The Domain’s Best Spots for a Great Meal and a Drink

Paul Martin's Austin Grill
Paul Martin's Austin Grill | Jessica Attie
Paul Martin's Austin Grill | Jessica Attie

Walking and window shopping can be hungry, thirsty work if you’re in The Domain. The part-mall, part-neighborhood, part-entertainment district goes on for what feels like forever, a tangled web of local and big brand-name stores jockeying for attention on every sidewalk. As it’s developed over the years, the selection of cool bars and legitimately good restaurants has grown as well. Assuming you haven’t emptied your wallet on high fashion or high tech, here are our favorite spots in The Domain (and Domain Northside) to take a load off and get a bite to eat -- or a much-needed margarita.

Bakery Lorraine
Bakery Lorraine | Julia Keim

Beautiful bakery serving sweet and savory delights
San Antonio brought us a glorious sweet gift in the form of Bakery Lorraine. At first, you might think this is a coffee-and-pastry kind of place… but it’s so much more. In addition to delectable baked goods like Pain au Chocolat, Parisian Macarons, and dreamy coffee cake, the menu extends to a more savory selection for lunch and brunch. Try a piece of Quiche Lorraine or some roasted chicken salad on a house-made croissant and a steaming bowl of tomato soup. Come on a weekend morning for savory bread pudding, a Croque madame, or their hearty Cuban with fontina and arugula.

Sway Modern Thai
Sway Modern Thai | Jody Horton

New approaches to Thai-centric fare
Sway is one of those places that fits just about every occasion. The open kitchen, shared tables, bar seating, and contemporary aesthetic make it an easy choice for a date night, a work drink, or a group dinner. Come here for lunch, dinner, brunch or happy hour to experience their inventive take on Thai dishes and specialty cocktails. Some of our favorites are the jungle curry with Texas Wagyu beef brisket, red chili, and coconut cream; the blue crab fried rice and their version of chicken and waffles with a Thai basil waffle and Togarashi fried chicken.

Funky food trailer serving Lebanese specialties
There are a few food trailers in the Domain, but they’re definitely not as ubiquitous as in other parts of the city. It’s pretty great, then, that Beirut found a home in The Domain after two other locations. Parked in front of the iPic near the lawn, people line up for plates of Shish-tawook (grilled chicken) with baba ganoush and fattoush, shawarmas with heaping portions of fries, and loaded Mediterranean salad. There’s plenty of seating, and Beirut’s near an open green space that doubles as a great place to have a picnic on a nice day. Watch the trailer’s Facebook events page, as they frequently participate in fundraisers and host their own specialty days.

Affordable, elevated American fare
After the demonstrable success of its second street location, David Bull and team opened a larger, more modern Second Bar + Kitchen in the Archer Hotel. This classy spot with a casual feel serves food all day -- our favorite dishes are veal meatballs, braised beef short rib with grits, seared Faroe Island salmon, and the black (truffle) and bleu (cheese) pizza. Craft cocktails, beer, and an extensive wine list make this a no-brainer happy-hour destination as well.

Thai-Kun Rock Rose | Mark Weatherford

Homestyle Thai in flamboyant surroundings
Part of the East Side King dynasty, this food-trailer-turned-brick-and-mortar offers some of the most authentic Thai in the city. Moo satay, larb, crab rice, and fish fritters are popular sellers while more adventurous eaters may opt for the Issan sausage or the chicken skins. Funky art designed by Peelander Yellow graces the walls and the open kitchen is outlined in colorful dangling lamps. Though you won’t find hard liquor here, they have creative sake and beer-based cocktails.

Paul Martin's American Grill
Paul Martin's American Grill

Traditional steakhouse fare, thoughtfully done
Deep leather booths and community tables dominate the space in this upscale “chain with a conscience,” which focuses on using free-range, line-caught, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and seasonal produce in its hearty American dishes. The menu is littered with standards -- think St. Louis-style ribs, cedar plank salmon, and New York strip -- with some legit tacos thrown in for good measure. Couple that with the daily happy hour specials on small plates, selected entrees, and specialty cocktails, and you’ve basically got no excuse not to stop by.

Italian small plates in a contemporary, comfortable setting
While the format at Mia might be tapas, the portion sizes are generous enough that you might not actually notice. The flat-iron steak and en papillote get a lot of love (for good reason), as do the calamari and mussels. For smaller bites, try the patatas bravas and the bacon-wrapped dates. Mia also draws the deal-seeker crowd with its regular food and drink specials, including 2-for1 pizzas on Tuesday, happy hour every day (except Saturday), and $2 mimosas during brunch.

Toulouse Cafe & Bar
Toulouse Cafe & Bar | Kevin Marple

French cuisine with bistro ambiance
This French spot is all warm wood, low lighting, and hand-written menu boards, and while the price tag reflects its lofty leanings, given the dearth of French cuisine in Austin, it’s to be forgiven. The menu is balanced -- lighter fare like Nicoise and Dover Sole Meuniere is offset by escargots, foie gras, duck confit, and boeuf bourguignon -- and the wine list, as you’d expect, is extensive and French-heavy (with half-off French bottles on Wednesday). Desserts like beignets and creme brulee are worth undoing a pants button for.

Eco-conscious fare with a farmers market feel
This is exactly what you’d expect from a place claiming to make “healthy food for a happy world,” although we might also add tasty to that descriptor. Vegetable-forward selections include generous salads, mix ‘n match bowls, and whole grain wraps filled with spicy Japanese eggplant with thai basil and cashew, but folks in search of protein can feel good about what they’re eating, too -- grass-fed beef, all-natural chicken, sustainable salmon and non-GMO tofu are all equally viable options here.

Gloria's Latin Cuisine
Gloria's Latin Cuisine

Latin fusion, margaritas, and Saturday salsa nights
This is the only eatery in the Domain where you can find those Latin flavors you’ve been looking for. The owners are Salvadoran, and their menu reflects that influence along with Texas’ Mexican: Salvadoran plantains, ceviche, and tamales wrapped in banana leaves sit side-by-side with Tex-Mex fajitas, enchiladas, and burritos. There’s also a SalvaTex section that takes the best from both cultures and smashes them together on one plate. The happy hour here is bangin’ and Saturday Salsa nights are surprisingly slammed as well.

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Kelly Stocker wasn't born in Austin, but she got here as fast as she could. If you want to follow her adventures around town, find her on Twitter and Instagram.