I'll be visitng Austin in two weeks and I was wondering if some Austinites could tell me about some good Mexican places and some good BBQ places. I really want authentic Mexican and the BEST BBQ while I'm in town. But I don't want to spend a fortune either. Thanks for any help!
Go to the Salt Lick if you can--if you stay in town, Green Mesquite is a good choice or Ruby's.
Definitley go to Las Manitas because they are supposedly closing down. It's a real Austin institution.
Also, I really like Tamale House #2 on Airport Blvd. Only open in the AM though.
Also, I suggest Polvo's.
Mexican food and barbeque are probably the most talked-about cuisines on the Austin board, so it would probably be helpful to you to scroll back over the past month or two and get a good sampling of opinions. You can also search on Google (something like http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q=mexican+OR+barbeque+OR+bbq+site%3Achowhound.com+intitle%3Aaustin+inurl%3Atopics+&btnG=Search ), until Chowhound's searching becomes more useful.
Here are a few to get you started
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367316 one in a series on Tejano Tex-Mex
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/321726 touches on Austinized Tex-Mex
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/341849 for a representative BBQ discussion with links to others
Once you've read up a bit, you can probably be a little more specific in your questions, specifying what you look for in "authentic" Mexican, and the like. Deliciousness takes a little digging, even with Chowhound, but you should be able to find it on your trip.
Las Manitas : This is a great place to start your day if you are in the downtown area
Juan in a Million: I like this place for breakfast but their lunches are good too. This is in East Austin on East Cesar Chavez (1st st.)
El Sol y La Luna: I enjoy the breakfasts here when I am around the South Congress Area.
Taco Deli: I am absolutely addicted to this place. I think its a tad overpriced, but I keep handing my money over. There is one near Mopac and Barton Skyway and another near Mopac and Duval I am particularly fond of their lunch specials and their Mojo Fish Taco and Sirloin Steak and Egg Taco. Oh, and their Dona Salsa (Hot!)
Oaxacan Tamaleo: Fantastic food. Best tamales I have had in Austin. Real Interior Mexican Food. Be prepared, it can be very spicy. This is very close to Lamar and 183
Curra's Grill: I love their al pastor tacos. Most of their food is pretty good. I even kinda like their Avocado margarita. I can only speak for their Oltorf/South Congress location.
Unfortunately because I don't get out to East Austin much, I am not as familiar with the Mexican restaurants over there, but I know there are some good ones there.
In my opinion, the best barbecue around here is outside of the city, but there are a few places in town that have good barbecue too.
Rudy's : This is my backup. If I want BBQ but don't feel like driving, I go to Rudy's. In my opinion, they tend to be a little salty, but their sweet barbecue sauce helps with that. I am a particular fan of their extra moist (fatty) brisket, pork loin. My only beef (see what i did there?) with Rudy's is that you can get better barbecue at 2/3 the cost if you are willing to drive out of Austin to get it. That said, I love rudy's and go there often. You can find these around the outskirts of town. Near Barton Creek Mall on Cap. of Tex Highway, near 183 and Duval and off of IH35 on the way to Round Rock.
Bowie St. BBQ : This "BBQ" vendor is located in the massive Whole Foods Flagship store on 6th and Lamar. Personally I think their BBQ is very good. While they don't use a stone pit with wood coals to smoke their BBQ, it still comes out very moist, tender and flavorful. I am particularly fond of their pulled pork. This is a good alternative if you are based in the downtown area and don't have the time or the resources to drive out to Driftwood or Lockhart.
Your Mileage may Vary: Here are some other BBQ places that may or may not be worth going to based on what you like. I hope that other CH posters can add their comments about these places to give you a better idea of whether you may like them or not.
RUBY's BBQ : Lots of fellow BBQ afficionados rave about this place. They use free-range antibiotic/hormone free meat. I love the idea, but to me, their meat tastes underseasoned on its own, and I don't like their BBQ sauce.
County Line: The County Line is a mixed bag for me. Their BBQ is very smoky. I do love their Pulled Pork Sandwich with slaw on it though. But if I only had one chance to get BBQ, I wouldn't go here.
The Kings of the Pits: Here are the place outside of Austin which in my opinion are worth the drive.
Kreuz's Meat Market: In Lockhart. This place is on the No Sauce side of the fence. I'm down with it. I love their Brisket.
Smitty's: In Lockhart also. Smitty's is an offshoot of Kreuz's Meat Market that happened when members of a family run business divorced. I like their Sausage better than Kreuz's. Honestly though, if you are driving out to Lockhart, you are serious about Barbecue and should be going to both places, and Black's as well.
Crosstown BBQ: In Elgin, which is known for their sausage, people tend to gravitate to either Southside Market or Meyers for their BBQ. I prefer Crosstown. Its nothing more than a metal shack, but their BBQ chicken and their ribs are my faves. Their sausage is as good as any other Elgin Hot Sausage in my opinion.
Cooper's: In Llano. This is a ways out, about 90 minutes or so, These are hands down my favorite pork ribs. Its a cool place to see also as you order your meat straight outta the pit. You say "I want that one", and they pull it out, cut it to order, dunk it in sauce and slap it on a tray for you. This is probably the only thing that I will agree with President Bush on. (Apparently, hes a fan of Cooper's too.)
Gonzalez Meat Market: In Gonzalez has some of my favorite sausage. They make it themselves, and they do a good job. Not too far from Lockhart, if you are heading out that way anyway.
The Salt Lick: Pound for pound, if you are only in Austin for a short amount of time, and you only have one opportunity to get "the BBQ experience" this is where you need to come. The BBQ is very good, but the atmosphere, and the experience of driving out there, and bringing your own beer (The Salt Lick is in Hays County which is Dry) is an experience everyone should have. The more people that come along, the better. I am particularly fond of their BBQ sauce, and their Ribs. I also like their coleslaw which isn't sweet, but rather vinagary with sesame seeds. and their potato salad. They also have an all you can eat option for about 16 dollars a head. It's cash only, although they have an ATM there, but I am not sure what the fees on that thing are.
Hope this helps, and have a great time in Austin.