Five Locations: Where to Stay, Where to Dine In Our Embiggening City
Noteworthy nearby hotels and the restaurants in them
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:00PM, Tue. Jan. 10, 2023
OK, we’ve had the opportunity to experience lodging and dining at a number of local hotels in the past year, and, yeah, we’ve already mentioned a few of them and their attractive amenities in one section or another of your Austin Chronicle. But now –
Well, here’s a round-up – like we’re modern, journalistic cowboys, right? – of five places that especially made us voice some more urban equivalent of yeeee-haw! If you’re looking for a place to stay, or just a place to eat, these five (and one bonus) will do you right:
1. East Austin Hotel We’re not ranking these recommendations in order, no, but tbh the East Austin Hotel is our favorite – due to how it’s locally owned and operated, its sweet location at Sixth & Waller, its mid-century Scandinavian-inflected rooms that span a rental spectrum from Euro-style setups with a shared bathroom to expansive poolside suites, and the way the whole newly risen venue seems like a cross between a boho hangspace and the fanciest boardinghouse on some tropical isle. Add in the rooftop bar and the second iteration of homegrown Second Bar + Kitchen on the ground floor – even nonguests pack in to sample the excellent menu throughout the day & night – and you’ll be surprised at how affordable this place is. 1108 E. Sixth.
2. Hotel ZaZa Now here, on the other hand, is poshness personified. Here is some chart-topping panache in rent-a-room form. Too bold and confident to be cheesy, this Downtown temple of temporary territories flaunts big-city hostelry with a distinct rock & roll flair, employs folks who, in our experience, are as professional as they are friendly, and boasts not one but two solid dining spots among its hospitable finery: Perfect Strangers and Group Therapy. But can you afford the well-appointed rooms in this place? That depends – right, citizen? On what you think your time and comfort and sense of aesthetics are worth, after you’ve busted your ass for whatever sweet salary you’re finally making. Our suggestion: Go for it. 400 Lavaca.
3. Thompson Hotel It doesn’t exude quite the rockstar vibe of its neighbor ZaZa, but the Thompson – Hyatt International’s well-planned boutique flex – is snazzy AF, especially that lobby, and its rooms are what you envision parts of your house would look like if you won the big lottery and had better taste than you already do. What we especially like about the venue is that it’s home to Wax Myrtle’s, a restaurant that’s a destination unto itself – hell, we included its weekend brunch (with those nonpareil waffles) among our top ten local eats of 2022. And, considering the way competition tends to spur improvement, we can only imagine it’ll be even better in 2023. 506 San Jacinto.
4. Origin Hotel Smart move, Wyndham Hotels, putting your boutique hotel brand right in the midst of Mueller. Smack dab, in other words, in the part of Austin that has so many good things about our city – an Alamo Drafthouse, the Thinkery, inviting parks and thriving farmers markets, Rebel Cheese Co. and other local retailers – within easy walking distance. The vibe here is kinda sorta like the Thompson above, but less fancy and more locally artsy – see Heidi Pitre’s dogtastic It’s So Texas mural as rendered by Brittany Johnson in the courtyard, for instance – and, even though L’Oca d’Oro and Kerbey Lane Cafe and Marufuku are right nearby, you don’t want to deprive yourself of those elevated versions of downhome fare like the BLT Salad and Mama’s Meatloaf Bowl in Origin’s Blue Lacy diner. 1825 McBee.
5. Lone Star Court This place, from the Valencia Hotel Group, yeah. It’s Instagram heaven, we imagine, with quirky retro rooms as comfortable as they are kawaii (those SMEG refrigerators, omg), with walkable landscaped grounds for casual exploring or vibing fireside, with its proximity to the many luxe offerings of the Domain that it’s right on the inner edge of. But the Domain isn’t even what makes this boutique hotel’s location special, really: It’s the Austin FC stadium just a few streets over. You should’ve seen how the joint was jumpin’ – the Water Trough, we mean, the Lone Star Court’s lounge that rocks a better-than-barfood menu and a gorgeous room-centering fireplace – after the Verde kicked ass during one of the home games last year. This is definitely a place for celebrating, in more ways than one. 10901 Domain Dr.
BONUS: Hotel Viata Recently rebranded (you may recall this upscale place as the Hotel Granduca) and still as charming as ever, this architectural treasure’s an imposing yet welcoming edifice on the edge of the Hill Country, right out there off the Capital of Texas Highway. Unless you prefer views of neighboring skyscrapers, shopping centers, and other urban exuberance, this “bonus” reco is the one for you: Trees is what you’ll mostly see out the windows – trees, and the big-sky hills of Texas rolling away into the distance. Pleased to also report that chef Tommy Suddeth continues on as head honcho of the excellent Laurel restaurant, and the revamped bar program is a fine match for the inspired culinary offerings you’ll enjoy just a few minutes away from the madding city crowds. 320 S. Cap of Texas Hwy.