Hidden Gems in Austin: Locals Reveal the City’s Most Underrated Spots


Known for its live music scene and the plethora of amazing cuisines, it’s no wonder Austin, TX, has become a popular migration destination. This lively city is full of beautiful parks, lakes, and hikes in addition to the many vibrantly-designed restaurants, craft cocktail lounges, and cafes.

Whether you’re checking out apartments for rent in Austin and just need a great spot for lunch, or you’re planning an upcoming trip and want to really experience what it’s like to live in Austin, we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up some of the best hidden gems in Austin, recommended by Austin locals as their must-visit spots for your next trip to their great city.

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Local favorites for good eats and drinks in Austin

Vic and Al’s 

Vic and Al’s creates dishes inspired by “the culture, comfort, and cuisines of Southern Louisianna and the Texas Gulf Coast.” Here you’ll find not only delicious food but a welcoming, community-centric vibe.

“A lot of people might not know that the same handmade-pasta-giants behind Patrizi’s own this restaurant. This relatively new Southern restaurant actually opened in 1948 by the current owners’ family, and through re-opening, they’ve paid homage to their family,” says Monique of The Monique Story. “It boasts some of the most delicious eats in town. My favorite is the fried chicken on sassafras rice, boudin balls, and fried bread pudding. Don’t forget the orange drink!”

Tamale House East 

One of Austin’s top food bloggers, Jane Ko of A Taste of Koko, recommends Tamale House if you’re looking for some good eats and drinks. “It’s one of the oldest restaurants in Austin that makes the biggest tamales and delicious frozen margaritas,” says Ko. 

While the neighborhood has been ever-changing, Tamale House remains a neighborhood spot that continues to make everything fresh and from scratch. This Austin gem serves up traditional Mexican fare with a few modern twists. If you’re in search of a great tamale, breakfast taco, or refreshing margarita, be sure to add this restaurant to your list when exploring Austin.

Pho Phi

A hidden gem in Austin offering flavorful, authentic Vietnamese cuisine is family-owned Pho Phi. “Pho Phi on Parmer Lane is my weekly go-to for a homey, satisfying, and soul-filling meal,” says photographer Chie Endo. “The number one must-try item on their menu is the bún bò hue, a spicy beef and pork noodle soup with all the good stuff, or BBH for short. No exaggerations when I say this soup brings me back to life. If you like spicy, order it with a side of their chili oil for an extra kick. And a sweet Thai tea balances the spiciness perfectly.”

Once Over Coffee Bar 

If you need a great cup of joe while visiting Austin, Jené Sigl of Darlin’ Marketing recommends Once Over Coffee Bar. “It’s the best local coffee shop if you’re looking for tasty drinks and a relaxed atmosphere. The ambiance is on point with its artistic retro interior and a back deck that’s surrounded by nature. Plus, the staff is always friendly, and the chai latte never disappoints.”

The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge

Located on Lake Travis, The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge is the perfect spot to enjoy the sun, a tasty meal, and listen to live music on the weekends. 

Recommended by Austin photographer, Acasha King of Acasha Photography says, “One of my favorite places is just outside Austin in the lakeside community of Briarcliff. The Lighthouse offers a beautiful view of Lake Travis on their tree-covered patio, complete with live music and great service. They describe their food as “lake food but better,” which definitely lives up to that statement. The drinks are great, and their weekend brunch menu is outstanding!”

Ah Sing Den

Looking for craft cocktails with a unique and thoughtfully designed interior? Kristin Moses, founder and creative director of Austin-based DesignGood, says her favorite hidden gem in Austin is an Asian craft cocktail lounge on the east side called Ah Sing Den. 

“This Austin hidden gem is beautifully designed, and it feels like you are transported back to the Victorian era of East London. The staff is also part of this immersive experience, along with weekend DJs. Insider tip: to get these creative cocktails and delicious bites, be sure to make a reservation to ensure a spot at one of their beautiful tables.”


Described as real food with good vibes, Picnik is all about making delicious food that’s also good for you. Plus, its entire menu is gluten-free, peanut-free, and refined sugar-free.

“I really like the atmosphere – beautiful trailing plants, pretty tile, and so on. The new location has so much beautiful window light too. It’s just a really nice, “feel good” space,” says Austin-based commercial and editorial photographer Kimberly Davis. What should you try out when visiting this hidden gem in Austin? Davis recommends their delicious brussels sprouts and their canned cherry limeade cocktail with elderflower to take home and serve over ice or give as a gift.


“While it’s a little off the beaten path, Launderette is one of my favorite hidden gems in Austin,” recommends Caroline Robert of Caroline’s Collective. “The restaurant was actually a laundromat before it was converted into this globally-inspired high-end cafe. Their aesthetic will make you want to incorporate their decor into your own home, and they also have an adorable outdoor patio that caters to everything from casual drinks and apps to a full seated dinner.”

She adds: “Their menu also changes to accommodate the seasons. Current notable entrees include the bass crudo and the birthday ice cream sandwich. Be sure to plan ahead and make reservations as they often book out.”

Little Deli & Pizzeria

“If you’re looking for a BYOB picnic table hot spot with a menu that literally doesn’t have a bad thing on it, look no further than Little Deli. Dare I say it’s the last piece of “old Austin” that I hope we forever hold on to?” raves Austin local Carley of Carley E. Photography

“This local gem is a must for foodies near and far. Their pizza is consistently spectacular, their salads are big and fresh, and my personal favorite, the Tony’s Gardenburger (LD’s take on a veggie burger) is so amazing that I order it every time so I’m pretty sure they know my order the minute I walk in. They’re big on flavor and their non-pretentious attitude is refreshing in Austin’s swiftly changing culture,” she adds.

zikler park austin, tx

Unique hidden gems in Austin that locals swear by for a good time

Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa

To enjoy some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city, consider checking out Miraval Austin Wellness Resort and Spa. This resort makes for the perfect staycation with a wide range of wellness experiences, spa services, and culinary options.

“This resort is all about relaxation and wellness,” says Courtney Prinzo of Courtney Prinzo Photography.  “The best thing about this place is that it’s in the hills and secluded. Even though you’re in Austin, it feels like you’re in a completely different place. The hiking trails are stunning and the spa and pool overlook an array of trees and nature. It really is magical.”

Emma Long Metropolitan City Park

Located on the shores of Lake Austin, Emma Long Metropolitan City Park features plenty of open space, multiple camping sites, swimming areas, and more. If you’re looking to enjoy a hot summer day or do a little weekend camping, you’ll want to add this hidden gem in Austin to your list.

“While Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, and Zilker get all the attention when it comes to cooling down in the water, don’t miss out on Emma Long Metropolitan City Park,” says Kelly Tomlinson of Live Love Texas. “Not only do you get to enjoy the only sandy beach in Austin and the warmest water, but it’s also located near the amazing views and hiking near the Pennybacker (360) Bridge.”

The Violet Crown Cinema

Who doesn’t love a good film and tasty treats? If you’re looking for something to do in Austin, consider catching a movie at the Violet Crown Cinema. “The Violet Crown Cinema is often overshadowed by Austin giant and homegrown theater franchise, the Alamo Drafthouse, but I would argue it’s a better and more intimate experience,” says photographer Lauren Lindley.

“Featuring mostly art house films on exceptional screens with limited seats, you can order food and drinks at the bar in the lobby and imbibe like an adult but in quiet calm that’s free of disruptions, which makes it my go-to theater experience in Austin.”

Mayfield Park

Whether you want to enjoy some beautiful scenery on an afternoon stroll or you’re searching for a gorgeous background for photographs, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Mayfield Park.

“As a photographer, one of my favorite places in Austin is Mayfield Park, with its stunning ponds, stone structures, and peacocks roaming around,” says Austin photographer Hillarry Pitts of Silver Bee Photography. “It’s absolutely beautiful year-round, but particularly in the spring when the gardens bloom with a wide variety of plants and flowers. It makes a stunning backdrop for maternity and family photos.”

St. John Studios

Located in North Austin, this hidden gem is a multifunctional warehouse that makes for a great space to host a private event or take portraits and still life photography. “From the outside, you would never know how cool it is,” says Austin-based photographer Jody Horton.

“Although it’s been open for several years, even people who live in the neighborhood don’t know about it, so it remains hidden. The spaces – old wood, corrugated tin, an open-air bar that feels like a BBQ joint – capture the essence of an old Austin that seems to be fading too fast as the city grows and changes.”

Veterans Memorial Park

Located just outside downtown Austin in Cedar Park, Veterans Memorial Park offers something for everyone. Some of the amenities include an 8,500-square-foot outdoor aquatic facility, a large dog park, multiple pavilions for rent, and sports courts. “I call it “doggie Disneyworld,” says John Kelly of Kelly Personal Training. “Veterans Memorial Park in Cedar Park has a large dog park with separate areas for small, medium, and large dogs, and it’s impeccably maintained.” 

Kelly continues: “There’s also a large pond with a pier where the dogs can run and jump off from and a shower area once they’re finished playing in the water. Not to mention, there’s also tennis courts and basketball courts, a huge public pool, walking trails, and a solemn memorial to those who made this possible, the Veterans.”

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