North and Northwest

photo by John Anderson

Balkan food might seem scary until you find out it's all about comfort. The cafe serves excellent rotisserie lamb, rich and meltingly tender goulash, Austin's best chicken sandwich, and an amazing "hamburger" patty.

11800 N. Lamar Bldg. #3

This tiny hole-in-the-wall seems airlifted directly from a Chinese street corner. The kitchen rolls out inexpensive yet first-class meat dumplings and makes hand-cut noodles for their warming soups (beef and lamb) and stir fries. The stunning green onion pancakes flake apart like butterfly wings, while lamb skewers are seasoned with plenty of salt and curry.

8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #127

photo by John Anderson

The menu at Daawat offers spicy, no-compromise, southern-style specialties, with a buffet that's kept fresh. They coax every bit of flavor from Chettinad goat curry, Andhra catfish pulusu, natu kodi chicken curry, and Tamil chicken 65. Their naan is exceptional.


Heidi Garbo's lobster truck has branched out into a brick-and-mortar, serving New England-style seafood, including fried clams, raw oysters, salt cod dumplings, and chowder – as well as their flown-in-overnight fresh lobster. It's a mini-vacation without the plane ticket.

14735 Bratton

photo by John Anderson

photo by John Anderson

Those who think all the joy of fusion was bled out in the Nineties have never had chef Ek Timrerk and Bonnie Wright's quietly innovative cuisine. Their Southern-meets-Thai mix revels in unexpected flavors, but the "comfort" part of their name is never forgotten. The "kin" part? That's in their always-warm hospitality.


The owner is a food scientist and chef from Istanbul, and the cafe in front fittingly provides a view of the food-production process, as the crew makes fantastic hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, dolmas, spanakopita, gyros, and falafel, all with an emphasis on healthy eating and big flavors.

5908 Aurora

Photo by John Anderson

A tender ode to the Japanese soul-food staple, Ramen Tatsu-ya brought ramen to the masses as Austin's first brick-and-mortar ramen shop. The small space is beautifully designed by McCray & Co., and the food is brimming with well-balanced flavor. Try the Tonkotsu Original and the gyoza. Slurp.

8557 Research #126

Tucked into a nondescript strip mall on far-North Lamar, Swad has been quietly churning out some of this city's best south Indian cuisine for nigh on a decade. The vegetarian menu includes enormous potato-stuffed dosa, a generous thali sampler platter, and sweet and creamy lassis. Bring a friend and a healthy appetite.

9515 N. Lamar #156

photo by John Anderson

The heavenly cabrito consommé, seasoned with chile pasilla and topped with fresh onion and cilantro, is a good enough reason to rise after a long night of overindulgence. Add the tasty antojitos, luscious shrimp cocktail, and the salsa and condiment bar, and you will be revived pronto. Both locations are great, but the north one gets the bragging rights.

9414 Parkfield Dr.

A tiny spot with huge flavor and an even bigger heart. Tâm has a deceptively large menu with some nice surprises, including the bánh xèo crêpe and their bánh cuon (steamed rice wraps). Excellent pho, bun, and all of the standards, and the best bánh mì in Austin.

8222 N. Lamar Ste. D-33

John Anderson

Photo by John Anderson

From the moment you spot the rows of roasting ducks hanging in the foyer, you know Din Ho is here to party. This northern mall Chinese favorite would earn their place in the hall of fame for their whole roasted pig alone, but, honestly, you can’t go wrong with the pea shoots either. Inducted in 2018.

8557 Research #116

Old West Austin

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