Whether you’re new to the neighborhood, just strolling through town, or are a lifelong Austinite, the bottom line is you gotta eat. So, of course, you want to know about the best Austin restaurants.
But what exactly qualifies a restaurant to be considered among the best? Well, there are certain criteria that it should meet — quality, flavor, and freshness of food; consistency in providing said food; and informed, helpful service. Once a place has these basics down, determining the best restaurants is pretty subjective.
And why shouldn’t it be? Different strokes for different folks. While some people might think fine dining is the epitome of good food, others would argue you can rock your taste buds just as hard at affordable eateries.
Fortunately, no matter where your tastes lie, this list has a little something for everyone.
Ready, Go, Eat!
From sushi, ramen, and Mexican to barbecue, dim sum, and New American cuisine, here are the best restaurants in Austin that are worth your time and your dime.
801 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704
Yes, folks, step right up and get ready to treat yourself to some of the freshest fish to ever touch your tongue. Uchi in South Austin is a true temple to fresh fish in the guise of a chic and cozy red-colored bungalow. James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole and his kitchen crank out contemporary, non-traditional takes on Japanese fare (think Wagyu carpaccio with cured egg yolk or tom kha salmon) and a variety of daily specials with freshly flown-in Japanese catches of the day. Also, the sake and cocktail menu is just as insanely good as the food. Even though this place could be all sorts of fancy, eating here in shorts and sandals is not unheard of. (It is Austin, after all.)
4200 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78756
If Uchi is the overachieving first-born valedictorian of the Tyson Cole culinary family, then Uchiko is the younger salutatorian who graduated summa cum laude. (Although if you look at the restaurant’s website, Uchiko is actually the “child of Uchi.”) Semantics and analogies aside, this Japanese eatery offers its own modern twist on sushi (made with fish flown in every day from Japan’s Toyosu market), “hot tastings,” “cold tastings,” and daily specials that include a number of vegetarian options using produce from local farms. Be sure to wash it all down with the great wine, cocktail, and sake selections.
Emmer & Rye
51 Rainey St. #110, Austin, TX 78701
Look up any “best Austin restaurants” list and there’s likely 0% chance this New American favorite isn’t right up there. Emmer & Rye serves creatively crafted small plates in a traditional dim sum style. The menu changes daily with a focus on seasonal and local ingredients, homemade pastas, whole animal butchery, and garden-fresh produce. Another really cool thing about this place: Along with the regular menu, you can order directly from the circulating carts that will stop by your table so you can try dim sum bites. These nightly specials range in price from $4-$12, so it’s an approachable way to try something new.
900 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78702
If you’re a hardcore BBQ hound, digging into brisket and pulled pork all day every day may be a way of life. But your Texas-sized appetite will have to wait for lunchtime if you’re planning to get your grub on at the Franklin Barbecue trailer. That’s because this Austin classic is a lunch-only spot. But that doesn’t mean you should wait til noon. No siree. The smoked meats here beckon locals and tourists alike to line up bright and early, so make sure you’re ready for the wait.
Proving you don’t need to be shmancy (or have just one location) to be among the best, Ramen Tatsu-ya is on a mission to educate people on what ramen really is —”the soul food of Japan.” With locations in North Austin, South Austin, and East Austin, this ramen joint is where you can slurp on piping hot ramen noodles that come with your choice of flavor “bombs” and a variety of toppings. To top off the experience, give the small bites, sides, and sweets a try.
400A W. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78701
Sure, you can get your fix of Tex-Mex in the capitol city of Texas, but Austin has much more to offer than breakfast tacos and queso. (Although who could blame you for loving those so much?) For a high-end take on Mexican cuisine, La Condesa does the trick. Merging culinary influences from both Mexico City and Austin, this warm and pretty space (with view of Downtown Austin) is where you can start with tasty botanas (appetizers) and small plates before indulging in larger entrees such as carne asada, roasted chicken, and vegan oak-grilled mushrooms that come with your choice of homemade tortillas. Don’t forget the impressive selection of tequila, mezcal, margaritas, and other cocktails.
1201 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704
Its name might be a little strange, but Odd Duck is peculiar in the best way possible. With a “craftsmen’s approach to cooking,” this eatery from Bryce and Dylan Gilmore focuses on using only locally sourced ingredients for its incredibly diverse and creative menu that spans brunch, lunch, and dinner. From smoked pork belly and falafel fritters to a pork and quail corndog (!) and chicken fried fish head, this place is unlike any other. (And in Austin, that’s saying something.)
2713 E. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78702
This casual and bustling izakaya in East Austin was pretty much a local favorite from the moment it opened. (Not surprising considering it’s from the guys behind Ramen Tatsu-ya). Offering smoked meats, yakitori (skewered chicken and other meats), small plates, and even a couple of ramen options, Kemuri Tatsu-ya seamlessly fuses Japanese and Texan influences for a delightfully delicious meal every time.
2708 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
With a little something for everyone, Pitchfork Pretty is a lovely space where you’ll find a family-style menu that comfortably juxtaposes grilled meats (and gluten-free fried chicken) next to fresh-from-the-garden vegetarian options. Offering an upscale dining experience “rooted in soulful cooking and the seasons of the Hill Country,” this is a winner for dinner as well as a slightly more affordable weekday happy hour.
You don’t need to count on luck when making a rezzie at this east side favorite. Suerte (yes, it means “luck” in Spanish) is where you’ll find modern twists on Mexican classics — think Wagyu carne asada, goat barbacoa, and tostadas topped with poached shrimp, octopus and mussels, avocado, and jalapeños. As for the tortillas crafted from housemade masa? You may want to save one for the next day — your breakfast taco never tasted so good.
6555 Burnet Rd. #400, Austin, TX 78757
Its name may be a little off-putting (it’s from the folks behind Odd Duck, big surprise), but Barley Swine will turn you on thanks to a seasonal menu that expertly (and adventurously) combines ingredients from local farmers and ranchers. Shrimp fundido with apple relish? BBQ field pea tempeh? Snapper with spicy veggies? Pig face Parker house rolls with sweet chili mustard (what!)? Yep, it’s all here and then some.
1610 San Antonio St., Austin, TX 78701
It’s no wonder you’ll feel right at home at Olamaie. This elegant restaurant is literally a home. Exuding plenty of Southern charm with its sophisticated interiors and lovely covered porch and backyard area, this upscale favorite is where you can enjoy traditional Southern fare made with farm-fresh ingredients. Just make sure you don’t leave without a taste of those famed biscuits and a cocktail. (Even better during the daily “cocktail hour” — aka happy hour — from 5-6:30 p.m.)
2115 Holly St., Austin, TX 78702
Leave it to Austin to be the city where you can treat yourself to tasty New American eats in a converted laundromat. With a laid-back vibe, the aptly named Launderette offers brunch, lunch, and dinner classics that span fried chicken sandwiches and fried egg BLTs to brick chicken, and hanger steak. Just don’t expect any fluff ‘n’ fold.
Best Austin Restaurants: It’s All Good in the ATX Neighborhood
Hungry yet? Clearly, the Austin food scene is hot and there’s nothing stopping you from hitting up one, two, or all of the restaurants on this list. Whether you want Japanese, Mexican, BBQ, or something altogether different, the best Austin restaurants have you covered. For even more dining options, don’t miss this list on the best sushi in Austin as well as the ultimate guide to steak in Austin. Happy eating!