Austin, with its rapidly expanding dining scene, has evolved multiple dining districts, each with its own unique personality. In the last five years, the traditional Eastside of the city experienced a radical transformation from hip bar scene to modern dining enclave. Here is a list of the current best 10 restaurants to enjoy next time you visit East Austin.
Top Chef winner and James Beard awardee Paul Qui opened his namesake restaurant on the Eastside a couple of years ago, and Austin has been raving ever since. His first fine dining restaurant is both a homage to the home cooking of his native Philippines and a forward-looking take on modern global cuisine. His food has been described as meticulous, exquisite, and sensual.
This beautifully designed restaurant from Chef Rene Ortiz in the heart of the Eastside has created a buzz about its modern interpretation of Mediterranean food. You can expect shareable plates that range from hamachi crudo to chilled beef tongue done with bright flavors. Toast is on the menu, and the version with crab is fantastic. This restaurant will remind you that dinner can be a gift for the senses.
With its funky French motif, Justine’s Brasserie will remind you of going to someone’s house for a great dinner party. The oldest restaurant on the list, this French restaurant will make you want to hang out with all your new best friends who were also invited to the party as you enjoy steak frites, homemade charcuterie, and cote de pore.
On a side of town where Tex Mex and regional Mexican food of all types live comfortably near one another, Licha’s authentic take on Mexico City–style casual food has been received enthusiastically by East Austin. Try the huaraches tuetano with bone marrow or champinon (mushrooms). Plates of enmoladas (roasted duck with mole) and cochinita pibil will have you singing the praises of Licha’s fresh take on an old cuisine.
Eclectic new American food can be found at neighborhood hangout, The Hightower. You will enjoy the Brussels sprouts with peanut butter and sambal. Roasted pork jowl never disappoints in a rice bowl over egg, avocado, and cucumber. On weekends, come for brunch with grit waffles, boudin hash, and smoked red fish hash over crostini.
Jacoby’s is a real Texas restaurant beautifully done on the banks of Lady Bird Lake. The owners get their beef, lamb, and goat from their family farm in West Texas. They also take pride in sourcing produce as locally as possible. You will see many central Texas classics done to exacting standards, like chicken fried steak on waffles, shrimp and grits, and cornmeal-crusted rainbow trout.
Bufalina offers authentic Neapolitan pizza served in a small but modern and handsome Italian space. The owner and chef Steven Dilley imported a stefano forni built brick oven to recreate the cooking heat needed to get his artisanal pizza crust just perfect. Start your trip to Naples with the harissa with eggplant shallot and pistachio, or perhaps the braised goat with Garrotxa cheese and fennel pollen. They are as delicious as they sound.
This Japanese izakaya (pub) style restaurant, where drinking and dining go hand in hand and relaxing is the point, is from longtime Austin sushi chef Kazu Fukumoto. You can expect expertly produced cuts of yellowtail, buttery salmon belly, and delicate fatty bluefin tuna. You get excellent yakitori (with offal cuts like chicken hearts) and light and lacey fried tempuras. Celebrate your good fortune with about 20 different sake options and a nice selection of Japanese beers.
A modern, vegetable-forward restaurant that features proteins in a more complementary role, Gardner really speaks to the soul of progressive Eastsiders. The menu is split into first and second courses. You may start with beet terrine with pistachio or carrots with vadouvan, mint, bell pepper, hazelnut. Then try the Carolina gold rice with broccoli, mint, green olive or the ribeye with brassicas, charred onion, black truffle puree.
A fresh perspective on Indian favorites, Nasha does things a little differently. Have the biryanis with lamb or shrimp or go vegan with the aloo gobi, a curry of cauliflower potato and peas, or chana masala, a curried stew of garbanzo beans in tomato sauce. You can also try something new: Indian Tacos. East Austin’s unique version of Tex-Mex, these tacos are filled with chicken marsala, fish malvani, and egg burgi.