August 2019: Any time is a good time to dine out in ATX, and we’re here to narrow down the options to the very best restaurants in Austin. Fresh off a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination, El Naranjo (#7) is one to check out for fresh Oaxacan cuisine. Odd Duck (#5) is always a smart choice for an elevated, Texas-centric meal. How about revisiting an oldie but great-y? Hit up Veracruz All Natural (#23) for a migas taco and an agua fresca. Warm weather is perfect for chowing down on some smoked meats, and since there’s more than just Franklin Barbecue (#9), give La Barbecue (#12) a go. And for deli fans, Mum Foods Deli's (#18) newish brick-and-mortar is one to hit up now before the end of its year-long run.
Austin continues to grow at lightning speed. While we’re known as the Live Music Capital of the World, we’ve got the eating thing down too. Our list of the best restaurants in Austin keeps changing and growing as talented chefs from all over the country open new restaurants while established chefs continue to expand their empires. When eating out, you’ll get to choose from the best sushi in Austin, the best BBQ in Austin, exemplary fine-dining restaurants and more. When you think of the best things to do in Austin, eating should be at the top of your list. We’re here to help you choose where.
Time Out’s local experts scour the city every day for great eats, great value and insider info. We value fun, flavor, freshness—and value at every price point. We update the EAT list regularly, plus whenever there’s a truly spectacular new opening. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a humble neighborhood newcomer: If it’s on the list we think it’s awesome and reckon you will too. Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList
Here are the best restaurants in Austin—find out more about how we make the list, and start making your reservations.
Best restaurants in Austin
This Rainey Street eatery continues to draw crowds for its exceptional food and setting. Towering shelves of vintage cookbooks and copper pots divide the room while an open-format kitchen reveals the magic. Find rustic takes on New American cuisine like braised goat with creamer peas, rutabaga, shiitake and mint marigold, with more small plate options on a dim sum cart. An in-house pickling operation peppers the menu and the cocktail list with fermented goodies; try the La Cibola (mezcal, green Chartreuse, habanero brine).
Executive chef and owner Bryce Gilmore and his staff are dedicated to complex, visually-stunning food—and cocktails—with ingredients that are (sometimes painstakingly) sourced locally. In the savory department, there are pig face Parker House rolls with sweet chili mustard and blue crab fundido with tater tots, hatch chile, and szechuan pickles. Sweets include corn mochi and carrot sorbet. Barley Swine’s larger location makes these delights accessible to more people, and it’s worth going with a group for the adventurous tasting menu experience.
No best-of list in Austin would be complete without Uchi, which James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole opened in 2003 to immediate critical acclaim. Fish is flown in fresh from Tokyo, and traditional techniques mix with unexpected ingredients. Some of the most loved selections include the Machi Cure (smoked yellowtail, yucca crisp, marcona almond, Asian pear) and the Zero Sen roll (yellowtail, avocado, cilantro, shallot, tobiko, yuzu). Check out the sake social hour for a more accessible option.
Among the priciest and most exclusive dining experiences in town, Otoko is also among the most fun. The space is intimate, with a decor comprised of both warm wood and futuristic white glowing panels. The charismatic chef Okai (also a musician) sports a punk rock style and a mischievous grin, and his energetic personality shows in Otoko's omakase offerings as Okai thoughtfully incorporates Texas ingredients alongside the best quality bluefin tuna and uni from Japan. Tickets are very limited, get yours here.
Cozy but upscale, Odd Duck offers a Texas-centric dining experience with a menu featuring fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes based on what’s available, and the kitchen’s creativity makes those ingredients shine. Standout dishes have included the likes of pretzels with squash blossom queso, smoked pork belly with crispy fig leaf rice, and chicken fried fish head with beet bbq sauce. Go with a group for a chance to sample more of the intriguing offerings.
Olamie is James Beard Award finalist Michael Fojtasek's ode to Southern cuisine. With innovative twists on traditional Southern cooking, his dishes are not the heavy and fried fare you might expect. Don’t miss the unexpectedly elevated Hoppin’ John (Sea Island red peas, Carolina Gold rice, soft-boiled egg) and the rye-brined pork chop (with peaches, farmer's cheese, and Texas tarragon). The cocktail program is equally exciting. Try the Time Out of Mind: rye, Sfumato, rhubarb, Bénédictine, mint, black lemon bitters.
Fom James Beard Award semifinalist chef Iliana de la Vega, this upscale Rainey Street restaurant is a Oaxacan oasis on a bustling bar street. Mexican fare is well represented on the menu—moles, chile rellenos, seasonal ceviche. Traditional cooking methods are used, and ingredients are fresh and responsibly-sourced. From tortas to tlayudas, dining at El Naranjo is a journey. If your meal leaves you craving a firsthand experience, check out their culinary tours to Oaxaca and Mexico City.
Find Hill Country in East Austin at Pitchfork Pretty, a quaintly named, elegantly designed restaurant. On weekday mornings, grab a blueberry streusel or the Pretty (rye, pimento cheese, alfalfa sprouts); in the evening, dishes from both the land (fried chicken with red chile, buttermilk dressing, and slaw), sea (halibut with cucumber, potato and pepper confit) and in between (pasta with shishito pesto) leave a strong impression. Finish with a slice of the lemon icebox pie if you know what's good for you.
Franklin BBQ produces some of the best brisket on the planet, and the line forms early. James Beard Award winner Aaron Franklin seasons and smokes his brisket to juicy perfection. It’s so good that people queue up and wait up to four hours for a taste. The line has become an experience in itself, however, as hungry patrons arrive early in the morning with chairs, drinks and a willingness to chat with strangers.
Clark’s Oyster Bar reflects the personality of Clarksville, the historic neighborhood where this ode to bivalves is located. The elegant interior features white-and-black penny tile flooring and luncheonette-style seating at the bar. Get the oysters, of course; flown fresh from both coasts, they're the best Austin has to offer. The crab cakes and lobster roll are winning picks for entrées, as is the mac and cheese with lump crab. Looking for good booze? The cocktail menu is a mix of martinis and modern classics, all of which are mixed with care.
This Downtown newcomer comes from Chef Philip Speer, formerly of Uchi, and a team of culinary heavy-hitters. The modern Mexican menu features ingredients native to Mexico and influenced by Mexico City’s food scene. There’s a Texas flare though, which results in standouts like huauzontle fritters, bone marrow tacos with hoja santa-pecan gremolata, and masa spaetzle. The impressive bar list features classic cocktail twists like the mole Old Fashioned and more than 100 agave-based spirits.
With legendary pitmaster Louis Mueller’s granddaughter at the helm, you know this Central Texas-style barbecue joint will be good. Located inside the Quickie Pickie (a big upgrade from former food truck park digs) with indoor and outdoor seating, La Barbecue serves up brisket, pork ribs, and house-made sausage. Sandwiches are tasty too, both straightforward options and over-the-top ones like La Frito Loco (pulled pork, chopped beef, chipotle slaw, fritos, cheese, and jalapeños).
This buzzy neighborhood café was a regular washateria not long ago. The feel of the converted space is bright, laid back and hip. Weekend brunch is the perfect time for people-watching. Menu highlights include fried oysters, wood-grilled charred octopus and the heavenly Plancha Burger, a fast-food style burger served with “special sauce,” caramelized onions and American cheese on challah bread. Cool cocktails like the Mezcal Negroni and desserts like a birthday cake ice cream sandwich add to the fun.
Catch the throwback vibe at this retro-style diner complete with a vintage jukebox and checkered tile. The cafe opens early with options like the famous matzo ball caldo as well as crêpes and omelettes. For dinner, indulge in bone marrow Bolognese with handkerchief pasta, kale and parmesan. Check out DJ nights on weekends or Pub Nights on Sundays with pub-style Indian food, British Invasion music, and pints of Old Speckled Hen.
Part Japanese izakaya and part Texas smokehouse, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya delivers a playful mashup of the two cuisines alongside a sophisticated cocktail program. From fusion comforts like Tokyo street corn with yuzu aioli to grilled meat skewers to octopus fritters topped with chili, expect many high points. Favorites include the brisket and gouda “Hot Pocketz” and the Texas ramen featuring brisket and pickled greens. Cocktails like the matcha painkiller—served in a maneki-neko (aka lucky cat)—are a testament to the culture of quirkiness at Kemuri.
At Suerte, Chef Fermin Nunez uses local heirloom corn to craft his upscale Mexican dishes, which include goat rib barbacoa with handmade tortillas and tetela al carbon. A sizeable mezcal and tequila menu are available, and you'll find both spirits in Suerte's specialty cocktails like the Don Dario with reposado tequila, tamarindo, sarsparilla, and lime.
Slow-cooked pork tonkotsu broth is the specialty at this classic ramen joint. The rich, aromatic broth is time- and labor-intensive, and the fresh noodles are shipped in weekly. Order the tonkotsu original (creamy pork bone broth, chashu pork, marinated soft boiled egg, mushrooms, scallions) and a side order of sweet-and-sour yodas (sauteed brussels sprouts tossed in apricot vinegar and curry)—a perfectly acidic accompaniment to the rich ramen.
Hurry! Mum Foods won’t be in this spot for long. The beloved purveyor of top-notch pastrami sandwiches, a fixture at Texas farmers markets for several years, finally set up shop in a brick-and-mortar in April, albeit for just one year. With a focus on seasonal, local ingredients, everything on the small but classic deli menu is delicious, but The Original is the way to go: hot pastrami with house mustard on sourdough from Swedish Hill Bakery. Supplement your sandwich with a fresh salad and a Topo (or a locally-fermented kombucha) and you’ve got a winner.
There's usually a wait at Bufalina, but it's always worth it. Each Neapolitan pie is cooked following strict guidelines set by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana; the crust is crisp, slightly charred and arrives on the table with just the right amount of chewiness. Try their simple but addictive Calabrese (tomato, mozzarella, salami, serrano, garlic, basil) or the earthy, sweet and herbal roasted mushroom (caramelized onion, comté, mozzarella, herbs). The wine list features the perfect pairing for each pie.
Fukumoto is a sushi bar and yakitori izakaya with a relaxed atmosphere and a menu focused on seasonal ingredients. Sushi is delicious, and the marinated and grilled yakitori menu will take you straight to Tokyo. Friendly servers help you navigate the menu and offer sake pairings. Order from the specials board; you’ll never be disappointed by the fish collar, snapper sushi flight, or Wagyu beef treat of the day.
Justine’s is located just East of where most Austinites are comfortable hanging out. Upon entering, you will feel instantly transported to another place—one clad in deep reds, emerald-green velvet and lit by vintage chandeliers. If you’re a sucker for ambiance, you’ll embrace the fact that your dinner will take place over a couple of hours. The cuisine is decidedly classic French; order the escargot Bourguignonne, salade de crabe, steak frites, and a Sazerac—or three.
Brothers Zane and Brandon Turner opened the first Via 313 trailer in 2011; it was named after the zip code in Detroit where they grew up. It's pure Detroit-style here: The pies are square, the edges laced with crispy burnt cheese, and the sauce is dolloped on top. The menu offers great out-of-the-box options, but don't miss a more simple option: “The Detroiter” features smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni on top.
Veracruz All Natural sets itself apart from the city's other taco slingers thanks to super fresh ingredients. The migas taco has a cult following, and for good reason; the fresh tortilla stuffed with eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, pico de gallo and cheese will make you a fan too. Try a fresh juice to complete your breakfast, and you’ll see why they’ve earned a loyal following that's led to additional outposts around Austin.