 51 Rainey St., Suite 110, 512.366.5530, (brunch on Sundays, too)
Jeffrey’s, 1204 W. Lynn St., 512.477.5584,
Justine’s Brasserie, 4710 E. 5th St., 512.385.2900,
Launderette, 2115 Holly St., 512.382.1599,
Sway, 1417 S. 1st St., 512.326.1999,
Red Ash, 303 Colorado St., 512.379.2906;
Uchi, 801 S. Lamar Blvd., 512.916.4808,
Uchiko, 4200 N. Lamar Blvd., 512.916.4808,

Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors, 1111 Chicon St., 512.953.1061,
Flat Track Coffee, 1619 E. Cesar Chavez St., 512.540.6040,
Jo’s Coffee, 1300 South Congress Ave., 512.444.3800,
Once Over Coffee Bar, 2009 S. 1st St., 512.326.9575,
Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, 500 San Marcos St., 512.493.0963,

Watering Holes
Mohawk, 912 Red River St., 512.666.0877,
King Bee Lounge, 1906 E. 12th St., 512.600.6956,
Small Victory, 108 E. 7th St., 737.701.0500,
Stay Gold Austin, 1910 E. Cesar Chavez St.,
Weather Up, 1808 E. Cesar Chavez St., 512.524.0464,
The White Horse, 500 Comal St., 512.553.6756,

By George, 524 North Lamar, 512.472.5951, Big name designers for women and men.
East Austin Succulents, 801 Tillery St., 512.947.6531,
End of an Ear, 2209 S. 1st St., 512.462.6008, New and vintage vinyl.
Fort Lonesome, Modern Westernwear and custom embroidery.
JM Drygoods, 215 S. Lamar Blvd., 512.579.0303, Homewares, textiles, apothecary, and gifts.
Garment Modern + Vintage, 701 S. Lamar Blvd., 512.462.4667, Fine vintage apparel and emerging designer pieces.
Kettle & Brine, 908 W. 12th St., 512.375.4239, Culinary supplies and home goods.
Kick Pleat, 624 N. Lamar Blvd., 512.445.4500, Luxury women’s fashion boutique.
Room Service, 117 E. North Loop Blvd., 512.451.1057, Vintage lover’s paradise offering furniture, art, records, lighting, kitchenware, and more.
Spartan, 215 S. Lamar, 512.579.0303, Home design objects.

Stag Provisions for Men, 1423 South Congress Ave., 512.373.7824,
Sunroom, 1603 South Congress Ave., 512.524.2197,

Prohibition Creamery

Lumiere Tintype, Justine’s Brasserie parking lot (fall and winter), Tintype portraits.
Prohibition Creamery, 1407 E. Seventh St., 512.992.1449, Adult ice cream.
Ten Over Ten, 1603 South Congress Ave., 469.660.1010, Manicures.

Austin Motel, 1220 South Congress Ave., 512.441.1157,
Hotel Saint Cecilia, 112 Academy Dr., 512.852.2400,
Hotel San Jose, 1316 South  Congress Ave., 512.444.7322,
Hotel Van Zandt, 605 Davis St., 512.542.5300,
South Congress Hotel, 1603 South  Congress Ave., 512.920.6405,
Verde Camp, 1505 Drake Ave., 512.850.5150,

Hotels Coming to Austin
416 Congress, James H. Robertson Building, 416 Congress Ave.
Austin Proper Hotel and Residences, 208 Colorado St., 512.384.1387,
Fairmont Hotel, N.E. corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez,
Hotel Magdalena, 1101 Music Lane,
Hotel ZaZa, W. 4th St. between Lavaca and Guadalupe,
Kline Hotel, 1109 E. 6th St.
Waterloo Tower Hotel, 12th and Red River

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