Seared Beef Tongue Sandwich from Noble Pig Sandwiches
You'll find Noble Pig Sandwiches in the Northwest reaches of Austin in an unassuming deli where almost everything—from the bacon to the bread to the pickles to the aioli—is made from scratch. The beef tongue sandwich ($8) is particularly delightful. Cured tongue between slices of freshly baked bread, lightly grilled and then slathered with aioli. Some smokey green onions and a tart red pepper relish brighten up the whole combination.
Barbacoa Taco at El Taco Rico
The two ladies at this little blue taco truck serve Texas barbacoa—shredded beef cheeks slow-cooked to tender perfection—wrapped in a tortilla and topped with onions, cilantro, and creamy green salsa. It's the perfect taco experience for $2. Their tortillas don't appear homemade, but hey, you can't get everything you want.
El Taco Rico: 810 Vargas Road, Austin, TX 78741 (map)
Miso-White Chocolate Semifreddo at Sway
Pastry chef Laura Sawicki is already well-known for her exquisite Mexican influenced desserts at La Condesa. She's now experimenting with Asian ingredients at the restaurant group's new Australian Thai restaurant, Sway. The subtle sweetness of the velvety semifreddo is tempered by the salty miso, while the sesame garnish adds some crunch. A small scoop of tart mango-calamansi sorbet is served alongside the custard, nestled in a bed of coconut sticky rice.
Rabbit and Dumplings at Contigo
This outdoor restaurant serves affordable, Texas ranch-inspired dishes. The rabbit and dumplings, cradled in an iron skillet, is an unexpected favorite. The "dumplings" are more like sage-injected biscuits perched on a hearty stew of tender rabbit chunks, crunchy carrots, and cipollini onions. The comforting dish is evocative of the best chicken pot pie you've ever had.
Pommes Frites at Hopfields
There are several places to pound some beers near the University of Texas at Austin, but recently opened Hopfields has added some down-to-earth sophistication to the bar scene. Hopfields' fries transport me back to Belgium: twice-fried in peanut oil, served warm, sprinkled with coarse salt and a little tarragon, and served with a side of house made aioli.
Tonkotsu Original at Ramen Tatsu-ya
Visitors from other cities might ask if Austin's food trends have a five-year delay, and when it comes to ramen fever, yes, we are just catching on here. The arrival of Ramen Tatsu-ya made it worth the wait. Pork bones are slow-cooked for 60 hours to leach the milky marrow into the broth. It's garnished with a thin slice of crisp-tender pork belly, a marinaded soft boiled egg, scallions, sesame seeds, and wood ear mushrooms. You'll likely wait 30 minutes to an hour to try this sublime soup.
Brisket at Franklin Barbecue
Aaron Franklin is living the Austin dream. His barbecue trailer developed such a rabid following that he was able to open a brick-and-mortar spot. Slow-smoking his brisket for up to 15 hours leads to barbecue on par with, and sometimes even better than, some of the storied Hill Country joints. It quite literally melts on the tongue as soon as you place it in your mouth. Earning the privilege to eat this brisket requires lining up at around 9am to get in the door when they open at 11am.
Squid Ink Curry Ramen at East Side King at Hole in The Wall
"Black ramen?!" You might ask. Why, yes. The first brick-and-mortar East Side King location (with running water!) is an opportunity for chef Yoshi Okai to get creative with ramen offerings. A touch of squid ink turns this soup a rich black color without overpowering it. This deceptively light ramen is garnished with large squid rings, tomato, potato, and Italian parsley.
Goat Consomme at Taco More
Whether you eat in or take out, this humble soup from Taco Rico is served in a little styrofoam cup. But don't underestimate its powers simply based on its presentation. The silky red broth is boldly flavored with dried red chiles, shredded goat meat, chickpeas, cilantro and diced white onions.
Taco More:9414 Parkfield Dr, Austin, TX 78758 (map); 512-821-1561
Akaushi Picadillo Taco at Tacodeli
All ground beef tacos should model themselves after this one. I never skip the Akaushi Picadillo when at Tacodeli. Even after trying all of them, this is my favorite. HeartBrand Ranch ground Akaushi beef is aggressively seasoned with garlic, and caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness.