For most first-time visitors, downtown Austin is the go-to hub for checking out the city known for keeping things weird. From live music venues with blues and jazz to boutique shopping, the central hub of Austin has everything tourists and locals could want. It’s also one of the best places to dive into the culinary scene that put this city on the map. Whether you’re looking for mouthwatering BBQ, world-famous breakfast tacos, or a fancy Sunday brunch, here are the best restaurants to chow down at in downtown Austin, Texas.
The Best Restaurants in Downtown Austin
1. Franklin Barbecue
900 E 11th St
Aaron Franklin is the pitmaster and genius behind this amazing BQ joint. He’s won the James Beard Award and the barbecue spot has taken home the top prize from Bon Appetit for the Best Barbecue Joint in America. If you’re in Austin solely to try the barbecue, Franklin’s is a must-see. Be prepared to stand in line and wait for your delicious meal because not only is this one of the best restaurants in downtown Austin, it’s also one of the most famous. The menu is packed with meaty delights from brisket and pulled pork to sausage, ribs, and hearty sandwiches.
208 W 4th St
Péché is the French word for sin and this absinthe and French-inspired bar and restaurant makes sure all of its beverages and meals taste sinfully indulgent. Indulge in pre-Prohibition style cocktails, a curated wine list, and dive into French dishes from duck confit and escargot to Pommes Frites and pan-seared foie gras.
3. Second Bar + Kitchen
200 Congress Ave
Second Bar + Kitchen is an Austin restaurant serving up locally sourced seasonal ingredients. The menu includes a wide range of tastes from baked brie to soba noodles and the Congress Burger featuring ground brisket, chuck, shallot confit, gruyere, and veggies. You’ll also find several different types of pizza and a large brunch menu.
4. Midnight Cowboy
313 E 6th St
Looking for a speakeasy with a rich and lively history? Midnight Cowboy is the spot for you. Offering a relaxing oasis among the hustle and bustle of Dirty 6th Street, this bar serves up tasty cocktails in one of the coolest spots in downtown Austin. Make a reservation to secure your spot or take your chances and look for the illuminated vacancy sign above the doorway. Ring the bell labeled “Harry Craddock” to gain entrance and enjoy a night you won’t soon forget.
5. Parkside Austin
301 E 6th St
Parkside offers American fare with a focus on sustainable ingredients and farm-to-table dining experience. The restaurant features a raw bar, serving up oysters from across the country. On Wednesdays, stop in for happy hour and get 50% off oysters and bubbly. Step into The Backspace, just behind Parkside for Italian pizza Neapolitan-style.
6. Swift’s Attic
315 Congress Ave
Swift offers an eccentric and eclectic culinary experience that perfectly reflects the overall vibe of Austin. The menu features everything from Korean BBQ to mole and elotes along with seafood and vegan dishes. Stop in for a late-night treat on Mondays and get your hands on the famous Big Ass Burger starting at 9 pm.
7. Moonshine Patio Bar
303 Red River St
Moonshine offers comfort food and craft cocktails that would make any Prohibition-era visitor proud. The restaurant focuses on old fashioned Southern foods from biscuits and calamari to fried chicken salads and BBQ shrimp and grits. For drinks, we love the Bourbon Slush featuring bourbon, sweet tea, lemonade, and amarena or the Southern Belle made with wheatley vodka, St. Germain, and raspberry.
1610 San Antonio St
Olamaioe serves up five generations of Southern cooking with a menu that changes with the availability of seasonal and market offerings. The Ranger Cattle Beef tartare and the Hickory King Cornbread are customer favorites. Don’t miss dessert and try the Cardamom Apple Stack Cake — so good grandma will be singing its praises. Try some of the craft cocktails like the Knight of Cups with whiskey and amaro or the Mint Spritz featuring Topo Chico and aromatic bitters.
9. Red Ash Italia
303 Colorado St
The menu at Red Ash features culinary delights from Northern and Southern Italy. Here, you’ll find fresh handmade pastas, seafood, and prime meats along with an extensive wine list. Start off with appetizers like the daily selection of cured meats or the wood-roasted beef bone marrow. Entrees include a wide variety of pizzas and wood oven meals along with premium cuts of meat that rival even the fanciest steakhouse.
10. Le Politique
110 San Antonio St
Le Politique is a French patisserie and bistro serving up French-inspired dishes with Texas hospitality. Try the prix fixe lunch menu where you can choose a two-course meal or stop in on the weekend to enjoy their French brunch on the sunny, Parisian-style patio.
11. Emmer & Rye
111 Congress Ave
Located in Fareground right in the heart of downtown Austin, this is one of the best restaurants in Austin. The menu offers sweet and savory flavors that feature everything from dim sum to red snapper, strawberry tarts, and roasted spaghetti squash.
12. Small Victory
108 E 7th St
One of the best cocktail bars in Austin, Small Victory is another speakeasy dining experience that highlights the diversity of Austin’s eateries. Gain access to the intimate cocktail bar by ringing the buzzer at the inconspicuous entrance. Once inside, enjoy craft cocktails like the famous Artists’ Special and a unique ambiance punctuated by the year-round Christmas decorations.
13. Dai Due
111 Congress Ave
Dai Due landed on Austin’s culinary scene with great fanfare thanks to its farm-to-table butcher shop. The downtown location in Fareground is a taqueria featuring the brand’s exquisitely sourced meats and a Tex-Mex flair. Grab a beverage from the full bar including beer, wine, and spirits and enjoy your meal inside the park-like atmosphere or take it to go. The Mexican food here is as authentic as it comes. The tortillas are made in house using locally grown dried corn. For meat lovers, you’ll find options including wild game as well as seafood and staple meats.
14. Houndstooth Coffee
401 Congress Ave
This coffee shop also offers locations on North Lamar, in Rock Rose, and in East Austin. The baristas here undergo training that allows them to handcraft each cup of coffee the way artisans intended. Stop in for a cup of Joe from the finest coffee roasters and stay for the friendly, local vibe.
15. The Roosevelt Room
307 W 5th St
Located in the historic warehouse district, The Roosevelt Room offers artisan craft cocktails in an upscale dining environment. The pared-down menus offer a simplistic yet indulgent dining experience with the choice of eleven dishes and ten house cocktails and six classic Roosevelt Room creations. You’ll also find a large wine list and 53 classic cocktails in addition to beer and spirits.
16. Wu Chow
500 W 5th St
Wu Chow offers Chinese food with an Austin twist. The restaurant serves up all eight distinct Chinese cuisine styles with farm-fresh ingredients and a focus on locally sourced and sustainable foods. The Asian menu includes things like fried rice, crispy noodles, and ramen.
17. La Condesa
400A West 2nd St
La Condesa combines the tastes and styles of Mexico City and Austin into one delicious culinary experience. Botanas — including queso! — and small plates are the name of the game here and sharing with friends is highly encouraged. The restaurant works with local partners to source fresh ingredients and they also have one of the largest 100 percent blue agave tequila and mezcal offerings in the city. Try the Acapulco with striped bass, avocado, jalapenos, and salsa valentine and don’t miss their delicious margaritas.
18. Arlo Grey
111 East Cesar Chavez St
Located inside the Line Hotel, Arlo Grey is a restaurant run by the winner of Top Chef 10. Kristen Kish offers a menu with French and Latin influences that are highlighted by the freshest, local ingredients. From breakfast and brunch to dinner and cocktail hour, the restaurant serves up a fine dining experience with a laid back attitude. Best of all, it’s located lakeside so you can enjoy great views with your delicious meal.
19. Chez Nous
Another great place to head for date night, this downtown restaurant is a casual French bistro where you can dine on things like duck liver mousse, escargot, Fromage, and charcuterie. Don’t miss the decadent dessert menu and scope out the wine list to make the night extra special.
20. Cheer Up Charlie’s
900 Red River St
This vegan gay bar is a delightful place to spend an evening out with friends. The restaurant is a vibrantly decorated cabin, which hosts live music events almost every night of the week. Choose from local draft beers and handcrafted cocktails and shimmy the night away with some rad new friends.
21. Blenders and Bowls
206 E 4th St
Blenders and Bowls offers healthy smoothies and acai bowls packed with fresh fruit, local honey, and hemp granola. All the offerings here are organic and pure, making it a great spot for people who are looking for healthy food that is still delicious.
22. Holy Roller
509 Rio Grande St
Holy Roller offers nostalgic food in an environment that can best be described as religious kitsch with a touch of punk rock. Try the Grilled Cheesus featuring a blend of cheeses, tomato jam, and avocado or opt for the Casbah featuring fried chicken, a buttered biscuit, comeback sauce, a fried egg, and syrup.
801 South Lamar Blvd
Ok, so technically Uchi is in South Austin, but it’s so close to downtown and such a delightful treat that we included it anyway. Uchi, owned by world-renowned chef Tyson Cole, offers a non-traditional take of Japanese food and serves up some of the best sushi you’ll ever have in your life. Fish and seafood are sourced directly from a local market in Japan and flown in fresh every day. The rice melts in your mouth like butter and the sake is top-quality. The small plates are intricately plated for a stunning visual dining treat. This spot is one of the best date restaurants in Austin and a must-visit when you’re in ATX.
Dine at the Best Restaurants in Downtown Austin
Whether you’re craving Mediterranean food or some delicious breakfast tacos out of a food truck, Austin’s downtown scene has what you’re looking for. Best of all, the downtown area is right by trendy East Austin and South Congress where you can find even more culinary delights. Start the night out at Fareground and make your way to Rainey Street or a beer garden and keep the night going with late-night eats and delicious bar snacks and appetizers. At the Best restaurants in downtown Austin, you’ll find something you love whether you’re a meat lover, vegan, or someone who prefers gluten-free options.