West Austin’s historic Clarksville neighborhood is a delightful mix of stately mansions, restored bungalows, and student housing (think smallish condos built in the '70s and early '80s). In the epicenter of it all is the narrow street of West Lynn, home to everything from a tiny grocery and high-end nursery to an electronics store and old-fashioned laundry and dry cleaners.
Tucked away here and there are some of the city’s ultra-cool neighborhood joints and high-end restaurants. We like to park, walk, and take it all in.
Cipollina West Austin Bistro
This one-room dining spot has gone through many transformations since opening more than a decade ago. Founders Ron and Peggy Weiss and Jeffrey Weinberger created a neighborhood space that remains fresh and appealing. The menu features Italian fare, from wood-fired pizzas (will we ever tire of the margherita?) to panini sandwiches and freshly made pasta (think tagliatelle con funghi-shitake, button mushrooms, onions and cream).
The restaurant is also featuring a prix-fixe menu through its Explore Italy campaign, which spotlights a new region and its cuisine every week. Taste Campania, home to buffalo mozzarella, pizza and the caprese salad.
1213 West Lynn, 512-477-5211, cipollina-austin.com.
At this stylish farm-to-table hot spot, the focus is on the freshest ingredients available, whether curried Gulf red snapper with charred eggplant and okra, couscous and pickled raisin or a wilted kale salad with Texas pears, chèvre and pecans tossed with sherry vinaigrette.
The beautiful veined marble counter features savory dishes alongside pastries, breads and desserts — simple yet elegant, just like the feel of this white-washed space. The outdoor dining areas — perfect for noshing and sipping on coffee, cocktails or bubbly — have become the overflow waiting room for sister restaurant Jeffrey’s and the see-and-be-seen spot.
1601 Waterston, 512-477-5584, josephineofaustin.com.
This renovated space is handsome, sexy, stylish and laid-back all at once. Owner and restaurateur Larry McGuire and his talented team have taken the concept of fine dining to a new level, from the Texas sycamore–paneled bar and the open kitchen to the waitresses dressed in midnight-blue nightshirts and the leather-bound menus.
After a sampling from the martini cart, try the wood-roasted lobster thermidor with Thai chili drawn butter or one of the dry-aged steaks, grilled and roasted over local live oak. We often find ourselves tucked away in the bar, enjoying a cheese plate, a burger or a salad with a crisp glass of white wine.
1204 West Lynn, 512-477-5584, jeffreysofaustin.com.
Nau’s Enfield Drug
Head to the back of this Austin institution (founded in 1951) and find a spot at the counter or in a booth. Once you order your burger (or cheeseburger or grilled cheese or fried bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich) and drink from the soda fountain (cherry Dr Pepper!), take in all this place has to offer. You’ll be amazed by the plethora of toys, magazines, medicines and everything else this small pharmacy sells.
Not much has changed at this neighborhood spot, so it’s no wonder you might think Biff will walk in at any moment yelling, “McFly.” Be sure to save room for an extra thick milkshake or malt. We suggest you sip on that while and walk around the block a couple of times. Pure goodness.
1115 West Lynn, 512-476-3663, nausdrug.com.
This minimalist spot, with its expansive patio, is perfect for chilling with friends on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t expect to find heavy Tex-Mex fare, though. This restaurant specializes in interior Mexican food — grilled mahi mahi tacos or a grilled veggie torta filled with black beans, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream and roasted jalapeños. For dessert, we like to sip on a zocarita — agave wine and fresh lime juice — and people-watch.
1110 West Lynn, 512-472-8226, zocalocafe.com.
This ultra-modern restaurant — we love the minimal interior and sleek lines — serves great comfort food, and good-for-you food. Owned and operated by the same team behind Zocalo Café, Galaxy is all about quality and a local feel. Order at the counter — the options can be a bit daunting — and then find a spot inside or outside on the narrow patio.
The menu features everything from skirt steak with chimichurri sauce to grilled salmon. The gluten-free options range from sandwiches on rice bread to roasted tomato and prosciutto grilled chicken. Try one of the wraps and a glass of wine for a light dinner.
1000 West Lynn, 512-478-3436, galaxycafeaustin.com.
This tiny coffeehouse was packed on a recent weekend afternoon — the line almost out the door. And it's no wonder: the drinks here are robust (we relished every drop of our decaf latté with non-fat milk) and the noshes, from gargantuan muffins to small cartons of oatmeal, flavorful. The vibe is Austin weird — young families with tots in tote mixed in with students sporting retro grunge looks.
And while almost everyone sports a device (whether laptop, smartphone, or iPod), this cool neighborhood spot, conversations still matter, as evidenced by the people outside perched atop limestone rocks in deep discussions.
1101 West Lynn, 512-524-5049, caffemedici.com.