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Austin: Restaurants

You can eat well in Austin, and you can enjoy variety. You can also find restaurants that you're familiar with, such as Sullivan's, Fleming's, Ruth's Chris, P.F. Chang's, and Roy's. These need not be reviewed here. Instead, I'll list the local establishments.

Downtown and SoCo are popular restaurant zones. In other parts of the city, restaurants sit mostly along the major thoroughfares. But you'll also find restaurants tucked away in neighborhoods. Such is the case in Hyde Park, where you'll find Asti, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, and Mothers bunched together along Duval Street. In the middle of Clarksville, you'll come across Jeffrey's, Cipollina, and West Lynn Cafe. In East Austin is a tight grouping that includes Eastside Cafe, Hoovers, and Vivo, all on Manor Road in a residential area formed by French Place and Blackland neighborhoods. Visitors will likely find these restaurants convenient, as most are located close to other Austin attractions. In general, I would stay away from most of the restaurants just to the west of the university campus. Most cater to students and don't have to be good; they just have to be cheap.

Fast-food joints tend to be concentrated to the north, along the I-35 corridor. If you're looking for authentic Mexican, the east side is the place. Wherever you eat, think casual. There isn't a restaurant in Austin that requires men to put on a tie and jacket, and many upscale dining rooms are far better turned out than their rich tech-industry clientele.

Dining out can be a competitive sport in Austin. Make reservations wherever you can or dine at off-hours. If you turn up at some of the most popular spots at around 7:30pm, you might wait an hour or more. Be aware also that many charming old houses-turned-restaurants have terrible acoustics, so if you're particularly noise sensitive, you might want to give them a pass.

Finally, if you're staying in the downtown or University of Texas area, consider taking a cab (or on the weekend, a free 'Dillo) when you go out to dinner. It's hard to find a metered spot for your car, and you won't pay much more for a taxi than you would for valet parking or an independent lot. And of course the additional bonus of not having to drive around unfamiliar, often confusing streets in the dark after having had a few cocktails is incalculable.

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