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The 10 Best Places to Eat in Austin, Texas

A local's guide for SXSW visitors to find the tastiest food in town.

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

March 9, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Austin, TX, home of SXSW, is known for its live music and its food. The fact is, you’d have to work pretty hard to find a bad meal in Austin. The people here take pride in being one of the food capitals of America. The weary SXSWer may have a hard time sorting the great places from the merely good, though, so as a local, I’m here to help out. Here are the places and meals you shouldn’t miss while you’re in town.

10. Pluckers Wing Bar. Locations: All over town. This chain of wing stops was started by some UT students. Pluckers isn’t fancy but it’s local and good, and has restaurants all over town.

 

 

 

9. Bacon. Location: 900 W 10th. It is exactly what it sounds like — a restaurant devoted wholly to the appreciation, nay worship, of bacon. Be forewarned that this restaurant is tiny and seating can be difficult to come by. But it’s incredible.

 

 

8. Hut’s Hamburgers. Location: 807 W 6th. Hut’s is part burger joint, part time machine. The burgers are juicy, the fries and shakes are fantastic, and the decor hasn’t changed since the Eisenhower administration.

 

 

 

 

7. Whole Foods. Location: 550 Bowie St. I know what you may be thinking: Isn’t Whole Foods a grocery store? It is that, but it’s so much more. This is the original Whole Foods, the loins from which all other Whole Foods sprang. It is the Mecca for any foodie, it has an incredible selection of local everything, and it has a cafe boasting a huge array of cuisines.

 

 

 

 

6. The Noble Pig. Location: 11815 620 N. Suite 4. The Noble Pig isn’t actually in Austin, it’s in Cedar Park. But if you have wheels and some time, you must eat here. You must. They slow cook their pork to the point that it’s almost a liquid. They make their fantastic potato chips in house. The place is small so seating is tight, but on a nice day you can occupy the picnic tables out front and feel like you’re eating pork cooked on a spit over an open flame. It’s amazing. Plus, if you’re here, you’re out of the downtown crowds for a while.

 

 

5. The Texas Chili Parlor. Location: 1409 Lavaca. It’s impossible to capture the Texas Chili Parlor’s ambiance and character. “Hole in the wall” doesn’t do it justice. They serve a Frito pie that is a Texas delicacy, and if you pile on enough jalapenos, it can take the top of your head clean off.

 

 

 

 

4. Torchy’s Tacos. All over town. Another local chain, Torchy’s started out as one of the ubiquitous taco trucks that dot the sides of Austin’s roads and parking lots. But Torchy’s rose to the top by being absolutely awesome in every way. Their salsa and hot sauces are killer. Get the Baja shrimp taco. You may never want to eat anyone else’s taco ever again once you’ve experienced Torchy’s.

 

 

3. Mighty Fine Burgers and Fries. Location: South, north-central, and way north (Round Rock). Texans love our burgers. We love our fries. Mighty Fine was born in Austin and makes both mighty and fine. And their shakes are among the best available on the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

2. The Salt Lick. Location: Driftwood (south), Bergstrom Airport, and Hutto (north). The Salt Lick is another out-of-the way place but it’s worth a drive. They cook their meats over an open pit right there in the restaurant. It’s as good as any barbeque you’ll ever have anywhere, at any time. The brisket melts in your mouth. The sides make grandmas everywhere burn with envy.

 

 

 

1. El Arroyo. Location: Downtown at 1624 W 5th, Far West at 7032 Wood Hollow. El Arroyo is an Austin institution from its signature sign out front to its salsa. When you go there, get the shrimp diablo. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable mention: Franklin’s Barbecue on 900 E 11th. Franklin’s has only been around for a few years, but it already dominates the Austin bbq scene. Like Torchy’s, Franklins started out as a parking lot cuisine. Now they practically run the town. If you want to experience their barbecue, though, you’ll have to line up early and be very patient. Word is, Franklin’s actually serves the best barbecue in the world. No kidding — Bon Appetit hailed it as America’s best barbecue in 2010. The reason I didn’t give it its own spot in the top ten? I haven’t been able to get in to eat there. It’s always, always, packed.

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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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My son lived in Austin far too long (now lives in Seguin!) and used to take me to restaurants he proclaimed were wonderful, but I never had a meal in any of those restaurants that was better than the ones near me in Corpus or the ones I preferred in San Antonio. I see some commentators here like Threadgills. Their food is remarkably blah but their entertainment is usually good. The best meal I ever had there was a hamburger with my four-year old grandaughter, when she heard a woman coughing and hacking and said to me, "Nonno, someone has got a dog in here." It brought the house down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are many other places too which are very nice for hang outs. They are missing above. Take look around and you will find some more awesome places.
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a 37 year resident of Austin, I have to ask what idiot prepared this list. Certainly it was not a resident. Maybe someone from Houston or Dallas who thinks he knows things by talking to other people. I can understand why an ex political hack would list Texas Chili Parlor and the yuppified college hangouts on the list, but some of the omissions (see the other comments) reflect an astonishing ignorance of the city.

And no, JustAl, Threadgills hasn't closed down although its prices have increased with its popularity, so expect a basic lunch to set you back close to $20. I used to eat there several times a week, but now it's several times a month instead.

And don't forget Schlotsky's, too, although by now they're hardly just an Austin phenomenon. By the way, where's The County Line? Also expensive, but I've never seen anyone serve beef ribs like they do. Also missing - The Oasis - although they turned that into a gigantic tourist destination and theme park when they rebuilt after the fire. The Hoffbrau? What else is missing?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wow! 37 years. I ask this in all sincerity. How do you do it?

I can't spend more than 10 minutes in Austin without someone, besides my brother-in-law, pissing me off to the point I want to do them grievous bodily harm and I'm a pretty relaxed live and let live kind of guy.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Tolbert, you know Austin, that's for sure. I always say that Austin is like a sinkhole opened up and all the carzies, zainies, commies, and fools rolled down into it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What about the Magnolia Cafe? Kerby Lane? Austin Java?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
OK, I admit I've not lived in Austin for almost 20 years, but has Threadgill's closed down?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Since you haven't mentioned breakfast I thought I would clue you in on the Upper Crust Bakery , 4508 Burnet Road, Austin.

I am sure that I will incur the wrath of Austinites, but I don't live there and if it gives my Austin dwelling, left of Nancy Pelosi, brother-in-law grief by overcrowding his haunts, then so much the better.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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