How to Sound Like a Local in Austin Texas

If you want to sound like a local in Austin, mispronounce everything.

Take our streets for example. You might think we’d pronounce Guadalupe Street like they would in Mexico (GWAD-ah-loop-ay), but you’d be wrong. It’s pronounced without at the AY at the end, so just GWAD-a-loop.

San Jacinto Street is another street that is not pronounced the way Spanish speakers would. Don’t even try. In Austin, we pronounce it with a hard “J”–San JA-sin-toe, not San HA-sin-toe. If you really want to sound like a local, just go with San Jac. It doesn’t stop there.

Manchaca Road? That’s man-SHACK.

Burnet Road? BURN-it.

Manor Road? May-NOR .

It’s a Bird! It’s a Lake!

Visitors to Austin are sure to encounter the big body of water that cuts through the city. But what should you call it? Technically that is the Colorado River, but a dam built in the 1960s turned the portion running through downtown Austin into a reservoir that was dubbed Town Lake. In 2007 the Austin City Council officially renamed the reservoir Lady Bird Lake in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, the former First Lady.  

Old habits die hard, so if you really want to sound like a local just call it Town Lake.

Sixth Street

New arrivals in Austin will often hear that Sixth Street is the place to party. If you want to have a good time, you should know that there are three different sections of Sixth Street that cater to different crowds.

Head east past I-35 and you will enjoy the hipster ambiance of the various bars along East Sixth. Your “broseph”-types might favor West Sixth, which begins west of Congress Avenue. Dirty Sixth is where the biggest and most intoxicated crowd gathers, which stretches between I-35 and Congress Avenue. 

The Drag

Visit The Drag, which are the blocks of Guadalupe Street between 21st and 25th streets, Bars, restaurants and other stores catering to college students at UT (University of Texas) can be found here. The Drag has a long and storied history, just ask any Longhorn and they will be happy to regale you with tales of their glory days spent here.

SoCo? Oh, no.

Head across Town Lake on Congress Avenue and you’ll arrive to a quirky strip of shops and restaurants. This part of town is known as SoCo, but that’s primarily a designation used to market to tourists. Most Austinites just call it South Congress, and you should, too.

Cross the bridge at dusk, and you can’t miss the crowds of people gathering to watch the colony of bats that live under the bridge take flight. That’s why Austin is sometimes called Bat City.

Local Delicacies

If you are new to Austin, and Texas especially, get ready for some new and exciting foods. First of all, when you are hear people talking about barbeque, they mean beef brisket. Good luck finding pulled pork around here. Breakfast tacos are a morning staple, and consist of a combination of egg, bacon, beans and potatoes in a soft tortilla. If you have more time, sit down to a plate migas, which are corn tortilla strips cooked with eggs, and whatever else the diner wants to throw in with it.

We love donuts, but we probably love kolaches more. The kolache (ko-la-CHEE) is a legacy of early Czech settlers to the region. The delicious pastry is stuffed with a wide variety of fruit fillings, or in their savory form: sausage, cheese and jalapenos.

Queso (KAY-so) is a way of life here. For the uninitiated, queso is a melted cheese dip served with tortilla chips. Deciding who has the best queso is a matter of constant and fevered debate across Austin.

Local Pride

Not only does Austin have its own local delicacies, but it is also home to a large number of local restaurant chains that compete head-to-head with national players. Austinites are very loyal to their local brands, so if you want to sound like a local you better start eating like one.

Torchy’s Tacos is one of the most popular places to grab a taco and they are rapidly expanding across the state and beyond. Sound like a local and just call it Torchy’s.

Hear someone say they are going to The Alamo? Chances are they aren’t planning a day trip to San Antonio, but planning to catch dinner and a movie at The Alamo Drafthouse. The cinema chain is based in Austin and one of the most popular spots to take in a movie.

P. Terry’s is a local chain of burger joints. While detractors will claim that In-and-Out is better, most of those are California transplants.

Schlotzsky’s (SH-lots-KEYS) is a national chain born here that serves up tasty sandwiches.

Verts is a local chain that serves up rotisserie meats on pita bread. Whole Foods is based here and has a strong following. Those who call it “Whole Paycheck” are likely to do most of their shopping at H-E-B., which when spoke aloud by a local probably sounds like “Achey Bee.”

This “East Side King” you keep hearing about isn’t a notorious crime boss, but rather a chain of Asian-inspired eateries launched by Top Chef winner Paul Qui. Pronounce his name like the thing you use to unlock a door.

Al Harris