Best Of Lake Travis Area Guide
Editors note: This Best of Lake Travis Area Guide blog is my contribution to the Austin Food Blog Alliance’s annual “City Guide.” All opinions are my own and business information is subject to change out of my control.
PLEASE NOTE: At time of press, area restaurants, bars, and all other businesses are continually changing their hours, specials, and operational protocols due to the Covid-19 virus and variants. I highly recommend visiting the website and/or calling any of the listed establishments prior to visiting to obtain the most updated information.
Austin is a big city with a small town charm that brings a lot of visitors; many who never leave. The Lone Star State’s downtown is bustling with loads of entertainment, various nightlife scenes, and a plethora of food and drink options. When traversing through the different areas of Austin, you will quickly realize how diverse the “Live Music Capital of the World” is, and this includes the Lake Travis area. Travel about 30 minutes (off rush hour time) away from downtown and you will be introduced to beautiful rolling hills, windy roads, and a completely different welcoming vibe. I definitely think it’s a part of Austin not to be missed, be it by residents and visitors alike.
After living in the Lake Travis area for several years, I decided to share a variety of some of my favorite places to eat, drink, play, and more. Here we go – read on for my Best of Lake Travis Area guide!
Whether you are seeking traditional, super fresh, generous, delicately sliced pieces of sushi, sashimi, maki, or wanting a mind-blowing, innovative artful dish, Tadashi has you covered from one end of the spectrum the the other. I wouldn’t only include Tadashi in the a Best of Lake Travis area guide. I would include the restaurant in “one of the best places for sushi in all of Austin.” Chef Sun and staff provide stellar service and will only serve the highest quality ingredients. Tadashi has fresh fish from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji market and other countries flown in two times a week. Over the years visiting, I have never been disappointed in any way and feel like royalty from the moment I arrive to the time I leave. Great for couples at the sushi bar or larger parties at tables. For those who don’t do raw, Tadashi also offers many cooked items including bento boxes, assorted yakatori, noodle bowls, even salads, and more. They also have a nice sake, beer, and wine selection.
Temporarily no lunch specials or happy hour due to the pandemic. Open Monday – Thursday 11AM-9PM, Friday 11AM-9:30PM, Saturday noon-9:30PM. For hours and menus click here.
12820 Hill Country Blvd E-105
Bee Cave, TX 78738
Best BBQ Sandwich
It’s not surprising to me that Smokey J’s Barbeque has been open at its 4 Point’s location for 39 years! It has certainly earned its place in my “Best of Lake Travis Area Guide.” They do all types of great Q, but what put them on the map for me decades ago are their chopped brisket sandwiches. It was way back when I was actually going to Lake Travis for the first time that my friend suggested we stop for a bite and I was immediately hooked. Smokey J’s does all the traditional Texas BBQ; however, you simply can’t go wrong with their generous 1/4 lb plus mammoth, so yummy sandie for a mere $6.25. If I recall, prices haven’t changed all that much and the quality is still spot on. For this super picky chopped beef gal, I could not be more pleased to report the meat is juicy, lean, and there’s no sign if icky sinew. Their sides are also pretty great and will only set you back a dollar or so. If they’re not sold out of their house jerky (they often are), I suggest getting some of that as well. Order at the counter and eat at one of the covered outdoor picnic tables or take to go.
Cash only. Open Tuesday – Saturday 7am to 3pm, or until sold out. Oh, that reminds me. Smokey J’s breakfast tacos are amazing! A must try! They’re so established they don’t even have a website and aren’t on social media. Have questions? Pick up the phone and call them.
7008 Ranch Road 620 N
Austin, TX 78732
Best Fine Dining
NOTE: At time of press, from the Apis website they are “Apis reopening has been delayed to resurgence of Covid-19.
I bee-lined it straight on opening night to Apis in Spicewood – pun intended. It might be a little further in the Hill Country, but the drive is stunning and the experience is worth it. This aviary (yes, there actually are hives on-site that they source from) themed restaurant was, and still is, such a welcomed addition to the area. Using local, seasonal, and responsibly sourced ingredients, the menu is as innovative as it is frequently changing. The chefs at Apis create dishes that are “unique yet familiar, exciting but approachable, and as beautiful as it is delicious.” Enjoy a prix fixe meal or order a la carte. Whether your’re in the mood for a well executed Wagyu steak or seek something a little lighter like crusted ocean trout with caviar or a simple delicious beet salad, I believe you’ll find something to excite you palate. For a more casual and affordable option visit during happy hour offered Wednesday through Saturday from 5-7pm in the bar room or patio. Includes discounted wine, cocktails, and beer and select food items. I highly recommend the Dry Aged Beef burger with smoked pork belly. Delicious. And it would be a sin not to try their famous egg toast. I can usually recreate dishes at home, but I have yet to master the delectable bites. For hours and menus click here.
23526 Hwy 71 West
Spicewood, TX 78669
Best Prime Rib
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want tender beef and some horseradish. Enjoy amazing slow roasted prime rib at The League Kitchen & Tavern every Thursday for lunch and/or dinner. The lunch portion is a 6oz cut for $11.99; and there are two dinner options, a 12oz cut for $24.99 or 16oz for $29.99 and all come with sides. The League also offers 1/2 off bottles of wine on Thursdays that will pair perfectly with your meal; dine-in, delivery, or pickup! Really, need I say more?
Happy hour is offered Monday through Friday from 3-7pm and includes select 1/2 off appetizers (I highly recommend the smoked salmon deviled eggs), $2 off big draft beers, $2 off wine by the glass, and $1 off spirits. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am-2pm. To view two other Austin area locations and full menus for all three, click here.
1310 Ranch Road 620 S
Lakeway, TX 78734
Best Craft Brew with a View
Nobody can beat Oasis Texas Brewing Company for this category, especially at sunset (NOT to be confused with the Oasis Restaurant; not affiliated). Located “High in the Hill Country” overlooking the beautiful blue waters of Lake Travis, I’ve been visiting OTXBC (as the locals call it) since they opened and I’ve seen a lot of changes and growth. They brew some solid year-round beers (I enjoy the Meta Modern Session IPA) and also do assorted seasonals. OTXBC has a full craft kitchen that serves up soups, salads, shareables, sandwiches, wings and more. I recommend the “Duck Me That’s Good, It’s like Quack” poutine (yum!) and their tasty Wagyu burger. Vegan and GF food options available. The extra spacious third floor deck, outdoor bar and seating, and indoor areas are all fun and decorated with flare. Lots of games to play, Fido and kiddo friendly, with live music on select days there is always a way to entertain yourself.
For beers, menu, hours, and special events click here.
6550 Comanche Trail
Austin, TX 78732
Best BOGO Burgers on the Lake
Sundancer Grill overlooks Sail & Ski Yacht Club and is “the premier restaurant on Lake Travis featuring a bistro dining experience with a casual lakeside atmosphere. The menu features chef crafted salads, sandwiches, steak and seafood prepared with fresh ingredients. Sundancer Grill is open for Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch.” I recommend the Brisket Cheese Burger with slaw, pickles, and bbq sauce. All come with hand cut fries. Sundancer Grill overlooks a marina with all the beautiful sail boats. Private parking lot with courtesy docks available, so you can come by land or water. If by boat, call 512.266.2268 to arrange for pick up to take you up the hill to the restaurant.
Happy hour offered Monday through Friday from 4-6pm with $3 domestic beers (includes local crafts), $1 off cocktails, $2 off margaritas, 1/2 price wine by the glass, and 1/2 off appetizers. For more daily specials and to view the full menu click here.
16410 Stewart Road
Lakeway, TX 78734
Best Dive Bar
Hudson Tavern is a gem in its own right to be sure. It is a local watering hole that lures in people from all walks of like who simply like to be in a relaxed environment and enjoy some adult libations, company, maybe a game of pool, or have a hand at poker night. (See what I did there?) Great place to watch a game, an MMA fight, or other events with over a dozen TVs to view. Also, fun joint to hang out at for all those “as if I need and excuse to celebrate” “holidays,” such as Mardi Gras, St. Pat’s, and the like. The owner/operator always aims to please patrons by offering complimentary grilled burgers and hot dogs, chips, crudités, sweet treats and more during such events (always subject to change). He also runs free raffles and giveaways that make everything even more fun. Lastly, I have never seen the Tavern charge a cover for any event (at their discretion),
Assorted happy hour specials daily. For more information, including hours and special events click here. [NOTE: Smoking is permitted; however, there is covered outdoor seating.]
5000 Hudson Bend Road
Austin, TX 78734
Best Selection of Craft Beers by the Ounce
I cannot express how thrilled I was when Oz Taphouse opened last year! I had been to a couple of other self-service pour by the ounces places and really enjoyed the experience. Oz (as in Ounce) is a very welcomed and needed addition to Austin! I’m over the top with joy and pride to add this to my “Best of Lake Travis Area Guide.” With over 30 beers on tap (click here to see what’s currently available), wine, and even sake, there is surely something to please every discerning palate. Try little tasters, pour half or full pints, build your own flight – whatever your heart desires and your dedicated customer card will keep track of your taps and keep a running tab. The elevated gastro food at Oz is pretty fantastic too. They use local and sustainable goods whenever possible. I have never had a dish I didn’t love. Great tacos, wings, burgers, and more. It’s not just average bar food. I highly recommend the unique – and delicious – charcuterie pretzel to share. All the selections pair very well with beer. They even had a super fun kid’s version. Oz is very family friendly. Indoor and outdoor seating available. The owner Sean (and his lovely wife) and his staff are amazingly kind people and very helpful. They are all very knowable about beer and are able to educate even the biggest brewheads around (present company included).
Happy hour offered Monday through Friday from 3-6pm, includes 50% off select beverages and starters. For more information and full menu click here.
10601 Ranch Road 2222 Ste H
Austin, TX 78730
Best Wine Bar
The Grove has a very impressive selection of over 100 wines by the glass, on tap, or bottle to choose from. The Lakeway location has a large deck with a nice view overlooking a valley in the Texas Hill Country that can be enjoyed pretty much year-round with the assistance of the many present space heaters (also limited scenic views from inside seating). They offer a diverse food menu that of course pair well with wine. I recommend the bruschetta with several flavor combos to choose from (the avocado, bacon, and tomato jam is scrumptious!) and is delightful with a house rosé. The charcuterie board is a wonderful excuse to choose a wine flight and experiment. And their most amazing entree IMHO, the wine slow braised short rib, begs for a bold red. Serves brunch, lunch, and dinner.
Happy hour offered Monday through Friday from 4-6pm and Saturday and Sunday 10:30am-6pm. [Editor’s note: I suggest calling prior to going for happy hour as the information online is not correct and hours and offerings change.] Click here for more information and other Austin area locations.
3001 Ranch Road 620 S
Lakeway, TX 78738
Best Vegan Ice Cream on the Lake
Editor’s note: At time of press, Anti Social is “temporarily closed.” Usually closes during the winter season.
Located in the Oasis complex, Anti Social Ice Cream Co. serves dairy and gluten free options of yummy, creamy sweetness. Their “ice cream is less impactful on the environment, the human body, and not to mention the cows. :)” Can get either soft serve or scoops in a cone or bowl. Feeling like having a bit more fun? I highly suggest a flight in a cone (or bowl); and please do share because it’s a lot. Anti Social also has gluten free cookies and brownies for purchase. The décor is fun and cool, with the great customer service just being icing…wait that’s cake. Support locally owned and operated businesses.
Open seasonally. For more information click here.
6550 Comanche Trail #109
Austin, TX 78732
Best Seasonal Crawfish Boils
With about a half dozen boil days during the season, Infamous Brewing Company really knows how to please mudbug head suckers like me. On select dates, they sell seasoned crawfish by the pound with corn, sausage, and potatoes. Infamous is a low-key, family and dog friendly craft brewery and beer garden. The taproom has ample seating for an intimate space and there’s usually complimentary popcorn to enjoy. Infamous is an overall just chill place. Josh et al deliver some great local suds, and keeps the calendar full of events including live music, weekly movie nights, hOppy hours, game nights and more. Be sure to check their Facebook page for the most up to date listings.
4602 Weletka Dr, Ste. 100
Austin, TX 78734
Best Artisinal Bavarian Pretzels
What a find that must be included in a Best Of Lake Travis Area Guide!” Each Fat Belly Pretzel is handcrafted using traditional Bavarian guidelines and only the best ingredients. They are shaped with ‘skinny arms’ and ‘fat bellys’ so you get the best of both worlds – crunchy and soft pretzels.” With a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes the delicious snacks never get boring or disappoint. Choose from Salted, cheddar jalapeno, everything bagel, garlic parmesan, sweet options, mini hearts, pretzel buns, crunchy pretzel sticks, tasty scratch dips and more. I apologize in advance if you become an addict like I (and many of my friends) have. Order small batches, platters, or have Lisa host a private/cooperate event. And, don’t miss out on seasonal pretzels; e.g., hearts for Valentine’s Day, footballs for Super Bowl, etc. Customer orders also available. Orders under $50 may be picked up in the Red Cottage Kitchen or delivered to the greater Austin area if over $50. Orders can be placed by phone call, text, or via email. Click here for menu and pricing.
15800 Awalt Drive
Austin, TX 78734
Best Classic Diner
I just HAD to include this joint in my “Best Of Lake Travis Area Guide!” Sandeez Hamburger Hut has been a Lake Travis area staple since 1979. Serving up BYOwn and tasty signature burgers like The Dad-O with seasoned fries (don’t skip trying the $hit flavor, not kidding), Sandeez has a full non-burger menu as well. There are plenty of breakfast options in the a.m. hours and classic diner dinner options including chicken fried steak, BLT baskets, and more in the afternoon and evenings (currently closed on Sundays). And, because this is Austin y’all of course there are tacos and scratch chili con queso! The inside will take you back to yesteryear, with tons of nostalgic pieces covering the walls. Be sure to check out the old area maps to see how Lake Travis and Lakeway have changed over the decades. Very family friendly, indoor and outdoor seating available (drive-thru for to go orders), cold beers for the grown ups, and on most Fridays during lunchtime (~11:30am – 1pm) folks from The Lakeway Classic Car Club come out and put their babies on display for enthusiasts like myself to oogle at. Click here for hours and menu.
Online ordering now available.
113 Ranch Road 620 N
Lakeway, TX 78734
This list is far from exhausted and will continue to be a work in progress. Please hit me up with a comment on any recommendations or questions you might have. In the meantime, I really hope you enjoyed my “Best Of Lake Travis Area Guide.” Cheers!
See my other AFBA City Guide Contribution:
Austin’s Best Charcuterie and Cheese