Away From the Book Fest

Places to eat within walking distance of the Capitol

It is not an uncommon experience to stroll from the Texas Book Festival with an eye toward soothing one's inner man, only to discover that many of Downtown's weekday lunch providers are closed on the weekend. It can be extremely disheartening to trudge to a favorite lunch spot to find it locked and shuttered, so here's a list of places within a reasonable walking distance that do keep weekend hours, listed in order of their proximity to the Capitol grounds.

A) Little City

Little City
Little City (Photo by John Anderson)
916 Congress, 476-CITY
Saturday, 9am-12mid; Sunday, 9am-10pm

Little City is a coffee shop until 11am, serving a full range of espresso drinks and a collection of some of the best efforts of area bakeries, including Mandola's Italian Market's fruit tarts and the Upper Crust's cinnamon rolls. After 11am, salads, soup, and fancy sandwiches are served, as well. Generous servings and superior quality. Recommended.

B) Marakesh Cafe & Grill

906 Congress, 476-7735
Saturday, noon-10pm; Sunday, closed

Marakesh has been a Chronicle Restaurant Poll winner for its excellent and inexpensive Mediterranean food. Pita, hummus, falafel, tabouleh, salad, chicken, lamb, and eggplant, served in plate or sandwich form, as well as daily specials. Recommended.

C) Texas Chili Parlor

Texas Chili Parlor
Texas Chili Parlor (Photo by John Anderson)
1409 Lavaca, 472-2828
Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2am

An Austin institution, serving up burgers, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, salads, and of course, chili, in a classic Seventies-era cosmic cowboy atmosphere. A favorite lunch spot for the legislators, this down-home eatery has weathered decades of changing culinary fashions and emerged unscathed.

D) 15th Street Cafe

303 W. 15th, 478-7000
Saturday-Sunday, 7am-10:30pm

15th Street Cafe, located inside the DoubleTree Guest Suites, offers American and Southwestern cuisine in a white-tablecloth atmosphere. Like many another hotel restaurant, it's a little pricey ($10-15), and attire is "business casual."

E) Hickory Street Bar & Grill

Eighth & Congress, 477-8968
Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday, 9am-9pm

Hickory Street has been pleasing its customers with burgers, chicken-fried steak, tacos, sandwiches, meat loaf, and steaks for 25 years now and has outlasted a lot of competition. On weekends, they offer a 60-item brunch buffet from 11am to 3pm for $12.99 per person, featuring homemade biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, waffles, Danishes, and fajitas.

F) Brick Oven Restaurant

12th & Red River, 477-7006
Saturday, noon-9:30pm; Sunday, 5-9pm

Pizza, salads, pasta, and other Italian favorites. This is the original of Austin's three Brick Oven locations, and the wood-fired brick oven is one of the largest in Texas, reaching temperatures of up to 700 degrees, the ideal temperature for pizza, calzone, and stromboli. Most of the prices are between $7 and $10.

G) Serranos

Away From the Book Fest
1111 Red River, 322-9080
Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm

This Serranos location in historic Sym­phony Square is the flagship of the popular Austin-area chain. Sizzling mesquite-grilled fajitas, shrimp, carnitas, and jalapeño sausages set Serranos apart, though all the usual Tex-Mex favorites can be found here, as well. Prices range from $6 to $16.

H) Wiki Wiki Teriyaki

609 Congress, 472-9454
Saturday, 11am-8pm; Sunday, closed

Wiki Wiki serves Japanese-style teriyaki boxes, udon noodles, tempura, a few varieties of sushi, and several other Japanese favorites. Prices range from $6 to $10. Wiki Wiki prides itself on fresh ingredients; everything is homemade, including the teriyaki sauce.

I) Scholz Garten

1607 San Jacinto, 474-1958
Saturday, 11am-10:30pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm

Scholz is the oldest business in the state of Texas, continually open since 1866, and a beloved Austin icon. Originally opened as a beer garden, Scholz once again boasts an impressive beer selection. The menu features burgers, barbecue, sandwiches, and German specialties. A perennial favorite of both the university and the Legislature, Scholz Garten is kid-friendly, as well.

J) The Pita Pit

619 Congress, 472-7482
Saturday, 11am-3am; Sunday, 11am-7pm

The Pita Pit offers 21 varieties of pita sandwiches, a decent number of them vegetarian, for around $6 each.

K) El Mercado Restaurant & Cantina

1702 Lavaca, 477-7689
Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday, 10am-9:30pm

El Mercado serves a full range of Tex-Mex favorites: guacamole, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas, rellenos, etc. Breakfast is served on weekends until 3pm as well and includes breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros, and migas.

L) Hog Island Italian Deli

Lamberts (Photo by John Anderson)
407 Lavaca, 276-8990
Saturday, 11am-3:30am; Sunday, 11am-12mid

Authentic Italian hoagies, cheesesteaks, pizza, and salads in the $6-9 range. Hog Island is extremely popular and won Best Philly Cheesesteak in the 2007 Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll Critics Picks.

M) Jo's Hot Coffee

Second & Lavaca, 469-9003
Saturday-Sunday, 8am-10pm

Jo's makes some of the very best coffee in town, and its Second Street location has branched out to become a full-menu cafe. Breakfast is served from 8am to noon and features pancakes, French toast, omelets, and Mexican breakfasts; the lunch menu offers salads, burgers, and hot and cold sandwiches. Prices range from $6 to $10. Recommended.

N) Lamberts

401 W. Second, 494-1500
Saturday, 11am-11pm (bar, 5pm-2am); Sunday, 11am-2pm (brunch) & 5:30-11pm (dinner) (bar, 5-11pm)

Lamberts is a nationally renowned restaurant, and although it's known for its fancy barbecue and reinvented Texas favorites, it does a terrific Sunday brunch, as well. This is a four-star, three-chef restaurant, and it's not cheap, but the food is well worth the expense. Reservations strongly recommended.

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