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Austin Eat List
Photograph: Richard Casteel

The 23 best restaurants in Austin right now

There's so much more to the best restaurants in Austin than Mexican food and barbecue (although this list has those spots too)

By Alex Temblador, Gerrish Lopez and Anastacia Uriegas

Austin has its staples, Mexican and BBQ, of course, but this funky city isn’t a two-trick pony. In addition to elevating Mexican food and barbecue through the genius of James Beard finalist chefs, the best restaurants in Austin are serving up Tex-centric delights in trendy spots, Southern cuisine that melts in your mouth, explosively dynamic cocktails, and fusions that will send shocks to your taste palate. Austin chefs have taken the motto ‘Everything in Texas is bigger and better’ to heart, by sourcing local, fresh produce and flying in fresh fish from Tokyo and oysters from the East Coast. A charming café experience, high-end dining, food truck eating, or a place that makes you wait in long lines with a big pay-off: Austin is offering it all up and more on Texas-sized plates.

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

Emmer & Rye
Photograph: Courtesy Emmer & Rye/Alicynn Fink

1. Emmer & Rye

Restaurants American Town Lake

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 dry aged wagyu beef tartare with puffed wheat berries and small plate options on a dim sum cart. An in-house pickling operation peppers the menu and the cocktail list has fermented goodies; try the 5 O’Clock in Jerez (Ford’s gin, Fino sherry, Dolin Blanc, and green tomato brine).

Barley Swine
Photograph: Courtesy Barley Swine/Richard Casteel

2. Barley Swine

Restaurants American Allandale

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 grilled quail with dirty rice, hot sauce, and pickles. 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.

Machi Cure at Uchi
Photograph: Courtesy Uchi/Rebecca Fondren

3. Uchi

Restaurants Japanese Bouldin

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.

Photograph: Kate LeSueur

4. Otoko

Restaurants Japanese South River City

Among the priciest and most exclusive dining experiences in town, Otoko is also among the most fun. The space is intimate, with only 12 seats and 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.

Photograph: Richard Casteel

5. Odd Duck

Restaurants Bouldin

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 pork and quail corndogs with carrot-masa hot sauce, grilled antelope with grains, sunchokes, and mushrooms, and chicken fried fish head with fishbone caramel sauce. 

Photograph: Courtesy Olamaie/Robert J. Lerma

6. Olamaie

Restaurants Soul and southern American Arts District

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 pecan, sorghum, apple, and paprika). The cocktail program is equally exciting. Try the Time Out of Mind: rye, Sfumato, rhubarb, Bénédictine, mint, black lemon bitters. And don’t forget to order some of their famous biscuits to-go.

El Naranjo
Photograph: Flickr/Kimberly Vardeman

7. El Naranjo

Restaurants Mexican Town Lake

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.

Pitchfork Pretty
Photograph: Will Blunt

8. Pitchfork Pretty

Restaurants American creative Holly

Find Hill Country in East Austin at Pitchfork Pretty, a quaintly named, elegantly designed restaurant. 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 (pimento cheese with spicy crab crackers) leave a strong impression. On Sunday and Monday nights, try out their Banchan & Barbecue special, which for a fixed price includes three courses with Banchan, or Korean-style small dishes, as the second course.

Franklin BBQ
Photograph: Courtesy Franklin BBQ

9. Franklin Barbecue

Restaurants Barbecue Central East Austin

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.

Clark's Oyster Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Clark's Oyster Bar/Casey Dunn

10. Clark’s Oyster Bar

Restaurants Seafood West End

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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Comedor

11. Comedor

This Downtown newcomer is 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.

La Barbecue
Photograph: David Brendan Hall

12. La Barbecue

Restaurants Barbecue East Cesar Chavez

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).

Photograph: Courtesy Launderette/Robert J. Lerma

13. Launderette

Restaurants American Holly

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 Iberico prawns, 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.

June’s All Day
Photograph: Alex Valenti

14. June's All Day

Restaurants South River City

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. Take advantage of their Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday or Pub Nights on Sundays with pub-style Indian food, British Invasion music, and pints of Old Speckled Hen.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya
Photograph: Jody Horton

15. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

Restaurants Japanese Holly

Part Japanese izakaya and part Texas smokehouse, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya delivers a playful mashup of the two cuisines alongside a sophisticated cocktail program. The menu includes playful bites like Tokyo street corn with yuzu aioli, grilled meat skewers and fried chicken thigh bites. 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.

Photograph: Lindsay Mason

16. Suerte

Restaurants Mexican Downtown

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.

Ramen Tatsu-ya
Photograph: Courtesy Ramen Tatsu-ya/Chiai Matsumoto

17. Ramen Tatsu-ya

Restaurants Japanese Wooten

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.

Mum Foods Deli
Photograph: Courtesy Mum Foods Deli

18. Mum Foods Deli

This beloved purveyor of top-notch pastrami sandwiches has been a fixture at Texas farmers markets for several years, and while they had a brick-and-mortar for a bit, it closed in February 2020. The deli is on the lookout for a permanent location, but until then, you can catch Mum Foods Deli at the Barton Creek and Cedar Park farmer’s markets on Saturdays and Muellers on Sundays. 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Bufalina/Nicolai McCrary

19. Bufalina

Restaurants Pizza East Cesar Chavez

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Fukumoto/Veronica Meewes

20. Fukumoto

Restaurants Japanese Swedish Hill Historic District

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. You’ll never be disappointed by the cornflake ebi, king salmon yakitori, or Murasaki roll.

Justine's Brasserie
Photograph: Courtesy Justine Gilcrease

21. Justine’s Brasserie

Restaurants French Govalle

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, and won’t be cut off at 10pm. Justine’s stays open until 2am, making it 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.

Via 313 Pizza
Photograph: Courtesy Via 313 Pizza

22. Via 313 Pizza

Restaurants Pizza East Cesar Chavez

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.

Veracruz All Natural
Photograph: Flickr/Edwin X. Ochoa

23. Veracruz All Natural

Restaurants Trucks East Cesar Chavez

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.

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