You Can Get Reservations for Free Dinner in Taco Bell's Insane Test Kitchen
Roasted Pork Jowl at The Hightower
The Hightower’s best-selling roasted pork jowl bibimbap is one that will make you come back for more. You get a Korean hot pot filled with white rice that is crispy around the edges topped with tender pork jowl, avocado, cucumber, pickled red onion, house Sriracha, and egg yolk that gets stirred until everything is mixed. This warm, filling dish hits all the flavor points: savory, spicy, crispy, acidic, umami, and sweet.
General Tso's Chicken at General Tso'Boy
Owners Gary and Jessica Wu’s General Tso’Boy is less traditional Chinese and more modern mashup with its perfect marriage of Chinese-American flavors incorporated into soft and crunchy French bread. Start off with the original sandwich, General Tso’s Chicken -- battered chicken thigh, sweet/savory sauce, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a fresh-baked Easy Tiger roll. Take your "comfort” (aka food coma) to another level with the cheeseburger spring rolls and homemade soft serve.
Shakshuka at CANTINE Italian Café & Bar
Although CANTINE Italian Café & Bar (owned by the folks behind ASTI Trattoria) is technically an Italian cafe, its menu is peppered with dishes that reflect flavors found in Italy’s Mediterranean neighbors. The brunch shakshuka is a perfect example of this -- a hot dish comprised of hearty harissa-spiked tomato sauce and z’hug (Israeli hot sauce), topped with local Vital Farm eggs, and baked until bubbling. Eaten with torn pieces of warm house-made pita, the shakshuka is a perfect cool-weather brunch food made only more perfect by adding chorizo.
Black noodles at Thai-Kun
You already know that Thai-Kun on East Sixth is the bomb dot com, but the Domain North location has three times the menu items, and chef Thai Changthong himself can be seen at the grill. While it’s almost impossible to choose a favorite, for the sake of a ramen alternative, we’ll go with the only-available-for-dine-in-lunch black noodles: stir-fried rice stick noodles, pork, meatballs, liver, sweet soy sauce, bean sprouts, celery, pickled mustard greens, and peanuts. Essentially, it’s a Thai flavor explosion.
Picanha Grelhada at Boteco ATX
Brazilian food truck Boteco is still somehow flying under the radar, but with food this great combined with the friendly atmosphere provided by owners Lauren and Fernando Marri, it won’t be for long. The small menu has a handful of appetizers but really only one entree, the picanha grelhada, a dish commonly found in Brazil. What is it? Its flavor-packed, sliced, medium-rare sirloin steak seasoned with Brazilian spices served over white rice, beans, and yuca flour, and topped with a sunny-side-up egg and fresh salsa (the portion is large enough for two to share). Be sure to try an order of Boteco’s perfectly crisp yuca fries on the side.
The Don from Don Japanese Food Truck
For only $5 you can get The Don, a fairly large portion of Don's homestyle comfort food. It’s a bed of rice and lettuce topped with slices of either golden-fried chicken or pork, sauce, and nori. Regulars know that adding onsen (soft) egg or avocado for a buck more is a great deal. Don Japanese can be found just behind the University Co-op.
Malaysian Laksa Bowl at The Peached Tortilla
The Peached Tortilla is known for its flavorful Asian-fusion cuisine, and the Malaysian Laksa soup is no exception. The soup is a generous bowl of poached shrimp and tonkotsu noodles in an aromatic curry seafood broth topped with a 45-minute egg, cilantro, bean sprouts, and green onions. The level of cozy satisfaction this soup leaves you with kicks ramen’s behind... you know, if ramen had a behind.
Ten-Zaru Udon at Daito
While the concept of cold noodles may sound odd, let us assure you that it is indeed the opposite. A nest of cold Japanese udon noodles -- the chilled temperature reveals the udon’s lovely flavor and texture -- is served with a bowl of warm, savory tsuyu broth. The Ten-Zaru at Daito comes with a side of tempura fried veggies that also get dunked into the broth.
Om Gai at Dee Dee
East Cesar Chavez
This broth-y chicken should be called “OMIGOD” chicken, because the warm, fragrant dish is out of this world. The Northern Thai truck located next door to Stay Gold is a gem, and has many food-industry devotees. Dee Dee’s Om Gai is comprised of chicken in a thick broth flavored with dill, lemongrass, chili, spring onion, and Thai basil, plus a side of Thai sticky rice perfect for sopping up the herbal broth.
Beef noodle soup at Julie's Handmade Noodles
Julie’s hand-pulled noodles are some of the best in Austin, and are showcased in the signature beef noodle soup -- a large bowl of savory broth, beef, and wide noodles. Portions are large for the relatively small price, so you’ll get a couple of meals out of one order. And if you live in North Austin, there is a Julie’s brick & mortar next door to Ramen Tatsu-ya that has a spacious dining room.
Homemade Chicken & Vegetable Soup at Julio's Cafe
Two words: Chicken. Soup. Everyone knows it’s great. For $6.25, you get a bowl of soup -- big enough for a whole other meal -- of tender chicken, broth that has been simmering for hours, squash, zucchini, carrots, and avocado. For cold weather, when you have an actual cold, or you had a few too many the night before, Julio’s soup is the magic remedy.
1. The Hightower1209 E 7th St, Austin
2. General Tso'boy11501 Rock Rose #152, Austin
3. Cantine1100 S Lamar Blvd #2115, Austin
4. East Side King Thai Kun11601 Rock Rose Ave Ste 100, Austin
5. The Peached Tortilla5520 Burnet Rd #100, Austin
6. Daito2716 1/2 Guadalupe St, Austin
7. Julie's Noodles8557 Research Blvd #110, Austin
8. Julio's Café4230 Duval St, Austin
The dishes at High Tower -- a friendly neighborhood spot in East Austin -- run the gamut from Tex-Mex to Asian, and though their flavor and presentation could compete with the best of Austin's white-hot culinary scene, they're still affordable enough to order any night of the week, not just for special occasions. Grab a spot on the outdoor patio and try the ever-popular and comforting roasted pork jowl, a Korean hot pot filled with rice, egg yolk, cucumber, pickled shallots, and house Sriracha. Another favorite? Grilled scallops with avocado and grapefruit.
General Tso'Boy is, fortunately for us all, exactly what it sounds like: the joys of Chinese cuisine combined with those of Southern America -- all stuffed in fresh, French bread rolls. Sandwich fillings here are similar to what you'd find at your regular take-out joint -- general tso's chicken (obviously), black pepper beef, honey walnut shrimp -- but they're entirely elevated with peppers, nuts, and house-made sauces and sides of fries or spring rolls.
Cantine Italian Café & Bar in South Lamar keeps it all in the Mediterranean family by incorporating Greek tastes like Muhammara housemade pita and whipped feta into a heavily Italian menu of starters, salads, meats, house-made pastas, and pizzas. Opt for the crunchy, warm fried goat cheese with honey or the spaghetti Neopolitano while you’re dining al fresco, or choose a table inside. The dining room and kitchen are decidedly industrial, with clean, geometric lines that will remind you to maintain your decorum as you breathlessly slurp your spaghetti.
Thai-Kun Rose Rock is the brick-and-mortar outpost of Austin’s beloved food truck, offering Thai street fare at four-alarm spice levels. The fiery menu delivers appetizers, traditional dishes, and larger family-style dishes, with standouts like taro crisps, made with Thai-Kun’s signature “Boom” sauce, and Chinese broccoli with crispy pork, soy, garlic, Thai chili, oyster sauce, and jasmine rice. There’s a ton of seating in the dining room, which is embellished with eye-catching animal illustrations in primary colors, so bring a group; you’ll want to try as many dishes as humanly possible.
By its name, it’s not all too clear that Austin’s The Peached Tortilla specializes in simple southern food with an Asian flair. But a restaurant by any other name couldn’t smell as smoky and sweet as Peached Tortilla’s dry rubbed brisket and pork belly, which are each braised for over 3.5 hours, low and slow. The rest of the menu consists of Asian-influenced greens, Mexican street fare, big plates, and shareables. These flavors might jolt your taste buds, but worry not; you’ll be placated by The Peached Tortilla’s bright, pleasant atmosphere.
Daito’s chefs are West Campus’s scholars of Japanese cuisine. From Osaka, they believe in propagating authentic Japanese “Waashoku,” or simple, healthy, and rich dishes, like the beloved curry udon and piping hot stewed pork belly. Daito also cooks up appetizers, imported and local sashimi, donburi, and a wide selection of homemade udon noodles, made with dough that’s been aged for 48 hours. Like the ingredients in its dishes, the restaurant’s interior is simple and elegant, with series of Japanese watercolor paintings adorning the walls and scattered shoji screens.
Nestled in the same strip as Ramen Tatsu-ya, Din Ho Chinese BBQ, and Hong Kong Supermarket in North Austin, Julie's holds its own among the group for the comforting and authentic noodle bowls it dishes out -- the same ones that's made its original West Campus food truck so popular. Inside the spacious, casual dining room that sports a sweeping Chinese mural, you'll step up to the counter and, though there are dumpling and lo mein options, you'll order the beef noodle soup, a massive bowl of savory broth, beef, and wide noodles that fans hold dear.
From breakfast tacos to post-work margaritas to chicken noodle soup the day after you had too many of those margaritas, this small, colorful cafe in Hyde Park has you covered 'round the clock. It's a casual, cash-only spot that locals love for its quality Mexican dishes, particularly the enchiladas verdes, chalupas (deep-fried flour tortillas with veggies, cheese, and your choice of meat), and roasted chicken with rice and beans. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most popular dishes is the homemade chicken noodle soup, a massive bowl of tender chicken in broth that's been simmering for hours with squash, zucchini, carrots, and avocado.