With close to a million people living in or near the city center, Austin is one of the coolest places in Texas. Almost literally, the city takes its eclectic and quirky attitude to heart on almost everything from its music to its food scene. Although Austin is marketed as the “live music capital of the world”, in recent years more and more locals have been campaigning to “keep Austin weird” and frankly, it is probably working.
The city itself was established in 1839 when Texas was the recently formed “Republic of Texas” and was named after one of the founders of the state. Its location for a city was ideal because of the natural resources nearby along with its central geographic location.
After the civil war, the population of the city grew steadily until the oil boom and the great depression. But by the mid-20th century, the city was on the rise and a large number of young professionals and Universities in the area brought in more people interested in live music, good drinks, and even better food.
Although Texas is known for its barbecue, Austin has a massively diverse international culture all with its respective cuisine and some of the best food in Texas in Austin.
Slab BBQ & Beer
Starting off this list of amazing Austin restaurants might as well be the quintessential Texas food of barbecue.
Although perhaps not your standard fare, Slab BBQ & Beer is a great place to hit up if you’re out and about because their sandwiches are filling, delicious, and messy. Pork rib sandwiches slathered in sauce and topped with house made slaw is a best-seller, while the brisket and chicken sandwich will effectively put you into a meat coma. Of course, there are also amazing side dishes to go along with your food like nachos, mac and cheese, or various homemade slaws.
Veracruz All Natural
Being relatively close-ish to the Mexican border means that Austin has some of the best Mexican food around. It’s probably not too wild to say that outside of Mexico, Texas has some of the best Mexican food in the country. On top of Texas’s love for Mexican fare, is their love for the ubiquitous taco.
Veracruz All Natural is named after the Mexican state and is one of the best spots in Austin to get a taco whether that’s late at night or early in the morning. Veracruz All Natural started their life selling snow cones in 2008 before they expanded to a full menu. Now using all-natural ingredients they serve some of the best tacos in the city.
Located on the trendy-yet-gritty east side Veracruz All Natural is barely even a restaurant. They still operate out of a truck located in a lot. Just look for a chain-link fence and picnic tables and you should be able to see them. They’re open from 7 am to midnight and bring in everyone from local store owners looking to get a breakfast taco to hipster millennials looking for a midnight snack.
Clark’s Oyster Bar
You might not think that an oyster bar in the middle of Texas makes for a “best of” list but Clark’s Oyster Bar is one of the top spots in the city for seafood and most importantly – oysters. Clark’s Oyster Bar is practically busy from opening to close especially their illustrious patio dining area.
Hang out in the sun with a date or simply enjoy some seafood and cocktails during an afternoon lunch. Clark’s Oyster Bar brings in fresh oysters daily from both west coast and east coast suppliers but if oysters aren’t your thing, they also have delicious crab and lobster cakes and rolls, and their Angus burgers with gruyere cheese have been making heads turn if you’re not in the mood for seafood.
Moreover where Clark’s Oyster Bar shines is their list of drinks and cocktails that expertly compliment the food.
Seoulju Korean Kitchen and Bar
Austin has tons of amazing Asian food options but one of the newest and best spots in Seoulju Korean Kitchen and Bar.
Located in North Lamar, the restaurant was started by John Lee and his mom. What’s the best thing mothers make? Comfort food of course! And that’s what this restaurant is all about – Korean-American style comfort food. Indulge in everything from Korean fried chicken to beef bulgogi and kimchi pancakes. If you’re around with some friends try the hot pot or be selfish and order a large plate of stir-fried pork belly.
It is not really Caribbean, it’s not really Hawaiian, and it is not really South Asian but it is kinda tropical. Located in what was once a convenience store, Kinda Tropical is a little and bright cafe style place that serves things that tries to balance fresh and healthy with the forget-I’m-on-a-diet deliciousness.
Think things like a fresh sesame salad topped with fried chicken or a jackfruit barbecue sandwich loaded with sauce and a side of hot curly fries. The atmosphere at Kinda Tropical is fun with outdoor dining and freshly made food but don’t forget to check out their selection of drinks and cocktails that rival any bar in town. For an affordable and healthy-ish snack, Kinda Tropical is a great spot.
Started by two twenty-something brothers the guys at Vaquero Taquero are serving some of the best tacos in the city and when your city is known for having a thriving Mexican food scene, you know you’re doing something right. Their little taqueria serves authentic Tex Mex food with flavors and dishes from the Rio Grande Valley and Monterey, the area where the brothers grew up.
The specialty here is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the tacos laboriously made over a trompo (vertical spit) spinning for hours on end in their own juices served on top of a hot, homemade corn tortilla. Despite their legendary tacos, you shouldn’t skip on their other offerings either like their quesadilla de nopales or simply just get both which is easy to do since there’s nothing on the menu over 5$.
Franklin BBQ is a restaurant with a story. Some cities have legendary restaurants, bars, or dining areas and Franklin BBQ is one of those places for Austin. Started by Aaron Franklin, Franklin BBQ is regarded as one of the best spots in the country for barbecue.
Bon Appetit! regards it as the best in the United States and Franklin has won a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest in 2015. Franklin started barbecuing with his wife Stacy in their backyard and by 2009 they opened a small roadside diner by the side of the interstate. Today people line up for hours just to get in and order the mouth-watering brisket which along with industry accolades has also been lauded by people like former President Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain.
If you’re going to venture out to Franklin BBQ, you might be waiting a while.
The regulars know that the best thing to do is bring a lawn chair and get in line early (people start lining up at 8 am). Preordering is a possibility but there’s a six week wait time. Those lining up range from college students to retirees and everyone else in between.
Once inside you’ll notice the place takes a “no-frills” approach with plain white and turquoise walls. You’re there for the food after all. And speaking of food, the brisket is the star of the show but the ribs come in a close second and if you still have room for dessert, make sure to check out the banana and pecan pies.
The bar is stocked with local beers and service is only open for lunch hours (11 am to 2 pm) so plan everything accordingly.
TLV Israeli Food
Aiming to be “familiar yet new” the man behind TLV Israeli Food opened his modest food truck to critical acclaim and since then TLV Israeli Food has remained popular. The inspiration for TLV Israeli Food comes from classic Israeli street food but with an Austin twist.
The Yemeni spiced chicken with hummus is a classic and best-seller while the shug (herb and garlic pepper sauce) with pita will fill you up just right. Of course, classic middle eastern and Israeli dishes are on the menu like lamb and beef pita wraps with garlic sauce or an Austin-style falafel. For a meager price of 20$, you can enjoy some amazingly fresh and delicious food that won’t break the bank and will keep you filled for the day.
In a lot of places around Europe dinner doesn’t start until late and Justine’s Brasserie aims to bring a little bit of Europe to the people of Austin.
Justine’s Brasserie is dark and romantic but it isn’t too stuffy or quiet either, in fact, as the night goes on the louder it gets and since Justine’s Brasserie closes at 1:30 am you can feel free to wine and dine all night. The French bistro feel of Justine’s Brasserie is accented by the mood lighting, worn wooden bar, red walls, panel art, and gilded antique mirrors.
Along with the rotating chalkboard menu, you’ll feel like you walked off the streets of Austin into a Parisian bistro. Of course, it wouldn’t be a French-inspired restaurant if there wasn’t a large and diverse wine and champagne menu or that doesn’t tickle your fancy, they also have a great cocktail, all of which pair excellently with their charcuterie. The menu rotates regularly but they also have French staples year-round such as escargot, freshly baked baguette, French onion soup served with cheese crusting the ramekin, and steak with béarnaise. Top it all off with a crème brulée.
Kemuri Tatsu-ya is the far east meet the U.S south. There are plenty of Japanese places in Austin serving authentic Japanese dishes and there is a myriad of Texas barbecue joints but Kemuri Tatsu-ya offers something a little different.
It is classic Texas-dishes-meet-Japanese street food. Stepping inside Kemuri Tatsu-ya you’ll notice the walls are decorated like a quintessential Japanese izakaya. The Japanese-style wooden walls are adorned with Kanji-written signs and pictures of Japan while between all of them areTexas license plates and taxidermied deer. Is it a steakhouse? Is it an izakaya? It is both!
The atmosphere here is just as vibrant and eclectic as the decor while the menu also reflects that aspect. Enjoy things like chili-cheese takoyaki (deep-fried octopus balls) or Texas ramen made with beef broth and barbecue brisket. Wash it all down with an old-fashioned made from Japanese whisky.
Our Final Word
Austin is a fun, energetic, and great part of Texas. It’s no wonder why it’s one of the most entertaining parts of the country with amazing nightlife, amazing food, and even more amazing people. The tastes are diverse and whether you’re out late looking for a snack to soak up the liquor or you’re planning a romantic evening with a loved one, there is not a shortage of amazing options in Austin.
What’s your favorite place in Austin?
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