Austin has experienced a sonic boom of growth and national interest in the past few years, and in part with that boom we’ve been declared a culinary destination. But in all of those hundreds of restaurants, we're now home to thousands of menus, and on those thousands of menus are... too many dishes to count. Well, these are the 11 best of all of them.
The Original Kimchi Fries
The people at Chi’Lantro have hit the munchie jackpot with their Kimchi Fries -- golden fries topped with your choice of ribeye bulgogi, spicy pork, spicy chicken, soy-glazed chicken, or marinated tofu, and topped with caramelized kimchi, cheddar & Monterey Jack, onions, cilantro, magic sauce, sesame seeds, and Sriracha. So good.
For those times when you want to eat something healthy without resorting to a sad desk salad, there’s Koriente. The Mixmix Bibimbap is a giant bowl of fresh, julienned veggies on top of jasmine rice and field greens -- you then choose a protein (we love the sashimi spicy tuna and the fried tofu) and add-ons like a fried egg or avocado. The accompanying sauce and a little mixing result in the most amazing AND healthy meal you’ll ever have to eat.
No explanation needed. If you’ve ever gotten up extra early on your day off to sit in a folding chair for three hours, you get it. Moist, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth brisket by the very skilled and super-nice ‘cue master, Aaron Franklin.
We love that you can still get Congress’ quality for a lot less money at Second Bar. The short rib is a piece of meat that just falls apart -- its accompanying black truffle grits and crispy onion make this a home run of a meal.
East Austin (& Other Locations)
We can't get enough of VIA 313’s Detroit-style deep dish pizza. Its cheesy edges are perfectly crisp, and the dollop of marinara sauce is heavenly. The Detroiter is an amped-up version with double pepperoni and double cheese.
Ribeye & steak frites
Péché offers a large juicy ribeye topped with a pad of compound herb butter and a pile of golden fries. Although many places in town have their own take on steak frites, this one comes with great service, zero stuffiness, and cocktails... lots of cocktails.
Veracruz All Natural (address and info)
This little truck is giving Austin’s taco giants a run for their money. The migas taco is full of egg, pico de gallo, cheese, avocado, and lots of crispy tortilla strips. Top it off with its house-made salsa.
#1 Tonkatsu Original
North Austin (& Other Locations)
Slurping down a bowl of Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s tonkatsu ramen is a transcendent experience. The creamy, pork bone-based broth is complex and teeming with umami flavor. The chashu pork and marinated egg melt in your mouth. The best ramen, hands down.
Thai Chicken Karaage
East Side King (address and info)
The deep-fried chicken thighs tossed with sweet & spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion, and jalapeño helped put ESK on the map -- we use the word “helped” because the Brussels sprouts and beet fries are hella good too.
Central (& Other Locations)
There’s something so inherently wholesome and just right about gingerbread pancakes. Whether your style is single or full stack, these will fill you up with nostalgic goodness in addition to actual pancakes.
The sunny, gorgeous atmosphere combined with perfectly attentive service and fresh selections make Clark’s a no-brainer for oysters. It always has great choices of both East and West Coast options, which rotate out with availability and season.
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1. Chi'lantro1509 S Lamar Blvd, Austin
2. Koriente621 E 7th St, Austin
3. Franklin Barbecue900 E 11th St, Austin
4. Second Bar + Kitchen200 Congress Ave, Austin
5. Via 3131111 E 6th St, Austin
6. Peche208 W 4th St, Austin
7. Ramen Tatsu-Ya8557 Research Blvd, Austin
8. Kerbey Lane Café3704 Kerbey Ln, Austin
9. Clark's Oyster Bar1200 W 6th St, Austin
Chi'lantro BBQ, the one-time food truck turned brick-and-mortar mini-chain, is one of Austin’s Korean Barbecue pioneers with an interesting twist. The acclaimed Korean street food goes south-of-the-border with heavy Mexican influence in taco, burrito, and bowl forms. Chi’lantro (kimchi and cilantro, get it?) is most widely known for the Original Kimchi Fries. Listen closely: French fries are topped with your choice of protein (spicy pork isn’t the only option, but it may as well be), caramelized kimchi, Cheddar and Jack cheeses, onion, cilantro, magic sauce (it really is magical), sesame seeds, and Sriracha. They’re good for sharing, but you’ll want your own, and maybe add some queso... you are in Texas, after all.
Sporting the motto, "my mom started this restaurant because she hates to cook," this Asian-inspired eatery is devoted to preparing healthy, MSG-free, allergy-friendly plates to families who prioritize conscious eating -- but who wish someone else would do all the work. The wood-paneled, red-painted restaurant is charmingly local, with standing lamps, checkered table cloths, and a well-tended wrap-around garden, while the homestyle kitchen feels equally domestic. The place serves bowls of warm sweet potato noodles topped with sautéed veggies and fresh avocado, or steamed rice with pan-seared tofu and broccoli, all doused in soy-based sauces that are miraculously low on grease and sodium (but not low on flavor). The place even offers a full menu of gluten-free items -- and the vast majority of the colorful, vegetable-centric entrees come for under 10$.
This lunch-only spot often sees long lines of customers waiting to order pulled pork, brisket and other smoked meats. Chef Aaron Franklin brought quality barbecue to Austin that was excellent enough to earn him the 2015 James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Southwest." His BBQ is so lauded that meat lovers from around the world regulalry make a pit stop at this shack-like locale in East Austin.
Second Bar + Kitchen prides themselves on creating a true farm-to-table experience, offering small plates, pizzas, and various entrees. Our personal favorite is the Congress Burger, which is essentially the Rolls Royce of Austin burgers; ground brisket & chuck, gruyére cheese, shallot confit, and horseradish pickles, with the option to double the meat and cheese, add pork belly, avocado, fried egg, and seared foie gras. There are also a wide variety of wines, beers, and craft cocktails. Stop by Second for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.
Detroit-raised brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt are bringing their hometown's deep-dish pizza style to Austin at Via 313. The pizza is made the authentic Detroit way, which means square-shaped pies with Sicilian crust, a layer of pepperoni, cheesy edges, and a tangy red sauce. The pies come in slices of four, and if you'd like a more, er, mainstream pizza, thin-crust rounds are also available. Aside from pizza, Via 313's two full-service restaurants serve salads and a few appetizers, like cheese bread and house-made meatballs.
Consciously attempting to recreate the European art of mixology that was largely lost in America as a result of Prohibition, Peche is a genuine cocktail paradise, and it's the only place in Austin that you can experience absinthe "in its true form".
Nothing compares to the lovingly simmered broth made at Ramen Tatsu-ya. The gang here has managed to create a cult classic with their menu. Try their signature bowl of ramen is a rich, complex, pork bone broth filled with thin noodles, tender chashu pork (soy braised pork belly), a marinated soft boiled egg, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, and your choice of add-ins. There is often a line but service moves lightning fast.
This quaint South Austin cafe is famous for their pancakes, which come in a variety of flavors, including gingerbread and apple whole wheat (there is also a gluten free option). Expect a wait, as this place is extremely popular, but it's definitely worth it.
A small neighborhood seafood joint, Clark's Oyster Bar, prides itself on simple, sustainable seafood with a cozy ambiance. The maritime cache is fully stocked with house-made breads, burgers, and an extensive brunch menu, but the oysters, which come in a breadth of both East and West Coast options that rotate out with availability and season, are an essential order.