Food & Drink

Thanks Queso! How Austin's Restaurant Scene Changed This Midwesterner's Life.

Published On 02/07/2017 Published On 02/07/2017
austin's restaurant scene
The Queso from Torchy's Tacos | Mike Cortez/Thrillist
The Queso at Torchy's Tacos | Mike Cortez/Thrillist
Chilantro BBQ
Hyde Park Bar & Grill
Via 313 Pizza
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1. Torchy's Tacos 1311 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 (South Austin)

The sign says “Torchy’s Damn Good Tacos,” President Obama stopped his motorcade for them, and Torchy’s has gone from a lone food truck in Austin to 30 locations across Texas and Colorado in a decade. Believe the hype, Torchy’s tacos really are damn good. Breakfast tacos are served all day (the Migas is objectively the best, just saying), and lunch tacos are outside the realm of your standard taco joint, with unexpected ingredients and flavor combinations, like the Trailer Park with fried chicken, green chiles, and poblano sauce (get it “trashy” with queso). Do as the locals do and wait in line, it’s worth it… don’t trust me, trust President Obama.

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2. Chi'lantro 1509 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

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.

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3. Hyde Park Bar & Grill 4206 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751 (Hyde Park)

Hyde Park Bar & Grill in Hyde Park -- which was in such high demand that there’s now a second location in the Central Market South shopping center -- has been a neighborhood institution since the '80s, serving up down-home Southern comfort food. The food proffer is everything you’d expect: there’s queso (what would a meal in Texas be without queso?), buttermilk-fried chicken and biscuits, bacon-braised collards, and the popular 1/2lb burger. But there’s one thing the restaurant is known for above all else: the Hyde Park Fries. The fries are buttermilk-battered, the flour is seasoned with black pepper and other spices, and they’re finished with a healthy dose of Hyde Park Sauce. While you can enjoy them alongside the drink of your choice from the full bar, might I suggest pairing them with a bottle of Austin rainwater? Just trust me.

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4. Taco Joint 2807 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78705 (Utwest Campus)

You’d think it would be hard for a taco joint in Texas to establish itself as a local favorite, but it proved fairly easy for Taco Joint… even with a name like Taco Joint. The beloved Mexican counter-serve's first location on San Jacinto Blvd. by UT Austin became a campus mainstay for coeds seeking quality breakfast tacos on hand-rolled tortillas, because there’s no better way to fuel your studies than with a reasonably priced, stuffed-to-the-brim El Benedicto (that’s right, it’s an eggs Benedict… taco).

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5. Via 313 1111 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (Central East)

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.