Top 10 Underrated Restaurants

Good eats you might have missed in 2016


Licha's Cantina (Photo by John Anderson)

1) El Mesón

With an all-you-can-eat buffet for a mere $25 a person, chef Marisela Godinez's Interior Mexican brunch service is legendary. And the fabulous fresh options for vegans, omnivores, and the gluten-free make it the perfect place to take everyone from your meat-and-potatoes mom to your persnickety dad. Both will marvel at the spread's massive platter of guacamole.

2) Burger Tex 2

The signage outside may be slightly ramshackle and the dining room a bit rough around the edges, but the campus mainstay's Bulgogi Burger is without a doubt one of the best burgers in Austin. Take the plunge and order it spicy, pair it with one of the many fried sides, and then head over to the salad bar to dress it just the way you like it.

3) Moonlight Bakery

Not a restaurant proper, but still infinitely worthy of a shout, Moonlight Bakery is one of the most unpretentious and enchanting bakeries in South Austin. With an ever-changing array of pastries, tarts, breads, muffins, and kolaches, Moonlight is an absolute must-stop to grab a treat on your way to work. Don't miss the tiny chocolate chip cookies. They might be petite, but they are mighty.

4) Texas French Bread

The classic Austin name has slowly reinvented itself for the past few years. Under the direction of owner Murph Willcott, TFB has transformed from a quiet neighborhood bakery to a low-key fine-dining restaurant. With some of the best service in Austin, a unique wine selection, and French-inspired cuisine sourced from local farms, TFB is the place to go for an intimate, subtly fancy meal that holds its own with Austin's finest.

5) Pueblo Viejo

One of Austin's great mysteries is why Pueblo Viejo doesn't have a long line. With cheap, made-to-order tacos and deliciously fiery salsas that will leave you with tears in your eyes, Pueblo Viejo is the perfect place to stop after a night of drinking. The breakfast tacos are not to be missed, no matter the time of day.

6) Tokyo

The location (a shopping mall off Bee Caves Road in West Lake) may be unfashionable, but their udon and amazingly light tempura would be a hit anywhere. Besides, it does you well to branch out once in a while – especially if you're looking for a calm meal that will leave you stuffed to the brim.

7) Luke's Inside Out

I've written about Luke's before and I'll write about Luke's again. These sandwiches are some of the best in town, and it's just the kind of food you want to eat when totally sloshed. From the generous portions to the unpretentious and fast service, Luke's has it down.

8) Dai Due

I'm not a fan of New American cuisine, mostly because this usually means eating expensive dishes that would have been better off with less pomp. But Dai Due gives New American a good name. Unfailingly delicious, refreshingly unpretentious, and talked about far too little (at least in some publications), Dai Due is the rare place you don't mind returning to again and again.

9) Licha's Cantina

From the hilarious bartenders to the busy, festive atmosphere, Licha's is always my go-to recommendation for out-of-towners and insiders alike. In addition to their fine selection of mezcal and tequila, Licha's has a great happy hour and the meanest, tastiest brunch in town.

10) Syriano Shawarma

Located in the parking lot of Spider House, Syriano Shawarma is one of the only spots in town to get authentic Syrian food. All the food is created and cooked by Fadi, the pleasant and kind owner who whips up delicious and inexpensive baba ghanoush, homemade hummus, amazing fresh falafel, as well as Syrian-style shawarma. Additionally, the quantity of food you can get for $8 can easily feed two hungry people, and don't miss the fries – they're some of the best around.

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