The Most Fun Dinner Spots In Austin Right Now

A night out at one of these places‚ whether it’s for a catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the moment.
The Most Fun Dinner Spots In Austin Right Now image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might be looking for an excuse to wear that new outfit you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority. They range from old-school classics that gave your grandparents a complimentary shot back in the day, to buzzy new spots with a waitlist longer than Austin’s interminable summers. They’re the “it” dinner places in Austin. And if you happen to be looking for our favorite new spots, or some fun bars, we have guides to those, too.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve—so you can plan your dinner confidently.


photo credit: TJ Perez


Downtown Austin

$$$$Perfect For:Date Night


SevenRooms logo
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

To those seeking a quiet, intimate spot to catch up over light bites: look elsewhere. To our knowledge, The Guest House is the only restaurant in Austin that employs a DJ seven nights a week. It’s not clubby inside, but it is lively. Cocktails arrive under smoked-filled cloches, tucked away in little bonsai trees, or in custom drinkware in the shape of little glass mushrooms. But it’s not all show at The Guest House. The spicy rigatoni has just the right amount of bite, parmesan-crusted filets are cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the free croissant-like loaf that starts the meal might be the best free bread in the city.

On a Friday night, you’ll find the waiting area of this massive South Austin joint filled with groups of friends loudly belting karaoke classics and encouraging everyone to sing along. Once you make it through a few of NSYNC’s greatest hits and eventually find yourself at a table, you’ll have the option to order AYCE Korean BBQ or hot pot for a set price (you can get both for a few extra dollars). We like to go the BBQ route—food comes out fast and cooks even faster on the smoking grill shared by the table. This isn’t the best Korean BBQ you’ll get in town, but it just might be the most fun.

Gina’s is the type of pocket-sized neighborhood bistro you might expect to find in a quiet corner of a bustling downtown in a much older, larger city. The building feels like it holds some history in its walls, even if the tables and walls are sporting pristine white tablecloths and shiny new coats of paint. The menu leans classic Italian—with a handful of handmade pastas and larger entrees that help turn a visit here into a proper meal—but we like to just sit at the bar and order a bunch of snacks and drinks. Show up during nightly Happy Hour and you can even get all those snacks and cocktails for half the price (including seven Negroni variations). Pop in before catching a show at The Paramount up the street, especially if you’re all dressed up already.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Murray’s Tavern in East Austin feels like an homage to classy, old-school taverns in New York City. It’s the type of place where you can simply grab a burger and a beer at the wood- and marble-topped bar, or sip on Rob Roys while knocking back a half-dozen Oysters Rockefeller alongside a large plate of prime rib. It toes the line between old-school and contemporary, pairing timeless cocktails with creative newcomers, and after a few minutes in the dining room, it’s easy to forget when or where you are. It’s dark inside and nobody will notice if you show up in jeans and an old Nirvana T-shirt—but with how heavy Murray’s leans into the upscale tavern theme, you’ll probably want to follow suit and become a part of the scene yourself. 

In a city where the names Uchi and Uchiko have become synonymous with date nights, anniversaries, and special occasions, Uchiba had big shoes to fill—and it hit the ground running. Despite the slightly more casual, izakaya-ish menu at Uchiba, the midcentury-inspired dining room Downtown—built around a massive, backlit 270° full bar—doesn’t feel like the type of place you want to show up to in a T-shirt. Expect to find a combination of Uchi/Uchiko classics, plus a bunch of new items. Show up for fancy cocktails and sushi after work, or dress up a little and make dinner out of it, starting with a few “perfect pairs”—a small menu of tiny apps, paired with tiny cocktails. 

It’s hard not to have a good time with dinner at Red Farm. The downtown space is lively and energetic—the type of place where you’ll see couples on dressy date nights wearing wide-brimmed hats and fancy suede boots. And despite our apprehension about the pastrami egg rolls, it’s not all mashups here. In fact, most of the menu leans a little more classic—serving fancy, unique twists on dishes like shumai, long-life noodles, peking duck, and BBQ spare ribs—offered at decidedly upscale prices.

Inspired by the jungles of the Yucatan, Nômadé is a Mexican restaurant that feels like a Tulum-meets-Tatooine resort. Earth-toned and accented in stone, the space feels a little futuristic, where staff clad in matching brown tunics whiz about carrying plates of chilled oysters with habanero mignonette and sizzling shrimp over a bed of pineapple pipian. Order a flight of mezcal to go with the seafood platter you just ordered, then dive deeper into the menu of crudos, ceviches, and other Yucatan specialties. The food might not blow you away—it takes a backseat to the experience that feels like you’re actually in Tulum —but it’s all solid enough to keep you ordering more.

Usually when we head to a vegan restaurant, we expect to eat a bunch of dishes that look kind of like a steak but taste more like a brown watermelon or a giant mushroom. But not at Fabrik. This is a plant-based fine dining experience on East MLK that uses ingredients like miso butter, caramelized yeast, and tamari caramel to impart rich and savory elements into dishes, instead of relying on mock meats. Mushroom yakitori outperforms its poultry counterpart, and salt-baked beet tartlets arrive topped with seaweed “caviar” that makes us wonder why expensive, tiny fish eggs ever became so popular. Just know that if you sign up for dinner here, you’re signing up for a five- or seven-course experience (with an optional beverage pairing) so buckle up and enjoy the plant-based ride. 

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light Bite

From the team behind Suerte (and right next door to their other concept Este), it’s a bar, it’s a restaurant, it’s snacks, it’s drinks, it’s dinner. But most of all, it’s a brilliant neighborhood hang, with communal tables and counter-height seating in a tiny-ish and energetic space. The menu is mainly Spanish tapas, including sharply executed croquetas, a Spanish tortilla, and Basque cheesecake. The curveball is the Mexican-ish “smashburgesa”—topped with griddled ham, american cheese, chipotle mayo, and escabeche relish. The drink menu bobs and weaves—like wine from a porron and not overly complicated classic cocktails.

The once-abandoned 19th-century building on East 6th Street is now a scene straight out of a classic New Orleans spot, with exposed brick walls, mosaic tile floors, vintage lighting, and a gorgeous marble and chrome-accented wraparound bar. The all-day bar and restaurant hits all the quintessential New Orleans food notes: a dark, roasty gumbo, Zapp’s potato chips, bottles of Crystal Hot Sauce on every table, and tremendous po‘boys, the standout of which is the gloriously messy roast-beef version with sliced meat drenched in a debris gravy made with Franklin Barbecue’s legendary chopped brisket. Add in expertly made cocktails, a raw bar with oysters, and a dining room that’s sunny by day and boisterous by night, and this place is a classic in the making.

Upscale Mediterranean food is nothing new to Austin, but up until now it’s largely followed a formula involving some kind of fancy hummus—probably with short rib on it—a Greek salad, and a few kebabs. Then Ezov entered the picture and ushered in a new era of Mediterranean food in town, with a seasonal menu of dishes inspired by the Galilee region of northern Israel. Suddenly, marinated olives felt boring next to deep-fried sigarim—AKA Moroccan cigars—packed full of savory, spiced sweetbreads and chicken hearts in a crispy shell. A DIY tabletop chicken shawarma station helped us realize how interactive and complex a dish made up of so many sauces and toppings could be. The dining room is every bit as buzzy as you’d expect out of a tall, modern building in East Austin with floor-to-ceiling windows, cozy booths, and enough Tel Aviv-inspired graffiti to paint more than just mental imagery.  

Bufalina, Austin's cool kid pizza-and-natural-wine spot in East Austin, is back and better than ever. Back in 2021 it closed to make way for a condo development, but now Bufalina has reopened not far from the original on Cesar Chavez with the same homey lo-fi bootstrapped vibes. The pizzas are classically Neapolitan (with the slightly yeasty dough), the wine list is as phenomenal as always, and there’s an expanded pasta menu. The biggest challenge is figuring out how many different kinds of pasta and pizza you’re going to order, and how many leftovers you’re going to take home.

The Mexican coastal-inspired seafood restaurant Este is from the team behind Suerte, one of our favorite spots on the East Side. Much like its sister restaurant, Este is a well-oiled machine, balancing friendly service and a lively atmosphere with one of the prettiest spaces on Manor Road. Este is especially great when fish meets the charcoal-fired grill, including the smoky and spicy large format pescado zarandeado, marinated in annatto red chile. And make sure to get an order of clam preparados topped with a fiery habanero pico and the bright snapper ceviche. There’s also a pretty extensive mezcal selection and some fantastic (and sometimes spicy) cocktails. If you thought reservations at Suerte were difficult to get, wait until you check out Este’s availability. Unless you want to dine at 9:30pm (which is probably still worth it), you’ll want to set a reminder for 20 days out when reservations open. Then your date can thank you three weeks from now.

Toshokan is a small, eight-seat omakase spot behind a bookshelf in the back of a private bar in East Austin. First, take a second to unpack that sentence. Second, set your timer for the first of the month, because that’s when tickets to these dinners go live, and to say they go fast is an understatement. Dinner is about 14 courses, varying from nigiri topped with bruleed brown sugar tangerine, to a toasted marshmallow ice cream served with chocolate melted tableside—a s’mores version of raclette that instantly locks the eyes of all eight guests in the room. It’s an intimate atmosphere that feels a bit like you’re eating in Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, if it had been decorated with a live edge sushi bar and cute Japanese toys on the wall, and set to a soundtrack of old school hip hop.

A dinner at Midnight In The Garden is one of the closest things Austin has to a true speakeasy dinner. There’s no set menu—it’s more like a pop-up—chefs are brought in from all around Austin (and occasionally, out of state) to cook a special multi-course dinner for a few select seatings on the weekends. The location is kept secret until you’ve secured your seats, but what we can tell you is that the setting feels more like a dream than some of our actual dreams. Expect lots of twinkling lights, plants, art displays, and vintage tableware as backdrops to an exciting meal—all of it thoughtfully paired with a series of cocktails and natural wines. Bookings, upcoming dinners, and details all take place through their Instagram.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

The Most Romantic Restaurants In Austin image

The Most Romantic Restaurants In Austin

Get dressed up a little and show that special someone how much they mean to you.

The Hit List: New Austin Restaurants To Try Right Now image

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

The Best Patios & Backyards In Austin image

Where to eat and drink outside.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store