In parts of the country where outdoor dining is only limited to a few months a year, “patio weather” is a big deal. Those in the Pacific Northwest, for example, relish in the few months when the drizzle peels away to reveal fair weather. We in Austin, on the other hand, dread the heat and worse, mosquitos. Fortunately, the Fall weather shift unveiled ideal conditions to wine and dine on the patio, from happy hour until last call. Austin's restaurants have long been taking advantage of patio season. Here are a few of my favourites: Olive & June is home to a multi-level patio that's suited for all occasions, from simply lounging to elegant private events. Shaded by large trees in the quaint Bryker Woods neighborhood, the patio is one of the best in the city to enjoy artisanal Italian fare and speciality cocktails. Like other establishments in town by Chef/Owner Shawn Cirkiel, Olive & June offers attractive happy hour specials featuring creative small plates & craft drinks. Benji’s, a relative newcomer is earning a lot of buzz for their upscale yet playful Tex Mex menu and dramatic architecture. During patio season, their spacious roof top draws an eclectic crowd. The open-air venue with water features overlooks West 6th street. This colorful oasis in the heart of downtown becomes hopping at night. The patio has its own bar so guests don't have to wait long for one of their fresh, seasonal margaritas. Tucked away at the W Hotel, Trace is an unassuming gem for kicking back. The relaxed atmosphere and comfy lounge seating makes this an excellent spot to people-watch. Guests can also enjoy their small bites happy hour menu and innovative, locally-sourced plates, all paired with regional spirits and wines. Live bands set the tone on Thursday evenings so don't miss out. Lively neighbourhood fixture, Contigo, is essentially one expansive patio with a covered section. The inviting outdoor space is great for restless kids and is also dog-friendly. Strings of lights above create an intimate mood when the sun sets. The kitchen dishes up innovative farm-focused plates using sustainable ingredients. They take their drinks seriously too, serving up thirst-quenching cocktails, wines, and a large selection of local craft brews. If we're summing up the best-of-the-best patios, it would be unjust to ignore The Oasis. This scenic hot spot overlooking Lake Travis is a longstanding go-to for visitors. While this hangout is not recognized for their casual cuisine, it's still undeniably one of the best locations to savor the sunset and live music on weekends.Read More
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The Driskill Grill has hosted many a romantic rendezvous, but only one was of national importance. In 1934, Lyndon B. Johnson took Claudia Taylor (later known as “Lady Bird”) there on their first date. Later that day, after a long drive in the country, Johnson proposed, and the two wed within a few months. Not every date at the Driskill ends so happily, but given the posh setting and magnificent wine list, it’s easy to see how a couple might get carried away. Downtown: A Cozy Piece of Paris Chez Nous | 510 Neches St. Opened in 1982 by three friends from Paris, Chez Nous has since become Austin's primary alternative to a vacation in France. A mural on one wall depicts a Metro station and the buildings beyond, completing the illusion of sitting in a quaint bistro—one that preps its own pâté and sautéed veal sweetbreads. West Austin: Farm-Fresh German Fare Fabi + Rosi | 509 Hearn St. Fabi + Rosi consists of a bungalow built in 1903, a vegetable garden, and, of course, a Hühner Haus (chicken coop). You could argue the chickens are luckier than the guests: they get to feast on Chef Wolfgang's kitchen scraps, left over from European dishes such as pork schnitzel and housemade linguine, every day. Cardinal Hills Estates: Hill Country Game Meats Hudson's on the Bend | 3509 Ranch Rd. 620 N. If you can't present your sweetheart with a diamond, perhaps a diamondback rattlesnake will do. At Hudson's on the Bend, Chef Jeff Blank turns the snake into a cake with a pistachio-nut crust, a prime example of his Texas Hill Country cuisine. All of his wild game, from rabbit to venison, cooks over pecan wood in the onsite smokehouse. Central East Austin: Croissants in the Courtyard Blue Dahlia Bistro | 1115 E. 11th St. Sitting in the outdoor courtyard at Blue Dahlia Bistro means your date might get crashed by a neighborhood cat. The pets are part of the casual bistro's charm, however, just like the flourishing bamboo and the locally sourced French food. The pastries, tartines, and larger plates here all make for memorable yet affordable meals. Downtown: Daily Changing Menu in a 19th-Century Hotel Driskill Grill | 604 Brazos St. The stately Driskill Hotel has stood downtown for more than 120 years, but the menu at Driskill Grill is always new. Each night Chef Troy Knapp presents a different selection of Texas-style plates (think cornbread-stuffed quail), pairing them with wines from a sprawling list. If you're stopping by during festival season, keep an eye out for celebrities. Bouldin: Movie Nights in the Wine Garden Lenoir | 1807 S. 1st St. During a typical visit to Lenoir, you sit beneath lantern-like glass lights at a communal table while feasting on creative entrees such as roasted antelope and tea-smoked quail. But on Thursdays, guests (and their dogs) head to the garden for a movie and a glass of mulled wine. You can even cuddle up under a provided blanket on colder nights. Bouldin: Peacocks Roam a Victorian Estate Green Pastures | 811 W. Live Oak St. It's easy to see why Green Pastures is a popular spot for weddings. The Victorian estate, complete with wraparound porches and peacocks wandering the grounds, oozes a uniquely Southern appeal. You needn't be getting married to enjoy its French-inspired cuisine, though, including bananas foster for two, flambéed tableside. Downtown: Barbecue Gets an Upgrade Lambert's | 401 W. 2nd St. "This is about as upscale as the barbecue genre gets," says USA Today, labeling Lambert's "the perfect date-night barbecue" because of its low lighting and attentive waiters. The barbecue itself, including the brown-sugar-and-coffee-rubbed brisket, also comes across as relatively posh. On weekend nights, head upstairs for live music. Govalle: "Felliniesque" Late-Night Spot Justine's Brasserie | 4710 E. 5th St. Escargot, steak tartare with a raw egg on top, and daily plates inscribed on the chalkboard aren't the only reasons why people consider Justine's an authentic French bistro. The New York Times calls its atmosphere "Felliniesque," referencing the turntable inside and the games of pétanque that take place out front. Old West Austin: Food from Austin's Backyard Wink | 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. Wink's minimalist dining room may be undersized, but its devotion to locally sourced ingredients is overwhelming: more than 75% of its food hails from farms within 100 miles of the restaurant. A chef's tasting menu covers five or seven courses, including hanger steak with a honey biscuit, and even comes in a vegetarian version.Read More
It’s three in the morning and you’re starving. Where do you eat? Here’s what’s open in Austin, from French bistro to sushi joints, and a 24-hour restaurant. Barchi Sushi Located right in the middle of downtown, Barchi Sushi is the perfect spot for late night dining. The reverse happy hour starts at 10pm and ends at 1:30am with super discounted sushi and drinks. Order a couple pieces of nigiri (starting as low as $1.50), agedashi tofu, and bloody sake mary. Justine’s Justine’s Brasserie serves up high-class French comfort food until 2 am in a casual, eclectic vibe. The menu includes classic French favorites like steak and frites, Coq au Vin with Ratatouille and a straight-up Royale with cheese. Grab a seat at the tiny marble-topped tables and start with the charcuterie plate featuring a trio of homemade pates and potted meats. East Side King Thirsty and have the munchies? Stop by East Side King at The Liberty for Asian street snacks. The Thai Chicken Karaage with deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet-spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro mint and onion is out of this world. Don’t forget about Paul Qui’s famous Brussels Sprouts salad with deep-fried roasted beets, kewpie mayo, schichimi togarashi and green onion. 24 Diner Feeling hungry at 3pm? 3am? 24 Diner is open 24 hours serving up elevated comfort food like homemade meatloaf with bacon-braised greens, chicken and waffles, and some of the best mac n’ cheese in town. Explore all our restaurant deals.Read More
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