If there's one thing that all Austinites have in common, it's this: When the weather gets hot, we flock to the nearest pool, swimming hole, or river to get our float on. And Barton Springs, a three-acre natural rock pool in the heart of Austin fed from an underground spring, is the perennial favorite. After a day of alternating jumping into the icy waters and baking on the grassy banks, you're sure to want to stumble through heat-induced hallucinations toward the nearest margarita, paleta, or chilled snack. Read on for the best ice-cold food and drink the area has to offer.
If you’re craving some nutrients after your swim (we won’t tell anyone that your most strenuous move was reapplying sunscreen), head down the street to JuiceLand for fresh-pressed juice and smoothies. We recommend the Xtra Holla Pain Yo! to wake you up: a carrot-orange-lime juice with cilantro, turmeric, jalapeño, sea salt, and habanero pepper.
Nothing beats El Alma’s rooftop patio on a hot day, except maybe sitting on the rooftop patio with a margarita. For a spicy twist on the classic, try their Chilanga, a frozen ’rita made with orange and Valentina hot sauce with a chile rim. So good you’ll be stopping by the store afterward in hopes of re-creating it at home (spoiler alert: It’s not the same).
Okay, so salads aren’t exactly ice-cold, but if you’re looking for an actual meal that’s still cool and refreshing, Unity Vegan Kitchen is a great option. The quinoa tofu salad contains a near-rainbow of spinach, seasoned garlic tofu, toasted sesame quinoa, red peppers, and purple cabbage with a spicy peanut dressing.
Check out The Picnic food trailer park for newcomer Steel City Pops, a company whose storefronts and carts have been catching on around the country. The company’s inspiration was gourmet Mexican paletas the founder tasted in Nashville, and true to their origins they now offer, among other flavors, an horchata paleta that can’t be missed.
A bowl of steaming hot Thai food may not be what you’re craving after a day at the Springs, but Coat & Thai’s Thai iced coffee might be just the pick-me-up you need. Also located at The Picnic, this food truck’s coffee is strong and delicious. Not a coffee person? They have Thai iced tea as well.
Named for William Barton, the original settler of the area and Barton Springs’ namesake, Uncle Billy’s brews their own beer and serves it up cold — a great way to end a day of lounging around at the Springs. Try their Barton Springs pale ale (what else?), a balanced and slightly bitter beer with citrus and floral aromas and a touch of sweetness.
What could be more refreshing than gazpacho on a hot summer’s day? Barlata Tapas Bar serves their version of the cold tomato soup made with tomatoes, peppers, red onion, cucumber, almonds and mint. And because their focus is small plates, you’ll have plenty of room left for their other tasty, refreshing nibbles.
New rule: When it’s hot out, ice cream counts as a meal. Check out Holla Mode Thai Style Ice Cream for made-to-order seasonal flavors, including Remember the Alamode, a dark chocolate ice cream flavored with red chili and honey. “Thai style” means the liquid ice cream is poured onto a frozen surface, mixed with add-ins of your choice, and scraped into artful curls.