Where we serve it up in Austin
Heart of Texas Motel, inexpensive, (512) 892-0644.
It may not be the swankiest place in town, but the Heart of Texas has, well, a lot of heart. Longtime owners Jim and Brenda Osbon see to that with touches like board games, a basketball, a barbecue grill, and a warm welcome for what they call your "four-legged children."
The Mansion at Judges' Hill, moderate to expensive, (800) 311-1619.
Looking at this century-old house turned hotel, you'd never guess you were in downtown Austin. You'd think you were in some upscale neighborhood on one of those historic-homes tours. And considering the four-star flourishes and four-star treatment you get here, you might just feel like it, too.
Dart Bowl Steakhouse, inexpensive, (512) 459-4181.
You might think we've got this one in the wrong category, but nope, we're really recommending a bowling alley for its food. While the atmosphere may have suffered since the Dart moved from its original digs, the oniony enchiladas, big-bunned burgers, and rest of the menu are still well worth the trip.
Las Manitas Avenue Café, inexpensive, (512) 472-9357.
We've been going to this downtown Mexican institution since our college days. Don't even dare guess what year that was; just know it was before notable locals like actor Lukas Haas and singer Alejandro Escovedo could be found munching on migas at the counter or sipping heaping bowls of menudo on the back patio.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, (512) 292-4200.
Cofounded by the former First Lady, the Wildflower Center is not only a place where scientists study and preserve North American flora, but also a 279-acre oasis ablaze with colorful fields of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, verbena, and countless other local species. It'll make you want to break out the trowel and get busy planting.
Whole Foods Market, (512) 476-1206.
Have we gotten our categories mixed up yet again? Can a grocery store really be an attraction? When it's the grocery chain's brand-new, 80,000-square-foot landmark location boasting cooking demonstrations, several dining areas, live music, a moving sidewalk, a rooftop garden, and a trickling stream, the answer is a resounding yes.
Waterloo Records and Video, (512) 474-2500.
Austin may be the Live Music Capital, but we bet whatever you have a mind to hear, this 23-year-old CD/record shop will have as well. Of course, if you insist on the real thing, Waterloo hosts regular in-store performances (with refreshments courtesy of the Saint Arnold Brewing Company!).