This definitely sounds crazy, but I’m starting to think I’ve eaten almost everywhere in Austin that I want to at the moment. That being said, the last six months have been the most exciting time in the culinary scene as I’ve seen chefs take risks and branch out to showcase what they really want to cook and eat. I’ve been most impressed by the concepts that don’t replicate any others in town and the ones that we have been NEEDING such as Uncle Nicky’s, an Italian cafe and bar with meat sandwiches, gelato, and cocktails, Bar Peached which is in the corner of Clarksville that always needs new spots to grab a nice cocktail and a bite, and Intero on the east side which changes the menu daily and uses whole animals and ingredients to prevent waste.
Full disclosure- I do need to visit a few old school places like Bartlett’s, Wink, and Bob’s Steakhouse. I want to try Aviary, the Indian food truck Bombay Dhaba on South First, and El Dorado up north. Otherwise, I’ve eaten my way around the Austin sun in the last two years. People say I’m lucky or wow how do you do that. Guys, these restaurants are open to the public (YOU), and you don’t have to eat at your same breakfast taco shack 5 days a week!! The two places I frequent weekly are Casa De Luz, the holy vegan spot, and Koriente when I need a healthy reboot and some home cooking! Otherwise, here are my favorite spots right now new and old in each neighborhood when you’re looking to sift through all the noise.
(South First, South Congress, Bouldin, South Lamar)
- Thai Fresh – Casual lunch or dinner. Get the pad prik king, drunken noodles, kale salad, green curry, brown rice or just pop-in for the best ice cream and caramel brownies in town.
- Elizabeth Street Cafe – Cute pastel colored patio and boulangerie. Order wonton soup, snapper bun, and red fish. Note: You can make a reservation for a larger group.
- Sway – More Thai next door! Communal seating at square tables for everyone. (Moved to Westlake!)
- Loro – Aaron Franklin x Tyson Cole from Uchi collab on this casual almost sports bar like spot. Order your brisket, yuzu salmon, and cabbage salad at the counter and the frozen mango sake.
- Spicy Boys– My favorite food truck which is at St. Elmo Brewing Co and on a nice patio with live music. They used to have more curry and Asian flavor options but they do have specials so make sure the get whatever curry is on the menu! The panang is my favorite. Add on the Som Tom papaya salad and Fried Chicken.
- Perla’s – Seafood mecca with a patio on South Congress (watch out for the pooping birds). Oysters, champagne, shrimp cocktail, daily fish with chimichurri, and crab grits.
- Odd Duck – It took me a year to venture into this restaurant. I never understood the menu until I ate it and amazing flavors burst and work together in each bite. Don’t be afraid. It’s truly a pleasure.
- Summer House at Hotel Magdalena– This is my all time favorite dinner spot right now. They have all my favorite items on one menu: a stellar whole fish, good starter salads, whipped feta with some good homemade bread, steak cut fries, and a gorgeous indoor bar or California vibe patio.
- Lenoir– The outdoor wine garden with their all natural wine list will impress anyone and be approachable for all. The small plates are always changing to the season, but again, their Goan Crab Curry Whole Fish is my favorite dish in all of Austin. This make a great date night, celebration, place to bring friends in town, or just a girl’s wine night with good food. I trust husband-and-wife owners Todd and Jess with whatever they put on the menus here!
- Eberly – If there was any restaurant that combined LA + NYC, it’s this gorgeous dining room.
- Carpenters Hall – Go anytime of day just make sure you get the avocado caesar, anything with their buttery bread, and my favorite chocolate chip cookie in town during the day at their coffee shop Hot L Coffee.
- Bouldin Creek Cafe – Best for lunch! Sweet potato tamales or any soups.
- Casa De Luz – The only way to detox and eat three courses simultaneously. $14 for the daily soup and salad + the entree the ladies bring to you when you have completed your first round. It always consists of some kind of kale with almond sauce, pickled beets, rice, and beans. My favorite entree is the one with sweet potatoes and butternut squash or guacamole tacos on Wednesday for lunch.
Pizza & a Show!
- ABGB – A brewery serving better than it needs to be pizza. Lots of seating indoor and outdoors. Catch a live show inside!
- Fresa’s – Who goes to a Mexican restaurant to get ice cream? Me! James Beard nominee Chef Laura Sawicki makes the best cookies in cream with fresh oreos and chocolate brownie. It’s casual and ideal for to-go or big groups when you want margaritas and perfectly cooked chicken. I also love their vegetable sides that are more creative than rice and beans like sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, beets, etc.
- Matt’s El Rancho – C-L-A-S-S-I-C Tex- Mex. If you’ve been looking for Bob Armstrong dip, it’s here. I prefer the giant bean and cheese nachos on the perfect chip.
- Polvo’s – I love watching them bake the fresh tortillas and the salsa bar. Fish fajitas all the way.
- El Borrego de Oro – Best tortilla soup. That’s it.
- Vera Cruz Al Natural @ Radio Coffee – My favorite migas breakfast taco in town but only at this location do I think it’s the best. Fish tacos are good, too!
- Valentina’s Tex Mex – A BBQ and Taco food truck combined for the best of Texas. Flour tortillas are #1 in my book and I prefer the chicken tacos with amazing green sauce.
- Leroy & Lewis – Most modern BBQ in town and a food truck. I love their beet BBQ sauce, brisket, rich beef cheeks, sweet potatoes and caesar salad. Menu changes regularly.
- Terry Black’s BBQ – All around best BBQ restaurant on Barton Springs. Go for the brisket which isn’t as rich and flavorful as the others, but it’s smokey and not too heavy. I like the turkey, mac ‘n cheese, and corn muffin.
- Churro Co. – Don’t make the mistake of getting whipped cream instead of a scoop of homemade vanilla Blue Bell Ice Cream!
- Thorough Bread – My second favorite chocolate chip cookie in town. Also, get the banana cookie. Who knew?
DOWNTOWN + RAINEY STREET
Perfect before a show!
- La Condesa – The restaurant that started the 2nd street population. Great for birthday dinners in their subterranean private room.
- Kalimoxto – Grab some Spanish small plates, pintxo boards, and snacks. I like the Pan Con Tomate, Tortilla Espanola, and def need to try the burger. The Koli Sunday with sorbet, candied pecans, caramel, graham cracks, and salted cream should be your end goal. They also have a frozen namesake drink Kalimoxto which is Spanish red wine and coca-cola.
- The Peacock– This Mediterranean Grill with Israeli flavors is one of my top 5 restaurants in the city. It has my favorite salad– Simple Greens & Herbs with pistachio, crispy seeds, avocado, sesame dressing, most doughy pita, oak grilled octopus, and the gorgeous interior is designed by Kelly Wearstler. If you just want some margs, lobster quesadillas, and guac, head up to the rooftop and eat at La Piscina by the pool.
- Fareground – A food hall where you don’t have to commit. Tacos, Italian food, golden milk, matcha lattes, Monster Cookies, Sushi, Ramen, and Israeli food.
- The Back Space – Perfect pizza and antipasti veggies before heading out to a show on Dirty Sixth.
- Koriente – Not much of an atmosphere, but it’s for the healthy Asian lunch spot with rice bowls and curries. I add spicy tuna to my veggies bowl.
- The Well– This is my favorite lunch in Austin. Everything is healthy, low-sugar, made from scratch, and gluten-free. You’ll do well with any order. I like their breakfast tacos on cassava tortillas, overnight oats and salmon plate. They also offer smoothies, juice, bone broth, wellness shots.
- Walton’s – Quick sandwich, soup, salad, bakery. Get the golden egg snickerdoodle for dessert.
Nice on Rainey!
- Emmer & Rye – The best carbs in the city from homemade roti, breads, and pastas. Get the farm cheese, and the braised meat with roti.
- Geraldine’s – A Kimpton hotel restaurant I didn’t know I’d love so much. They have live music, great gnocchi, steak, cauliflower, and carrots.
Breakfast + Brunch!
- Cisco’s – This old school spot has been around since the 50’s and served Willie Nelson and congressman on the reg. It’s now open for dinner, too! Get the migas and TOASTED biscuits (make sure you request that).
- Cenote – This coffee shop also makes the best simple scrambled eggs and kale salads. Counter service.
- Rosita’s Al Pastor– GORDITAs! If you want a taco truck experience, this is the one for you as you can see the tortillas being rolled.
- Il Brutto – This might be the only Italian restaurant in town that actually has a true Italian chef cooking in it! He makes 7 handmade pastas daily, pizza dough that is fermented for two days so it’s fluffy and crunchy, and their happy hour is 1/2 off all drinks from 5-7 p.m. I love the lasagna, lamb, and complimentary limoncello at the end.
- Kemuri Tatsuya – This is one of the most fun places in Austin because you can’t get this food anywhere else. Think Izakaya meets Texas BBQ. Good for big groups.
- Intero – They change their menu regularly and used to work at the iconic Jeffrey’s. You’ll see the same ingredients sprinkled throughout the menu because they are big on no waste and using whole animals. Their pastas are great.
- Suerte – Masa, masa, masa! I love the bar here, good wine, and a fun, intimate setting. It’s bright, has flamingo wallpaper in the bathroom. The brisket tacos and carrot dumplings are my favorite.
- Buenos Aires Cafe – This is one of the oldest restaurants in Austin and on the original east side! I haven’t eaten here in years, BUT they have an awesome speakeasy bar in the back called Milonga Room and the fries are dank. You have to call or text to make a reservation Thursday- Saturday. They have live music and great wines. 512.593.1920
- Launderette – Chef Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki run the show here so it’s flawless. I love all the Mediterranean influence yet great burger and chicken thighs. There’s a reason everyone talks about the birthday cake ice cream sandwiches only served at dinner. Don’t worry the breakfast pastries are fabulous, too.
- Justine’s – This is the sexiest restaurant in town. It’s one of the only super sceney yet local places where I feel like I’m in NYC again. The staff has outstanding individual style, they don’t care that you have to wait 2 hours, the murals in the outdoor tents during the winter are gorgeous, and the steak tartare and mussels are memorable. This is where I want to go on a date or with my best friends for a night out.
- Hillside Farmacy – Go for the kale salad and mac ‘n cheese. It reminds me of a cute corner spot that would be in Brooklyn. Fun for a girls dinner or a good cocktail at the bar with a date. It has old school pharmacy style seating but very chic.
- Sour Duck – This is almost the definition of Austin. Casual, outdoor beer garden feel, order food at the counter. Lots of meat and some veggie options. Waiter for cocktails AND parking.
- Gati– Owned by Chef Jam Sanitchat of Thai Fresh and one of my favorite clients, this is a coconut milk based vegan ice cream shop with a gluten-free bakery and coffee service. The scoops and pints are made with five or less ingredients, super creamy, and do not taste icy or coconutty like other vegan ice creams. I like the chocolate, lavender caramel, and golden milk best. She also does ice cream pies!
- Paperroute Bakery – This place holds a special place in my heart. This young twenty-something baker named Aaron is a one man show waking up at 2 a.m. to start baking in his 500 square foot bakery attached to Cenote. Go for the blueberry pop tarts, bundts, and place an order for your next birthday cake.
CLARKSVILLE/TARRY TOWN/ HYDE PARK/CAMPUS
Casual Good Food!
- The Beer Plant – This all vegan restaurant with a brewery blew my mind. I love that it wasn’t showy and felt just like a neighborhood spot that ANYONE vegan or not can actually eat at every night and not get sick of it. It was PACKED on a Wednesday. Get the special soup of the day because it’s served with their awesome bread and the eggplant curry. All the sandwiches looked so good I wanted to steal a bite from my neighbor when he went to the bathroom.
- Taco Flats– This is my favorite breakfast taco in all of Austin. The eggs are creamy, love the black bean addition, and they avocado is always included and just the right texture. Oh, and the flour tortilla! They also serve dinner and have full service with margaritas which is hard to find for tacos.
- Texas French Bread – An Austin classic right by campus since 1981! Feels like it must have been the only bakery and place to get fresh breads in town at one point. I love their brunch and superb omelette. Great salads and easy sandwiches. Cookies for all, and best of all, beautiful lighting.
- Better Half – I have all my meetings here. I’ve never seen a better place for coffee, cocktails, AND food. I also feel very Brooklyn here with the well dressed crowd. Men in real, fitted t-shirts. Go for the fried chicken salad, cauliflower tater tots, and biscuit with homemade jam.
- 40 North – This is my all around favorite pizza place. The crust has height, is fluffy, and holds the sauce and toppings well. It’s in a cute little house ideal for lunch or a casual dinner. The Mediterranean cauliflower and bibb salad are enough of a reason to come if not just for pizza!
- Uncle Nicky’s – This tiny Italian cafe and bar in Hyde Park made me squeal when it opened in 2019 as there is nothing like it. I can get an assortment of negronis, Italian meat sandwiches on the best homemade roll in town, kale salad with truffle honey, and my absolute favorite: sardines with salsa verde and ritz!! Come here for an early aperitif or stop on your way home. Best solo or with one other person due to space.
- Shoal Creek Saloon – If you are looking for a bar withe peel n eat crawfish and shrimp, here you go. Skip the gumbo and go for the fried okra.
- Pool Burger – Backyard burgers served out of a food truck, tiki cocktails, crinkle cut waffle fries, and necessary soft serve.
- Clark’s – This is go-to for seafood. The only place in town where I can get a perfect bowl of ciopinno + oysters. The burger is my favorite in town, and don’t forget they are open for brunch, and the pancakes are awesome.
- Bar Peached – This menu is wild and crazy, kids! I love the cucumber vodka cocktail, and the chimichurri carrots. It’s like asian ingredients meets Texas with unique tacos and even pastas made with udon noodles. It’s situated in a cute house in Clarksville and has patio seating that feels separated.
Easy Lunch or Dinner!
- Picnik – All hail anyone looking for fresh, mindful ingredients and those we are allergic to gluten, soy, corn, or peanuts. They don’t let any of that in their kitchen! Think butter coffee, matcha lattes, breakfast hash + tacos on Siete tortillas, my favorite cauliflower steak with capers, raisins on a bed of hummus, roasted chicken, and their paleo blondie.
- Tiny Boxwood – A ladies who lunch spot from Houston. Just come for the cute, outdoor courtyard and chocolate chip cookies!!!
- Pacha – A tinsy coffee shop that has my favorite pancakes in town. They serve their eggs on top of them, too!
- Kellie’s Baking Co. – Known for their ginger cookies with instagram photos pasted on the front, I prefer the brookie which is half chocolate chip cookie/half brownie/topped with mallow! It’s so gooey and doughy. I love their stuffed reese’s and twix cookies just as much!
- Tiny Pies – Mini pies great to bring to a party or a birthday. I like the fruit ones best.
This gets its own category because there are so few in town!
- Musashino – My favorite sushi spot in town and biggest sushi bill I’ve ever racked up. Sit at the counter obviously and order piece by piece. Their nigiri is the biggest and freshest, I’ve found.
- Kome– This is my everyday sushi go-to and they are the only place I like open for lunch. Get the spooky roll or udon!
- Uchiko – The overall best spot for ambiance and quality. You can get raw fish or their dressed up plates. I prefer the kanpachi crudo, best brussels sprouts in town, fried chicken karaage, the wagyu beef bite and eggplant sushi bite. It’s really fun to eat here with a big group, too!
- Fukumoto – For when you are craving sushi on the east side and want to go out in that hood. Super chill. Skip the poke and izakaya and stick to the raw fish which is great!
- Ten Ten– Looking for a sleek NYC vibe but with good sushi still? This is your spot on West 6th. Reminds me of Catch in Meatpacking.
- L’Oca d’ Oro– Fantastic Italian with a great selection of pastas that are ever changing. It’s fun to sit and look into the kitchen. I like the roasted carrots with pistachio butter, straciatella crostini, grilled focaccia, and meatballs.
- Hank’s – Full of the best cacti and succulents in town, Hank’s is a fresh vibe with simple dishes. I like the Pesto Rice Bowl with a poached egg and Garden & Goat Salad with Salmon. Everything is super affordable weighing under $14 on average.
Now I spent hours on this, lots of money and calories on food, and still have a lot of restaurants that didn’t make the list. Maybe they are your favorites or maybe you wonder how I missed one that seems so obvious to you, BUT these are the ones I keep getting excited to go back to, whether the service stands out, they have great cocktails, or simply because they are doing something no one else is doing (HEY, Suerte, Kemuri, Intero) in town that makes me jump! I have 69 places on here and there will always be room for more, and the truth is if you’ve seen food from a restaurant on my feed or stories, I dig it. I never post anything I don’t like or don’t eat!