After trying every restaurant in Chinatown Center, I'm convinced Austin has some legit contenders for good and authentic Asian food. There were even some unique finds like pâté en croûte, homemade durian ice cream, and barbecue beef tendon. I still wouldn't advise out-of-state visitors, or even Houstonians, to seek out Austin's Asian restaurants while visiting. But for those of us who live here, there are some excellent choices if you take the time to look.
Despite all the garish colors and signs on South Congress, the bright yellow Burro Cheese Kitchen container shines like a bright beacon obscuring it all. It all builds incredibly high expectations for Burro Cheese Kitchen's "artisan grilled cheese sandwich." I perused the small menu, and considered designing my own lunch from a wide variety of artisan cheeses, breads baked fresh at Easy Tiger, and custom blended sauces like chocolate syrup, dulce de leche, and almond pesto aioli. n the end, I left it up to the professionals and selected one of their six menu options. The Waylon & Willie($9.00)
There's a new truck in town, Melvin's Deli Comfort, assembling exquisite sandwiches from their house cured meats and homemade condiments. The delightfully greasy Croque-Monsieur, rich with melted Gruyère cheese, is the perfect hangover antidote, but their Pork Confit Sandwich ($9.00) stole the show.
There's a lot going on at Thai Fresh. This multipurpose Thai deli, grocery store, and cooking school serves about ten different dishes from its counter including the required Pad Thai. And there are sandwiches, too.
"We all come together with this common bond of barbecue in Texas," proclaimed writer Joe Nick Patoski, kicking-off Foodways Texas 3rd Annual Symposium entitled "Our Barbecue, Ourselves." The focus reached beyond the central Texas trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage to include wild game sausages, pork belly, and Gulf Coast seafood. Even Alabama barbecue chicken with white sauce made an appearance!
Tacos have their own vocabulary that I never learned in Spanish class. Like what is barbacoa, exactly? It takes on different forms throughout Mexico, but the South Texas version most prevalent in Austin is rooted in ranching traditions. When a cow is slaughtered, the head is roasted in a pit dug into the ground and lined with hot mesquite coals and maguey leaves. Every bit of the head, from the eyes to the brains, is consumed. In the Rio Grande Valley, the velvety shredded beef is traditionally eaten on Sundays with fresh tortillas, cilantro, onion, and tangy salsa. I ate all over Austin to find the best barbacoa I could; here are the ten standouts.
Winfo Osteria produces Neapolitan-style pizzas and Italian meat and pasta dishes "based around something you would find in a house in Italy—dishes you would find in a home." A selection of antipasti, soups, salads, and an Italian-focused wine list complete the menu. But the massive wood-burning Forno Bravo oven is the heart of the kitchen.
Fifteen food trucks have taken over the property at the corner of Rainey and Driskill Streets for SXSW. This pop-up food truck court, christened "SouthBites," was curated by Austin star chef Paul Qui.
Smoked macaroni and cheese, smoked scallops, smoked corn chowder, and more smoked creations at the Smoke Experiment in Austin at SXSW over the weekend.
SXSW events are happening all over Austin, but here are some recommended spots in and around downtown, the nexus of the action, just in case you're still hungry after eating all the free food sponsored by start-ups and record labels. Barbecue, breakfast and brunch, tacos, and more on this guide.
The number of food trucks in Austin is overwhelming. With more than 1,000 trucks (many with quirky and kitschy themes, like "Biscuits and Groovy"), some might even say the scene is saturated. Don't settle for mediocre food served from gimmicky trucks! For this list, we wanted to highlight the trucks that represent the Austin scene at its best—scrappy entrepreneurs making excellent food with minimal overhead.
Assembling a list of only 10 must-eats is difficult in a city like Austin where new restaurants and food trucks are opening constantly. With many out-of-towners visiting for SXSW, we've assembled a collection of eats that are representative of Austin's personality: barbacoa taco, rabbit and dumplings, barbecue, and more!
The unpretentious Gourmands Neighborhood Pub is representative of changes happening in East Austin. Operating out of an old Tejano nightclub, this restaurant bar specializes in excellent sandwiches and a good beer selection. The dark bluish light, jukebox, and black and white linoleum floors give the space a distinct dive bar feel. The recently opened patio area shaded by a beautiful old live oak tree is an option for those looking for a different atmosphere.
Food truck empire East Side King expanded westward last month to dive bar and live music venue Hole in the Wall. As the first brick and mortar location, it has greatly increased the quality of food options in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. So what does a permanent kitchen with running water mean for the menu? Paul Qui of Top Chef fame and partner Motoyasu "Moto" Utsunomiya have revived a ramen program that was originally available at the Grackle location, but they've developed new flavors.
A late-night food truck serving pizza on Austin's East 6th Street bar strip sounds like a perfect combination—almost like pepperoni and melted cheese. But Detroit-style pizza? Most Austinites aren't familiar with it, including me.
The food at Larry McGuire's restaurants is almost always impeccably cooked, and Elizabeth Street Cafe is no different. You can't really go wrong with good fried chicken stuffed into fresh baked bread.
In the taco rivalries of Austin, I'm a devout Tacodeli loyalist. The local chain first opened in 1999 and has since expanded to two more locations in the city. They offer quality tacos for everyone: staunch carnivores, vegetarians, locavores, vegans, gluten-free people, the food-adventurous, and even just picky eaters. This isn't the type of the Tex-Mex that will make you feel sick after eating it—the food is usually fresh, bright, and well-prepared. My only complaint is that they aren't open for dinner. But which is the best taco they make? We tasted every one to find out.
The Cook's Sandwich comes with sliced pâté, bacon, mustard, pickles, arugula, and goat cheese. It sounded unbearably tangy and salty, but I couldn't help myself, so I ordered it anyway.
New Orleans is an incredible education in eating for out-of-state college students. Upscale yet approachable restaurants school guileless youths in fine dining, but this is ultimately a casual eating town where oysters on the half shell and crawfish are washed down with a cold Abita beer. There's constant exposure to Louisiana specialties like boiled crab, boudin, and even alligator. Surviving multiple Mardi Gras celebrations will give you the skills to handle absolutely any type of future partying situation.
Hidden in the shadow of an elevated highway in a nondescript strip mall is Panadería Chuy. This bustling bakery supplies most of the bolillos, or torta rolls, to Mexican eateries around the Austin area. The interior is filled with overflowing cases of pastries and cookies like conchas, polvorones, and empanadas. You know this bakery is legit because, in true Mexican fashion, they provide the silver trays and tongs for helping yourself to their massive selection of baked goods.
Drivers traveling between Dallas and Austin on Interstate 35 don't have to rely on fast food. Instead they can conveniently stop in West, Texas to gorge themselves on the best kolaches in the state. The small town, located in Central Texas just outside Waco, still exhibits a heavy Czech influence due to immigration there in the 1890's.
Many Austinites are shocked by a question—"What's a kolache?"—that would be reasonable just about anywhere else. That's because these baked goods of Central European origin are a staple in local doughnut shops, bakeries, and dedicated kolache shops. They're a remnant of Czech immigration to Texas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You'll also find various kolache interpretations in the Midwest. Here are seven of our favorites.
Why are college neighborhoods often food wastelands? Yes, students are notoriously cheap, but the world is full of inexpensive yet delicious eats, so that's no excuse. Do campus area spots rely on a captive audience of car-deprived students? Or are they just too drunk to care about food? It seems like every large university is surrounded by boring chain restaurants mixed with mediocre pizza, burgers, and Thai food.
This retro diner is so tiny that you'll inevitably wait for a table. Standing outside when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees is excruciating with a pounding headache and an empty stomach. The things we're willing to do do for an all-day breakfast menu packed with Texas favorites like breakfast tacos and a pimento cheese sandwich...
I roll my eyes at the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan from time to time. Lots of businesses try to capture the city's vibe with focus group–approved logos, brushed stainless steel, reclaimed hardwood, and lots of investor backing. That doesn't seem all that weird to me, and the food quality is usually an afterthought. But there's still hope. You'll have a genuine Austin experience at Whip In, a relaxed hodge-podge convenience store, bar, restaurant, and live music venue. This family-owned operation has been refining its brand of weirdness for over 20 years.
Eggplant Parmesan sandwich from Mike's Deli. David Greco taught us to make the fresh mozzarella they use on their sandwiches....