Get us in your inbox

Search
garrison
Photograph: Courtesy Garrison

The best restaurants in Austin for a truly epic meal

Your Austin restaurant bucket list

James Wong
Written by
James Wong
Contributor
Alex Temblador
Advertising

Once upon a time, the list of the best restaurants in Austin was all barbecue this and Tex-Mex that, but in 2023 that’s all changed. ATX has grown and graduated beyond brisket and queso; and while those casual options still reign supreme, they now do so alongside international concepts and fine dining establishments (finally, an excuse to dress up!). The dining scene here is sizzling hot, and the greats being served span across omakase speakeasies that transport you to the dens of Tokyo to Texas-sized French fare served at one of Austin's most romantic restaurants. Whether you’re into Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Italian or good ol’ American burgers, the city has it all. Wear loose-fitting pants, here are the best places to eat in Austin, y’all.

Recommended:

🌮 Where to find the best tacos in Austin
🍳 The best brunch in Austin

 

Best restaurants in Austin

Garrison’s on every Austinite bucket list at the moment, and it never fails to live up to sky-high expectations. The upscale grill house fuses together big-city glamor with small-town southern hospitality, and the food is tasty as Texan fare should be. That’s thanks to superstar Chef Jakub Czyszczon, who grills with Texas Post Oak flame and uses all fresh locally-sourced ingredients. The result is the juiciest selection of steaks, fish and poultry around. Don’t miss their beloved Tater Tots (with aerated gruyere cheese and generous black truffle), the heavenly soft Barbecue Grouper (with bok choy) and the warm Pecan Souffle. Garrison sets the bar for date night that few other downtown restaurants can touch.

  • Restaurants
  • Trucks
  • East Cesar Chavez
  • price 1 of 4

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—both food trucks and brick-and-mortars—around Austin.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • East Cesar Chavez
  • price 2 of 4

With legendary pitmaster Louis Mueller’s granddaughter at the helm, you know this Central Texas-style barbecue joint will be good. Now located at East Cesar Chavez, 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).

You wouldn’t expect a hipster Chinese in Texas joint to cook up General Tso’s Chicken like a longtime family takeout on Manhattan’s Canal Street but Old Thousand’s a jack of all trades. They satisfy both patrons after the neighborhood American-Chinese classics (like the egg rolls, xiao mian, and beef & broccoli), and the cool kids looking for creativity (Kung Pao Brussels, and the Texan-influenced brisket fried rice). A full bar serving cocktails like the Panda Spiced Latte and Sunday Brunch only add to the festivity.

Advertising

Healthy dining…in Austin? You heard that right. Picnik began as a food trailer with a mission to make real food inclusive and accessible to all, and today boasts three brick-and-mortar locations including a chic new space on South First with a full-service, better-for-you, bar (try the Pitaya Margarita, best accompanied by chips and cashew queso). The food menu focuses on seasonal produce and ethically sourced meats, and you’ll find plant-based goodness bursting on every plate. Cool down with their heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, fuel up on their sustainable pan-seared salmon with veg, and end the sweet coconut matcha latte way from the cafe. This all-day hangout is the future of ATX.

Sazan is the place to get an authentic ramen fix during the winter months in Texas (and beyond). They specialize in the paitan variety, which comes in a rich cloudy broth. It’s available in original, spicy or vegan. For noodle lovers after more traditional ramen, then the Ma-Yu Black Ramen is an excellent choice, made with a savory broth and topped with a rainbow of vegetables. As for accompaniments we suggest the Indomitable Chicken Wings, which are twice-cooked and seasoned with their house spice rub, and for dessert, there’s Mochidoki Mochi (mochi ice cream) in a variety of fun flavors such as Matcha and Ube (purple yam).

Advertising

Eastside butcher shop and salumeria Salt & Time serves the freshest cuts of meat in a number of ways, but the best is in their acclaimed Signature Burger. It features half a pound of patty full of daily steak trimmings, mayo and sour pickles on a brioche bun. Add a side of beef-fat french fries and you’ll never be able to enjoy a burger and fries again (sorry not sorry). Be sure to browse their new Salt & Time Wine shop next door where they’ve curated an array of natural wines ranging from funky to familiar as well as specialty snacks and apothecary items.

Everybody knows that Barton Springs institution, El Alma, is the best place for a feast, slash party. The multi-tiered rooftop is the best place to gather during the weeks surrounding Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Muertos. Outside of the fiestas, things are merrily chill, but the food’s just as lush. Popular items include the duck Relleno and pork tamales, and you absolutely can’t go wrong with any of the huge selections of tacos. Of course, no Mexican meal in Austin is complete without a margarita. Their frozen offerings are the medicine during a long hot Texan summer.

Advertising

The decadent French-inspired house, just north of downtown, is both a dinner date night haven and a happening weekend spot for cocktails or brunch with the gang. Sit against sultry velvet walls in the company of fabulously chic antiques, and tuck into delights with a bit of ooh la la (in a good way). We're talking Duck Confit with soft gnocchi and seasonal mushrooms; whipped cheeses and charcuterie; and if you're feeling extra fancy, caviar with creme fraiche. Sunday brunch, meanwhile, is all about the seafood tower. And as for drinks, we recommend the Pucker Up, a gin-based citrusy concoction. Honey Moon Spirit Lounge takes advantage of the warm Southern weather, with a breezy patio where you can enjoy an extensive selection of beers, ciders, wines, cocktails and more.

For a balanced Japanese chow down, look no further than Bento Picnic. Owner and chef Leanne Valenti opened the eastside hangout in 2015 with the art of Washoku at its core: a Japanese cooking practice of using five colors, five tastes, and five techniques to create meals packed with nourishment and, of course, flavor. You can’t go wrong with one of the signature bento boxes; the chilled soba noodle option with brisket is our Texan heat respite, or the fresh salmon chirashi-don, heaped with king salmon sashimi, ikura (salmon roe), avocado, and colorful seaweed salad. Side anything with their blistered shishitos and end with the mochi butter bun with Okinawan swirl—the kind of dessert you’ll wanna chew on all day long. 

Advertising

Though the South Lamar newcomer opened during the big freeze of ‘21, things have been anything but cold. Jjim braises their meats until they are so tender that they fall right off the bone, so go straight in for the Beef Short Rib Jjim (the medium feeds two); a cast-iron full of chunks of heavenly soft meat, vegetables, sweet soy sauce, steamed rice, and your choice of kimchi, mozzarella or glass noodles. Other Korean goodies on the menu include spicy beef silken tofu soup, spicy pork bulgogi, bibimbap and a selection of Korean pancakes.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Allandale
  • price 3 of 4

Executive chef and owner Bryce Gilmore and his staff are dedicated to complex, visually-stunning food—and cocktails—on a menu that varies dramatically season by season. In the savory department, sample dishes include Black Cod with pecan dashi, local long beans, lunchbox peppers, basil vinaigrette and fish sauce pecans, and sweets include sunchoke flan and butternut cake. 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.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

Olamie is James Beard Award finalist Michael Fojtasek's ode to Southern cuisine, but one thing to note is his dishes are not the heavy and fried fare you might expect. It’s all seasonal here, so expect sample dishes like the Hoppin’ John (Sea Island red peas, Carolina Gold rice, soft-boiled egg) and the rye-brined pork chop (with pecan, sorghum, apple, and paprika). The cocktail program is equally exciting, and at the end of your meal, it's worth checking if they have any of their famous biscuits to go.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • West End
  • price 3 of 4

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 rolls 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.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • South River City
  • price 2 of 4

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 omelets. For dinner, indulge in bone marrow Bolognese with handkerchief pasta, kale and parmesan. Take advantage of their daily Happy Hour specials or Pub Nights on Sundays with pub-style Indian food, British Invasion music, and pints of Old Speckled Hen.

  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Central East Austin
  • price 2 of 4

Franklin Barbecue produces some of the best brisket on the planet, and the line forms early at this lunch-only spot. 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, as hungry patrons arrive early in the morning with chairs, drinks and a willingness to chat with strangers.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • East Cesar Chavez
  • price 1 of 4

Brothers Zane and Brandon Hunt 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Town Lake
  • price 3 of 4

From James Beard Award semifinalist chef Iliana de la Vega, this upscale Rainey Street restaurant is an Oaxacan oasis on a bustling bar street. Mexican fare is well represented on the menu in dishes like mole, seasonal ceviche and tostadas. Traditional cooking methods are used, and ingredients are fresh and responsibly sourced. If your meal leaves you craving a firsthand experience, check out their culinary tours to Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Advertising

This Downtown modern Mexican is from Chef Philip Speer, formerly of Uchi, and a team of culinary heavy-hitters. The 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.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Govalle
  • price 3 of 4

Justine’s is located just East of where most Austinites are comfortable hanging out. Upon entering though, you'll 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 - it’s a great after-bar spot for indulging in cuisine that’s decidedly classic French. Order the escargot Bourguignonne, salade de crabe, steak frites, and a Sazerac—or three.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

At Suerte, Chef Fermin Nunez uses local heirloom corn to craft his upscale Mexican dishes, which include goat 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.

Recommended
    You may also like
    You may also like
    Advertising

    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!