You may have heard the recent buzz that Austin finally has its own, new food hall. Popular in cities across the globe, Austin’s take on this type of dining destination was created by the ELM Restaurant Group (whom we can thank for Easy Tiger, Irene’s 24 Diner, etc.) and designed by the award-winning Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. Simply called Fareground, this new food hall features a wide range of cuisines all in one space, including: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, Contigo, Dai Due, Easy Tiger, Ni-Komé/Daruma Ramen, and Henbit, a new restaurant from the team behind Emmer & Rye.

Naturally having these restaurants all together in one convenient location is very exciting, and we were eager to check it out. For us, however, we weren’t drawn in as food critics, but we wanted to see how this measures up for a dining option for the whole family. In theory, with so many choices and with a casual atmosphere, this seemed like the perfect spot to take a group comprised of of picky eaters and high-energy kids. Read on to hear about our family’s take on the Fareground…

Photo by Chase Daniel

Trying this out on opening weekend, we were not surprised that it was crowded. It’s a bustling space with communal tables, some hightop seating, a handful of cozy booths, and offers a beautifully landscaped outdoor area, too. The restaurants are all walk-up, fast-casual-style and provide you with a buzzer to indicate when your order is ready. There’s a bar centered indoors offering beer, wine, and cocktails, and a future bar will be opening soon outdoors as well.

Photo by Chase Daniel

We scanned the menus with our kids, and thankfully everyone found things that they were excited to eat! The only downside is that everyone wanted to eat at different restaurants. While this isn’t a problem at all, it does mean that we had to wait in multiple lines to order and pay at each. It helped to have both Mom and Dad taking turns in lines so that the kids didn’t have to wait, just FYI. And with an extra adult, one could scope out a table and hold down the fort there with the kids while the other waited, got drinks, picked up food when it was ready, etc. Likely due to the busyness of opening weekend, the process of ordering and getting food at the different restaurants took a bit of time. Thankfully, Easy Tiger is there with quick snacks to share, like giant pretzels and homemade chex mix, that kept the kiddos very happy.

So what did we eat? Our crew gave thumbs up for the veggie ramen at Ni-Kome, grilled cheese from Antonelli’s, cauliflower ceviche from Henbit, burgers from Contigo, and a variety of tacos (including wild boar tacos) from Dai Due. This mama also reports that the cocktail selection (including delicious Mezcal Punch) was most appreciated.

Photo by Chase Daniel

After eating, we ran off some energy on the big hill in the courtyard. This will be an ideal spot for families on good weather days.

What do you need to know before you go?

  • Fareground’s hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekdays, and then 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends. You can learn more by visiting their website and Facebook page, or browse their instagram account for drool-worthy food photos.
  • It is located in 111 Congress Ave. and basically looks like you’re entering a giant office building. Go on in and head downstairs.
  • Seating is communal at a variety of indoor and outdoor tables.
  • You order and pay at each restaurant individually.
  • Parking is never easy downtown. There is a garage at 111 Congress garage (on the east side of Brazos between Cesar Chavez & Second, across from the building proper). When you purchase food or a drink, keep your receipt to receive the discounted parking rate of $3/30 minutes or $21 daily max. (Take note that it’s not too far from the Austin Convention Center’s MetroRail stop, and riding the train in might possibly add a little more adventure to this outing.)

Overall, we were really pleased with our leisurely dinner at Fareground. The abundance of delicious menu options can satisfy anyone in a group, and the laid-back atmosphere (with outdoor room to roam) is great for active kiddos. Personally, we’d suggest trying to avoid busy times (we can’t imagine the lines during a midday lunch rush), and do take note that parking gets pricey if you’re hanging out for a while. But overall, we’re definitely happy to welcome Fareground to Austin, and we can’t wait to head back and relax on that patio soon.

Bonus activity: While we were in that area, we decided to walk over to Ai Weiwei’s amazing sculpture, Forever Bicycles. (Just walk down Cesar Chavez, take a right on Trinity and go down to where the street dead-ends by Lady Bird Lake.) It’s quite an awesome sight! You can learn more about this sculpture here.

Photo of Ai Weiwei’s “Forever Bicycles” by David Brendan Hall, from The Contemporary Austin’s Facebook page

Have you been to the Fareground?
Share your thoughts about it in comments below.