Atlanta Foodies in Austin for a Week
Next month, the hubby and I will be visiting Austin for the first time and we're looking for restaurant recommendations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We like GREAT food, whether it be junky diner gut bombs or at fancy pants very-limited-menu-that-changes-by-the-hour sort of places. We also have become very spoiled in our coffee and craft beer consumption. We're going to be staying right by UT, but would venture up to 30 min. out by car/transit for something truly awesome. If there's a particular dish that's Austin-y, I'd love to hear about that too. I'd love to have a list that includes a good coffeeshop, breakfast/brunch spot, Texmex, BBQ, a splurge dinner place, any bars known for their selection of craft beer, and the best ethnic restaurants.
Ok, here's my report back from Austin:
The places I liked a lot:
Micklethwaits Craft Meats: This is a food truck situated on a grassy lot with picnic tables. It's a newcomer, but I can almost guarantee this will become as popular as Franklin's and go to a bricks-and-mortar location. Fantastic beef short rib with peppery bark that just skirts the line of being too salty. All the other meat was good too, but the short rib was the standout. Sides are better than average too. Lunch sells out by about 12:30, so get there a little earlier. Go before it gets crazy popular.
Barley Swine: This place struck a really nice balance between foodie fare, but not being too fussy. They also take reservations now. It's a really small space, so I'd recommend a reservation. Service was really good. We were 3 couples dining and the waiter had no problem pacing our courses so we were all happy. I happened to mentioned I'd share a draft beer with my husband and it came out split in proper glasses. Everything we ordered was really good. The only hesitation I have is all their tables seemed large, so if you're a party of two, they'll probably seat you communally, which always annoys me.
Fonda San Miguel: This place is just plain fun. It's huge and decorated in a riot of color with art everywhere. The entrance looks like your walking into a tropical villa. We had the best service in Austin here too. Our waiter was extremely nice, knew the menu backwards and forwards, and showed up with a complimentary dessert toward the end of the meal. All the food was above average, but I particularly loved the duck enchiladas and the ancho relleno. Flan and cajeta crepes were stellar too. They also make what might be the best corn tortilla I've ever tasted. I'm contemplating buying their cookbook.
Gordough's: This is a food truck that serves freshly fried sugar bomb donuts. This is not the place for breakfast, but for a late night snack as the fare is less like breakfast food and more like what you'd get at a carnival. They tend to overdo the toppings on these so I'd steer clear of any with multiple chocolate toppings. Try the Funky Monkey (fried bananas and cream cheese frosting) or the one with bacon and maple frosting. Apparently they also have a bricks-and-mortar location as well.
Houndstooth: This trendy coffee shop impressed the hell out of me when I asked about their single origin pour overs. The barista mentioned that some were done with paper filters and others with metal. When I asked why, he replied because they tested each variety with both and picked the one that tasted better. These people are serious coffee nerds and it shows in the quality of the coffee.
Lick: This is a tiny ice cream shop that follows the trend of unusual flavored frozen treats. While a few of the flavors seemed really contrived (ahem, really? goat cheese and beet ice cream?). Most were reeeeallllllyyyy good. And they're very patient about letting you sample everything. Standouts: cilantro-lime, lemon-lavender, texas au lait, salt lick caramel, strawberries and cream, and coconut-avocado. I found out too late that they also have candied pecan cones.
I also have a few places I'd recommend with some caveats. I'll probably be doing a post on my blog about the food in Austin and I'll link to it when it's up.
Lots of good suggestions, but what about brunch? I love a good eggs benedict or over-the-top french toast and I'm a little leery of how many buffets I've seen recommended in Austin. We also love dim sum.
I'm from Miami and Atlanta is sadly lacking in the Cuban/Carribean department. So any recs in that vein would be appreciated. We have plenty of good Thai, Korean, Sichuan, and even a couple of authentic ramen-yas here, so while I may sample some of those they're not a huge priority. Good Mexican (think more complicated things like mole and house made everything) would be great as most of the places here just sling the regular tacos, nachos, etc.
My tolerance for waiting at a restaurant is about 45-60 min. But maybe I could preorder/pick-up at some of the more popular BBQ places
For good interior Mexican with house-made everything (tortillas, salsas, moles) try El Naranjo on Rainey Street. It's an overlooked, calm, quality restaurant on a noisy, scene-y street of bars. The back patio can be especially nice, service is good, and owner Iliana de la Vega had a fine restaurant in Oaxaca before setting up here in Austin.
I was thinking that, too. I did go to the El Naranjo in Oaxaca City, and I've been wanting to go to the establishment here. I did get the feeling that it was a touristy place on the Zocalo, and the experience wasn't memorable. I was on honeymoon and probably boozed. It may be the only place in Austin to choose from several different moles......the duck breast with the mole choice would be what I would order.
just got back from austin for graduation week. also was there about 2 months ago. here are places i really liked.
sway - upscale thai food. i personally like authentic (inexpensive) thai but sway was great. every dish was salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy and all different flavors. great balance. beat my expectations.
la condessa - wasn't looking forward to this place, also upscale but mexican. once again, i prefer a hole in the wall but everything was really good. i think i would get some other recs and do hole in the wall tex mex in texas instead.
swifts attic - doesn't seem to get a lot of love but a nice place and a great menu. small plates and very inventive.
barley swine - loved the food at odd duck truck a couple of years ago and the food here was just as good. very creative. but no reservations and the wait can be a killer. we showed up at 9 pm and was told the wait was 90 minutes. but there was a table outside that is first come first serve and we grabbed it. highly recommended.
bbq - we preordered franklins so i didn't have to wait. terrific. but i wouldn't wait 2 hrs for it. last time we ate la barbeque and it was excellent. but i would recommend driving to lockhart just to experience it. we hit up blacks, smitty's and kreutz just to try them. just order a little at each. great experience. and the beef rib at blacks is great.
bangers - 100 craft beers on tap. need i say more. and a lunch special of a beer, sausage and something else for like $8.
For craft beer, consider a tour of the Jester King Brewery and then hop over to the Thirsty Planet Brewery if your stay will be over a weekend and you have a rental car or other transportation. In town, Bangers and Craft Pride on Rainey Street will be you best bets for the largest variety of local and craft brews.
Great recommendations here. I second Houndstooth for coffee, though Progress may become a contender, as I believe they've handed over the reins to Flat Track roasters who are planning on changing the name of the cafe to Brew & Brew (coffee and beer). Flat Track's espresso at the tiny shop behind Farewell Books (formerly Domy Books) is high quality. Watch this space.
Do get out to Lockhart if you have time. Smitty's is my favorite, for food and atmosphere. You can visit El Taco Rico on the way back, or en route to or from the airport.
Have fun, and let us hear your report when you get back home.
These are things I think are Austin special:
Uchiko- for a experince( make reservations now)
Noble Pig- ( it is out of Austin proper but worth the trip)
Antoellis cheese shop
The Cuban Sandwich shop ( dont be put off by the outside)
Forigne and domestic bake sale on saturday mornings
Marias Taco Express
coffee: I have to give the coffee nod to progress on east 5th street for their ice brewed iced toddy coffee with a shot of good mexican vanilla (not the syrup, rather the unsweetened extract). phenomenal and refreshing and strong. This might be something you can't get anywhere in Atlanta.
splurge: +1 for uchiko (or brother Uchi) and barley swine. Lenoir is cute and good enough, but not in quite the same league.
BFAST tacos and lunch near campus: Can't go wrong with Taco Joint on San Jacinto right next to campus. house made flour tortillas and great salsa options. I get the ham, egg, and cheese and put habanero on one, and avocado / cilantro on the other. fantastic, less than 5 bucks two nicely stuffed tacos. Their lunch grilled fish taco is outstanding too, as is the tortas ahogada - a large pile of pulled pork in a baguette dunked in a nicely spiced tomato sauce. messy but great.
One hour lunch near campus: Melvin's trailer on 53rd and Duval serves what may be the best corned beef, pastrami, and ham sandwiches you've ever had. many agree. they cure their own meats.
BBQ - I vote for John Mueller Meat Company if you don't have the 2-3 hr to wait for Franklins. Go to Sam's for lunch on E. 12th for a truly local experience.
Taco Tour - try the pastor, goat (chivo) on the house made tortillas at the unassuming dive La Fruta Feliz on Manor Road just a couple blocks east of the intersection with Airport Rd. Try the barbacoa, pastor, and quail at El Taco Rico on Vargas.
BBQ tour: The Austin scene has exploded with top BBQ offerings - but that doesn't mean a drive through the scrubland down to Lockhart isn't worth your time. Try the prime rib and pork ribs at Smitty's, and the moist brisket at Black's. It doesn't get much more "texas".
A nicer close to campus lunch: Try a flight of beers, mussels, and frites at Hopfields, you won't be disappointed. Just a mile or so north of campus on Guadalupe.
Great tex mex with a scenic 25 minute hill country drive: Los Pinos, Hudson Bend Road off of HWY 620. Best salsa in the area, try the pork / hominy soup (pozole), house made corn tortillas stuffed with pastor, eggs, grilled shrimp, fish, poblanos, whatever you fancy.
Coffeeshop: jp's java is close to campus and should be decent. My favorite places are once over and houndstooth coffee. Hounds tooth is downtown and on 42nd street, once over is on s1st.
Texmex: my favorite is polvos. La condesa is good for fancier more interior Mexican type food. I'm a big fan of papolate tacos on s Lamar as well.
BBQ: franklins is the undisputed king, but I can't be arsed to wait 1.5 he's in line for it. I think LA BBQ is nearly as good and much shorter/ no wait.
Fancy place: take your pick of uchi/ uchiko/ barley swine. Tons of posts on them if you care to dig around here.
Beer: gingerman downtown is a good option, if lacking a bit in personality. I personally prefer draught house near 42nd street. Almost as big a selection, more neighbourhoody and laid back. Whom in is a fun option as well( fusiony Indian food with a good beer selection that is slightly overpriced). Make sure you try jester king and live oak beers when you are here.
Ethnic: depends on what you can't get in Atlanta really. My faves are Asia cafe and Szechuan house ( both for Sichuan food).
Breakfast: Just eat breakfast tacos around town. I like izzoz, el primo near once over and tprchys tacos. I'm sure that others will weigh in on this.