South Congress and South First

photo by Chase Daniel

Aba

It’s really something when you almost can’t decide which is more gorgeous – a restaurant’s aesthetic or its Mediterranean-inspired fare. Lush greenery accents the multitiered patio, and the dark sexy interior insists you imbibe, but dishes like charred eggplant spread, black garlic shrimp scampi, and coconut cream shortcake steal the show. Pair with any cocktail from their impressive bar program.

1011 S. Congress, Bldg 2 #180
737/273-0199
www.abarestaurants.com/austin

We’re convinced that chef/owner Prabhakar Reddy might be a wizard, and if you taste his centuries-deep flavors of Northern Indian fare, zhuzhed up with modern flare, like tawa jalapeño cheese roti, veg korma, and beast mode samosas, you’ll understand.

1207 S. First
737/247-4323
www.bombaydhabaaustin.com

courtesy of Bombay Dhaba

Photo by John Anderson

A little bit of Juárez comes to Austin in Churro Co. through their traditional and eclectic cinnamony, sweet churros – an ancient pastry with Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Roman origins. “Churros tossed in vanilla wafer sugar, topped with homemade orange curd, Nutella sauce, Fruity Pebbles, and whipped cream.” What are you waiting for?

1906 S. First
512/749-2150
www.churrocoaustin.com

Chef Alma Alcocer’s tortilla soup all by itself could stand as synecdoche for the entire restaurant and its varied menu: rich, nourishing, and delicious in the best homecooking-by-way-of-Mexico-City way, unlike most tortilla soups you’ll find elsewhere, and served in a bright, welcoming space that complements the Palmer Events Center across the street.

1025 Barton Springs Rd.
512/609-8923
www.elalmacafe.com

photo by John Anderson

John Anderson

Why Lenoir? Often cited as the best restaurant in town: Check. Incredible, artful food: Check. Super cute location in a house on South First: Check. Owners that are universally beloved: Check. Maybe the best service in all of Austin: Check. Why not Lenoir? We’ll get back to you.

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

Now firmly ensconced on the EastSide, LeRoy & Lewis gives Austin one more top-notch craft barbecue joint. Corners are very much not cut here as items like Akaushi brisket and 44 Farms beef cheeks dot the menu. Combined with its new french fry-focused truck Mama Fried, this is a real meat-and-potatoes wonderland.

121 Pickle Rd.
512/945-9882
www.leroyandlewis.com

photo by John Anderson

Lucky Robot’s claim to fame as the first sustainable sushi restaurant in Texas is just the cherry on top of chef Jay Huang’s accolades. It’s Nikkei-style sushi (a contribution of the Japanese diaspora in Peru) with fusion items like ponzu verde. We’re big fans of the Tokyo weekend brunch, mixing familiar egg dishes with sashimi, rice, and pork belly. With local mushroom sourcing and vegan Good Catch spicy tuna, there’s something for every foodie.

1303 S. Congress
512/444-8081
luckyrobotatx.com

Where’s Yoshi? When he’s not crafting exquisite modern Japanese cuisine at his 12-seat omakase restaurant, Austin’s very own Waldo is often found clad in black, flashing a megawatt smile anywhere fun is on the menu. The Tokyo-style sushi and Kyoto-style kaiseki tasting menu are one of the hottest tickets in town, thanks to unparalleled precision and impossibly fresh seasonal ingredients.

1603 S. Congress
512/994-0428
otokoaustin.com

courtesy of Taste of Ethiopia

Yes, you do want to partake in the spicy East African wonders created in Woinee Mariam’s kitchen and served with delicate rolls of injera bread and coffee in a setting like a neighborhood eatery just beyond the city limits of Addis Ababa. Bring a few friends, too – it’s even better when shared.

3801 S. Congress #107
512/814-3141
www.tasteofethiopiaaustin.com

Those of us who remember buying pad thai and mango sticky rice from Jam Sanitchat at the Downtown farmers’ market when our now-teens were babes in arms shed a proud tear when we think about her successful Thai restaurant and gluten-free bakery in Bouldin, not to mention the publication of her Thai Fresh cookbook in late 2020.

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