Mmm, yes, bao: perfect, picnic-worthy, eat-’em-with-your-hands nourishment. The soft, steamed buns (stuffed with savory or sweet fillings) originated in Asia nearly 1,800 years ago, but are now revitalized with an array of classic and innovative flavors (Thanksgiving pumpkin bao, anyone?) by chef Ting Lin here in ATX at five locations.
2222 Rio Grande #190
In a small orange truck, chef Hong (brother of Julie of Julie’s Noodles) is serving authentic Northern Chinese hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings. We’re big fans of his award-winning Chinese hamburger (roujiamo), especially with a side of liangpi. Pro tip: Order extra chile oil to take home and drizzle on everything.
Robinson and Alina Figueiredo opened the “first churrasco on wheels in Austin” in 2017, and they’ve been slinging Brazilian-style steak cuts ever since. Try the picanha sandwich – Brazilian cheesesteak – with top sirloin, American cheese, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, and homemade spicy mayo served on a hoagie roll with fries.
2512 Rio Grande St.
When we think “gastropub,” we think Hopfields: Because we prefer local places, and we want the food we eat to be on par with the world’s finest bistros – thanks, chef James Flowers – and we know the joint also has 44 rotating taps of craft beer from Austin and beyond, and all sorts of nonalcoholic quaffs, too.
Local musician Reed Calhoun’s passion project with Adrienne Wiggins, his bride-to-be, made waves earlier this year with its spooky, psychedelic take on cocktail culture. Elegant not ostentatious, fun not artificial, this fresh-faced arrival offers funky yet familiar bites from local legend Manuel Rocha, including rabbit confit, koji-aged steak frites, and vegan barbecue burnt ends.
624 W. 34th
You could be at home in your pajamas and not in West Campus at Austin’s first pancake food truck, conceived and operated by former Taco Cabana line cook JP Udenenwu. Instead of sad pita chips, you could be enjoying a chocolate chip pancake topped with fresh bananas, peanut butter, Nutella, honey, and whipped cream. Just sayin’.
2512 Rio Grande St.
If you’ve never tried Taiwanese street food, it’s high time you make a plan to visit this truck made for and by musicians (and everyone) and try their variety of boldly flavored bento boxes. Don’t forget an apple sidra.
411 W. 23rd
Chef Murph Willcott’s restaurant does not serve bread alone (although their daily loaves and pastries might make you weep for joy), but keeps a neighborhood (and anyone who knows enough to visit) satisfied with excellent lunches and highlight-your-calendar dinners, all locally sourced and worthy of the finest wines they feature.
2900 Rio Grande
Vegetarians and spice lovers rejoice when they walk into the sumptuous, aromatic interior of the Clay Pit. Although sticklers for authenticity may disagree, this restaurant has elevated Indian cuisine for Austin. If you’re around for lunch, make sure to check out their buffet, where you can indulge for a very economical price. Inducted in 2018.
Once, on a first date in their original location off North MoPac, we may or may not have mistaken their oshibori (warm towel) as a complimentary facial, only to be gently guided by the angelic server to cleanse our hands before dinner. This is the kind of classy operation that is Musashino, which opened in 1993 and has become the origin story of several local superstars: Tyson Cole of Uchi/Uchiko/Loro; Kazo Fukumoto of his eponymous restaurant; Ramen Tatsu-ya’s owners/chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto. The Tokyo-style restaurant, now in the former Fino spot in West Campus, is known for creating some of the most elegant pieces of Edomae-style sushi this side of Japan. In addition to an impossibly fresh, stunning traditional menu, they offer a wide assortment of modern twists, and an omakase option. After spending so much time in loungewear at home, we cannot think of a better reason to dust off the jacket and black dress than dining at this world-class establishment. Inducted in 2021.
2905 San Gabriel St. #200
The Detroit Tigers may be in a rebuilding phase this season (fingers crossed!), but this Detroit-style pizza has enraptured Austin since the Hunt brothers’ first trailer opened in 2011. The cheesy, crunchy, thick signature squares topped with just the right amount of marinara are to credit for their now legendary winning streak, but the thinner bar-style pies will also have you happy-heckling the kitchen. Don’t skip their bonkers pizza collaborations featuring special toppings like Garbo’s lobster, la Barbecue’s cold-smoked ham, and Michi’s ramen. And if you don’t end up with meatballs on your pizza (do it), grab the appetizer version before you succumb to all the cheese. Bonus points for a seriously solid gluten-free crust. Inducted in 2019.
3016 Guadalupe #100
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