Planning a summer vacation to Austin or traveling there for spring break, SXSW or ACL? Today I’m dishin’ about some of the Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas for Out of Town Guests that WE love so you can plan your best and tastiest trip to Austin, TX.
Even though I am always cooking and preparing most of our meals at home, I love the times we get to splurge and go out to eat. Living in central Texas, there are so many great restaurants, specifically in Austin, and narrowing down the Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas can be a daunting feat; especially since it seems like the food scene in Austin is always changing.
But over the years as part of the Austin City Guide to Best Places to Eat in Austin, Texas, I’ve shared some of my favorite restaurants to get some of my favorite dishes, everything from donuts to tacos to sandwiches. However, I don’t have an overall guide to Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas. That’s why I’m excited to team up with some of my favorite food and travel bloggers from around the US to put together a restaurant guide to the best places to eat across the country called The Local Dish!
Since we eat out the most when we have out of town guests, I thought I would put together a local’s guide to the Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas for Out of Town Guests. Usually when we have out of town guests they have a list of places they would like to visit because they have read about this restaurant or that food truck in some travel magazine or seen it featured on the Food Network or Travel Network.
And while most of these restaurants rightfully earn this reputation and national acknowledgement; because of their popularity, they can be very crowded, have 2-3 hour long waits (yes, I’m serious) and can be a bit pricey. Normally we aim to please our out of town visitors’ requests, however, we also try to show them other restaurants, aka the “hole in the wall” restaurants or places “where all the locals go” that aren’t so touristy.
Below, you’ll find some of our favorite Austin restaurants to take visitors, both the super popular, tourist spots as well as the “insiders” favorites where all the locals eat.
Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas for Out of Town Guests:
Austin’s Best Barbecue:
Tourist Favorite: You may (or actually may not) have heard of a little barbecue joint here in Austin called Franklin’s Barbecue. It has been featured in EVERY food and travel blog, magazine, TV show, etc. and Aaron Franklin himself, has become quite the celebrity, making appearances as a judge, TV host, author and more. Because of this, his barbecue restaurant can have lines that go on for blocks and take 2-3 hours to get through.
Another popular Austin BBQ restaurant is Salt Lick BBQ. The orginal and most popular location is actually in Driftwood, Texas, about 35-40 minutes outside of Austin. Even though there is quite a trek to get out there, this BBQ joint can get very crowded and have long waits.
Local Favorite: While there is nothing wrong with Salt Lick BBQ or Franklin’s Barbecue, Austin has a ton of other great barbecue places that are just as good, are much more convenient and don’t have quite the wait. One of our favorite barbecue places in Austin are Freedman’s, which is a tiny restaurant but that has an awesome patio/outdoor beer garden, house made pickles, a creative cocktail menu and flavorful smoked sausages. Freedmen’s also has a great happy hour and brunch.
We also love the tiny south Austin food truck, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, for their amazing brisket tacos, but unfortunately, this little unassuming BBQ food truck is gaining popularity and can have a 40 minute wait on the weekends and/or run out of barbecue late afternoon. Another innovative food truck is Leroy and Lewis (pictured above) who serves up everything from smoked chicken wings (love!) to bagels with a brisket schmear.
Other best barbecue in Austin includes La Barbecue, Terry Black’s BBQ, and if you are on a tight budget but still want to get your barbecue fix, we love Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q (highly recommend the creamed corn, breakfast tacos and their easy and affordable catering options for large to small gatherings)!
Tourist Favorite: There is no doubt about it, we LOVE us some tacos; so good thing we can get our fair share of tacos in this great state! One of our favorite local taco spots that is also super popular with tourists, for their numerous convenient locations, consistent product and service, and classic and unique taco varieties, is Torchy’s Tacos. We love The Democrat Taco (pictured above with perfectly cooked shredded beef barbacoa), the Green Chile Pork Taco and the Green Chile Queso is always a must!
Local Favorite: Even though out-of-towners and locals alike love Torchy’s Tacos, some other great and more authentic options for tacos include La Cocina de Consuelo for their classic Crispy Beef Tacos, Rosita’s Al Pastor which is a hidden gem in East Austin and Taco Deli. For more of our favorite taco places, check out my guide to Austin’s Best Tacos.
Austin’s Best Breakfast and Brunch:
Tourist Favorite: Magnolia Café, Juan in a Million and Kerbey Lane Café are all popular Austin spots for breakfast or brunch. In fact, for a while after it was featured on the Travel Channel, you would have to wait in a line that wrapped around the block to try your attempt at the monster sized breakfast burrito at Juan in a Million. And Magnolia Café will always be a favorite for locals and out of towners alike, due to serving breakfast all hours of the night. But of these three popular spots, I like to take visitors to Kerbey Lane Café (pictured above) as they have several locations in the Austin area, it represents Austin’s “vibe” so well and they have a variety of breakfast/brunch items, from healthy vegetarian items, to hearty plates, to my favorite, a variety of flavorful pancakes, that they serve for breakfast seven days a week.
Local Favorite: Local favorite breakfast and brunch restaurants include Jack Allen’s Kitchen (read my full review about Jack Allen’s Kitchen here), which serves a hearty brunch buffet on Sundays consisting of dishes inspired by the south/southwest; Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden for those that love a hearty meat filled brunch, live music and outdoor seating; and Fonda San Miguel’s Sunday brunch buffet consisting Tex-Mex and Mexican favorites.
Tourist Favorite: Austin Daily Press gained major popularity after appearing on the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. And then there’s Thundercloud Subs, which has been an Austin staple since 1975 and Schlotzsky’s (read my full review about Schlotzsky’s sandwiches here) which went from a local Mom and Pop sandwich shop to an international brand.
Local Favorite: G’s Dynamite Deli is a tiny, little sandwich shop in South Austin that serves favorite sandwiches from the Muffaletta, to Rubens and Chicken Salad sandwiches (I recommend THE Panini, which is pictured above). Then there’s Dock & Roll Diner that serves fresh (yes, even in central Texas), FRESH New England style lobster rolls. And if you love grilled cheese sandwiches (and who doesn’t!) check out the gourmet food truck Burro Cheese Kitchen. For more of our favorite sandwiches, check out my guide to the Best Sandwich Shops in Austin, Texas!
Tourist Favorite: By far, the most requested place to visit from tourist and out of town guests is Gourdough’s Donuts (pictured above). People are obsessed with this South Austin food truck/restaurant and the crazy, over the top, fried concoctions they serve up! Their loaded “knife and fork” donuts come in both savory (Donut Chicken and Dumplings) and sweet options (my personal favorite is Granny’s Pie).
Round Rock Donuts, located in the North Austin suburbs, has been the donut hot spot for YEARS. They have been featured on countless TV shows and online media channels for serving up their classic golden-orange glazed Round Rock donut, that comes in both standard donut size, as well as a Texas size version of this infamous donut, weighing in at 2 pounds.
Local Favorite: La Pâtisserie is a favorite pastry shop among locals and the only place in Austin to get their version of the doughnut/croissant/brioche mashup, known as Crobrios a.k.a Cronuts. For more traditional donuts with a touch of Austin flair, check out Bougie’s Donuts & Coffee, which serves up items such as lavender lattes and maple blueberry donuts. And for all you donut AND breakfast taco lovers, check out Donut Taco Palace, which serves breakfast tacos in a doughnut “tortilla”. For more of our favorite donut places, check out my guide to the Best Donuts in Austin, Texas.
Austin’s Best Happy Hour and Places to Drink:
Tourist Favorite: Austin’s “Dirty 6th Street” has quite the reputation and is often the go to place for tourists who want to go out for happy hour or late-night drinks. However, (except for a few select places like Parkside, Clark’s Oyster Bar and Easy Tiger) locals avoid 6th Street at all costs and prefer other bars and restaurants to get happy hour, see live music and get specialty cocktails.
Local Favorite: Austin is home to many local breweries, wineries and distillers. Many of these places offer tours, happy hours and even entertainment like live music. Some favorite local breweries are Jester King Brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, Independence Brewing Co.
As far as happy hours go, we LOVE the happy hour at the swanky downtown Vince Young Steakhouse. Not only do they have drink specials, any bar menu item is only $10! This includes their juicy Wagyu Brisket Burger (normally $23) and my favorite, the Chimichurri marinated steak and frites (normally $25). If you are in South Austin, check out Cane Rosso, which has drink specials and $5 and $7 pizzas. And Taverna (pictured above) has a Sunday – Friday happy hour with half priced wine, $5 drinks and $7 small plates and pizza.
Austin’s Best Tex-Mex and Mexican Food:
Tourist Favorite: As you can image, Austin has a ton of Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants. Some popular tourist favorites include Chuy’s, Trudy’s (known for their Mexican Martini) and Matt’s El Rancho; which all have been serving favorite classic dishes for generations.
Local Favorite: While I’ve dined at those above restaurants multiple times and will always go back, some other favorite places that all the locals love include Maudie’s Tex Mex, Manuel’s, and La Condesa, DK Maria’s (pictured above) which all serve classic dishes Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes, as well as trendy and more upscale versions of this favorite Texas cuisine.
Austin’s Best Desserts:
Tourist Favorite: Just like many popular Austin area barbecue joints, donut shops and Tex-Mex restaurants; there have been many local bakeries, ice cream parlors and restaurants that have quite the loyal fan following due to their appearances and features on national TV shows and magazines. Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop was one of the first local bakeries I explored when I started blogging (like, a million years ago) and it remains a favorite today. It has gotten quite popular over the years because they competed in and won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop sells a variety of baked goods but is best known for their cupcakes. I love their French Toast Cupcake (pictured above) and their Honey Baklava Cupcake.
Another popular hot spot for sweet treats is Cow Tipping Creamery. They have exploded in recent years and moved from food truck to a brick and mortar location here in Austin, as well as now opening locations in Dallas. This fun ice cream parlor features loaded (and I mean loaded) soft serve ice cream sundaes packed with cookies, brownies, fruit, nuts, sauces and more! Of course I love the Gimmie S’more Stacker, but you really can’t go wrong with any menu option, including their weekly special.
Local Favorites: I love Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop and Cow Tipping Creamery, but since I have a small sweet tooth, there are several other local dessert shops that I also love. For frozen treats, check out Prohibition Creamery that is half bar and half ice cream parlor. They serve a unique variety of ice cream flavors including Black Magic (charcoal infused ice cream), Sangria Sorbet and Tiramisu. We also like Bananarchy that serves loaded frozen banana pops and Kawaii’s Shaved Ice.
AND…. Last but certainly not least, some other local favorite restaurants that we LOVE that didn’t make the list above!
Salty Sow – This East Austin restaurant dishes up a variety of “fine dining” comfort food. I’m a huge fan of their Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad and their Slow Cooked Beef Shoulder. They also have a great happy hour with $5 wine, $4 beer and $5 small plates.
La Traviata Italian Bistro – This small downtown restaurant is our favorite for special occasions. We both love Spaghetti a la Carbonara and La Traviata serves the best we’ve ever had! I also recommend the Roasted Beets and Burrata and Homemade Ravioli.
Vinaigrette – If I’m looking for a lighter meal or freshly made cocktail, I love going to Vinaigrette (pictured above). Not only is this a beautiful, fresh looking space; they serve a variety of fresh, hearty salads, soups and sandwiches. They also make their cocktails and juices fresh and in house and have a delicious southwestern inspired weekend brunch (highly recommend the Savory Cilantro-Corn Pancakes!).
For a more detailed guide to the Best Restaurants in Austin, Texas, check out this Austin Best Eats City Guide. And don’t worry, if you are local and planning an upcoming vacation, I’ll be sharing an extensive guide to the best restaurants across the country in the up coming weeks. So stay tuned!