Where To Eat in Austin, Texas?

March 11, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

You readers are the best at suggesting places to eat in cities I don’t know. Baltimore, Paris, and San Francisco: you’ve kept me very well fed. Now, tomorrow, I leave for Austin, Texas to attend Craig’s movie premiere at SXSW. I’m pretty sure most of my time will be spent doing movie stuff–attending screenings and panels and papering the town–but a person has to eat, don’t they? Craig’s family’s scheduled a trip to The Salt Lick BBQ (I’m really psyched for that) but, otherwise, I’m in your hands. So tell me A.G. readers: where do I eat in Austin, Texas?

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  • Matt

    Salt Lick is the first place I would’ve recommended. The weather is supposed to be pretty crappy through Sunday, so hopefully you won’t be here during that. If you come when it’s actually nice outside (no rain and moderately cool), Shady Grove is a nice burger place in the heart of the “Keep Austin Weird” area of town (78704 zip) where you can sit in a… shady grove. If you’re looking for tex-mex, check out either Hula Hut (on the water, Lake Austin Blvd. at Enfield) or Chuy’s (same Barton Springs area as Shady Grove). If you want to eat somewhere fancy-pants, Wink is my favorite restaurant in Austin. Their menu changes daily, but I highly recommend them (my first foie gras and sweetbreads experiences were both here, and I wasn’t disappointed). You don’t have to wear a jacket anywhere you go in Austin, so feel free to wear jeans regardless of where you end up eating. If for some reason Salt Lick doesn’t work out (weather, whatever), check out County Line and order the ribs. Otherwise, bring a couple of singles and a bottle of vodka, and enjoy the fresh-squeezed lemonade. Tweet where you’re at if you’re around. I’d love to at least stop by and say ‘hi’ to the person that has helped me eat for the past few years.

  • http://frieswiththatshake.net Jess

    Whatever you do you must go somewhere for breakfast that serves migas or breakfast tacos. I don’t know a good place now that Las Manitas is closed.

  • Matt

    And I missed the detail of when you’d be arriving… you’re gonna hit all of the crappy weather. Enjoy! And I won’t even be around for a majority of the weekend… so tweet often so I can live vicariously through the other Austinites that get to hang out with the AG.

  • MichelleC

    Blue Dahlia Bistro is super cute for a light lunch. It has all the charm there is to love about Austin…

    http://www.bluedahliabistro.com/

  • http://thelivingroom.wordpress.com Manders

    I just moved to Austin, so I’m still kind of new at this myself, but:

    *Maria’s Taco Xpress. Get the queso and chips. Take cash. Expect to wait in line.

    *The Magnolia Cafe and the Kerbey Lane Cafe. Get the gingerbread pancakes at both and compare notes.

    *Chuy’s.

    *Hut’s Hamburger’s.

    *Not eating, so much (although they do have some good food), but go to the Whole Foods headquarters on Sixth and Lamar and to Central Market.

    *Amy’s Ice Cream. I know someone at UT who decided to come here partially because of Amy’s, if that tells you anything.

    *My favorite coffee place in the city is The Hideout, which doubles as an improv comedy theater at night. But great coffee, and you can also get beer, if you want.

    *Up on the northwest side there’s a place called Sarovar that I haven’t been to yet, but it apparently has killer Indian food.

    That’s all I can think of for the moment, but if anything else comes to mind I’ll put it here–but there are probably people who are more well-versed in Austin food than I. :)

  • http://texasannie.blogspot.com Annie

    I think Salt Lick is kind of overrated. We went there a few years ago after hearing so many good things about it. It was fine, but not spectacular. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by living in Texas all my life. The setting of the restaurant itself, out in the country, is fun though. It’s a great place for out-of-town guests.

    Torchy’s Tacos is really good. Their queso is to die for, and they have a big variety of tacos available. They have a couple of locations, at least one of which are just little trailers surrounded by picnic tables. I’ve gone to the one where there’s an actual (tiny) restaurant, and it was worth the wait. Cheap eats places are likely to be packed during SXSW, but seriously: YUM.

    I like Trudy’s and Chuy’s for Tex-Mex. Hula Hut is fun — it’s owned by the same people as Chuy’s, and is Tex-Mex with a tropical twist. Think fajitas with pineapple and some damned refreshing mojitos.

  • Connor

    If you want some great Mexican food, try Fonda San Miguel. They have been around for over 10 years (if not 15) and are one of my favorite restaurants in Austin to eat at and recommend (Not to mention my favorite margarita in town). As mentioned above, Wink is a great restaurant that puts a huge emphasis on local ingredients. One of my other favorites is Ranch 616. It has a real Austin feel and the food is great.

    Try to do a Mexican brunch. I’d recommend la Fonda or El Chile. Have fun.

  • Mike

    How about some guidance on what you like? there are a ton of good restaurants in town. You may also want to check out the Chowhound Board [http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/61]since Austin has it’s own. The Salt Lick is great for ambiance, but not the best bbq by a long shot. Try a road trip to Lockhart and hit Smittys, Kreutz and Blacks for the real thing. For upscale BBQ downtown try Lamberts. Best Italian in town is Vespaio and the best restaurant (Japanese fusion) is Uchi. You may also want to hit the Whole Food flagship store which is next to their world headquarters downtown.

  • Manders

    El Chile! Of course, how could I forget El Chile! It’s good.

    Also, there’s a good wine bar called Vino Vino, if you’re into that. Kinda funky, some pretty good inexpensive bottles, good nibbles to go with your wine.

  • reese

    you MUST go to Juan in a Million and get their breakfast taco, it’s absolutely out of this world.

  • Richard

    I’ll second Juan in a Million and Wink. I’ll also add South Congress Cafe for good New American food. If you’re looking for good soul food, make the trek to Pflugerville and go to Dot’s. Get the roast beef, trust me on this one. Din Ho Chinese BBQ is excellent, and probably on par with what you have available to you in the big city. If the wait is too long at Salt Lick, head down the road further into Driftwood and go to Trattoria Liscina. It’s at Mandola Winery, and is probably one of the best Italian joints in the Hill Country. If sushi is your thing, my preferences are Uchi, Mikado, and Kenichi, in that order.

    Have fun, there’s lots of great places to eat here.

  • Seymore

    Salt Lick is okay, and during the spring the drive is pretty, but there’s certainly better bar-be-que in town. I recommend Sam’s on East 12th. The mutton is fantastic, and it’s open super late, I think until 3.

    Amy’s is a good call.

    A great neighborhood tex-mex joint is El Caribe on Lamar near Koenig. Watch out, the margaritas are strong and the server (there’s only one) is feisty.

    For hands down the best breakfast taco/burrito, go to Cocina de Consuelo at Burnet near 45th. They’re closed on Saturday and emphatic that they stop serving breakfast at 11 a.m. We try to go on Sunday mornings.

    Damn fine eating in Austin. Have fun!

  • http://worthmysalt.com Amber

    I second Fonda San Miguel. Their Sunday brunch is one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in my life.

  • Lis

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! You MUST go to Chuy’s, specifically the location suggested above (it’s the original) Get Cheese Enchiladas, I dream about them. Shady Grove and the Hula Hut are also GREAT (they’re all owned by the same people). At the Hula Hut if you’re brave have the Texas Martini, but be warned, that’s a LOT of tequila in there :) I must also second the suggestion to go somewhere serving migas… you should ask @homesicktexan, I believe she’s there now… or somewhere in Texas, she’ll give you the best advise on getting migas in Austin.

  • zeep

    Try the migas at The Magnolia Cafe! That place is great…

  • Ben

    I just Twittered you some recommendations but I’ll elaborate:

    Luling City Market is a bit of a drive from Austin but it’s completely worth it! The tricky part is not stopping at Kreuz Market which you pass on the way to Luling. Resisting that urge is essential though because the ribs at Luling City Market are to die for. I went to about ten different BBQ places my first time in Austin and LCM was by far my favorite.

    The Salt Lick is great

    Maria’s Taco Xpress is great.

    I guess Las Manitas is closed now? That’s really too bad, they had great breakfast.

    Lastly, visit a honky tonk while you’re there if you get a chance, it’s quite an experience. I went to the Broken Spoke while I was there.

    The Alamo Drafthouse is also a great experience (which I’m sure you’ll hit since you’re there for the film festival).

  • http://www.thehungryengineer.com thehungryengineer (april)

    Wink and Uchi are my two favorite high-end places in town. Their ingredients are impeccably fresh and their flavor and texture combinations are novel. Wink also has a great wine bar.

    They’re probably not the best place in town, but I love the Don Juan taco at Juan in a Million (my husband and i usually split it) – also this is the first place I got to try machacado that seemed authentic.

    Lambert’s Barbecue is an interesting option if Salt Lick gets rained out. They do (or at least did at one time) an interesting charcuterie platter.

    Really great empanadas can be had at Buenos Aires Cafe.

    I like the tapas at Malaga, the noodle bowls at Kim Phung, and the sandwiches at Grapevine Market.

    Mi esposo swears by the burgers at Mike’s Pub (though he warns they’re greasy) and Dirty’s. He also highly recommends the pizza at Frank and Angie’s.

    And I second Matt’s comment about not having to dress up to go out. Austin’s pretty laid back, and that certainly extends to dining attire.

  • http://kristinmacbride.com Kristin

    Ahh…

    Austin, Texas … a sleepy little town with a Tex Mex problem.

    Fonda San Miguel is really good interior mexican food, but overpriced. Maria’s Taco Xpress is great. For breakfast and beyond… We all love Chuy’s, but I wouldn’t call it a “must visit” restauraut. Shady Grove and Hula Hut are also owned by the same company as Chuy’s. The food is all similar. I’ve gotten hair in my food at Chuy’s twice in a row. The first time they gave me a comp card. When I went back to use the comp card my food had a huge, very obvious black hair laid over the top of it. If you happen to go to Shady Grove though try the green chili cheese fries and a Bad Dog with Chili. At Chuy’s I like the Chicken Chili Relleno w/ Deluxe tomatillo sauce and anything dipped in the Jalapeno ranch dressing. For Tex Mex I’ve heard El Chile is good. I love Vivo’s puffy tacos and cheese enchiladas with chile sauce. El patio is also delicious… I would say it’s a pretty classic example of Tex Mex the way it used to be (Before there was Chuy’s).

    Uchi is supposed to be the best restaurant in Austin. I haven’t eaten there. I’ve also heard good things about Wink.

    I know people are going to give me flack for this, but I don’t see what’s so great about the Salt Lick. I always thought my dad’s BBQ was better. I even prefer the County Line’s barbeque to the Salt Lick. On the bright side, they do have a nice atmosphere and it is BYOB, so you’ll probably have fun there anyway.

    There are a lot of really great “meals on wheels” here. Awesome food trailers can be found all over downtown. Lulu B’s makes a mean vietnamese sandwich and the fried avocado tacos at Torchy’s are to die for. Check this list out: http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A597215

    Din Ho has really good chinese bbq. I also like Ronald Chang’s Chinatown. I like Madam Mam’s for Thai and Clay Pit for Indian.

    If you want to spend 50 on a meal for just yourself, check out Hudson’s on the Bend. It’s high, but it’s really good. They specialize in game meats.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Anyway, have a nice trip. Maybe I’ll see you around.

  • Craig

    My favorite Austin food right now is the PUFFY TACO, which you can find at Vivo’s in Austin. These started in San Antonio, so it is unique to this region and hard to find elsewhere.

    I’m reading through some of these places being recommended, and several of them aren’t that good, so make sure you confirm some of these by checking reviews too. Not to step on anyone’s toes, because this is all a matter of opinion, but I would NOT go back to or recommend Hula Hut, El Chile, or Chuy’s. Also, I have heard the Fonda San Miguel has gone downhill recently (but I can’t confirm this); also, FSM and El Chile aren’t Austin style Tex-Mex/Mexican food, so I don’t find them representative of the area.

  • http://www.savourfare.com Kate

    Central Market. It’s not so much a restaurant as a destination. And Amy’s ice cream. Kerby Lane for Gingerbread Pancakes.

  • Jlix

    I lived in Austin for 6 months and the absolutely best thing I ate was the Pork with Chiles Verdes and buttered tortillas– at The Roaring Fork. I think its in the Intercontinental Hotel, across from the Driskill. It is UNBELIEVABLY good.

  • Jager

    Gueros Taco Bar

    It’s in the heart of Soco action, great food, great atmosphere.

  • Kara

    Chuys. Absolutely 100% must go to the original location though.

    Also Kerbey Lane Cafe – again MUST go to the original location down off of Medical Center/38th street (or thereabouts).

    Old Pecan Street Cafe on 6th street has good food, but it’s not always consistent. Last time I was there was a year ago and it was great.

  • ZoeyTheGreat

    I lived in Austin for 10 years, currently reside in LA but travel the country full-time for my career. Of all the places I’ve been, Austin remains one of my favorite foodie spots along with San Fran and NYC.

    First off, Austin has shite public transit, so I hope you’re renting a car. If you’re taking a taxi, it may be a good idea to tell us round about where you’ll be staying so that we can rec places nearby. For instance, Salt Lick (THE most famous BBQ joint in Texas) is 40 minutes from downtown Austin, so it’s quite the haul.

    When in Austin, you MUST eat Tex-Mex. Not eating Tex-Mex here is like visiting NYC and ordering Chicago-style pizza.

    Tex-Mex recommendations:

    Fonda San Miguel — Anytime is a great time to go, but they have an OUTSTANDING Sunday brunch. Outside of brunch, the Pollo En Mole Poblano is a dish to remember and dream about.

    Chuy’s off Barton Springs — an Austin classic. It’s very kitschy and inexpensive. My favorite is the shrimp or chicken chile relleno w/ deluxe tomatillo sauce. The food is good, but not the best that Austin has to offer. This is really a place to go to feel that Austin vibe.

    La Hacienda –This is Mex-Mex. Go here for something less “gringo” and more authentically Mexican. Try the barbacoa and the guisados. Effing fantastic.

    Juan in a Million — You’ll probably get lots of rec’s for this one and they’re worthy of glowing praise. First, I just love the funky pink building, but that’s an aside. If you’re hung over and don’t want the fancier vibe of Fonda San Miguel, you definitely want to go here for breakfast. Breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros, migas, chorizo, barbacoa — ALL very, very tasty and affordable.

    BBQ is a second must-eat:

    Salt Lick — like I said, it’s a drive but it is famous. Here’s the kicker though: there’s (arguably) better BBQ to be found directly in Austin. For instance…

    Iron Works Barbecue — downtown& lively joint. The BBQ sauce is my favorite and finger-licking fantastic — smokey & bold & TRUE Texas through and through. Beef ribs are a must, and the chicken is so tender it falls off the bone.

    Stubbs BBQ — Very close to all the action (off Red River, near 6th ST). You’ll get live music and awesome eatins here. The sauce is so good that you can find it bottled up in grocery stores across the country. Not as good as Iron Works, but it’s a perfect stop between bar hoppin’.

    Other Austin faves:

    South Congress Cafe — if you find yourself hanging out in SoCo (area with a funky vibe, great thrift shops, and Continental Club nearby usually has good live music). SoCo Cafe is upscale Southwestern at its best. Try the pomegranate margarita to kick-off your culinary adventure. Queso flameado con chorizo w/ fresh-made flour tortillas is a must, after that the entire menu is yours to peruse and enjoy. I haven’t had a bad meal yet.

    Uchi — If you love Japanese cuisine, this is a delicious choice. The chef is creative and does a fusion of Japanese with a Texan flare. Those two things may sound incongruous, but I promise you it works.

    Central Market — although some may call it a “grocery store”, it is decidedly a place to release a gourmet’s love affair of food. This is my absolute, unequivocal favorite grocer in all of the United States. Even though Whole Foods started and is headquartered in Austin, Central Market beats them by a mile. Cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, bakery — every section is expertly stocked and you can sample nearly anything in the store, just ask and the friendly staff will be happy to serve you. This would be a good opportunity to stock your spices, too. Their bulk spices are freshly stocked and rotated. You can buy as little or as much as you want and it’s VERY affordable. Also, you’ll be very hungry after wandering the aisles, so the CM Cafe inside the store serves delicious food perfect for lunch.

    ….

    Happy trails and eat up!

  • Andrew

    The places I dug from SXSW last year was Polvo’s for Mexican and Iron Works for BBQ in downtown.

    If you don’t get enough Salt Lick when you go there, there’s an outpost in the airport, too.

  • Zoey

    Gueros — this is NOT good Tex-Mex, it is simply a people-watching place and good location in SoCo.

    Chuy’s — although not the BEST Tex-Mex in Austin, it’s far, far better than Guero’s and has that funky vibe. Barton Springs location is the best.

    Kerby Lane Cafe & Magnolia — both are completely overrated and, like Guero’s, is all about the vibe and is popular because it’s 24 hours. They’re decent places to go at 3am and while drunk, otherwise it’s meh.

    Wink — Delicious, but the kind of upscale dining better found in NYC or LA. Not very indicative of an Austin experience.

    Threadgill’s — famous for Janis Joplin’s discovery, good for fattened-up veggies and a decent chicken-fried steak, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there.

    Salt Lick — too long of a drive and overrated. Iron Works, Lambert’s, Stubbs — hell, even Rudy’s BBQ chain is just as good as SL or even better. Save your gas money for better food and a more “Austin” vibe.

    I know I’m being VERY opinionated here and I don’t mean to dog anyone’s suggestions, but if you’re going to Austin, Texas why eat Indian or Vietnamese or Italian? (Kinda like skipping out on creole cuisine when in New Orleans.) Yes, there are some excellent eateries in those categories, but if it isn’t done with a Texan fusion, it’s something you can do in nearly every major city. Eat Texan while in Texas. Texan is bold flavors, often with a Mexican influence due to the proximity and history.

  • Kelly

    Austin is amazing, in that, you could probably not ask anyone anything about it and still end up eating the best food. I have traveled the world, lived too many places and I still dream of Austin and a day when I can move back.

    PLEASE go to Guerro’s Taco Bar on South Congress. Amazing tex mex without the stupid cheesyness of Chuys ( chuys also owns Hula Hut and Shady Grove so go to one, go to them all!!)

    And Salt Lick is all about the ambiance as well as the food!!! Nothing is better on a Saturday afternoon than sitting around drinking your OWN beer or wine, smelling the smoking BBQ and waiting for a table while listening to the single man band. Then, by the time they call your table, your buzzed and ready for all you can eat GREATNESS! The sauce is different, but perfect!

    Magnolia Cafe is awesome, please get the Mag Mud! (Queso with black beans…mmmm)And I second the gingerbread pancakes!

    Also on William Cannon and Congress, there is a hole in the wall place called Taquaria Vallarta. Best lengua in town! But Taco Express is awesome too, Maria the owner is a hoot and her chimichurri is perfect!

    The noodles at Kim Phung if you are going to be that far North.

    For Pizza, Frank and Angies is awesome (NY STYLE), but so is the classic MANGIA PIZZA! If you like Chicago style pizza, this is your Mecca!

    I am so jealous you are going to my home city, breathe in the Hill Country for me! Oh and visit the whole foods downtown for sure!! Then, when you are stuffed full take a walk around town lake on the hike and bike trail and enjoy Austin!

  • abby

    casino el camino is right down town on sixth and has amazing burgers! i’ll be in new york city while you’re in austin, we are switching places

  • Lyn Never

    Yes, Casino el Camino. There’s a lovely little garden at the back of the place, and don’t go in a hurry because they only cook once an hour. It’s worth it.

    Someone up above said Las Manitas is closed? That’s so sad, it was our favorite breakfast ever, and the people-watching can be pretty good during the conference. A couple of years ago we ended up sitting next to Paul Reiser and Lyle Lovett (yes, together) at breakfast.

  • Wendy in Seattle

    Adam,

    I went to University of Texas and two classic restaurants to try are:

    Kerby Lane Cafe – open 24 hrs, famous for migas (a scrample with tortillas, cheese, chorizo & pico de gallo) and great plate-sized pancakes. This would be a great spot after a night of partying. They have 4 locations, but visit the original that’s on Kerby Lane.

    http://www.kerbeylanecafe.com/

    Threadgills – for amazing Southern food. I love their chicken fried steak. http://www.threadgills.com/

    Have a great trip!

  • Jeff Stinnett

    Parkside, Jezebel (http://www.restaurantjezebel.com/main.htm), Wink, too many to list

  • Clint

    Azul Tequila at 4211 S Lamar Blvd is really good, especially their cochinita pibil. It’s in a rather unprepossessing spot in a strip mall, but don’t let that put you off. It’s also more Mexican than Tex-Mex. Guero’s on S. Congress is one of my faves for Tex-Mex.

  • http://legalbrunette.wordpress.com/ Jessica

    Guero’s over Chuey’s any day of the week!

    Get their classic margaritas on the rocks. Just two and you are good to go!

  • ojn

    Salt lick is one of those places where people will say you “have” to go. Unfortunately, the food isn’t really that good. I prefer the meat at Rudy’s.

    Chuy’s is another local austin chain where the food is overrated.

    I recommend two places:

    Uchi: Awesome, awesome, awesome sushi.

    Taco Deli: Open only for breakfast and lunch, their tacos are excellent.

  • marshall

    trudy’s for breakfast (get the migas). i love iron works for bbq. salt lick is okay but it’s rep is better than the food. hula hut is fun but food is nothing special. can’t help you on the fine dining front.

    btw we went to prune on a recent new york trip and had one of the best meals of our lives — food and overall experience. chef hamilton even took our two kids on a tour of the kitchen and let them pick out their own dessert.

  • davy

    CURRA’S — has no one mentioned this? Haven’t been for years, but the enchiladas chiapas are the stuff of dreams.

    EL SOL Y LA LUNA is great too.

    Amy’s ice cream is divine.

  • Lis

    Ok, I’m sure the Sushi is AMAZING at Uchi, but seriously, if you’re in Texas, please eat Tex-Mex and BBQ, you live in New York, you can get the best sushi on the PLANET in your own neighborhood… don’t miss out on all the awesome LOCAL foods in Austin! You really should visit the Whole Foods, I forgot about that, it’s their headquarters, and Book People next door is an AWESOME bookstore. Please also stand on the bridge and see the bats, if it’s not too cold that is. The Bats are the best part of Austin! Puffy Tacos are also a must… and order queso as much as possible… everywhere it’s different but it’s always good. Eat Beef BBQ, Texas is the only place where they do beef bbq right… that’s all I’ve got for now. I miss Austin so much!!

  • katie

    i’m seconding above but:

    1. maria’s taco xpress (www.tacoxpress.com). amazing. important. vital, even.

    2. magnolia’s (www.cafemagnolia.com)… get the queso. it’s a little pot and you add everything yourself. it’s been a few years since i’ve been in atx and i still have dreams about that queso. damn.

  • Meghan

    JUAN IN A MILLION! Migas. You’ll think that one won’t possibly be enough, as it’s just one order and it’s so cheap that it can’t be that big, so you’ll order two, and then you won’t finish the first. Also, you can get a margarita at 10am without anyone looking at you funny! Oh lord, please go there.

  • karen

    i don’t mean to antagonize my fellow readers, but don’t listen to them when they recommend magnolia cafe, kerbey lane, or chuy’s (unless you really need to eat and it’s late, since the first two are 24 hours). all three are extremely mediocre, sometimes awful. and trudy’s is okay but it’s least-common-denominator tex-mex and not worth your valuable time.

    i second (third, whatever) juan in a million (get the don juan) and maria’s taco xpress. also: uchi, polvo’s (their margaritas are either the best or the strongest, it’s always hard to tell afterward), vespaio. and i hear good things about parkside. and torchy’s is great.

    things you must eat: breakfast tacos, migas (or you can combine the two and get a migas taco), queso.

    i’m vegetarian, but truly discriminating barbecue types i know tell me that the best bbq in town is at the whole foods flagship store at 6th and lamar. otherwise you’ll have to go to llano or lockhart or to the salt lick.

    good luck and good eating!

  • http://shiubox.blogspot.com Jen

    Flip Happy Crepes, anyone?

    http://www.fliphappycrepes.com/

    Very limited hours, well worth the wait. Great, creative savory combinations. Crepes slightly crisp, fillings well balanced. Fun area of town, too! Stop by a coffee shop or grab a beer while you’re waiting.

  • mel

    trailer food– airstream trailers/restaurants

    torchy’s tacos (south 1st)

    shuggies burgers (next to torchy’s on south 1st)

    flip happy crepes (off Barton Springs)

    hey cupcake (south congress)

    salt lick is good, not the best. there are many bbq places around, everyone has their opinion.

    parkside

    east side cafe (grows a lot of their own food)

    ****drink lots of margaritas****

    go to the east side where you can eat, get new tires, rent a bouncy house and get anything notarized all in the same place!

    if you like suchi, uchi

    have fun!!!

  • http://apoonfulofsugar.blogspot.com Ashley

    Hey-o!

    I was born in Austin but moved at age 10 so my memory is fuzzy .. however, definitely visit

    1. Amy’s Ice Cream, there’s one in the airport if you’re pressed for time but there’s one at the Arboretum as well which if I remember correctly also has a photo booth and a cow hanging from the ceiling. The Arboretum isn’t great shop-wise but the cow sculptures are fun to climb and there are ducks to feed at the pond!

    2. I’ve since become vegetarian but the County Line has great bread and vegetables in addition to ribs (though I’m not sure I ever really loved them). It’s kind of out of the way but is right next to the river and has a great atmosphere and friendly staff.

    3. This is a chain, but still Texas-specific (and Austin specific I think as well): Mr. Gatti’s pizza! Their jingle (dial 459-2222 and get your Mr. Gatti’s pizza delivered) still rolls through my brain at times. Anyway it’s a pizza buffet, there’s one downtown and a larger GattiTown complete with arcades and other birthday party stuff further out, is pretty cheap, and way better than Cici’s Pizza.

    4. Chuy’s and experiment with the sauces with your chips!

    Sadly that’s all I can remember/recommend, although I do recall adamantly not wanting to eat at Din Ho with my family but if you’re into greasy Chinese food I guess it’s not bad. Have fun!

  • Dylan

    Despite the fact that you live in NY, go to Uchi. It’s better than you will find anywhere outside Japan.

    For barbeque, go outside of Austin to Lockhart, where you will find Kreuz and Blacks, by many standards the best barbeque in the country.

    Avoid Guero’s unless you are a celebrity. South First street has a string of amazing Tex-Mex places. In addition to Fonda San Miguel, Chapala has very tasty interior mexican food.

    Kerbey Lane and Magnolia are good for late night dining, if you are out late.

    East Side Cafe is an Austin slow-food pioneer, with many ingredients from their own garden incorporated into their seasonal menu.

    East Side Pies is great for pizza if you’re looking for something quick, and you should see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse if only for the novelty of drinking a beer or glass of wine while watching a movie.

  • Craig

    Strongly agree with what Karen said. At a lot of these places, the food is mediocre, average. Kerby Lane, Magnolia are known more for their atmosphere than their food (which isn’t necessarily bad, but no great either). Chuy’s is just a tourist trap, avoid it.

  • http://terrymtz.tumblr.com Terry Mtz

    I think that the Salt Lick is a great starting point. I’m a sauce person, and their bar-b-que sauce is awesome! You do need some Tex Mex if you’re here. My recommendations:

    -Curra’s on E. Oltorf http://www.currasgrill.com/

    has great mole and avocado margaritas! The avo ritas are odd (and don’t taste so much avocado-y as creamy) but you should try one.

    -Santa Rita is a cute Tex Mex joint: http://www.santaritacantina.com They have a great hangover breakfast (eggs, fajita meat, queso, salsa)and the margarita (can’t remember what it’s called) with prickly pear and cranberry juices ROCKS.

    -Juan in a Million http://www.juaninamillion.com/ has great enchiladas. I love them. I’ve never had their breakfast tacos, but I heard they are huge.

  • Kristi

    I second the bats! I know it sounds insane, but it’s actually insane in the most awesomely spectacular way, and not to be missed. Also, don’t miss Whole Foods. My husband and I had great plans for all of the places we were going to eat while in Austin, but yet ended up at Whole Foods almost daily. And while you’re in the neighborhood, Waterloo Records and Book People are both really fun.

  • Nathaniel

    It is true that Chuy’s is not exactly good, but it is completely worthwhile as a sort of quintissential culinary experience you won’t get in New York. And it’s tasty in a greasy sort of way. (If you can get something like it in New York, please let me know.) On the cultural experience front, it is where Jenna Bush was arrested for trying to use a fake ID to buy margaritas; also the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo gets points for serving up a second platter when you think you’re done.

    Brunch at Fonda San Miguel is heavenly.

  • Craig

    Yes, you might enjoy the Whole Foods as it is their flagship store.

    For Puffy Tacos:

    http://www.vivo-austin.com/

  • Crystal

    Guero’s and Curra’s are 2 of the most over rated restaurants in town. Instead I recommend Polvos for lunch/dinner and Juan In A Million (recently featured on Man vs Food) for breakfast.

    The Salt Lick has also gone down hill over the years and is not worth the drive. Sams BBQ is not only close to down town and has been in business for 30 years but it is AMAZING.

    Have fun on your trip!

  • City Limits

    Was just in Austin. Have a number of venues. Start with Stubbs—some of the best barbq in town. After dinner saw BIG HEAD TODD. do the all you can eat for the best value…..lean brisket and turkey!!!

    Trust me on this—I lived in Austin for awhile and am plugged into the University. Let me know.

  • http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/ tokyoastrogirl

    I haven’t been but have been dreaming of going here ever since seeing it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives….

    Maria’s Taco Xpress

    http://www.tacoxpress.com/

  • http://kristinmacbride.com Kristin

    This is a follow up… I second East Side Cafe. Everything I’ve eaten there has been great. I actually like Curra’s a lot, but I’ve only eaten their tacos al pastor. Mr. Gattis is the worst pizza in Texas. I’ve known that since I was 12. Don’t go there. I agree that magnolia and kerbey lane are mediocre at best. And Chuy’s really is a waste of your time.

    Atmosphere is great and all… it has allowed places like the Oasis to survive for years regardless of the trash they serve. But what this guy really needs/wants is some good food. Y’all don’t want him leaving town thinking “Well, Austin sure knows how to party, but the food sucks!”

  • http://suitemorsel.blogspot.com/ Karen

    This is mainly affirming other posts, but here goes…

    Taco Deli – best best best tacos! (kind of tex-mex tacos.) Be sure to get a frontera fundido. You really really should go! There’s always a line out the door at lunch (but don’t worry, it moves fast). FYI – the place is a little hole-in-the-wall-ish. 1500 Spyglass Road.

    Uchi – yes, it’s amazing! really creative dishes, not just the sushi. (be warned – they don’t take reservations)

    Wink – also wonderful, but I feel like I’ve eaten in similar wonderful places in other cities, so not as much of a must-eat IMHO

    Salt Lick – it’s delicious, but be sure to BYO beer. There are also great BBQ places in Lockhart (which is a bit more of a drive)

    the trailer food is great, but I think the crepe truck is not open every day

    I like the laid-back feel of Shady Grove for lunch – good burgers and beer.

    Wherever you go for tex mex (e.g. Chuy’s), DO order queso and chips!

  • http://www.rachelwerner.com Rachel

    You must go to Uchi. It’s amazing. Chef Cole is incredibly innovative. It’s not a normal sushi experience. I know you can eat sushi in NY all day long, but this is sushi Austin style. I promise you won’t regret it!

    Crazy Maria’s or Taco Diner (my favorite) for breakfast tacos.

    Fonda San Miguel is great – certainly not Tex Mex, but who cares. Eat great food! Vivo is another good Mexican option. I can’t believe no one has suggested Maudie’s – it’s sort of a cult Tex Mex institution and is not too bad. I’d actually go there over Chuy’s.

    Don’t drive to Salt Lick – just grab Salt Lick to go at the airport on your way home.

    Have a great trip! Austin is right next to heaven in my book.

  • Marcus

    Polvo’s is my favorite restaurant in Austin, by far.

  • Evan

    Shady Grove for the chili cheese fries and a plain ol’ cheeseburger, Amy’s for a Sweet Cream with Junior Mints. Those are honestly the things I miss the most about living in Austin.

    County Line for BBQ – make sure to get a Shiner Bock.

    Skip Chuy’s – if you want real Mexican food stop by a taqueria with a random name (i.e. Taqueria Chanos or Taqueria San Luis) and order by pointing at what other people are eating if it looks good. Chances are if 9 out of 10 people are eating the Caldo de Res that’s what you want, too. And if you are the only gringo there that’s a plus.

  • Holtzwoman

    I know I’m going to piss off a whole bunch of peopl, but I think Chuy’s is just ok. There. I said it.

    The Clay Pit is the best Indian food I’ve ever had, and I’m tempted to move to Austin just to be able to eat there more often.

    Have fun in my home state!

  • Joe Kaiser

    One of the best meals of my life was at Jezebel’s.

    http://www.restaurantjezebel.com/

    Happy eating!

  • http://peanutbutterandgoatcheese.blogspot.com Ashlee

    Forget about eating. If you catch ANY concerts at the SXSW, you NEED to see Jeremy Messersmith. He’s phenomenal! Cheers (Good luck Craig!)!

  • Craig

    Yes, forgot about Maudie’s. A solid choice for Austin Tex Mex.

  • Becky

    My brother lives in Austin, and I spent a month there last summer. Ate at a lot of local places but the ones to where I would go back to eat again are:

    Salt Lick. Other people may not like it but it rocked my socks.

    Homeslice. Went there once, loved it so much went again and am still obsessing over the spinach pizza.

    Amy’s ice cream. Obsessing over that, too.

  • rooney

    I highly suggest that you check out the blog Boots in the oven. Written by a married couple who now reside in Austin. Their writing is fantastic and their travel journals are superb.

  • Beau

    Austin is THE coolest city on the planet (or that I’ve been to thus far in the vast 20 years of my life). But go to Stubb’s for ribs, there’s an italian restaurant on South Congress Ave that’s good, a drive-through burger joint on Lamar called P. Terry’s thats very simple but their burger with hot peppers on it is good, and go to the Whole Foods flagship/headquarters store, it’s HUGE and has a bunch of different restaurants/sections in it and the guy that makes the gelato makes interesting flavors like pineapple basil and jalapeno avocado with chocolate. Across the street from Whole Foods is a kick ass music store called Waterloo, check it out. I’m sure that if you’re there for film you’ll visit the Alamo Draft House, but if not, visit the Alamo Draft House. It’s a really funky, cool place, you can order great food in the theater (Order a milk shake, soooooooooooooooo good) and they show really great old clips of movies and unique ads before the movies as well as previews. I wish I could go!!!!! I LOVE Austin, TX.

    Also, on 6th during SXSW there’s a hot dog stand called “Best Wurst” that’s great. Along with the hot dogs and sausages he has great toppings like the requisite grilled onions and also curry ketchup and things of the like.

  • Leslie

    Go to Uchi. It’s the best restaurant in Austin hands down. There’s probably going to be quite the wait if you don’t get there soon after they open, but it’s definitely worth it.

    I’d also recommend Hula Hut, Chuy’s, and Hut’s (for really awesome burgers). They are all quintessentially Austin.

  • http://www.TodayinAustin.com dianaP

    My husband and I are the owners of the Magnolia Cafe, so of course we think you should try our food while you’re in town. After I travel to other cities, I come back and have to have our Love Veggies cause it’s hard to get enough vegetables on the plate in a lot of places. But I just wanted to share this link:

    http://www.sxswbaby.com/index.php/site/more/where_to_eat_during_sxsw_2009/

    It has a map of the downtown places to eat during SXSW – so you get the hours, the address, and a map. For visitors to town, I thought this was great.

    It inspired me to make a map myself of the free SXSW music venues: http://todayinaustin.com/sxsw_news.php

    Welcome to Austin and have a great time!

  • Angie

    Be sure to take beverages packed in a cooler when you go to the Salt Lick. It’s BYO and there is no where near there where you can buy any beer or wine.

    Juan In a Million is great for their humongous plate sized Don Juan breakfast tacos for only $3.60 each Eggs, cheese, potatoes. They are delicious.

    Jeffrey’s is great for upscale dining. The sous vide short rib was amazing. As were the crispy fried oysters.

    Threadgills for down home texas food. You have to try their chicken fried steak.

    Casino El Camino for the burgers. .

    The fish tacos at chuy’s are great.

  • mel

    i have to second and third all the suggestions for Chuy’s, Kerbey Lane, Magnolia, County Line. These all serve average qulaity food.

    And I read Mr. Gatti’s??? Really???

    Again–

    torchy’s

    taco deli

    marias

    juan in a million

    flip happy

    parkside

    uchi

    bbq is best at whole foods– i agree

  • Amie

    Flagship Whole Foods at 5th/6th and Lamar. So huge.

    Azul Tequila! delicious margaritas (esp. the windex-blue one); food is good if you don’t get the obviously tex-mex items which are just par – there’s a chicken breast with a chile sauce and like poblanos or something that is quite good.

    Castle Hill – seasonally changing menu, adventurous american/southwestern food.

    I recommend Eastside Café – good, local, garden outside that makes some of the food they serve.

    Threadgills – southern/home cooking, but has 18 vegetables. Folksy and delicious.

    Artz Ribz

    If you must go to Kerbey Lane (which many seem to suggest), be prepared for sub-par service. I have yet to go to a Kerbey Lane that I’ve been completely happy with. But the WORST is the campus-adjacent one on Guadalupe.

    Amy’s Ice Cream – classic combination is Mexican Vanilla with strawberries but anything is probably good.

  • http://www.texashorseandhome.com The Food Lady

    Azul Tequila is the place to go for Interior Mexican. As good as Fonda San Miguel, without the atmosphere, but at a third the price. (And the margaritas there are absolutely as good as FSM’s!)

  • Keegan

    Two of the best places I’ve eaten in Austin are Fino (Mediterranean food) and Asti (Italian food).

    I ate at Fino for dinner and loved the food, drinks and service. They had an excellent wine selection, the top bartender in town and amazing food.

    Brian, the manager, recommended we try Asti (it’s owned by the same people) for lunch. We had a white pie and the bread was increadible! That’s before you get to the cheese on top. The tiramisu was excellent and the dessert wine was a perfect compliment.

    It was an incredible experience I will hope to duplicate next time I go back!!

  • http://www.pantry.to Greg

    If you are thinking BBQ, I would highly recommend Ruby’s: http://rubysbbq.com/

    Incredible brisket, which they smoke in a brick pit (I got a quick look inside on my visit.)

    I hit a lot of BBQ places when I was there – including the ones up the highway in Lockhart – and Ruby’s was far and away my favourite.

    Just $.02 from a BBQ nut from Toronto.

  • http://tamarinddreams.blogspot.com/ Katrina

    Welcome to Austin! You’ll have a blast here. If you like interior Mexican food you have to, HAVE TO, go to Polvo’s on S. 1st. http://polvos.ypguides.net/. My fiancee and I eat there at least once a month. The sangria margaritas are awesome! And I wholeheartedly recommend the chile relleno nogal. Get it with shredded chicken. Of course their fajitas are fab too. They serve them with raisins and nuts.

  • Manders

    I have to give a hearty recommendation to Threadgill’s, too. Get the chicken fried steak, and actually, the spinach casserole there is one of my favorite things in the whole world, so there’s that. And yeah, get out of the city if you want good barbecue, too.

  • jenn

    Juan in a Million for breakfast

    Polvos for Tex-Mex – diablo shrimp and the salsa bar are my favorite parts of this place

    Parkside for bone marrow and oysters, if you’re on 6th street.

    Olivia for good eats

    Rudy’s for BBQ (extra moist brisket and creamed corn!! YUMM!)

    Wink for a fancy meal

    Uchi – order the omakase! They only use the best fish for their omakase

    Torchy’s Tacos for some great tacos. Fried avocado.

    For sxsw specials, check this out

    http://www.tastytouring.com/2009/03/cheap-tasty-tours-sxsw-2009-edition.html

    Have fun!

  • AMS

    You will get lots of suggestions. There are lots of Chowhound threads on this topic as well.

    There are several BBQ joints in Austin worth eating at more than the drive to the Salt Lick -

    Artz Rib House, Ruby’s, Rudy’s, Iron Works, Stubbs, Sam’s, Green Mesquite, and that’s just what I can think of off the top off my head.

    There are amazing other BBQ joints outside Austin but they can be a fair drive depending on what your plans are (Lockhart, Llano, Lexington, Elgin, etc.)

    Plus, you have to have Shiner Bock when you are in Austin, it is THE beer of Central Texas.

    Salt Lick BBQ is usually my meal of choice at the airport. Austin’s airport has only local/Texas-based restaurants there which makes eating before your flight a much nicer experience. There is also live music at the central bar many late afternoons/evenings.

    If you are there to go to SXSW events you are likely to stick close to central Austin. Some additional places I would recommend without hesitation for a Foodie. Most or all of the restaurant are exclusively ‘Austin/Central Texas’:

    Flagship Whole Foods on 6th and Lamar

    and/or Central Market (N or S Lamar)

    Amy’s Ice Cream

    Hut’s Hamburgers

    Opal Divine’s (more for beer and munchies)

    Shady Grove (Green Chile Cheese Fries, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Hippie Sandwich, etc.)

    Maria’s Taco Express – breakfast and lunch tacos, (they take credit cards now!)

    Polvos for lunch or dinner, not breakfast

    Juan In A Million (Don Juan Breakfast Taco, Migas taco, or lunch specials)

    Curra’s – like them for being somewhat Tex-Mex, somewhat interior

    Z Tejas off West 6th – hard to classify

    Austin Java is a nice alternative for a casual meal – several locations in central Austin

    I prefer Magnolia over Kerby Lane – good any meal

    Chuy’s/Hula Hut are okay – a bit over-rated and loud – food is decent, non-traditional tex-mex with an Elvis theme.

    Guero’s – Food and margaritas are tasty, but restaurant is always loud.

    Lots of good eating/drinking options along South Congress/South First Streets

    The hotel bar at the Driskill Hotel on 6th is definitely worth checking out, especially during SXSW. You never know who you might see.

    Not impressed by Fonda San Miguel or El Chile – you can find better food and cheaper

  • andrenna

    Chuy’s and Salt Lick are overrated and too commercial for me. El Chile is really good, as is their little sister taco stand called El Chilito. I CRAVE El Chilito pork tacos with verde sauce with a Topochico or beer. Taco Xpress is really good, too. They have cheese stuffed poblano tacos that are amazing and side potatoes that come in a cup and are like…creamy white queso potatoes. Yeah. Delicious.

  • andrenna

    In my opinion, in Austin uour diet should be made of barbeque and tex mex. Why go to Austin to eat sushi? I’m sure it’s good at Uchi, but serrriously, it’s deep in the heart of Texas. Not the freshest place. C’mon! Get what you can’t get anywhere else. That means amazing tex mex. :)

  • Shannon

    Do you want a NICE dinner while you’re in Austin?

    I can’t believe only one person recommended Jeffrey’s. But you better reserve today if you want to do that.

    And I 4th or 5th the nomination for East Side Cafe.

    Both are veteran local, seasonal ingredient stalwarts in Austin.

    Try not to visit any chains. You know you’ll be disappointed (Chuy’s, Clay Pit).

  • andrea

    you MUST go to uchi!

    It’s my favorite japanese restaurant, maybe anywhere. Everything is so fresh and well-prepared.

    I try to make a point to go there whenever i’m in Austin.

  • kirs in wa

    All these posts make me miss my hometown immensely. And the cheesy, lardy deliciousness of real Tex-Mex.

    Hopefully it will be warm enough to enjoy outdoor dining. Nothing beats margaritas and queso while sitting on a great deck somewhere.

    Please please skip the Hula Hut (though the views are awesome)/ Chuy’s/ Shady Grove scene. The food is just so-so.

    I’ve only eaten at El Chile a few times, but this place rocks! Their salsa is amazing (all ingredients are roasted) and everything I’ve tried is great.

    I love Manuel’s downtown, and honestly, Guero’s is pretty awesome. The peach margaritas are delightful.

    Homeslice makes a mean pie, and the scene is wildly cool.

    Have so much fun, Adam. Wish I were there!

  • amanda

    whatever you do, you MUST get a brat from Best Wurst!

    Hyde Park Bar and Grill

    Mozart’s for dessert

    Halycon for smores

    Guero’s (a fav of Bill Clinton’s!)

  • craig

    Didn’t see anyone mention this, but if you have time to catch a show, definitely consider going to Ester’s Follies. It is hilarious and an Austin institution!

    http://www.esthersfollies.com/

    P.S. You should also reconsider your choice to miss out on the puffy tacos!

  • Lulu

    Loved Ranch 616 for a nice dinner, and Amy’s Ice Cream for dessert. We had a nice lunch at El Soy y La Luna. I thought Chuy’s was way overrated.

    Have fun!

  • Suzanne

    Bummed that we won’t be here for Craig’s movie and your arrival!!! Leaving for spring break. I’ve been here over 25 years; here are my suggestions:

    -Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. after a walkon the trail at Lady Bird Lake

    -Daily Juice for amazing smoothies, two locations (I think) one by the lake

    -Uchi on So. Lamar for unique sushi–expensive and long waits after 6:00 Tyson Cole is owner/chef and past Food and Wine honoree so worth it

    -Mikado on 183 if not Uchi

    -Whole Foods at 6th and Lamar just for the parade

    -Guerros on South Congress (our SoCo) for Tex Mex and amazing margaritas (Chuy’s is so overrated)

    -El Chile, try the margarita or mexican martini with the chile salt on the rim

    -Eastside Cafe

    -Sago at the Triangle for mexican, great salsa and corn tortillas

    -Vespaio for Italian, also on SoCo. or Enoteca next door

    -Iron Works for BBQ or take a side trip to Lockheart for BBQ

    -Courtyard bar at Hotel San Jose if you want drinks and a snack

    -Wink

    -Amy’s Ice Cream, several locations or you can get ice cream and a great burger at Phil’s if you go to the location on Burnet Road.

    -Mighty Fine burgers–two locations awesome fries.

    Have a wonderful time!!

    Suzanne

  • http://lulu.com/bholder Bonny

    I cast another vote for the Magnolia, either of them (tho I like the SoCo one best.) But they’ll be packed during SXSW so make contingency plans.

  • http://www.delenemartin.com Dee

    Magnolia – awesome omelettes!

    Flip Happy Crepes – they beat Bobby Flay’s Throwdown :)

    Mozarts – coffee and cheesecake, if the weather is nice site out on the deck and enjoy!

    Freddies http://www.freddiesplaceaustin.com/

    I had the breaded deep fried portabellas – delicious and fun atmosphere

  • speakeasy

    I vote Fonda San Miguel… its great real Mexican food

  • Farrel

    Teo Gelato, Teo Gelato, Teo Gelato! Heck, even David Lebovitz loves the place, and *he* knows his frozen dairy!

    Check ‘em out at http://www.caffeteo.com/ or read David Lebovitz’s write-up here http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/04/teo_gelato_1.html .

  • Janet

    Guerro’s for Tex-Mex, Stubb’s for BBQ. Salt Lick is overrated.