The skyline is rapidly changing in Austin, Texas with new buildings such as the upcoming Google offices. (Rendering courtesy of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects)
The guest suites at Colton House Hotel feature large living spaces and full kitchens. (Courtesy)
The upstairs seating area of Simona's at Colton House Hotel. (Courtesy)
In Austin, Colton House Hotel's Simona's Coffee Bar has a large, outdoor patio. (Courtesy of Colton House)
The Commodore Perry Estate in Austin is a reimagined historic estate. (Courtesy of Commodore Perry Estate)
Hotel Magdalena recently opened at Music Lane in Austin. (Photo by Nick Simonite)
Aba has a huge outdoor patio for al fresco dining. (Photo by Chase Daniel)
Aloe Its Me (Courtesy of Aba)
Hummus with Lamb Ragu (Courtesy of Aba)
I know this isn’t exactly a new sentiment, but whenever I visit Austin, I’m struck by how much the city is changing — and how fast. Since I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2016, I’ve managed to go back at least once a year. Each time, it seems like hundreds of new hotspots arrive, from boutique hotels and buzzy shops to bars people clamor for a seat at.
On my last visit in February 2019 (right before the pandemic shut everything down), I checked out the brand new Austin Proper Hotel, along with the neighboring Seaholm District. We saw the beginnings of the new Google building being built across the street, which already looks insane. And now, amid the “Texodus,” we’ve got celebrities (and the companies they’re tied to) like Elon Musk, Joe Rogan and Woody Harrelson establishing a home base in the state’s capital city.
It was time for an Austin check in.
For this trip, I decided to check out the new Colton House Hotel. Located on South Congress Avenue, the three-story, 80-suite boutique hotel comes from Inherit Hotel Group (The Guesthouse Hotel in Chicago). The new spot joins a variety of exciting hospitality additions across the city, including the upscale Commodore Perry Estates (Auberge Resort Collection’s luxury boutique hotel in a restored historic estate) and Bunkhouse Group’s Hotel Magdalena tucked away on Music Lane. Colton House’s suites were designed with longterm stays in mind (you’ll find a full kitchen or kitchenette, along with in-room washer and dryers in each). It’s a laid back, serene spot — perfect if you’re looking for a place that feels more like home than a hotel.
The hotel’s coffee and cocktail house, Simona’s, also just opened its doors. The chic space is perfect for working (the upper floor captures a library feel) or meeting up with friends, and serves luxury coffee, teas, and wine, along with spirits from local distallers. The first floor of Simona’s opens up to a large, outdoor patio with ample seating for al fresco dining. There’s a small pool behind the deck as well. And just a short drive up South Congress is the new Music Lane development, where Chicago-based Mediterranean restaurant Aba just opened.
New Austin Restaurants
1011 S. Congress Avenue
This new Chicago import located right in the heart of Music Lane — they literally built it’s humongous outdoor patio around a gorgeously gnarled old tree named Daphne — is a must-visit on your next trip to Austin. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, it truly felt like the current place to be in the city. We even dined next to chef Bobby Flay, who’s been in town for a bit. I felt pretty cool ordering the same Mediterranean Mule as Iron Chef Flay. Obviously we’re friends now.
The Aloe It’s Me and the aforementioned mule were two favorites on the cocktail menu. The restaurant is tapas style and divides its menu into Hummus (definitely get the Lamb Ragu), Spreads (the Whipped Feta is amazing), Cold Mezze (wasn’t in a salad mood), Raw (Ahi Tabouli is a must-try), Butcher (Crispy Pork Belly actually could’ve been better), Hot Mezze (Green Falafel was different), Seafood, and Kebabs. The Orange Blossom Crème Brûlée pie is also a treat.
1203 East 11th Street
The next morning for brunch we went over to a new breakfast and lunch spot in East Austin. Initially started as a food truck, Paperboy recently expanded to a two-story restaurant and enlarged its menu to include lunch. If you can, get a seat on the rooftop; it’s very nice. We started with the mouthwatering ricotta toast, which includes apple butter and pistachio. I then opted for the B.E.C, which is a popular choice on the menu, mainly because it includes bacon, pimento cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg with massive potato wedges on the side. As a treat for dessert, they give you bite-size rice crispy treats with your check. I will go back to any place that gives me free rice crispy treats, no matter how tiny.
Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum (and Qi)
1203 W. 6th Street
Lin Asian Bar has been around for a few years, but I had never gotten the opportunity to stop by. Owner and chef Ling Qi Wu also recently opened a new upscale Chinese spot in downtown called Qi, but I wanted to try the original first. On West 6th street in Clarksville, Lin Asian is located in a small, light blue house and focuses on dim sum. The soup dumplings are a popular dish to start with, as was suggested by our server, and you’re also instructed to eat them in a specific way for the restaurant. The akaushi beef pot stickers were the favorite of the night, and the Hawaii sesame chicken is pretty good (but beware, very sweet). Everything is meant to be shared including the entrees like lobster tail, lamb chop, and braised pork shank. Rice is also an additional $1 per bowl.
1800 East 6th Street
My very favorite spot to hit on our weekend trip was a traditional Mexican gem in East Austin. Led by Chef Fermín Núñez (formerly at La Condesa and Launderette), Suerte makes their masa in-house, a thoughtful choice that makes everything from tacos to tamalaes (anything with a corn tortilla really) a cut above. The cocktail menu is also carefully crafted with mezcal, tequila, and Oaxacan rum. The Don Dario was a standout with reposado tequila, tamarindo, and sarsaparilla. Another favorite was the Tepache Mode — a mix of tequila blanco, mezcal, tepache syrup, lime juice, hibiscus powder, and bitters.
But it was the food that really blew us away. Start with the las salsas y tostadas to try a mix of different flavors while cracking off pieces of giant tostadas for dipping. The Suadero tacos are also a must-try with confit brisket, avocado crudo and black magic oil. Lastly, the campechano quesadillas are made with pork carnitas and the homemade masa, which really contributes to the flavor.