After an entire year of closings and a loss of some of Austin’s most notable eateries, in 2020, the city has fully reopened for business and folks are dining out again.
One question I’m asked more than almost any other is, “what’s my favorite restaurant in Austin?” While this isn’t the guide to the Best Restaurants in Austin, I found it prudent to offer a guide to Austin’s most popular spots.
This guide features a list of restaurants that have helped to put Austin on the map and are most frequented by visitors and locals alike. From world-famous central Texas BBQ, to authentic interior Mexican food, and Detroit-style pizza, some of these spots have been an Austin staple before Elon Musk and Google knew Austin was a cool town.
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900 E 11th St. | Franklin Barbecue is the spot that changed everything about modern BBQ in Austin and around Texas. Their well-earned reputation as Austin’s go-to spot for BBQ is beyond legendary. Every modern BBQ spot in the nation and around the world has been inspired by Aaron Franklin’s model for smoked meat success. The legendary line doesn’t just last for four hours out of complete randomness. Their smoked brisket alone is pure excellence and worth the pilgrimage. If you plan on eating here, plan on arriving between 6 am – 8 am and be prepared to wait. Bring your coffee, a chair, and a cooler, and be prepared to wait. Photo by Hayden Walker
2027 Anchor Ln. | When the weather is not blazing hot or at the point of freezing, Austin has a plethora of excellent patio dining spots. Since 2013, Contigo has been one of Austin’s most popular spots for an al fresco experience. Their sprawling backyard and deck offer casual and comfortable southwest ranch-style dining paired with refreshing craft cocktails, shareable bites and plenty of space for events or yard games.
SkyHouse, 51 Rainey St #110 | With Owner and Executive Chef Kevin Fink and Partner Tavel Bristol-Joseph at the helm, Emmer & Rye boast rustic and seasonally inspired cuisine, designed around the local farmer’s haul with a menu that changes daily. Heirloom grains are milled fresh for house-made pasta, bread, and desserts, whole animal butchery is done on-site, and an extensive in-house fermentation program captures flavors at their peak and preserves them for the offseason.
Multiple Locations in Austin | Via313’s pizza defines the beauty of Detroit-style pie. Brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt make their thick, airy and chewy crust in-house from cold-fermented dough, affording delightful texture from the crunch provided by a caramelized cheese coating that spans all four edges of the pie. Baked in a square, silver pan that is pulled from the oven, this buttery square is topped with two streaks of freshly crushed tomato sauce, drizzled after baking, topping the melted cheese. Each bite is a baker’s triumph and pizza lover’s delight. Photo by Courtney Pierce
2613 S Lamar Blvd. | Matt’s El Rancho has been an Austin scratch kitchen Tex-Mex restaurant since 1952. They’re one of Austin’s highest volume serving restaurants, presenting an outstanding experience to a long and loyal base of guests that return year after year. Matt’s has been recognized by just about every magazine and publication in Austin and countless others around the country. Photo Credit – Matt’s El Rancho Facebook
1800 E 6th St. | Founded in Austin, Texas, by restaurateur Sam Hellman-Mass, Suerte believes that a great meal starts with delicious food but always includes genuine hospitality and a celebration of time shared at the table. The restaurant combines its obsession for house-made masa and refined cooking techniques with ingredients from local farmers to present an inspirational and unexpected journey in Mexican interior dining.
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2330 W North Loop Blvd. | Since opening in the 1970s, the restaurant’s reputation has been one of the most celebrated and popular spots in Texas. The restaurant has been known to host notable visitors and celebrities throughout the years, such as Presidents Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. Considered by many as “Austin’s most beautiful restaurant,” the collection of museum-quality artwork, exotic plants, and international décor has made Fonda San Miguel an ideal spot for an exquisite dining experience. The restaurant itself is a celebration of this distinctive cuisine and it’s rich colorful history. Photo by Hayden Walker
1201 S Lamar Blvd. | Founded by acclaimed chef Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck is one of Austin’s most celebrated restaurants shaped by a craftsmen’s approach to cooking, with a culture of creativity from the staff and products from amazing local farmers. Locally sourced ingredients shape the seasonal, ever-changing menu, accompanied by creative cocktails, craft beers and approachable wines. Photo by Hayden Walker
4200 N Lamar Blvd. | Translated as “child of Uchi” from Japanese, Uchiko it’s doors in 2010 as a follow-up to executive chef and sushi master Tyson Cole’s critically acclaimed Uchi. Uchiko’s menu features a selection of composed dishes and sushi, taken from ideas originally created at Uchi, featuring the same style of innovative, fresh cuisine. Highlights include hot and cool tastings, grilled items, greens, the Omakase, sushi and sashimi, makimono, and award-winning desserts. Photo by Uchiko Facebook
2027 E Cesar Chavez St. | La Barbecue has been slinging outstanding BBQ since they started serving from their trailer in 2012 down in south Austin. They use all-natural USDA prime beef, which offers the most abundant intramuscular marbling. The result offers a taste that’s perfectly moist with a wealth of flavor, something they’ve perfected. You can expect nothing less from owner LeAnne Mueller and her crew.
79 Rainey St. | This casual spot on Rainey Street offers a fun and easy-going dining experience with lots of outdoor seating. Founder Ben Siegel and chef Ted Prater offers an impressive selection of housemade sausages, from Chinese BBQ, currywurst, jalapeno cheddar brat, and drunk chicken, to the state’s largest selection of draft beers, the restaurant has become a haven for locals and visitors alike. Photo: Banger’s Facebook
Two Locations in Austin | Home Slice Pizza is one of Austin’s most legendary neighborhood pizza joints serving authentic New York-style pizza—by the pie or by the slice—to nice people like you. From their original and popular location on South Congress and 2nd location on North Loop, they offer their homemade, hand-tossed, bona fide pies for either dine-in or carry-out. Photo by Hayden Walker
2002 Manor Rd | Hoover’s Cooking is honest-to-goodness good Texas home cooking and soul food, for 16 years running in the heart of east Austin.
Four Locations in Austin | With its signature menu of ramen bowls and bombs, small bites like the popular Sweet & Sour Yodas, rice bowls and sweets, Ramen Tatsu-ya is a local sensation, boasting accolades from locals and national publications alike. All three Austin locations are open for in-house dining and takeout. Photo by Giant Noise PR
Two Locations | Juliet Italian Kitchen, located in the heart of Austin’s beloved Zilker Park neighborhood, strives to be a destination for anyone seeking a relaxed Italian spot for a date night, business lunch or casual weekend brunch. Juliet embodies community and camaraderie through shared meals.
6610 N Lamar Blvd. | At Stiles Switch you’ll arrive for the daily specials and stay for the brisket, which has seen an evolution of being good to absolute greatness. The BBQ Jewel of north Austin has been a consummate staple in the city since 2012 lead by pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick, who trained under legendary Bob Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. You won’t find anyone camped out in three-hour lines because it moves consistently fast and efficient, offering a level of service that makes it a go-to spot for top-quality central Texas-style BBQ.
Six Locations | Chi’Lantro is an award-winning restaurant, mobile food truck and full-service catering company that’s become well-known for creating diverse, Korean BBQ-inspired cuisine. The name “Chi’Lantro” is a combination of the words “kimchi” and “cilantro.” The company is known for its signature dish, The Original Kimchi Fries made with caramelized kimchi, Korean BBQ, topped with fresh cilantro and onion, sesame seeds and drizzled with Magic Sauce.
5520 Burnet Rd #100 | The Peached Tortilla combines bold Asian flavors with subtle southern ties to provide a truly unique dining experience. Since owner Eric Silverstein launched the first food truck in 2010, the brand has since expanded to a full-service catering operation, a brick-and-mortar restaurant, an event space and has even expanded with a spin-off restaurant, Bar Peached. Enjoy unique and comforting dishes like their kimchi arancini balls; Hainan chicken; bowls of noodles, rice as well as tacos, and burger specials. Photo Credit: Peached Tortilla Facebook
Four Locations | Founded by Executive Chef, Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen’s Kitchen has been a local haven for locally sourced casual and modern-day suburban-style dining. With popular items like their housemade pimento cheese, Pesto-marinated crab-stuffed chicken, Baja fish tacos, and their chicken fried anything menu along with their selection of decadent desserts, Jack Allen’s continues to be a go-to spot for Austinites and visitors. Photo by Jack Allen’s Facebook
315 Congress Avenue | Located downtown, on Congress Avenue, Executive Chef Donnie Forehand and team serves up modern, whimsical takes on classic American dishes and craft cocktails with worldly influences. and craft cocktails that bring in Austinites and visitors alike. From The Attic Roll with Sirloin Steak, Kimchi Rice, Red Miso Aioli, and Galbi Sauce to Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Orzo Horitaki, and Charred Fennel to their infamous Burger Mondays. Enjoy their generous daily happy hour specials and their creative Bloody Mary bar during Sunday brunch, in the character and charm of their historic space. Photo by Jesse Drohen @ austinpixels.com
1917 Manor Road | Widely known as one of Austin’s most popular happy hour spots boasting a casual and atmospheric patio scene, Salty Sow is has been a go-to destination for friendly meet-ups, shared plates, and first dates for the last 8 years. Share a plate of their infamous salty duck fat fries, honey rosemary fried chicken and biscuit, and crispy brussles sprout leaves while sipping on one of the signature craft cocktails.
Ask nearly anyone that’s been living in Austin longer than 5 years and they most likely have at least one story that involves a fun night of mischief at Justine’s. The patio and interior proudly boast its old-world French-inspired bungalow, meshed with the liveliness of New Orleans bar to set the mood for a fun night. The incredibly playful service team, coupled with a delicious menu of French snacks and creative cocktails will keep you and your friends coming back for the party. Photo credit: Justine’s Facebook