For every person living in Austin, there are at least ten more people who “just can’t wait to visit!” Blame queso, blame SXSW, or blame the million articles written about how Austin is America’s #1 Greatest City To Live In - but whether you like it or not, your people are always visiting you.
It can be exhausting playing tour guide every weekend, so when you draw a blank as to where to entertain them next, we can help. Here are some ideas that are sure to impress anyone not from here. Just maybe try not to impress them too much - we have enough traffic already, thank you very much.
You’re going to need to show your friends South Congress, and you’re going to need to show your friends queso, so kill two birds with one stone at Guero’s. There will be plenty of opportunities to take your friends to the new, trendy spots - but you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t introduce them to a classic Austin institution like this one first.
In Austin, restaurant & bar patios are pretty much a given, but reminder: this is not the case in many other cities. Bring your out-of-town friends to the excellent one at Justine’s, where you can catch up over wine, cocktails, outstanding fries, and if they’re the adventurous types, maybe even some escargot. Bonus: major photo opportunity in the mirror-covered room in the back of the restaurant.
Your college crew is in town for the weekend and they obviously want to do dinner somewhere “fun.” They’ll be fine parting with queso for a second and enjoying a meal involving crab fried rice, fancy pad thai, and giant communal tables perfect for meeting new people. This place is loud and lively (and a little bit sexy), but that’s why you’re here - just be prepared to wait alongside all the other people entertaining their friends from NYC tonight.
Consistent but never boring, Perla’s is always on our shortlist for brunches with out-of-towners. Your visitors will be impressed by the front patio but even more impressed by the homemade poptarts and probably the fish tank too.
Upon arrival, we’d venture to guess one of the first ten words out of your friend’s mouth is “barbecue.” And your friend probably expects you to take him to Franklin’s. Either be a good friend and take him, or be a good friend and kindly explain there’s no way in hell you’re getting up at 6am to get in line - but you have an even better plan. Spend a Saturday afternoon driving through Texas hill country and give him the full barbecue experience at Salt Lick.
And while you’re out in the hill country, your second stop should be Jester King Brewery. It’s a beautiful ranch/brewery specializing in light, spritzy sours - and it’s an excellent way to day drink while also feeling like you’re doing a real “activity” with your friends. If there are kids with you, this is also a great place to bring them too. If you haven’t already eaten at Salt Lick beforehand, definitely hit the fantastic pizza place next door (or just do it anyway).
Need to feed them BBQ, but don’t want to wait in lines or drive to Driftwood? Lambert’s is a great choice for fancy (in a good way, we promise) BBQ, some damn good mac & cheese, and a downtown location that puts you in an excellent position for post-dinner drinking activities.
If you’re looking to take your visitors a little off the beaten path while in town, we’d steer you to Olive and June. Coming through with some excellent modern Italian food, this spot’s a good way to show your guests that we’re not all brisket and Tex-Mex. The treehouse-like atmosphere alone is worth the trip - pick a good night for eating outside under the twinkle lights.
If you don’t bring your friends to Torchy’s, you probably don’t like your friends very much. Between the trailer park tacos, queso, guacamole, and fried avocado - the only risk you run with Torchy’s is the possibility your friends will want to eat every meal here. And there could certainly be worse possibilities.
Fact: visitors love hidden things. Particularly hidden bars where they can feel like they’re being let in on a secret. This cocktail spot is literally located inside a Garage at the corner of 6th and Colorado, and its design will further convince your friend you’ve taken them to a cool spot. If you and/or your friends hate lines, get here on the early side - they keep the crowds very much in check here.
Whisler’s has all the makings of an impressing out-of-towners slam dunk: an always-happening patio scene, a secret upstairs Mezcal bar, and an excellent food trailer parked in its backyard. It’s always our pick for where to kick off a full night of East Side eating & drinking activities.
A newer spot on this list, Kitty Cohen’s is the perfect place to feel like you’re on vacation (while on vacation). This bar feels like 1970s Palm Springs, and is a great spot to post up midday and stick around until dinnertime (translation: a one-stop-shop for keeping your friends entertained).
All your college roommates are in town this weekend, and the last time you were together you were drinking Franzia. From the bag. You’re all adults now - and now you drink real rosé. But you need something a little more exciting than just a bottle of wine. You need frosé. Bring your crew to Hotel San Jose, the boutique hotel they’ve probably already seen all over Instagram, which is actually just as attractive in real life. Even more so after a few rounds of their frosé.
The misconception that all Texans ride horses to work is safely dead, but you might want to show your friends that you can, in fact, still find a good honky tonk. The White Horse is the perfect mix of old school (live country music, lots of dancing) and not old-school (there’s a taco truck parked out back, the crowd skews young and bearded), and its central East Side location means you have no excuse not to pop in for at least one dance while out and about on East 6th.
There are many Austin where you can take your friends to see live music, but none are more legendary than The Continental Club. Impress your friends with this dive bar/music venue relic (in business since the 50’s), where on most nights you’ll find up-and-coming acts and an excellent crowd of people that are happy to be there.