South Congress, South First, and Farther South

Although lacking in looks, Asiana makes up for it with flavor. Here you'll find an array of dishes from the Subcontinent, from ubiquitous tikka masala and saag paneer to goat curries and lesser-known Southern Indian specialties. Lunch service is buffet-only, but dinner boasts an ample menu and courteous table service. – Claudia Alarcón

801 E. William Cannon #205
512/445-3435
www.asianaindiancuisine.com

This place has long been the home of the bike-riding, vegan hipster contingent, due to Fair Trade espresso drinks, teas, and juices, as well as excellent vegetarian and vegan breakfasts, sandwiches, and salads. Nearly all menu items can be made vegan on request. A thriving business with a relaxed, communal atmosphere. – Kate Thornberry

1900 S. First
512/416-1601
www.bouldincreekcafe.com

photo by John Anderson

This inexpensive, casual dive with a patio features some of the best Interior Mexican cuisine in Austin. They've been recognized by Texas Monthly and The Austin Chronicle for their superior tamales, salsas, Mexican breakfasts, and regional dishes, as well as for an outstanding margarita bar. – Kate Thornberry

614 E. Oltorf
512/444-0012
www.currasgrill.com

Chef Alma Alcocer has found a niche for her outstanding Mexico City-style cuisine – a little traditional, a little modern, a lot of fun – with killer dishes like duck mole enchiladas and ancho chile rellenos. The rooftop bar is lovely, perfect for happy hour or cocktailing before a show at the Long Center. – Claudia Alarcón

1025 Barton Springs Rd.
512/609-8923
www.elalmacafe.com/

photo by John Anderson

Photo by John Anderson

An upscale little place, serving a classic Vietnamese menu – think báhn mì, vermicelli bowls, steamed buns, and pho, plus Vietnamese coffee and French bakery items – made largely with locally sourced ingredients, including pastured meats and eggs and organic produce from area farms. – Kate Thornberry

1501 S. First
512/291-2881
www.elizabethstreetcafe.com

Owner/chefs Maria and Abderrahim Souktouri bring classic Moroccan street food to Austin, using quality ingredients like fresh vegetables and chemical/hormone-free eggs and meats. Flavorful beef, chicken, turkey, and vegetables are served on traditional flatbread. –MM Pack

John Anderson

If you have a taste for wacky sweets, you must be one of the legions of fans of these off-the-wall doughnuts, featuring fillings and toppings that range from crushed candy bars to fried chicken strips and bacon. – Claudia Alarcón

1503 S. First
512/707-1050
www.gourdoughs.com

Charlie Goodnight invented the chuck wagon, and his family went on to build the Goodnight Motel and its coffee shop, Hill's Cafe. Open in the same location for more than 65 years, Hill's Cafe is an Austin landmark serving up Texas specialties such as chicken-fried steak, chips and queso, brisket sliders, tamales, barbecue, skillet enchiladas, fried chicken, burgers, and catfish. – Kate Thornberry

John Anderson

Though many have tried – with varying levels of success – to bring East Coast-style pizza to Austin, Home Slice is the first to experience phenomenal customer response to their tossed, thin-crust, "foldable" pizza. It's generally considered to be the most authentic New York pizza in town. – Kate Thornberry

1415 S. Congress
512/444-7437
www.homeslicepizza.com

This hugely successful "crafted" hamburger restaurant boasts premium ingredients and inventive flavor combinations. With unforgettable burgers, including tuna, lamb, bison, and vegetarian, as well as several Angus beef burgers, Hopdoddy also features an impressive selection of locally brewed, small-batch beers and ales. – Kate Thornberry

1400 S. Congress Ste. A-190
512/243-7505
www.hopdoddy.com

photo by John Anderson

John Anderson

With its spectacular, category-defying cuisine, picture-perfect plate presentation, an expertly selected wine list, superb service, and cozy shabby-chic aesthetic, Lenoir is living proof that Austin has arrived in the culinary big leagues. Bring on any celebrity chef you want – my money is on Todd and Jessica. – Claudia Alarcón

1807 S. First
512/215-9778
www.lenoirrestaurant.com

The only thing better than great fried chicken is great fried chicken with a side of spicy, wood-grilled oysters and a pint of ice-cold local brew, served at a sweet hangout that features something for everyone (and a killer jukebox, to boot). Those pies are pretty tasty, too. – Claudia Alarcón

2218 College Ave.
512/297-2423
www.lucysfriedchicken.com

photo by John Anderson

Founded by chef John Galindo, this SoFi mobile taqueria (formerly known as Izzoz) remains my favorite among the gourmet taco trucks. Try the Padre and a side of garlic fries and thank me later. – Claudia Alarcón

1503 S. First
512/916-4996
mellizoztacos.com

Larger than its William Cannon sibling, the quality at MR II starts at its loaded, spice-a-rific salsa buffet and marches into the expanding menu. Tacos to drive across town for, and, after sampling the entire menu, the authentic taste is muy rico, from pork with green sauce and excellent tamales to the surprisingly good burgers. – Mick Vann

1105 FM 1626
Manchaca
512/292-8107

Aside from making superb pan dulce and tres leches cakes, this is also the most authentic antojería in Austin. From the best tortas anywhere, period, to quesadillas and tlacoyos made with organic blue corn masa and classic tacos (al pastor, alambres, etc.), this is the closest we get here to real street-style antojitos. – Claudia Alarcón

801 E. William Cannon #125
512/445-9128
www.fb.com/MiTradicionATX

It's hard to beat Perla's on a sunny afternoon for fresh oysters, grilled octopus, and a Caesar cocktail on the shady patio – although I still miss the marvelous shrimp escabeche they used to serve. The wine list is full of amazing gems, but prices lean toward the high end. – Claudia Alarcón

1400 S. Congress
512/291-7300
www.perlasaustin.com

It's taken a while to fine-tune its "local products, global bites" concept, but after a recent menu and wine list refresh, Snack Bar is definitely worth a visit. Add its privileged location, super cute interior, and airy shaded patio, and you've got a winner. Bring friends and the dog. – Claudia Alarcón

Serving inventive, exciting Asian dishes based on Thai cuisine, Sway is one of Austin's hottest restaurants. Helmed by celebrated chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki, the food is divine (and often quite spicy). The ambience is unusual: The kitchen is "open" and brightly lit, the dining room is dimly lit, and the seating is communal. – Kate Thornberry

1417 S. First
512/326-1999
www.swayaustin.com

Photo by John Anderson

This casual eatery and coffeehouse features cooked-to-order curries and noodle dishes made with local organic produce and pastured meats and eggs for outstanding Thai home cooking that is surprisingly affordable. Thai Fresh also boasts a large gluten-free bakery case and homemade (vegan and nonvegan) ice cream. – Kate Thornberry

909 W. Mary
512/494-6436
www.thai-fresh.com

Though Torchy's now claims nine area locations, the original Torchy's Taco Trailer is both a destination and a landmark. Fabulous, enormous tacos filled with inventive and excellent "Texican" filling combinations, with shady outdoor seating. – Kate Thornberry

This tiny hole-in-the-wall tortilla factory churns out fresh corn and flour tortillas throughout the day. But they also serve simple Mexican home cooking – like nopales con puerco, carne deshebrada, and picadillo – in tacos, gorditas, or plates with beans and rice. Don't leave without a container of one of their splendid salsas. – Claudia Alarcón

500 W. William Cannon Drive
512/326-1341

This duo of superb Italian restaurants was an anchor in the reinvention of South Congress as a dining destination. Upscale bars, antipasti, wood-fired pizza, housemade pasta, steaks, seafood, salads, and Italian regional dishes grace both establishments. Vespaio is the fancier of the two; Enoteca goes more for a casual bistro feel. – Kate Thornberry

1610 S. Congress
512/441-6100
www.austinvespaio.com

1610 S. Congress
512/441-7672
www.austinvespaio.com/enoteca

If you went to Whip In last week, chances are almost everything is different today. But despite the seemingly constant flux, tasty Tex-Indian cuisine, wacky home brews, and a superbly curated wine bar keep it an eclectic oasis of good taste for us far-South Austinites. – Claudia Alarcón

1950 S. I-35
512/442-5337
www.whipin.com

This may be one of Austin’s oldest and most reputable vegan and vegetarian restaurants, but even omnivores can’t get enough of the Renedict and sweet potato and pecan tamales at this longtime favorite. Between the ever-changing exhibits by local artists and the blueberry cornbread, brunch will be worth the wait! Inducted in 2018.

1900 S. First
512/416-1601
www.bouldincreekcafe.com

photo by John Anderson

Photo by David Brendan Hall

If, in the hallowed halls of your restaurant, Bill Clinton grabs a classic taco special and Quentin Tarantino shoots part of his Austin-based Death Proof (but not really), it’s fair to say you’re recognized as an Austin institution. But the venerable Güero’s Taco Bar needs not that shimmer of celebrity to shine. For over 30 years, the Lippincott family has been perfecting a menu rooted in Mexican street food with Texan flair – we see you, tacos al pastor – and the Austin party vibe could not be more apparent. Unless, of course, your afternoon involves downing one of Güero’s 20 specialty margaritas, witnessing the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan haunting Lucy in Disguise, whizzing over Congress bridge on an e-scooter, and searching for “vintage” pearl snap shirts (a screenplay that is being optioned, so hands off, QT). Inducted in 2019.

1412 S. Congress
512/447-7688
www.guerostacobar.com

Despite the many new pizza places that have popped up around town since it first made a splash, Home Slice still packs the house with both out-of-towners and locals. The reason? Hot, fresh, New York-style pies that haven’t lost their luster in more than a decade. Inducted in 2017.

1415 S. Congress
512/444-7437
www.homeslicepizza.com

John Anderson

photo by John Anderson

The great philosopher Jimmy Buffett was likely prophesying Hopdoddy with “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and fellow wordsmith Jean-Paul Sartre boldly proclaimed that “hamburgers are other people.” No, wait, that might have been Charlton Heston in that Soylent Green film. Regardless, no other local burger joint has struck such a chord as this purveyor of all things ensconced in a bun. Be it beef, lamb, chicken, or veggie, Hopdoddy has cast a spell on this town. The fries with green chile queso is a solid combo, particularly paired with the elegantly dangerous Doble Fina margaritas, but the real MVP is that Caesar salad. Two words: fried chickpeas. Add a turkey burger patty and you might just believe there is hope in this world. Now with more locations than we can count – and a sister restaurant, Lil’doddy – it’s safe to say this is officially an empire. Perhaps, at the end of the day, we are all cheeseburgers. Inducted in 2019.

1400 S. Congress Ste. A-190
512/243-7505
www.hopdoddy.com

A SoCo staple from before it was called SoCo, the elegant eatery takes its name from the buzzing dining room. It’s classic Italian, with walls of wine, in-house butchery, a long list of house-made delights, and thoughtfully sourced ingredients. We love the calamari fritti arrabbiata, Scampi con Salsa all’Aglio, and the Sicilian cheesecake, so very much. Inducted in 2016.

1610 S. Congress
512/441-6100
www.austinvespaio.com

 
Old West Austin
South Lamar and Barton Springs

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