South Congress is Austin’s biggest shopping, entertainment, and tourist street, and it has a rich history. It was first paved with concrete in 1910 when a new bridge was built and streetcar lines were extended across the river and since then it’s continued to grow and evolve into what it is today. Here’s a #throwback to what it looked like back in the early 1900s…
If you’re visiting Austin, SoCo is a good central “home base” with easy access to other parts of town and enough great restaurants to fill up a solid weekend of eating. Here are my top picks for where to stay, shop, and eat!
WHERE TO STAY
- If you’re going to airbnb it, look for something between Live Oak and Riverside (N/S borders) and S 1st and East Side Dr (E/W borders) for best walkability.
- The South Congress Hotel is my first choice. It’s a modern, trendy space that was designed by architect Michael Hsu, and it became an instant a new favorite in town. There are 3 restaurants + a coffee shop inside, as well as a beautiful rooftop pool with a view of SoCo.
- For a cool retro Austin experience, stay at the Austin Motel. They’ve been on SoCo forever (but have had several major renovations to keep up with the times), and they also have one of the best pools in town.
- The Hotel San José is a stunning, minimalist space with concrete floors and a serene ambiance. The entrance is right off the SoCo sidewalk, but it’s easily missed because shady wall of greenery creates privacy. This is a good place for a more private, spa-like experience.
Here’s the truth: you can just wander up and down the street and stop anywhere, and you’re winning. There are so many fun places to shop on SoCo! Here are just of few of my favorites, though.
- Allen’s Boots: iconic store with more than 4,000 pairs of boots on display. Find all your western wear here!
- Big Top: a candy store with retro sweets you haven’t seen since your childhood.
- Limbo Jewelry: pretty handmade pieces and other small souvenirs.
- South Congress Books: used and vintage books. I’ve found some pretty cool stuff here.
- By George: An upscale apparel boutique with designer items.
- Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds: Austin’s best costume shop! I could wander this place for hours looking at all the the elaborate, hilarious clothes.
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH
1300 S Congress Ave
WILLIE FOR PRESIDENT
1415 S Congress Ave
SMILE! EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO
1511 S Congress Ave
SOUTH CONGRESS AUSTIN
North wall of South Congress Hotel, 1603 S Congress Ave
WHERE TO EAT ON SOUTH CONGRESS
- Perla’s is an upscale seafood restaurant that’s perfect for date night! They have a gorgeous outdoor patio that’s shaded by a giant Live Oak tree with charming twinkly lights. It’s typically crowded and you’ll need to make reservations, but sometimes you can slip into the bar area and enjoy some drinks and raw oysters without much of a wait.
photo: It’s Marky ATX
- Otoko is a 12-seat omakase restaurant in the South Congress Hotel. Tickets are $150 and have to be purchased ahead of time, making this the ultimate splurge-worthy restaurant for a special occasion.
- June’s is from the same team that brought Elizabeth Street Cafe, Lambert’s BBQ, and Clark’s Oyster bar, so it’s in good company! The wine list is the shining star, but the food stands on its own, and this restaurant won a spot on Food and Wine’s Top 10 Restaurants of 2017. PS: the happy hour is really good here!
- Central Standard is a New American restaurant with the most BEAUTIFUL interior! I love their weekend brunch, too.
- Vespaio, and its more casual sister restaurant, Enoteca Vespaio, are some of the older restaurants on South Congress that serve up delicious Italian food in a casual setting.
- South Congress Cafe is a staple on SoCo, and if it’s your first time in Austin, this is a safe bet for breakfast. Be sure to try their migas or carrot cake french toast!
- Café No Sé is seriously one of the most instagramable restaurants in Austin! It’s in the South Congress Hotel, and they have a lovely menu of healthy (and not!) breakfast/lunch items.
- Manana is the prettiest little coffee shop! The pastries here are made by New Waterloo head chef Amanda Rockman; I think these are some of the very best pastries in the whole city!
- Visit the Torchy’s Flagship for some breakfast tacos. This one doesn’t need much explanation.
- Magnolia Cafe is an iconic 24-hour eatery with two locations in Austin. President Obama has eaten here, and this place is also famous for being in the movie Boyhood. Lucky Robot
- Home Slice earned their spot as Austin’s most popular pizza spot with their authentic NY-style pies. Just want a single slice? Go next door to the “More Home Slice” walk-up window.
- Hopdoddy makes the best burgers at the $10 price point with homemade buns, carefully sourced ingredients, and creative toppings. There are several locations around Texas now, but this is the original.
- Burro Cheese Kitchen is a little food truck with totally indulgent grilled cheese sandwiches. I love the Waylon & Willie because it has spicy maple bacon sauce on it!
ALSO SEE: My Visit To Burro Cheese Kitchen
- Guero’s Taco Bar is a Mexican restaurant in a landmark building. It’s the best place to stop for a margarita and some chips n queso when you need a break from shopping.
- Lucky Robot Japanese Kitchen has lunch specials and long hours, making it a good option for either a casual lunch or a nice dinner.
South Congress is the type of place I can visit again and again. It’s constantly evolving, so there’s always something new to see or taste. HAVE FUN visiting this iconic Austin street!