Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge bats typically emerge around sundown, which is just before or after dinnertime for most people. Fortunately, the area around the bridge is chock full of restaurants, ranging from budget-friendly to super fancy.
This upscale sushi bar inside the Hyatt Regency overlooks Lady Bird Lake. The menu is small, but if you like sushi, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t miss the Avocado Bomb appetizer with king crab. 208 Barton Springs; (512) 477-1234
Located inside the Four Seasons hotel, Ciclo restaurant boasts a gorgeous indoor space as well as a nice outdoor area overlooking Lady Bird Lake. While the prices are a little steep, you can get a taste of the high life at a bargain price during happy hour. 98 San Jacinto Boulevard; (512) 685-8300
The Line Hotel offers three distinct dining experiences within walking distance of the bridge. Arlo Grey is a gourmet restaurant led by chef Kristen Kish. The restaurant serves French and Italian dishes with a Central Texas twist. The hotel’s casual P6 bar and eatery is airy and bathed in pastels. The bar is an innovative reworking of the space that was once the top floor of the parking garage. The perch overlooks Lady Bird Lake and is an excellent spot to watch Austin’s bats emerge at sunset. Finally, Dean's One Trick Pony is an eclectic dive bar with a takeout window facing Congress Ave, perfect for guests to grab a quick bite while checking out the bats.
South of the Lake
Featuring two sand volleyball courts and standard pub grub, Aussie’s is a sports bar with an easygoing vibe. The food won’t win any awards, but if you’re looking for a beer and affordable burgers or fish tacos, Aussie’s is a relaxing place to wind down. 306 Barton Springs Road; (512) 480-0952
With high ceilings, wooden floors and tons of natural light, Zax has a comfortable, casual vibe. The salad with jerk salmon consistently earns raves, as does the Zax version of the Cuban sandwich. For starters, try the olive and cheese platter. 312 Barton Springs Road; (512) 481-0100
Boasting a huge, tree-shaded patio, Shady Grove is the place to be when the weather is mild. Try their signature Shady Thing drink and peruse a menu full of comfort food and vegetarian dishes. The hippie sandwich is chock full of mushrooms and zucchini for veggie lovers, and the spicy baby back ribs will satisfy the meat eaters with just enough kick to get your attention.
North of the Lake
Located two blocks north of the bat bridge, Second Bar + Kitchen is known for fancy burgers and truffle fries served in a sleek setting. If you like adventurous pizza variations, try the black + bleu, with bleu cheese, black truffle, dates and pork belly. During cool weather, the outdoor patio is an excellent seating choice. It’s superbly situated for entertaining people watching on the southern edge of downtown. 200 Congress Avenue; (512) 827-2750