Downtown

photo by John Anderson

The ELM Group's snazzy French bistro offers a convivial bar, a bustling dining room, and a small, secluded patio where diners enjoy well-prepared French bistro classics, stylish craft cocktails, and a well-curated French wine list. The best bargains are on the happy hour and prix fixe dinner menu; reservations are always a good idea. – Virginia B. Wood

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One of our favorite steak restaurants for decades serves meltingly tender slabs of aged beef and interesting, dynamic sides. The comfortable bar is a goldmine of people-watching, with strong cocktails and a truly dynamite burger. The parking situation could use some help; get dropped off. – Mick Vann

1205 N. Lamar
512/472-1813
www.alcsteaks.com

photo by John Anderson

This authentic Neapolitan-style pizzeria from restaurateur/chef Shawn Cirkiel is cozy and intimate. Literally housed in the backspace of Cirkiel's parkside, backspace offers pizzas cooked to perfection in a custom oak-fired oven. The menu advises being considerate of other guests waiting for seating, but with that wine list and those pies, I'd prefer to stay put all evening. – Anna Toon

507 San Jacinto
512/474-9899
www.thebackspace-austin.com

From traditional bangers and mash to the Currywurst or a sausage made of beet and goat cheese, Banger's runs the gamut. With over 100 beers on tap and live music, this Rainey Street house keeps the hungry sated and the thirsty happy seven days a week. Must try here is Smokey & the Boar. – Gracie Salem

79 Rainey
512/386-1656
bangersaustin.com

Chef couple Chris Hurley and Jennifer Costello have created a charming restaurant facing Lady Bird Lake that could just be one of Downtown Austin's best-kept secrets. Make the effort to find them and be rewarded with fine representations of New American cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients, a pleasant bar, and one of the best and most affordable brunches in town. – Virginia B. Wood

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Dark, divey, and an award-winning jukebox, Casino el Camino is an Austin cult classic. The wait time may be excruciatingly long, a sort of middle finger to starving patrons. But, hunger pangs be damned, that's part of the charm. You can't go wrong with the Amarillo Burger and basket of Verde Chili Fries, unless of course you forgot to throw back a beer while you wait. – Anna Toon

517 E. Sixth
512/469-9330
casinoelcamino.net

David Bull and the La Corsha Group combine swank style with superb, consistently creative cuisine. Chef Bull's innovative and impressive tasting menus with expert wine pairings are the hallmark of dinner service at Congress. At the more casual Second, black truffle fries and short rib sliders make an occasion of a weekday lunch. The bar keeps pace with an aggressively fun cocktail program, and all-day service creates the perfect backdrop for a drop-in drink and snack, too. – Gracie Salem

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A beer garden, bake shop, and Ping Pong await at Easy Tiger's historic digs. Recently updated menu items include a muffaletta and the new Hill Country Board complete with pain au levain, quail rillette, wild boar liverwurst, smoked venison sausage, and house pickles with seasonal accoutrement. As fierce as it gets. – Anna Toon

The Linc, 6406 N. I-35 #1100
512/494-4151
easytigerusa.com

photo by John Anderson

The beautiful covered patio draws crowds to this popular trailer with a brick-and-mortar sized menu. Curried lamb samosas, pakoras (fritters), and kebabs of chicken, fish, shrimp, or rack of lamb are all remarkable, with traditional naan bread, of course. – Gracie Salem

73 Rainey
512/480-2255
www.grajmahalaustin.com

Jesse Herman's Austin flagship restaurant underwent a series of changes in the fall of 2013 but still emerged from a chef shuffle and kitchen fire in fine form. Be sure to try off-menu specials, where chef Rick Lopez and his staff really shine, and don't miss the house craft cocktail menu made with such carefully prepared ingredients as grilled pineapple juice. – Virginia B. Wood

400-A W. Second
512/499-0300
lacondesa.com/austin

John Anderson

Owner Chuck Smith and chef/owner Larry Perdido celebrated the 10th anniversary of their popular Downtown eatery in the fall of 2013 and continue to attract overflow crowds to one of the most beautifully restored historic properties in Austin. Moonshine is known for delicious renditions of classic American comfort foods, a great Sunday brunch, and elegant private parties in the cozy wine room. – Virginia B. Wood

303 Red River
512/236-9599
www.moonshinegrill.com

This sophisticated spot in the bustling Rainey Street bar district is an understated oasis of soulful Interior Mexican cuisine created by the team of chef Iliana de la Vega and her architect-turned-chef husband Ernesto Torrealba. Don't miss their distinctive moles paired with a differing selection of proteins, the house-made breads, fresh tortillas, and lovely pastries. – Virginia B. Wood

2717 S. Lamar #1085
512/520-5750
elnaranjorestaurant.com

John Anderson

Perfect for an after-work cocktail, parkside is widely known for its fabulous raw bar and happy hour. Frisky guests looking for something more hearty can enjoy corned beef tongue tartine or pan-seared rabbit from the eclectic menu. Don't miss out on Martini Monday. – Anna Toon

301 E. Sixth
512/474-9898
www.parkside-austin.com

For nearly two years, Chef Vladimir Gribkov and his wife Varda Salkey have worked diligently to represent their home culture in Austin. From shashlik and blini with red caviar to decor imported from the motherland, this is likely the most authentic Russian experience you could hope to have in the middle of Texas. – Melanie Haupt

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photo by John Anderson

Forever having fun in the kitchen, chefs here love to write a menu. Such items as the Haute Country Shrimp Boil and the Popcorn & a Movie dessert of buttered popcorn gelato, root beer gel, and a house-made candy bar keep diners in the seats perched above Congress Avenue. A favorite among Austin foodies. – Gracie Salem

315 Congress
512/482-8842
swiftsattic.com

This trailer on bustling Rainey Street churns out phenomenal Spanish tapas from the garden and from the farm. Bring your own bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine and make your own sangria with one their kits. Buen provecho! – Anna Toon

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David Brendan Hall

If you ask an Austinite where to eat vegan food, 99.9% of the time, the immediate response is, “Arlo’s!” Plant-based but designed with carnivores in mind, the menu caters to late-night cravings, and they’ve absolutely mastered the art of meatless cheeseburgers with their famous Bac’n Cheezeburger. That Frito pie ain’t nothing to sneeze at either, friends. To really let you in on how special their trio of curbside eateries is, consider this: Arlo’s is the very first food trailer and only the second plant-based kitchen inducted into our First Plates Hall of Fame. Austin’s plant-based comfort food baby is all grown up now. Inducted in 2019.

900 Red River
512/840-1600
arloscurbside.com

Comfort, warmth, and a dash of romance makes this little bistro live up to its name. Started by three Parisian friends in 1982, it’s a classic take on traditional French fare, and an excellent spot for relishing in conversation over escargots de Bourgogne and bubbles while hidden away from the Downtown melee. Inducted in 2017.

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John Anderson

 
Campus
East

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