Perhaps many of you are already in on the secret, but I wasn’t aware that Austin Texas was a foodie destination. I suppose while we’re at it, I didn’t know about all the weird things to do in Austin either, so call me misinformed. But Austin is truly a delicious city with a multitude of cuisines on offer, not just TexMex and BBQ, so I thought I would round up of the best restaurants in Austin and the best food in Austin, as there are some real surprises!
Best Mexican food in Austin: Gueros Taco Bar
It is no surprise that some of the best food in Austin is Mexican-inspired. But many of the restaurants in Austin serve what I’d call Tex-Fresh-Mex: fun and light ingredients, without all the lard and salt. And they’re BIG into tacos, maybe just a little obsessive if I may say so. Gueros takes top marks for great service, a fantastic menu, and terrific ambience at their venue on South Congress. Portions are a healthy size without being obscene. Try an Al Pastor taco which is topped with pork, cilanto, and pineapple: great for those warm sunny Austin days. And don’t forget the queso!
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Best Austin BBQ with a View: County Line
Ok, so any round up of the best food in Austin or the best restaurants in Austin would be utterly incomplete without the choice of best Austin BBQ. This is a tough choice: Uncle Billy’s (mentioned later) does decent BBQ. So does Salt Lick, Stubb’s and several other respectable venues. I ate at several and find it hard to choose a winner, as I’m not from Texas so my palette obviously does not discriminate as distinctively for such things. However, County Line on the Hill (out in the “boonies” outside of Austin) takes the cake for me. The view is stunning, for one, and the ambience is “only in Texas.” So while I’m not going to go out on a very precarious limb and say that The County Line is the best Austin BBQ, I will say it is a phenomenal dining experience and well worth the drive to get there.
Best Breakfast in Austin: Magnolia Cafe
Magnolia Cafe has a slogan: Everybody Knows, Everybody Goes. And as far as best food in Austin goes, it takes the cake, or the Magnolia brownie as it might be (pictured). Magnolia is fabulous for breakfast and for brunch, so it is no surprise it is popular with both locals and tourists. It’s not to be confused with the establishment of the same name in New York City famous for their cupcakes, but Magnolia has its own local celebrity status and it is well earned.
Best Coffee in Austin: Jo’s
If you need a caffeine jag, go to Jo’s. And after all the best food in Austin, you’ll need a damn coffee just to get around. There are several Jo’s: the one on South Congress is a fantastic place in good weather as there is what I like to call the entrepreneur’s lounge. Everyone is hanging out with their laptop doing their thing and enjoying the tasty brew. But the Jo’s on 2nd avenue in downtown is also a fab place to be, sort of one of those be seen places. Oh and Jo’s on 2nd has AMAZING migas. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
Best Weird Thing To Eat in Austin: Gourdoughs
You might be asking yourself: that kind of looks like an airstream trailer. You’d be right! It’s Gourdough’s, one of the trailer park food vendors you saw mentioned in our weird things to do in Austin round-up. Some of the best food in Austin is served from these “mobile units” (the friendly term), and in future we’ll be giving them their due justice with a round-up of their own. But Gourdoughs earns lots of awards: they have some of the best doughnuts in town, and for sure they have the best weird things to eat in Austin. For example, try their most popular item, the Mother Clucker. It’s chicken and honey on a hot doughnut. Sounds weird, but trust me: It is GOOD. Good good good. Worth going to Austin for this food product alone.
Best Beer in Austin: Uncle Billy’s
After trying to work your way through the best food in Austin list, you’re going to be desperate for a drink, and for good reason. Quench your thirst at Uncle Billy’s, a terrific venue south of downtown that has a great vibe and great beers too. They always have a tasty Belgian wheat beer (that goes down a little too easily – one to check out) as well as a pale ale, blonde ale, organic amber ale. The rest of the lineup depends on the night, so be sure to ask your sever what’s on tap, and don’t be afraid to experiment: at this place, it is hard to go wrong. As mentioned earlier, the food is terrific, including the BBQ, and Uncle Billy’s serves up the best mac and cheese in Austin. Hands down.
Best Everything-Under-One-Roof: Whole Foods
Did you know one of the biggest tourist attractions in Austin also has the best food in Austin? Yup: it’s Whole Foods. Their flagship headquarters store in downtown Austin has flocks of travellers, and why is there a surprise? I mean, come on, you have your choice of:
- beer alley: an aisle of beer
- muesli alley: an aisle of every muesli/oatmeal/granola combination imaginable
- dessert buffet (yes!! heaven on earth has arrived)
- made-to-order burrito bar (top of my recommendations list)
- wine tasting station
Ok, at this rate we’ll be here all night. Let’s just say if you are craving it, whole foods has it. After all, the have a sign inside that says “capital of food.” Pretty much sums up this venue.
Best Ice Cream in Austin: Amy’s Ice Cream
Amy’s Ice Cream is without question one of best food in Austin options available. The ice cream is served up with style and panache, with a good dose of humour applied. As you can see from the photo, you can choose from a number of ice creams as well as “crush’ns” or toppings. I had heard lots and lots about Mexican Vanilla [an ice cream, not a topping], which sounds good, but actually I felt it was too sweet. A shame as lots of potential. However, I created my own concoction which I feel like I should contact Amy’s about calling it the STE special: coffee ice cream with oatmeal cookies. It kind of tastes like biscotti. It’s the perfect after-meal treat, as it’s a touch sweet, with that lightest of coffee kicks to get you going. Perfection. Thank you Amy.
Best Pizza in Austin: Home Slice Pizza
Home Slice Pizza is definitely part of the social fabric of this town: people live and die by a slice from here. As far as best food in Austin goes, if you haven’t been here, you haven’t been to Austin. There are a couple of locations and after a few drinks, a few slices of Home Slice will go down well, without question. Check it out.
Best Happy Hour in Austin: The Four Seasons
TRIO at the Four Seasons takes the honours for the best happy hour in Austin. I didn’t try their food for dinner meals, but if it’s a similar menu then this place must have the best food in Austin and the best wine list in Austin, because believe me ladies and gentlemen, these are professionals. The snacks we had at our table were so good there was total disagreement at the end as to what was the best happy hour choice, so I can’t even make a recommendation in good faith (though crab fondue is AMAZING, and so are the garlic fries), so go, order some wine and a few appetisers, and work your way through it. Did I mention their sommelier even has his own wine blend on offer? Yup. Amazing.
Best Burger in Austin: Hut’s Hamburgers
Hut’s Hamburgers is where you go when you want comfort food, but it deserves its place as some of the best food in Austin for sure. It’s a quaint place – the walls are decorated with license plates and sports paraphernalia, and you’ll get those massive oversized soft drinks only found in the States. The burgers are to die for – juicy meat patties, fresh buns, and that salty-wonderful cheese that is perfectly melted. My only complain is that you get FAR TOO MANY french fries – we split one order three ways and we didn’t finish it. But they were good fries, for sure. Hut’s. You won’t regret it.
Best Modern/Contemporary Restaurant in Austin: Parkside
Parkside is on 6th street, the epicentre of nightlife in the city and a place where you would think that the best food in Austin would be found, but for me a lot of those places are plastic and faceless. Not so for Parkside, which manages to serve up the most imaginative and refreshing dishes in a way that is simple and fabulous. I’m not sure how else to describe them. Start your meal off by cleansing your palette with one of their lovely fizzy drinks, then check the specials and ask for a recommendation if you’re not sure. Because this place is good. Very good.
Best Crepes in Austin: Flip Happy Crepes
Flip Happy Crepes is another food cart vendor, similar to our weird friends above, Gourdoughs. You might think that a crepe is a crepe, but you won’t think that after you visit this place. Flip Happy is legendary and without out a doubt some of the best food in Austin: people from far and wide know about “that crepe place in Austin in an airstream trailer.” And come on: their slogan is Made from Scratch, with Love. What’s not to like? Come here hungry so you can have both a savoury crepe to start and a sweet crepe for dessert, but you’ll go home full, guaranteed. Nutella, pictured above, is a top favourite – no surprise there.
Best Steak in Austin: Ruth Chris
Ok, so Ruth Chris is a chain – somewhat of an atypical choice for our foodies guides. But if America had a ‘meat belt,’ surely Texas would be at the heart of it. So any list of the best food in Austin would be absolutely remiss without a steak category, and Ruth Chris is king of this category. Whether you want it bloody and mooing or burnt to a crisp (though perhaps somewhere in the middle might be a better choice), you’ll find it here, all with a no hassle, relaxed attitude that you’ll find pretty much anywhere you eat in Austin.
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Flickr Photos by jaredten,Venue Photo, ravik694.mccheek,Author Photo, Venue Photo,craige,Jess Webb, Venue Photo, Venue Photo, Author Photo, Jean-Michel Dufaux, kkatrinaa, Urban Mixer.
Disclosure: Portions of this itinerary were sponsored by the Austin CVB but in no way reflect on the content featured here.