A friend has family visiting Austin next month, and has asked me to provide a list of area restaurants that I prefer, so here goes!
I’ll try to include primarily locally owned restaurants, although a few are national or regional chains, albeit with local roots. I’ll also try to include only those restaurants where I’ve actually eaten, although there may be a couple that are still on my to-do list.
- Franklin Barbeque – Without question my number one choice. And it’s “Franklin Barbeque”, not “Franklin’s Barbeque”. Listed by Bon Appétit Magazine as one of the world’s most important restaurants, it opens each day, except Mondays, at 11:00am, and by noon they’re sold out. Lines begin forming at about 8:30am, and can sometimes go around the block. Don’t worry, though, about an hour before they open, an employee begins walking back through the line and learns what you plan to order, (Hint: Say, “A little of everything”), and they can also bring out a cold beer or two to help bide the time. It’s not a bad idea to bring lawn chairs, though. Trust me, any standing around and waiting is well worth it!
- Frank – Again, just “Frank”, not “Frank’s”. (What is it with Austin and possessive nouns?!) Purveyors of artisan hot dogs and cold beer, with the occasional live music thrown in. Parking downtown is horrendous, though.
- Annie’s Café and Bar – I don’t know how trendy or historic this nice little restaurant downtown is, I only know I stumbled upon it one night waiting to enjoy jazz at the nearby Elephant Room. Very nice atmosphere and food.
- Threadgill’s – 24 hour Southern comfort food. Go to the original on Lamar Street… That’s the one where Janus Joplin used to perform, before she’d go on be famous.
- Matt’s El Rancho – Family owned for over 50 years in South Austin, Matt’s El Rancho is a must stop if you’re in Austin.
- Manuel’s – Definitely not TexMex! High cuisine Mexican food.
- Torchy’s Tacos – Austin has this thing about tacos, I’m not sure what it is, but this former food truck chef has gone on to open up at several locations, all of them damn good!
- French Quarter Grill – One of my personal favorites, a nice, little family owned restaurant specializing in étouffée, gumbo, and many more dishes you’d find in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
- Kerbey Lane Café – a 24-hour diner that started by catering mainly to UT students, you guessed it… on Kerbey Lane. I’m excited that they’re about to start construction on a new location a few blocks from my apartment, but for now, the one on Guadalupe Street is probably my favorite. Or, go to the original one on Kerbey Lane. For breakfast, have the migas and/or the pancakes… they’re awesome!
- P. Terry’s – P. Terry’s is a no-frills burger place, with high quality, mostly local ingredients. Think of it as an Austin In-n-Out, but arguably better, and with no lines around the block.
- Cajun Pizza Place – Offers pizzas with a distinctive Cajun flair, also fried shrimp po-boys, muffulettas, and authentic Cajun boudin. The owners are related to the owners of Pizza Village in Lafayette, Louisiana, the only pizza place I’ve been to where they frequently have waiting lists to be seated most nights. Ask for The Joe, which is pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, hamburger, and shrimp at the Pizza Village. At the Cajun Pizza Place, that’s the same as The Crusher, except you substitute shrimp for the jalapenos.
- Chuy’s – Chuy’s is a national TexMex chain with headquarters in Austin. There are more tradition TexMex restaurants out there, but Chuy’s is a place I prefer, possibly because of the kitschy atmosphere.
- Freebirds – Started in California, Freebirds is a nice place to get a burrito, and in my opinion, better than Chipotle. Better tasting, better atmosphere, and slightly better politics.
- Chi’Lantro – Korean Mexican BBQ… let that sink in for a minute. Lines start forming when the truck rolls up.
- Café Java – This is a little bistro about a block away from where I live that I like to go to for the occasional breakfast, and I love their Cajun Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
- The Salt Lick – Before eating at Franklin, Salt Lick was my favorite BBQ.
Honorable mentions: Rudy’s, County Line, Bill Miller, Pok-e-Jo’s, and El Mercado. I understand Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is also supposed to be very good, although I have not been there… yet!
I’m sure there are many more deserving to be on this list, some I’ve been to, some I haven’t, but consider this one man’s partial list of good places to eat while in Austin, Texas.