14 old-guard Austin institutions that you should visit right now
Austin's evolving, and we've got a front-row seat. We bemoan the fate of Austin institutions even as we pick our way through a selection of small plates at the latest hot spot. Let's make a conscious choice to put our money where our "Austin's changing so fast" outrage is: Shop, have a beer, or grab a meal at one of these old-guard businesses.
While this isn't an exhaustive list, we've picked some standouts that helped put Austin on the top of all those pesky top 10 lists.
Avenue B Grocery
This cool Hyde Park staple is Austin's oldest continuously operated grocery store. Built in 1909 and maintained through the current (10th) owner, Avenue B offers lovely sandwiches and daily soups, salads, and snacks. Sit outside on a sunny day with your lunch and feel like this is a small town again.
Dirty Martin’s Place
Before you make any assumptions about old Martin's character, “dirty” comes from the original dirt floor. Still in the original building, Dirty's carries on early traditions: the hamburger meat is never frozen, and limeade, lemonade, shakes, and malts are made from scratch. And the employees? They’re family.
With a sign still proudly proclaiming that it's air conditioned, the Tavern has pretty much stayed the same since 1933. A facelift or two and the addition of many, many TVs makes it one of our favorite spots for watching any and all sports. And let's not forget those white wings. Swoon.
What started as a stall in Starr’s Fruit and Vegetable Market has evolved into a seafood institution. The mission is still simple: providing Central Texans with the freshest possible seafood. In the past five years, the operation has expanded both literally and figuratively to include more space inside, farmers markets, and onsite cooking classes.
Nau's Enfield Drug
Slide into a booth, order a float, and watch your burger sizzle on a hot griddle while waiting for a prescription. It's a little piece of the '50s in the heart of Clarksville. Nau's has been owned by the same family since 1951, and now they need a little Austin love. Mr. Labay recently suffered a heart attack, and they're hoping to raise funds to assist with medical bills. Donate some dollars, would ya?
The Little Longhorn Saloon
Now just "The Little Longhorn," it'll always be Ginny's to us. A bastion of honky tonk and inexpensive beers, Ginny's was purchased by local musician Dale Watson in 2013. With a couple of renovations, some taps, and a good scrubbing, this place retains all its charm and Chicken Shit Bingo glory.
Gather around, young vape shops, and learn of your ancestors. Oat Willie's was started in the '60s by dudes who knew what was up. They escaped some pretty gnarly times in the '80s to grow and flourish as Austin's original head shop. Oat Willie's paved the way for other shops like Planet K and the Gas Pipe to move onward through the fog.
Though the Draught House (once the Draught Horse) has been open since 1968, it didn't start brewing beer until the '90s. Folks who lived here then remember pulling up a chair and drinking beer in the parking lot. Things have gotten a teensy bit more legal, and now there's a great patio for sippin' on any of the 70 beers on tap. The history is still there though. Make a game out of figuring out the names scarred into those old wooden tables.
Celebrating an age twice as old as many of those who frequent it, Posse East is a long-time campus-area establishment. You aren't a true Austinite if you haven't found yourself here, too many pitchers into the night, waxing nostalgic. Fall game days are a favorite, as are the cheap happy hour prices and trivia nights year-round.
Fonda San Miguel
Look for the signature blue lights and you've found Fonda San Miguel. The moment your feet hit that Saltillo tile, the air redolent with spices, you know it's going to be special. The food, the art, and the service are what sets this place apart. The interior Mexican food is recognized nationally; while you're there, grab a cookbook and try to recreate your favorite dish. Try being the operative word.
Wheatsville Food Co-op
Remember when Wheatsville was a tiny building with left-wing postcards and questionable produce? Ah, the good old days. That particular iteration may be lost and gone forever, but in its place stands a glorious cooperative (the only food co-op in Texas) that focuses on local, sustainable, and delicious. The popcorn tofu is the stuff of dreams.
You don’t need us to tell you what this specialty store is all about. Female owned and operated, Forbidden Fruit has been fostering sexual self-awareness, communication, and education since way before it was on trend. Its move to North Loop has added a little fun and flair to the neighborhood in the form of classes, workshops, and private events.
Convenience store, brew pub, Indian-Texas fusion restaurant, wine bar, live music venue ... Whip Inn is an amalgamation of all the things we love. The South Austin favorite just launched a blog, rolled out a new menu, and celebrated its 30th anniversary. We're betting pretty heavily on 30 more years of greatness.
Casino El Camino
Just your typical neighborhood bar, they brag ... "if your neighborhood bar is dark, cool, and twisted." Bangin' burgers, a badass jukebox, and gargoyles galore. Come for the fantastic happy hour specials, but stay for the late-night shenanigans.