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

A+A Sichuan–13376 Research Blvd. (Chinese) Open daily except Sun lunch.  Reviews say this is the best Sichuan rest. in Austin.  Has Sichuan hot pot. (2-13-16)

Balkan Cafe–11800 N. Lamar Blvd. (Serbian) Open daily (open to midnight).  Sampler plate is good for first time visitors, or order something from the menu (gulash or the kabobs are a good choice). (2-23-17)

Cafe Mueller–1801 E. 51st St. (BBQ) Open Daily.  Located inside the HEB Grocery Store, this is a new concept for barbecue, offering pizza and Asian barbecue as well. Brisket and beef ribs are good choices if you want the traditional BBQ. Has convenient hours, being open from 11 am to 9 pm daily (later on Fri & Sat). (2-23-17)

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. (2-13-16)

China Palace–6605 Airport Blvd. (Chinese) Open Daily (closed from 2:30 to 4:30 pm).  Ask for the Chinese menu which has authentic Taiwanese dishes (but the regular menu is good also). (2-23-17)

Chinatown–3407 Greystone Dr. (Chinese) Open Daily.  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. (2-13-16)

Din Ho Chinese BBQ–8557 Research Blvd. (Chinese) Open Daily.  Sounds like it would be my favorite for everyday, authentic Chinese food.  Chinese BBQ is the specialty of the restaurant. (2-13-16)

El Naranjo–85 Rainey St. (Mexican) Dinner only Tue-Sat; Brunch Sun.  Authentic Mexican with a specialty in mole and Oaxacan/Puebla style food.  Along with Fonda San Miguel, it is supposed to be the best authentic Mexican food in Austin. (2-23-17)

El Patio–2938 Guadalupe St. (Tex-Mex) Closed Sun & Mon.  One of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants.  I loved the combination plates which included iced tea & dessert (I don’t know if they still have a choice of pralines, but the sherbet was good also). Note: This is Tex-Mex (don’t come here expecting authentic Mexican food). (2-23-17)

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. (2-23-17)

Franklin BBQ–900 E. 11th St. (BBQ) Open 11 am to 3 pm (closed Sun).  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. (2-23-17)

Hill’s Cafe–4700 S. Congress Ave. (American) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  I have to mention this as the place I usually went for chicken fried steak (CFS), although I now think 620 Cafe in Round Rock is probably better. (2-23-17)

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. (2-23-17)

Kerbey Lane Cafe–3704 Kerbey Ln. (Vegetarian) Open Daily.  Good for late night eating (much healthier than most of the alternatives). (2-23-17)

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). (2-23-17)

Madam Mam’s–2514 Guadalupe St. (Thai) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  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 here before Madam Mam’s, and presumably MM’s predecessor-the curry was particularly good). MM’s has another location at 2700 W. Anderson Ln. (2-23-17)

Matt’s El Rancho–2613 S. Lamar Blvd. (Tex-Mex) Closed Tue.  Larger restaurant and more popular than El Patio, but personally I liked El Patio better. Matt’s would be the choice, though, if you want more menu selection and if you want more of the “Austin Tex-Mex experience” (it may be especially good for those who have never had Austin Tex-Mex food before). (2-23-17)

Mother’s Cafe–4215 Duval St. (Vegetarian) Open Daily.  Soups are good, and I liked a lot of the dishes.  The mushroom stroganoff was disappointing, though (usually my favorite vegetarian dish). (2-23-17)

Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery–4909 Airport Rd. (Bakery) Open daily 7:30 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. (2-23-17)

Ramen Tatsu Ya–8557 Research Blvd. (Japanese) Open Daily.  Specialty is tonkotsu ramen. Also at 1234 S. Lamar. (2-23-17)

Rice Bowl–11220 N. Lamar Blvd. (Taiwanese) Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.  Authentic food.  Onion pancake and three cup chicken are favorites. (2-23-17)

Sao Paulo’s–2809 San Jacinto Blvd. (Brazilian) Lunch Mon-Fri; dinner Fri & 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). (2-23-17)

Swad–9515 N. Lamar Blvd. (Indian) Open daily 11:30 am to 9:30 pm.  Vegetarian only.  Reviews make me think this is the most flavorful and authentic Indian rest. in Austin. Specialized in south Indian food. Has Thali. (3-6-17)

Whole Foods–525 N. Lamar Blvd. (Organic) Open daily 7 am to 10 pm.  In addition to being the chain’s flagship store, there is also a very good restaurant/deli here where you can get very good breakfasts as well as other meals. (2-23-17)

Wu Chow–500 W. 5th St. (Chinese) Lunch Sun-Fri; dinner Mon-Sat (closed from 2 to 5 pm).  Shanghai style noodles.  Dim sum on Sunday.  Reviewers say the food has a home made flavor. (2-23-17)

Xian–1801 E. 51st St. (Chinese) Open daily (closed from 3 to 5 pm).  Hand pulled noodles and dumplings are good. (2-23-17)

Driftwood

Salt Lick BBQ–18300 FM 1826 (BBQ) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Get ribs first, then brisket (ribs are best).  Has both beef and pork ribs. (2-13-16)

Lakeway

Pao’s Mandarin House–2300 Lohmans Spur (Taiwanese) Open daily (closed 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). (3-6-17)

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. (2-23-17)

Pflugerville

Mexico Tipico–15200 FM 1825 (Mexican) Closed Sun night & Wed.  Authentic Mexican (and very good according to reviews).  Has some Tex-Mex also (but I don’t know if it’s connected with the old Austin restaurant of the same name). (3-6-17)

Taste of Ethiopia–1100 Grand Ave. Parkway (Ethiopian) Open daily 11 am to 10 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. (3-6-17)

Round Rock

620 Cafe–910 Round Rock Ave. (American) Open daily (breakfast & lunch only).  One of the best places for chicken fried steak. (3-6-17)

Pho Lee–2601 S. IH-35 (Vietnamese) Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.  Pho and vermicelli bowls are both very good. (3-6-17)

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. (3-6-17)

Quinoa Grill–2051 Gattis School Rd. (Peruvian) Open 11 am to 9 pm daily.  Lomo saltado is recommended. (3-6-17)

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. (3-6-17)

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. (3-6-17)

 

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)

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

Yelp (Austin)

Zomato (Austin)

 

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