The 8 best record stores in Austin
As the live music capital of the country, Austin sure has some neat record stores to quench the thirst of its rock’n’roll lovers. Yes, we may be in a world where streaming sounds is the norm, but something is comforting about a good ol’ record store, right? Maybe it’s the company of genius sleeves and artwork; the listening booths that transport you to the golden era; the T-Shirts and collectibles reminiscent of being on your favorite artist’s show; or just being among the creative community. We don’t care what anybody says; iPad screens are no substitute for the real thing. And though brick and mortar record stores stand thin in Bat City, they stand proud. Many have been going for decades, and they ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. At least we hope not. So come on by and get your dose of EDM, metal, blues, pop, indie, or anything else music-themed in person, and help businesses keep on movin’; you may even find something ultra-cool and rare for your collection. Here are the best record stores in Austin to do so. Recommended: The best live music venues in Austin
The 12 best Mexican restaurants in Austin
If you know anything about Austin, you probably know that Mexican food here is top-notch. No, we’re not talking about Tex-Mex (although it’s stellar), we’re talking authentic Mex-Mex. From food trucks to fine-dining, the best Mexican restaurants in Austin bring lucky patrons the full scope of the cuisine — you’ll find dishes like ceviche, mole, broiled fish, goat soup, duck enmoladas, and a slew of specialties you probably haven’t even tried yet (but will no doubt try again and again). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a craving something familiar; we’ve included the best tacos in Austin along with the top burritos and enchiladas, too. What about drinks, you ask? Well, it wouldn’t be Texas without a cool and refreshing margarita, and you’ll find plenty of them right here in Austin. Ready to eat? Here’s our list of the best Mexican restaurants in Austin.RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Austin
The 12 best Austin hotels
A record number of visitors arrive in Bat City year after year, and the best Austin hotels give them every reason to stick around. Whether you’re here for one of the city’s big events (like SXSW, ACL, and F1) or simply in Austin to soak up the laid-back vibes (you’re spoilt for choice with things to do), you’ll find a dizzying number of accommodations that suit every style. Certainly, the buzzing city has more boutique hotels than ever before. You’ll find a convivial hostel in a historic firehouse just steps from Dirty Sixth (the perfect place to meet new friends for a night on the town) and a batch of Hill Country destination spa resorts that’ll whisk you off the main drag into nature. Naturally, you’ll find plenty of swanky city bookings, too, that command enviable addresses near Austin’s best restaurants and bars. Wondering where you should hang your hat while in town? From ultra-luxe hotels to all-casual boutiques, the best Austin hotels are here for every type of traveler.RECOMMENDED: the best things to do in Austin
The 10 best food trucks in Austin
Hitting one of the city’s top trailers is at the top of most people’s lists of things to do in Austin, and for good reason: Austin does food trucks better than just about anywhere. And Austin food trucks are pretty much everywhere. Looking for some of the best Mexican restaurants in Austin? You’ll find many of them come on wheels. Feeling peckish after a few drinks at one of the best bars in Austin? Hit that parked trailer in the corner serving some of the most mind-meldingly good Thai food in Texas. And did we mention the tacos? Here, we’ve scoured the city to find the best food trucks Austin has to offer. The lines may be wildly long at times. And you’re going to get a bit of dirt on your jeans. But when you get to that window, the rewards are deliciously rich.
Meet four Austin coffee roasters changing the city's coffee scene
For many Austinites, coffee is the most important component of the day (quickly followed by our best tacos and top BBQ). The city has a legacy of great coffee, from trailblazing roasters like Texas Coffee Traders and Cuvee to unforgettable cultural landmarks like Little City. Today the espresso landscape is dotted by the best coffee shops in Austin—including homegrown mini empires like Caffé Medici and Houndstooth—and although many use beans imported from around the country, the last few years have seen a boom of upstart roasters helping Austinites start their days. Here's four that are appearing in cups across the city.
10 reasons why SXSW will rule this year
SXSW always rolls in like a hurricane, taking over our city for ten days with some of the best innovators, musicians, filmmakers and creatives from around the world. It won't be any different this year, when the 31-year-old festival hits Austin on March 9–18. You'll want to take some time outside of the fest to enjoy the best things to do in Austin, from incredible restaurants to Austin's best cocktail bars—but you'll also want to check out the following top 10 reasons why SXSW is going to kill it this year. See you out there!
The best coffee shops in Austin
We know that our ballooning city is killing it on the restaurant and booze front (just check out our guides to the best restaurants in Austin and best bars in Austin for evidence), but what about all the phenomenal coffee shops in Austin? It’s obscene—and obscenely delicious. First up, they’re sourcing the best beans from boutique roasters across the country (and the world). Then they’re pushing their craft to the limits with creative coffee concoctions, expert pour-overs and cold brews. And they’re serving it all in some awesome spaces (garden or gallery? Take your pick). These places are climbing to the top of every visitor’s list of things to do in Austin, and keeping locals pepped up day-to-day. They’re the best coffee shops in Austin, and you need to check them out now.
Four LGBTQ leaders get honest about being queer in Austin
Tolerance is at a premium in some Texas cities, but Austin’s status as a liberal bubble means that we have a strong community of LGBTQ organizers, businesspeople and politicians working to create a space (outside of Austin's best gay bars) where more people feel encouraged to thrive. We sat down with some of the city’s most prominent LGBTQ leaders to discuss issues facing the community, starting with a simple question: What’s it like to be queer in Austin? Here’s what Jeremy von Stilb (filmmaker, DJ Mouthfeel), Jimmy Flannigan (city council member for District 6), Kate Messer (former editor of the Austin Chronicle’s Gay Place, communications director for Jimmy Flannigan) and Erica Nix (fitness instructor at Transform) had to say. All photos by Dan Gentile
Listings and reviews (49)
Wright Bros. Brew and Brew
Caffeine and alcohol make fine bedfellows at this design-minded East Austin cafe that boasts 40 taps of beer and one of the city’s most ambitious coffee programs. A Modbar espresso system recessed into the counter means there’s no clunky machine between you and the barista, who serves shots from hip nationally-lauded roasters like Madcap and Heart, plus Aeropresses with local beans from Flat Track. Pair either your coffee or brew with on-site bagel partners, Rosen's Bagel Co., and be sure to check the adjoining art gallery and boutique Byron & Blue.
Four Seasons Hotel Austin
Occupying perhaps the most expensive strip of real estate in downtown Austin, the Four Seasons is nestled up against the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trails, which makes it a perfect gateway to one of the city’s most iconic natural amenities. The hotel's 294 rooms and suites recently went through multi-million dollar renovations, which included upgrades to the decor along with the addition of Snooz white noise machines and Bluetooth-enabled Soundlink Minis in each guest room. Evening in-house car service and twice-daily housekeeping are the type of practical amenities that make this a more boutique option, not to mention the heated saltwater pool, spa (check out the allergy relief massage during Cedar Fever season), lawn hammocks and chimineas with complementary S’mores kits. The hotel restaurant, TRIO, focuses on local produce direct from East Austin's Springdale Farm and pork from Richardson Farms in Rockdale, Texas.
End of an Ear
If there’s one shop in Austin that fits the Championship Vinyl stereotype from High Fidelity, it’s End of an Ear. Serving South Austin since 2005 (and recently relocated to a larger location on Clawson Road), the shop’s shelves are rich in niche, rare and overlooked records that are dangerous to the pocketbooks of collectors, but the bins hold enough treasures to satisfy budget shoppers as well. Deep crates of psych, reggae, jazz, world and of carefully curated rock are where the shop flexes its encyclopedic knowledge, but close ties to an array of local scenes (punk, electronic, indie rock) mean that small pressings of Austin artists typically receive prime placement at the counter. Keep an eye on their Instagram for the occasional photo of visiting music royalty like Four Tet and Slowdive.
Ms P's Electric Cock
Although their internet domain name might not make it past some workplace filters, Ms. P's is forgiven for their filthy moniker because they're frying up some of the most flavorful fowl in Central Texas. Free-range sourcing means the birds are naturally more delicious than most of the competition; add in a two-step buttermilk brining process and flour batter featuring 12 different spices and it's truly hard to find a better fried bird anywhere. Sides are equally as impressive, bring a friend so you don't have to choose between the truffle mac and cheese and cotija-topped elotes.
Garbo's Lobster Truck ATX
Lobster rolls are a foreign food to most Texans, but not to the founder of Garbo's, who named her trailer after her father's lobster company. Her New England roots shine with a menu that features both of the region's primary styles, Connecticut (warmed in butter) and Maine (mayo, celery, lemon), both excellent choices that taste more like they came out of a beachside kitchen than streetside trailer. If the lobster mac and cheese happens to be on special, don't hesitate to indulge. Check their website for current location, as their pair of trucks are known to traverse everywhere from business parks to busy downtown corners to bar parking lots.
The melting pot of Los Angeles may have birthed the idea of Korean tacos, but Austin's first tortilla-wrapped kimchi came courtesy of Chi’lantro, who since their first trailer launched in 2009 have grown to three brick-and-mortar locations with expanded menus. For a quick, cheap lunch on the go, it's tough to beat their spicy pork burrito, but let's be honest: the best time for their craveable cross-cultural eats is after the bars close. Unfortunately their fleet of mobile trailers is currently on hold while they expand their brick and mortar footprint, until they return we'll be eagerly awaiting a tray of 2am kimchi fries.
Austinites’ patience for standing in line is legendary, but the wait at most brunch spots is still nothing compared to other hip avocado-toast outposts likes of Portland and Brooklyn. Paperboy's giving them a run for their money, with a long but totally-worth-it wait that holds rewards like a pimento cheese B.E.C. on brioche and goat chorizo toast. The half-step away from traditional brunch fair manages to be both casual (you are in a dirt lot, after all) and elevated—there are few other places in town where pickled carrots and shaved radishes sneak their way into breakfast.
Luke's Inside Out
One of the most important elements of Austin's trailer boom was that it gave many old-school chefs an opportunity to flex their culinary muscles on their own terms. Luke's evolved from a culinary biz that serviced venues like ACL Live, bringing a seasoned chef-centric approach to otherwise stoner-ish sandwiches. The burger is one of the girthiest in town, and the Korean BBQ rabbit might be Austin's most creative hare-brained dish. But give equal consideration to the daily specials, which range from smoked brisket arepas to pork chop sticks.
Whisler’s laid-back style of cocktails and open-air patio make it one of East 6th's most popular bars, but just as many people flock there for the ultra spicy Thai food courtesy of Thai-Kun. It's another project overseen by Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya of East Side King, but this time with the menu heavy-lifting done by Thai Changthong formerly of Spin Modern Thai (RIP). The menu ranges from grilled bread with peanut curry (perfect for padding the stomach after a few Pearl Snaps) to the black noodles with beef, a heartier option that's not too overpowering to pair with a cocktail. But be warned: Approach dishes like the waterfall pork and beef panang curry with extreme caution and ask for a preview taste of the sauce—they're two of the city's spiciest dishes.
East Side King
If there's one spot that sums up the first wave of Austin's trailer boom, it's undoubtedly East Side King. Founded in 2009 by Paul Qui and Motoyasu Utsunomiya as a more casual side project from their work at Uchi and Uchiko, the trailer behind Liberty adorned with a psychedelic mural by Japanese punk rocker Peelander Yellow has spawned a pan-Asian empire of creative bar grub across the city. Although there's now a brick and mortar, as well as several other offshoots, the original is still the best, thanks to now-classic dishes like the roasted pork belly Poor Qui buns, Thai chicken karage, and beet fries.
Habanero Mexican Café
Although it shutters at 3pm, sunlight pours into Habanero Cafe during the breakfast and lunch rushes as a melting pot of South Austinites dig into some of the best no-frills Mexican fare in town. Most of the decor comes courtesy of beer companies, but the vintage neon signs and tiled Corona mosaics just add to a homestyle charm that's further amplified by a friendly waitstaff and some of Austin's most generous lunch specials. Don't miss the chicken fajitas, with a thick rub of chile powder that disproves the misconception that all fajitas are created equal. It's cash only, but the $6.95 specials make it easy to fill up for less than a Hamilton.
La Fruta Feliz
Despite accolades from everyone from the Austin Chronicle to Texas Monthly, La Fruta Feliz is far less trafficked than some of its Manor Road neighbors, even though the menu is equally as savory and a few bucks cheaper. The hidden strip mall location makes it easy to drive past, but stop and you'll be rewarded with piping-hot breakfast tacos, massive plates of chilaquiles (a more authentic alternative to migas) and one of the city's best goat-based dishes: a slow-braised barbacoa de chivo. Wash it down a “vampire smoothie” made with carrots, celery, orange and beetroot.
Levitation rises again: Austin’s revered psych festival is back
When torrential rain at Carson Creek Ranch canceled Levitation Fest in 2016, it seemed like the festival’s nine-year run had come to an end. But after a one-year hiatus, the scrappy psychedelic gathering triumphantly returns to its roots on Red River Street, spanning five venues over four nights from April 26 to 29. With iconic bands like Ministry and Brian Jonestown Massacre set to headline this year, it’s easy to forget that the idea for the festival was sparked inside the tour van of Austin psych heroes Black Angels. Known simply as Psych Fest when it launched in 2008, the first few iterations happened in early March to piggyback on acts already in Austin for SXSW, but soon bands like Dead Meadow, Wooden Shjips and A Place to Bury Strangers flew in specifically for the event, peaking with a performance from legendary ’70s trailblazers the 13th Floor Elevators in 2015. “It was surreal to think that the first year of the festival, we had Acid Tomb—a 13th Floor Elevators cover band—playing, and seven years later we had the real thing!” says cofounder and Black Angels guitarist Christian Bland. “Without the 13th Floor, there would be no festival, so to have them play was very surreal and affirming of [the project’s power].” A large part of that power comes from attendees. The festival has become an international beacon for music fans whose encyclopedic knowledge of guitar pedals and deep collection of reverb-drenched rock records make the crowd of jean-jacketed rockers feel l