ATXGuide

The Best Austin Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner

When you want to have a big, fun dinner that involves good food and people saying nice things about you, try one of these spots.
The Best Austin Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

A birthday dinner should be a fun and easy event. You’ve already done all the hard work of staying likable for another trip around the sun. In turn, your friends and family are supposed to treat you like the angel that you are. So why does planning a birthday dinner always turn into such a stressful event? Is this place too expensive? Can it handle a large group? What about your friends that confirm/cancel less than 24 hours in advance? 

While we can’t sort out your entire life (or your friends’ lives, for that matter), we can provide some options for your celebratory dinner. Whether you’re looking for something fun, casual, and easily-adjustable, or a more intimate, celebratory experience—here’s our guide to the best birthday dinners in Austin. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Texan

South Lamar

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersDate NightEating At The BarSmall PlatesBirthdaysBig Groups

Odd Duck on South Lamar has the whole “as it comes” small plate timing down to a science, with a pacing that never feels rushed, making it a fantastic place to linger and celebrate the passing of time and your own mortality with an exceptional cocktail or three. With a casual but upbeat vibe, a constantly evolving menu of creative riffs on Texas cuisine, and some of the most cheerful service staff in town, Odd Duck is equally perfect for two at the bar, or for a group willing to play a game of table-Tetris. Reservations aren’t that hard to come by, but do plan in advance for primetime hours. 


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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Red Ash isn’t the type of place you just casually visit. Maybe that’s because the steak menu is made up of 50 day dry aged porterhouses and massive NY strip steaks. Or maybe it’s because the wait to get in has been over a month long since they opened their doors in 2016. But plan far enough in advance, and you, too, can be sticking a candle into a giant, dry aged, double cut bone in filet and singing yourself happy birthday to the sounds of a busy kitchen, a bustling dining room, and a giant wood burning grill. 


There’s something especially nostalgic about birthday pizza parties that reminds us of those private party rooms you’d book up an ice skating rink or mini golf course—they usually came pre-filled with some lukewarm pizzas and a bottle of Coke. Nowadays, we just go to Home Slice on South Congress instead, where the pizzas are great (and hot), and nobody’s carrying around tiny golf clubs. Bring a few friends, grab a big table in the back, eat until you can’t, then order a big slice of tiramisu to stick a candle in.


When you tell people you’re eating at Barley Swine, it’s usually followed by the question “Oh! What’s the occasion?” It’s one of the most “Austin-y” fine dining spots in town, seamlessly blending local ingredients and classic Texas flavors into a seasonal tasting menu experience that you’ll want to revisit year after year (and maybe even more often). The dining room is warm and inviting, like a cozy lodge in a much colder city. It’s a place where you can look into the open kitchen and see exactly what the team is working on at any point. Come to Barley Swine when you want an intimate, celebratory meal that you can stretch out over a long evening.  


Nothing says “happy birthday” like a round of mojitos under your own, personal thatched cabana with a dozen of your closest friends. And there’s no better place to make that dream into a reality than at Habana, a Cuban restaurant on South Congress. Order some caramelized maduros for the table, grab a round of habanatinis, and grab one of the best  Cuban sandwiches in town. There’s even a cigar menu if you really want to immerse yourself in the experience.  


There are few dishes in Austin that elicit the same level of joy as Suerte’s suadero tacos, which is what makes every order feel like you’re getting a present, birthday or not. Show up with a small group to enjoy something more intimate, or invite 23 of your closest friends and book the semi-private dining room, complete with an omakase-style dinner with beverage pairings. Either way, you’ll want to swap out that Randall’s birthday cake you were planning on in favor of a round of chocotacos, complete with a house-made chocolate-masa shell, peanut caramel, cinnamon semifreddo, and roasted peanuts.


Despite being just a short walk from Zilker Park, Uchi isn’t a place you should show up for after an afternoon of disc golf and sand volleyball. There’s a casual elegance to the restaurant—it’s the type of place you can dress up a little, order some excellent sushi and Japanese fusion plates, and feel all of your worries instantly slip away. The service is hard to match, and every plate feels more special than the last. If that’s not the recipe for a perfect, intimate birthday dinner, then apparently we have a lot more dining out to do.


There are very few restaurants in Austin that are more fun than Seoulju. From the music blasting from the speakers, to the giant griddles filled with fried chicken and melty cheese, to the seemingly-endless pile of soju bottles finding their way onto the tables—Seoulju is a party, through and through. Ask your server for some pointers on Korean drinking games, if you’re not familiar, then take turns going around the table flicking bottle caps while you soak it all up with some excellent fried chicken, kimchi pancakes, and other Korean pub staples. Just make sure to get there early, because they certainly draw a crowd.


L’Oca D’Oro might look like an impossibly cute neighborhood cafe in a pedestrian-friendly section of Mueller, but it’s also a great place to dig into one of the best birthday foods of them all—pasta. Not because it’s particularly great at holding candles (we’d actually advise against this), but because each bite of house-made noodles makes the day feel just a little bit more special. If you really want something to stick a candle in, finish the meal up with a slice of tiramisu, made with locally roasted espresso and a bit of Plantation rum. 


There’s something for everyone at the French restaurant Justine’s in East Austin. The brasserie menu spans from duck confit to cheeseburgers, from moules-frites to a very good bolognese (last we checked this is not a classic French dish). But where Justine’s really shines is the different seating options: there’s the intimate dining room with vinyl records spinning, there are the semi-private tented cabanas with chandeliers that can basically expand to fit dozens of people, and the chill and relaxed winter tent with the oyster bar. If you really want to make a night of it, there’s always the caviar service with the smoked heirloom potato gaufrettes.


If you walk into most restaurants in Austin wearing a suit and tie, people will probably assume you’re on your way to a job interview or are trying to sell them some exciting new tupperware. Hestia is one of the few exceptions to that. It’s a place where dressing up feels appropriate—especially when you find yourself face to face with a dry aged wagyu bavette that looks like it spent just as much time making itself look good as you did. At the end of your meal, make sure to order the kakigori—it’s a mountain of a dessert that’s beautiful enough to make you forget about cake entirely.


Loro is an indoor/outdoor restaurant on South Lamar that looks a bit like a camp dining hall—minus the hair-netted cook and plus a large, partially covered patio. You don’t need to make a reservation or spend hours in line to eat here. However, there’s still usually a bit of a wait for a seat, which is the perfect amount of time to drink a frozen cocktail while you look over the menu of Asian-influenced barbecue. With lots of large tables, both inside and out, Loro is a great choice for a casual birthday hang.


From the outside, Olamaie looks like a picture perfect model home plucked off the cover of Southern Living magazine—the type of place you’d expect to find a white picket fence holding back a litter of puppies that never age, where every day is somehow your birthday. From classic cocktails to a decadent pork chop and savory beef tartare, Olamaie is a place we go to when we feel like celebrating. There’s a semi-private dining room in the back if you want to come here with a larger group, but we’ve found this to be the perfect spot for a smaller group or a date night in a more intimate dining room.


Licha’s feels like a party, all the time. There’s a giant patio wrapping around the building that we’re pretty sure has never seen an empty day in its life, and you can order margaritas by the pitcher. If that wasn’t enough to entice you, maybe the menu full of queso fundido, huaraches, tlacoyos, and sopecitos will help. There are a lot of dishes that we don’t see a lot of in Austin, and that’s what makes this bar/restaurant/patio such an exciting destination. Now, wrap everything we’ve mentioned up into a cute little house on East 6th, and it’s not hard to see why this is such a great spot to celebrate just about any occasion. 


Sometimes, you just want to celebrate your birthday with a giant steak and a martini. And sometimes you want to do that without planning a reservation three months in advance, or without going to a place where you have to share a whole bunch of small plates. ALC is unstuffy, unpretentious, and great for groups—there’s even a few larger rooms in the back if you want a more private space. But perhaps most importantly, they make a killer steak that serves as the perfect entree after a round of escargot and grilled Buffalo lamb chops.


We’ve celebrated a few birthdays at Asia Cafe in North Austin, and we keep finding ourselves going back because of how easy, fun, and delicious everything is. There are a few private rooms to the side if you want a little more privacy, but the dining room is full of giant, circular tables topped with Lazy Susans that you can, in turn, top with giant platters of spicy fish, mango chicken, and mapo tofu. It’s loud enough in here that neighboring tables won’t be able to hear you recount stories of all your adventures when you were younger, but not loud enough that the rest of your table can’t chime in with their own comments.


When you’re planning a big birthday dinner for some friends, a good move is the modern Mexican restaurant La Condesa with its attractive space, shareable dishes, and strong mezcal cocktails. The prices can add up quickly, so order a few heavier things like the cochinita pibil and esquites so no one leaves hungry (or too drunk). And if you want an excuse to use the word “spelunking,” ask about their secret subterranean dining room that seats 20.


Over the idea of a big, unwieldy group birthday situation this year? Good news: no one is making you do that. Better news: Péché is the perfect spot downtown for a small group or a birthday date night for two. The place feels like a French speakeasy, and the cocktails and food are both excellent. If there was a question, the French onion soup and steak-frites are definitely for you.


Irene’s is one of the best places in town for a laid-back but still festive birthday meal. This all-day place is ideal for a big group to hang outside, drink frozen margaritas or Aperol spritzes, eat some fancy toast, and potentially migrate to West 6th if the night’s going well. There’s tons of seating, and you can even order a whole strawberry cake (just give them advance notice).

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