Please Tell Me Where to Eat in Austin, Texas
September 17, 2013 10:02 AM   Subscribe

This mid-November my wife, her brother, and I will be traveling to Austin, TX to attend the Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the America, and we have some pretty focused culinary goals, but no idea how to achieve them.

While we're there we want to try:
  • Tex-Mex
  • Texas Beef
  • Texas BBQ
Where should we go?

We'd also like to try anything else you think is awesome and not to be missed. If it's likely to be overlooked by tourist race fans like us, that's a bonus.

We'll be staying at a Holiday Inn on Oak Grove Blvd, Lakeway, TX, if it matters. Given all the driving we'll be doing between COTA and the hotel, it probably doesn't.

(Previously, but it's a couple three years ago.)
posted by notyou to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I went down there to visit my brother last December and pretty much all the food we had was good. Things that stood out:
For BBQ: Rudy's and Salt Lick
Also: Gordough's (donuts) and Hopdoddy Burger Bar
posted by disaster77 at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tex Mex
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:18 AM on September 17, 2013

This previous thread from a few months ago should also help. There's some excellent BBQ and Tex-Mex analysis.

My personal recommendations are The Salt Lick for BBQ for a balance of food, atmosphere, and experience, and Trudy's for Tex Mex, because I sometimes still dream of their smoked chicken chimichanga.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 10:20 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend Trudy's, every time I make it to Austin I go there once.
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2013

I think the thing about Austin is we are really spoiled. There's such an embarassment of riches in the BBQ and Tex-Mex categories that places that anywhere else would be THE PLACE, here are ignored or taken for granted. Here's what I recommend:

Tex-mex: Chuy's is a local chain that is beloved and maligned and is absolutely in that category of "if it was anywhere but here it would be the best for 100 miles". Chuy's is fun and funky. I prefer Maudie's though, and there are a couple of locations including one out where (more or less) you are staying. People will recommend Polvo's but I have never had a good meal there.

BBQ: Rudy's is (are) everywhere, and again, if they weren't in Austin people would flip out about them, but here they are sort of ignored (although always packed, and really quite good). There's been an explosion of new BBQ in Austin of which Franklin is the standard bearer. But it is so popular it is nearly imnmpossible to get. You'll wait for hours on a regular day, it'll sell out by 9:00 AM during the CofA. So I recommend Stile's Switch. It's a bit north of downtown, but is awesome. Really, really good.

But truly, Rudy's is great and there is one not far from your hotel.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:27 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not classic Tex-Mex, but Torchy's has some pretty awesome tacos. Or just the queso -- get yourself a vat of that and you won't be sorry.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Check Roadfood.
posted by brujita at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2013

Tex-Mex: Matt's El Rancho. Trudy's is awesome (have a Mexican martini!) but isn't really Tex-Mex.

Texas Beef: Not sure what you mean here. Steak? Austin Land & Cattle is pretty good, if that's what you're looking for.

Texas BBQ: Salt Lick is the de facto recommendation, but I think the County Line is just as good, and with more options. Rudy's is fantastic as well, and I hear good things about Franklin BBQ.
posted by devinemissk at 10:50 AM on September 17, 2013

Check out the beef ribs at Stiles Switch BBQ, so great.
posted by evariste at 11:09 AM on September 17, 2013

If you have time for a little trip out of town, Kreuz Market in Lockhart is amazing for BBQ. I also still really miss Ruby's which is not too far from Trudy's (also very missed). Maria's Taco Xpress would also be well worth a stop.
posted by goggie at 11:51 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a frequent visitor to Austin who was born and raised on Texas BBQ but now sadly resides on the west coast I can tell you that all of the above is good.

dirtdirt: "I think the thing about Austin is we are really spoiled. There's such an embarassment of riches in the BBQ and Tex-Mex categories that places that anywhere else would be THE PLACE, here are ignored or taken for granted. "

This is really true even from my perspective as a visitor. I've been to chain BBQ places in Austin, I've been to hole in the wall places out in the burbs, and I've been to Lockhart. They've all been REALLY good. I think if you screw up BBQ in a place like Austin you're probably driven out of town right-quick.

The "authentic" factor really starts to become one of ambiance and "place". So with that in mind I'd say go down to Lockhart. Kruez has been closed everytime I'm there (on Sundays I think?) But Black's is right around the corner and is amazing. When you leave the place and your clothes smell like they spent a few hours in the smoker it's something you'll never forget.
posted by Big_B at 12:21 PM on September 17, 2013

Franklin is the best BBQ brisket I've ever had in my life (as a Texan) but you have to get in line by 9 on a weekend to get food around noon. Any of the big popular local chains will have pretty good barbecue without waiting in line for three hours.

It might help if you clarify what you mean by Texas beef vs. Texas barbecue, since Texas barbecue generally means beef (and sausage and pork and chicken, sure, but really it's all about the beef).
posted by MadamM at 12:55 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually adore Chuy's (the original location, on Barton Springs road, which has a happy hour free queso bar and a funky old school Austin feeling), but I think there's really no going wrong with either Tex Mex or BBQ in Austin. That said, considering the distances you're already going to be traveling, I'd stick with stuff outside city limits (Salt Lick, County Line) and maybe have one special lunch or dinner in central Austin, giving yourself time to navigate the unpredictably awful traffic/parking. Franklin's is great but not if you're planning to do anything else with your day...
posted by theweasel at 1:00 PM on September 17, 2013

I am not a Texan but I had a pulled pork quesadilla at The Jackalope that changed my life.
posted by Jairus at 1:47 PM on September 17, 2013

Woah, Torchy's food looks awesome. I'll have to give that place a shot next time I'm around Austin.

I really, really, really love Taco Deli. I feel like it's probably not all that hip a place to eat (for whatever that's worth to you), but their pork belly taco changed my life for the better. Food for thought.
posted by kryptondog at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live here in Austin and I agree with some of the responses above. For Tex-Mex, I will say that Chuy's will fit your bill. If you want to go a little more authentic Mexican, try Curra's.

For BBQ, I totally agree with going to Black's in Lockhart. This place will blow you away. It's a bit of a hike if you're staying out in Lakeway, but totally worth the experience. The Salt Lick is also really good. I love their sausage and smoked turkey.

Texas beef? Like steak? Not really sure what you're looking for there, but there is the Vince Young Steak House if that's what you're looking for.

If you're staying out in Lakeway, don't get sucked into the Oasis - horrible food and so tacky.
posted by ATX Peanut at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

East Side King
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:24 PM on September 17, 2013

Awesome-ass vegan/veggie food:

Arlo's Food Truck

Bouldin Creek Cafe
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The good doctor and I are headed out to COTA for the ALMS/WEC doubleheader, so we'll be making our annual pilgrimage to Torchy's and Chuy's for Tex-Mex. Thankfully, Thunderbird Coffee carries TacoDeli's breakfast tacos, so that's breakfast all sorted.

The trick to getting Franklin's is to make a catering order at least six months in advance, but you really can't go wrong with going to Salt Lick or Black's.

We're looking forward to trying out Banger's for some local brews and sausages during this visit.

Enjoy the race!
posted by evoque at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry, Texas Beef = a big 'ol steak.

Thanks for the great suggestions so far. Can't wait to get there!
posted by notyou at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2013

Response by poster: Oh! We're also hoping to meet up with an old friend who's down in San Antonio -- goggie's suggestion for Kreuz Market in Lockhart may be a good meetup spot.

Except it closes kinda early. Maybe Black's right around the corner, as Big_B suggests?
posted by notyou at 4:21 PM on September 17, 2013

We'd also like to try anything else you think is awesome and not to be missed

Kolaches. They don't sell them anyplace else but that part of TX. The "best" ones are a few hours north, but you should be able to find some in Austin.

From that article:
In Austin, the word usually triggers an image of a slightly sweet roll/pastry hybrid filled with sausage (or a hot dog imposter), and jalapeños and orange cheddar cheese. Purists say these meat filled rolls are actually klobasniks—true kolaches are fluffy pastries with sweet fillings including poppy seed, prune, and apricot. Sweet kolaches usually look more like a danish while the savory versions are like long rolls with savory fillings.
posted by CathyG at 6:50 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing Chuy's. We live in DFW but go there all the time.

Also, the breakfast tacos in Austin are great. Torchy's is where we usually go, I think.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:45 PM on September 18, 2013

Response by poster: Hey Guys!

I meant to share this with you sooner, but... life and the holidays.


Wonderful suggestions and plenty of them to keep us well fed while we were away from the circuit (where we discovered terrific tamales -- including vegan -- from The Gardener's Feast, which became our goto track lunch).

OK, some comments on your selections.

Chuy's, I'm sorry to say, was a let down. We get plenty of Mexican-American food in Southern California and this version of Tex-Mex seemed like it might have been the "Joe's Crab Shack" of Tex-Mex -- kitschy, fake-authentic decor, decent to good dishes, but nothing really stood out except for the deep, roasty enchilada sauce, which is much richer than the sauce we find around here. Oh, and the "chalupa," which is a simple (and tasty) bean tostada.

Black's BBQ in Lockhart, TX, on the other hand, was just terrific, from the weird entrance line-up, to the bin of white (or "wheat") bread next to the spare utensils and napkins. Holy cow the beef bone wasn't cheap, but it was delicious, and we used the picked-clean bone to play three-flies up later in the deserted street in front of the county courthouse (Lockhart has seen better days). Sure, we enjoyed plenty of brisket and sides, too. But that beef bone was huge!

For the steak, we wound up at the Austin Land and Cattle Company, which was also a little bit of a disappointment -- the wine we selected from the list was not available and my steak arrive medium-well rather than medium-rare (maybe the waiter misheard?) -- although the other two members of our traveling trio thought ALC was the best of the Austin-area eateries we visited (I liked Black's best).

Thanks all for the recommendations!
posted by notyou at 12:58 PM on December 16, 2013

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