Food Porn City: Eat Your Way Through Austin

Austin may be known as the Live Music Capital of the World, but it’s the restaurants that will dominate your days. From barbecue to Tex-Mex to food trucks, Austin has it all, in abundance.

Barbecue

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Franklin Barbecue is by far the most famous of Austin’s barbecue houses, but the 3-5 hour wait is not for everyone. Did you know that Franklin now has two “offspring?” La Barbecue was founded by one of the original Franklin partners and serves up tasty delights without the wait. Even newer is Mickelthwait, just a few block from Franklin, which is a food truck owned by a former Franklin employee. You can’t go wrong with any of these, unless you’re looking for a meal on a Sunday or Monday, when all three are closed.

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On Mondays you’re in luck at Iron Works, another old-school barbecue house with lots of charm. Iron Works is housed in a former iron workshop and is registered as a historical site. And while gas station food may not sound appealing, Rudy’s is renowned for amazing fast and casual barbecue.

 

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Heard in Austin, Texas: “Barbecue is going through a renaissance period. Everyone thinks they need to make it Tex-Mex, or gourmet, or healthy. Not me. I like my barbecue old-school – just the meat and the sauce. Mmm, mmm.”

 

 

 

Don’t forget the famous Salt Lick Barbecue, either in Round Rock or Driftwood. Go with a group and plan to make a day of it, because it’s always a long wait. Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty of picnic space and you can BYOB.austin

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Heard in Driftwood, Texas: “If I cut my fingers off, you better get it on film.”

 

Tex-Mex

Defining Tex-Mex is a conundrum to true foodies since it’s not really Mexican food.  Robb Walsh, a Texas food authority and author of The Hot Sauce Cookbook, defines it best in an interview with Splendid Table. In short, Tex-Mex is a Texas version of Mexican food that was adapted from Tejano home cooking. The Tejanos were the Spanish-speaking Native Americans that lived in south Texas after the Spanish pulled out in the late 1700s. Tex-Mex cuisine is descended from their tradition, and also from the Moroccan flavors brought by Canary Islanders who were brought to San Antonio by the Spanish to try to expand the colonization of Texas. Here are a couple of Austin favorites:

  • Chuy’s

While Austin tends to be chain-averse, Chuy’s is an exception because it is small and home-grown. The first Chuy’s opened in Austin in 1982 and they’ve been expanding ever since. Chuy’s is popular for its hand-made tortillas and fresh ingredients.

  • Chupacabra

Better known as a jumping night spot on 6th Street, Chupacabra also serves up some of Austin’s best Tex-Mex. Tacos are served single-style a la carte, so you can mix and match. You’ll have a hard time choosing a favorite between the barbacoa style goat and the pork belly.  

  • Juan in a Million

Seen on Man vs. Food a few years ago, Juan is popular for the breakfast burrito, a flour tortilla loaded with bacon, eggs, potato and cheese. For about $5, including extra tortillas, you’ll be stuffed for hours.

Food Trucks

Austin has so many food trucks you could spend a month eating three meals a day at food trucks and never hit the same one twice. And it’s not just your standard roach-coach fare – Austin’s food trucks deliver some of the most creative food imaginable, from Thai crepes to kimchi fries. Their names are pretty cool, too. Here are a few not-to-miss options:

  • Kimchi Fries at Chi’lantro (Town Lake)
  • Fried Avocado at Torchy’s Tacos (Guadelupe St.)
  • The Shiner Bock Monte Cristo at Hey! You Gonna Eat or What? (South Congress)
  • Aretha Franklin or Johnny Hash at Biscuits & Groovy (Duval St.)
  • Big Abdul at The Flying Carpet (W. Oltorf)
  • Flying Pig at Gourdough’s (S. 1st)
  • Takoyaki at Love Balls (Wurth St.)
  • Spicy Lamb Kebab at Kebabalicious (Barton Springs Road)
  • Boom Chicka-Wow-Wow at Lard Have Mercy (University of Texas)

Not enough food options for you? Check out this bit of nostalgia – a steak house that’s been going strong since 1934.

After gorging yourself on amazing Austin food porn, either grab a coffee at Tom’s on South Congress or burn off your calories on Lady Bird Park’s 10 miles of hiking/biking/running trails.

And don’t forget to tip your servers generously – they have a tough time making ends meet in Austin.

Do you have a favorite chow spot in Austin? Share it here in the comments!

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About Testarossa Travel

Testarossa Travel is a collection of stories about the amazing people of the world and the places they live. Adventurous, funny, and often humbling or downright embarrassing, these stories capture my experiences with authenticity and are meant to inspire readers to get out there and see the world. Each tale is designed to give the reader a true sense of a place, its sights, sounds and smells, and most of all, its people.

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