The Insatiable Taste for Tunes

In Austin, the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, seeing great music doesn't always have to mean fighting the crowds at a smoky nightclub

Jovita's (left), Zax Pints & Plates
Jovita's (left), Zax Pints & Plates (Photo By John Anderson)

In Austin, the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, seeing great music doesn't always have to mean fighting the crowds at a smoky nightclub. For those of us who hold down 9-5 jobs, have kids, turn into pumpkins at 10, or just don't like the bar scene, there are still ways to take advantage of the city's insatiable taste for tunes. On any given night, live music is happening not just way too late in darkened clubs, but in the well-lit comfort of the city's cafes and restaurants. What could be better than food and music? We have compiled a sample list of just some of the local eateries that feature music at mealtimes.

Marakesh Cafe and Grill

906 Congress, 476-7735
Inexpensive, delicious North African cuisine tastes even better when it's paired with live Middle Eastern music and belly dancing on Saturday evenings.

D&L's Texas Music Cafe

1321 S. Congress, 445-4441
A newcomer to the increasingly trendy South Congress scene, the Texas Music Cafe is true to its name, featuring hometown bands that play country, swing, or jazz just about every night of the week.

Central Market

4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000
With its own cafe (serving an eclectic range of swankified comfort foods), an outdoor terrace, and a state-of-the-art playground, the central Central Market draws families like bugs to a zapper. Live music on Fridays and Saturdays sweetens the deal, featuring performances by an incredibly diverse array of local artists.


1619 S. First, 447-7825
Jovita's pairs old-fashioned Tex-Mex with such local roots music luminaries as the Gourds, the Cornell Hurd Band, and even out-of-towners like Bravo Combo. No cover except on weekends, when Jovita's headlines better-known and traveling acts.

Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys & Deli

1209 E. 11th, 477-6600
Sample Gene's homemade fried chicken, steamed crawfish, or luscious smothered pork chops for lunch (not to mention the po'boys, for which the restaurant is named) and be serenaded by smooth electric jazz guitar.

The Treehouse Grill

2201 College, 443-4200
This eccentric Italian-American eatery pairs its food with an even quirkier musical mix. Bo Reynolds plays acoustic guitar on Wednesday, Herschel Moody plays accordion on Thursday and Saturdays, while Susana Sharpe and her band spin out New Age world music on Fridays.

Mother Egan's Irish Pub

715 W. Sixth, 478-7747
Serving great pub grub from both sides of the Atlantic, 16 varieties of beer on tap, and a killer Bloody Mary, Mother Egan's Sunday Bluegrass Brunch with the Greencards is a treat for both tastebuds and ears. Live music late nights all other nights draw fans of folk, blues, and country roots music.


6416 N. Lamar, 451-5440

Threadgill's World Headquarters

301 W. Riverside, 472-9304
Sixties superstar Janis Joplin got her start at this humble Austin cafe. With two bustling locations, today's Threadgill's is not quite as humble as it once was. But it still serves up great Southern cooking with a healthy side of homegrown roots music. Gospel, country, jazz, and bluegrass meet at Threadgill's.

Alligator Grill

3003 S. Lamar, 444-6117
Spend Sunday afternoons listening to the Regulars, sipping suds, and slurping the Grill's excellent étouffée. Live music other nights of the week can include Toni Price and the South Austin Jug Band. The restaurant usually charges a cover ($5-7) on Friday and Saturday nights, and shows sometimes start after 10pm.

Artz Rib House

2330 S. Lamar, 442-8283
Artz is the Austin headquarters where lovers of great barbecue and bluegrass converge. Their country-style pork ribs are unparalleled. Live folk, country, and bluegrass most nights of the week.

Güero's Taco Bar

1412 S. Congress, 447-7688
Tex Thomas & the Danglin' Wranglers hold church the first Sunday of every month at this South Austin institution, known for its great margaritas and carne al pastor. The restaurant rotates its Saturday and Sunday afternoon lineup the rest of the month. Live music every night during South by Southwest.

Cafe Mundi

1704 E. Fifth #100, 236-8634
Mundi's musical guests are about as eclectic as they come. Folk, rock, jazz, funk, world music, and country all find a home in this arty Eastside cafe with a funky outdoor garden that opens onto the railroad tracks.

Shady Grove

1624 Barton Springs Rd., 474-9991
This popular restaurant on Barton Springs Road always scores high on "Best Of" lists. With a huge pecan-shaded outdoor patio, great sandwiches and burgers, and KLBJ-sponsored music on Thursdays from spring through autumn, there's no place that embodies Austin's casual spirit better than Shady Grove.

El Sol y la Luna

1224 S. Congress, 444-7770
El Sol's Saturday night concert has become a staple for my friends and family. Latin American salsas, rumbas, and sons rule at this very idiosyncratic South Congress cafe that serves homemade Mexican food.

Green Mesquite

1400 Barton Springs Rd., 479-0485
When the weather is warm, listen to live bluegrass and folk music on the Green Mesquite's outdoor patio. Texas barbecue, fried catfish, and excellent chicken-fried steaks are some of the city's best.

Reed's Jazz and Supper Club

9901 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 342-7977
Motown and Jazz Monday through Saturday nights entertain the guests at this swank Arboretum restaurant known for its aged steaks and seafood.

Y Bar and Grill

7720 Hwy. 71 W., 394-0220
This elegant yet casual restaurant has found a niche among Oak Hill residents who crave the fine-dining experience yet don't want to fight the downtown traffic to get it. Wednesday night they showcase singer-songwriters. Thursday through Saturday, the Y features local pop and swing. Don't miss the jazz brunch on Sunday.

Zax Pints & Plates

312 Barton Springs Rd., 481-0100
This newish South Austin eatery pairs new American bistro cuisine with great American beers. Bands perform on Friday and Saturday nights.

Waterloo Ice House

1106 W. 38th, 451-5245
Great burgers and fries make this casual spot an Austin favorite. Live Celtic music on Wednesday. Folk, country, and blues rotate through on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nuevo León

1501 E. Sixth, 479-0097
East Austin's favorite Tex-Mex restaurant now has live music Fridays through Sundays. Mariachis feature on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, while the salsa and Tejano rhythms of Gustavo Rodriguez reign on Saturday night.

Taco Sabroso

Seventh & Shady Lane, 247-3333
This sweet little shack set up under stately pecans in an empty parking lot on the corner of Seventh and Shady Lane serves some of the best homemade tacos in town. It also dishes up live Andean and South American music on weekend nights.

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