Where To Eat On South Congress (According To Locals)
South Congress...what a babe, right?! Popular for being the primary tourist district in Austin, Texas, South Congress (or SOCO) is full of shops, famous murals, coffee, hotels, rooftop pools, bars, and lots and lots of restaurants. Wondering where to eat on South Congress? From tacos to upscale dinner restaurants, here's the best food on South Congress.
Sure, there's the flagship Torchy's Tacos. (And if we're being honest, queso and a Trailer Park taco is always a good idea.) But in this guide, we're sharing local Austin resident recommendations for the best South Congress restaurants, including a few hidden gems that tourists don't always know about.
Where To Eat On South Congress
1. Sips & Sweets Cafe
GO HERE FOR: SOME BUBBLY WHILE YOU SHOP
Located inside the flagship Kendra Scott in Austin, this cafe offers macarons, coffee, wine, and bites from local Austin bakers. They even offer a daily South Congress happy hour! You can get a glass of bubbly to sip while you shop, or enjoy your treats on the outdoor covered patio.
While it's not necessarily the best option if you need a meal (head across the street to June's All Day for that...), Sips and Sweets cafe is the perfect little spot to grab a macaron, a glass of wine, and maybe a seasonal dessert or snack to enjoy before you pick out some gorgeous Kendra Scott jewelry.
2. Tiny Grocer
GO HERE FOR: A LUNCH SPOT THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT
This is so much more than in a grocery store! (Although, yes, it does have groceries...)
Pop into this itty-bitty grocery store on South Congress and beeline for the back wall. That’s where you’ll find the Tiny Delicatessan with the most scrumptious lunch sandos, salads, breakfast bagels, coffee, and soft serve. There are loads of vegan and gf options here, too.
And if you want to do some grocery shopping to bring a few goodies back to your home, they have a curated selection of beverages, spreads, snacks, fermented foods, desserts, and more.
3. Magnolia Cafe
GO HERE FOR: ICONIC AUSTIN QUESO
You’re in Austin, and you know you’re supposed to eat queso while you’re here…but where? Well, Magnolia Cafe has one of the most iconic queso in Austin. It’s called “Mag Mud” because it’s made with black beans that you mix into the queso. PS: President Obama ate at Magnolia Cafe when he visited Austin.
Magnolia Cafe is a no-frills type of place, but it's one of those old classic Austin restaurants that everyone needs to visit at least once.
GO HERE FOR: THE MOST POPULAR BRUNCH ON SOUTH CONGRESS
Tucked inside the new Music Lane development at the northern end of South Congres Ave, Aba is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with an elevated menu, a beautiful outdoor patio...and a. long wait time for a table. If you're wondering where to eat on South Congress, this is one of the hottest reservations to get right now.
The restaurant originated from Chicago, but it seems to be made for Austin’s climate: the hot-weather foods, sprawling patio with swinging lanterns and lush greenery, and cool cocktail bar are the perfect addition to the South Congress restaurant scene. It's perfect at any time of day, but the brunch hours are an especially sweet time to enjoy the beautiful Texas weather.
(TIP: Music Lane restaurants validate underground parking for 2 hours.)
5. Jo's Coffee
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you already know this South Congress coffee shop: it’s the one with the famous I Love You So Much mural written on the side. If you’re shopping and need a quick pick-me-up, step up to the window and order a coffee + breakfast taco to go.
Jo's is famous for their Iced Turbo, which is basically an iced latte with extra espresso, hazelnut, chocolate, and condensed milk. If you love sweet, sugary, super-charged coffee drinks, head to Jo's on a hot day for a little pick-me-up. And even if you don't order a coffee, be sure to snap a picture by the famous mural.
6. Joann's Fine Foods
GO HERE FOR: THE BEST SOUTH CONGRESS PATIO
This retro patio bar is outside the Austin Motel. It’s a great place to stop for lunch, rest your feet, and order some American classics (their chicken fried steak is a winner) or a Tex-Mex favorite (try the skirt steak fajitas.)
Just in the mood for a cocktail? Get a margarita or a Paloma. Booze-free? They have fresh-squeezed juices that taste amazing after an afternoon in the hot Austin sun.
7. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
GO HERE FOR: A SWEET TREAT
This Columbus-based ice cream brand has a storefront on South Congress located in a century-old building. Stop by getting a scoop of their splendid ice cream in a cup or a cone. The milk-based treats are made from grass-grazed cream, and the vegan scoops are just as thoughtfully prepared.
If you’re on South Congress with a friend, try their ice cream flight: your choice of 10 scoops of different flavors, served with waffle cone chips.
8. Lucky Robot
GO HERE FOR: MAKING A MEAL OUT OF HAPPY HOUR DEALS
Want a little bit of Tokyo while you’re in Austin, Texas? Lucky Robot is one of the few sustainable seafood restaurants in Austin. They source their fish conscientiously, educating their staff and customers about the long-term effects our food choices have on the planet. This means you can dine on delicious sushi, knowing you’re making good choices for our oceans.
Their Mon-Fri happy hour is an excellent time to sit outside on the sidewalk patio and enjoy half-price select sashimi, kitchen menu items, and bottles of sake and wine.
9. Hotel San José
GO HERE FOR: A HIDDEN GEM PATIO BAR
It’s tucked off the sidewalk, but the poolside patio at Hotel San Jose is open to non-hotel guests if you know what you’re looking for. The simple menu of beer, wine, cocktails, and light fare is available to courtyard guests daily. Bonus: it’s 10% off after dark.
GO HERE FOR: AN UPSCALE DINNER
Not only is this seafood restaurant an excellent spot for a fun dinner out on South Congress, but it’s also one of the best patios in Austin. The sprawling live oak-shaded outdoor space is a beautiful place to get a martini and a plate of raw oysters and watch the shoppers bustle by.
Perla’s has an excellent seafood program with fresh fish flown in daily. This is where to eat on South Congress if you want a phenomenal grilled seafood meal, an upscale lobster roll, or simply a plate of raw oysters at the cocktail bar.
11. Home Slice
GO HERE FOR: AN ICONIC AUSTIN PIZZA RESTAURANT
Home Slice is probably the first stop you should make on your food journey on this iconic Austin street. It’s a household name in Austin, and locals love it just as much as tourists.
What tourists don’t always know? The subs are even better than the pizza. (Seriously - ask any Austin local where to get the best meatball sub in Austin, and they’ll tell you it’s at Home Slice.)
If you’re not up for waiting for a table, go next door to More Home Slice and get a slice or two to-go. They have some tables outside where you can enjoy them before continuing your shopping journey.
GO HERE FOR: A GORGEOUS COFFEE SHOP EXPERIENCE ON SOCO
Arguably the most instagrammable coffee shop in south Austin, Mañana is a well-known coffee shop on South Congress where you can relax and stay a while. It’s located on the first floor of the South Congress Hotel, and it’s worth a visit whether you’re a hotel guest or not.
Stop by for a coffee, juice, or house-made pastry from James Beard Award semifinalist Amanda Rockman.
WEBSITE |1603 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
A fun speakeasy-style Japanese cocktail bar inside the South Congress Hotel. Water trade is adjacent to Otoko, one of the most sought-after omakase experiences in Austin. While there's a long wait list (and a $250 price tag per person) to dine at Otoko, the Watertrade cocktail bar is open to the public - no reservations required.
The entrance isn't marked, so most people don't know about it! Walk into the courtyard of the hotel, and you'll see some unmarked stairs. At the top of the stairs, you'll find the word OTOKO, and that means you're in the right place!
14. Little Brother Coffee & Kolaches
GO HERE FOR: A WALK-BY SNACK
You might miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for! Little Brother (from the same team who brought you Better Half Bar, one of our recommendations for big group brunch spots in Austin) is a small walkup window offering coffee + kolache. It’s a simple concept, but the sweet or savory kolache paired with a (consistently good) coffee is a great start to the morning.
Little Brother is where to eat on South Congress when you need breakfast on the run.
15. Café No Sé
GO HERE FOR: AN INSTAGRAMMABLE BREAKFAST OR LUNCH
Located inside the South Congress Hotel, Café No Sé is bright, colorful, and full of healthy (or indulgent) breakfast and lunch items. This is a darling spot to stop in for a quick meal. You’ll find salads, burgers, breakfast bowls, and such, as well as the same delicious pastries that you can get at Mañana Coffee Shop.
GO HERE FOR: ITALIAN FOOD AT AN AUSTIN INSTITUTION
Vespaio has been a favorite since 1998, making it one of the oldest operating restaurants on South Congress today. The scratch-made menu impresses diners again and again. This is the place to order the full bottle of wine, order all the things, and indulge to your heart’s content in handmade pasta, excellent red sauce, and some of the best tiramisu in town. Vespaio butchers their own protein uses the entire animal, and approaches every part of their restaurant, from the back to the front of the house, with the same amount of care.
17. June's All Day
GO HERE FOR: WINE + DINNER ON THE PATIO
“All Day” is part of the title, and while you can certainly stop by for a morning coffee + croissant or a burger + frites and rosé for happy hour, we recommend an evening meal. The menu at this tiny corner spot on South Congress might make this your favorite restaurant in Austin.
Sit on the small bistro patio if you enjoy people watching, or enjoy the indoor banquet seating near the vintage jukebox indoor if you want a more retro feel. (The bar is a fun place to perch if you’re on a date or dining solo.) Try their Bone Marrow Bolonaise or the famous Fried Chicken Sandwich with kohlrabi ranch slaw and hot sauce. If you’re a wino, you’ll find something fun in their expertly curated and always evolving wine list.
18. The Meteor Cafe
GO HERE FOR: FOR THE CUTEST WINE BAR + COFFEE SHOP
When you’re ready to relax, stop by The Meteor Cafe. Order a sourdough pizza and pick out a bottle of natural wine from the fridge. They’ll open it for you, provide a few glasses, and you can enjoy it on their spacious back patio. (It’s located behind the store, so it will feel like you’re tucked away from the noise of South Congress.)
By the way, this is a great spot for morning coffee + breakfast, too.
19. Lucy's Fried Chicken
Whether you’re stopping for brunch with the group or you just want a really solid dinner meal on South Congress, Lucy’s Fried Chicken is a favorite among Austin locals for fresh oysters, homemade pie, and (duh) fried chicken + sides.
There’s a small indoor area, but the majority of this restaurant is for outdoor covered dining. The deep-fried deviled eggs with house aioli are the must-try appetizer for the table, and be sure you try the Fried Chicken Spaghetti if you want something a little bit unique. Don’t leave without getting at least one slice of the pecan pie.
20. Teal House Coffee and Bakery
Everyone in Austin knows where to get the best cinnamon rolls in Austin: Teal House, a coffee shop + bakery that’s just south of the main shopping region of South Congress Ave. It’s only a few blocks away and worth the short walk for those warm, gooey rolls covered in cream cheese frosting.
Order singles (or by the ½ or full dozen if you want to bring them back to your house) of regular or gluten-free rolls. Teal House is a full coffee shop as well. On busy tourism mornings, it’s typically a bit less crowded than some of the mainstream coffee shops on South Congress (Jo’s, Manana), and you can order your drink with faster service.
GO HERE FOR: AN IONIC SOUTH CONGRESS BURGER RESTAURANT
This wouldn’t be a guide to where to eat on South Congress without mentioning this Austin native. Hopdoddy Burger Bar's flagship store is right here on South Congress Ave. They started in Austin and now have several locations around the country.
This burger chain offers fresh, handmade burgers served on soft buns (GF available!) or in salad bowls. The names are just as memorable as the toppings: the spicy Llano Poblano with pepper jack cheese and seared poblanos, the sweet-and-salty Bacon Jam Double with house-made tomato bacon jam, and the Goodnight/Good Cause, whose order proceeds go to fund local Austin charities. Be sure to get one of their giant margaritas, a bowl of shareable truffle fries, and a milkshake for dessert.
22. The Salty Donut
GO HERE FOR: THE BEST DONUTS ON SOUTH CONGRESS
This Miami-based boutique donut shop serves donuts + coffee, but not just any normal donuts… These are crazy flavors like prickly pear margarita, sweet potato pie, and affogato.
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