Austin has a reputation as a welcoming, friendly place, but like New Yorkers over pizza, Austinites may come damn near throwing a punch if you take issue with their choice of brisket smoker or breakfast taco maker. Local specialties like that are just the beginning of the food conversation in the Texas capital though. Austin’s fine dining has clawed its way to national attention, as have a wide variety of other styles, putting it on the short list of true American food destinations. From refined omakase to only-in-Austin goat chili Frito pie, our list has it all. These are the best restaurants in Austin.
Robust barbecue sandwiches can be found at the casual restaurant from owner Raf Robinson. The substantial offerings range from the Notorious P.I.G. with pulled pork and mustard slaw to the over-the-top B.C.B.C. with brisket and chicken breast. It’s a place where the house barbecue sauces are integral to the essences of these smoked meats sandwiches. Outside the sandwich realm, there are pork ribs, barbecue rice bowls, nachos, and all sorts of sides (like brisket-studded mac and cheese). Pickup orders for both locations (the other in Oak Hill) can be placed online, there are third-party deliveries available (Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Favor), and the restaurants have reopened for dine-in services.
Little Deli isn’t over the top glamorous and the foods served here certainly aren’t novel, but they do everything so incredibly well and it’s a spot that customers come back to over and over again. From pizza to sandwiches to calzones, there are plenty of options to choose from. Grab a quick lunch here or bring friends and family together for dinner on one of their outdoor picnic tables to enjoy one of the best restaurants in Austin. Bonus points for being really family-friendly AND for having one of the best chewy chocolate cookies ever.
Hyper-local ingredients help steer the changing menu here. Your fellow diners are foodies to the core. If you want to be surprised, put your trust in the tasting menu, best for adventurous groups. But if you’re going a la carte you can expect things like cured antelope, beef fat toast and aged akaushi ribeye. If you’re not sure where to start, Barley Swine’s servers are disciples of Chef Bryce Gilmore’s local food movement. They are knowledgeable about farm relationships and the use of seasonal ingredients, so ask them all of your pressing beef tartare questions.
Though some have considered a “backup” when Franklin runs out, La Barbecue should, in no way, be considered simply an also-ran in the Austin barbecue world. Here, they specialize, appropriately, in Central Texas-style barbecue, slathering meats with salty, savory rubs. You’ll want to wrap your smoky brisket up as a sandwich with pickles and onions along with a side of chipotle slaw. It will almost certainly be crowded, as meat-loving friends congregate on the outdoor patio over their butcher paper-covered trays and one of the almost 30 craft beers available on draft at the edgy convenience store setting.
Fresa’s is one of the best restaurants in Austin that serves incredibly delicious menu items, several of which are healthy and oh so delicious. It’s the perfect spot for when you’re craving a salad that actually tastes good and will fill you up. Or if you’re feeling something a little more substantial, their tacos are fantastic and we strongly recommend the La Fresa so you can enjoy one of their best menu offerings- the pulled achiote chicken. The Mexican street corn is TDF and will never say no to their guacamole. Dine in at the South First location or DRIVE THRU (not kidding) their ever so convenient 9th and Lamar location.
This modern Mexican kitchen (and gluten-free restaurant) has built a menu and a reputation around their house-made masa, using corn sourced from farms in Mexico, which means something that comes with fresh tortillas is a must. Try getting them with the chili roast chicken, which comes with an interesting and atypical white mole. On the drink menu you’ll find mostly tequila and mezcal-based cocktails, sipped by the well-heeled patrons (there is a slightly more than nominal dress code—“proper attire”—which means no flip flops and no sweat pants). The large restaurant is best suited for groups, so come for a birthday celebration or a dinner during a weekend getaway.