Austin Eats
August 30, 2017 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Going to be in Austin for a week. I'm a foodie trapped (well, of my own making) in rural Montana. The only thing I miss about civilization is the food, oh lord, the food. Where should I go while I'm there?

Not asking about BBQ, I have many many options and ideas for BBQ
already. Looking more for fine dining (but fuck a dresscode, nothing like that) or foodie suggestions. Open to anything else that's worth mentioning of course. We'll be in the South Congress area, without a car, but can taxi anywhere if it's worth it!
posted by so fucking future to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Fonda San Miguel is probably my favorite restaurant in the city, but I haven't been for a while and I see the latest Yelp reviews aren't so good. Their brunch is (or at least used to be) sublime. It'll be a bit of a cab ride.
posted by liet at 8:38 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

One new place that's casual upscale is L'Oca d'Oro. It's Italian, as you might guess from the name. It's great. It's in the development where the old airport was.
posted by Smearcase at 8:50 PM on August 30, 2017


Having been an Austinite that sincerely misses the food, here's where *I* would go, having been a local.

French. Chez Nous. Downtown, at 510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701. Unpretentious (no dress code), and good desserts. Great for conversation with a friend over good food.

- Zocalo. In Clarksville ("the -03," a community/neighborhood just west of Austin's downtown) at 1110 W Lynn St, Austin, TX 78703. In the "Clarksville" neighborhood.
- Las Cazuelas. (Also just east of downtown). It means "the pans" (as in, pans for making food in a kitchen) in Spanish. Apparently. All I know is they are open late, have awesome food (especially after a night of drinking) and are reasonably-priced with excellent portions.
- Tacodeli (multiple locations; I like the one next to the Greenbelt—Austin parkland—on MoPac, the Missouri Pacific motorway, for grabbing a bunch of tacos, and hiking across the street for some "get out of the city time"). You will hear people refer you to Torchy's Tacos instead. Do not believe them. Tacodeli is much better, IMHO.

Grocery. If you find yourself in need of groceries, and you're in the neighborhood (Clarksville), try either the Fresh Plus Grocery (if big stores aren't your thing, good for local stuff). Otherwise, visit the Whole Foods (now "Amazon," I guess?) "mothership," close-by on Lamar. Have a beer at the in-store bar. Try samples (because every day is sample day at that store), geek out on the prepared foods aisles (so good, weighed by the pound, and a lifesaver if you're in town for music fests in the area).

Food truck heaven. Austin is where I came to utterly enjoy food truck cuisine. Please go to these places, as they are awesome:
- Kebabalicious (multiple locations, I frequented the downtown one by the Omni hotel) has, in my opinion, the best felafel and also chicken shawarma—in. the. universe. The sauce.... THE SAUCE. @.@
- Also, Austin is the original home for "Chicken and Waffles" and I don't mean a chicken breast on a Belgian (which is the Little Rock/Memphis "Gus's World-Famous Fried Chicken" take on this classic. It's an eggo-style (or "Waffle House-style,") fresh-made waffle with maple syrup, SWISS CHEESE (v. important—go with it) and a thick, deep-fried chicken tenter, which one eats similarly to a taco (wrap the tender in the waffle-and-swiss doused with maple syrup). It's quintessential. The best place to get one, run by awesome, militant, trans-friend lesbians(?) is at the food truck park I think on sixth street in "east" austin.
- Fire&Soul in the same food truck congregation above.
- Chi'Lantro (multiple locations—find one and wait in line and strike up conversation with folks, because locals love this, too). The KIMCHEE FRIES are the best late-night "drunchie" food in Austin, IMHO. Srsly.
- East Side Kings. (Three of these exist, I think, yet the "best" one is on the "east side," connected to a bar called the Grackle).

- Austin has some happenin' places to grab a brew. While you're in town, do me a solid and have the Peacemaker, a technically-IPA (though I detest IPAs) that's super-good. You'll hear people recommend their "Pearl Snap"—same company, totally a worse beer, though.
- Cheer Up Charlies. If you are, or know, or want to know of any sort of queer person, this bar on Red River is the one to go to. Called "Cherubs" (or "Cheer Ups") by the locals, it's amazing. It's a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"/"Willy Wonka"-themed bar, with a matching "house drinks" menu. The "Golden Ticket" is made with their house kombucha [SP?], and while I'm not usually a fan, the mix and the crystalized-sugar ginger piece make it a decent buy. Good, non-queer music here, too, and local music sometimes, too. Probably my fave bar in Austin, especially back in the day when the two bartenders were—get this—two gals named "America" and "India" (I'm half-Indian and half-American, thus this probably has special significance for me more than others).
posted by chota at 8:58 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, also:

Food truck heaven.
- G'Raj Mahal. The mainstay of the Rainey Street district, which is overflowing with food trucks, is this Indian restaurant. Decent fare, but the environment/atmosphere is top-notch.
posted by chota at 9:01 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lenoir and Odd Duck are always a treat and not too far from where you are staying. I love Odd Duck's happy hour; check their website for details.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 9:17 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I left Austin five years ago and this is still one of my favorite topics.

I know you said finer dining, but I can't help myself: Torchy's Tacos and Hopdoddy are the places I still think about the most.

A long time ago I wrote a list of great food in Austin for an intern. Some of those places (Fino and Asti) are gone now, but Uchi is still there, and its spinoff Uchiko is too, and they were always great.

seconding G'Raj Mahal. Go at night and it's kind of magical.
posted by mmc at 9:26 PM on August 30, 2017

You may or may not have heard that Franklin BBQ sustained fire damage related to winds from Harvey, and is closed for the next month, but you didn't want to wait in line five hours on a short trip anyway. Plan accordingly. La Barbecue and Mickelthwait are just as good.

Emmer and Rye for $$$ pasta and small plates, Odd Duck for more local small plates, Barley Swine is owned by the same guy and is similar in menu and probably farther away from you than Odd Duck.

Dai Due is hyperlocal. Every ingredient is sourced in central TX including wild game and they cook everything over a massive open fire pit that faces out to the dining room.

Patrizis is nice fresh made pasta but beware long waits on weekends and mostly outdoor seating that may be uncomfortably warm or exposed if it's raining.

Easy Tiger is a great German style beer garden and the sausages and pretzels are worth it even if you don't drink beer. They also make my favorite pastries in the whole city and you can stop in the bakery for a croissant early.

Uchi is obvious but Otoko is where it's at if you want to drop $200+ on sushi and you can plan around a strict reservation (it's SO entertaining and worth it if it's in your budget - chef Yoshi brought out some vinyl singles and started telling me about his punk band after the last course and it's the most intimate fine dining I've ever done. You need a reservation typically 2+ weeks in advance and you pay for the meal at reservation time, no backsies). If your sushi budget is more like $25-50, Kome is totally excellent and cozy and has many good izakaya options. I had mackrel sashimi there a couple weeks ago where they cut off the flesh then fried the whole head/skeleton and served it with the sashimi and it was tasty and memorable.

Mexican - Papalote House has my favorite tacos southwest of Riverside and they're good for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Second Veracruz All Natural and Tacodeli for breakfast or lunch. Las Trancas and Pueblo Viejo are good, the best classic street tacos. Mi Madre's for a good sit down experience if you don't want trailer tacos. I don't want to even tell anyone else about Licha's Cantina because it's already too crowded, but I'll tell you since I take pity on you and the lack of good pastor and margaritas in your northern life

If you're down with mezcal and you want to taste things that probably aren't available anywhere in the state of Montana, go to Mezcaleria Tobala on the weekend
posted by slow graffiti at 9:47 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know you said no barbecue, but Kemuri Tatsu-ya is definitely more than just barbecue.
posted by jaksemas at 10:36 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Try the brussels sprouts at Uchiko!
posted by actionstations at 12:04 AM on August 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ya uchiko is awesome....
posted by chasles at 3:42 AM on August 31, 2017

Near you on South Congress:
Torchy's - Multiple locations throughout the city. This is where I take tourists for tacos. They're not traditional, but they are traditionally Austin.
Enoteca / Vespaio - Italian. Great brunch spot.
Chi'Lantro - Korean Tacos -- the kimchi fries are the BEST drunk food
Ramen Tastuya - Most people consider this the best ramen place in town. I haven't been to this location but I'm sure it's fine?
East Side King - Another very Austin place. Known for their food trucks, but their brick and mortar is nearish you.

Kemuri Tatsuya - Just named one of Bon Appetit's best restaurants of 2017. Texas-Austin fusion
Barley Swine - One of my favorite places in town. Can't recommend it highly enough.
Uchiko - creative sushi restaurant, world-renowned
Peached Tortilla - One of my favorites. Asian fusion with a fantastic food and drink happy hour. I recommend pretty much everything on the menu except the tacos. You MUST get a dessert.
Launderette - Everyone's favorite restaurant last year.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:23 AM on August 31, 2017

I know you're asking about restaurants but since you're a foodie, I would be a terrible person if I didn't tell you to check out Central Market. There's one on North Lamar. Central Market is foodie paradise. I have had friends literally drop their jaws at the sight of just the cheese department alone, in Houston.

And the bakery! It's a little early in the season, but if they have their gingerbread stout bread available, get some! And get some Kerrygold butter to put on it.

Honestly, I'm not impressed by the prepared foods in their deli, but the rest of the store is incredible. In all my travels to major cities, I always check out the fancy grocery stores, and nothing has ever come close. Try to go on a Friday or the weekend, when they have the most samples out.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:25 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

We really enjoyed the tasting menu at Barley Swine. That and Torchy's breakfast tacos and random food-truck-in-a-parking-lot BBQ were the best things we ate on our trip there.
posted by Mid at 7:06 AM on August 31, 2017

Ramen Tatsu-ya still frequently gathers a line out the door years after its initial opening. It's one of my favorite places in town. Its sister restaurant Kemuri just got rated as one of the top restaurants in the country. It's pricier, but totally worth it.

Hopdoddy has a damn good burger if you're into that.

One of the more underrated places, I think, is Hopfields. Everything I've had there has been amazing. It's french style food, but also has an amazing English brunch plate on the weekends.
posted by monologish at 8:09 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Snooze...had a delicious breakfast there. I'd go back next time I was near one; two locations. I enjoyed Juliet, but it was pretty expensive for what it was. Also recommend seeing the bats if possible. If you get up to SA (maybe to go to the caves?), La Fonda was great.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 8:11 AM on August 31, 2017

Definitely jumping on the Odd Duck train as well. It's lots of small, imaginative plates and every party I've taken there has declared it one of the best meals they've ever had. My family insists we get reservations every time they visit. Barley Swine (also mentioned above) is their sister restaurant and every bit as good. They're also great at having an atmosphere that accommodates both suits and flip-flops equally.

We tried Lenoir recently too and loved it. They've got a prix fixe system where you get to choose any combination of 3 plates from a list of about 12 (3 field, 3 sea, 3 land and 3 desserts.) It has a bit more sophisticated, dressier vibe than O.D. and B.S.

I would normally recommend Gus's for a fried chicken fix, but there's a pretty new food truck called Tumble 22 that does a Nashville hot chicken that everyone at my office has declared the superior chicken. Do NOT get the "Fire In The Hole." It's just not pleasant to eat, and that's coming from someone with a ghost pepper grinder at their office desk. They're located on 6th street inside of Star Bar at the moment.

It might be a bit out of your way, but I'm also a big fan of Royal Jelly. Their blood orange palomas are adorable and the kimchi brussels sprouts are for sure in my top 2 sprouts in the city (duking it out with Uchiko.) Uchiko's happy hour is also a great rec, as you can walk in and boldly declare "give me one of everything on the menu!"
posted by OMGTehAwsome at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Red Ash for really amazing Italian food.
Eberly has an amazing ambience if you want some of that.

And of course all the answers above.

I know you said you have BBQ options, but you may be looking in the wrong place. If you want to take a drive out to the Hill Country and swing by the Lake Austin on your way out there, It's All Good BBQ out on 71 is ridiculously good without the 3 hour wait of Franklin.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2017

Foreign and Domestic is worth checking out
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:36 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

For groceries, I'd recommend Central Market over Amazon Whole Foods any day.
For upscale Mexican, try El Alma or Alcomar (specializes in seafood). Sazon has nothing going on in the way of ambience, but has really good food. I also like Fonda San Miguel, but haven't been there in a long time, so can't vouch for their current quality.
Elizabeth Street Cafe is a swanky place with Vietnamese food and fancy pastries.
posted by adamrice at 8:52 AM on August 31, 2017

Came in to say Kemuri, see others have said it. GET RESERVATIONS. We went early thinking that would save us and waited almost 2 hours. It was worth it, though.

Standouts were the chicken hearts, the eel, and the chili cheese takoyaki. Oh, and the roasted banana pudding. But everything was just ridiculously good.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:07 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm late, so just thirding a bunch of things: Ramen Tatsu-Ya is great, El Alma is a beautiful spot (and actually pretty close to SoCo, especially if you take a bikeshare), that would be my choice for brunch if Fonda's too far out. Cheer Up Charlie's is heaven, and they've got an Arlo's food truck for after you've been dancing for hours (vegan bacon cheeseburgers, but TRUST ME, they're amazing). Central Market is LIFE. Dai Due is very good with the butcher shop-to-table thing, plus they're next to Sugar Mama's cupcakes on Manor.

Blue Dahlia Bistro on East 11th is very chill, in a fancy way. I also really surprised myself by loving Old Thousand, which is Chinese fusion a little further down East 11th - they were in the Chronicle's best food list of 2017.

Closer to you: With great respect and sadness I would say that the best food in Austin is far away from SoCo, but Burro Grilled Cheese is there. It's exactly as it seems, a grilled cheese trailer on SoCo. It's awesome. You can eat there, take a few steps, and get Amy's ice cream for dessert and go into a lactose coma. So great. Lucky Robot has a good happy hour. If you're going to do breakfast tacos anyway, there's a Torchy's (though you could just walk to the Torchy's trailer on South First, which I think is the original? And to get there you'd pass Elizabeth Street Vietnamese Boulangerie and also the Gourdough's trailer and the Mellizoz taco trailer, which I like EVEN BETTER than Torchy's.)

If you are at all a beer fan, you can ride the train from downtown to Blackstar Coop. Please do. They've been struggling recently, and they make damn good beer and the best Avocado Club known to man. Their weekly specials tend towards amazing and more towards the fine dining side of things.
posted by theweasel at 11:52 AM on August 31, 2017

posted by czytm at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2017

Seconding Patrizis and nominating the La Canaria taco truck on Airport near 52nd (in a gas station parking lot) which has handmade corn tortillas made fresh when you order and imho the best lengua in town.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:38 AM on September 1, 2017

I will nth recommendations for Lenoir, Dai Due, and Veracruz (get the migas tacos).
posted by vakker at 7:33 PM on September 1, 2017

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