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.

 

THE NEW YOU (3)

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.

Brunch at South Congress Cafe, 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com

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.

Breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Hopdoddy

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.

Creative burgers at Hopdoddy- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

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.

Amy's Ice Cream- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Torchy’s Tacos

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.

Breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

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.

BBQ from the Salth Lick is a must for any visit to Austin- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Qui

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).

Innovative fine dining at Qui- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

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.

Creative street food from Top Chef Paul Qui at East Side King- 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Bufalina

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.

Distinctive wood-fired pizza is a hallmark of Austin's Bufalina 3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com
Where do you go for a great meal in Austin? Please share your recommendations in the comments!

50 Comments on “3 Meals: Where to eat in Austin, Texas

  1. You can call ahead to the South Congress Cafe to be put on the call in list. It saves you about 15 minutes wait time once you get there. And….try the pecan French toast…it is like dessert!

    • Awesome tip about the wait list and pecan french toast?I’m in!

  2. My mom and I are heading to Austin this summer. I am thinking about relocating there. Of course the trip will be treated like a mini-vacation so a list of tried and true places come right on time. I love tacos, so Torchy Tacos will be first on the list, followed by a BBQ Place.

    • Definitely stop by Veracruz All Natural, best tacos of my life!

  3. Here’s the thing: we were quite disappointed with the food in San Antonio. Not sure if it’s because we are spoiled Chicagoans or we just didn’t like their style, but either way we thought nothing of the food there. I have Austin as our next city to visit in Texas and now I am excited again as I sort of just dismissed the idea of food being tasty there too. Thanks!
    Angela recently posted…Awaken in Macon, the Cherry Blossom Capital of the WorldMy Profile

    • I haven’t been to San Antonio but absolutely loved the food scene in Austin.

  4. Phew, I feel relived that after having recently visited Austin, I’ve hit the majority of your favorite spots in Austin. The tacos and BBQ are fabulous, but I also loved Qui. There’s so much great eating in that town!

    • The food scene really surprised me, especially the stuff coming from Austin’s food trucks.

  5. Breakfast tacos sound amazing!! I’ve never visited Austin, but it is on my list. Saving this list for when I do get there!

  6. Somehow, I haven’t been to Austin yet, which is upsetting since I’m a huge BBQ fan. Salt Lick and Franklin’s has been on my hit list for a long time. We are doing a road trip this winter, and Austin is on top of the must-see list, mostly so I can eat a lot of brisket!

  7. Oh my god, I haven’t seen such a comprehensive list of restaurants in Austin! I’ve never been to Texas but I’ve heard a multitude of great things about the people and their hearty food and I can’t wait for my chance to visit. Thanks for the interesting insight to Austin city food culture, Brianna!

    • Austing is such a great food town, I definitely need to go back!

  8. Texas is big on my list and I desperately want to go! And now I want to go even more just to eat all of the delicious food! I’m a big foodie and so would just spend my time eating everything! I think I would head straight to Torchy’s Tacos – i’m a big tacos fan!

  9. That pizza talks to me through the screen, saying “eat me, eat me, I’m so delicious!” 🙂

  10. Brianna — so glad you enjoyed your stay in our town. You’re right — there is some amazing food here. Next time, for barbecue w/o the hour+ lines, try John Mueller Meat Co. Aaron Franklin used to work for John, and his sister is LeeAnn of LA. His grandfather was Louie Mueller, one of the Texas icons whose name is on one of the state’s truly historic places just outside of Austin in Taylor. Also, Stiles Switch, Micklethwait’s, Valentina’s Tex-Mex, Lambert’s or Freedman’s are all places that mean no one ever has to eat at Salt Lick. SL has the best atmosphere, and worst barbecue of any place in Texas. So go, take a cooler of beer, sit on the patio and enjoy the music while you wait. And go someplace else for good barbecue.

    As you found out at Veracruz, you can do much better than Torchy’s. Tortillas out of a bag make that place a non-starter for me. Next time, try Al Pastor on E Riverside, either the restaurant or the trailer out front. UNBELIEVABLE. If you get past there, local food blogger Mike Sutter ate 500 tacos last year and lived to tell (and write) about it. http://www.fedmanwalking.com

    Enjoy!
    Scott recently posted…Luxurious Service – Grand Hyatt Hong KongMy Profile

    • I absolutely loved Austin and definitely need to go back to eat more. Thanks for the recommendations!

    • The breakfast tacos at Veracruz are some of the best things I’ve eaten anywhere.

    • There is so much good food in Austin regardless of where your tastes lie.

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