After touring the sprawling Texas Capitol complex, you’ll probably be ready for a hearty meal. There are several excellent restaurants within walking distance of the capitol in downtown Austin.
1. Roaring Fork
The bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin is the most popular main dish, and regulars rave about the green chile mac ’n cheese side dish. The atmosphere is upscale and intimate, but they won’t freak out if you bring the kids along.
701 Congress Avenue; (512) 583-0000
2. Clay Pit
Housed in a historic building with high ceilings, Clay Pit serves some of the best Indian curry dishes in town. The lamb korma is another crowd favorite. Don’t miss the stuffed naan with your choice of tasty fillings such as potatoes or jalapeno cream cheese. Since I can never remember the names of Indian dishes, I usually opt for the sampler platter. I don’t know what’s on it, but it sure is tasty. 1601 Guadalupe; (512) 322-5131
Pizza fresh out of a woodburning oven and fresh pasta are the specialties here. The delectable Ravioli Pasticciati is stuffed with ricotta cheese and smothered in a meat sauce and light cream. Leave room for the heavenly tiramisu. The owner frequently works the crowd, adding to the friendly vibe. 908 Congress Avenue; (512) 476-3131
A dive bar that serves amazing meat, the Texas Chili Parlor will make you forget all about health food.
The bar's claim to fame is being mentioned in Guy Clark's Dublin Blues: "I wish I was in Austin/In the Chili Parlor Bar/Drinking Mad Dog Margaritas/And not caring where you are." The medium-heat (XX) variety is my personal favorite. Scoop it up with saltines and wash it down with an ice-cold Lone Star.
1409 Lavaca Street; (512) 472-2828
Known primarily as a popular hangout after UT football games, Scholz Garten serves above-average pub grub along with its huge selection of beer. The authentic German jagerschnitzel and sauerkraut are must-haves. The outdoor beer garden is a relaxing place to wind down after a long day of sightseeing. You might even hear some juicy gossip since it’s a popular watering hole for Texas politicians. 1607 San Jacinto Boulevard; (512) 474-1958
6. Brick Oven
The wood-fired pizza has a distinctive tasting crust because they use oak wood in the oven. The Margherita pizza features a delicious combination of garlic, basil and Roma tomatoes. If you’re looking for lighter fare, try the cranberry gorgonzola salad.1209 Red River Street; (512) 477-7006
Hidden away inside the Doubletree Suites Hotel, 15th Street Cafe offers a menu of mostly light fare, including lemon chicken soup, Caprese salad and spicy crab cakes. For an after-dinner kick, try the Lime in the Coconut drink, made of rum, pineapple juice and Absolut Vanilla. The restaurant is an excellent choice when all the trendy restaurants in the area are jam-packed. There’s never a waiting list here.
303 West 15th Street; (512) 478-7000
Not to be confused with the much fancier Capital Grille on 4th Street, the Capitol Grill is basically a cafeteria tucked away inside the capitol. It's downstairs in room E1.002, but don't hesitate to ask for help finding it. The cafeteria is primarily used by capitol workers, so you may run into a few mid-level politicos. The food is unremarkable but reasonably priced, and you can also pick up coffee and grab-and-go sandwiches if you're in a hurry. 1400 Congress Avenue; (512) 472-5451
A small cafe with amazing gourmet sandwiches, Caffe Aragona is an ideal spot for resting a while after hiking around the capitol grounds. Try the mozzarella and sundried tomato panini, but be warned. You may want a nap afterwards. The cafe also sells excellent coffee if you need a pick-me-up.
The restaurant also offers smaller bites, such as quiche or fresh croissant. Sweet treats range from cookies to gelato. 914 Congress Avenue; (512) 505-8784