With the weather warming up in preparation for summer, brunch season is upon us and the Austonia team has some thoughts.
Whether you’re looking for something lowkey to roll out of bed for, like Andrea's pick, a South Congress outing, where Sonia's pick will take you, or something a little more on the wild side like Figi’s pick, there’s a brunch in Austin for everyone.
If you haven't already, check out some of our Austonia-approved favorites.
Andrea’s pick: Magnolia Cafe, 1920 S. Congress Ave.
Serving Austin since 1979, Magnolia Cafe is synonymous with Austin and even served President Barack Obama at its now-closed Lake Austin location once. Andrea likes the option to sit either indoor or outdoor and the pleasant waiting experience, since they don’t take reservations. If she's feeling savory, Andrea orders the tropical turkey tacos. If she’s feeling sweet, Andrea recommends the royal toast.
Claire’s pick: Blue Dahlia Bistro, 3663 Bee Cave Rd.
With fond memories of visiting the San Marcos location throughout college, Claire has been enjoying Austin-based Blue Dahlia Bistro. Claire often sits on the gardeny outdoor patio with a prickly pear or white peach mimosa and orders some of the bistro’s “legendary waffles.”
Figi’s pick: Vixens of Volstead Drag Brunch, 1500 E. 6th St.
When I go out on weekends, I’m looking for brunch and a show. The patio at Hotel Vegas and Volstead is the place to be when drag queens Mars, May Magdalene and Veronica Valentine take the stage from 1-3 p.m. for Sunday brunch. Grab a crispy chicken sandwich and some sriracha ranch tots from Vegas Concessions, the adjoining food truck, a cocktail of your preference and get your cash out for an exciting show from start to finish. Don’t forget to tip the Vixens!
Isabel’s pick: Paperboy, 1203 E. 11th St.
If you can manage a reservation at the buzzy East Austin restaurant, Isabel recommends making a stop at Paperboy. Isabel says to sit upstairs on the patio if you can, grab a cold brew martini and enjoy the vibes. Try her favorite, the migas with goat carnitas, or a kale salad for a light choice.
John’s pick: Jo’s Coffee, 242 W. 2nd St.
A tried-and-true Austin classic so popular it has its own airport location, you can find our operations manager visiting Jo’s downtown location on weekends. Though it’s not your typical brunch setting, John says the joint has great coffee, “phenomenal” lunch sandwiches and despite not having a dog, he enjoys seeing other people’s pups on the patio. Seasonal specials, like a pistachio latte or matcha palmer, keep the menu fresh and free parking keeps the downtown location accessible.
Mark’s pick: Pool Burger, 2315 Lake Austin Blvd.
For those warm summers, our publisher enjoys the outdoor atmosphere and a Mai Tai (with a dark rum floater) at Pool Burger’s tiki bar. Mark orders a hippy burger with a fried egg and crinkle fries and soaks in that casual, carefree and beachy vibe.
Sonia’s pick: Joann’s Fine Foods, 1224 S. Congress Ave.
A lowkey tropical vibe along South Congress, Joann’s Fine Foods is great for people watching or enjoying the sights and sounds of the strip. Our Sonia likes to sit on the back patio, since you often don’t need to make reservations in that section, with some white bean hummus and some great migas. The laid-back atmosphere is perfect for long jaw sessions!
With soft sand, plenty of beach bars and the best ceviche, there's arguably only one beach worth going to in Texas—South Padre Island.
You might know this beach as a college student's spring break hotspot, but really, it's the Rio Grande Valley's most secret gem. From someone who has been going to "the island" every year since before I could walk, here's a guide to the best SPI has to offer.
First thing's first, don't underestimate how hot South Texas is. Be ready with plenty of sunscreen. If you thought Austin was hot, you're in for a treat as high humidity will make the Valley feel scorching. Luckily, the water offers some reprieve from the sun's rays—still, be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat.
Driving in: From Austin, you can expect almost a six hour drive. Your navigation will take you either around San Antonio (which is a plus for most people) or through San Antonio, funneling to U.S. 77 until you reach Valley grounds in Harlingen.
- From there, it might be smarter to take the toll roads, which border the Port of Brownsville and will save you going through small towns like Los Fresnos that can get backed up with traffic.
- But if you do decide to hightail it through Los Fresnos, be wary of how fast you are going and the speed limit. Cops are especially on the prowl in those areas, catching out of towners unfamiliar with the speed limit changes.
Still, no matter which route you take, you'll go through Port Isabel before crossing the 2-mile bridge to South Padre. During peak times, such as early afternoon, expect to sit in traffic. Better times to travel are in the early morning.
Flying in: For the people that read a six-hour drive with wide eyes, there is a nearby airport in Brownville, a 40-minute drive from SPI, as well as the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, a 1-hour drive away. Be ready to spend $250-$400 a person.
Sights and sounds
Getting to the RGV, you'll be welcomed with palm trees well before you've made it to the beach. And just before crossing the bridge from Port Isabel to South Padre, you'll see a sign that may be blinking, indicating to watch out for pelicans.
As you drive over that bridge, your passengers will want to get their phones out and take the classic video of the the water, boats and parasailers in the bay. It's the best way to let everyone know you're on vacation!
And don't forget to roll down your window to take in the salty smell of the gulf of Mexico.
Resorts: For beach access and the fun amenities that come with that, places like The Pearl, The Palm and The Saphire are where you'll get a resort-style feel.
Affordable: You can still find a Holiday Inn, Ramada and La Quinta along the beach bars.
Airbnb is always an option where you can rent out condos, but you'll want to make sure to book in advance as options may be limited in peak summer.
There are at least 25 access points to the beach, which is on the east edge of the island. Some you can only get to if you're a hotel guest. Here are the most popular ways to reach the sand.
Walking to the beach: Between the bars and hotels, you'll find free access points where you get to just park and walk right onto the beach. You're likely to still find umbrellas and chairs you can rent out.
Beach bar access: Some of the most popular places for beach entry are those that come with a nearby bar. But don't worry, all ages are welcome. You'll want to check these bars' social media pages in the evenings if you're looking for live music.
- Where you're almost certain to not struggle for parking is one of the hottest spots on the beach: Clayton's Beach Bar and Grill. At Clayton's, you're able to get your drink on, get a bite to eat and have access to the beach and volleyball courts.
- A smaller, but just as cool alternative is Wanna Wanna Beach Bar and Grill. With the same amenities as Clayton's, you can't go to Wanna Wanna without trying a turbo, a pina colada with a rum floater—you can get these just about anywhere on the beach, but they just taste better beachside.
Driving on the beach: If you want to try your four-wheel drive on the sand, you can! Access points #5 and #6 allow you to pay a small fee to take your vehicle out there. Click here to see how you might prepare your vehicle for the sand. If you choose to go with this option, you'll want to make sure to pack appropriately as there are no rentals or bars nearby.
If you're trying to make the most of your South Padre getaway, we have you covered with things for the whole family as well as the nightlife scene.
- Watch the fireworks: Catch a fireworks display at the island all summer long. Catch them displayed on the bay in front of Louie's Backyard on Tuesdays and near Clayton Beach Bar on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Beach Park and Isla Grande: The former Schlitterbahn is now a beach park that opened in 2021. The 25-acre waterpark has water slides, a zipline and beach access. (Day passes are $38.99 for children and $10 more for adults)
- Sea Turtle, Inc.: Learn about sea turtles and sea life conservation at the largest state-of-the-art sea turtle hospital. You'll be able to get up close and personal with the turtles! ($4 for children, $10 for adults)
- Gravity Park: For the adrenaline junkies, this park has the tallest reverse bungee in the world ($25), a skycoaster ($25), go-karts ($15-$20), mini-golf ($8-10), a 60-foot ferris wheel ($8), and a climbing wall ($8).
- Sandcastle exhibit: Right next to Gravity Park is a small sandcastle exhibit that is free and about a 5-minute walk to see all the exhibits made entirely from sand by professionals. (Free w/ donations accepted)
- Get in on the water sports: A couple of rental places like Coconut Jacks SPI offer jet skis for rental as well as equipment for parasailing.
- Rent a pontoon boat: Tritoon Charters allows you to rent a pontoon boat for the day perfect for the whole family. The charter offers private snorkeling, shell hunting, up close dolphin and turtle encounters, tubing and sight seeing.
- Party like a local: Escape the beachside and head to the west edge of the island for live music and dancing. Tourists love to flood Louie's Backyard, but there are other bars along the bay worth going to such as Longboard, Laguna Bobs and Tequila Sunset.
You can't leave the island before eating ceviche and fried shrimp. And you can't go wrong by eating at the already mentioned beach bars and bay bars. But here are some other notable places to visit:
- Breakfast: Yummies Bistro and Grapevine Cafe are both places to get your breakfast tacos in the morning.
- Lunch: Cafe on the Beach are good midday options to catch a quick bite without sacrificing quality.
- Dinner: F&B is about as upscale as it gets if you can snag a reservation—Elon Musk has been spotted here. They also offer Sunday brunch.
The pilot of a small plane is now in the hospital after crashing into Lady Bird Lake Thursday afternoon.
The plane, which was being operated by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden, only had the pilot in it when it crashed just west of I-35 in the lake around 2 p.m. Nearby paddleboarders are seen taking the unidentified pilot to Austin-Travis County EMS in a video.
The pilot was then transported to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially serious injuries.
UPDATE: #ATCEMSSPARTAN drone video showing the aircraft submerged just below the surface. pic.twitter.com/wexI9MqpQS
— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) June 16, 2022
Texas Parks and Wildlife said the plane, a 2009 Cessna T206, was on a test flight after routine maintenance when the pilot reported mechanical issues and then crashed.
As of Thursday afternoon, it is not known when the plane will be removed from Lady Bird Lake.
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