Who wouldn’t want to have lunch, dinner or a refreshing drink at a hot spot overlooking water? Austin boasts a wealth of lakes, rivers and creeks, and most of them sport restaurants and bars.
Here are 10 restaurants with breathtaking views you won’t want to miss.
This sprawling complex sits on a bluff high above Lake Travis, facing west, which is how it came to be famous for sunsets. Folks who gather on the multi-level outdoor decks over a plate of nachos or enchiladas and a frosty margarita often burst into applause for a particularly spectacular end to the day. The Oasis also serves lunch, stages live music on the weekends, and has a full bar and gift shop. Remember your camera.
Arriving by boat is de rigueur at this burger joint far up Lake Austin, but you’re also welcome to drive here. First opened in 1954, the iconic hangout closed in 2009. It reopened under new owners in 2010, serving tacos, baskets and an exhaustive list of burgers. Enjoy cold beer, wine and drink specials Monday through Thursday and live music Saturday and Sunday. Wearing a bathing suit? No problem.
Half of this restaurant overlooks Lake Austin. The other half is actually over the water, where tiki torches, bamboo walls and lights create a festive atmosphere. The menu, self-described as "Tiki-Mex" or "Mexican food with a surfer twist," features creative variations on nachos, burgers, fajitas and tacos; dinners include baby back ribs and grilled Hawaiian chicken. This is the place to meet your friends and soak up those benefits of water.
Strategically located where Waller Creek meets Lady Bird Lake (and bearing Lady Bird Johnson’s middle name), this cafe fuels walkers and runners on the trail and patrons of the adjacent Waller Creek Boathouse. Nosh on artisan sandwiches and salads, and sip sustainable wine and craft beer selections all while enjoying the water view from the spacious outdoor deck.
This restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel takes the waterside experience up a notch, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch in an elegant indoor dining room or an outdoor patio overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Lunch and dinner menus feature steaks and seafood, and the daily happy hour includes an extensive appetizer selection. Time your visit right and you can watch the Congress Avenue bat emergence over dessert or drinks.
This East Austin establishment sits on a bluff high above the Colorado River just below Lady Bird Lake. The café serves Jacoby family beef in the form of cheeseburgers, chicken-fried steak and stuffed Salisbury steak, along with chicken, pork chops, shrimp and grits, and family-style sides. The outdoor seating area offers a view of the river that few ever see. Jacoby's is open for happy hour and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday.
Shoal Creek Saloon
The Saloon features an expansive outdoor seating area over Shoal Creek, a scenic little waterway known to turn into raging floodwaters (most recently on Memorial Day). When the water rises, the staff just cleans up and gets back to work serving daily specials such as chicken fried steak, pork chops, Cajun meatloaf and etouffe. If the giant New Orleans Saints helmet out front — a creation of eccentric artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade — doesn’t tip you off to the Cajun bent here, the menu should.
Waller Creek Pub House
This small and nearly hidden establishment (a half-block off East Sixth Street on one-lane Sabine) serves 30 rotating craft beers on tap and “elevated pub food,” including a half-pound lamb burger, gouda grilled cheese sandwiches and salads. A small patio and the indoor dining and bar areas overlook Waller Creek, which may be Austin’s least-appreciated waterway, but one with great potential.
County Line on the Lake
Formerly an old lodge, this classic barbecue joint has a large redwood deck on the tree-lined shore of Bull Creek just off Lake Austin. Choose from a large selection of barbecue, sandwiches and blue plate specials. Have a cold beer or margarita with that and save room for homemade ice cream and cobbler. Bring change for the turtle food.
The lounge, dining room and outdoor patio here overlook tranquil and tree-lined Quarry Lake, an old limestone quarry filled with spring water. In the 1970s and ‘80s, locals swam and even went scuba diving here. Today, the lake is part of Pure Fitness; you’ll see runners on the trail as well as swimmers and paddleboarders on the water. Roaring Fork’s lunch and dinner menus feature wood-fired steaks and fresh fish as well as burgers and pork chops. During happy hour, Roaring Fork pours signature drinks including a selection of mojitos.