Austin has way too much great food for a human being to experience in a lifetime. In the last 6 months, since I moved to the capital of Texas, I am trying to keep up with all the restaurants that pop up every month and I have to admit, I am failing miserably. The amount of options in this city is overwhelming.
If you are travelling to Austin and only have a few days to explore it, I suggest you concentrate on the foods you must try here, rather than on all the restaurants you must visit. Here’s my list of must-try foods Austin is famous for! I give a few ideas on where you can get them also, those are my personal favorites.
Home to some of the best BBQ joints not only in Texas, but in USA, Austin has some amazing smoked brisket and pork ribs to offer. The most delicious juicy brisket I’ve had in my life was here. Austinites definitely know how to cook their meat.
Where to find it:
Franklin BBQ is the most famous BBQ joint – famous not only for their exceptional meat, but for the longest waiting lines, too. It will take you about 4 hours to get your hands on the best BBQ in United States. And don’t even think of cutting the line. The only person who was ever allowed to do that was President Barack Obama. Read about my experience at Franklin BBQ here!
Address: 900 E. 11th, Austin, TX 78702
Freedmen’s Bar is a smokehouse, cocktail lounge and beer garden all in one. It’s great if you want to eat some delicious meat without waiting for several hours. This is the place where I take all my friends and family members who come to visit Austin.
Address: 2402 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705
Sam’s BBQ is a hole in the wall but their food is going to blow your mind. The sign on the wall says: “You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef”. You really don’t.
Address: 2000 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
There’s an ongoing war between Austin and nearby San Antonio about who invented breakfast taco and who makes it better. The war grew to such ridiculous proportions that recently a petition was signed to make a journalist, who wrote an article suggesting that Austin created the term “breakfast taco”, leave the state of Texas. About 500 people signed it in the first 11 hours. This is such a delicate matter, I am slightly scared to express my opinion. Let’s just agree that breakfast taco is the best thing that can happen to you in the morning, and Austin has some really delectable options. I love Austin breakfast tacos for creative approach, natural ingredients and outstanding taste.
Where to find:
Tacodeli is on every possible list of best tacos in USA and tacos to try before you die. Being so close to my house, this place is the most obvious choice for my meals when I am too lazy to cook.
Address: they have 5 locations in Austin, check their website to find the closest to you.
Torchy’s Tacos. There’s a reason why these tacos are called “damn good”. They topped the list of the best tacos in Texas and USA on many occasions.
Address: they have 13 locations in Austin, check their website to find the closest to you.
Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ combines the best of Texas by making tacos filled with BBQ. Nobody can beat that!
Address: 1150 Manchaca road, Austin, TX
It might be difficult to distinguish Mexican from Tex-Mex even for Texans, let alone a Russian girl who haven’t had any Mexican food before coming to USA 2 years ago. Over time Mexican and Texan cuisines were growing into each other and tangling up into a knot. Although it’s hard to untie it, you can still find basic differences between traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex food. Mainly, ingredients make the whole difference. Texans adopted Mexican recipes using ingredients available in their own land like beef, yellow cheese (cheddar), wheat flour, black beans and cumin. Predominant meat in Mexico is chicken and pork, beef is what Texan ranchers would have in abundance. Cumin was imported to US from India and quickly got adopted by Texan cooks. Wheat is another sign of a Tex-Mex dish, in traditional Mexican cuisine corn flour is more popular. There are certain dishes that are essential to Tex-Mex cuisine: nachos, chili con carne and fajitas.
Where to find:
Chuy’s is, probably, the most popular place in Austin for Tex-Mex food. Certainly, not the only one in the city. But so far the only one I can whole-heartedly recommend.
Address: they have 5 locations in Austin, but the most famous would be in Barton Springs.
This is technically not a type of food, of course. Please don’t eat a truck. But Austin is a city famous for its food trucks. Many businesses that are now legendary across Texas started from small trucks on the side of the road. Like Franklin’s BBQ and Torchy’s Tacos where President Obama himself had a meal. You can kill two birds with one stone by having BBQ or tacos from a food truck. But the truth is you can get pretty much anything from a food truck in Austin: from biscuits and gravy to vegan food to sushi to cupcakes.
Where to find: there are way too many amazing food trucks in Austin for me to mention just a few here. Check out this list by Eater to get an initial idea of choices you have.
Local Beer, Ale and Cider
With so many great breweries in the city, you can’t afford to have beer made anywhere else but Austin on your visit. Beer and cider are mostly all natural, some are sustainably-produced and absolutely all of them are delicious. You can take a brewery tour, have a glass of local beer in one of the bars or get a pack to take home in a supermarket.
Where to find:
The ABGB is my favorite place for a glass of cider and live music. They brew their own beer, too.
Address: 1305 W Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
Whip In is an Indian restaurant offering Indian fusion food. Although Whip In doesn’t produce beer of their own, they have a large range of local wines and beers.
Address: 1950 South Interstate Highway 35, Austin, TX 78704
For more options, check this guide of Austin’s best brewpubs by Big World, Small Girl. Caitlin lives in Austin and writes exclusively about craft beer!
Because it’s the official dessert of Texas. Also because, when done right, it’s so incredibly good! With pecan tree being the official tree of Texas and pecan nut – the official nut, no wonder pecan pie is the official dessert and a must-try in Texas, and in Austin in particular.
Not all pecan pies are equally good. What makes a great pecan pie? Soft and crumbly dough, gooey but not jelly-like center, and the best caramelized pecans. Try this ideal combination once and, I assure you, there will be no way back! You will order the same pie time and again, making all other pies needy for your attention.
Where to find:
Tiny Pies has a miniature version of pecan pie that is my favorite in the whole city!
Address: they have two locations on Burnet Road and on South Lamar Blvd.
Upper Crust bakery makes delicious classic version of pecan pie.
Address: 4508 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78756
Péché is a bar, not a bakery, but their signature pecan pie is excellent. If you find yourself having one absinthe-based cocktail after another in this New Orleans-esque bar – absinthe is their specialty – don’t hesitate to order the pie for dessert.
Address: 208 W 4th St, Austin, TX 78701
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