It can be easy to forget how many quirky, lovable spots there are in the great city of Austin. If you're looking to immerse yourself in some great Austin-local businesses with a charm all their own, we hope you'll consider these great mainstays.
1. Violet Crown Cinema
When people think of movie watching in Austin, they think of the Alamo Drafthouse or the Paramount. However, this gem is a much quieter, much more sophisticated alternative to those other Austin staples.
Located in the 2nd Street District downtown, the Violet Crown's film selection might not be as widely varied as at the Drafthouse, but the quality of the films on offer is guaranteed. The Violet Crown leans more towards arthouse fare. It's not uncommon to see catalog titles such as "Double Life of Veronique" among the programming. This theater also offers an idiosyncratic menu of typical movie fare along with cheese plates provided by Antonelli.
The seats are also larger than most other cineplexes and the Violet Crown's theaters are much more intimate. Due to its "hidden treasure" status, you're far more likely to get a quality seat. Plus, you don't have to contend with a possibly loud wait staff like at the Drafthouse. The Violet Crown is an excellent alternative tucked away in a beautiful part of the city.
2. El Taquito
Nestled away in the Riverside area, El Taquito has been offering Austinites authentic gastronomic Mexican delicacies for decades. With humble beginnings as a street taco cart in Matamoros, Mexico, El Taquito has positioned themselves as an innovator in the food scene upon their arrival in Austin in 1995.
Their menu is packed with tantalizing treats, including authentic bistek tacos, as well as classics such as fajitas, chile relleno, barbacoa, carnitas, and more. Queso fundido, entomatadas, and more regional varieties are also available making for a packed menu of delicious plates to share with family and friends.
Breakfast taco lovers will also feel right at home with a variety of tried and true offerings such as beans, potato, and bacon. Looking for a more authentic Mexican treat? There are also breakfast tacos featuring regional delicacies such as machacado, nopales, and deshebrada.
El Taquito is hidden Austin gem that fans of Mexican food cannot miss.
3. Lala's Little Nugget
Most Austinites have heard of the garish, Christmas-every-day dive bar that is Lala's Little Nugget; but not many people make it to Justin Lane to actually stop in for a drink. Lala's may very well be the last great dive bar in Austin.
Filled with old Christmas decorations every single day, Lala's became a local Austin legend due to conflicting reports of why the Christmas decorations have been left up for so many years. Myths have transformed this hole-in-the-wall into a "Keep Austin Weird" staple.
Upon entering, you'll be struck by the particularly memorable jukebox, which contains a vast array of classic soul and crooner music from the 50s and 60s. Listening to the Delfonics while playing foosball or pool invokes a strong sense of nostalgia. If you're originally from a small town with only the local dive to grab a drink, you'll be guaranteed to feel at home here.
4. Crepe Crazy
Fresh, new, and on the rise, Crepe Crazy's artisan breakfast options have something delicious for everyone. With a wide assortment of sweet or savory crepes, this deaf-friendly diner is Austin's next big restaurant. They take their craft seriously, hand-making delicious sweet and savory creations each day.
Tucked next to a growing complex on South Lamar, Crepe Crazy evolved from a food truck into their new storefront location in 2016. The restaurant is small, but impeccably clean and welcoming. The quiet and comforting atmosphere is complemented by gracious staff who provide delicious food you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Austin.
While Austin is home to some very large, polished, and expensive-looking escape rooms, some of the most fun to be had is at Perplexium in North Austin. Offering a smaller selection of rooms (only 2 separate experiences compared to 4 in larger escape games) allows them to focus on creating an immersive, interactive experience.
What sets Perplexium apart from other escape rooms around Austin is the directly interactive element offered by the proprietors. During the Rogue AI Escape, the staff member played a character within the story of the room, and interacted with our group over a PA system. While we were solving the mystery, he was communicating with us: joking, assisting, or prodding us towards our goal as we responded in turn.
Perplexium is an impressively immersive experience that can provide equal parts fun and challenge to a group. 2-8 friends, family members, co-workers, or strangers can all take part together. Be warned, however - the level of teamwork necessary will ensure that you're not strangers by the end of the escape!
6. Austin Nature & Science Center
Tucked away in Zilker Park, the Austin Nature and Science Center offers interactive exhibits, programs, and activities for kids and families. It also hosts annual special events like Austin Nature Day and the Fall Festival, and is a great place for teachers to take students on field trips.
Visitors are also able to walk around the grounds and view the rescue animals the center has taken in over the years. From Birds of Prey, featuring Central Texas birds, Small Wonders, housing Texas Hill Country critters, and Mammal Enclosures, with bobcats, porcupines, and raccoons, there's a lot to see and learn about the creatures that call Texas their home too. There are also different trails to explore that will lead you to a pond or different lookout points around the center.
It's worth stopping if you happen to already be near Barton Springs Pool or on the Zilker Trail. Kids will love playing in the Dino Pit, or making discoveries in the Naturalists Workshop. And families can enjoy seeing and learning a little more about the wilder parts of Texas.
7. Cabo Bob's
Cabo Bob's is an Austin owned fast burrito and taco restaurant similar to Chipotle or Qdoba with a south location on East Ben White and a north location on Rio Grande and W 29th. The major difference that sets Cabo Bob's apart from competitors is their freshly grilled meats and tortillas pressed and cooked to your order.
When you select your tacos or a burrito you will get to choose from four types of tortillas: a buttermilk flour, ancho chili, cilantro tomatillo, and smokey cheddar. Each tortilla boasts a unique flavor, but all get you the freshly cooked satisfaction that will leave you craving another visit. Next time you're in need of a quick, fresh, and fully-loaded burrito, give Cabo Bob's a try.
8. Westcave Preserve
The popular swimming hole and tourist destination Hamilton Pools is certainly a world renown treasure, but just down the road from the pools are some hidden gems at the Westcave Preserve. During the guided nature walk, you will learn about the local geology, flora and fauna on your way down to the magical grotto that features a 40-foot waterfall flowing into an emerald pool, and a cave with dripping stalactites.
The Grotto is only accessible by a guided walking tour that operates every Saturday and Sunday with tours departing every two hours from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Pack a picnic and arrive an hour early to enjoy a peaceful lunch on the scenic uplands.
Whether you're an Austin native, someone who relocated here, or just visiting, we hope you enjoyed our list! These places can give you a great taste of what Austin's all about, or refresh your memory of what makes the city great. And if you're considering making Austin your home, see what homes are available here! As always, we at Pauly Presley Realty are excited to share the best Austin has to offer with you.