Welcome to Austin: A Newcomer's Eating Tour

We consulted favorite local food experts to bring you a list of 10 must-visit spots in Austin, sharing the dishes you have to try and other insider’s tips for getting the most out of your visit to the Live Music Capital of the World.

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Welcome to Austin

Tacos on practically every corner, a place where BBQ is taken so seriously that devoted patrons line up hours before the doors even open, a food truck serving up the most delicious street tacos sitting across the block from a world-renowned fine-dining establishment … but even those eateries are all infused with the funky, keep-it-weird spirit of the city, where anything goes. We consulted our favorite local food experts to bring you a list of our top 10 must-visit spots in Austin, sharing the dishes you have to try and other insider’s tips for getting the most out of your visit to the Live Music Capital of the World.

Contigo

2027 Anchor Ln.
"This is an Austin hipster beer garden with both casual outdoor seating and a small covered area. The skilled kitchen serves exceptional updated yet homey classics and craft cocktails. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it really works."

— Pat Sharpe, Executive Editor + Food Writer, Texas Monthly

Contigo

Must-Try Dishes: "Start with a snack of popcorn and peanuts, dusted with cinnamon and cayenne; try a small plate with a juicy chicken thigh, Kalamata olives, golden raisins and sumac; sample the country rabbit charcuterie board (pictured); and finish with Champagne Baba Cake, with orange, chocolate, lavender and hazelnuts," Sharpe recommends.

Uchiko

4200 N. Lamar Blvd.
"Uchiko has been one of my favorite restaurants anywhere for some time now. The level of creativity in the food and the standard of service is world-class — yet the vibe is very relaxed and very Austin, especially in the front bar space and at the sushi bar in back.”

—Jody Horton, Food Photographer

Uchiko

Must-Try Dishes: The kinoko nabe — this dish is a riff on a traditional Japanese dish usually served near the end of the meal. It's a hearty vegan dish that highlights the natural umami present in mushrooms, with a bright acidity that leaves you wanting more. Horton loves Uchiko's shishito yaki: "It is the best I have ever had. Their fried eggplant (tempura nasu) is also a favorite. The grilled beef tongue (gyutan) makes you want to never put another thing in your mouth."

Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden

709 E. 6th St.
"I've spent years searching for the best pastrami in town, and nothing beats Easy Tiger's sandwich made with house-cured smoked pastrami, fresh-baked rye bread and housemade sauerkraut. Add to that an awesome selection of rotating craft beers and an outside patio, and you can find me here on any given Sunday."

—Scott Ota, Manager + Sommelier, Arro, TEXSOM’s Texas’ Best Sommelier 2013

Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden

Must-Try Dish: "The pastrami with kraut and mustard is the perfect blend of sour, spicy, salty and savory. It begs to be paired with a crisp, refreshing beer and an outdoor patio," Ota says.

Franklin Barbecue

900 E. 11th St.
"The lines may be long and the fanfare may seem borderline ridiculous, but most people (BBQ expert and amateur alike) who are able to claim a tray of nationally acclaimed Franklin Barbecue agree, there's something pretty special in that smoked meat. While you can call and order ahead for a full brisket to go, there's something about working your way down the service counter with a brown paper-lined tray, selecting your meats and sides, and sitting down to savor every bite in the unassuming, pared-down dining room. (On a cool day, a patio picnic table is best.)"

— Jessica Dupuy, Food + Wine Writer, Fodor's

Franklin Barbecue

Must-Try Dishes: If you have waited in line this long, we recommend trying a taste of it all — ribs, pulled pork, sausage, turkey ribs, brisket. And you have to try a bit of the Espresso and Sweet Vinegar sauces! 

El Naranjo

85 Rainey St.
"The chef-owner, from the city of Oaxaca, defines 'authentic.' The menu of the restaurant in this skillfully modernized old house, located on a busy, bar-hopping street near downtown, is as interior Mexican as it can possibly be."

—Pat Sharpe, Executive Editor + Food Writer, Texas Monthly

El Naranjo

Must-Try Dishes: El Naranjo's mole amarillo with shrimp, chayotes and green beans (pictured) is marinated in green chiles and spring onions. Sharpe recommends the stuffed green-chile poblano: "It is a thing of beauty, filled with braised Berkshire pork cooked with tomatoes, capers and raisins, then fried in a fluffy batter."

Lenoir

1807 S. 1st St.
"Lenoir is a funky little restaurant on South 1st Street. There is limited parking and seating, and dinner is reservation-only and prix fixe (surprisingly affordable at $38 for three courses). The husband-and-wife team that runs it — Chef Todd Duplechan and pastry chef Jessica Maher — consistently deliver a highly creative, ever-changing menu. Excellent wine pairings add to the experience. This is a great date-night pick."

— Jody Horton, Food Photographer

Lenoir

Must-Try Dish: It's rare to repeat a dish with Lenoir's constantly changing (and always surprising) menu, but the "everything" rye with charred tomato, whey sorbet and smoked ricotta was a star of recent visits to this cozy spot. 

Clark's Oyster Bar

1200 W. 6th St.
"The feeling is that of a little New Orleans oyster bar, mostly done in shades of bright white with marble counters, stools, and small tables inside and out. There are oysters on the half shell from all over the world, a killer ceviche, lobster rolls and New England clam chowder, as well as simple grilled fish with a watercress and endive salad."

—Pat Sharpe, Executive Editor + Food Writer, Texas Monthly

Clark's Oyster Bar

Must-Try Dish: Clark's signature cioppino, a flavor-filled mix of seafood served with roasted garlic toast, basil and marjoram.

Qui

1600 E. 6th St.
"Vibrant. Sophisticated. Whimsical. Fun. Few restaurants can claim so many adjectives, but at Qui, things are different. Here you get a hip Austin vibe, an adventurous culinary journey and the feeling of being at a island surf shop all at once, especially if enjoying the Pulutan menu (Filipino appetizers) and cocktails with friends on the patio. House favorites include a monstrous cote du boeuf and the made-for-sharing Rabbit 7 Ways, a flavorful exploration of locally sourced rabbit served as spicy sausage, braised rabbit belly and rabbit foie gras. No meal is complete at Qui without a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich, a sweet and savory spin on a childhood favorite with housemade sharp-cheddar ice cream, crisp waffled wafers and a drizzle of local honey."

— Jessica Dupuy, Food + Wine Writer, Fodor's

Qui

Must-Try Dish: Chef/owner Paul Qui is always experimenting, and this Binchotan-Grilled Madai with wild Japanese sea bream, white oak and ume is no exception. We are always up for the culinary adventure he will take you on during a visit to this east Austin spot. The deep-water sea bream is seared right into the Japanese white charcoal and then plated tableside for the guest with the sauce made from ume (pickled plum), a puree of herbs and blossoms, and greens picked from a local farm. 

Sway

1417 S. 1st St.
"You need to be up for Sway, because most of the seating is communal and convivial (although there is some rail seating for introverted souls). So gather round a massive wood table or at the kitchen-front counter and dig into some very modern, idiosyncratic, emphatic Thai cuisine. Housemade sauces emphasize the sweet-tart side of that country’s cooking (the original chef studied in Sydney, Australia, home to a contemporary take on traditional Thai)."

— Pat Sharpe, Executive Editor + Food Writer, Texas Monthly

Sway

Must-Try Dish: For a change of pace, a Chinese-influenced "salt and pepper" menu section goes in a savory direction. Our pick is the salt and pepper soft-shell crab with crispy Brussels sprouts … divine! 

Veracruz All Natural Tacos

1702 E. Cesar Chavez
"One of the hottest food trucks in town, visitors to this east-side taco spot may face long lines and wait times, but it's a challenge more than made up for in the form of tasty made-to-order tacos using all natural ingredients, no less. The steak and al pastor tacos loaded with cheese and avocado are popular picks, but the sauteed fish taco with cabbage, mango salsa and fresh avocado is a pure delight. (And the fresh, housemade salsas will leave you wanting more.) Don't rush off without a refreshing agua fresca — the watermelon is a summer gem."

— Jessica Dupuy, Food + Wine Writer, Fodor's

Veracruz All Natural Tacos

Must-Try Dishes: Barbacoa, al pastor, migas, veggie … when it comes to tacos, we don’t discriminate. We simply love them all! At Veracruz All Natural, you can’t go wrong with the always-fresh fish tacos.

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