A Friends’ Getaway Guide to Austin, TX

When myself, Sarah and Michelle had a flight canceled due to weather at the last minute, we sat at LAX airport and googled flights that left in the next couple of hours. With our bags all ready to go, we chose Austin, TX. We had a few hours on the plane and researched like crazy all the best places to play and eat. We ended up having the time of our lives and couldn’t rave more about our special finds below.

TO EAT

Our experience in Austin was absolutely elevated by each dining experience we had. We are all such foodies, and it was so fun to bop around the town and explore Austin’s unique spin on various types of cuisine. Plus, it was convenient that Michelle with Paper Antler is a professional photographer and captured our every move! At each meal, we chose to be intentional in our time and ask a “table question”—something that would engage us on an emotional and intellectual level, as well as create more vulnerability in our friendships. Check out the questions we asked at each meal below, and maybe try incorporating this into your next meal with friends! It’s a great way to learn deeper things about the people you love.

GUILD

This progressive seafood restaurant with the most gorgeous oyster bar was our first stop for dinner in Austin. We started with champagne bubbles and toasted to our three-day girls’ getaway. Then, in true celebratory fashion, we ordered half of the menu. Everything we had was delightful, and we kept ooh-ing over the presentation and careful detail of each dish. When their pecorino gnocchi came out, we nearly lost our minds. All three of us were absolutely blown away by how creamy and delicious each bite was. With subtle hints of nutmeg and olive, we were floored. We even convinced chef Sterling Ridings to come out and explain how he made such a masterpiece. One amazing aspect of Guild was that each ingredient was sourced from a local farm or vendor, which made dinner there the perfect entry to our experience in Austin.

Table Question: What do you want to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing in your life?

Our answers varied from starting to be more disciplined to stopping beating ourselves up with shame, to using our voices more assertively.

LE POLITIQUE 

After a morning Bird adventure and a dip in Barton Springs, we headed over to this gorgeous little French Bistro in downtown Austin. We popped in for a Prix-fixe lunch that consisted of a starter and a main. Of course Sarah and I had to have the steak-frites, complete with mayo and ketchup for the perfectly crispy shoestring fries. Michelle opted for the “Mussels,” which were drenched in a deliciously creamy tomato basil sauce. The cafe itself is darling and ultimately reminiscent of France, so we spent our time leisurely enjoying a long lunch and of course sipping our cafe-au-laits.

Table Question: What was your worst date ever?

These answers made us cry-laugh! From an embarrassing fall to a super judgmental man, to an awkward third wheel brought on a date unannounced—we were glad we had these experiences just for the sake of the laughter in this moment.

IL BRUTTO

We spent the afternoon in a Jazzercise class so we could work up our appetite for dinner at this authentic Italian restaurant located in the heart of East Austin. The wood fired pizzas fragranced the entire place as we walked in, and the menu was right up our alley. We started with our collective favorite cheese, Burrata, and of course had to order one of their infamous pizzas. My favorite dish on the menu was the red snapper with fava beans, and even though we were stuffed to the brim, our server convinced us to try the Ricotta Semifreddo, which was this amazingly creamy spin on a shaved ice. It was fantastic.

Table Question: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

These answers gave way to a much longer conversation with topics brought up such as unrealistic expectations, self-worth and unhealthy relationships.

HANK’S

The next morning, we popped over to this beautiful yet unassuming spot designed by Claire Zinnecker. We showed up to an abundance of pastries to begin, including these unbelievable brioche donuts that were so wonderfully fluffy. The salted chocolate ganache loaf was so rich—I kept coming back for another bite. We sat in the light and airy cafe and ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, a delicious kale salad with fried goat cheese, and the elaborate avocado toast. The lattes and chai were also just what we needed to start the day well!

Table Question: What are your thoughts about the modern women’s movement?

Each of us has our own views on how women should act, be portrayed and make decisions, so it was a healthy and lively debate!

BANGER’S

Later that afternoon, we had to head over to Rainey Street to eat at Austin’s famous beer and sausage joint, Banger’s. With 30 homemade sausages and over 100 beers on tap, this is the ultimate spot for an afternoon of fun. Our server dubbed himself our “beer-tender” and walked us thoroughly through the tap wall! He brought us tasters of various beers based on our flavor palettes, and we each ended up with our own perfect beer pairing. We obviously had to start with the fried cheese curds, and when the guests next to us ordered fried pickles, we followed in suit! The sausages are all made in house and so tasty. After filing our stomachs to the brim, we met the owner Ben and he gave us the grand tour of the entire property as well as walked us through all the plans to expand! If you’re ever on Rainey Street, this is the place to be.

Table Question: If you could live anywhere, where would you go?

We each have traveled a lot, so answers went from non-realistic (Paris) to more realistic (Vancouver)!

RANCH 616

Still full from lunch, but craving a little evening happy hour, we headed over to Ranch 616 for our final foodie adventure in Austin. With a menu of margaritas, Mezcal, and Tex-Mex, we were in our element! Our server brought us sampler plates to give us the full experience of the Tex-Mex way. We ate Frog Legs, which though intimidating, were actually ridiculously good! The chili-lime grilled prawns were delicious, and our server kept surprising us with amazing tequila drinks. My favorite was the Mexican Martini with extra olives—I had never even thought to try a tequila martini! We finished our meal with an enormous brownie sundae, bringing back all the childhood feels with extra whipped cream and sprinkles. It was an epic celebratory way to wrap up our food tour of Austin.

Table Question: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your personal character?

This one was hard because it can be daunting to speak well of yourself, but we chose the most impactful statements that have stuck with us over the years.

WHERE TO PLAY

In between each of our epic meals, we engaged in a few activities that can’t be missed when visiting Austin. We wanted to fill our time with a balance of exercise and relaxation, so we choose two of each!

AUSTIN JAZZERCISE 

Located in the Austin Recreation Center, this place feels so homey with a football field outside with kids practicing and locals playing basketball inside. We entered a large gym space and got out mats and weights, not knowing that we were about to get our butts kicked (in the best way!) The teacher had such a great energy and led us through a mixture of light and hard moves all to upbeat music that made it all seem like an enjoyable dance. We had lots of laughs at one another when we couldn’t quite get the rhythm or hold a plank, but left feeling amazing!

MILK AND HONEY SPA

This spa is honestly one of the best that any of us had ever been to. First, let’s talk design. With clean and modern white and wooden materials, the whole space encourages relaxation. In the entry you can browse hundreds of clean ingredient items—from soaps to lotions to bath accessories and more. The lounge and changing area are epic as well with steam showers, candles, fruit, tea and pillows. Each of us got a facial and massage and came out in a complete and utter dream-state. The aestheticians and masseuses used beautiful essential oils, lotions and scrubs with expert techniques that were stress reducing and incredibly relaxing. We will be back for sure!

BIRD SCOOTERS

If you don’t want to rent a car, this is your trick to getting around a city quickly and seeing more in the process. We rode Birds around the entire city and this made for lots of laughs due to hitting bumps, minor crashes and speed discrepancies—some of us are more cautious than others! All you do is download the app and it costs you just a few dollars.

CUTE NAIL STUDIO

Of course, we had to get pedicures. We found this nail salon due to its beautiful rainbow painted exterior. It is quite a sight and the décor inside is even more impressive; everything is painted in bright pastels with hints of Japanese anime art and a plethora of cool neon signage. We got the most beautiful manicures with nail art that was truly stunning, due to the amazing talents of the nail artists!

All images by Paper Antler

Kara Elise is an experience curator and hostess who works in the food and event space. Her greatest joy is to create spaces and experiences that cultivate community. Kara's expertise in hosting, recipe creation and food styling establish a culture of invitation through holistically designed, welcoming environments.

4 COMMENTS

POST A COMMENT