While Austin doesn’t have any mountain or ocean views, we have a wealth of lakes and hills. In downtown Austin, there are only a few restaurants along Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). Most of these, such as Trio, are at basically the same elevation as the lake; the views are nice but not as dramatic as a hilltop view.
The mother of all hilltop views can be found at the Oasis on Lake Travis in far northwest Austin. The terrain on the west side of Austin is much hillier than downtown, so the opportunities for great views increase significantly as you travel west.
The most laid-back place to wrap up a day at the lake is Ski Shores Cafe on Lake Austin. You don’t even need to change out of your swimsuit. Just grab a burger and a brew and watch the boats glide by.
In addition to a fantastic view of Lake Travis, Lucy's Fried Chicken features a sprawling outdoor patio. Beyond the amazing fried chicken, the menu also includes specialties such as West Texas Red Chili and Lucy's Cajun Broil.
After a day of swimming or water skiing, Ski Shores Cafe on Lake Austin is the perfect place to wind down and enjoy a hamburger, a beer and the view. It's only a short drive from Emma Long Metropolitan Park, which has a mile of lakefront and a dog-friendly hiking trail.
A series of tiered decks and patios provides a breathtaking view of the sunset for hundreds of diners at The Oasis every night. As the sun goes down, the crowd erupts in applause for Mother Nature's nightly show. The restaurant often has live music and dancing at the bar. As of winter 2019, the lake is full thanks to abundant rainfall, which means the crowds are also back. Expect to wait at least an hour for a table.
At Z'Tejas, diners can enjoy a gorgeous view of the Texas hill country while devouring some of the best, if non-traditional, Mexican food in Austin. Don't miss the five-cheese macaroni and achiote chicken.
The food is a strange but wonderful blend of Polynesian and Mexican influences, but the main attraction at the Hula Hut is the lakeside view. A small dock is available for those arriving by boat. Located only about four miles west of downtown Austin, Hula Hut is convenient even though it has the feel of an exotic vacation spot.
Breathtaking views can be seen from the interior, through floor-to-ceiling windows, or the huge outdoor patio at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse. In addition to steak, the restaurant serves chicken-fried elk and redfish.
Overlooking Quarry Lake, Roaring Fork serves everything from fancy hamburgers to seared scallops in an upscale, but non-stuffy, atmosphere. The green chili mac and cheese is a must-try. The area around the outdoor fireplace is a nice spot to enjoy a drink during cool weather.
You can steer your boat right up to the dock at Abel's on Lake Austin. The menu ranges from pulled pork sliders to dry rub salmon. The food is pretty good but only a notch or two above typical bar food. The real attraction here is the lake view and the festive atmosphere.
With a dog-friendly deck overlooking Lake Austin, Mozart’s is an ideal spot to while away an afternoon while sipping freshly roasted coffee. In addition to serving an excellent cuppa joe, Mozart’s has amazing desserts, ranging from red velvet cake to decadent cheesecakes and tiramisu. Plus, there’s free wi-fi for those who want to pretend to work. During the Christmas season, the shop presents an over-the-top light show every night. Parking can be a hassle due to the close proximity of both Abel’s and Hula Hut.
Named one of Time Magazine’s Greatest Places in the World, the Austin Public Library is a major achievement all on its own. Add in a restaurant with a great view of downtown and the surrounding area and, well, maybe it is time to renew that library card. While you’re there, check out the cookbook collection donated by late Austin Chronicle food writer Virginia B. Wood. The casual counter-service eatery serves sandwiches, soups and salads, including several vegan and kid-friendly options.
Located just east of Longhorn Dam on a hilltop, Tillery Kitchen and Bar overlooks the winding Colorado River. Featuring a small menu of farm-to-table cuisine and Asian dishes such as coconut curry rice, the restaurant is the perfect spot for a scenic happy hour with a small group. This undammed portion of the Colorado River is sometimes a lazy stream and occasionally a raging torrent, but it’s always a relaxing view.
Built out of an old lodge along Bull Creek, County Line is rustic, laid-back and family-friendly. The pork ribs and brisket regularly earn high praise from diners. Expect generous helpings of everything, but leave room for the peach cobbler. Groups can save a little cash by ordering the meal family-style. Instead of individual plates, dishes are served on large platters, to be passed around. Perched on a quiet portion of the creek, not far from Lake Austin, the restaurant even has a little walkway along the water where you can walk off your meal and watch the turtles and ducks.