Restaurant Guide–Austin

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  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources

Austin

Balkan Cafe–11800 N. Lamar Blvd. (Serbian) Open daily (open to 11pm on weekends).  Sampler plate is good for first time visitors, or order something from the menu (gulash or the kabobs are a good choice). Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Cafe Malta–3421 W. William Cannon Dr. (Mediterranean) Dinner only (closed Mon).  Restaurant is what I would hope from the name–serves food from Malta. Reviewers say food is good but prices are high (they serve small plates so perhaps most people order several of them in order to get a good taste of the country). Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Chen’s Noodle House–8650 Spicewood Springs (Chinese) Closed Tue.  Go for hand shaved noodles and scallion pancakes (and a lot of other good stuff). Home cooking style of food. Map (Dining room is open 1-31-22)

China Palace–6605 Airport Blvd. (Chinese) Closed Sat lunch & Sun.  Ask for the Chinese menu which has authentic Taiwanese dishes (but the regular menu is good also). Map (Dining room is open 1-31-22)

Chinatown–3407 Greystone Dr. (Chinese) Open daily 11am to 9:30pm.  I have always been very impressed with this restaurant, and I understand it has gotten even better by adding dim sum and other authentic items.  When I went the best items were the spicy Szechuan style dishes.  Reviewers say it now offers authentic and Americanized dishes, and all of them are good. Map (Dining room is open 11-11-21)

Din Ho Chinese BBQ–8557 Research Blvd. (Chinese) Closed Tue.  Sounds like it would be one of my favorite places for authentic Chinese food. Chinese BBQ is the specialty of the restaurant. Also has hot pot dishes. Map (Dining room is open 1-31-22)

El Naranjo–2717 S. Lamar Blvd. (Mexican) Dinner Tue-Sat; Lunch Sun (closed Mon). Mexican with chef from Oaxaca City. Along with Fonda San Miguel, it is supposed to be the best authentic Mexican food in Austin. Map (Dining room is open 5-20-22)

Fat Dragon–8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm (9:30 pm on Fri & Sat).  Serves soup dumplings (xiao long bao). Has a number of other authentic dishes, and some (but not all) look Sichuanese or other types of spicy dishes. Food looks very good but it is mainly dinners (you are not going to get lunch specials here although some dishes are no more expensive than a typical Chinese lunch). Map (Dining room is open 5-20-22)

Fonda San Miguel–2330 W. North Loop Blvd. (Mexican) Dinner only (closed Sun).  This is the type of upscale, authentic Mexican food I would like to see in every city, but it has been in Austin since 1975. I think this is a lot more formal than Licha’s but has similar food. Specializes in food from Yucatan and Puebla. Cochinita pibil is popular. Map (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Franklin BBQ–900 E. 11th St. (BBQ) Open 11 am to 2 pm-stays open to 3 pm if they still have food left (closed Mon). Reputed to be the best BBQ in Austin (and maybe in Texas). Standing in line for the food seems to be the norm. Restaurant opens at 11:00 AM, and many people start standing in line well before this time. May sell out of food before the closing time. Map (Dining room is open but may close temporarily due to staff shortages 12-23-21)

Hoover’s–2002 Manor Rd. (Southern) Dinner Tue-Sun (closes 9 pm); Lunch Wed-Fri (11-2).  Discussion boards indicated that it had the best chicken fried steak in Austin (and that Threadgill’s was a close second–Note: Threadgill’s is now closed). This is a meat plus three restaurant and apparently not everything served here is great, but when I lived in Austin the meat + 3 concept provided some of my best meals there. Map (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Hyde Park Bar & Grill–4206 Duval St. (American) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Eater.com says it has the best chicken fried steak in Austin (just the right hint of buttermilk in the crust). Map (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Iron Works BBQ–100 Red River St. (BBQ) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Sun). Reviewers recommend Beef ribs, brisket, banana pudding, and say the sauce is excellent. I mostly remember it for the chopped brisket. Map (Dining room is open 11-11-21)

Jacoby’s–3235 E. Cesar Chavez St. (American) Dinner Wed-Sat; Lunch Sat & Sun (closed Mon & Tue).  Has chicken fried steak that I would like to try because it seems to be like the “classic” ones I remember. (Dining room is open 9-24-21)

Kerbey Lane Cafe–3704 Kerbey Ln. (Cafe) Open daily 7 am to 10 pm. Good for late night eating (much healthier than most of the alternatives). This is a farm to market restaurant and does serve meat, but I knew it as one of the best places for vegetarian food. Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Licha’s Cantina–1306 E. 6th St. (Mexican) Dinner only (closed Mon); lunch on Sat.  Authentic Puebla and Oaxaca style Mexican food according to reviews and looking at the dishes served. In a bar and patio setting (the food is fairly upscale but the atmosphere is not). (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Madam Mam’s–510 W. 26th St. (Thai) Open Daily. I read that Austin has over 70 Thai restaurants, and this is on the top of my list to try because of its reviews (also I liked the Thai rest. that was the predecessor of Madam Mam’s on Guadalupe). MM’s has two other locations. (Dining room is open 7-26-21)

Matt’s El Rancho–2613 S. Lamar Blvd. (Tex-Mex) Closed Tue.  This is one of Austin’s longest running Tex-Mex restaurants, and one of its most popular. Has a large menu that will give a good “Austin Tex-Mex experience” (it may be especially good for those who have never had Austin Tex-Mex food before). Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Mi Sabor Oaxaqueno–10503 N. Lamar Blvd. (Mexican) Dinner daily; Lunch Sat & Sun.  This is a food truck with picnic tables under a canopy (because all of us who have lived in Austin know that it can occasionally have a slight bit of rain). It serves Oaxacan food fast-food style. The specialty here is Tlayudas. I don’t think they have anything with mole. Map (Dining room is open 1-31-22)

Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery–4909 Airport Rd. (Bakery) Open all night (only closes from noon to 7:30 pm). Get donuts fresh out of the oven. The glazed donuts coming off the conveyor belt are the best I have ever had (seriously!). A good time to go is about 9:00 PM when they are hot. Map (Temporarily closed 5-20-22)

Pieous–166 Hargraves Dr. (Pizza) Closed Mon (and closed from 2 to 4 pm).  The star here is Neapolitan Pizza that is certified authentic by VPN. Other items available include side dishes, salad, sandwiches, pastrami, and desserts. At Christmas it is closed until several days after New Year, and there may be other times when it would probably be good to check their hours before making a trip. Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Ramen Tatsu Ya–8557 Research Blvd. (Japanese) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm. Specialty is tonkotsu ramen. This is probably one of the best ramen places in the Southwest, if not the country. Also at 1234 S. Lamar and 1600 E. 6th St. (Dining room is open 7-26-21)

Rice Bowl–11220 N. Lamar Blvd. (Taiwanese) Closed Mon (and closed 2:30 to 4:30 pm).  Authentic food has good reviews, although they mention that there is also an Americanized menu. Onion pancake and three cup chicken are favorites. Vegetarian food is popular here. (Dining room is open 7-26-21)

Sabor Cubano El Habanero–10601 N. Lamar Blvd. (Cuban) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Small restaurant with very good reviews. Customers say it has authentic home style Cuban food. All the photos show food in styrofoam or plastic containers, but it looks like very good food. (Dining room is open 10-14-21)

Sao Paulo’s–2809 San Jacinto Blvd. (Brazilian) Lunch Mon-Sat; dinner Thu-Sat. The most recommended place in town for Brazilian food other than a steakhouse or food truck (in other words, you can sit down and enjoy a traditional Brazilian meal here). Map (Temporarily closed 1-31-22)

Scholz Garten–1607 San Jacinto Blvd. (German) Closed Sun evening; closed Mon & Tue.  Has a good German menu, but also other items such as chicken fried steak. Popular for “snacks” (most seem to be large enough for several people) that go with its German draft or Austin draft beer. Most people eat outside in its Biergarten (I think it has indoor dining but I don’t have personal experience with it). Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Sichuan River–4534 West Gate Blvd. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.  Reviewers say this is authentic Sichuanese food. Photos of the food posted on line convince me that this is the real deal. (Dining room is open 7-26-21)

Trudy’s Texas Star–409 W. 30th St. (Southwest) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  This is not one of my fondest memories for the food, but it is a good choice particularly when you need to eat after 9 pm, and I think it succeeds where most chain restaurants fail (having a wide variety of items with all of them being pretty good). Here they also have a number of Mexican and Texas style Mexican dishes, although they are not classic Tex-Mex style Map. (Temporarily closed 1-31-22)

Wu Chow–500 W. 5th St. (Chinese) Closed Sat lunch, closed Sun evening (and closed from 2 to 5 pm).  Shanghai style noodles. Dim sum and steamed dumplings on menu. Reviewers say the food has a home made flavor. Map (Dining room is open 2-9-22)

Xian–1801 E. 51st St. (Chinese) Open daily (closed from 2:45 to 5 pm).  Hand pulled noodles and dumplings are good. Map (Dining room is open 2-9-22)

Del Valle

Little Thailand–4315 Caldwell Ln. (Thai) Closed Mon (and closed from 2 to 4 pm weekdays).  Thai food that tastes home made–the menu is simple but the food is very good. I tried the pad thai, but other dishes that look good include the curries (all the curries are recommended by reviewers), their “Specialty Entrees” (with items such as pad prik khing), and soups (they have a good selection). Map (Dining room is open 11-11-21)

Driftwood

Hays City Store–8989 FM 150 W (Gastropub) Open Daily.  This is said to be one of the top places in the Austin area for chicken fried steak. The menu is varied, though, and other items such as crab cakes also get good reviews. Map (Dining room is open 2-6-22)

Salt Lick BBQ–18300 FM 1826 (BBQ) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm–11 to 10 on weekends. Diners say get ribs first, then brisket (ribs are best).  Has both beef and pork ribs. Sides seem to be a weakness of this place. Customarily has long lines waiting to get in. Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Georgetown

Mango Tango–114 E. 7th St. (Cambodian) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Sun evening & Mon).  Good reviews, and it seems that everyone likes the food. Cambodian noodles are said to be very good, but there are many items that look good. Menu items have names like “stir fried squash” and “ginger delight” rather than their Cambodian names, and I think this makes it easier for people to know what to order. Looks like a good concept with very good food. Map (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Lago Vista

Four Brothers–7500 Lohman Ford Rd. (Venezuelan) Closed Mon & Tue.  This is a food truck parked in what looks like a food court with outdoor tables available. Food here looks very impressive with a wide variety of items. Map (Takeout only but outdoor patio tables are available 12-23-21)

Lakeway

Pao’s Mandarin House–2300 Lohmans Spur (Taiwanese) Closed Tue (and closed from 3 to 4:30 pm).  Ask for the Chinese menu to get authentic food. Some say the tofu dishes are especially good. Most dishes look like they are good sized (meant to be served family style in order to share). Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Santa Catarina–1310 Ranch Rd. 620 S. (Mexican) Open Daily. Authentic Oaxacan style food that is upscale and somewhat expensive, but worth it. Looks very good from reviews and photos, but some say it is not better than comparable places in Austin. Map (Dining room is open 2-4-22)

Leander

Ziggy’s Kielbasa House–2403 S. US 183 (Polish) Lunch only–open to 7 pm Thu-Sat (closed Mon). Mostly does sandwiches–it is more of a deli than a restaurant. They are said to be very good. Map (Takeout only 2-4-22)

Pflugerville

Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue–15608 Spring Hill Ln. (BBQ) Lunch Wed-Sun (open to 7 pm Thu-Sat).  Known for its smoked beef sandwiches such as Reuben, Italian beef, and Pfilly. Texas Monthly thinks it has some of the best brisket anywhere. Map (Dining room is open 2-4-22)

Taste of Ethiopia–1100 Grand Ave. Parkway (Ethiopian) Open daily noon to 9 pm.  One of the better Ethiopian restaurants in the Austin area. For first time visitors the lunch buffet gives you a good taste of the different foods (available at lunch Mon-Fri). Also at 3801 S. Congress in Austin. Map (Dining room is open 12-23-21)

Round Rock

Pho Hoang–399 W. Louis Henna Blvd. (Vietnamese) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Has a large menu of more hard to find items (pork chops, pork skin, lemongrass dishes, etc.). Map (Dining room is open 5-17-22)

Pho Viet–603 Louis Henna Blvd. (Vietnamese) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  One of the better Viet. rests. in the Austin area. This is the place to go to “explore the menu” (try items other than pho). Clay pots are especially good. Banh xeo is also recommended. Map (Dining room is open 5-21-22)

Thai Spoon–3720 Gattis School Rd. (Thai) Dinner daily; Lunch Fri & Sat.  Very good reviews. Green curry, Panang curry, drunken noodles, chicken pad thai are recommended. Map (Dining room is open 2-6-22)

Veracruz All Natural–2711 La Frontera Blvd. (Mexican) Breakfast and lunch only (open daily).  Authentic Mexican food, but you only get the healthy stuff. Specializes in tacos. Map (Dining room is open 2-6-22)

Taylor

La Scala–203 N. Main St. (Italian) Open Wed-Sat (dinner only).  Apparently this is a very special Italian restaurant that is upscale and has food that is far from run of the mill. Main plates are about $17 to $20 on the 2021 menu (so it’s not too expensive). Also has pizza. Map (Dining room is open 2-4-22)

Louie Mueller BBQ–206 W. 2nd St. (BBQ) Open Wed-Sat 11 am to 4 pm (or until they run out).  This is supposedly one of the best BBQ places around. Ribs, brisket, and sausage are recommended. Map (Dining room is open 9-24-21)


  • For additional explanation of this list see Index
  • Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions

Barbecue

Texas Monthly published a list of the top 100 barbecue restaurants in Texas for 2021. The following are the ones in the Austin area:

Top Ten:

  • InterStellar BBQ–12233 RR 620 N (Austin)  No. 2 in the state.  This is an “ambitious” place where they cook a simple brisket, pork ribs without the usual glaze but with with brown sugar in the rub, chicken breast, pork belly with a peach-tea glaze, and an onion stuffed with chopped brisket. Map Wed-Sun 11-5
  • LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue–121 Pickle Rd. (Austin)  No. 5 in the state.  This is “new school BBQ” where have added barbacoa, whole hog sausage, Akaushi brisket, and sides such as kimchi. Map Wed-Sun 11-9
  • Franklin Barbecue–900 E. 11th St. (Austin)  No. 7 in the state.  Brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork keep it in the top ten (it is just as good as when they rated it No. 1 but other places have opened since then that the judges like even better). Map Tue-Sun 11-sold out (2 to 3)

The Rest of the Best (No. 11-50):

  • Distant Relatives–3901 Promontory Point Dr. (Austin).  Food truck where you can try “modern African American” dishes such as black eyed peas with burnt ends or chicken leg quarters. Map Wed-Sun noon-8 or sold out
  • La Barbecue–2402 E. Cesar Chavez (Austin).  Brisket burnt end with kimchi is recommended, or sausge (original, jalapeño, or chipotle). Map Wed-Sun 11-6
  • Micklethwait Craft Meats–1309 Rosewood Ave. (Austin).  Food truck with pork ribs, brisket, chicken, and Tex-Czech sausage. Map Thu-Sun 11-sold out
  • Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ–11500 Menchaca Rd. (Austin).  Food truck specializing in brisket breakfast tacos (and other tacos) with fresh salsa. Map Wed-Sun 7:30-6 or sold out
  • Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue (Pflugerville).  Smoked beef sandwiches are popular (Reuben, Italian beef, and Pfilly). Brisket is some of the best. Map Sun & Wed 11-3; Thu-Sat 11-6
  • Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor).  Beef ribs are some of the best you will find anywhere. Brisket and beef sausage are also near-perfect. Map Wed-Sat 11-4 or sold out

Our 50 BBQ Honorable Mentions

  • Austin:  J. Leonardi’s Barbeque Map, Moreno Barbecue Map, Stiles Switch BBQ Map, Whitfield’s Map

Note: Texas Monthly is now putting more weight on “modern” barbecue that they think tastes good. For traditional BBQ they do not like brisket to be too salty or ribs to be too sweet.


Chicken Fried Steak

Wide Open Eats “The 10 Best Chicken Fried Steaks in Texas That’ll Change Your Life (May 2019):

  • Austin:  Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill–303 Red River St. Chicken fried steak with a spicy chipotle gravy. Map

Special Note About Mexican Food (Feb 2017):

There are really three types of Mexican food that are of note in Austin: (1) Tex-Mex, (2) tacos and street food and (3) authentic food from the Mexican interior, particularly alta cocina. I have listed a little bit of Tex-Mex on this list simply because I think Austin and San Antonio are the best places for it. For tacos I have seen so many recommendations that I really could not pick out one or two places to list here (but when I start to see a consensus about certain places I will add them).

For this list I concentrate mainly on authentic restaurants (the ones at which I have eaten are in bold). Most of the restaurants on this list were found using the old Urbanspoon web site, and I have confirmed that they are good choices with Yelp. This does not mean they are the best Mexican restaurants in Austin, but I do believe the ones identified as “Mexican” (as opposed to Tex-Mex) are authentic.

There was a discussion on City-Data about authentic Mexican food that I think adds excellent recommendations to the ones I already have. These are some of the recommendations for which I think there is a pretty good consensus:

  • Fonda San Miguel (very good-already on my list) Map
  • Sazon (1816 S. Lamar–Open Daily) Has mole and pozole, but the conchita pibil is a favorite Map
  • Santa Catarina (on my list, in Lakeway, but there is another location in Cedar Park). Rellenos en nogada is recommended Map

The C-D discussion also made a point about restaurants that should not be recommended as authentic, with Trudy’s being mentioned. I would add Chuy’s to the list.


Sources:

Chowhound (Austin)

City Data (Authentic Mexican Food)

Eater.com (13 Great Bets for Chicken Fried Steak)

Google Maps

Texas Monthly “The Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints 2021 (TexasMonthly.com). Note: This is a subscription site

TripAdvisor (Chicken Fried Steak Rec’s)

Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

VPN Americas (Texas)

Wide Open Eats (The Ten Best Chicken Fried Steaks in Texas That’ll Change Your Life)

Yelp (Austin)

Zomato (Austin)