3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas
Austin has long been known for brisket and burritos but the same creative spirit that drives Austin’s music scene and tech boom is also putting out some of the best food in the country. Whether you’re on the lookout for boozy brunches, hip food truck fare or fine dining with a side of Top Chef star power Austin has you covered. Here are my recommendations of where to eat in Austin, Texas.
South Congress Cafe
Occupying a bright sunny cafe in Austin’s buzzy South Congress neighborhood, the South Congress Cafe is undoubtedly the brunch capital in The Live Music Capital of the World. The cafe doesn’t take reservations so expect to wait on weekends, this is the perfect time to grab a killer bloody Mary and watch the parade of people on South Congress Ave. I’m still obsessing over the migas enchilada; eggs mixed with cheese, tomato and jalepeno wrapped in a corn tortilla and smothered with a spicy ranchero sauce and lime crema. The accompanying black beans and smoked gouda potato cake were equally tasty.
Veracruz All Natural
Austin is a place that takes its breakfast tacos seriously. I’m not sure what magic is happening in this robin-egg blue food truck but I had to choose one place to get tacos from for the rest of my life it would be Veracruz All Natural. Eggs, cheese, chorizo in a scratch-made corn tortilla is a perfect handheld start to your day but the real star here is the migas breakfast tacos; an addictive mix of eggs, tortilla chips, cheese and avocado. Pair your breakfast taco with a fresh fruit agua fresca or a creamy homemade horchata.
As with most things in Austin, the long line wrapped around Hopdoddy signaled I was in for something good. House-made buns and beef ground in house are the blank canvas for some of the most inventive burgers around. Keep a pile of napkins handy for the Magic Shroom; a beef burger smothered with Texas goat cheese, and sauteed mushrooms and with an herbacious kick courtesy of a pesto mayo. Pair your burger with a craft beer from the bar or one of Hopdoddy’s decadent handspun milkshakes.
Amy’s Ice Cream
Amy’s Ice Cream is an Austin institution. Whether you go with their famous Mexican Vanilla or one of their other 350 rotating flavors make sure to get a good bit of praline sauce (a gooey, butter caramel sauce spiked with pecans) on top.You can thank me later.
Truth is, you’re not going to find a bad taco in Austin but Torchy’s Tacos are good. Damn good. Featuring a line up of creative tacos,and huge portions(and in some locations an onsite bar), Torchy’s is justly popular with UT students. Personal favorites include the Democrat (shredded beef barbacoa with avocado, a zippy tomatillo salsa and creamy queso fresco inside a corn tortilla) and the fried avocado with a spicy poblano sauce. Torchy’s is the perfect place to fuel up for or recover from your Friday night bar crawl.
BBQ- La BBQ, Stubbs, Franklin, the Salt Lick
It is impossible to single out the best BBQ place in Austin so I’m not going to even try. Patrons line up for hours at both La Barbecue and Franklin’s hoping to get some of the best brisket in Texas (both places tend to sell out by 1pm) while Stubb’s has lines down the block both day and night. Die-hard BBQ fans make the trek out to Driftwood for all things smoked at The Salt Lick, the smoked sausage alone is worth the trip.
Top Chef winner Paul Qui’s flagship East Austin restaurant, Qui offers elevated but playfully inventive fare. The seven course tasting menu ($70/$115 with wine pairing) may be the best bang for your foodie buck in Austin. Influenced by the flavors of Asia, Europe and Austin, Qui artfully combines flavor combinations that will have you expanding your culinary horizons from first bite (peas, marcona almond dashi and foie gras) to last (japanese cheesecake with strawberry, keffir yogurt and black sesame).
East Side King
Aiming to get a taste of Austin’s favorite Top Chef but not in the mood(or price tag) for the whole tasting menu experience? No problem. Located on the back patio of the divey Liberty Bar(as well as a few other locations), Paul Qui’s food truck East Side King features the same creatively addictive flavors that won season 9 of Top Chef. Locals rave about the thai chicken karaage, a crispy fried chicken thigh with an intriguing spicy-sweet glaze while the beet fries and fried kimchi may be the tastiest way to get in your veggies.
Yet another East Austin gem, Bufalina has been voted the best pizza in Austin and may be the best pizza in all of Texas. The Steffano Ferrara wood fired oven reaches temperatures of over 900 degrees F working its magic on on the hand tossed scratch made dough and the resulting crust is sublime; crisp with just the right amount of smoke from the charred edges. The Margherita with house made mozzerella and garden-fresh basil is simplicity at its best; while the Fresca features the spicy bite of arugula with the salt of prosciutto making for a surprisingly light pie. The restaurant’s no reservations policy can result in a lengthy wait during peak dining times but a glass from Bufalina’s thoughtful wine list helps soften the wait.