As Austin continues to grow and expand, so does the city’s standout culinary scene. There are plenty of chefs and teams carving out names for themselves, and as a result, there’s no shortage of Austinite foodies who have received local and national accolades—Best New Restaurant, Emerging Chefs, Austin Tastemakers, and Top 20 lists all included.
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The awards span casual outdoor dining spots to limited-menu secret gems to sit-down pre-fixes requiring advanced planning and reservations. That’s one of the special things about Austin restaurants, we’ve got a bit of it all in almost every cuisine you can imagine.
Because there’s no shortage of delicious, inventive dishes to discover, we’ve made things a bit easier with this ultimate guide to Austin restaurants. Whether you’re looking for brunch, late-night dining, or something to pique your interest (and palate)—you’ll get it all below. Read on for our top picks.
Image courtesy of Launderette.
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Best Brunch in Austin
Here in Austin, we take brunch very seriously. When the weather is under 90 degrees, it’s definitely game on. Whether you’re looking for a chill patio with the classics, an intimate setting where you can wear your “weekend best,” or an elevated experience—we’ve got you covered.
Better Half Coffee & Cocktails (West Austin)
This is a great place to take a group for an easy outdoor brunch on picnic tables, nestled next door to Hold Out Brewing. They do a perfect breakfast sandwich, waffle iron hash browns, and epic cauliflower tots. Expert tip: Don’t skip their burgers!
image above: Better Half
Foreign & Domestic (North Loop)
It gets the Andrew Zimmern seal of approval for a reason. Chefs Sarah and Nathan call Foreign & Domestic “Austin’s original nose-to-tail, farm-to-table dining experience.” You’re going for Sunday brunch and ordering the pancakes with peach jam, cast iron frittata, and the crispy pork and grits. They also have an incredible wine menu with several bottles of Pet Nat to select from.
Josephine House (Clarksville)
There’s a reason this tiny house in Clarksville books up fast—three words: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. Known by locals as “JoHo,” Josephine House is a great spot to celebrate a special occasion, especially when the weather is gorgeous as the bulk of the seating is outside. We recommend the cured lox, big chopped salad, or burger if you have a big appetite. It’s one of the best in town!
image above: Launderette courtesy of the restaurant
Launderette (East Austin)
We love Launderette for their fun and sharable menus not just for brunch, but lunch and dinner, too. Chef Rene Ortiz and the team have something for everyone, including a Rainbow Bowl, Benny Toast, and a Fried Chicken Sammie. We’d recommend ordering a few Potato Latkes and maybeeeeee a short stack of pancakes for the table if you’re really hungry.
Lin Asian Bar & Dim Sum (West Austin)
If you’re lucky to snag a table at Lin Asian Bar & Dim Sum or a reservation for brunch, consider yourself winning the weekend. While we’re partial to essentially every steamed bun on the menu, the basil chicken dumpling and scallion pancakes are a must-order. Expert tip: Book a table in advance on OpenTable.
Images above: Paperboy courtesy of the restaurant
Paperboy (East Austin)
If we could recommend the entire Paperboy brunch menu, we would. That’s how hard it is to pick a favorite. Your move here: any of the toasts, migas, and the kale salad with a soft-boiled egg. OK, and a side of cheesy hash browns. Expert tip: This is the perfect spot if you want to brunch and leisurely shop along East 11th.
Elizabeth Street Cafe (South First)
Elizabeth Street Cafe embodies the quirky, colorful, and delicious experiences that Austin is known for. My favorite menu items: House Baked Brioche French Toast, Texas Akaushi Beef Carpaccio, Cha Ca Red Fish, and a Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s tasty for any meal of the day, offering French baked goods with coffee and tea for breakfast, artfully crafted pho, and bun and banh mi for lunch and dinner. Expert tip: Don’t dare pass up the macarons. The pastry chefs have created hundreds of flavors of these delightful treats that match the aesthetic of the entire place. Snag a box and take some home!
image above: Otoko
Best Sushi in Austin
When you think of Texas, you probably think of BBQ and tacos, but don’t sleep on our sushi scene. We’ve got everything from small and intimate omakase spots, strip mall joints, and classics that have been so popular, that they’ve expanded outside of Texas.
We love Kome for their selection of rolls, bento boxes, donburi bowls, and ramen—not to mention their selection of Japanese snacks on the menu. Our favorites: the Sunshine Roll, Katsu Chicken, Kinoko chashu tama-don, and the Miso Ramen.
images above: Otoko
While this South Congress hot spot typically requires making a reservation 3 months in advance, trust us when we say that Otoko is worth the wait. The 12-seat Japanese kaiseki omakase-style spot is tucked in the South Congress Hotel with an attached and intimate Japanese-inspired cocktail bar, Watertrade (which does not require a reservation to sit at the bar, but does take them for their cocktail tables if you like planning ahead). Chef Yoshi makes the experience so fun, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see him break down a whole tuna. Expert Tip: Reservations open on a rolling 3 month basis on the first of every month at 12pm and book up quick! Book a reservation at Watertrade when you need that Otoko-esque quick fix without the lengthy wait.
Tomodachi (North Austin)
If you’re looking for an easy strip-mall kind of sushi hang, Tomodachi is it. With roll names like Who’s Your Daddy and Ex-Girlfriend, you already know it’s going to be a fun and non-fussy spot.
image above: Sushi Bar ATX by Liam Brown.
Snagging tickets to SushiBar ATX will take some serious and stealth dedication, but it’s well worth the effort. This small and intimate 17-course omakase concept is helmed by Head Chef Ambrely Ouimette and every bite includes background on the fish and the inspiration behind the dish. Expert tip: This is a fun spot to book the entire place for a birthday or celebration.
Uchi + Uchiko (South Lamar + North Lamar)
Uchi + Uchiko have become Austin institutions and are so beloved there are now locations in Houston, Dallas, and outside of Texas, including Denver and Miami. Both spots book up fast but are well worth the wait. Expert tip: Don’t skip their Happy Hour every day from 4 to 6:30 p.m. (first-come, first-serve).
image above: June’s All Day
Best South Congress Restaurants
With the recent Austin Music Lane development opening, South Congress has become the number one destination for tourists and residents to spend an afternoon shopping, eating, and drinking. While the bulk of our suggestions is newer, we’ve got a few OG spots that you must add to your list.
If you’re in the mood for Mediterranean, Aba hits the spot. Book the patio for fun people-watching and make sure to order the smoky garlic hummus, whipped feta, shawarma-spiced skirt steam, and the crispy potatoes. Reservations are hard to come by, so book in advance or call the restaurant directly.
images above: Aba
We love this laid-back coffee shop and cafe founded by two pals and avid cyclists. Not only is the coffee and pastry selection top-notch, but we’re also obsessed with their well-curated natural wine options (looking at you, Scotty Boy). The Meteor is a great spot to grab a bottle of wine and pizza and sit on the patio a bit out of the busy South Congress rush.
Image above: Home Slice Pizza courtesy of the restaurant
Home Slice Pizza
While the crew at Home Slice Pizza does an authentic NY-style pizza by the pie or slice, don’t miss out on the Italian Sub. Arguably one of the best sandwiches in Austin. Home Slice is a great place to grab a pie and take it to Zilker Park, grab a slice and walk around South Congress, or for your next pizza party hang.
images above: June’s All Day
June’s All Day
Master sommelier June Rodil has been a fixture of the Austin restaurant scene for more than a decade (and now in Houston!). So when June’s All Day opened, we knew it would have the best wine list in town. What we didn’t know was that the food would be good enough to garner Food & Wine’s coveted “Best New Restaurant in America” title in 2017.
The super vibey South Congress hotspot has become a true neighborhood hangout, where on any given night you’ll spot Austin luminaries, power players, and cool kids. Go for the cozy, energetic atmosphere and order one of our favorites—the matzo ball caldo or the fried chicken sandwich.
image above: Odd Duck by Richard Casteel.
Best South Austin Restaurants
South Austin is not to be missed. Whether you’re planning a dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, a day at the Wildflower Center, a show at the Saxon Pub, or a hike on the Greenbelt, we’ve got a few good spots to enhance your plans.
images above: Odd Duck by Richard Casteel.
What started as a food trailer in 2009 has turned into one of our favorite spots in Austin with the most innovative and unique dishes. Odd Duck takes pride in supporting and showcasing local farmers and producers. Our favorite dishes are the fried kale beignets, roasted beets, and the dry-aged wagyu burger.
Leroy & Lewis BBQ (at Cosmic Coffee)
There’s no shortage of BBQ spots in Austin, but Leroy & Lewis BBQ is one of our favorites. Go on the weekend for the Akaushi Brisket and try the Kale Cesar Slaw and House Made Kimchi. There’s even a burnt cauliflower dish that vegans and meat-eaters alike will love.
image above Valentina’s BBQ courtesy of the restaurant.
We get asked a lot about our favorite BBQ and tacos in town, and Valentina’s BBQ is always top of the list. Expert tip: Whether you’re going for breakfast or lunch, be sure that your taco or sandwich is made with their epic brisket.
image above: Comedor.
Best Downtown Austin Restaurants
Chances are that if you’re visiting Austin, you’re staying downtown. The below list of the best Austin restaurants downtown will help take the guesswork out of where to eat. There are a few that have been our favorites for years and some that opened within the last year. All remain a great place to take groups or simply celebrate a special occasion.
Emmer & Rye
If you’re a fan of cacio e pepe, fermentation, and incredible wine, then look no further than Emmer & Rye. From the same team behind Canje, Kalimoxto, Hestia, TLV and more opening in San Antonio, we love this spot for date night, celebrations, or simply saddling up to the bar for a few bites and a good glass of wine. The menu changes seasonally, and we love how experiential chefs are with in-season ingredients. Did we mention the cacio e pepe?
I’ll never forget the first time I tried the crispy shallot hummus at The Peacock, the Kelly Wearstler-designed Mediterranean restaurant on the ground floor of the Austin Proper Hotel. Unbelievably creamy with layers of flavor, I could have easily made that hummus, scooped onto fresh-from-the-oven pita bread, my entire dinner. But then I would have missed the Oak Grilled Octopus and the Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs—and the Baklava! I quickly noted for future reference: this is a restaurant that’s best for sharing, since I will want to sample as many menu items as possible. The Peacock is equally perfect for family brunch or a date night, and I particularly love meeting a friend at the bar for cocktails… and of course, that hummus.
Nestled inside the Fairmont Hotel, Garrison has quickly become one of our favorite Austin restaurants thanks to the quality of service, attention to detail, and standout dishes including the tuna crudo, Garrison Reserve caviar, all of their steaks, and our absolute favorite: the truffle tots (we may have ordered a few rounds for an appetizer and dessert). Go here for any kind of celebration—the experience is unparalleled.
images above: Comedor.
Chef Phil Speer’s Modern Mexican restaurant Comedor isn’t only a great place for food—the design and interior are stunning, too thanks to designer Olson Kundig. This is a great spot for date night, made even more fun by ordering the Bone Marrow Tacos and using the bone as a luge for your mezcal. Trust us!
Owner Michael Fojtasek’s elevated Southern comfort spot recently hired Amanda Turner as the newest chef, and the menu has evolved to reflect her style of cooking. But truthfully, we’re happy to still see the biscuits on the Olamaie menu—there’s a reason the hashtag #AlwaysGramTheBiscut exists.
If you’re looking for a dark and cozy late-night Italian spot with all the classics, Sammie’s is it. Italian chopped salad, chicken parmigiana, and bolognese, plus 90s hip hop playing in the background is a total vibe. Plus, the waiters wear old-school Italian suits, so you can rest assured you’ve found the perfect spot for a night out. We like going on Fridays for their wine lunches and live music, but don’t tell our boss!
image above: Suerte courtesy of the restaurant.
Best East Austin Restaurants
East Austin is filled with all sorts of gems. Restaurants, bars, breweries, shopping, workout studios, and many design/branding firms all populate this bustling part of town. You could spend an entire day exploring East Austin restaurants and plan a return trip to hit all our faves. Or, if you’re really trying to cram it all in, we suggest stopping at one restaurant for an appetizer and hitting another for the entrée. You’re welcome.
When we say “Canje is a vibe” we mean it—down to every last detail. The space, décor, music, staff attire, and food makes you feel like you’re at one big fun family dinner in the Caribbean. Canje is an homage to owner Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s Guyanese roots. Every dish is a love letter to home. What to order? Wild Boar Pepper Pot, Jerk Chicken, Smoked Avocado Escabeche, and of course, the Roti.
images above: Suerte courtesy of the restaurant.
One time at Suerte and you’ll be a fan for life. Everything Chef Fermin Nunez creates on the menu is masa-based and full of so much flavor you’ll be tempted to order seconds. Your move: the Suadero tacos and washed down with a Don Dario. Expert tip: Suerte now sells the Magic Chili Oil they use on the Suaderos, so don’t leave without one.
Justine’s wins the award for the sexiest restaurant in Austin—hands down. If you’re a Francophile, this is your spot. The menu at Justine’s has every French hitter you can imagine, including some of the freshest oysters you’ll find in town. This is your best bet for date night or a girls’ night out.
images above: Nixta Taqueria by Dimitri Staszewski.
Chef Edgar and Sarah were recently featured in The New York Times discussing how their Iranian and Mexican backgrounds influenced their standout rice pudding (which also happens to be our favorite). Nixta Taqueria always has a line out front and for good reason: the food is incredible. Take a group and order the entire menu. We wish we were kidding.
A whole new world of Korean food emerged in Austin the day Oseyo opened. I was practically a K-food virgin, so we first tried it with friends who were well-versed in ordering thanks to their many years of living in New York and traveling to Asia. I fell in love with the bibimbap, bulgogi, and spicy-sweet fried chicken all inspired by owner Lynn Miller’s mother’s recipes. This Eastside spot is also chic—the organic materials, earthy stoneware, and “chandelier” made of rustic baskets make this spot date night-worthy.
Patrizi’s menu is small but mighty. If you’re a fan of fresh-made pasta, bread, and sauces coming from old family recipes, you’re bound to be a fan. We’d nudge you toward the Pomodoro and Karah’s Diavolo—add Meatballs.
Best Rooftop Restaurants in Austin
Perhaps one of the best parts of our rooftops in Austin are the great views you get of our growing skyline, and if you’re lucky, the sunset over Lady Bird Lake. While Texas can get hot, you simply cannot beat a Texas sunset with a cocktail in hand.
La Piscina at The Proper Hotel
Where else would you want to eat ceviche, fajitas, and endless amounts of margaritas than next to the pool at the Proper with a view of downtown Austin? La Piscina is the spot for a pre/post dinner show at ACL Live. If you can get into the Goldie’s, the hotel’s lobby bar, do it!
P6 at The Line Hotel
We love P6 for both the atmosphere and the incredible view of Lady Bird Lake. This is a fun spot to grab drinks and watch the sunset, and of course, keep an eye out for the famous Austin bats.
Wax Myrtle’s at Thompson Hotel
The newest rooftop restaurant and bar to open, we love Wax Myrtle’s small plates and drinks. It’s the perfect spot if you want to grab a bite or drink as you explore downtown Austin.
image above: Pecan Square Cafe.
Best New Restaurants in Austin
When we say we are *thrilled* about the newest additions to Austin’s restaurant scene, we mean that we visit these establishments at least once a week. Not only is the food incredible, but the talent behind these Austin restaurants (from chefs to owners, to staff, GM’s, and everyone in between) are who also make the experience so special. There’s a reason these spots require a bit of advanced planning to visit, but trust us: they’re completely worth it.
For the best Mexico City street-style tacos, look no further than Cuantos Tacos. As far as Austin restaurants go, this is the best spot if you want a chill outdoor picnic table vibe, but absolutely incredible food. Your move: the cachete tacos, champiñones tacos, and the revuelta quesadilla.
images above: Birdies by John Davidson.
You know it’s good when there’s a line to get in on a weekday, but that’s what makes Birdie’s so fun. Grab a glass or bottle of wine while you wait for a table and catch up with your pals. We love chef Tracy’s pasta dishes which change often (and don’t skip the soft serve topped with olive oil!). This is the perfect spot for a larger group to sit outside and share a bottle of wine and small plates.
The newest venture of Michael Fojtasek, Maie Day has all the makings for a fun dinner out with friends. According to Fojtasek, “much like the ancient tradition itself, Maie Day is a daily festival of food and community. It’s all the things we love about steakhouses and always a party.” We’re partial to everything on the raw bar menu, the smoked fish dip, the plain salad (which is perfectly dressed!), and truly everything in the chophouse section, especially that grilled chicken.
images above: Luties by Mackenzie Smith Kelley.
Lutie’s was named after Lutie Perry, a prominent socialite and host of many garden party soirées at the Commodore Perry Estate in the 1920s. The space certainly reflects that era and genre of entertaining. We love that chef duo Bradley and Susana took a veggie-forward approach to the menu, adding to the list of Austin restaurants that offer lighter options in the Texas heat. Our favorites: the sunchoke falafel, chickpea and green corn salad, delta blues rice, and you have to order a round of Estate Bread for the table.
images above: Pecan Square Cafe
Pecan Square Cafe
Pecan Square Cafe replaced the old Cafe Josie but in true MML fashion, the charm remains. We love their fresh pasta and pizza dishes, and their wine list is impressive. Take advantage of their snack hour from 3-5 p.m. every day, along with their Happy Hour 3-5 p.m. Monday through Friday with $8 spritzes and 25% off all bottles of wine. And don’t skip their pizzas!
image above: Home Slice Pizza courtesy of the restaurant.
Bonus: Best Late Night Food in Austin
While Austin hasn’t hit NYC status in late-night dining (yet), we’re getting there! Thanks to several downtown venues with shows running into the late night (ACL Live, Moody Center, Waterloo Greenway), we’re happy to have a few tried-and-true spots to grab a post-show drink and bite.
Better Half Coffee & Cocktails (review above)
Home Slice Pizza (review above)
Sammie’s Italian (review above)
You can’t go wrong with a late-night slice of Detroit-style thick pizza, but if you’re a thin-crust lover, definitely go for the bar pizza at Via313!
This post was originally published on February 28, 2020, and has since been updated.
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