Restaurants across the state have slowly started to reopen, close, and reopen again over the past few months. It can be a lot to keep up with. There are dozens of great patios and backyards in Austin, but if you’re not sure where to start, or you’d rather order something great for takeout, we totally understand. We eat a lot over the course of the week, from takeout and delivery to the occasional meal on a patio when it’s not 100 degrees. And to keep up with it all, we’ve decided to start sharing our favorites. From brisket enchiladas to latke-stuffed picadillo burritos, here’s a look into our personal food journals.
If you’ve had a great dish that you want to share with our team, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, on to the dishes.
Week Of October 26
Las Trancas is one of Austin’s favorite spots for late-night tacos, and their close proximity to downtown on Cesar Chavez makes them perfect for soaking up a few drinks after a long night out. These days, we find ourselves there at all hours of the day. On a recent visit, we tried a few different tacos, but the carnitas was the biggest standout, with juices just bursting out from both ends of the house-made corn tortillas. The pork was some of the most tender we’ve had, and we instantly wish we had ordered a few more. So we did.
Seoulju recently added Korean-style lunch boxes at their Kitchen United Mix “cloud kitchen” location on Burnet Road. Starting at $10, there are different options like stir-fried tofu and spicy pork - we liked the tender beef bulgogi. Each lunch box comes with cabbage slaw, a fried dumpling, and kimmari (a fried seaweed spring roll), and a hefty portion of rice. Pick it up or have it delivered.
On a recent outing to the Hill Country for a socially-distant winery visit, we stopped by Pieous for a pizza. We got the Rocket Pizza - a white pie with Prosciutto di Parma, arugula, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil - and it was excellent as always. Both their dining room and patio are closed at the moment, so be prepared to get the pizza to go or just eat it out of your trunk in the parking lot like we did (just bring napkins).
The O’Hana Style fried fish at Salty Cargo in the Hana World Market food court in North Austin might just be our new favorite way to enjoy a fish. It’s a whole snapper - so prices will vary a bit - fried and served with a bowl of sweet chili sauce that’s meant to be poured over the fish right before eating. And they serve it with rice, mint, cilantro, red onions, kimchi, and butter lettuce, so you can turn every bite into a little lettuce wrap. The portion is pretty generous too - enough to feed a few hungry people.
Week Of October 19
Rosita’s has become something of an Austin institution - dishing out order after order of fiery-red al pastor tacos from a trompo on East Riverside until late into the night. For many, this has typically meant a much-needed meal after a long evening out, but our recent afternoon visit reaffirmed that they are, in fact, delicious in a more clear-headed state of mind. If the name didn’t give you a hint, you’ll probably want to get the al pastor here. Or try the gringas - it features the same meat on an excellent house-made flour tortilla and a layer of melted cheese.
Craving vegetables because you can’t live off birria tacos alone, we ordered food from the Japanese restaurant Sugar Pine on Research Blvd. The yaki soba with tofu was delightfully loaded with vegetables and a very healthy amount of tofu. We also got the katsu pork bento box that comes with a bunch of things, including rice, miso soup, seaweed salad, pickles, and even a cookie.
Hawaiian Bros is in the new Kitchen United Mix space, meaning they don’t have a physical restaurant, but are instead available exclusively for takeout and delivery. The focus here is on plate lunches - with things like huli huli chicken or luau pig over rice with macaroni salad - but they also have spam musubi and Dole whip soft-serve. We recently tried the mixed plate - where you can choose two meats - with molokai chicken and slow-roasted kalua pork (luau pig). The chicken was sweet, spicy, and all-around well-balanced. The pork was tender and savory and only got better with a drizzle of their house-made pineapple barbecue sauce.
Yucatán Tacos & More
We’ve been meaning to check out Yucatan Tacos & More for a while, and we’re glad we finally made it. We got a bunch of tacos - all made with their handmade corn tortillas - and the standout was definitely their cochinita pibil. The al pastor tacos with diced pineapple are good, too. There are the standard red and green salsas, as well as very spicy habanero salsa - handle with care. They’re in the parking lot of a Sunoco gas station on Braker and Burnet.
Week Of October 12
We recently got the sushi-sashimi for two from Tomodachi in North Austin, and the quality of the fish is some of the best we’ve had in Austin. It was composed of 8 pieces of sushi, 15 pieces of sashimi, and three rolls, which is a lot of food on its own, and a phenomenal value. Where Tomodachi really shines are the specials that they post on the wall (and on their Facebook account) with fish flown in from places like Japan and Hawaii. You want to order from this menu.
Autenticos Michoacana is a relatively new player to the Austin taco scene, but they’ve certainly come in swinging, with a wide menu of tacos, tortas, quesadillas, machetes, and just about anything else you can fit inside of a tortilla. On our most recent visit we tried the quesabirria tacos with consomé and a campechano machete, and both were excellent. The machete - an oblong corn tortilla quesadilla of sorts - is packed full of enough meat and cheese to fill half a dozen (or more) street tacos, and should definitely be on your list of things to order ASAP.
Estrada’s Texas Barbecue - out in Creedmoor, TX, a small town just south of Austin - is doing very solid barbecue, Tex-Mex, and breakfast tacos. The brisket, ribs, and turkey were super good, but we especially liked the carne guisada taco and the tender smoked pork chop special, a cut you don’t see too often at barbecue spots.
When we saw a duck confit banh mi - one of the recommended options on Heo Eatery’s banh mi menu - we were a little skeptical. We’ve tried most of the classic fillings - from cold-cuts and pate to grilled pork, shrimp, and tofu - but this was a first to us. The bread here is light, fluffy, and flaky, adding a nice textural contrast to the incredibly tender duck housed inside. And to round out the meal, it’s served with cottage fries, which are basically flat tater tots about the size of a quarter, but a lot more fun to eat.
Week Of October 5
We recently visited Carnitas El Guero as the first stop in a South Austin taco crawl, with the goal of visiting a few spots. The carnitas tacos were so amazing that we abandoned the taco crawl and ordered some more. The green tomatillo salsa was great, as was the smoky chipotle red salsa. Find it inside the Stassney Foodmart/Texaco. Also: on October 5th, they opened a new location inside the Valero at 8906 Brodie Lane (and Davis Ln).
Do you ever get one of those late-night cravings that can only be satisfied by a perfectly-cooked, ultra-cheesy, meat-filled sandwich? Maybe that’s just us, but we sure were happy to realize that R&B’s was still open when the craving hit. The cheesesteak here isn’t just good, it might be our favorite in town. The sandwiches here follow most of the “rules” of a Philly cheesesteak as we know them - a fresh Amoroso roll, grilled (Texas) ribeye, Cheez Whiz or Provolone, and optional sautéed onions. And if lifting a giant sandwich to your mouth over and over sounds like too much work, you can get all of that served over a giant basket of crinkle-cut fries.
We recently got the Mikado Combo from Mikado Ryotei on Research Blvd in North Burnet, and it hit right in the center of the Venn diagram of affordable, fast, and quality (usually you only get to pick two when it comes to sushi). The sushi is neither comically large nor ridiculously small, and there’s also a good sake list. Mikado is definitely entering our regular rotation.
It’s not every day that you find a breakfast taco covered in mole. And when it’s a chilaquiles breakfast taco, you make sure to order it. All of the tacos at Granny’s Tacos come on a house-made flour tortilla, unless otherwise specified (they also make their own corn tortillas) - a choice that works really well, in this case, where it acts as a soft, protective barrier to everything inside. The chilaquiles taco is loaded with corn chips that are so crispy you’ll swear they were fried to order, before being covered in an almost bitter, but slightly sweet mole sauce, onions, cheese, and a slice of pickled jalapeno. It’s a shining example of perfect balance - sweet and spicy, sour and bitter - that makes for an excellent breakfast taco.
Week Of September 28
The temperature outside finally dropped slightly - you can wear pants now - so we recently ordered a couple of noodle soups from Sap’s Ver Fine Thai Cuisine on Burnet Road. We got the Kao Soi, the deeply flavorful red curry soup with egg noodles, and the Guay Teaw Tom Yum Moo, their excellent pork broth-based noodle soup. Also when you see something on a menu called “amazing green beans,” you can’t not order it. Just trust them when they say it’s “Spicy Level 4.”
We’ve long held that Bummer Burrito is the best burrito trailer on all of Rainey Street, and it was only recently that we finally got to try their breakfast burritos (we were enticed by the $1 mimosa special they run on Sundays). The order: a breakfast burrito with “trashbrowns,” Oaxaca Jack cheese, bummer sauce, and sausage, and a migas burrito, something you don’t see very often. The burritos were great, the drinks were tastier than they cost, and we are happy to report that Bummer Burrito also serves the best breakfast burritos on Rainey Street.
Don’t just think you can just roll in at Brooklyn Breakfast Shop in the Thicket Food Park in South Austin around 1pm on a Saturday and get a breakfast sandwich (we tried this once). First off, they close at 1. And more importantly, they sometimes sell out of things. So we recently made sure to get there on the early side to get the breakfast sandwich. It’s fennel sausage, pimento cheese, and a sunny side up egg, with a crucial assist from sliced homemade pickles, all on a tender, barely holding together biscuit. It’s a perfectly-composed sandwich, one that you should most definitely get up early for.
This East Side izakaya/sushi hybrid recently opened their doors and their patio to dine-in customers, but they also have their full menu available to-go. The sushi here is excellent - grab whatever specials they have available for the day and throw in an extra roll or two to fill up. We went with a few of their daily nigiri recommendations, as well as a roll of the fatty tuna with pickled daikon - everything was excellent and packaged well for a take-home experience. Grab a bottle of sake and throw in a few yakitori skewers if you want to recreate the full izakaya experience at home.
Week Of September 21
Plaza Colombian Coffee somehow manages to pull off a combined coffee shop, tiki bar, and Colombian restaurant in a way that feels surprisingly natural. We really liked the patacon here - a thinly-smashed plantain covered in queso fresco, pickled onions, green onions, and, in our case, pulled skirt steak. It’s served with two types of Colombian salsa - aji and hogao - that both add a bit of heat and a rich, tangy element to the dish. They also make a nice cortado, if you happen to be there at an espresso-appropriate hour (but really, does anyone keep track of the time these days?)
It’s hard to miss Machetes Doña Leova on North Lamar, what with the brightly colored, hand-painted signs proclaiming they have machetes, the large and oblong gordita/quesadilla hybrid made with corn masa and cooked on a flattop. You can get different fillings, but we went with a campechano machete, and it was great. It’s nearly enough to feed two hungry people.
Sour Duck has been slinging out some great takeout pastries, sandwiches, and cocktails from their storefront at MLK and Chicon since the lockdown started, but they recently opened up their patio. You know, if you’re worried about your food surviving the drive home (we’re looking at you, french fries). We really like the burger here - made with two 44 Farms ground beef patties, cheddar, pickles, onions, green chili mayo, and a house-made bun. It’s a fairly classic burger made with high-quality ingredients, and it really shows. And if you’re eating on the patio, a glass of their strawberry swirl frozen margarita or a paloma almost feel mandatory, especially if you happen to show up during Happy Hour.
Julie’s Noodles in North Austin is probably best known for their handmade noodles - it’s in their name after all - and a recent takeout order was a great reminder of how phenomenal the food there is. We got the noodles with meat and bean sauce alongside the spicy beef suan tsai rice noodle soup (and some scallion pancakes). Like any solid takeout operation, the noodles were packaged separately so they wouldn’t get soggy. And they included a generous amount of their homemade chili oil. It was so good, we’ve already started putting in our next order here.
Week Of September 14
The brisket enchiladas at Stiles Switch are an exceptional marriage of two of the major pillars of Austin food, barbecue and Tex-Mex. Stuffed with their smoky brisket, the enchiladas are topped with a chili con carne, shredded cheddar, and diced onion. It’s available Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Brentwood location and the new location in Cedar Park. They’re also on the regular, everyday menu at their sister spot The Switch BBQ off 290 in Belterra.
While JewBoy might be best known for their creative burgers - they come topped with things like queso, latkes, and pastrami - they also make a pretty great burrito. All of the food here, described as being influenced by a mix of Border and Jewish culture, features lots of Hatch green chile, queso, and latkes. And the El Paso-style burritos are no exception - we loved the puro picadillo burrito. It comes stuffed with ground beef, hatch green chile, grilled onions, queso, white cheddar, and chopped latkes. They’re located near 51st and Airport.
We recently stopped by the Mexican food truck Sabor Tapatio on the corner of Stassney and South Congress. We got a bunch of things, including Jalisco-style barbacoa tacos with consome and a torta ahogado. We also got five mini al pastor tacos, with charred and crispy meat, topped with a spicy green salsa, cilantro, and onion, and we can’t stop thinking about them.
Talad is a food truck located at East 6th and Comal that specializes in Thai and Laotian cuisine. We had a late-night Pad Thai craving, and the noodles here really hit the spot. They’re sweet, salty, spicy, and the portion was generous. There are a few different meat (or tofu) options, but we like the chicken here. Be sure to throw in an order of Lao-style beef jerky or Moo Ping (caramelized, grilled pork skewers) to balance out the meal.