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Visiting Austin - Need Recommendations

Hello from New Jersey!

My husband and I will be attending a conference in Austin in a couple of months. Can anyone please recommend some non-Tex Mex and non-BBQ restaurants? (We already have plans for those types of places).

Thank you very much!

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  1. Vespaio, Uchi, Wink, South Congress Cafe, fliphappy crepes, Home Slice Pizza, Asti Trattoria

    2 Replies
    1. re: nyc_girl13

      I can't see sending someone from New Jersey to Home Slice. At best, it's as good as what they can get any day at home. At worst, it's a wasted opportunity to eat something you can only get in Texas.

      1. re: GermanBrat

        I'm from NJ and Home Slice is my favorite pizza place in Austin. But the last time I was in NJ and NY, I went looking for the great pizza slice, and didn't find anything as good. Maybe I was just unlucky, but I used reviews to locate places. Then again, south Jerseyans supposedly like Saccone's on north 183. Don't care for it at all.

    2. Threadgill's for Austin atmosphere and downhome Southern cooking. I recommend the five-veggie platter (a personal fave), chicken-fried steak, fried chicken livers, pecan-crusted chicken breast, and buttermilk pie. Maybe not all at once. ;)

      Kerbey Lane Cafe is another Austin institution, a little bit hippie, great health-conscious food. We eat there often. It's a favorite place for breakfast anytime, and they also run seasonal specials that are very much worth checking out. Try their new dessert menu --- I love the coconut cake. There are several locations, all good.

      Chez Zee is a fabulous place for Sunday brunch. Creme brulee French toast is to die for. They're also a great place to go for dessert, but be prepared to have a hard time choosing. Hubby and I usually end up getting three (!!!) and taking some home. Our faves are the coco leches cake, lemon rosemary cake, and chocolate decadence cake.

      Another great place for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) is the downtown Whole Foods, which is the flagship store and will make that cramped little space in Columbus Circle look like a convenience store. ;) There's a huge variety of freshly prepared goodies. You'll have a hard time choosing and you'll definitely want to go face down in the dessert bar. The gelato is also amazing. Last time I was there I had the orange-fig and I could have happily rubbed it over my whole body. You can take it all to go and sit outside, or head over to nearby Town Lake for a lovely picnic.

      Our favorite Thai/sushi place is a little chef-run joint called Chon Sum, on Wells Branch Parkway. Don't let the fact that it's in a strip mall run you off --- the sushi and the Thai are excellent, and if you're a fan of hot food, they'll do right by you. Hubby and I love the sashimi moriwase and the dragon rolls, and they always have good specials.

      Another not-to-be-missed local delicacy is a little further north, but worth the trip to get it at the source: Round Rock doughnuts from Lone Star Bakery in Round Rock. Be prepared to wait if you go in the morning, when they're hot and fresh (which is the only way to get doughnuts). I don't know why anybody would eat Krispy Kreme or Dunkin when you can get these.

      For drinks (but not the food, with the exception of things like nachos or guacamole, which are fine), head out to the Oasis on Lake Travis for the best sunset views and a relaxing afternoon on their beautiful outdoor decks overlooking the lake.

      Have fun in Austin! It's a great town.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CindyS

        Shady Grove and Austin Java, have a real Austin Vibe and pretty good.

        We loved WINK & UCHI-expensive but worth it!

        Zax was really good for a fair price.

        Thai-We like Thai Tara on 6th

        Central Market has a fun atmosphere and a great food selection, also Whole Foods, super busy though anythime we go, so be patient!

        If you enjoy vegitarian Cas De Luz is tha place for it.

        Have fun here.....

      2. If you have a rental car, I highly recommend Hudson on the Bend. It is about ten to twenty miles outside of Austin, and it is a beautiful drive there, especially if you take FM 2222- it winds through the Hill Country, and the food is to die for. While you are here, if you enjoy wine, you might want to consider a winery tour also. Welcome!

        1. I am a native South Austinite. All but one of my recommendations will be in South Austin.
          Only North Austin recommendation, The Frisco Shop -- Austin Institution and you should go there. It's on Burnet Road.

          South Austin
          The Broken Spoke for Chicken Fried Steak at Lunch. It's one of the best in town. While you are there see their museum. It's one of the last Old Time Country Dance Halls in Texas. It's on South Lamar.

          South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery.... Several different choices. It's on South 1st. You just got to say you were there. It's close to downtown.

          Freddie's Place ...... Real Austin Atmosphere, just down the road from the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery.

          Evangeline Cafe on Brodie Lane.... Real cajun food and music... Lots of fun

          Dan's or Fran's Hamburgers... Easily the best in town. Best to visit the Frans on South Congress to get the SOCO atmosphere. But for the best breakfast in town, visit the Dan's at the corner of Manchaca and Ben White.

          I know you have plans for Tex-Mex and BBQ, but if you want to know where the locals eat, just ask.

          Mike Carlson

          6 Replies
          1. re: tuckspop11

            I really think you can miss the Frisco. It's really not very good. I guess it once was terrific, now it misses it's mark a lot. And it's expensive, for what it is. We've stopped going.

            1. re: Dave Westerberg

              I don't know what you think good is, but those enchalada's are the best. Down home Austin cooking... You are just wrong... Usually standing room to get in every day.

              1. re: tuckspop11

                Wrong? Come on - to each his own, and this local gave up on the Frisco long ago. In fact, with all due respect, there is not much I would second on your list from a chow perspective - atmosphere sure, but this isn't "AtmosphereHound." Standing room at the Frisco makes me think of lemmings herding themselves to their chow-doom.

                I love tossing back a cold Lone Star at the 'Spoke, but I wouldn't touch their CFS with a ten-foot-pole. Here's a long discussion about Austin CFS

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/93088

                I wish the OP had given the board more to work with in terms of what specifically they ARE looking for besides Tex Mex and BBQ, but to me, someone coming to Austin from NJ should skip anything Italian, hit Uchi for fancy Japanese fusion, Fonda San Miguel for fancy brunch (I know there is raging debate about it but I love it), get breakfast tacos at the place that sounds best after reading all the posts, and head to Lockhart.

                1. re: reinadetostones

                  Well, all I can say is it's obvious that like the Lyle Lovett song, "That's Right, You Ain't From Texas", but Texas loves you anyway. I read all the way through the thread on CFS and only saw the Broken Spoke mentioned once and they said that it was good. Have you ever tried it? It is round steak with a crisp batter with white gravy. The mashed potatoes are real potatoes, very good.
                  Hey buddy, don't know something until you've tried it. CFS shoud be simple tenderized round steak, chicken fried with yellow or white gravy. That's it. No ribeyes or other cuts of meat..... Anything else is not a CFS.

                  I'm glad you feel that way about the Frisco, just one less person to stand in line behind....

                  From a native Austinite.
                  Mike

                2. re: tuckspop11

                  Well, good! I'm glad you like it. And I may be "wrong," but I had enough of their unremarkable, overpriced, unwarm food. I'd really like to like the joint, but I'm done there.

                  1. re: tuckspop11

                    Nobody on this board is "wrong" when expressing an opinion. You can only be "wrong" if providing inaccurate information.

                    And if foot traffic is the barometer you're using for how good the food is... well, CiCi's pizza always looks pretty busy.

              2. A quick comment, then got to get back to work...
                wife and i went to Parkside for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and i must say it was great. Given time, i will give a full review, but wife's scallops were outstanding, definitely the highlight of the meal. They were cooked to perfection (just cooked through, not at all rubbery) topped with an orange cream sauce that was not overpoweringly orange, which it certainly could have been. In fact, we enjoyed the whole meal. The modernistic decor (i guess that is the best way to explain it) is probably the only negative.
                Anyway, id certainly recommend it. I was better than Vespaio on my last trip there.

                9 Replies
                1. re: TroyTempest

                  How much soul food do y'all put down in New Jersey?

                  Austin has a genuine country cooking haven in Galloways on East 12th. There's been a couple hounds on the board that've written about it. Best fried chicken in town by a good stretch,really good smothered meats [pork chops,chicken,roast beef et al] always a simmered green on the line [collards,turnip,mustard] a bean or a pea "cooked down" [blackeyes,pintos,navy] and a [unfortunately dry]corn bread muffin completes your plate.Mr Galloway,his wife and his elderly mother are the team that run the joint while Mr Galloways dad anchors the barbershop next door.This is a smiling,family cafe located near a boisterous streetcorner [he closes at4pm] in East Austin.If you're lucky there will be a wedge of sweet potato pie on your plate as you finish your meal.

                  I know you said you already had your Mexican locked down but I doubt the list includes Candy's Tacos [a cart in the parking lot of Genesis Auto at 5020 east 7th street].I eat alot of Mexican food and Candy is right at the top of the list.Her corn tortillas are made per order and are divine [at the pinnacle in Austin beside Yolanda's at Tacos el Rico] along with her chorizo,tied with Mi Ranchito on William Cannon for best in the homemeade-I-actually-care-enough-to-make-my-sausage-from-scratch-category.Only open for breakfast and lunch.

                  Little Thailand in nearby Garfield [7 miles east of the airport] has the best Thai food in the county.Surin,the chef is from Bangkok and grows alot of what she cooks;Kaffir lime,lemongrass,herbs,Thai chiles and has been doing it since the 70's.It's a David Lynch tableau with a couple trailers jammed into an "L",the front trailer is the dining room,the back trailer is the lounge with a horseshoe shaped bar that's a good 50 years old.Paper lanterns,amber lighting and a free jukebox with the newest 45 on there being 35 years old completes the scene.Crusty old septuagenarian bartender Dick,a retired serviceman holds court nightly.It's down a country lane with little signage but sits underneath a big,old timey water tower straight out of Petticoat Junction.

                  Tam's Deli on North Lamar is the best Vietnamese in town.She's been featured in the New York Times for her bahn mi,cafe sua and scratch pastries made each morning.When hard times hit I like to look off to the horizon and slowly repeat"deep fried garlic butter shrimp sandwich"til I get my mind right.On a hot day nothing goes down easier than a cold glass of young coconut juice.Fulfil your inner monkey.

                  I'd like to vet your list of barbecue and Mexican.It always makes my heart sad to see hounds come from far off places and eat at Stubbs,Ironworks,Chuys,Hula Hut and other wretched places that've achieved a mystifying level of popularity.

                  Could you guys bring Big Mike with you when you come? I'd love to see a torpeda come down and clean out the pizza joints that think it's ok to charge 3 dollars for a slice of c grade pizza.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    I'm coming to Austin in a week, for a week, and don't have my bbq and texmex list down. What would you put on your list? If it helps, I'm hoping to be able to rent a car and drive to Lockhart, but that will only be for one day. Unfortunately I'll be working at the convention center most of the day each day I'll be there.

                    1. re: kallisti

                      The most important thing to know about Lockhart barbecue is to not waste your time at Kreuz's. Like most places that seat around 700 people the focus is not on the food,it's on herding as many people in and out as quickly as possible and maximizing profits.

                      I used to love Kreuz when it was down the street a bit [where Smitty's is now] but after the move it careened downhill to the point where I no longer even consider it part of the Lockhart trinity.I replaced it with City Market in Luling,a 15 minute trip further south down 183.I wrote about it here:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/512404

                      Blacks is still amazing but you have to know how to order.First off;when you're walking through the line whatever you do don't get any of the side vegetables off the steam line.They're mediocre to be kind and will only take up valuable belly space.When you order your brisket ask for the black and fatty cuts.This will let the meat man know that you're serious about your meat and will ward off any efforts to give you the lean/dry part.Their sausage is quite good too but the brisket is the star.

                      Smitty's has good barbecue and the best[rawest and most real]atmosphere of any barbecue joint I've ever been to with the exception of Eureste's Grocery down in Waelder which always makes me feel like I'm about to hear the hooves of a Confederate cavalry regiment come thundering up.

                      If I didn't live here and was only visiting I would drive straight to Luling to City Market,order the sausage and the ribs,eat a moderate amount,bundle up the leftovers and head to Lockhart.Daydream a bit about the fact you just had the best barbecue of your life as you leave oil patch country.Once in Lockhart go straight to Blacks and get the sausage and brisket.Finish off the whirlwind with a visit to Smitty's where you can soak in some great atmosphere,eat some really good barbecue and figure out how the hell you're going to fit through your hotel room door.

                      http://www.blacksbbq.com/

                      http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Re...

                      http://www.smittysmarket.com/

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Chef, you left out the best BBQ within 50 miles of Austin. Louie Mueller's in Taylor, Texas.

                        1. re: twinwillow

                          Love Muellers but kallisti was headed to Lockhart.Here's an old review I penned on John Mueller:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/456063

                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                            Thanks so much for the recommendations! Woo! Getting there Thursday, and not sure which day I'll be able to go. If I only have an afternoon/evening instead of a whole day, where should I go? How long does it take to do this three-stop tour? :) Is there a difference between going for lunch and dinner (which places are even open that late)?

                            Also, what about the tex-mex? Which are the must-hit places, and what if I can't go on the one Saturday or Sunday I'm there until evening?

                            1. re: scrumptiouschef

                              scrumptious,
                              Remember the OP is from NJ and kallisti is from Maryland, and even somewhere like Chuys, or Guero's (which both IMHO have decent but not great TEx-Mex) would probably still be way better than what you would get in those places, and you could have a really good time drinking your Margaritas, etc.

                    2. re: TroyTempest

                      Can't agree more about Parkside. Best steak tartare I've had outside of Paris. Great raw bar. The best french fries in Austin. And goat cheesecake with basil ice cream to finish things off. Everything on our visit was perfect (except maybe the parking situation around Sixth Street).

                    3. Gwendolen - I posted this post about Zax in response to your question. It's a good mix of being laid back, yet nice (and centrally located). They have a reasonably extensive wine list - it's not just about the beer. Sometimes the name throws people off, thinking it's just a beer place.....it's more of a restauraunt that serves very good beer as an aside.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/625021

                      PS - it is officially in "South Austin" as if that really even mattered in the first place (and "South Austin" is now anything below 45th street)!

                      1. Perla's (new seafood place on South Congress)
                        Uchi (overrated sushi)
                        Musashino (GREAT sushi, atmosphere isn't as good as Uchi)
                        Homeslice (Best pizza in Austin, usually a long wait though)
                        Vespaio (Best italian in Austin- not saying much, Austin's isn't known for Italian)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lloyddaniels

                          I like Reale's Pizza & Cafe for Italian. They don't fry the eggplant in the eggplant parmesan.

                        2. If you want a good steakhouse. Steiner Ranch Steakhouse off 620 near the lake is excellent. Also the location is outstanding you get wonderful panoramic views of the lake. The decor is very well done without being pretentious.
                          When you think how much you pay for an average steak at say Outback it doesnt seem that expensive either.

                          1. Thank you all for the suggestions!! I apologize for not being more concise with what I am looking for. I have been to Texas a number of times, but always in the DFW or San Antonio area, never really Austin. It's my husband's first visit to Texas.

                            I respect everyone's input and opinion and I am very appreciative of everyone's response. Not everyone is going to agree with what someone suggests, but let's remember everyone has different experiences and opinions and are entitled to express them. So, there is no right or wrong here.

                            NJ is known for it's fabulous Italian restaurants, pizza and tomato pie. I don't think you can go anywhere in NJ without having several to choose from! So pizza and italian probably would not be high on my list. when coming to visit. Because of where I am located in relation to NYC and Philadelphia, we have practically every type of ethnic cuisine to choose from, including "soul" food! However, the closest thing to "southern" style cooking is what Cracker Barrel purports to be authentic. Having lived in the south, I'll have to disagree.

                            My husband loves good sushi and sashimi, but I am not able to eat it as I am allergic to fish. Besides, we can get really good Asian Fusion a couple miles away. Now, to complicate matters further, I am unable to have high fat/high calorie type foods. I recently completed chemo and radiation, so I am restricted in not being able to eat greasy or fried foods.

                            Ok, ok. I see ya'll shaking your heads wondering what the heck does this woman want? *lol* Basically, a nice place that serves good steaks, grilled foods and fresh vegetables, that has fairly good variety. Not a "chain" type restaurant.

                            There are quite a number of good suggestions, so I'll be looking online to see if their menus are posted.

                            Thank you all again. I am really looking forward to our trip!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Gwendolen

                              I don't see East Side Cafe listed, which is very focused on fresh foods and vegetables. I wish the outcome was a little better, but the prices are reasonable. Heck for that matter hit the Whole Foods downtown.

                              1. re: NWLarry

                                Please translate this sentence:

                                I wish the outcome was a little better, but the prices are reasonable.

                                What outcome? Are you saying you suffered from gastric distress?

                                1. re: TroyTempest

                                  Hmm....I'll assume this isn't a flame.

                                  there's a tremendous focus on locally-grown, fresh foods at East Side Cafe, which is great. Unfortunately, the execution of this philosophy is a little underwhelming.

                                  of course, if this is a flame, please read my blog.

                                  1. re: NWLarry

                                    No, it wasn't a flame.
                                    You make good points in most of your posts, I was just having a hard time understanding that particular sentence. After clarification, i see where you are coming from.
                                    I, too, am sometimes a bit underwhelemed by Eastside. My wife likes it and i've had good meals there, but my overall impression of the place is:
                                    " ...well that was pretty good" (a little better than ok, not as good as real good)

                                    1. re: TroyTempest

                                      Haha, ok...I want to love it. But there's just no spark :)