It's that little bakery around the corner you go to on your lunch break every Thursday with your best pal to chat about movies and your crush, and the weather, and plans for the weekend while you munch on scones, cookies, iced coffee, and cake. The place is cute and snuggly and brimming with nice, happy people who love bread, aka the best kind of people. It’s basically paradise disguised as a bakery … or maybe it’s a bakery disguised as paradise? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that their egg salad sandwich on sourdough bread with a side of cheddar soup is better than life itself.
Austin proudly boasts the most famous barbecue joint in the country, hands down. It's a small place with a line so long and well-established it has its own video feed, lawn chair vendor, and rules of engagement. Brisket whisperer Aaron Franklin has his own cookbook, an eponymous PBS cooking show, and James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Chef Southwest 2015" – the first pitmaster to win one of those babies. Can the brisket really be that good, incredulous folks ask? Why, yes, it certainly can.
We recognized homegrown Hopdoddy as the prototype for an upscale chain right off the bat in 2010, and that was fine with us. We're perfectly happy to share the fine Premium Gold Angus burgers (fresh-ground in-house hormone- and antibiotic-free), luxurious shop-churned shakes, and innovative specials with folks in Round Rock, Dallas, Colorado, and Arizona. There are plenty of Llano Poblano burgers and cheese fries for everyone.
Human cannot live on bread (muffin, scone) alone, so Houndstooth carries Tacodeli breakfast tacos. (Or, in the case of the North Lamar location, is situated right next to them.) But, truly, it's all about the coffee. And "Best of Austin"-winning good coffee at that. They've got all the regular artisan pours and then some: French press, Chemex, a cortado. The baristas are knowledgeable, the wooden decor pleasant, and the playlist on point (Nineties and Aughts classic hip-hop). You won't even care you're in a Portlandia sketch. Just be warned: The mornings are packed.
The overwhelming consensus for the winner of the "Best Cure for the Munchies" award was actually some variation of "my fridge," but since we can't give out awards to all of your refrigerators, we went with the next popular vote, P. Terry's. If only your fridge was stocked full of P. Terry's, though. It's is the perfect place to go when you've got the munchies because the cheeseburgers and fries are delicious, but also incredibly cheap; you can get a burger, fries, drink, and shake for under $10. And if the munchies are still kickin' after all that, and you're too embarrassed to go back and order more, you can just visit a different P. Terry's location and start all over again!
Austin offers so many ways to dine and date. For those looking to romance, Justine’s delights all senses – from their steak tartare, Sazerac, and Side Car, to their enchanted garden patio, to their notoriously debaucherous galas and super-secret secret house. Offering more cheek than a French maid, this brasserie is sure to heat up any night out. Across town, Uchiko presents a more modern take on wooing, perfect for the heart set to impress. This more reserved (read: quieter) sibling of internationally recognized Uchi employs mood lighting warm enough to melt butter, and their shared plates tantalize taste buds and lovers alike. No matter the first date or the 99th, these spots will set the tone.
The world is your oyster! Or burger! Or tamale! Or … you get the point. Unlike other food delivery services, you can order anything via Favor, from any restaurant or store in the delivery area. The app is super user-friendly and updates you as your runner places the order, reaches the store, and finally arrives at your location. With delivery until 3am, Favor is perfect for late-night munchies or those days you can’t leave work or are already tucked in for the night.
Those wacky kids have done it again! Although they continue to grow into brick-and-mortar locations, the popularity of their late-night trailers has not waned a bit. At Liberty Bar you can still enjoy all the classics – brussels sprouts, beet fries, chicken karaage – while sister Thai-Kun at Whisler's dishes out some mighty fine Thai cuisine to pair with craft cocktails. With convenient locations planted across Austin's entertainment districts, there's no need to go home hungry after a night of revelry.
You might think vanilla is a boring flavor, but when done right, it hits all the pleasure receptors without being too sweet. Amy's takes this baseline flavor one step further, offering Mexican vanilla. Precious and few ice cream shops venture so deeply into the territory of el bean. It's the vanilla you've never thought possible. Now multiply that times all the other amazing flavors that come and go from the menu: Celis Raspberry, Butter Brick, Boston Cream Pie …. If ice cream were a person, Amy's would get a hug.
Open 24/7, Kerbey Lane is there when you need it. With options ranging from vegan to gluten-free, Kerbey ensures that everyone will find something to satisfy that dire 3am need for solid food. They've specialized in seasonal ingredients for ages: There's a time for tomatoes and a time for pumpkin spice pancakes. When craving something filling and delicioso, try out the seasonal dessert. Sounds vague, but worth the ask.
It used to be that deciding where to eat brunch was an arduous task requiring group texts, Facebook messages, and the occasional (gasp!) phone call. Now, thanks to Laura Sawicki and Rene Ortiz, that question only has one answer – Launderette. Go for the Duck Hash (which, because of the brussels sprouts, cons you into thinking it's healthy) or the Pork & Grits. Even if the Eastside hot spot didn't have great plates (clearly, it does), we would still think it was the best. Finally, all our friends agree on something.
It’s no slurprise that Ramen Tatsu-Ya made "Best of Austin" for the third time. This noodle joint, which recently opened a second location on South Lamar, is well worth the wait. Plus, you can enjoy an array of beers or sake while in line, so it ain’t so bad. The pork broth will have you drinking from your bowl with shameless abandon, and you’ll definitely want to order an extra ajitama egg (or five).
Contigo's patio, which is to say the entire restaurant, is the Sam Elliott of Austin dining. It's a little bit rustic, looks great in a cowboy getup, and gets better and better with age. There's been some renovation, but not much has changed about the rancho deluxe setting, the easy-sipping cocktails, or the accessible menu. That kind of star power never needs fixing.
Home Slice's lock on Best Pizza lists has been hard-earned and well-deserved. There is no other place in Central Texas that's mastered the marriage of sauce and cheese into such a luscious blanket of East Coast POW!, a direct nonstop flight for the taste buds to NYC. Across town, the trajectory diverges – straight up the heartland to Detroit. It's an entirely different pizza planet at Via 313. Less pie than slab of pure stretchy, gooey, tomato-y, rectangular, caramelized bliss, this muscular representation of Via's homeland is the Dodge Challenger to Home Slice's hansom cab. In both cases, it's not so much the destination as the delicious journey itself.
Gluten-free enchiladas, grass-fed lamb lasagna, chicken butternut squash macaroni? Do not fear the organic fusion foods of Snap Kitchen. If you need healthy food that respects an allergy or dietary lifestyle, Snap has it in a ready-to-go form of yum that won't make your wallet cry. There's a reason this isn't their first "Best of" rodeo.
Let's face it. Some of the hottest dining spots in town look like Design Within Reach showrooms. That's fine, but even in a town as mid-century-modern obsessed as ours, the eye needs to come in from the cold. Michael Hsu's design for Sway is the opposite of that. There's a warmth and timelessness that matches the agelessness of the kitchen. Our readers keep voting for it precisely because it already feels like home.
A tie between these two highly regarded purveyors of expertly prepared seafood would seem to indicate that sometimes we're in the mood for the casual atmosphere of dining with one of our favorite local fishmongers, while other times, we prefer the beach-like ambience and shady deck of a more upscale eatery. It just depends on our budget and whether we're hungry for a dozen oysters and some Cajun-inspired dishes washed down with an ice cold beer (Quality Seafood), or a sophisticated seafood brunch of New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and stone-ground organic grits, lobster mac & cheese, or breakfast bouillabaisse topped with a fried egg, paired with a custom cocktail (Perla's). Either way, the seafood will be first-rate, and we're always happy.
Everyone talks about the Dirty Sanchez taco (har har, boys), but we love the Jamaican jerk(iness) of the Brushfire taco. We're just gonna put that out there. Still, the story of Torchy's – up from humble beginnings (one of the early birds in the food cart phenomenon), this "damn good" taco chain now has franchises all over Texas, and one in Colorado. That horny little devil gets around! But "damn good" food doesn't mean design is thrown by the wayside. The new Mueller Torchy's (and several other locations) have been outfitted by Jamie Chioco of Chioco Design. So it may surprise no one that we've been thinking about moving in, but we'd likely wake up with diablo hot sauce in all the wrong places. Or all the right places, depending on who you ask.
Torchy's Tacos, COMING SOON: 1822 S. Congress
In an ever-upscaling and -homogenizing Eastside, Counter Culture maintains a certain Austin charm. Did you know that CC founder/owner/chef Sue Davis is also a noted local vinyl DJ? DJ Sue Purr's curatorial expertise in sound – selecting, sorting, juxtaposing, blending, and contextualizing – is similar to what she brings to her restaurant menu's flavor palette. Apparently, that palette hits our readers' palate like music to the mouth. In song, she specializes in Sixties garage, Seventies power-pop, and Eighties punk. In food she makes magic with elements like jackfruit, cashew cream, cashew cheeze, chickpea chorizo, beatballs, and (in the words of one band whose music we bet she's spun before): Seitan! Seitan! Seitan!