1. Book People
Could this be the best book store in the country? Easily. I say this with authority, because I am a book store tourist. (I would put used book stores in a separate category.) I've been to Powell's, I've been to The Strand. I still put this one at the top because its scope is thorough without being overwhelming. Also, great periodicals, children's section, author events, and coffee shop.
2. 24 Diner
There is plenty of good food in Austin, but we go here every trip. Maybe because it's right across the street from Book People? At first, yes, but I think we would go back even if it were out of the way. Their motto should be "Never Not Good Food." Chicken and waffles if you feel like punishing yourself.
Right next door to 24 Diner, because the universe conspired to put three of our favorite Austin things in one spot. In truth, I don't usually go into Waterloo. I spend extra time in the book store while Nick shops for records. It's one of my favorite places because it makes him happy.
I still don't exactly know how to categorize this place. We go in there at 6 p.m., it's fairly empty, we are escorted to a doilied dining room for dinner. Dinner starts with complementary shots of icy vodka, bread, salt, and raw onions. And the food is good, and Mamie likes it, and I'm still sort of confused by the whole thing. I think it turns into a raging vodka bar after dark, so I feel strange taking my baby there.
Mmmmm, incense. Oils, teas, cards, crystals, books, and more. Even if you don't know what you're looking for, you'll find something magical. Unless your toddler is handsy like mine and decides she really needs that Buddha statue. Then you have to leave without buying anything.
I have to confess -- I've never bought anything here. This is the point in our Austin tour when Mamie starts to break down, and this store is a little too small and close to contain her emotions. But for the few minutes I get to browse, I see amazing special signed copies, gorgeous vintage editions. This is a bibliophile's store.
Yeah, I said it. There is no Ikea in San Antonio, so it's nice to make a trip (technically in Round Rock, north of Austin). It's ok to like something that's not weird and indie!
(*If you like BBQ, get BBQ. It will be good if your expectations are calibrated for what Texans consider BBQ. In other words, prepare to be disappointed if you want pulled pork and delighted if you like sausage or brisket. Don't feel like you have to go somewhere and stand in line for two hours to get "good" BBQ. All the BBQ is pretty good. That said, Stubbs is a special experience, especially on Gospel Sundays.)