No matter the season in Austin, dining al fresco is always a popular activity, especially at the city’s many restaurants with a view. Here are some of our favorite places to admire the Downtown skyline, rolling waters of the Colorado River, and other scenic vistas around town.
Thanks to the help of a few fans and some cool drinks, the rooftop of El Alma is worth braving on even the hottest of summer days. The view of Downtown peaking over the roof creates a perfect city picture, while El Alma’s location, tucked safely across the lake next to Butler District Park in South Austin, is a lovely refuge from Downtown’s bustle. El Alma offers a happy hour menu each day from 3-6 and brunch on weekends, knocking down the price of their classic margarita to $6 and sangria to $5 alongside a variety of quesos and tostadas. If the appetite is not quite satisfied, they offer a variety of tacos and enchiladas that will have your mouth watering just from seeing it on the table next to you.
1025 Barton Springs Rd., elalmacafe.com
If you’re feeling boujee and your pockets could use a little lightening, the terrace at Zanzibar is the place to be. Yes, $15 is hard to stomach for a cocktail. But what if that cocktail has a flower in it, a chunk of pineapple on the side, and you’re enjoying it around a fire looking out over Austin’s skyline? Hard to beat for a bachelor party or big birthday celebration, Zanzibar is Instagram-worthy and covered in gorgeous greenery. Guaranteed at some point, you’ll look out over the city and embrace the cliché: “This is the life.”
304 E. Cesar Chavez #700, zanzibaratx.com
The menu at the Contemporary – mostly salads and sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread – is limited compared to Spread and Co’.s main location at Jefferson Square. But the tradeoff is you get to walk around this art museum’s glorious sculpture gardens, enjoying the view of the Italian-style villa that sits on the property and finding a perfect spot amidst the trees to enjoy a snack. If you’re feeling fancy, go for Spread and Co.’s signature charcuterie board, or try the “charcuterie cone,” which rolls all the delicious cheese-and-meats-and-olives-and-nuts snackables into a handy paper cone.
3809 W. 35th St., spreadandco.com
Ski Shores has been the place to kick back with family and friends for just about forever… or at least since 1954. The cafe, sitting on the water at Lake Austin and almost hidden by trees, doesn’t try to do too much. Food here is straightforward and satisfying: wings, onion rings, and fried pickles to start, burgers and fried fish for mains, and ice cold beer to wash it all down. The meal is a perfect complement to the nearby Emma Long Metropolitan Park, where you can spend the day on the beach. If you’re more of a morning-on-the-water kind of person, weekend brunch offerings include Bloody Marys and breakfast tacos, aka Austin’s favorite way to start the day.
2905 Pearce Rd., skishoresaustin.com
No Austin restaurant list is complete without at least one barbecue place. To fulfill this requirement: County Line. This restaurant has quite a few locations in Texas, but the Lake Austin location may be the most peaceful. Picnic tables line the water allowing for turtle and fish sightings as you soak in the afternoon; feel free to check out the live turtle cam on their website before heading over. Otherwise, come for the hefty barbecue platters including brisket, pork, beef, and chicken, all served with a side of slaw, beans, and potato salad.
6500 W. Bee Cave Rd., countyline.com
Located along the Colorado River in East Austin, Tillery Kitchen and Bar offers an escape from the hubbub city, even though you’re still well within city limits. Tillery bills itself as a “gathering place,” and lives up to the title: The outdoor open deck area is mostly made up of a mix of two-person tables and larger picnic benches, perfect for long chats with friends. The venue is tied together with fairy lights lining the trees and an indoor bar with large windows when you need a more temperate climate. They keep a small, rotating menu with tableside options and smaller plates for munching, including seasonal salads and roasted vegetables; happy hour discounts keep the pricier cocktails at reach.
3201 E. Cesar Chavez, tilleryatx.com
For a more classic Southern dining experience along the Colorado, this is what you want. Jacoby’s raises their own cattle on a picturesque ranch in Central Texas that supplies their Austin restaurant. Although the eatery is known for steak and other Southern favorites including chicken fried steak, mac and cheese, deviled eggs and Texas caviar, they also offer a surprising amount of vegetarian options including cauliflower steak and jackfruit. Jacoby’s does offer a fair amount of pleasant indoor seating, but the deck offers the best view, equipped with fans for summer, heaters for winter, and large umbrellas to camp out under while waiting for your meal. Sit with family, watch the sunset over the water, and be thankful you’re in Austin, Texas.
3235 E. Cesar Chavez, jacobysaustin.com
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