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Apr 3, 2007 11:11 AM

One dinner in Austin, where to go

Coming in from Boston. Top suggestions, can be anything/anywhere. Expensive or cheap, just something I won't be able to get here or in NY. New American with southwestern influences???? or just damn good texas specialties. Without sounding rude, what are texas specialties outside of BBQ? We get the same questions here, substitute baked beans for BBQ.

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  1. i'd recommend fonda san miguel an interior mexican restaurant- a bit pricey, but perenially one of austin's best-

    or for a more casual dining experience, go to el chile on manor rd. just north of downtown. their mole enchiladas are lick-the-plate worthy and you can try a spicy margarita, if you are so daring.

    it has sort of a chain-ish feel, but hula hut is all-austin. it's a Mexo-nesian restuarant on lake austin. great chips and salsa, great atmosphere and fab thai bbq fajitas. bet you don't have mexo- nesian in boston. enjoy austin!

    1. While Hula Hut is an Austin landmark...get a margarita there but do not choose it as your dinner destination. I agree that El Chile and Fonda San Miguel are great, but they are interior Mexican and not Tex-Mex. I would not characterize them as very "Texan", but they are wonderful. When I think of Texas food in Austin, I think of Hoover's Home Cooking for Chicken Fried Steak and Peach Cobbler, Combo Dinner #2 at Chuy's (Tex-Mex), and Salt Lick BBQ.

      1. I reckon MPH would recommend the Backstage Steakhouse west on Hwy 71 for something very austin and very yummy...think Jasper White in cowboy boots with SW, Asian and other influences...oh, the difference is, it's miles better than White's food could ever be, and with none of the pretense or price tag of Todd English. Never had a decent meal in Boston, oh, except one: Sichuan Garden, and only after coaxing them to do the food the way it should be done...

        1 Reply
        1. re: sambamaster

          How could I forget? Thanks for pointing that out, sambamaster! Backstage Steakhouse may not be an "Austin institution," but the chef does things with Southwestern cuisine that will make you want to pack up all your stuff and move to Spicewood. That way, you could eat at Backstage every day.

        2. Chefboyardee, there are a surprisingly high number of former Northeasterners living in Austin. I myself am a native Texan who lived in Beantown for years. While I was away from Texas, I’d always miss Tex-Mex/Mexican, CFS, kolaches, and barbecue.

          Unfortunately, Austin has a lot of mediocre versions of these kinds of food, too. Personally, I like El Chile, though I prefer the chow at other places. I think Fonda San Miguel is worth a visit for brunch, once, but I wouldn't plan my trip around it. And I don’t like Chuy’s or the Salt Lick, nor am I that thrilled about Hoover’s. (For the ongoing CFS debate, see this thread: ). Everyone has a different opinion, of course.

          Here are a few links to some good discussions about the best “Texan” food that’s available in Austin:

          Five day visit--what's great?

          From a Boston hound just back from Austin, thanks for all the great chow!

          Chicago Chowhound in Town for 4 Nights: First Time in Austin

          I hope this helps.


          2 Replies
          1. re: MPH

            Perhaps my fondess for Salt Lick is more nostalgia than anything else (although I still enjoy it). I have family from Driftwood and we used to go there before anyone heard of it. Ditto with Chuy's...I used to work for the company. But I'll defend Hoover's CFS to the end!

            1. re: adewaal

              I think Fonda San Miguel and El Chile are fabulous choices. I think El Chile would give you the best feel for what Austin as a community is like, and you get quite good bang for your buck there. Tortilla-encrusted tilapia and mole are great. Salt Lick, Hula Hut, and Chuy's are more touristy stops with not high-quality food. If you are looking for BBQ, Arts Rib House is a good one, but my vote is for El Chile 100%!

          2. Vivo's on Manor Rd, the healthiest Mexican you can have. They offer vegetarian enchiladas. Another GREAT option is East Side Cafe, just down the block. Also everything from Veggie to steak. Prices are very resonable!

            2 Replies
            1. re: sleigh

              Be careful with the frozen margaritas at Vivo! They are loaded with Tequila. A lot of bang for your buck.

              1. re: ashes

                thank you all for your suggestions, as it turns out I had to go out to dinner with some of the business people we were meeting. Went someplace called Eddie V's, which was a very nice place. Goat Cheese and Arugula salad was way to sauced up with too much going on. I actually hated it, but the seared chilean sea bass was excellent. And my god, the Texas sized portions. Pleasantly surprised by the evening overall. You Austonians have quite a downtown area to hang out at.