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There’s no reason to resist an Iced Turbo from Jo’s Coffee, imbibing on 6th Street or a pound of brisket from Franklin’s barbecue when visiting Austin, Texas. But the truth is there’s so much more to this raucous food town and live music capital than the unbearable lines at Hopdoddy Burger Bar and the obligatory late night pie at Home Slice. Here is the insider’s guide to Austin hand delivered by the locals who live there.

Parsley croissants

Parsley croissants | Photo courtesy of Jason Heidemann

Barley Swine Austin isn’t so cool as to be without chunks of strip malls and fast food chains, but tucked away on an otherwise mundane stretch of Burnet Road is Barley Swine, an adorable home for shareable American small plates that will knock your socks off. The parsley croissants with bone marrow spread will leave you breathless as will the shiitake pasta with scrambled egg and grilled broccoli. Save room for desserts—they’re amazing.

The Little Longhorn Saloon No visit to the Live Music Capital of the World is complete without a little honky tonk but while most tourists head downtown or to the Continental Club to get their fix, locals pack themselves in at the Little Longhorn Saloon, a cramped, no-frills dive where the motto is “No Fussin’, No Cussin’, No Husselin’, No Wresslin'”. The only thing to do is listen to the band while drinking a cold beer—and play Chicken Shit Bingo every Sunday of course.

Ann and Roy Butler Trail and Boardwalk

Ann and Roy Butler Trail and Boardwalk | Photo courtesy of the Trail Foundation

Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail When it comes to the outdoors, Austin residents are spoiled for choice and most visitors are happy to settle on watching the bats take flight at the Congress Avenue Bridge, dip into the cool waters at Barton Springs or get naked at Hippie Hollow. But if you ask us, there’s no greater pleasure than heading over to Zilker Metropolitan Park via this trail and taking a sunrise stroll or jog along this magnificent and scenic riverfront trail.

The Salt Lick BBQ

The Salt Lick BBQ | Flickr CC: vxla

The Salt Lick BBQ Most locals agreed this is hardly the best bbq, but nevertheless argued for it as an off-the-beaten-path winner and they were right. Located in hilly and picturesque Driftwood about 25 miles southwest of Austin, the sprawling Salt Lick BBQ and winery packs ’em in by the hundreds on weekends. Enjoy a cheese plate and glass of wine al fresco while waiting for a table, but save room for heaps of brisket in a rustic and energetic banquet setting.

The Lobby Bar at the South Congress Hotel There’s just no way this will be a secret for very long, but given that this minimalist chic hotel with its super slick “deep in the heart of Texas” vibe is barely five months old, it still fits snugly into the undiscovered category. Sidle up to the bar and make nice with the friendly bartenders or retreat to a cozy couch and sip on a Pimm’s Cup while canoodling with someone special. Dang, this place is cool.

Rainy Street Maybe not so unknown at all, but certainly if you keep hearing that Austin is all about the bars on 6th Street (which are packed with out of towners making bad life decisions) you need to get yourself to Rainy Street, a historic district which is also home to a strip of taprooms and joints including Container Bar (constructed out of actual shipping containers), Icenhauer’s and the perfectly chill and enjoyable Lucille.

Elizabeth Street Cafe

Elizabeth Street Cafe | Photo courtesy of Molly Winters

Elizabeth Street Cafe A pretty, tree-lined stroll just a handful of blocks away from the hustle and bustle of South Congress, this hopelessly cozy Vietnamese restaurant and bakery is simply perfection. Not only are the apps— like broiled escargot in Thai basil curry butter—and selection of Bahn Mi Phos terrific, but the baked goods are likewise divine which may help explain its brunch popularity. At night, the pretty patio is downright romantic.

More… You won’t make it everywhere, but here are some other “locals approved” places around town. The service is famously slow at Justine’s, but the food is amazing. Says one local, “You have to know your server is going to walk away for like 45 minutes to do shots with their friends.” Wine Belly has a terrific wine list but also serves awesome French tapas and be on the lookout for the daily specials. Freedman’s for bbq is an old-fashioned speakeasy (that also happens to make an amazing Old Fashioned). The barbecue is reportedly better than Franklin’s and save room for the sea salt chocolate mousse. Curra’s is great for brunch and serves a mean avocado margarita and hit up Shady Grove for its its catfish and awesome outdoor patio.

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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