19 Classic Austin Restaurants For Your Bucket List
Austin has a rich history of restaurants; some have even been around since way back in the mid-1800s! If these classic Austin restaurants have managed to stick around that long (amidst all the trendy, modern-day restaurants that are opening nearly every week), we all want to know why.
And so, after running around the city trying as many classic Austin restaurants as possible, here's a guide to some fun ones so you can make your own bucket list of classic Austin restaurants.
Use the map below to find an old-school classic Austin restaurant near you!
18 Classic Austin Restaurants For Your Bucket List
1. Joe’s Bakery And Coffee Shop, Since 1962
Joe’s Bakery is a little Mexican restaurant in East Austin that actually started as a family business back in 1935 (under a different name and in a different location.) Years later, it’s still run by the same family and they make some of the best homemade flour tortillas in Austin.
Fun fact: there were two men named Joe who started this restaurant: Joe Avila, who is the son of the family business, and his brother-in-law, Joe Hidrogo.
2. Mattie’s At Green Pastures, Since 1946
Mattie’s used to be called Green Pastures, a historic mansion owned by the Faulk family in South Austin. They threw lavish parties, hosted celebrities and politicians, and served fancy southern and French food. Martha Faulk’s daughter opened the restaurant in 1946, and it was famous for its Sunday brunches and milk punch.
Green Pastures was closed and re-opened under the name Mattie’s. This is one of the classic Austin restaurants that feels like a brand-new trendy space, but it’s actually been around forever! The property was spruced up a bit, but guests can still enjoy some of the original charms like the giant live oak trees shading the lawn, and, of course, the famous milk punch. It's one of the most beautiful classic Austin restaurants still open today.
Fun fact: there are real peacocks roaming the lawn!
3. Sandy’s Hamburgers, Since 1946
This little burger stand and drive-thru are one of the oldest establishments in South Austin. The burgers and fries are old-school classic eats, but the real gem of this place is its frozen custard.
Tip: this is a great place to stop before or after a trip to Barton Springs in the summer.
4. Polvos Mexican Restaurant, Since 1997
While it hasn’t been in Austin quite as long as some of the other classics on this page, Polvos has established itself as one of Austin’s favorite Mexican restaurants with its homemade flour tortillas, serve-yourself salsa bar, and tasty margaritas. They opened on South First Street in 1997 and continue to be one of the best Tex-Mex spots in Austin.
Fun fact: Polvos is open every morning, although it doesn’t get crowded until much later. You can walk in and get a delicious breakfast taco that’s made to order. It just takes a few minutes for them to make it, and you’ll be the envy of everyone in your office…
5. Martin’s Kum-Bak Place, Since 1926
Nicknamed “Dirty’s” for the dirt floors (that were covered in a cement foundation in the 1940s), Martin’s still serves the same 100% Angus beef burgers and hand-cut fries that they made nearly 100 years ago.
Fun fact: Martin’s used to be a drive-in, so they have one of the biggest parking lots on Guadalupe. That’s quite the commodity near campus in Austin!
6. Scholz BierGarten, Since 1866
According to research, this is the oldest Austin restaurant still in service today! They also claim to be the oldest functioning Biergarten in the United States. Scholz serves all your favorite German food and beer, and their giant beer garden is the best place to pre-game for UT football!
Fun fact: Scholz’s survived prohibition by selling non-alcoholic “Bone Dry Beer” and increasing their food sales.
7. Matt’s El Rancho, Since 1952
Matt’s El Rancho is one of Austin’s favorite Tex-Mex restaurants, which holds 500 guests at a time and sells more than 8,000 corn tortillas every day! Matt Martinez and his wife, Janie, started it as a tiny restaurant on East 1st St in downtown Austin that seated 40…..and people just couldn’t stay away from those homemade tortillas and famous Bob Armstrong Dip.
Fun fact: Matt’s El Rancho claims to have the highest alcohol sales of any restaurant in the city of Austin….and it’s all thanks to those margaritas!
8. Top Notch Hamburgers, Since 1971
Top Notch is known for selling cheeseburgers and their famous fried chicken, and they're one of the last remaining drive-in restaurants in Austin.
Fun fact: their claim to fame is from the 1993 movie Dazed and Confused when all the characters stop for food before their big night out.
9. Cisco’s Restaurant And Bakery, Since 1950
All sorts of famous patrons, like Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob Bullock, and Jake “J.J.” Pickle, have enjoyed Cisco’s biscuits, huevos rancheros, and migas. It’s still one of Austin’s most iconic breakfast and lunch restaurants on the east side.
Fun fact: up until the 1970s, owner Rudy Cisneros sold Bloody Marys without an alcohol license by charging for the tomato juice alone.
10. Fonda San Miguel, Since 1975
This beloved interior Mexican cuisine restaurant has been a staple in Austin for more than 40 years, and it’s one of the best classic Austin restaurants. Co-founder and chef Miguel Ravago died in June 2017; his life is one that Austin residents celebrated with love. Fonda San Miguel continues to thrive because of their creative ways of showcasing authentic Mexican cuisine.
Fun fact: Fonda San Miguel chef Miguel Ravago wrote the cookbook “Cocina de la Familia” with Marilyn Tausand, and it won the Julia Child Cookbook Award for the best volume in the American category in 1997.
11. Texas Chili Parlor, Since 1976
Stop in to try any variation of chili that suits you, from mild to very, very spicy. They even offer vegetarian versions. For authentic Texas style, be sure to order it without beans!
Fun fact: TCP was in Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 film “Death Proof.”
12. Kerbey Lane Cafe, Since 1980
We don’t often think of this one as an old-school classic Austin restaurant because there are so many dang locations now, but it started back in 1980 as a little cafe operating out of a small, renovated house in central Austin.
The pancakes, the queso, the seasonal menu…there are so many reasons to fall in love with Kerbey Lane all over again!
Fun fact: Yep, it actually started on a street called Kerbey Lane. Try to visit the original location if you haven’t yet!
13. Hoffbrau Steak House, Since 1932
This tiny fixture on W 6th St has been serving giant steaks, chicken breasts, and potato wedges since the early 1900s.
Fun fact: brothers Robert and Tom each pitched in $125 to buy this piece of land in what is now downtown Austin. Holy investment!
14. El Patio, Since 1954
Back in the day, there were 5 “El” Tex-Mex restaurants: El Rancho, El Matamoros, El Toro, El Gallo, and El Patio. Of those, only 2 still exist now, and one of them is El Patio, just north of the drag on Guadalupe.
They serve all the classic Tex-Mex dishes, including nachos, enchiladas, and guacamole. But if you’re expecting tacos on a corn or flour tortilla, think again: El Patio makes their own homemade taco shells for a crunchier option.
Fun fact: El Patio used to serve saltine crackers (instead of tortilla chips) with salsa before the meal. Uh, weird.
15. The Tavern, Since 1933
You’ll notice The Tavern by its bright advertisement, “AIR CONDITIONED” highlighted underneath the main sign. This was apparently a big deal when it opened as a grocery store 4 years before prohibition in 1916.
The Enfield Grocery Story was modeled after a typical European public house (it looks a bit like a gingerbread house), and it operated unit 1929 when it was moved next door, making space for The Tavern to serve tasty burgers and fries since 1933.
Fun fact: Some say that a speakeasy and brothel used to operate on the second floor of the Tavern. The Tavern is a popular stop on Austin ghost tours.
16. The Driskill, Since 1886
While the bakery and restaurant haven’t been around for quite as long, the Driskill Hotel has graced 6th Street in Austin since 1886 as one of the most iconic hotels in the city. The 1886 Bakery, nestled into the corner of 6th and Brazos, sells homemade pastries (and some of the best cinnamon rolls in the city…they’re big enough to feed 4 people.)
Fun fact: The 1886 Bakery was started when the citizens of Austin rallied to keep the Driskill from being demolished. One of the ways they raised money was through a bake sale.
17. Jeffrey’s, Since 1975
One of the original fine dining establishments in Austin, Jeffrey’s serves French American classics in a comfortable yet formal dining room. In 2011 the restaurant was sold from the original Weiss family to the McGuire Moorman hospitality group (Perla’s, Lamberts, Elizabeth St Cafe) and spruced up a bit, but the original bones remain.
Fun fact: decades of presidents and celebrities have enjoyed dining here. Among them are JFK Jr, President George W. Bush's first lady Laura Bush, and Ladybird Johnson.
18. Quality Seafood Market, Since 1938
The owners and location have bounced around quite a bit since their beginning years as a stall at Starr’s Fruit and Vegetable Market in 1938, but the service and pride in this business have never diminished. Quality Seafood is still known for being one of the best places to order fresh seafood to take and cook at home or to enjoy in a restaurant in north Austin.
Fun fact: when the Texas legislature banned the sale of redfish, black drum, and gulf trout caught by net, Quality Seafood had to get creative by introducing more “exotic” offerings that weren’t part of local cuisines, like Ahi tuna.
19. Texas French Bread, Since 1981
Note: temporarily closed
This classic Austin restaurant started in owner Murph Willcott’s parent’s kitchen, expanded to multiple bakeries that provided bread for places like Jeffrey’s and Whole Foods Market, and gradually opened multiple satellite locations that appealed to customers who enjoyed walking in to buy bread fresh from the oven.
After some difficult years, Texas French Bread scaled back to a single location, and today it’s a restaurant and bakery where guests can enjoy the same heart bread recipe in a busy, cozy setting. It’s one of my favorite breakfast spots in the city!
Fun fact: Texas French Bread’s first commercial order was for a Mardi Gras party at Jeffrey’s.
The Best Food And Drinks In Round Rock: A Local’s Guide
Heading north of Austin and want to know where to eat? Consider this your guide…Read More
Top 13 Sushi Restaurants In Austin
The sushi restaurants in Austin can be an unexpected delight while exploring the Austin dining…Read More
The 9 Best Spots For Fried Chicken In Austin
Every fried chicken fanatic has a favorite spot in Austin. It’s just really delicious food…Read More
Leave a Comment