When the Texas Legislature is in session, the northern parts of downtown are swamped with lawmakers, staff, lobbyists, news crews and concerned citizens.
This list gives all of the above (and anyone else) 85 options (in honor of the 85th legislative session ) within a mile of the Capitol.
Critic’s picks are marked by an asterisk. Don’t see one of your favorites? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Selections marked with a + are the same or shorter walking distance of the Texas State Capitol as the late great Las Manitas.
+*1886 Cafe & Bakery. 604 Brazos St. 512-391-7066, 1886cafeandbakery.com. Classic breakfast dishes, sandwiches made on housebaked bread and Texas comfort food make up the menu for this charming cafe in the Driskill that serves all day.
+Annie’s Cafe & Bar. 319 Congress Ave. 512-472-1884, anniescafebar.com. Omelets and French toast in the morning and an assortment of salads and prepared dishes like grilled salmon in vegetables later in the day at this cafe with sidewalk seating and a view of Congress Avenue.
+Athenian Bar & Grill. 600 Congress Ave. 512-474-7775, athenianbargrill.com. Mediterranean dishes like souvlaki chicken, gyros and mousaka are served at lunch (which includes a buffet option) and dinner here on weekdays.
*Austin Land and Cattle. 1205 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-472-1813, alcsteaks.com. The restaurant located in a strip mall that dates back to 1941 plays host to legislators and lobbyists, but you don’t have to be in a position of power to feel important or enjoy nicely seasoned and seared steaks or Buffalo lamb chops.
+*Backspace. 507 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-474-9899, thebackspace-austin.com. Neapolitan pies at Parkside’s sister restaurant that also delivers charcuterie and a nice roster of antipasti.
+Capital Grille. 117 W. Fourth St. 512-322-2005, thecapitalgrille.com. The Austin location of this national chain opened in 2014. Order the gorgonzola and truffle-crusted 14-ounce dry-aged sirloin with Cabernet reduction and add to the decadence with lobster mac ’n’ cheese.
+*Carillon. 1900 University Ave. 512-404- 3655, thecarillonrestaurant.com. The fine dining restaurant on the campus at the University of Texas may have chicken-fried quail one month and a rack of lamb the next, but you know you’re always getting quality and consistent execution.
Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant. 504 E. Fifth St. 512-477-7497, carmelosrestaurant.com/austin. Brick-lined walls, chandeliers, grand curtains and Italian food all add up for old-world romantic charm.
*Casino El Camino. 517 E. Sixth St. 512-469- 9330, casinoelcamino.net. All reds and blacks, this Sixth Street classic has a devilish attitude and serves up fat, aggressive burgers off the grill, like a backyard party along the River Styx.
Cedar Door. 201 Brazos St. 512-473-3712, cedardooraustin.com. Wings, tacos and burgers are some of the well-crafted bar food items you can order to accompany their famous and powerful Mexican martini at lunch or dinner.
*Chez Nous. 510 Neches St 512-473-2413, cheznousaustin.com. Some French class and an Old World vibe amid the boozy grumble and stumble of Sixth Street. Try the duck confit if it’s on the menu, and the housemade charcuterie.
+Chinatown. 107 W. Fifth St. 512-637-8888, austinchinatown.com. Lunch specials for under $10 include beef with broccoli and lemon chicken, while the dinner menu at the restaurant that also features a full bar and karaoke on weekends expands to include items like spicy Szechuan duck and steamed sea bass.
+*Clay Pit. 1601 Guadalupe St. 512-322-5131, claypit.com. Marrow infuses its primal richness into bone-in goat curry, tand lamb kabobs come out tender and rosy at Austin’s popular Indian stalwart.
Coast Bar & Kitchen. 360 Nueces St. 512-467-4621, coastaustin.com. A tight menu of seafood (seared scallops) and beef (NY strip) befits the intimate space that feels like a wine bar as much as a restaurant.
+Cooper’s Old-Time Pit BBQ. 217 Congress Ave. 512-474-4227, coopersbbq.com. Pork chops, prime rib and cabrito offer a change of pace from the standard barbecue offerings at this spinoff of the famed original in Llano. The large downtown spot serves lunch and dinner.
+*Counter 357. 315 Congress Ave. 512-291-3327, counter3fivevii.com. Expect elegance, intimacy and a ringside seat for the open kitchen at one of Austin’s best restaurants. The three-, five- and seven-course prix fixe menus have featured dishes like a zucchini tartlet, smoked and seared duck, Asian-inspired crudos and a chocolate tart with roasted apples and a coconut-herb sorbet.
*Counter Cafe. 626 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-708-8800, countercafe.com. You can almost reach over the counter and into the galley kitchen to flip your own burger or crispy crab cake (served with curried peanut and lemon aioli dipping sauces) at this throwback diner that serves breakfast and lunch.
*Daruma Ramen. 612 E. Sixth St. 512-369-3897, darumaramen.com. Pork averse? The ramen restaurant from the owners of Kome specializes in ramens made with whole chicken broth and eggless tapioca-based ramen noodles. They also serve a vegetarian option.
Dine. 111 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-478-2991, dineradissonaustin.com. Chef David Garrido’s restaurant overlooking Lady Bird Lake from the Radisson Hotel serves steaks, chops and an assortment of New American dishes.
+*Driskill Grill. 604 Brazos St. 512-439-1234, driskillgrill.com. One of Austin’s grand dames of fine dining, Start with wild boar chops and an iceberg salad before digging into a rack of lamb or dry-aged steak.
Easy Tiger. 709 E. Sixth St. 512-614-4972, easytigeraustin.com. A bake shop, beer garden and outdoor oasis just on the fringe of Sixth Street’s shot bars. Proof that a pretzel and beer cheese can actually make a meal.
*Eddie V’s. 301 E. Fifth St. 512-472-1860, eddiev.com. This chain got its start in Austin and attracts folks not just with great steaks but also seafood options like a jumbo crab cake with spicy remoulade, lobster tacos and Texas redfish.
Fixe. 500 W. Fifth St. 512-888-9133, austinfixe.com. It may look slick, but Fixe has a Southern comfort heart, from deviled eggs to lobster and crawfish pot pie. Try the spicy honey-glazed fried chicken.
Forthright Cafe. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-433-6155, forthright.cafe. Waffle breakfast sandwiches in the morning and American classics like a turkey BLT at lunch make for an approachable and familiar menu at this cafe with an outdoor patio near Lake Lady Bird.
+*Frank. 407 Colorado St. 512-494- 6916, hotdogscoldbeer.com. Fancy dogs like the Jackalope (made with smoked antelope, rabbit and pork sausage, and topped with cranberry compote) and an abiding love of whiskey make for indulgent fun at this spot in the Warehouse District.
Franklin Barbecue. 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com. The king of Austin barbecue. And with one easy slide of your fork through his red-velvet-cake-like brisket, you’ll know why. Carve out most of your day for the pilgrimage, but remember they also take advance online orders for pick-up.
Frank & Angie’s. 508 West Ave. 512-472-3534, hutsfrankandangies.com. Thin pies and Americanized pasta classics with a side of nostalgia.
*Fresa’s. 915 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-428-5077, fresaschicken.com. Walk up or drive-thru for healthy salad bowls, some of the best queso in town and complex tacos like the El Sancho, with chicken pastor, pineapple pico, jicama and tomatillo salsa.
The Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen. 800 W. Sixth St. 512-236-1440, grovewinebar.com. More than a dozen pasta dishes and pizzas give an Italian accent to this New American grill that also serves small plates and a large roster of salads and sandwiches. And, of course, plenty of wine.
*Gus’s Fried Chicken. 117 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-474-4877, gusfriedchicken.com. Golden-fried comfort with a Memphis pedigree.
Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, hillsidefarmacy.com. Pâtisserie and café in the morning, solid deli in the daytime and an evening menu full of bistro classics and oysters — this well-designed space has a bit of everything.
*Hoboken Pie. 718 Red River St. 512-477-4256, hobokenpie.com. New Jersey-inspired pies with large, gooey slices and hefty subs made on Sweetish Hill rolls are served at this small counter-service spot that also offers delivery.
Hut’s Hamburgers. 807 W. Sixth St. 512-472-0693, hutsfrankandangies.com. This nostalgia-packed restaurant not only serves up burgers made with Texas-raised beef but also make burgers with buffalo and longhorn meat, as well as chicken and veggie burgers. There’s also chicken-fried steak and taco salad on the list, because Austin.
+Il Forte. 800 Brazos St. 512-212-9797, ilforteaustin.com. Wood-fired panini and about a dozen pizzas share menu space with pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara and both beef and vegetarian lasagna.
Irene’s. 506 West Ave. 512-298-0853, irenesaustin.com. Americana-inspired sandwiches at lunch and blue plate specials of pork chops, King Ranch chicken and more at dinner at this restaurant-bar that serves plenty of booze and runs late.
Iron Works BBQ. 100 Red River St. 512-478-4855, ironworksbbq.com. Barbecue with a creekside view and plenty of nostalgia at this big red building that was once an iron works shop before being converted to a hall of smoked meats in 1978.
*Isla. 208 W. Fourth St. 737-222-6906, islaaustin.com. Cocktails that nod to the islands and food that takes its cue from the worldly creole cuisine of Peru.
+Italic. 123 W. Sixth St. 512-660-5390, italicaustin.com. With the backing of their sibling bakery Easy Tiger, you know to expect solid pizza crust and sandwich bread at this Italian restaurant that also plays the hits when it comes to pasta (bolognese) and entrees (roasted chicken).
Jackalope. 404 E. Sixth. 512-472-3663, jackalopebar.com. Wings, dogs and some loaded burgers at this bar with a little irreverence and rock-and-roll attitude. Try the honey-jalapeno bacon cheeseburger.
*Jo’s Coffee. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003, joscoffee.com. Whether you’re a burger lover or veggie burger lover, there’s something for you at this coffee shop and cafe that offers plenty of sidewalk seating for people-watching.
+*JuiceLand. 1625 Barton Springs Road. 512-480-9501, juicelandaustin.com. Find grab-and-go vegan dishes packed with impressive flavors, from Mexican and Thai-inspired wraps to falafel and an assortment of snack packs.
Koriente. 621 E. Seventh St. 512-275-0852, koriente.com. Clean cooking and pan-Asian flavors are the hallmark of this restaurant that serves everything from bibimbap to vegetable curry.
*La Condesa. 400 W. Second St. 512-499-0300, lacondesa.com. This beautiful restaurant feels plucked from the leafy streets of cosmopolitan Mexico City and serves excellent tacos (try the alambres), vibrant tuna tostadas, the best margarita in town and more.
+*La Traviata. 314 Congress Ave. 512-479-8131, latraviatatx.com. There’s a classic feel to this Italian restaurant that makes one of the best bolognese in town as well as homemade ravioli.
+Lavaca Teppan. 1712 Lavaca St. 512-851-8963, lavacateppan.com. The grill gets a workout with beef, veggies, chicken and tofu at this Japanese restaurant that also serves udon bowls. One of the few places in the downtown area for sushi.
+*Leaf. 115 W. Sixth St. 512-474-5323, leafsalad.com. Choose from one of a variety of Leaf’s salad options, or make your own with a variety of ingredients, many of which are locally sourced.
+*Lonesome Dove. 419 Colorado St. 512-271-2474, lonesomedoveaustin.com. Chef Tim Love adds thoughtful flourishes to steakhouse fare, with options like fettines made with wild game or farro congee with kale pesto, pork cheek and cured egg, a modern cowboy dish with an Asian twist.
Mai Thai. 207 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-482-8244, maithaiaustin.com. Pad thai and about a dozen other noodle bowls, along with about a half dozen curries, are the standouts on the menu at one of the few Southeast Asian restaurants in downtown.
+*Manuel’s. 310 Congress Ave. 512-472-7555, manuels.com. This sophisticated Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown has delivered bright, citrusy ceviche and chile rellenos since 1984.
Max’s Wine Dive. 207 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-904-0111, maxswinedive.com. It’s always the right time for fried chicken and champagne.
Moonshine. 303 Red River St. 512-236-9599, moonshinegrill.com. This restaurant that serves homespun comfort food helped lay the groundwork for a more mature downtown scene when it opened 13 years ago. Lobster corn dogs at brunch — enough said.
*Numero 28. 452 W. Second St. 512-494-5510, numero28austin.com. This Italian restaurant in the Second Street District serves wood-baked panini and about 20 different white and red-sauce pizzas, in addition to porchetta, pasta and more.
*Old Thousand. 1000 E. 11th St. 737-222-6637, oldthousandatx.com. The East Austin restaurant takes a modern approach to traditional Chinese, with dishes like jellyfish salad, honey prawns with pecans, mapo dofu, dan dan noodles with mushroom puree, brisket fried rice, and hot pot with pork belly and Chinese sausage.
+The Onion. 408 Brazos St. 512-476-6466, onionbaby.com. This longtime downtown favorite has made its name serving hot slices to late-night revelers, but as they say on their website, you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy their pizza.
Original Hoffbrau. 613 W. Sixth St. 512-472-0822. This throwback steakhouse opened by brothers Coleman and Tom Hamby has been around these parts longer than most Austinites, serving a dinner of fried potato wedges, a house salad and 17-ounce T-bone for less than other places charge for a 10-ounce sirloin.
+Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille. 114 W. Seventh St. 512-474-6300, perryssteakhouse.com. Among the many offerings: chateaubriand, a sweet pork chop the size of your head with a side of applesauce and thick-cut steaks topped with herbed garlic butter.
+*P. Terry’s. 515 Congress Ave. #130. 512-473-8722, pterrys.com. Patrick Terry’s patty empire runs on humanely raised and antibiotic-free Angus beef and chicken. For the record, my order is a double with bacon, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, onions and jalapenos.
*Parkside. 301 E. Sixth St. 512-474-9898, parkside-austin.com. Texas bistro (charred pork chop and steak colored with salsa verde) meets East Coast raw bar (crudo and oysters) at this downtown spot with walls colored with the patina of time.
Peche. 208 W. Fourth St. 512-494-4011, pecheaustin.com. Prohibition-era cocktails go with Texas bistro fare like braised short ribs, duck confit and wild boar at this high-ceilinged Warehouse District bar-restaurant.
Pelon’s Tex-Mex. 802 Red River St. 512-243-7874, pelonstexmex.com. Queso, tacos, enchiladas and all of the other Tex-Mex staples at this restaurant that also serves breakfast.
Quickie Pickie. 1208 E. 11th St. 512-479-0136, quickiepickieaustin.com. Breakfast tacos in the morning and well-made sandwiches and salads all day at this upmarket bodega in East Austin.
Ranch 616. 616 Nueces St. 512-479-7616, theranch616.com. Fried oysters, chipotle-honey-glazed lamb and chicken-fried sirloin, chased with a mezcal mule or margarita, will leave no doubt that you are dining in the heart of Texas.
*Red Ash. 303 Colorado St. 512-379-2906, redashgrill.com. The founders of Eddie V’s are behind this urban-meets-rustic Italian grill and chop house that serves pasta and grilled meat with plenty of flavorful heft.
+Roaring Fork. 701 Congress Ave. 512-583-0000, roaringfork.com. Big Texas flavors in dishes such as tortilla soup, blackened redfish and beef short ribs at the restaurant at the bottom of the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel.
Russian House. 307 E. Fifth St. 512-428-5442, russianhouseofaustin.com. Part cultural anthropological study, part vodka party, this friendly and festive restaurant will introduce you to the flavors and customs of Russia. Try the borscht.
+Ruth’s Chris Steak House. 107 W. Sixth St. 512-477-7884, ruthschris.com. The parent company has retaken ownership of the Austin outpost of this chain that recently received a million-dollar facelift. New look, same buttery steaks served on plates you can’t touch.
+Searsucker. 415 Colorado St. 512-394-8000, searsucker.com/austin. Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey marries coastal cuisine with Texas flavors (drunken mahi and double-cut pork chops) at this massive restaurant on the edge of the Warehouse District.
*Second Bar + Kitchen. 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2750, congressaustin.com. Upmarket New American that mostly plays it straightforward while still offering a few international twists, from the Thai-influenced salmon dish with nam pla to a chicken mole pizza. Some of the best pizzas and burger downtown.
+Slake Cafe. 120 E. Seventh St. 512-476-0060, slakecafe.com. This deli serves classic breakfast dishes in the morning and sandwiches made with house-roasted meats and fat burgers in the afternoon and evening.
Sophia’s. 500 W. Sixth St. 512-580-9990, sophiasaustin.com. The Italian supper club from Chicago brings pasta, pizza and some big-city swank to the subterranean space.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. 801 Red River St. 512-480-8341, stubbsaustin.com. Chopped beef sandwich and pork ribs are among the items to order at this restaurant and music venue that has carved out a special place in the hearts of many Austinites.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse. 300 Colorado St. 512-495-6504, sullivanssteakhouse.com/austin. Yes, there are Sullivan’s from Alaska to North Carolina. But did you know the downtown Austin location was the first in the country? It opened in 1996, back when the Warehouse District had a lot more warehouses in it.
+*Swift’s Attic. 315 Congress Ave. 512-482-8842, swiftsattic.com. Fusion cuisine features Asian influences for dishes like Brussels sprouts with nuoc cham and mushrooms with white pepper soy and bok choy. Also one of the best burgers downtown.
Taverna. 258 W. Second St. 512-477-1001, tavernabylombardi.com. The unique roster of a half-dozen risottos differentiates the local branch of this chain from other Italian restaurants.
*Teji’s. 2100 Guadalupe St. 512-215-0307, tejifoods.com. Fast-casual Indian draws students and locals with items like goat korma — a sweet and creamy dish with mild spice featuring tender bone-in goat.
+Texas Chili Parlor. 1409 Lavaca St. 512-472- 828. This Austin institution has been serving up bowls of comforting chili since 1976. And you can find more comfort knowing that the restaurant is open very late on most nights.
+*The Townsend. 718 Congress Ave. 512-887-8778, thetownsendaustin.com. One of the best cocktail bars in town also does sophisticated takes on bar classics, like the red miso mayo on a burger dripping in American cheese and the North African spices on a crunchy fried chicken served with semolina flatbread.
Trace. 200 Lavaca St. 512-542-3660, traceaustin.com. The sophisticated restaurant at the W Hotel Austin serves towering stacks of fluffy pancakes in the morning, crispy fish tacos at lunch, Texas-inspired bistro fare at dinner and more.
*Trio. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-685-8300, triorestaurantaustin.com. Get treated like a fancy hotel guest even if you aren’t staying at the Four Seasons. Steaks, Gulf seafood and a thoughtful wine selection make up the triumvirate of strengths at the restaurant with one of the best patio views of Lady Bird Lake.
Truluck’s. 400 Colorado St. 512-482-9000, trulucks.com. The Austin location of this Houston-born chain specializes in Florida stone crab claws and eye-popping views from its second-floor dining room. Also of note: a dedicated gluten-free menu.
*Turf N Surf Po’Boy. 407 Lavaca St. 512-276-2763, lavacastreet.com. Walk up to the window or eat inside the Lavaca Street Bar via this kitchen that serves salads topped with mahi mahi, snapper, tuna and other fish, as well as a juicy burger and tangy fried buffalo chicken sandwich.
Vince Young Steakhouse. 301 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-457-8325, vinceyoungsteakhouse.com. The dining room vibe has some swagger and bounce to it, just like its namesake. Try the charcuterie board while taking in a game on the television with a glass of whiskey at the bar.
*Walton’s Fancy & Staple. 609 W. Sixth St. 512-542-3380, waltonsfancyandstaple.com. Peruse the delectable case of baked goods and sweets after finishing some of the best sandwiches downtown — like my favorite, the turkey sweet, with white cheddar, bacon, onion-and-apple chutney and maple aioli.
*Wink. 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-482-8868, winkrestaurant.com. A farm-to-table trailblazer, this restaurant has found a way to straddle the line between neighborhood favorite and special-occasion option based on the strength of friendly service and a menu that is sure to always feature scallops, foie gras and wild game.
*Wu Chow. 500 W. Fifth St. 512-476-2469, wuchowaustin.com. From the soup dumplings to the shrimp and pork shumai, pan-fried chicken bao and egg custard tart, the dim sum service here is one of the best ways to spend an early Sunday afternoon in downtown.