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As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:
Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.
Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.
Serving craft cocktails with names like Riki Tiki Tavi and Lucid Dreams, Whisler's is a favorite on the city's East Side and is currently only open Thursday-Sunday for patio service.
Address: 1816 E. 6th St. (Photo: Whisler's)(Whisler's)
3. 77 Degrees
Exotic cocktails and tasty small plates are only a small part of the draw for this rooftop oasis in the Rock Rose section of the Domain, offering cushy seating, fans with misters and views of the action below.
Address: 11500 Rock Rose Ave. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper II)(Charlie L. Harper III)
4. Iron Cactus
Serving 100 tequilas in a turn-of-the-century building, this Mexican food restaurant's gorgeous and popular rooftop overlooks on historic Sixth Street.
Address: 606 Trinity St. (Photo: Iron Cactus)
This charming Greek eatery on South Lamar sports a relaxing front courtyard covered in shade trees and drenched in an Austin-hippie-meets-Mediterranean-village vibe.
Address: 2050 S. Lamar Blvd. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper II)(Charlie L. Harper III)
A converted house with porch and yard on the city's East Side serves interior Mexican cuisine in a setting that kind of resembles a chilled-out house party in Mexico City.
Address: 1306 E. 6th S. (Photo: Licha's Cantina)
Beer, wine, coffee and cafe food meet a distinctly local vibe in the laid-back courtyard, a neighborhood favorite just east of I-35.
Address: 1400 E 38th 1/2 St. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper II)(Charlie L. Harper III)
8. Posse East
Drink a beer, grab a burger and watch your favorite sports from a safe distance on the patio in this university-adjacent sports bar, a local favorite for nearly 50 years.
Address: 2900 Duval St. (Photo: Posse East)(Posse East)
One of Austin's food-truck-turned-restaurant success stories, this little haven on the East Side serves some of the city's most popular Turkish fast food - wraps and falafel shots and local beer.
Address: 1311 E. 7th St. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper II)(Charlie L. Harper III)
10. G'raj Mahal
Another food-truck success story, this Indian food joint has been a staple on Rainey Street for more than a decade and boasts a patio in the shade surrounded by decorative bicycle wheels and great people watching.
Address: 73 Rainey St. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper II)(Charlie L. Harper III)
Sit on the covered front porch with your buddies and your pups at this South Lamar favorite, with a full bar and menu that includes one of the best Chicago dogs in the city.
Address: 2108 S. Lamar Blvd. (Photo: Black Sheep Lodge)
This iconic South Congress restaurant and beer garden serves interior Mexican fare and boasts a full bar, house-made tortillas and excellent SoCo vibe. Its small front porch and the Oak Garden next door are both open.
Address: 1412 S. Congress (Photo: Guero's)
13. Culinary Dropout
This hip spot on the edge of the Domain's North Side plaza offers a spacious covered patio lined with white leather benches and tables with plenty of room between them, serving food and drinks in a casual but cosmopolitan setting.
Address: 11721 Rock Rose Ave. (Photo: Charlie L. Harper III)(Charlie L. Harper III)
This iconic three-level club downtown sports many cool indoor spots, but it made this list for its stellar rooftop, with cush seating, shade and views of the skyline.
Address: 412 Congress Ave. D (Photo: Speakeasy)(Speakeasy)
15. Jo's Coffee
A SoCo staple for decades, the window service and covered patio and sunnier street-side seating give a funky summer-camp-cantina feel to one of the city's trendiest urban neighborhoods. Don't forget the photo op with the iconic "I Love You So Much" message painted in red on its green north-facing wall.
Address: 1300 S. Congress Ave. (Photo: Jo's Coffee)
If you're dying for a date night and looking for a romantic outdoor space, this dreamy Italian eatery in the hills of Northwest Austin boasts beautiful views and elegant fare on its comfortable patio.
Address: 6203 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. (Photo: Siena Ristorante)(Siena Ristorante)
17. Hula Hut
A longtime Lake Austin favorite just west of downtown, the Hula Hut (and its neighbors along the lakefront) beckons with a decidedly summer vibe; the pina coladas and coconut shrimp are a bonus.
Address: 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. (Photo: Hula Hut)(Hula Hut)
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For Marco Silvestrini, gelato takes him back to his childhood when he and neighborhood kids in a small Italian town would end their day at the local gelato shop. It was part of what made some of the best memories for him.
He's since been offering that same experience for the past seven years with his artisanal gelato shop, Dolce Neve, in Austin, alongside his sister and her husband.
Leo Ferrarese, Marco and Franscesa Silvestrini run Dolce Neve. (Dolce Neve)
While gelato always played a big role in Silvestrini's life, it wasn't in his plans to take on a business with his favorite treat. After a few years in New York working as a management consultant, he felt he was missing out on something. "I decided to take a step back and started thinking, what could... I do to make society better and happier, even just for a moment," Silvestrini said.
He thought back to his childhood and the role gelato played in it and wanted to offer the same experience to Americans.
Once he had the product idea down, it came down to location. Growing up among farmers in a small community in Central Italy, Silvestrini knew he wanted a slower pace of living than New York, so he asked around. The answer he got: "Austin." The only thing he knew about what would become his future home was it had a Formula 1 track.
But after visiting once, he felt a great sense of community he didn't feel in The Empire State. "I felt it was not just a good place for a concept like mine, but also a good place to live because at the end of the day, you cannot just think about your business," he said.
"Dolce Neve" translates to "sweet snow." The shops offers 12-18 flavors at a time. (Dolce Neve)
Similarly, his sister Francesca Silvestrini was experiencing the same feelings while studying for her Ph.D. in Ohio before teaming up with Silvestrini. She went back to Italy to be properly trained in making gelato while Silvestrini focused on the business plan. They brought Leo Ferrarese, her husband, onboard and opened their first shop on South First Street in January 2014. The rest is history.
On the menu, you'll find various traditional and innovative flavors that rotate out. Some of the staples include chocolate, 100% vanilla from Madagascar and salted caramel. Other rotating or seasonal flavors include whiskey and pecan, organic cantaloupe sorbet, goat cheese and pecan, almond custard and tiramisu. They've created over 300 flavors together in the span of the business.
So what's next for the shop? Lately, Silvestrini has been thinking a lot about that. With two locations in Austin, one in Houston—he's just not sure if expanding more is the right move. Maintaining a quality product and good service is of utmost importance that he's not willing to sacrifice.
"In order to be happy, it's not about making money, it's about being an integral part of the community," Silvestrini said. "There have been so many cases in which I think what I did today really made a difference in somebody's life."
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After a long, long year without live music, Austin has waited patiently for a return that has finally come. Festivals are planning returns and even venues that adhered strictly to safety protocols during the pandemic are feeling safe enough to gather again in person.
Starting in just a few short days, you can finally enjoy what makes Austin, well, Austin again. Here are a few of the live shows to look forward to.
Stubb's Waller Creek, 801 Red River Street
For the first time since the pandemic shut the iconic venue down forcing canceled and rescheduled shows, Stubb's BBQ is reopening its amphitheater to the public for concerts starting with a series of five sold-out Black Pumas shows, each with different openers, from May 26-30. It may be too late to catch Black Pumas this time around but Stubb's already has a host of other shows scheduled up through December. You can catch Surfaces, a College Station-based jazz-pop-hip-hop and vocals heavy duo known best for their song "Sunday Best," on Stubb's Stage on June 25 while tickets go on sale this Friday.
Next at Stubb's is electronic duo Louis the Child on July 28 and 29 on their "Euphoria Tour," followed by Umphrey's McGee on Sept. 9.
Mohawk Austin, 912 Red River Street
Likewise, Mohawk Austin has remained closed for more than a year since the onset of COVID-19, even tweeting "Thanks bro but we ain't gonna do it till it's safe," in response to Gov. Greg Abbott lifting all safety restrictions back in March. Starting May 27, Mohawk is officially back with Heartless Bastards and opener The Tender Things.
From there, Mohawk has an exciting lineup—Jukebox the Ghost will play on Sept. 10, Bully and opener Lightning Bug on Sept. 17, Big Freedia and Too Many Zooz on Oct. 4 and Beach Bunny on Dec. 14, with several talented artists in-between. Keep checking back though, Mohawk will continue to add shows and is currently planning on operating at 50%.
Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River Street
Though it is making a later comeback than Stubb's or Mohawk, the Frank Erwin Center will make a huge return on Aug. 14 featuring Tame Impala. If you missed their highly popular set at Austin City Limits Festival in 2019 or you want to relive it, this is the chance to do so. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to see the stage, though you will still be watching with around 16,000 other spectators. Michael Bublé will have you swooning when he comes to perform on Sept. 20 and Chris Stapleton is taking his "All American Road Show" live on Nov. 4.
Nutty Brown Amphitheatre, 12225 US-290
Holding some socially distanced concerts earlier this year, the Nutty Brown Amphitheatre isn't stopping there with rap artist Ginger Billy playing two sets on May 7. Nutty Brown has a star-studded lineup ahead: Austin-based Bob Schneider on May 8 and other Austin favorite Shinyribs will grace the stage May 29. A little further down the line, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts will take over on Aug. 21 followed by Styx on Oct. 23.
Texas Performing Arts Center, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive
If you prefer a little bit more visual appeal to go with your music, the Texas Performing Arts Center is reopening in-person after consistent online events. First up is Cody Ko and Noel Miller, a multi-hyphenated YouTuber-podcaster-comedian duo, who will perform their "Tiny Meat Gang – Global Domination," on July 31. Of course you can't miss The Beach Boys, coming to the theater on Oct. 24, or a two-week long production of Hamilton from Dec. 7-19. For all the young ones that have missed going out in-person, "Disney Princess—The Concert" is coming to the Texas Performing Arts Center on Feb. 6, 2022, performing timeless gems like "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast and featuring all their other favorite princesses. Tickets go on sale this Friday.
Remember to jump on those tickets–Austinites have been missing their live music!
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