You might know Austin for SXSW, Austin City Limits, or…just as the dot of blue in the sea of red that is Texas. Austin is really a funky combination of offbeat, friendly, artistic, creative, intellectual, and just good old regular folks that have come together to create a laid back city of music, bike lanes, tattoo shops, farmers markets , food trucks, upscale restaurants, and so much more!
Recently, I spent 48 hours in Austin (also my first visit to grand old Texas!) and got a chance to visit some really cool places and get a taste for the much talked about food and drink scene.
Consistently one of the top restaurants in Austin, I had to make a stop at this Japanese spot that has been at the forefront of Austin’s jump to becoming a “foodie destination”. With a creative and extensive menu of sushi, seafood, and non-seafood dishes, a great sake and wine list, this place has it all – great food, atmosphere and service. Must haves include wagyu and scallop hot rock, hama chili and foie gras nigiri, but go hungry and eat everything on the menu. Seriously.
Pro tip: Make a reservation, this place gets packed nightly.
Copyright: Midnight Cowboy
In the middle of the madness that is Austin’s 6th street (think college town + tons of bars), there is a little gem of a speakeasy style bar that used to be a massage parlor (ahem… you know, that kind). At this dark and narrow spot, mixologists make drinks tableside – explaining what goes into each drink and making some killer cocktails. And if you have 4-8 people in your party, you can get one of their private rooms where the “massages” took place in the building’s earlier days.
Pro tip: Reservations needed, and there is a 2 drink minimum per person with a 2 hour limit
Lenoir, a beautiful restaurant in South Austin, is one the neighborhood’s cottage houses transformed into a small and intimate space of masculine dark wood and feminine white lace. It is very small – about 30 seats including the bar. The weekly and seasonally changing menu is divided into 4 areas – field, sea, land and dream (dessert) and you face pick 3 dishes for $ 38. It’s a bit hard to pin down the type of food they are serving, but they describe themselves as “hot weather food” – spicy, acidic and with Asian influences. Delicate dishes with bold flavors.
Images Copyright Jody Horton Photography
Pro tip: Go in a small group, and try everything on the menu by sharing! Make sure to visit the backyard alfresco space when it’s nice outside.
South Asian food, South Austin mood. Sold. What do you get when a convenience store adds on a beer bar, wine bar, concert space, great patio and Indian- meets-Austin food? That’s Whip-in for you. They have their own brewery and have some great beers (with extremely interesting names!) on their rotation and a fabulous patio with a super relaxed vibe. Definitely an awesome Austin-y spot!
One of the best things about Austin is the food truck parks –a number of food trucks lined up and a dining area of picnic tables, allowing everyone to pick what they want and sit down collectively to eat. This laid back attitude is typical of Austin and I absolutely loved it.
Torchy’s tacos food trucks can be found all over Texas, with multiple locations in Austin. Based on that, I was a bit apprehensive that it might be too commercialized. The menu is fairly extensive, with breakfast tacos and others. I must warn you, they are pretty filling, and we stuffed our faces with a variety of them. Personal favorites – fried avocado and the green chile pork.
Warning: Each donut is literally the size of your head, so do not plan on doing any physical activity after ingesting one of these. But please, do make a stop here. They are some of the best doughnuts I have ever had. It was tough to choose from the long and interesting menu, but you can’t go wrong. Each donut is freshly made to order and if there is just one guilty pleasure you allow yourself, let it be Gourdoughs.
Do yourself a favor. Follow these guys and hunt them down after your late night shenanigans on 6th street. This place came highly recommended by a friend and it did not disappoint. The Turkish wraps are flavorful and plenty for the price you pay. But make sure to time your visit as the line can get pretty long. Great for lunch or dinner, but perfect for late night noshing.
Other spots on our list (that we didn’t make it to) included Barley Swine, the legendary East Side King, Eastside Showroom and Congress. In 48 hours, we barely touched the tip of the Austin food scene, and I can’t wait to go back.
Have any favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Opening Image Credit: Uchi