A Day in the Life: Zilker

When I first moved into the Zilker neighborhood several years ago, the hyper local list serve gave me my first clue that not everyone was happy with changes afoot in our urban enclave. Lamentations of “downtown encroachment” and “McMansions” gave me pause, for example, because we’d moved here, in part, because downtown was encroaching. And while our home would be considered backhouse-sized in Rob Roy, it is decidedly not an original 900-square foot cottage. (Tip: If you’re not sure if your home is a McMansion, it probably is.)


The longer I’m here, however, the more I realize that while there’s a lot to disagree about (e.g. impervious cover rules, urban coyotes and the cost-benefit ratio of ACL), there’s just as much most of us appreciate, including the Mayberryesque en masse walk to Zilker Elementary, the Bluebonnet Market, Fairy Alley, and our proximity to Barton Springs. Indeed, while the “Californiacation” of home prices and citified traffic problems are legitimate gripes, there is a lot for locals and visitors to love about this little piece of South Austin.

Zilker Vibes

If you look at an “official” map, the densely-populated Zilker neighborhood runs north to south from Lady Bird Lake to Barton Skyway. East to west, it goes just east of S. Lamar to around Robert E. Lee Rd. There’s a lot of good eatin’ and drinkin’ and whatnottin’ in those few square miles that add up to plenty of reasons to spend some time up here.

Butler Park Pitch & Putt or Peter Pan Mini Golf—If you’re looking for something somewhat active and outdoorsy, hit the itty-bitty-links for a few hours of fun.


Bluebonnet Market—If you’ve ever parked in the neighborhood and walked down Bluebonnet Rd. to an event at Zilker Park, you may have noticed this local treasure, where you can get agave nectar, organic milk, kale chips and locally-made falafel to go with your Coke Zero and bag of Cheetos.

Fairy Alley—Next time you stop in at Vox Table for smoked hamachi or the Highball for a little Alamo Drafthouse pre-party, wander (quietly and politely) into the alley just behind the theater to see the magical space a lovely Zilker resident has created for all to enjoy.

Zilker Nights

Odd Duck—Moscow mules, a chill atmosphere and little plates of local, delicious, slightly unusual bites add up to one of the best restaurants in town.

Backbeat—A sister scene to North Austin’s Drink.Well., Backbeat serves up really good cocktails and a small but tasty menu in combination with a nice rooftop patio.

Saxon Pub—Recently “rescued” from relocation by a local investor, this quintessential Austin music venue will remain in its South Lamar location and continue hosting the likes of Walt Wilkins and Patrice Pike—hopefully, for decades to come.

Zilker Days

Moonlight Bakery—If there’s a European bread snob in your life, stop by this unassuming, Zilker resident-owned place for your daily bread, macaroons and fresh pastries.

Irie Bean Coffee Bar—Just a hop-skip up up the block from Moonlight, you can pick up a fine cup of Texas Coffee Traders’ best and enjoy it on their back patio.

Shops Galore—There are loads of cute shops on S. Lamar, including wine lounge/home goods dealer Aviary (currently being remodeled), specialty beer store WhichCraft, contemporary design store Nannie Inez, women’s boutique Strut, and the the cool CoffeeSock factory, where you can buy reusable, organic cotton coffee filters and other coffee gear.


About the author: Jill Coody Smits is the author of Expedition Austin: A Kid’s Guide to the Weirdest Town in Texas. A freelance writer of many things, she lives south of the river with her husband, daughter and two four-footed sons. After nearly 20 years in Austin, she is still in love with this little big town.