South Congress Avenue, Austin

Update your wardrobe, slurp down oysters, and nab novel curios along the Capital City’s hippest byway.
South Congress Avenue, Austin
Stag, 1423 S. Congress Ave.
Photograph by Adam Voorhes

1. Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

Holy bats, man! The largest urban bat colony in North America hangs out between the concrete crevices under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. The best time to see them fly is during the late-summer months, when more than a million Mexican free-tailed bats stream out every night at sunset to feast on 20,000 pounds of insects. Get the best view of this one-of-a-kind show from the bridge or park your car in the lot of the Austin American-Statesman building and take a front-row seat on the grassy hill next to it. 512-327-9721

2. Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar

Chefs at Perla’s get the most refreshing results using the simplest ingredients. Sit on the shaded deck overlooking the hustle and bustle and order an icy platter of briny oysters, which are flown in daily. (If you’re feeling flush, try the worth-every-cent California Kumamotos.) Pescatarians will appreciate offerings like seared sea scallops or fried Gulf prawns, while those more carnivorously inclined will savor the oak-grilled hanger steak, a menu staple. For the best of both worlds, go for the crispy soft-shell crab BLT. 1400 S. Congress Ave., 512-291-7300, perlasaustin.com

3. More Home Slice

Since opening in 2005, the original Home Slice has routinely had lines longer than the tube chutes at Schlitterbahn. Tired of turning away enthusiasts of their New York-style pies, the owners built this to-go operation next door. With an oven capable of cranking out 24 pizzas every eight minutes, More Home Slice is quick to satisfy. Take a large order home or grab a quick slice and watch the dough slingers do their thing from one of the eight bar seats inside. 1421 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-7437, homeslicepizza.com

4. Stag

The five owners of this men’s store salute all things masculine. Taxidermy mounts, dog-eared paperbacks, and vintage, industrial-style furniture mingle with locally designed Alchemy graphic T-shirts, woo-worthy smell-goods, and a choice collection of time-tested pocketknives. Guys can work or play in well-constructed Baldwin Denim dungarees paired with durable snap-button shirts by Key and handcrafted leather-and-canvas Helm boots. Or groom unkempt facial hair with a handmade beard comb and a dollop of vegan mustache wax (manufactured in Austin, natch). 1423 S. Congress Ave., 512-373-7824, stagaustin.com

5. Tesoros Trading Company

Globe-trot without a passport at this internationally inclusive gift store, which represents more than twenty countries on its trinket-laden tables and shelves. Chilean chanchitos, small three-legged clay pigs, purportedly bring good fortune to their owners; Turkish evil-eye glass charms ward off bad spirits; and hammered Haitian oil-drum sculptures, made from barrels salvaged from the ocean floor, give new meaning to the idea of recycling. 1500 S. Congress Ave., 512-447-7500, tesoros.com

6. Maya Star

South Congress devotees may remember Antigua, Maya Krauss’s store featuring designer jewelry and antique furniture from Central America. Two years back she moved away from furnishings and expanded to include apparel, handbags, and shoes and reopened as Maya Star. Krauss mixes posh pieces such as feminine Jenny Han dresses with affordable Pixie Dust frocks and supercute separates like chiffon bloomer shorts by Aryn K. Complete your look with jewelry as varied as a tentacled octopus ring by Alkemie, a pendant necklace from La Vie Parisienne, or buffed-amethyst earrings by Misha of New York. 1508 S. Congress Ave., 512-912-1475, mayastar.com

7. Hill Country Weavers

Fourteen years ago, before the resurgence of knitting—or, for that matter, “SoCo”—Suzanne Middlebrooks began stuffing this small yellow house with nearly every conceivable variety of yarn. Baskets now burst with familiar cotton, unconventional Soysilk (made from the residue of soybeans), and exotic qiviut (spun from the undercoat of the arctic musk ox). Choose your favorite fiber, sign up for a workshop, and weave, knit, or crochet till your fingers go numb. 1701 S. Congress Ave., 512-707-7396, hillcountryweavers.com

8. Big Top Candy Shop

Step right up, folks! See the bins overflowing with 37 flavors of taffy! Eat slices of chocolate-covered bacon sprinkled with salt from Louisiana’s Avery Island! Drink the authentic egg cream fountain beverage made with Fox’s U-Bet kosher chocolate syrup! This circus-themed candy store’s ringmaster, Brandon Hodge, stocks sideshow sweets, like Valomilk and candy cigarettes, next to humdrum treats like Hershey’s bars and Tootsie Rolls. Is your sweet tooth throbbing yet? Nothing that some cupcake-frosting-flavored dental floss can’t fix. 1706 S. Congress Ave., 512-462-2220

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