Take your pick from Central BBQ, Bar-B-Q Shop, Three Little Pigs, Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, or Interstate Bar-B-Que, and then defend it to the death. Beyond the 'cue, Tennessee chain Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken gives new meaning to finger-lickin' good, the Pancake Shop is Southern brunch done right, and Memphis hipsters flock to burger-and-beer joints Huey's and Earnestine & Hazel's for cold brews, greasy eats, and late-night hangs.
What do award-winning barbecue, pillowy donuts, and 24-hour tacos have in common? A) They all rule, and B) each is at its very best deep in the heart of Texas -- or, you know, at least in Austin's liberal, college-town heart. I recently had a friend fly down for SXSW and I'm pretty sure he spent 99% of his time indulging his inner fat kid and maybe 1% of it actually seeing shows, so I'm going to trust his authority when he recommends Gourdough's as Austin's top donut joint, Salt Lick BBQ in nearby Driftwood (a suburb that he literally walked to in 90-degree weather -- the food is that good/dude is that nuts) for brisket rivaling the famed Franklin Barbecue (minus the line), and Torchy's for the most extensive (and best-tasting) taco menu in town. Rumor has it that Obama lunched at Torchy's on a recent visit, downing the Democrat (shredded beef, avocado, queso fresco, cilantro, and onions on a corn tortilla), the Independent (fried portobello, refried beans, corn, queso fresco, avocado, and aioli on a flour tortilla), and the Republican (jalapeño sausage, shredded cheese, pico, and poblano sauce on flour) in one sitting -- now that's reaching across the aisle.