ATXGuide

The Best Food Trucks In Austin

Food served from tiny boxes on wheels is Austin’s speciality.
The Best Food Trucks In Austin image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

In Austin, you can have the best meal of your life off a paper plate while sitting on a wooden bench behind a gas station. Food trucks and trailers are all over this city—we estimate there’s approximately one for every three people living in Austin. And they’re serving everything from world-class brisket and barbacoa to aguachile tostadas and Uyghur-style Xinjiang lamb kabobs. This list could be a lot longer, but we narrowed it down to the highest-rated spots on our site.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Mexican

North Burnet

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDrinks & A Light BiteLunch

Con Todo serves the type of food you’d expect to find at a place that takes reservations weeks in advance. Instead, all you have to do is look for a little pink trailer at Celis Brewery in North Austin. The focus here is on the flavors of the Rio Grande Valley. And while you’ll find excellent versions of the region’s signature bistec estilo matamoros, you’ll also find seasonal offerings like nixtamalized purple carrot tostadas or squash blossom quesadillas on housemade blue and white corn tortillas. It’s a taco truck at its core, but it somehow feels a little more special than that.

While most of the pitmasters in Texas argue over who makes the jiggliest brisket, LeRoy And Lewis is looking at the rest of the cow. You’ll experience the same techniques here that have made other local barbecue spots famous, but in the form of rich and tender beef cheeks, shredded barbacoa served in an avocado, and a smoked cheeseburger that’s one of the best in the whole city. Just know that the secret is out, and you might wait an hour or two on the weekends. Grab a drink from Cosmic Coffee inside—it helps the line go by faster—or just show up early during the week when things are a little more relaxed. They also operate a brick-and-mortar in South Austin with a bigger menu and a large, indoor dining room.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Heading to Mexico City every time you crave street tacos is time-consuming, expensive, and probably not feasible for 99% of us. Fortunately, we can just head to Cuantos Tacos in East Austin, where the specialty is tiny tacos packed full of finely minced and heavily seasoned meat. Ask six people which of the six fillings is their favorite, and you’ll probably get back six different answers. Just order one of each (they’re a little over $2) to try them all and form your own opinion.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

You don’t come to KG BBQ for just a slab of classic brisket and a side of mac and cheese—though you can get great versions of both of those here. You come for za’atar-dusted pork ribs, tender lamb chops with mint chimichurri, or their signature bowl that combines turmeric rice with smoked brisket, tahini, candied nuts, and pomegranate seeds. This is Central Texas-style barbecue with an Egyptian twist. In a city full of so much barbecue variety, KG BBQ brings something new to the brisket-filled table. Just remember to show up on a Thursday or Friday—or early on the weekends—or you’ll run the risk of lots of things selling out.

Hiding in the parking lot of Michi Ramen on Burnet Road, Paprika adds a few contemporary twists to the classic taco truck repertoire. The carnitas are sous vide and the brisket is confited, but despite the cheffed-up approach, it never feels like it’s trying too hard. The menu is small, so you can probably order most of it in one go, but there are occasional weekend and daily specials that will make you want to put Paprika into your daily rotation. 

El Marisquero has the best aguachiles in Austin, and that alone makes it worth a visit. Add in some excellent ceviche and massive fish tacos, all served at prices that make this an accessible everyday meal, and you’ll see why we briefly considered some apartments down the street. Our go-to order changes with the weather—raw foods in the summer, and heartier, grilled items when it’s cooler out—but we’re also convinced that there’s never a bad time for ceviche

photo credit: Richard Casteel

A lot of Austin barbecue spots try to stay “as Texan as possible.” Distant Relatives follows some of those rules, but it also pulls in techniques and flavors from the African diaspora all across the states. That means strong spice profiles, classic preservation methods, and a nose-to-tail approach that puts everything from spare ribs to hog jowl on the menu. Some of the sides and toppings change seasonally, which means that you might see your smoked brisket sandwich topped with fermented cabbage, pickled green bean remoulade, or something else tart, preserved, and equally tasty.

Whenever we find ourselves with a craving for a well-made cheesesteak, we beeline to R&B’s in East Austin. It follows all the “rules” that the Philly joints adhere to. Sure, you can fancy up your sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles—and call it a hoagie—but you should probably let the steak, cheese, and bread do their thing, uninterrupted. Either way, it’ll be packed with thinly sliced Texas ribeye on an Amoroso roll with your choice of Cheez Whiz, provolone, or white american cheese (we’re on Team Whiz, by the way).

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

One does not simply walk up to Dee Dee—it requires a bit of planning and knowing exactly what you want to eat a few hours ahead of time. This trailer parked at Radio Coffee & Beer in South Austin is available exclusively by pre-order, but with just a little bit of patience and foresight, you’ll be able to eat some of the best papaya salad, moo ping, and laab in town. The small menu only features about 10 items—dessert and pickles included—but just use that opportunity to really familiarize yourself with a few Northeastern Thai staples. Then, grab a beer from inside to help tame some of the intense spice from your second helping of papaya salad.

Getting barbecue in Austin usually involves some mental math to figure out if the quality-to-wait-time ratio is going to be worth it. Most of the time, we just end up at Micklethwait anyway. The meats and seasonings generally lean classic, but the sides are where things really get fun. Coleslaw gets an upgrade with lemon poppy dressing, and the citrus beet salad tastes like something you’d get at a restaurant with real chairs and tablecloths. It’s also right down the street from Franklin Barbecue, and while you can generally expect a bit of a wait on the weekends, you’ll still be done with dessert before the folks at Franklin even make it to the front of the line.

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

$$$$Perfect For:Cheap EatsQuick Eats

We like places that do one thing exceptionally well, and that’s the philosophy at Discada. This taco truck only offers a single taco option blending marinated beef, pork, and vegetables that have been cooked on a large wok-like apparatus called a discada and served on a corn tortilla. They come topped with onion, cilantro, and pineapple, and they’re each small enough to take down in about two bites. If you’re the indecisive type, the only choice you’ll have to make is if you’ll be ordering three, five, or eight, followed by whether you’ll be ordering more.

photo credit: Holly Dirks

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

It’s all about jerk chicken at Mr. Pimento. And you can get it on its own, in a sandwich, or on top of a bed of fries or creamy mac and cheese. The meat is marinated and smoked until the skin builds up beautifully charred edges, then it all gets tossed in a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy barbecue sauce. The end result is some incredibly tender and flavorful chicken that you’ll want to go at with your hands to pick off every last bit. Check on Instagram to see what the menu looks like before heading out, and just be ready for your fingers to smell like jerk seasoning for the rest of the night.

The dishes at Kiin Di come with punchy names like Rip & Dip Roti, Killer Noodles, and Dang! Curry—they’re all hints that your casual Thursday night dinner run is about to get more exciting. The Thai-style fried chicken successfully tests the upper limits of poultry crunchiness, and crispy soft shell crab swimming in a pool of creamy egg curry might just be one of the best curries we’ve eaten out of a food truck. It’s parked at Corner Bar in South Austin, so you can grab a beer to help ease you through some of the spicier dishes.

Everyone has an opinion on the best style of pizza, and at Pedroso’s, everyone gets to leave happy. You can get a New York pizza, with a perfectly thin and chewy crust, or get it American-style for a bit more sauce and heft. And if you’re a fan of rectangles over circles, you can even get a square-cut Grandma-style. They’re all good, but the New York style is where Pedroso’s is at its absolute best. Grab a pie to eat on your couch, or bring it into The Night Owl—a bar on Burnet where it’s parked—and enjoy it with a drink.

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

If you’re bad with directions, just follow the savory smell of grilled meats wafting from the charcoal grills at Camino Alamo BBQ, a small food trailer operation on The Drag near UT that specializes in Uyghur-style Xinjiang kabobs. There are three options for grilled skewers—lamb, beef, and chicken wings—that all get marinated in a mixture of cumin, salt, pepper, and Sichuan peppercorn before getting cooked over a tiny charcoal grill attached to the front of the trailer. It feels a little like a scrappy pop-up operation—and at one point it was—but it’s also a testament to how great the simple combination of fire and meat can really get.

Unless you live near the COTA racetrack, you’ll likely need to make a little trek to get to Ceviche Love. This is among the best ceviche in town, and it’s best enjoyed over a crispy tostada or in an order of oysters preparados, where the crispy corn base gets replaced with a dozen fresh-shucked Gulf oysters. It’s worth the trip, and once you’re finally there, you’ll find yourself in a large, covered patio away from everything else, making the whole experience feel like dining in a tiny tropical oasis.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk up to Side Eye Pie’s trailer at Meanwhile Brewing in South Austin is the giant, wood-fired oven bolted onto the end. It’s what gives the pizzas their signature blistered, chewy crust and floppy center, while also making the whole trailer look like a tiny little rocket ship. The pies lean Neapolitan, with toppings ranging from classic mozzarella and basil, to a mushroom pizza topped with parma cream and some funky fontina cheese. And whether you find yourself on Team Ranch or Team Marinara for your crust pairings, we recommend getting a side of hot honey—it’s an excellent accompaniment to those blistered bits of crust.

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

If we had to submit one vegan burger to meat-eaters as proof that the impossible can be done, we would nominate a double Mission burger with cheese, special sauce, and grilled onions. It somehow defies the fundamental laws of burger physics—there’s a thick crust on a couple of thin, smashed patties topped with incredibly melty cheese, and it does it all without using any animal products. This sorcery takes place on the patio of Zed’s—a New Zealand-style ice cream shop in East Austin—which means you already have dessert figured out after your meal. There’s also a brick-and-mortar location on South Congress, but you came to this guide for food trucks, not sit-down spots.

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