Bridging the Dating Divide
Over the river: Our favorite South Austin date spots by neighborhood
The first installment of our favorite dating spots covered neighborhoods north of Lady Bird Lake — otherwise known as Austin’s very own Mason-Dixon line. But before South Austinites threaten to secede, these December date night ideas are dedicated to you.
So whether you already live in these hip ‘hoods, or you’re bravely venturing south for a winter jaunt, here’s some inspiration for your South Austin adventures.
Auditorium Shores/South River City
Zax Restaurant & Bar ($40 each)
If this is your maiden voyage across the South First Street Bridge, Zax is to Austin what Richmond, Virginia is to the U.S.: the gateway to the South. The saffron-infused steamed mussels make for a savory start and you can continue the seafood theme with the sesame-crusted tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes. (It's the stuff of dreams.) If seafood isn't your thing, try the pan seared duck breast with mushroom risotto, but save room for dessert! As the Most Interesting Man in the World would say, "We don’t always choose cheesecake, but when we do, it’s the Girl Scout Cookie cheesecake every time. (Thin Mint, my friends.)"
The Long Center for the Performing Arts ($15-$84)
With the restaurant's perfect proximity to the Long Center, you can chassé across the street for Ballet Austin’s annual performance of The Nutcracker. Performances run from December 6-23 and tickets are available from $15 to $84 — depending on the seat. More information can be found here.
Barton Springs/Bouldin Creek
House Wine ($20-$25 each, depending on the daily special)
House Wine calls itself "as unpretentious and inclusive as Austin itself," and you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree when you go there for free appetizer Thursdays or half-price wine Sundays. In fact, any day you choose, you’ll find a good happy hour special here. Live music on the new outdoor patio means you don’t have to change venues for your evening entertainment.
Trail of Lights ($3 at the gate, $15 per car)
The Trail of Lights opens for its 50th year on December 7, so stroll over to Zilker Park for hand-holding and hot chocolate. The Zilker Holiday Tree is on display from December 1-31. You and your date can spin yourselves dizzy beneath this Austin landmark.
Trader Joe’s is by far the greatest thing that’s ever rolled into Rollingwood. Sure, it’s a grocery store, but it is also the place for anything pumpkin related. Now that holidays are upon us, it’s time to take your flannel-clad date on a pumpkin pie shopping extravaganza. Of course, it doesn’t have to stop at pie. Go nuts on pumpkin with everything from pumpkin bagels, croissants and muffins to ice cream, waffles — and even pumpkin-cornbread croutons.
To keep the fun going, head over to Ceramics Bayou and show off your creative side with handmade pottery. The studio provides everything you need (except artistic talent) to make mugs, mosaics, fused glass and hundreds of other pottery pieces which you get to keep as mementos from your date. Be sure to check out the events page for special late night openings and BYOB events.
South Congress/Travis Heights
Hotel San Jose ($15-$24 each)
Do you know the way to (Hotel) San Jose? Escape the hustle and bustle of South Congress and retreat to this bungalow-style hotel bar tucked beneath the trees. The bar just switched its seasonal sangria to the red variety, and it’s so fruity it should be considered a salad. (Date tip: Your beau may not think it’s super attractive when you fish out all the fruit at the end, but believe us, it’s worth it.) Another one of our favorite selections is the Rosso Amaro, made with Prosecco and fresh grapefruit juice. It is so refreshing we're lobbying the government to include it in the food pyramid as a staple citrus. Candles and comfortable courtyard seating create an enchanting ambience for an evening of conversation.
Home Slice Pizza ($35 each including wine)
Afterwards, head to Home Slice for a dine-in pizzeria experience or mosey next door to More Home Slice and watch the dough tossers work their magic. The chefs provide your evening entertainment, becoming modern Michelangelos as they paint Margherita pizzas with olive oil and tomatoes on a beautiful doughy canvas.
Patika Wine and Coffee ($5-$15)
After many years as a mobile stand in the Warehouse District, Patika has at last found a brick-and-mortar home on South Lamar Boulevard. Featuring both coffee and wine, the new space next to Mockingbird Domestics is the perfect way to begin or end your day. Patika's toddy has long been a downtown favorite, but the new shop had us at “in-house baking." Both sweet and savory options abound, and the evening menu includes charcuterie plates to pair with wine or beer.
Mockingbird Domestics (costs will vary)
With Patika's modern but cozy interior, you will likely feel inspired to head next door to Mockingbird Domestics. Named after our state bird, this charming boutique features Texas-made furniture and home goods from local artists and carpenters to help jump start your holiday shopping.
A little further south
Jester King Brewery (about $20-$30 with pizza)
For the truly adventurous South Austin explorer, head down US-290 for an authentic farmhouse brewery experience at Jester King. With wild ales and spontaneously fermented beers inspired by the Texas Hill Country, Jester King offers free brewery tours and a tasting room open from noon to 10 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. We like the year-round Le Petit Prince — partly because we love that story, partly for the grapefruit flavor — but we recommend trying several samples of the seasonal beers which start at $2 for 4 oz. At the risk of featuring too much pizza (is that a thing?), pair your beer selection with Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Oven-baked goodness comes in several varieties, including the Isabella, which combines alfredo sauce, spinach, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, olives and goat feta.
Alamo Drafthouse — Slaughter ($10 each)
On the way back into town, digest your day trip at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane. The first Drafthouse to feature a full bar, this location is still our personal favorite for films (and milkshakes).