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 (see bottom of page for further explanation)

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). (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

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. (Takeout only 6-13-20)

China Palace–6605 Airport Blvd. (Chinese) Open Daily except Sun lunch.  Ask for the Chinese menu which has authentic Taiwanese dishes (but the regular menu is good also). (Takeout only 6-13-20)

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. (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

Din Ho Chinese BBQ–8557 Research Blvd. (Chinese) Wed-Sun 11am to 8:30 pm.  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. (Takeout only 6-13-20)

El Naranjo–2717 S. Lamar Blvd. (Mexican) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon). Mexican with chef from Oaxaca City. Along with Fonda San Miguel, it is supposed to be the best authentic Mexican food in Austin. (Dining room is open-reservations seem like a good idea 6-13-20)

Fat Dragon–8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. (Chinese) Closed Mon.  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). (Takeout and delivery only 7-18-20)

Fonda San Miguel–2330 W. North Loop Blvd. (Mexican) Dinner only Mon-Sat; Brunch Sun.  This is the type of upscale, authentic Mexican food I would like to see in every city, but it has been in Austin for 30 years. There are so many good items here it is hard to pick a favorite, but you can try several of them if you go for Sunday brunch. (Google says it is takeout only but web site says they have brunch on Sun, so I think one of these sites has to have the wrong information 6-13-20)

Franklin BBQ–900 E. 11th St. (BBQ) Open 11 am to 3 pm (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. (Takeout only 6-13-20)

Hoover’s–2002 Manor Rd. (Southern) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Discussion boards indicate that it has the best chicken fried steak in Austin (and that Threadgill’s is a close second). 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. Chicken fried chicken is also popular here. (Takeout only 7-9-20)

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. (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

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. (Dining room is open 7-9-20)

Licha’s Cantina–1306 E. 6th St. (Mexican) Dinner Tue-Sat; lunch Sat & Sun.  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). (Takeout only 7-18-20)

Madam Mam’s–9911 Brodie Ln. (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, but the one on Guadalupe is closed. This location has the best reviews. (Takeout only 7-9-20)

Matt’s El Rancho–2613 S. Lamar Blvd. (Tex-Mex) Open Daily.  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). (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

Mother’s Cafe–4215 Duval St. (Vegetarian) Open daily except Sat lunch & Sun lunch. Soups are good, and I liked a lot of the dishes. The mushroom stroganoff was disappointing, though (usually my favorite vegetarian dish). (Takeout and delivery only 7-9-20)

Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery–4909 Airport Rd. (Bakery) Open daily midnight to noon and 8 pm to midnight. 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. (Takeout and delivery only 7-9-20)

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. (Takeout and delivery only 7-9-20)

Rice Bowl–11220 N. Lamar Blvd. (Taiwanese) Open daily (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. (Takeout and delivery only 7-18-20)

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). (Takeout only 7-9-20)

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. (Takeout and delivery only 6-13-20)

Wu Chow–500 W. 5th St. (Chinese) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon).  Shanghai style noodles. Dim sum and steamed dumplings on menu. Reviewers say the food has a home made flavor. (Takeout only and menu seems to have changed-I think the dim sum selection is smaller than it used to be-also they have changed hours to dinner only 6-13-20)

Xian–1801 E. 51st St. (Chinese) Open daily (closed from 2:45 to 5 pm).  Hand pulled noodles and dumplings are good. (Takeout only 6-13-20)

Driftwood

Hays City Store–8989 FM 150 W (American) 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. (Dining room is open but they are not serving brunch 7-9-20)

Salt Lick BBQ–18300 FM 1826 (BBQ) Open daily 11 am to 8 pm. 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. (Takeout only 7-9-20)

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). (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

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. (Dining room is open 6-13-20)

Pflugerville

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. (Dining room is open 7-9-20)

Round Rock

Pho Lee–2601 S. IH-35 (Vietnamese) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Pho and vermicelli bowls are both very good. (Dining room is open 7-9-20)

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. (Dining room is open 7-9-20)

Thai Spoon–3720 Gattis School Rd. (Thai) Open daily except Sun lunch.  Very good reviews. Green curry, Panang curry, drunken noodles, chicken pad thai are recommended. (Dining room is open at 50 percent capacity 7-9-20)

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. (Takeout only 7-9-20)

Taylor

Louie Mueller BBQ–206 W. 2nd St. (BBQ) Lunch only (closed Sun).  This is supposedly one of the best BBQ places around. Ribs, brisket, and sausage are recommended. (Dining room is open at reduced capacity 7-9-20)

 

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

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.

 

Notes About This List:

This is a “master list” of restaurants that I have seen on the Internet or other sources and would like to try, or that I think would be of interest to others.  I do not mean for this to be an exhaustive list of every good place to eat, but it should represent a good sample of the most interesting or unique restaurants, along with a few that best represent an area’s regional cuisine.  My own recommendations are in Bold.

I am not looking to include:

  • Fine dining (unless they are unique because of regional specialties)
  • Low end restaurants that are popular with locals but may not be of much interest to travelers or people in general (everyone will have to use their judgment on this one)

Extra consideration for the following:

  • The food is organic, fresh, healthy, or farm to table
  • The restaurant serves a relatively hard to find type of ethnic food and reviews are good

In addition to the regular guidelines I try to include:

  • The best Asian restaurants in the area even if they are not totally authentic
  • Particularly good Mexican restaurants (this usually means the food is from a particular state in Mexico or it is one of the best examples of a U.S. regional style)

Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

 

Sources:

Chowhound (Austin)

City Data (Authentic Mexican Food)

Google Maps

TripAdvisor (Chicken Fried Steak Rec’s)

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

Yelp (Austin)

Zomato (Austin)

 

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