The 10 Best Austin Restaurants
So, you only have a day or two...
...and you want to know where to eat in Austin? This quick list of 10 restaurants is exactly what you need.
While there are SO many amazing restaurants in Austin, there’s a finite amount of time to eat your way through the city. What are the *actual* best restaurants in Austin?
Well, for starters, you need to hit the major Austin food categories: BBQ, Tex Mex, farm-to-table, food trucks... This isn't a list of the newest and flashiest restaurants, but rather the tried-and-true places that both locals and tourists should try at least once.
It’s no small task to start with a list of 4,000+ restaurants and whittle it down to 10, but we’re pretty confident that we’re sharing the best ones. If you only eat at these 10 restaurants, you’ll get a birds eye view of the food scene here in Austin. From $2 street tacos to to $200 locally-sourced fine dining menus, this is exactly where you need to eat in Austin, Texas:
10 Best Austin Restaurants
Go here for a weeknight date
A new restaurant in the ATX dining scene (and an absolute charmer!!), Birdie’s is this adorable wine garden and kitchen in far east Austin. Eat here if you want to want to show off on Instagram that you totally are a foodie and you know what’s hot in the food world. (Birdie’s recently received some national recognition, so food-lovers all over the country are aware of this place.)
It’s a small walk-in restaurant that’s run by a wife/husband team. They serve American food that’s inspired by France and Italy…but think of that as a loose concept. The small menu changes daily based on what they can get; they print it up or post a new version online so you can see what’s available.
If you love trying fun new bottles of wine, Birdie’s curated list of (mostly) natural wines will be a fun treat. Talk to the staff about the styles you like, and they can help you choose a bottle.
Since Birdie’s doesn't take reservations, there’s typically a long line. But while you’re standing on the sidewalk waiting to order at the counter, ask for a bottle of wine. They’ll bring you a few glasses so you can sip them while you’re perusing the menu. One of the delightful things about dining at Birdie’s is how it makes you slow down and enjoy the moment.
9. Franklin Barbecue
Great for: Saturday lunch
Even if you’re not familiar with the Austin dining scene, you’ve heard of Franklin Barbecue. It’s been called the best barbecue in the world by Bon Appetit, and Aaron Franklin won a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southwest. Franklin Barbecue started as a small bbq trailer in 2009, and it has turned into one of the most famous barbecue pits in the world.
The question everyone always asks: is Franklin barbecue worth it? Is it actually that good?
Well, that’s up to each individual to decide, but after eating at every major barbecue restaurant in Austin, we can wholeheartedly say that you’ll have trouble finding brisket better than this.
Do you need to stand in the line at Franklin Barbecue? No, you can order ahead. But you’ll need to order at least 5 pounds (that’s a lot.) So if you’re going to order online, it’s best to buy it for a crowd of about 5-10 people. By the way, the line at Franklin Barbecue is kind of part of the experience...
8. Cuantos Tacos
Great for: late-night bites
Food trucks in Austin and tacos in Austin…you know you’re supposed to try both. And if it seems like there are hundreds of options, it’s because there are. Here’s our suggestion: go to Cuantos Tacos. It’s a new(ish) food truck on the east side that has quickly earned Austin’s love and support. There are more locals here than tourists (unlike Torchy’s or Veracruz, which are always swarming with visitors.)
Cuantos Tacos makes two-bite tacos, similar to the type you would find in Mexico City. They start with soft, tiny Nixtamal tortillas, which are warmed and filled with your choice of meat, chopped fresh cilantro and onions, and a slice of lime for you to squeeze on top. Our top pick? The Suadero, is a soft, drippy confit brisket. So delicious.
7. Better Half Bar
Great for: Saturday morning breakfast
At first glance, it just looks like any other coffee shop and bar (and there are many in Austin), but Better Half has earned its place on this list for a few reasons. Here are the bullet points:
- Homemade everything. That superb lunch burger is served on a homemade bun. The breakfast sandwich with crispy hash brown and bacon and smoked paprika aioli is on a homemade English muffin. That Basque burnt cheesecake on a cake stand near the register is homemade.
- Speaking of the menu, it’s an all-day affair. You can get a great cappuccino in the morning, or a beer during happy hour, or a late-night cocktail. Whenever Better Half fits into your travel agenda, it will be there. Just waiting.
- Completely casual and unpretentious. After all of the care and work they put into their food, they could have a long, ostentatious menu stating where they source their meat and how they grind their flour. Rather, their Instagram account just announces that they are an “all-day spot.” Simple.
- They’re located downtown, yet they have a parking lot! (AMAZING.) There's tons of parking behind the building, too, if the front lot is full.
- Better Half has a large, shaded back patio. And everyone who dines in Austin wants to know where to find the good patios. This place has all the Austin vibes.
Bonus: better half opened a brewery called Hold Out Brewing. It’s located on the other side of the patio, so if you want to check out a fantastic Austin craft brewery while you’re here, this one is pretty convenient.
Great for: a birthday dinner before hitting the town
It’s pretty hard to narrow down our top picks for dinner restaurants in Austin, but Suerte was a shoe-in. This contemporary Mexican restaurant opened in Austin with several local accolades and then quickly won a spot on Food and Wine’s Best New Restaurants list in 2019.
Here’s what to expect when you dine at a Suerte: a wooden door with a custom pink sunburst design (yes, please stop to take a picture in front of it!), a lively cocktail list of mezcal and tequila-based drinks, and a locally-sourced Mexican menu of mostly small, shareable plates. Your server will walk you through it, but you’ll probably want to try a little bit of everything, so arrive very hungry.
Great for: a special occasion dinner
Sure, there are lots of fine dining establishments in Austin (which is why it’s so hard to narrow this list down to the 10 best Austin restaurants!), so let’s go with something that is so unique, chef Kevin Fink and his team had to install a special exhaust system just to keep the diners from being smoked out of the restaurant: a live fire restaurant.
Named after the goddess of the hearth, Hestia (from the same restaurant group that brought us the phenomenal Emmer & Rye, Canje, and Henbit) is a downtown Austin restaurant that prepares food on a 20-foot open hearth. Hestia is the first of its kind in Austin and the perfect place to celebrate a special anniversary or another special occasion.
The dessert menu reads like a science experiment; ask your server to explain the sourdough ice cream, mushroom miso cream, and rosemary apple kakogori. Between the Basque cocktail bar in the lobby (arrive 45 minutes early to enjoy a drink before you’re seated) and the memorable desserts, you can expect your dinner tab to run well into 3-figures per person. But this is a well-deserving restaurant for whenever your next special dining occasion comes up.
4. Bufalina Due
Great for: pizza + wine with the gal pals
Although the original east Austin location (sadly) closed due to some real estate issues, the newer Bufalina Due in north Austin is still thriving. Most tourists in Austin will head to Home Slice for their pizza fix…and while Home Slice is good (great, even!) for a New York pizza-style slice, the ambiance and finesse at Bufalina Due make for a more sophisticated dining experience. (Psst: if you're dining with kids in Austin, the Home Slice north location has a playground. Go there!)
These little neapolitan pies are authentically prepared and flash-cooked in their flaming hot oven for a soft middle and charred, leopard-spotted crust. Although you can order specialty pies (roasted mushroom, vodka arrabiatta), Bufalina is known for the classics (marinara, Margherita, calabrese.)
They’re also widely regarded as an Austin restaurant with one of the best wine selections in town. They even started a wine club, where members can have a few bottles shipped to their homes each month.
3. Ramen Tatsu-ya
Great for: weekday lunch
The Austin ramen scene has gotten a bit noisy, but Ramen Tatsu-ya is still the champion. It’s a true ramen experience, with long bars for solo diners to quickly stop in, order a bowl of noodles, and noisily slurp them back before paying the tab and heading back out the door 15 minutes later.
Local chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto wanted to bring the type of ramen to Austin that you could previously only find in Japan or L.A. So they started perfecting the recipe, simmering the pork fat broth and finding the perfect dense, chewy noodles that you need for this authentic Japanese soul food. If you want to know where to eat lunch in Austin, the correct answer is Ramen Tatsu-ya.
2. June's All Day
Great for: a glass of wine and a burger at the bar
After an afternoon on South Congress, stop by this neighborhood cafe and wine bar for what is probably the best plate of bone marrow bolonognaise you’ve ever tasted. Pair it with a bottle of red wine (that their sommelier will help you choose!) and put your feet up after all of that shopping. You deserve it.
June’s All Day has a quant, Parisian feel to it with the checkered floors and small sidewalk bistro. The wine list is of utmost important here, curated carefully, and always impressive. Whether you want to dress up and enjoy a night out or you’re in a casual pair of clothes and need a delicious burger with frites and some cold white wine at an air-conditioned bar, June’s will deliver.
1. Odd Duck
Great for: Sunday brunch
While it’s not the newest or flashiest restaurant in Austin, Odd Duck is our number 1 pick for the best Austin restaurant. This farm-to-table gem has proven itself time and time again since its food truck days back in 2009. From the quality of the local products to the creativity of the chef, you will absolutely get to experience the best of Austin while dining at Odd Duck.
They specialize in farm-to-table fare served in small plates, so everything can be shared with the table. The draft cocktails are always popular, but don’t forget about their wine list (½ price during hh) with some fun reds to go with the Texas fare.
The menu moves around too fast for us to try to keep up with it, but that means that even if you’ve dined here previously, you’ll find something new. The food will show up on mismatched vintage plate ware and cutlery, and you’ll feel a little bit like you’re dining on a farm…if that farm had an expert wait staff, serving you seared scallops with masa butter and fried kale beignets with shitake dressing…
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