What does Austin do well?
Hello fellow foodies, coming into town next week from Toronto and will have two nights were I get to choose the eating destinations.
I'm looking for any ideas of from the local Austin foodies on which restaurants I should check out as they offer choices that are uniquely Austin or any restaurants that will give me a great feel of dining out in Austin.
thanks in advance,
I moved here from Guelph so I have a pretty good idea of what Austin has to offer compared to the GTA--I agree wholeheartedly with the Mexican and BBQ suggestions, and make sure you go for a Chicken Fried Steak (I'd suggest Tony's Southern Comfort on 6th st.).
I would skip Whole Foods since there's one in Toronto, and I really don't think there's any better Thai, Vietnamese, or Indian food than you'd get back home so focus on the Texas cuisine. Make sure you have a few margaritas while you're here!
This is my standard cut and paste answer:
Austin is definitely a BBQ and Tex-Mex kinda town. Regarding Tex-Mex you have two ways to go (1) an actual restaurant or (2) a taco trailer. Where you end up partially depends on the type of experience you desire. Do you want drinks and a nice atmosphere or are you purely looking for tasty food?
If looking for a Tex-Mex place with a fun, trendy atmosphere then you may want to consider dinner at El Chile on Manor or Polvo's on South First. Polvo's is not universally loved on this board, but I have always had good experiences and really enjoy their spicy beef fajitas. Both of these places will be busy and have an Austin vibe to them. Someone is likely to recommend you go to Chuy's and I'll tell you right now that I suggest you head to El Chile or Polvo's over Chuy's.
There are a number of less trendy Tex-Mex places in town that are only open for breakfast and lunch. These places are often family run and a great option for a casual meal. Of these, I really like Habanero Cafe on Oltorf. Personally, I am also very fond of the carnitas tacos at Angie's on East 7th. However, this is the only menu item of theirs that I love, but I get cravings for them if i go more than a month without eating them. SOOOO good and bad for you.
In category number 2, the taco trailer:
A local Austin hound, MPH, has slowly been chronicling his adventures in East Austin working his way through little known taco trailers and small restaurants. Most of these places are not in the trendy parts of town, but can offer amazing food. Here are a couple links to his threads:
Part 11 in the series:
Part 9 in the series:
Regarding BBQ you also have two categories in-town and out of town. In town, I like Sam's BBQ on East 12th which is open until 2 am. It is a hole in the wall, but I find that is has great character. Also in town is House Park BBQ at 12th and Lamar which closes around 2:00 each day. I personally recommend against Salt Lick, County Line, and Stubb's.
Around 2nd street is a place called Lambert's which markets upscale BBQ. I have had fun there and find their food decent, but not outstanding(excellent fried pies though). Some hounds have had more praise for the place. However, they have an upstairs bar that has live music and I have always had fun there.
If you can get out of town, drive to Lockhart (about 30 minutes) and take a little BBQ tour of Smitty's, Black's and Kruez. Gte a nibble at each place to find your own personal favorites. Each one has a fan base:
For upscale dining, I really do love Uchi. It is in a little house on South Lamar and is always packed. Take a look at the menu:
Whole Foods started in Austin and the flagship store on 6th street is unlike any other WF I have visited. It has many eat-in counters located within the market (ie, eat at the seafood counter among people buying their fish) as well as an area of to-go food at the north end of the store. There is a buffet, cheese counter, roasted nut station, dessert bar, etc.. And the store is near Zilker Park which makes it a great place to buy things for a picnic.
Flip Happy Crepes is an airstream trailer off Barton Springs road. They offer breakfast (on the weekends) and lunch. A great on the go option:
As for other cuisines well-represented in Austin, they all lag way behind the Mexican and BBQ offerings. There is a Vietnamese community up north on 183, but I would not make a trip out there from the Four Seasons. However, there is a new airstream parked on South Lamar near Oltorf called Lulu B's which sells bahn mi. I have not been there yet, but here is a recent thread:
Have fun in Austin!
If you seek migas, I recommend:
strong with the fajitas: Habanero Cafe
trashy and cheap: Tamale House #3
chorimigas + cheese: Enchiladas y Mas
surprisingly delicious: El Meson
If you actually visit Star Seeds, I recommend a shot of penicillin, and possibly a tetanus shot. The food ain't good, although the atmosphere is plenty Austiny.
Without any criteria such as budget the short list of unique Austin dining might include
Fonda San Miguel for interior Mexico, Hudson's on the Bend for Game, Moonshine for upscale comfort food in an historic building, Lamberts for upscale BBQ in an historical building, and the Oasis for adequate foods with an astonishing sunset view.
Gonna have a car ?
You mind dining on a curb or you lookin for white tablecloth dining ?
As a fellow Ontarian now living in Austin, if you don't drag yourself and your peoples to barbecue mecca, my feelings will be hurt. And last I recall, there's still a dearth of Mexican anything in Toronto (and our border is pretty easy!).
let us know & we'll do the same,