Chefs Alma Alcocer-Thomas and Jeff Martinez have long been Austin rock stars by helming the kitchens at El Chile Group restaurants. Alcomar is their supergroup, combining both their names and their love for simple coastal Mexican cooking. Need one more reason to applaud? Their seven-days-a-week happy hour features discounts on everything from oysters to margaritas.
Beloved by families, hipsters, and OG South Austin hippies alike, Bouldin Creek Cafe is the beating heart of Austin. Their generously portioned vegetarian fare will sate even the most carnivorous diner, while never treating vegans and the gluten-free crowd like they’re an afterthought. From the tasty chickpea “chikn salad” sandwich to the hearty soul food plate, this is unpretentious dining for the people.
1900 S. First
Austin’s latest draw for Outdoor Voices-clad brunchers is known for being a bit of a splurge, but reliable in taste and health nut-approved dishes like grain bowls, avocado toast, and poke. The interior is California chic and offers a perfect backdrop to highly ’grammable dishes that are also delicious enough to look past the girl standing on her chair at the next table over to get the perfect shot of her beet toast.
1603 S. Congress
When we want surf and turf, we head to South Congress regardless of the time of day. Yellowfin ceviche and Wagyu tartare at brunch? Sure! A few East Coast oysters before an award-winning cheeseburger for lunch? Why not? A Gulf shrimp cocktail appetizer and the Berkshire pork chop for dinner … YAS! The combinations are endless and keep Central Standard in regular rotation. The boozy house cocktails are icing on this decadent cake.
1603 S. Congress
You can tell this is a McGuire Moorman joint from the moment you see the servers’ custom printed wrap dresses and red chambray shirts. But that doesn’t mean that Elizabeth Street is all style and no substance. Their contemporary takes on Vietnamese cuisine balance ngũ vi in innovative ways. Check out the bánh mì, filled with everything from short rib and kimchi to makrut lime fried chicken.
1501 S. First
Although Texas’ obsession with south-of-the-border eats usually only extends as far as Mexico’s southern border, Four Brothers’ Venezuelan food truck is here to prove they can hang with the cool kids. Their patacones, arepas, and empanadas are so good, they might even convince Austinites to cheat on their beloved tacos. Maybe.
1720 Barton Springs Rd.
Fresa’s on South First adds a touch of refinement to a menu that expands upon the original drive-through’s taco and roasted chicken offerings. In the outdoor dining area, it’s low-key chill with kids clambering on a playscape nearby. Indoors is a sleek, modern space accented with pops of serape color. Sit and stay awhile, or take some tacos to go.
1703 S. First
Hopdoddy keeps customers coming back long after they checked the casual eatery off their bucket list. And it’s for good reason. Their juicy burgers feature patties made of everything from bison to black bean, the green chile queso fries are to die for, and their shakes are the perfect ending to a delicious meal (that’s if you still have any room left in your stomach).
1400 S. Congress Ste. A-190
The ace-in-the-hole of this charming SoCo corner? June Rodil, the affable wine guru with whom the restaurant shares a name. Of course that means an adventurous wine list ranging from affordable to exquisite and diverse enough to accommodate a world of bold flavor in the cuisine. The real surprise is that an eatery filled with so many chic details can still feel like a neighborhood cafe.
1722 S. Congress
We just love it when our favorite restaurants truly support our area farmers. Lenoir’s locally sourced “hot weather food” is inspired by what we – and cultures in similar latitudes – eat. The intimate dining room’s prix fixe menu is constantly changing based on the season, so every visit impresses anew. The wine list and garden happy hour are equally divine.
1807 S. First
It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the soothing dimness after stepping through the heavy door. But once they do, you’ve been transported to another world. Head chef Yoshi Okai orchestrates one of the most theatrical meals in town behind the intimate 12-seat counter. On that stage, he conducts a symphony of sushi omakase with refined kaiseki to showcase the flavors of the seasons. Bravo, maestro, bravo.
1603 S. Congress
Our advice for Perla’s? Sit at a chair facing in toward the building, where you can ignore the hustle and bustle of SoCo and embrace the laid-back beachcomber vibe with a bowl of bouillabaisse. You can watch the parade of cargo shorts anytime, but it’s not every day that you can find yourself suddenly in Martha’s Vineyard without ever buying a plane ticket.
1400 S. Congress
Thai used to be the last thing that came to mind when we deliberated brunch options … but then Sway debuted its a.m. menu last year. The modern kitchen’s basil chicken & waffles is borderline supernatural, and the brioche French toast hits just the right sweet spot. Pro tip: The full dinner menu is also available during weekend brunch service, so don’t let society tell ya you’ve gotta eat eggs in the morning. You do you.
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
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
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
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
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
Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin. Support the Chronicle