Best People-Watching Spots in Austin

Soak in the Scene
September 26, 2016
by Zagat Staff

Best restaurants to check out the scene and people watch in Austin. 

Franklin Barbecue
Barbecue · East Austin · $$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

“Believe the hype” that’s built up around this East Austin “experience” , in which “melt-in-your-mouth” brisket, “unbelievable” ribs and pulled pork are doled out in modest digs from 11 AM till the eats run out (usually early) at what many claim is “hands-down” the “best” BBQ joint in town and "possibly the world" ; fans agree the “hours” -long waits are “well worth it.
French · East Austin · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.0

This East Austin hot spot is a “true French brasserie” offering a “short but sweet” menu, “great” cocktails and wine that’s “perfect for the cuisine” ; a lively atmosphere pervades a setting that features a tin ceiling indoors and a “delightful” light-strung patio, all just right for “a girls' night out" or "date night” – meaning it's "popular and can be difficult to get a seat.
Mexican · SoCo (South Congress) · $$
Food 3.9 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.0

Occupying a “rustic” former feed store right “in the heart of SoCo” , this cantina is an “Austin staple” for “traditional Mexican food” , “strong margaritas” and “live music” on the patio; the “festive” vibe attracts plenty of locals and “out-of-town” visitors, meaning it’s often “crowded and crazy.”
Spider House
Pizza · North Campus · $

A "true Austin experience" , this "relaxing" North Campus bar/coffee shop combo sports a famously "whimsical" patio lit by "loosely strung Christmas lights" and full of "mismatched vintage patio furniture" and "junkyard-salvaged" bric-a-brac; you "don't go for fast service" , but with a "solid selection" of drafts, "seasonal" cocktails, espresso drinks, snacks and "interesting people having interesting conversations" , you might just want to "linger for hours" anyway.
American · Downtown · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.3

Known for its “wide variety” of oysters, “refined” New American small plates and “vast” selection of “inventive” , “tasty” cocktails, this Downtowner is a happy-hour “favorite” and a late-night hideaway; the “energetic vibe” is appropriate for the locale, though patrons don’t “feel like they’re in the heart of Dirty Sixth Street.”
Ah Sing Den
Asian · East Austin · $$

Asian flavors headline this East Austin lounge’s menus of 'tipples and morsels', featuring cold poke bowls, crispy pork ribs, steamed buns and seafood, plus an array of wine, beer, sake and cocktails. Named for the owner of a notorious opium den in Dickensian London, the exotic space is accented by embellished light fixtures, tropical colors and cozy tables for close conversation.
Kitty Cohen's
Cocktail Bar · East Austin · $$

Cocktails, frozen drinks and punch bowls big enough to share headline this stylish East Side destination. Finding aesthetic inspiration from 1970s Palm Beach, the indoor lounge features palm trees on the walls while the patio has a shallow wading pool, umbrella-shaded seating and an outdoor kitchen for occasional pop-ups and events.