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, Trio 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. Try the biscuits with bacon jam. Yum. If you can afford it, go for the ceviche or the beef carpaccio. 98 San Jacinto Boulevard; (512) 685-8300
Beautifully designed with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake, the restaurant serves excellent Latin cuisine. Popular appetizers include the spicy guacamole and fresh ceviche. The lamb in mole sauce is a creative twist on this popular traditional dish of Mexico. Leave room for the mango dessert—with mango foam. 111 East Cesar Chavez; (512) 478-2991
The Line Hotel offers two distinct dining experiences within walking distance of the bridge. Arlo Grey is a 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. Shareable plates of Mediterranean fare are served in the bar, along with gourmet cocktails.
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
Threadgill’s serves up top-notch country comfort food in a sprawling dining room full of Austin music memorabilia. Free seconds are available on all vegetable sides. My favorite is the buttered carrots. Leave room for pie, though. You can’t lose with the traditional pecan pie, but why not be adventurous and try strawberry rhubarb? 301 West Riverside Drive; (512) 472-9304
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
After viewing the bats, you can continue the wildlife theme at this, er, owl-inspired sports bar. Actually, you won’t see any owls, but you will see plenty of barely covered boobs. It’s probably not the most family-friendly option, but if you have a craving for tasty wings, Hooters won’t let you down. 425 West Riverside Drive; (512) 478-9464
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