- Stephanie Chang
Austin is the hip, trendy, eclectic outlier in the heart of Texas. Whilst ‘Keep Austin Weird’ remains the city’s unofficial motto, Austin has built up a formidable reputation for being the foodie capital of Texas. From food cart to farm fresh organic, breakfast tacos to mouth watering BBQ, Austin is a true culinary haven. Here is an insider’s guide to a foodie day in Austin.
Breakfast is my favorite meal and Austin’s seemingly infinite choices make me wonder why I ever left the city. But it’s always a tricky trade off between grabbing a breakfast taco versus hunting down some locally-sourced Cuvée coffee. Thankfully, Thunderbird Coffee solves this conundrum by serving both breakfast tacos from Tacodeli and Cuvée coffee. For the intrepid, Thunderbird also offers a large selection of craft beers to choose from. Its two locations (Koenig Ln and Manor Rd) offer different beers, so be sure to check their menu beforehand.
Tacodeli Breakfast Tacos
Tacodeli uses the freshest ingredients for its tacos. All of its tacos are thoroughly Austin-created using local and organic produce, meats, seafood, and more. Quirky hipster vibes aside, Tacodeli also offers an amazing array of options for taco lovers. In short, there’s no way you can get just one. True to (Austin) form, Tacodeli also prepares vegetarian options with a wide range of flavors. Thunderbird Coffee offers a rotating selection of Tacodeli breakfast tacos.
Address: Tacodeli, Multiple locations in Austin.
BBQ In Lockhart
Lockhart’s not quite located in Austin, but the BBQ in Lockhart is too tasty to not be included on our list and makes for a great family mini-roadtrip. Lockhart, with a population of just over 13,000, has four world class BBQ joints to choose from, Smitty’s, Kreuz, Chisholm Trail, and Black’s. For Austinites who venture out regularly (it’s only a 35-40 minute drive), it’s Smitty’s BBQ for prime ribs and ribs, Kreuz for sausages, Chisholm Trail, and Black’s for a taste of history. With a rich history of cooking up quality BBQ, in 1960 Black’s even served its sausages in D.C. at the request of President Lyndon B. Johnson. If you find it hard to choose, why not drop by all four establishments in the BBQ Capital of Texas?
Address: Black’s Barbecue, 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644; Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que, 1323 S Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644; Kreuz Market Inc, 619 N Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644; Smitty’s Market, 208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX 78644.
Jester King Brewery
Having stretched your stomach to the brink out in Lockhart, soothe it with some Austin craft beer from Jester King Brewery. Or better yet, stop by its farmhouse brewery out in the gorgeous Texas Hill Country for a tour and tasting before heading back into Central Austin. Choose between year-round picks like ‘Le Petit Prince’ and ‘Mad Meg’ or find out which limited beers are available. Whether it’s ‘Weasel Rodeo’, ‘Das Uberkind’ or ‘Gotlandsdricka’, we’ve no doubt your taste buds will be buzzing happily. Sadly, due to the state’s befuddled alcohol laws, Texas breweries are not permitted to sell directly to consumers. The good news is, however, that many Austin-based establishments including Whole Foods, Central Market and the venerable San Antonio based H-E-B sell Jester King’s handcrafted artisan farmhouse beers.
Now that you feel so much more refreshed, it’s probably time for a little pre-snack snack. With many locations around Austin, there’s simply no excuse for not stopping by for a taco or three at Torchy’s Taco, a beloved Austin institution. Play with political fire with Torchy’s ‘The Republican’ and ‘The Democrat’, and ‘The Independent’ tacos. Or, if you’d rather go apolitical, try the simmering hot ‘Green Chile Pork’ taco on a hot, 40+ degree Texas summer. The locals do it, so why not?
Address: Torchy’s Tacos, Multiple locations in Austin.
If you stop by the South Austin Torchy’s at 1311 South 1st Street (which you really, really should), finish off your sizzling taco with bite-sized cake balls and an undeniably delicious frozen hot chocolate from Holy Cacao. Go for the classic Holly’s Favorite ‘All chocolate, All the time with chocolate cake, butter cream, dark chocolate and chocolate sprinkles’, or spice it up with Diablo ‘Chocolate, ancho-cayenne cream cheese frosting, dark chocolate, cayenne and cocoa toasted walnuts’. Wash it all down with Holy Cacao’s signature Decadent Drinking chocolate or, on a blistering hot summer day, the Frozen Hot Chocolate is always top of our list.
Summer time in Texas can be sweltering, so you need all the help you can get to fight the blistering Texas heat wave. By the time you walk to your car from Holy Cacao, you’re probably ready for another icy treat, and Bananarchy has just the answer. Take one or half of a Fairtrade banana, dip it in chocolate or peanut butter, then roll the sticky treat in any one of 11 topping of your choice, including Oreos, Toffee and Reese’s Pieces; Bananarchy decided that this is the best way to stand up to ‘the Man’, and we’re pretty much convinced. Go on, join the Bananarchist revolution.
Seasonal conceptual dining meets Japanese farmhouse fresh at Uchiko, which literally means ‘child of uchi’ (Uchi was chef Tyson Cole’s first restaurant). Having trained in Tokyo, New York and Austin, Cole combines top notch technique with multicultural flair. Using only sustainably sourced fresh seafood, Uchiko offers a seasonal menu that showcases a range of delicate, creative flavors. Austinites gravitate towards good food, so be sure to make your dinner plans early and book in advance.
East Side King
Uchiko is amazing, but visitors wanting to get in touch with Austin’s quirky vibe must stop by Paul Qui’s East Side King for a taste of Asian Fusion and food cart culture. Pick up some Thai Chicken Kara-age, Poor Qui’s Buns (roasted pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi, spring onions) or ESK’s Beet Home Fries with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise. Open from 5pm to 1:45am, East Side King is the perfect spot for a late night snack before heading straight to bed.
Address: ESK @The Liberty Bar, 1618 E 6th St; ESK @TheGrackle, 1700 East 6th Street, Austin, TX; ESK @Hole in the Wall, 2538 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX.
Schlotzsky’s, Salt Licks And Amy’s Ice Cream
Sadly, it’s time to leave Austin. If you rushed to the airport with no time for a morning snack, don’t worry. Go to the airport on an empty stomach because this fun, foodie city won’t let you leave hungry. If you’re flying out, be sure to rock up to the airport with an hour to spare. You won’t find any Pizza Huts here. Offering arguably the most welcoming and stress-free airport experience anywhere, Austin’s airport offers the best of local foods. The only stressful choice may be whether to go for BBQ at Salt Licks, established just outside of Austin in the town of Driftwood in 1967, or to grab ‘The Original®’ Schlotzsky’s sandwich served on its unique hot sourdough bread. Some say Schlotzky’s gone corporate, but I can never resist anyway. Finally it really, really is time to say goodbye. There’s no better way of bidding farewell than to join the queue in front of Amy’s Ice Cream. Go for a deliciously creamy Mexican Vanilla, an Amy’s classic, and add your choice of Crush’ns ranging from Oreos to Butterfinger to Gummy Bears.