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. From Italian eateries on South Congress and late-night Mexican restaurants to food trucks serving Thai and Mediterranean specialties, there’s a top-of-the-line spot in Austin to indulge at.
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. Here, you’ll find where to go for the best dinner in Austin — plus breakfast, lunch, and dessert spots to boot.
Ready, Go, Eat! 22 of The Best Austin Restaurants
From sushi, ramen, dumplings, and Mexican quesadillas to barbecue, dim sum, French, and New American cuisine, here are the best restaurants in Austin that are worth your time and your dime. You’ll find everything from cute coffee shops and lively food trucks to whimsical outdoor seating and date-night restaurants.
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, sashimi, and nigiri (made with fish flown in every day from Japan’s Toyosu market in Tokyo), “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.
3. 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.
4. Franklin Barbecue
900 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78702
Franklin Barbecue is an Austin icon, founded by award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin. 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.
5. Ramen Tatsu-Ya
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.
6. La Condesa
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.
7. Odd Duck
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.)
8. Kemuri Tatsu-ya
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.
9. Pitchfork Pretty
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.
11. Barley Swine
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 Bryce Gilmore’s 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? Vinaigrette with fish sauce pecans? 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, New York steak and hanger steak. Just don’t expect any fluff ‘n’ fold.
1519 E Cesar Chavez St | Bufalina Due 6555 Burnet Rd
When it comes to pizza, Bufalina is a stand-out option. This pizza restaurant serves up authentic Italian fare including Neapolitan, puttanesca, taleggio, and vodka arrabiatta pizzas. Don’t miss their incredible dark chocolate brownie or vanilla ice cream and sherry for dessert. They also offer takeout when you want a pie at home.
15. Dai Due
2406 Manor Rd
Founded in 2006, Dai Due has become one of Austin’s most famous restaurants. They’re renowned for serving fresh food using ingredients sourced from the local region. Each time you eat here, you’re supporting local families — from produce growers to ranchers that are dedicated to preserving Austin’s culinary traditions. Since the food here is fresh, the menu changes with the seasons. In August, you’ll find crispy apples incorporated into dishes and June brings apricot influences. All the meat here — including ribeye, pork chops, and brisket — is sourced locally, foods are cooked using Texas-made olive oil and animal fats, and all the wine and beer are from local producers. This is THE place to go when you want local, fresh fare as well as for special occasions.
16. The Peached Tortilla
5520 Burnet Rd Suite 100
The Peached Tortilla offers a blend of modern Asian comfort food with Southern influences. Stop in for dinner and dine on kimchi aranchini balls, Chinese specialties, and Dan Dan noodles. They also offer special menus on different nights of the week including a Chicken & Whiskey special, ramen night, and taco Tuesday. Stop in for date night and spoil your loved one in the cute indoor dining room.
17. Justine’s Brasserie
Justine’s likes to push the envelope. After all, their website prominently features the phrase “if think you’ve gone too far, keep going” overlaid on footage owner Justine created while attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. A quick visit tot he website and you’ll see the place is all about being evocative, rebellious, risqué, and playful. When you step inside Justine’s Brasseries, the mood is no different. The room is lit with rich lighting that cascades down emerald velvet furniture and reflects off red-hued walls. Pop in and stay for hours, indulging on classic French fare and reveling in the sensual environment.
18. La Barbecue
Ask a local Austinite where the best barbecue spot is and they’ll usually respond either with Franklin Barbecue or La Barbecue. La Barbecue offers an incredible selection of BBQ meats including homemade sausage brisket, pulled pork, turkey, and pork ribs. They also make delicious sandwiches including our favorite El Sancho featuring hand-chopped brisket and their signature Bobby Sauce. Their drinks are also unique for a BBQ spot — featuring things like plum wine, Aperol spritz, and sake in addition to beer.
19. Clark’s Oyster Bar
Clark’s Oyster Bar is an elegant and nostalgic Clarksville spot where you can get your hands on some of the best oysters in the state. Clark’s flies in oysters fresh from both coasts and offers other seafood favorites like lobster and crab cakes. Don’t miss their mac n’ cheese which is loaded with lump crab. Also make sure to check out their brunch offerings on Saturday and Sundays where you can indulge in caviar, oysters, clams, and the catch-of-the-day while enjoying a romantic and elegant atmosphere.
20. Veracruz All Natural
No best Austin restaurants list is complete without mentioning authentic Mexican tacos. Veracruz All Natural is one of the top spots in the city when you’re craving traditional Mexican tacos. Here, you’ll find everything from migas tacos and shrimp tacos to al pastor tacos. Best of all, the restaurant makes their chips by hand and they use, fresh, natural ingredients for th east flavor. With five locations and taco trucks across the city, it’s easy to try out their iconic tacos.
21. Via 313 Pizzeria
Looking for Detroit-style pizza in Austin? head over to Via 313 Pizzeria. This pizza joint is urn by two brothers — Zane and Brandon Hunt — who hail from the 313 area of Detroit. You’ll indulge in square, deep-dish pizzas with all the usual suspects — pepperoni, cheese, mushroom, and other meats.
22. El Naranjo
El Naranjo is owned by Iliana and Ernesto de La Vega. Iliana doubles as the executive chef and is a James Beard semi-finalist and has received accolades for her traditional cooking methods and fresh balanced flavors. here, you’ll dine on Mexican classics like mole negro de Oaxaca, enchiladas, pollo asado adobado, and chamorro. They also make an incredible ceviche. Plus, they offer culinary tours to Oaxaca and Mexico City if you want to further your knowledge of Mexican cuisine.
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, Korean, old-school BBQ, or something altogether different, the best Austin restaurants have you covered. Best of all, there’s a great Austin restaurant near you — whether you’r hunting down late-night eats on Rainey Street, cruising through South Lamar, or calling a farther suburb home. 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!
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