Local Life and Lore in Austin

Learn the local lingo, cuisine and landmarks to blend in with Austin locals.
By: Beverly Burmeier
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Austin Texas skyline

Austin Texas skyline

Austin Texas skyline

Photo by: David Sucsy

David Sucsy

Once a local, always a local -- when people get a taste of Austin, they yearn to return. And newcomers find old-timers eager to help them learn the city's quirks.


You’ll be pegged as an outsider until you pronounce these names in the local vernacular:

Ma-nor: incorporated suburb has nothing to do with a grand residence. Pronounced may-ner.

Man-chak: a main street that defines a “bubba” neighborhood (only two syllables).

Perd-nal-es: as in the central Texas river made famous by LBJ (President Lyndon B. Johnson). Don’t let the r’s fool you.

El-gin: nearby town famous for its homemade sausage and Christmas tree farms. Second syllable sounds like “grin” without the r.

Mopac: The expressway officially known as Loop 1 is still called Mopac by locals who know that it was built parallel to the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks, most of which are no longer there.


Two-Finger Wave: Join more than 94,000 burnt-orange fanatics in Darrell Royal Memorial Stadium as they support the Texas Longhorns by waving fingers in the famed “hook 'em horns” sign. The University of Texas, with an enrollment topping 50,000 students, is the largest public university in the country, and the crowds take to heart the coach’s admonition to “Come early, be loud, stay late.”

Pass the Napkins, Please: Barbeque is king, and everyone has a favorite restaurant for brisket, ribs or sausage -- with sides of potato salad or slaw and fruit cobbler for dessert. Many eateries feature long wooden tables with rolls of paper towels for napkins. Sharing the local cuisine crown is hot and spicy Tex-Mex. From small, family-run stands to large, elaborate independent or chain restaurants, you’ll find some of the best enchiladas, tacos and burritos north of the border.


360 Bridge: The arched, weathered-steel structure across Lake Austin is called the 360 Bridge by folks who frequently drive across Austin from north to south on Loop 360, also known as Capital of Texas Highway. Locals rarely use its official name, Pennybacker Bridge, named for the Texas Highway Department designer, but they know that the bridge is an Austin landmark spanning one of the most scenic urban drives in central Texas.

Lady Bird Lake: Breaking old habits is hard for locals who still call the section of the Colorado River that runs through downtown by its long-standing name of Town Lake. Popular hike and bike trails follow Lady Bird Lake, renamed in 2006 to honor the late former First Lady.

Sixth Street: For a night of vibrant activity, loud music and funky entertainment, you can’t beat Sixth Street. This six-block stretch of bars and restaurants, centered between Congress Avenue and I-35, is the ultimate Austin nightlife destination.

The Broken Spoke: Get out your pointy-toed boots and fringed Western duds and head to the Broken Spoke for a night of two-stepping. Even though tour guide recommendations draw out-of-towners, celebrities and dignitaries to this quintessential honky-tonk, the Broken Spoke is still a local favorite for a night of swinging to live country music.

Boat Bounty: Head to Lake Travis for a bounty of recreational activities on the water. One of seven lakes in the Highland Chain (which is also the Lower Colorado River), Travis is dotted by waterfront and floating restaurants -- favorite places for singles to hang out. On major event weekends, thousands of boats party at Devil’s Cove, across from Carlos and Charlie’s. The Oasis, Johnny Fins and the Pier also offer spectacular, if more subdued, lake views.

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