One of the coolest neighborhoods in Austin is across the Congress Avenue bridge from downtown. Known as "SoCo," this stretch of bars, eateries, sidewalk cafes, food vendors, boutiques, and hip hotels starts about a half a mile from the bridge. It's an easy walk. If you go, don't miss Guero's--it's a bar, restaurant, sidewalk cafe, outdoor beer garden and Bill Clinton's favorite Austin Tex-Mex restaurant.
Tacos come in many forms in SoCo land. At the Mighty Cone taco truck, a whole boneless chicken breast is deep-fried with a spicy crust, wrapped up in a flour tortilla stuffed with spicy cole slaw and then presented in a paper cone.
Breakfast tacos and outstanding coffee can be found at Jo's, the outdoor eatery next to the uber-hip San Jose Motel.
Pizza is well-represented in the SoCo ghetto. My friend, chef Alan Lazarus, sells a proscuitto, fontina and arugula pizza with two fried eggs on top at Enoteca Vespaio that's hard to beat. There's also New York-style pizzeria called Home Slice and the Ropollo's Pizza truck.
Desserts are particularly well represented in SoCo. Enoteca Vespaio has spectacular tarts and pastries.
Austin's own Amy's Ice Cream features mixed up ice cream creations and "SoCo Smoothies."
And if you like cupcakes, don't miss the Airstream trailer that's been refitted as a mobile ice cream truck. It's called "Hey, Cupcake!"
The oldest business in the area and place that put SoCo on the map is the Continental Club. Stop in and check it out--there's a gift shop and gallery and the legendary night club puts on early shows during SXSW.
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Don't mess with the bouncers at the Continental Club.