A Hotel Insider on Where to Have a Good Time in Austin

William Platt has all the secrets to Austin’s best bars, restaurants and live music venues

July 15, 2022 7:00 am
Group Therapy at Hotel Zaza, Austin
Group Therapy at Hotel Zaza, Austin
Ben Garrett

This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the swankiest hotels in town.

Austin draws millions of visitors each year for business and pleasure, and hotels are finally catching up to the demand. Hotel Zaza opened its doors in downtown’s warehouse district in 2019, providing travelers with 159 rooms and a seventh-floor restaurant and bar called Group Therapy, plus a relaxing pool and spa — so there’s a lot to do on site. If you have a question during your stay about the hotel or what to do when you’re off property grounds, the man to ask is William Platt. He joined Hotel Zaza Austin in January, but he’s been working as a concierge for five years and has hospitality in his veins.

“I have worked as a concierge my whole life,” says Platt. “I always end up being the go-to friend in my group when deciding where to go and what to do.” That includes all the best places to eat, drink and explore when you’re in Austin. Below, he shares his top tips for enjoying your time in the city.

InsideHook: Where can a guest go for a good cup of coffee nearby?

William Platt: Walking-distance coffee is a must! Conveniently located across the street, you will find Halcyon. This neighborhood cafe has all the morning essentials; pastries and caffeinated drinks will be hot and ready every morning at 8 a.m., [and it stays open] until 2 a.m. for adult espresso drinks at night. Another spot is Austin’s famous Jo’s Coffee, located an easy two-block walk from the hotel. Jo’s is a must, as this is the staple coffee shop in Austin. With a very pleasantly curated breakfast menu, Jo’s is a great one-stop shop for a cup of coffee and fresh tacos. I highly recommend the fried egg sandwich.

What’re the best places to see live music?

My favorite spot to catch some live tunes is the White Horse, one of the most historic honky-tonk, line-dancing and two-stepping spots in the city. If you don’t know how to hit a good ol’ Texas two-step, don’t worry — this is the best place to learn. Find yourself a local cowboy or cowgirl, and they’ll be more than happy to lead the way. 

If you would rather have a mellow night to enjoy a nightcap and listen to some jazz music, Elephant Room is calling your name. This funky basement spot is flourishing with talent. It is definitely good for a date night — or for a calm night, hanging with friends and family. Last, but certainly not least, is Hotel Vegas on East 6th Street. This grungy dive bar-style venue gets absolutely hectic. If you want to leave all your cares and worries at the door, this is the spot for you. There is a focus on punk rock, hard rock and alternative rock bands, with a hip-hop night on Thursdays. Most of the musicians are younger, but still very talented, and they absolutely bring an energy-filled performance to the Vegas stage.  

What’s a restaurant that doesn’t get enough praise and more people should go to?

A fantastic restaurant that doesn’t get the praise it deserves is Il Brutto. This authentic Italian cuisine will surely knock your boots off. With live music outside on the beautiful porch while you enjoy a glass of sangria, you will feel like you’re in Sicily. 

What’s a unique service offered at the Zaza that you probably won’t find elsewhere?

Our Butler Pantry coffee stations in the mornings. This is a service I love to talk about because of my passion for (and addiction to) caffeine. Our butler-style coffee stations are placed in the elevator landing of each guest room floor every morning. This is a way for us to ensure not only that the coffee is brewed fresh and correctly, but most importantly that it tastes as good as when you brew your coffee at home. 

We also have a Jogger Station that is offered seven days a week, available just before sunrise until 7 a.m. Located in the lobby, guests will find fruits, sports drinks, water and granola bars. This will ensure your pre- or post-workout is made that much more enjoyable. 

Best dive bar?

Oh man, I am a sucker for a good dive bar. My go-to spot is The Liberty. It has a grungy vibe, as to be expected in a dive bar, with graffiti-filled bathrooms and a pool table. I wouldn’t recommend coming here to look at yourself in the mirror, as they’re covered in spray paint and stickers. It’s a great hangout spot to get a local beer, then order food from the food truck in the back, East Side King

Best cheap eats in town?

Austin does have a food truck scene, which I think is the exact answer for best cheap eats in town. To get started, head to Nickel City for wing night on Mondays, with great wings and good deals. Las Trancas Taco Stand is my favorite for street tacos, and Community Vegan is an incredible plant-based truck. 

Best high-end restaurant when you want to splurge?

Splurging on food at a high-end restaurant isn’t hard to do in Austin. Between Clark’s and Hestia, I don’t think I could pick a favorite. It’s really hard to say though, as Austin has so many talented chefs hidden throughout the city. 

What’s an under-the-radar neighborhood that deserves more attention?

A great neighborhood to explore is Clarksville and Old Enfield. You can find some fine dining tucked away in between these neighborhoods while you enjoy more of a quiet day. 

What’s a fun cultural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?

The Eastside! Not only can you find amazing barber shops and cosmetologists, boutique stores and bars, the Eastside has lots of hidden gems. A quick list I would recommend checking out would be Kitty Cohen’s, La Barbecue, Bird Bird Biscuit, Lou’s, Butterfly Bar, Outer Heaven Disco Club, Paperboy and Hillside Farmacy. Honestly, I could go on and on. 

What’s an only-in-Austin experience you’d recommend to visitors? 

Barton Springs Pool and Barton Creek. Here, guests can enjoy the best of nature in the water of this beautiful city. The atmosphere is contagious, and the water is the perfect temperature to balance the Texas heat. Rent a paddle board and meet everyone on the sandbank in Barton to listen to music and grill. There’s even a floating stage with bands performing while you relax on the water with city views. 

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