Once a sparse stretch of pavement peppered with a few strip malls and honky-tonks, South Lamar has evolved into a bona fide entertainment district. New development is springing up seemingly every day, from condos to bars, restaurants to coffee shops.
But we’re not here to shake our heads at change and bemoan the way things used to be. As the South Lamar neighborhood evolves, there are some wonderful new places to visit — and a nice handful of the old-school, too.
The Saxon Pub is one of those places that takes “Live Music Capital of the World” very seriously. Since opening in 1990, they estimate they’ve had over 22,000 musical performances on their stage. They have 2 to 4 acts perform each and every night, including free happy hour shows starting at 6:30 pm on weeknights.
On the corner of South Lamar and Gibson Street (shocking), this neighborhood bar’s marble tables, leather banquettes, and dim evening lighting provide a little sex appeal. But they keep things light with popsicle cocktails, boozy frozen drinks like pink lemonade, mai tais, and mojitos, and affordable wines by the bottle. If you get hungry, pick up a seriously massive sandwich at Luke’s Inside Out, the food truck out front.
A South Lamar staple since 1997, Maudie’s second location has been bringing no-fuss Tex-Mex to the area for over 20 years. They offer a huge menu, with tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas — all the staples. They even have a “Skinny Tex-Mex” section, which is a nice addition for a typically high-cal cuisine.
This popular pizza joint goes beyond pepperoni. Gorgonzola, lemon-herb ricotta, beef, or serranos can all be added to your own custom creation. Or pick one of their “High-flying Pizzas” like the Eastsider — pepperoni, ham, and sausage, plus black olives, pineapples, serranos, and plenty of cheese. It’s a combo that’s just weird enough to work.
This is one dive bar where you won’t get a funny look for ordering a cocktail instead of a beer. The Goose is cozy, dark, and friendly — just as a neighborhood bar should be. Play a game of shuffleboard and pick a favorite tune from the vintage jukebox. Cocktails here are a creative endeavor, like the Disiac made with gin, beet juice, Cointreau, and soda.
Matt’s El Rancho
Tex-Mex is a Texas tradition, and that is never so clear as at Matt’s El Rancho. First opened in 1952 on E. 1st St., Matt’s is a mom-and-pop operation that grew into an Austin institution. In addition to the standard tacos and enchiladas, they serve a variety of seafood entrees like redfish, salmon, and shrimp. But if you do want tacos, try the Asadero — two beef tenderloin tacos with grilled Asadaro cheese, onions, and roasted poblano strips. Named by Texas Monthly as one of the 120 tacos you must eat before you die!
Where: 2613 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 462-9333
Lick Honest Ice Cream
This artisan ice cream shop makes everything in-house, from the cones to the toppings to the ice cream itself. Eschew the basic chocolate or vanilla for one of their truly exceptional flavors, like roasted beets and fresh mint; goat cheese, thyme, and honey; or dark chocolate, olive oil, and sea salt. You can even bring your vegan friends here — they have three different vegan options.
Where: 1100 S Lamar Blvd #1135
Phone: (512) 363-5622
An early product of the “new Austin”, Odd Duck started out as a food trailer in a town obsessed with their free-range restaurants. But they soon stood out, due to their innovative menu items and dedication to only using products from dozens of local vendors. Entrees at their brick-and-mortar location have included chicken-fried fish heads for the adventurous eater and goat chili over egg noodles for the more conservative. But the menu changes regularly, so visit with an open mind (and empty tummy).
Where: 1201 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 433-6521
Black Sheep Lodge
Austin is a town that loves its beer. And Black Sheep Lodge loves to give it to us — 26 options on draft and another 125 in bottles! Come for the beer, but stay for the food. Black Sheep has an extensive menu of pub food, focused on hot dogs, chicken, and highly-acclaimed burgers. Grab a bite and a brew while you play pool, darts, or air hockey inside, or post up on the patio for a lazy afternoon.
Where: 2108 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 707-2744
Back when it opened its doors in 1964, the Broken Spoke was practically in the countryside. Now it’s sandwiched between two condo buildings a la the house from UP! But the Spoke isn’t going to fly away anytime soon. It still serves up chicken fried steak and live country music Tuesday through Saturday, and dance lessons in case you forgot how to 2-step. Owner James M. White says it’s the “Last of the true Texas dancehalls and damn sure proud of it!”
Where: 3201 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 442-6189
Lamar Union Plaza
What used to be a small shopping square anchoring the growing South Lamar neighborhood is now a massive residential, shopping, and entertainment plaza. You could spend an entire weekend here — catch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, get a manicure at Coated, snack on comfort food at TLC Austin, re-energize with coffee from Caffe Medici, and wrap it up with bowling and karaoke at The Highball.
Where: 1100 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 355-3800
Opa! Coffee & Wine Bar
The big shady patio at Opa feels a little European, but the sweet Craftsman-style house that holds the cafe is all Austin. Stop by in the morning for a strong Greek coffee or a cup of Darjeeling. During happy hour, sip $4 sangria or $3 mimosas. And when it gets dark, enjoy their full bar, substantial wine list, and live music every night! Bonus — they serve excellent Greek food, like dolmas, moussaka, and spanakopita.
Where: 2050 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 326-8742
This little ramen joint is routinely on local “best place to eat” lists, no matter the category. Start with the Tonkotsu Original — thick, creamy pork bone broth, chewy noodles, tender braised pork belly, and a soft boiled egg. From there, you can customize your bowl with extra flavor “bombs” from sweet to spicy, and plenty of toppings. The flash-fried Brussels sprouts are a must!
Where: 1234 S Lamar Blvd
Phone: (512) 893-5561