Austin has a fantastic food scene, and everybody knows it... but do you really need another resto guide telling you to go to Franklin BBQ? We're here to tell you about the spots that have, for a bunch of silly reasons, been unfairly left out of the limelight. These are Austin’s most underrated restaurants.
What you’re getting: The Godfather
You’ve stumbled past this joint a million times on your drunken way home, but have you ever stopped to really think -- this is actually kind of good? And not just for cheap street pizza (which it is certainly not at $4.50 a pop) but good for, like, pizza pizza. Not many people are aware that it’s also open during lunch hours, so if you’re tired of the Home Slice hustle hit seedy Sixth by the bright light of day.
What you’re getting: Millionaires curry and a curry margarita
Tex-Mex or Indian? Trudy’s or Clay Pit? Tacos or tikka masala? Neither -- or both, really. You may not have heard of Nasha, but those who are fans of its lamb puff samosas and spice-inspired cocktails appreciate you sleeping on the Tex-Mex/Indian-fusion menu. Your loss just means more tandoori tacos for them.
What you’re getting: Sausage, lemon poppy coleslaw, and jalapeño grits
Like the kid in high school that’s just as cool as the popular guy but still lives in his shadow (let’s just call him Franklin), Micklethwait Craft Meats garners attention, but not as much as it’s due. The tiny trailer less than a mile down the street from Austin’s golden boy barbecue restaurant makes everything on its menu from scratch, including the sausage, the bread, the pickles, and even the mayonnaise used in the potato salad.
What you’re getting: The pollo pastor taco, the watermelon salad taco, or the adobe short rib taco
This town runs afoul of tacos so there’s bound to be a restaurant that drops between the cracks. Fork & Taco was ballsy enough to set up shop down the road from Torchy’s Tacos and ballsy enough to suggest that tacos should be eaten with forks. We’ll forgive that last one though, so long as this place continues to pair goat cheese with zucchini mole or sweet potato hash with short ribs.
What you’re getting: The lamb platter and/or lamb gyro
This out-of-the-way, unassuming house restaurant in North Austin is quickly gaining devotees with its well-done Mediterranean menu, understated Austin decor, and chill patio for vibing out with $2.50 glasses of sangria during happy hour. The lamb menu items are definitely the go-to selection, but you’ll do well to order traditional sides like hummus, dolmas, or feta fries as well.
What you’re getting: Sake mac and cheese, bacon-wrapped scallop yakitori, and the Hybrid roll
Some people might feel that driving a smidge farther North than they’re used to isn’t worth a fine-dining experience, but those same people would be ill informed. They’d also missing out on Austin’s only yakitori lounge and Japanese sports bar, plus a daily happy hour with $2 off wine and cocktails. That’s right -- you can have your sports and drink your sake too.
What you’re getting: Oysters Contraband and Crawfish Evangeline
Way down South, on the complete opposite end of the city, Evangeline Cafe is serving up boudin, frog legs, and jambalaya the likes of which can be hard to find in a central state location. Shoal Creek Saloon is the more well trafficked of Austin’s Cajun cuisine scene, but Evangeline has a wider selection that errs just a smidge on the fancier side (if you ignore the kitschy decor).
What you’re getting: Blackened "naughty" catfish and jalapeño hush puppies
Praised by critics and revered by fans, Turf N Surf Po’ Boy can still be easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for -- particularly some of the best catfish tacos in town. The Lavaca Street Bar restaurant offers a straightforward menu with no-nonsense guidelines: order your surf or turf blackened, grilled, or fried, stick it in a po-boy, on a salad, within a taco, or over nachos, and eat up.
What you’re getting: Miso ramen and squid ink soft-serve
We get it. Michi and Tatsu-Ya are really great and hip, etc. Where’s the love for Daruma? Kome’s sister restaurant serves up four varieties of chicken broth-based ramen for simple, and apparently healthier, slurping inside the itty-bitty ambient dining room.
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1. Roppolo's Pizzeria316 & 414 E 6th St, Austin
2. Nasha1614 E 7th St, Austin
3. Micklethwait Craft Meats1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin
4. Fork + Taco4801 Burnet Rd, Austin
5. Santorini Cafe11800 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
6. Pacific Rim Sushi & Yakitori Lounge9070 Research Blvd Ste 305, Austin
7. Evangeline Cafe8106 Brodie Ln, Austin
8. Turf N Surf Po' Boys405 Lavaca St, Austin
9. Daruma Ramen612B E 6th St, Austin
This late night pizza stop (open until 3 am) actually serves pizza that tastes good, even when you haven't been in bars all night. They have two locations on 6th Street and two mobile food trucks. Tip: You can find coupons on their website.
You may not have heard of Nasha, but their lamb puff samosas are really something worth knowing about. As are there tandoori tacos and spice inspired cocktails. That's right: Tex-Mex/Indian fusion.
Smoking and barbecuing craft meats, Micklethwait has authentic, Texas country-style BBQ, including specialty homemade sausages that vary daily. This ramshackle, neighborhood spot serves up some of the best meat in the ATX (beef rib, brisket, pulled pork, chops 'n sausage, to name a few offerings), all of which you can enjoy at camp-style outdoor picnic tables with a cold beverage in hand.
Tacos are almost their own food group in Austin, but at Fork + Taco they have been bold enough to make the assertion that tacos are to be eaten with forks (gasp!). However, their high end, locally sourced ingredients make for some pretty swanky tacos, even for taco land. Toppings include adobo brisket, green chili pork, and redfish tempura.
This unassuming house-restaurant is quickly gaining a loyal following. The lamb menu items should definitely be your go-to, and if you're going to make the trek out here you should probably get a glass of sangria for $2.50 and drink it on the patio.
As the only yakitori lounge in Austin, this restaurant has its own niche. The wide array of sushi and Japanese dishes are complimented by cocktails and over 15 different types of sake.
Serving classic Cajun and Creole all the way inland in South Austin, Evangeline Cafe embraces its root with live music and a relaxed atmosphere. Look out for annual events like their Crawfish Boil and Mardi Gras celebrations.
The dude behind the ramshackle Congress Ave seafood trailer has expanded into the kitchen of the Lavaca St Bar, serving the same menu of meaty American comforts and delivered-daily fish, which they're now grilling, frying, blackening, and stuffing into either tacos or the Artful Dodger's favorite group of people (po' boys).
Obviously named after the doll of a legless Buddist monk, Daruma's a tiny 28-seat Kome offshoot slinging a short-but-sweet menu that eschews their signature pork tonkatsu broth in favor of whole chicken broth. Their delicious menu includes the Shio (roasted chicken, boiled egg, bok choy, sesame seeds, goji berry), hybrid chicken/seafood stock Shoyu, a Miso holdover from their first location (ground chicken, soy sauce-flavored boiled egg, shredded red pepper), and even a Vegan option.