Between a decade worth of trips to South By Southwest and Austin City Limits, and visits to see family, we've become well-versed in the topic of Austin restaurants. And after having spent so much time eating here, we can confirm what many people have already said for years: this is one of the best food cities in the US.
So between all of the BBQ, tacos, and fine dining experiences to be had, where does one start? This is our list of the top 25 Austin Restaurants, in order of how we'd tackle them if we had a handful of days to fill out.
Uchi is home to not only some of the best sushi in Texas, but some of the best in the country. This modern Japanese restaurant just across the river from downtown is one of our favorite places to eat while we're in Austin. Sit at the sushi counter and dive deep into the daily special menu, which features the freshest fish in the house, paired with interesting ingredients.
Foreign & Domestic is the perfect example of why Austin's restaurant scene is so great. You can find lowbrow to highbrow and everything in between in this town, and Foreign & Domestic sits squarely in the middle. It's a great neighborhood restaurant a short 10 minute drive north of downtown, but the food is special enough that it's earned national recognition since the day they opened back in 2010. Chef Ned Elliot likes to cook with interesting ingredients and unusual cuts of meat, but everything that comes out of this kitchen is refined and delicious. Prepare to get adventurous.
Uchi's sister restaurant Uchiko is very similar in terms of cuisine, but different in that it feels less like a sushi restaurant and more like a farm- to-table spot. You'll find many of the same Uchi favorites on the menu, like the Shag Roll (pictured), but there are some trademark Uchiko specialties,like the ham & eggs roll with pork belly and yolk custard. Also, finish withthe fried milk dessert.
Franklin Barbecue has earned a reputation as the best place for smoked meats in the entire country, and rightfully so. The brisket here might actually be worth the three hour wait you'll face before you can get your mouth around it. Line up and bring a book.
The waits at La Barbecue aren’t all that much better – at least an hour or two depending on the day – but the brisket here rivals that of Franklin every day of the week. Get there early to ensure a good spot in line, and to avoid a sellout. That may mean before 9am, but to the early bird goes the beef rib – typically the first thing that runs out.
Not technically a restaurant, but these are the best tacos in Austin. Full stop. Rosita’s Al Pastor is a small trailer parked in the lot of a bingo hall on Riverside Drive in East Austin, and even though it’s probably not in an area that you would naturally end up in on a visit, it’s close to downtown and well worth the trip. This is as authentic as a taco experience gets in this country, and the al pastor here is probably the best we’ve ever had. Also not to be missed – a migas taco with chorizo. Hit it for breakfast or late at night for best results.
The namesake restaurant from Paul Qui, Top Chef and restaurant king of Austin. This tasting menu-only experience will be exactly that – an experience – and one we enjoy more than a similarly priced meal at Barley Swine or Odd Duck.
Modeled after his family’s hunting ranch, Ben Edgerton opened Contigo in 2011 to bring some of South Texas to Austin. That means a menu full of things like rabbit & dumplings, Texas okra, local chickens, and a big indoor outdoor space connected by a barn door. You’ll certainly feel like you’re in Texas.
Olamaie is an upscale Southern food restaurant set up inside a refurbished cottage near the UT campus. But just because the word “Southern” is used to describe the cooking, it doesn’t mean your meal will be limited to shrimp & grits. This is some of the most technically impressive food that you’ll find in this town, but it’s still a pleasure to eat.
24 Diner, on the other hand, is all about “elevated comfort food,” and the menu is full of things that will warm your soul and also soak up all that booze you’ve been guzzling down on 6th Street. We’re talking meatloafs, gigantic gorgonzola burgers, an award-winning no-bean brisket chili, and enough chicken and waffles to split for two and still take some home. It’s open all night, and usually bumping until four.
You probably didn’t come to Austin looking for great Neapolitan pizza, but guess what? You’re going to get some anyway. Bufalina is a cool little spot just east of all the Sixth Street craziness that serves excellent bubbly crust pies that range from classic margherita to one with braised goat on it. We also love the wine and beer lists here, and the fact that every dude that works in the place looks like the guy from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Launderette is your spot in Austin for brunch, assuming you’re down to take a ten minute ride from downtown to eat in a restaurant that used to be a laundromat. Once you get there, you’ll find that you are definitely not the coolest person in the room, but you are in for an excellent meal that should include duck hash, a sticky bun, fried oyster florentine, and maybe a soft egg on toast. Proceed immediately afterwards to an afternoon nap.
This downtown Austin restaurant is a great spot for a civilized lunch, and by that we mean one that doesn’t involve tacos or BBQ. Get a burger and a beer from their impressive global selection of craft brews.
One of the best things about Austin is the fact you can eat outside pretty much 365 days a year (do not attempt in August). One of our favorite places to spend an afternoon eating in the sun is Lucy’s Fried Chicken, with a bucket of bird, some grilled oysters, and a few ice cold beers. Oh, and they have pie. Don’t forget the pie.
What is a major city restaurant scene these days without a trendy ramen spot? Currently occupying that role in Austin is Ramen Tatsu-ya, which serves a very good tonkostu ramen and something called the “Munchie Katsu Slider,” which is basically a tiny deep fried hamburger, topped with katsu sauce and vinegar slaw. Good luck not eating ten of them.
File Under: Probably the cutest place you’re going to eat this year. Elizabeth Street Cafe is a French Vietnamese restaurant that serves great banh mi and noodle dishes, but also excellent coffee and croissants. Hit it for breakfast or lunch.
Curra’s specializes in “interior” Mexican, so if you’re looking for fajitas, you should probably look elsewere. But if carnitas and cochinita pibil are on you mind, you’re in the right place. Also save room for the flan or tres leches, and make your first order an avocado margarita. Tequila has never tasted so healthy.
Barley Swine is an award-winning and much loved tasting menu restaurant on South Lamar, brought to you by a group of people who at one time ran an insanely popular trailer called Odd Duck. Odd Duck has now evolved into a restaurant of its own as well, but Barley Swine remains the best of the things they do. That said, hit the other places that precede it on this list before you make a reservation. A meal at Barley Swine will be both good and interesting, but one that’s not particularly unique to Austin.
Olivia was the first Austin restaurant from the group that also spawned Lucy’s Fried Chicken. It’s a white table cloth type of establishment, but it’s not stuffy, nor is it some sort of boring “New American” spot with little more than a pork chop and a steak on the menu. You’ll often find things like beef heart carpaccio and baked oysters to eat, and their brunch is also very solid. It’s a perfect place to bring the parents, even if they don’t feel like getting a little adventurous.
Another 24-hour destination for eggs and pancakes. Use either location of Magnolia Cafe for your late night or early morning meal needs, depending on which one is happening at 6am. Just know that regardless, you’ll probably run into a wait, and it will be worth it.
Sway is a modern Thai restaurant on South 1st Street with an upscale but relaxed vibe and an excellent patio. We like it for a big group meal, as the dishes are all perfect for passing around a table amongst friends. Just make sure your friends can handle spicy. One of the best things on the menu is the jungle curry and it’ll blow your face off.
One of our favorites for a dozen oysters and a beer. Clark’s ships them in from all over the country and always has a fresh selection. Not into bivalves? They have a solid burger, a lobster roll, and plenty of cooked fish for you to get down on too
The Peached Tortilla is a food truck and catering operation that recently went brick and mortar, and it’s a great spot to eat fresh, interesting, and shareable food, like the BBQ Brisket Tacos and a Blistered Catfish Bowl with Japanese pickles and a 45 minute egg. They made a good stiff drink too.
No trip to Austin would be complete without a visit to Gourdough’s, the best place that exists on this earth to destroy your diet with a doughnut. A pub by the same name featuring a full menu of savory foods opened recently, but we’re partial to the trailer on South 1st St. that started it all. Order the Grilled Funky Monkey, which features donut topped with bananas and cream cheese icing. Plan to apologize to yourself tomorrow/forever.
Old Pecan Street Cafe has been in our regular Austin rotation for ages, especially for lunch or brunch. There usually isn’t much of a wait, the egg dishes are excellent, and the serving sizes are big enough to get you through the day. Don’t sleep on the breakfast tacos.