South Congress and South First

El Chile takes a contemporary approach to Tex-Mex and Interior cuisine, and the emphasis on fresh, colorful ingredients and bold flavors has made it a longtime Austin favorite. The restaurant is rightfully renowned for an outstanding roasted jalapeño salsa, seafood dishes, micheladas, and margaritas. – Kate Thornberry

CLOSED

This sketchy-looking trailer has long been serving some of the yummiest and most authentic tacos in South Austin, accompanied by wonderful, hot-hot salsas. – Kate Thornberry

2101 S. First
512/227-5060
elprimomex.com

This exquisite Italian eatery has consistently delivered top-notch fare since its opening in 1998, challenging (and vanquishing) all comers with ambitions to supersede it. As in Italy itself, the freshest of ingredients prepared in the classic fashion make Vespaio a "special evening" destination, and the more casual Enoteca a bustling lunch and happy hour madhouse. – Kate Thornberry

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

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

A trailer with its own indoor dining room, the Flying Carpet is hard to classify. The Moroccan Souk food they serve, while simple, is marvelously authentic. Spiced beef, eggplant, herbs, goat cheese, and fresh eggs are combined into a variety of sandwiches, served with crisp, French-style pommes frites. – Kate Thornberry

CLOSED

John Anderson

Genuine New York-style pizza: thin, crisp-on-the-bottom (yet foldable) crust, hand-tossed, topped with a lightly acidic tomato sauce and stretchy Italian cheeses. All the traditional toppings are available, including anchovies, fried eggplant, and clams. They literally cannot make their amazing pizzas fast enough to meet demand. – Kate Thornberry

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

Well-known chefs Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher offer French cuisine tailored to the hot Texas climate. The flavors of the former French colonies of Vietnam and Morocco play a role, as do local favorites such as fresh chèvre and Gulf seafood. Outstanding multicourse dinners are made with locally sourced ingredients and served in elegance. – Kate Thornberry

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

John Anderson

Perla's continues to serve skillfully prepared, super-fresh seafood, complemented by seasonal side dishes and piping hot hush puppies. The sunny, coastal feel of the place enhances the thrill of finding freshly shucked oysters, soft-shell crabs, and deep-sea fish from around the world being served in landlocked Central Texas. – Kate Thornberry

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

This most Austin-y of Austin eateries serves dishes inspired by the cuisines of the entire world, made from locally sourced, ethically obtained ingredients. Cutting-edge in conception, the food itself is original and tasty. Craft beer and wine, gluten-free and vegan-friendly. – Kate Thornberry

CLOSED

Photo by John Anderson

Years ago, Sway's upscale, innovative Thai cuisine struck a resounding chord with Austin palates, and that chord is still ringing. The spicy, fresh Southeast Asian flavors pair perfectly with the scorching Texas summers and our bitter blue northers, making Sway a universal favorite. – Kate Thornberry

CLOSED

This modest cafe serves up an exciting menu of farmers' market-sourced Thai cuisine, made to order, at reasonable, everyday prices. Equipped with a full espresso bar, a gourmet gluten-free bakery, and an abundance of handmade ice creams, Thai Fresh is a neighborhood gem. – Kate Thornberry

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

Whip In is one of a kind: an astounding wine and beer headquarters with eclectic, healthy New Indian/South Asian food, served casually at the bar and in the music garden, where some of Austin's most exciting new acts can be seen. The menu changes daily, but always includes samosas and curries made with locally grown ingredients. – Kate Thornberry

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

This popular new tapas restaurant has taken the Oltorf area by storm, with affordable wines, craft beers, and small plates of superb Spanish fare. Erudite yet affordable, Winebelly has the added benefit of a quiet, open-air patio and excellent service. – Kate Thornberry

519 W. Oltorf St.
512/487-1569
www.austinwinebelly.com

photo by John Anderson

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

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

Photo by David Brendan Hall

John Anderson

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

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

photo by John Anderson

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

 
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