SoCo Dining Spots

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1) El Borrego de Oro Real Mexican food, real corn tortillas, and real Mexican Coca-Colas at a reasonable price. Try the birria lamb and the perfect picadillo. 3900 S. Congress, 383-0031

2) El Flaco Mexican Cafe They serve Mexican food just like your abuelita used to make: hearty servings of bargain-priced food that's all made from scratch and breakfast anytime you want it. Their kitchen is as clean as grandma's, too. 3632 S. Congress, 444-2767

3) Ruta Maya With its move to Penn Field, this community- oriented coffeehouse has expanded their menu to include falafel, tamales, made-to-order sandwiches, and more. They still have great live music and an authentic atmosphere. 3601 S. Congress Ste. D-200, 707-9637

4) Opal Divine's Penn Field See review below. 3601 S. Congress Ste. K100, 707-0237

5) Amy's Ice Creams We love the retro look of Amy's newest far south outlet in this chic little strip center. Same great ice creams and patented theatrics. 3100 S. Congress, 851-2697

6) Garden District Coffee House See review below. 2810 S. Congress, 462-2473

7) Habana If you're missing the genuine Cuban ambience and cuisine of this spot, take heart. Pork and plantains will again rule South Congress when Habana reopens this spring. 2728 S. Congress, 443-4252

8) The Big Kolache This cheerfully painted shop offers 16 varieties with sweet fillings made from scratch and savory fillings like ham and cheese and Elgin sausage with jalapeño. 2407 S. Congress, 383-9050

9) Curra's Grill The Garcia brothers' laid-back style and exemplary Interior Mexican dishes make this place a perennial favorite. Don't miss the chile rellenos with pecan cream sauce or, for breakfast, the huevos machacado. 614 E. Oltorf, 444-0012

10) Texicalli Grille Dr Pepper with real cane sugar, and they brew their own root beer! The queso fries are highly recommended, but sweet potato fries are also available. 534 E. Oltorf, 442-2799

11) Mandarin Chinese Restaurant Beer and wine served amidst quick but flavorful entrées gives the authentically Oriental decor an American twist. 212 E. Oltorf, 445-2225

12) Tree House Italian Grill The stone walls and high, beamed ceiling create the atmosphere of a big mountain cottage. Find a reasonably priced Italian menu and a large wine list here. Don't miss the intense desserts. 2201 College, 443-4200

13) Nueva Onda The migas tacos will make you wanna slap your mama, while the eggs and spicy onions cure whatever happened last night. 2218 College, 447-5063

14) Magnolia Cafe South This diner packs 'em in around the clock, but especially at mealtimes, if the lines at lunch are any indication. The secret is a menu loaded with vegetarian options. 1920 S. Congress, 445-0000

15) Fran's Hamburgers The perky sculpture atop the drive-in burger joint tells you all you need to know. Real deal burgers hot off the well-seasoned grill, exceptional fries, all served up in white waxed paper, plus real milk shakes and malts. 1822 S. Congress, 444-5738

16) Texas French Bread The south location of this Austin landmark. Sidewalk seating to observe the ample foot traffic. And legend has it, sooner or later everyone comes here for a yummy scone, a cup of joe, or their trademark Texas butter cookie. 1722 S. Congress, 440-1122

17) Farm to Market Grocery Committed to working with local growers and producers, this gem of a grocer offers the best of Austin and the surrounding area. Organics abound in every department, and foodie favorites fill the shelves. 1718 S. Congress, 462-7220

18-19) Enoteca/Vespaio For dinner, Vespaio's warm wood, comfy bar, and dazzling display of antipasti near the front door are very impressive. And at midday, Enoteca's paninis, pastas, and other lunch-friendly options will surely satisfy. 1610 S. Congress, 441-6100

20) South Congress Cafe The inspired Southwestern fare at this relaxed, upscale eatery features blue-corn crepes and beef Milanesa, a traditional dish with an inventive, spicy spin. Other distinctive dishes include venison meat loaf and Cajun scampi. 1600 S. Congress, 447-3905

21) Güero's Taco Bar Located in the old Austin Seed & Feed building, Güero's has moved into the ranks of Austin institutions without compromising the food. The people-watching action has expanded to the Oak Garden along with the live music. 1412 S. Congress, 447-7688

22) Home Slice Pizza See review below. 1415 S. Congress, 444-pies

23) Beck's on Congress A cozy space serving upscale Texas-style home cooking, accompanied by a good dose of Texas music on the patio. 1321 S. Congress, 445-4441

24) Zen Japanese Food Fast The menu is selective, but most categories are covered, from sushi to salads, from rice bowls with toppings to teriyaki. 1303 S. Congress, 444-8081

25) Amy's Ice Creams Austin's favorite dreamy cream with an attitude. Employees are known for their irrevent wit and outrageous serving routines. 1301 S. Congress, 440-7488

26) Jo's Hot Coffee The best joe in the neighborhood is at Jo's. In addition to great coffee, this place serves seriously wicked baked goods and terrific sandwiches. Take-out or patio. 1300 S. Congress, 444-3800

27) El Sol y la Luna Adjacent to the Austin Motel, this cozy Mexican eatery serves up some of the most lucious food south of the river, and that's saying something. Savory enchiladas, restorative soup, mighty migas. The decor is almost as alluring as the food, and it's worth the trip just to check out the ladies restroom. 1224 S. Congress, 444-7770

28) Doc's Motor Works See review below. 1123 S. Congress, 448-9181

29) Freebirds World Burrito See review below. 515 S. Congress, 462-3512

30) La Paletera This frozen dessert emporium offers a wide array of paleta and snow cone flavors to satiate even the most obscure palate. 515 S. Congress, 326-9399

31) Capital City Steakhouse An underappreciated gem serving well-prepared, reasonably priced steaks and generous,tasty sides in a casual atmosphere. 300 S. Congress, 480-8797

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