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Great Restaurants in Austin, Texas

Updated on February 28, 2013
Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas | Source

While in Austin don't eat at chains - seek out Austin original eateries

Everybody in Texas knows that Austin is weird, and proud of it. It's true of their eclectic music and arts scene, it's true of their vibrantly creative college crowd, and it's true of their food. When in Austin, you may be tempted to stop off at the local McDonalds for a burger or hit the Red Lobster at dinnertime - but don't do it. Austin offers original dining experiences, so try the truly local cuisine and experience this wonderfully weird town at its culinary best.

Magnolia Cafe
Magnolia Cafe | Source

Delicious Breakfast Options in Austin, Texas

There are a couple of fantastic breakfast eateries unique to Austin that any visitor should get a chance to visit during his or her time here. If what you are hankering for is a tasty scone or cinnamon bun with a steaming cup of cappuccino, try Quack's 43rd Street Bakery, the present incarnation of Austin's first coffee house, which opened on the University of Texas Drag in 1983. Quack's offers everything from chocolate hazelnut biscotti to strawberry rhubarb pie in its delicious and eclectic baked goods section, or you can choose a breakfast panini sandwich from the deli instead.

If you are looking for a healthier option, try Mother's Cafe and Garden on Duval street. Mother's has been serving up outstanding vegetarian fare since 1980. Come in for the Weekend Brunch and try a southwestern omelette or Sante Fe Breakfast tacos; vegans can substitute tofu for the eggs. You can also try the vegan Pancake of the Day, served with strawberries and whipped creme.

A third option is Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard. Breakfast is served here 24 hours a day - 13 different types of omelettes, migas, breakfast tacos, french toast, and an original creation called the "Eggscape" - two eggs served over home fries and sausage.

Finally, no discussion of breakfast eateries in Austin can be complete without a shout-out to Kerbey Lane Cafe, an Austin institution since 1980 which now has five locations. Open 24 hours to serve the needs of hungry college students, Kerbey Lane serves up an eclectic menu to please a wide variety of palettes. Vegans can dig into vegan breakfast tacos made with tofu while meat lovers feast on the breakfast platter, featuring bacon, sausage patties or grilled ham steak along with eggs and pancakes. Specialty items at Kerbey Lane include Kerbey Queso, a unique appetizer made of guacamole topped with queso and pico de gallo.

All four of these restaurants have been huge favorites with the University of Texas crowd for over a decade. They are also open for lunch and dinner, but breakfast time is when they really shine.


Luscious Lunches in Austin

Want to grab a burger in Austin? Well, move over, Fuddruckers, because the best burger joint in town is Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The biggest drawback to this place is that the line is long because the food is so good. The beef comes from humanely-raised cows, and in addition to the classic burger there are eleven amazing specialty burgers - the "Buffalo Bill" made of bison meat, a greek burger made of lamb, and the "Magic Shroom" - a delectable blend of beef, goat cheese, mushrooms and basil pesto. Wash it all down with a great craft beer, or try the nutella and chocolate pretzel milkshake. And don't forget to try the fries!

For a more eclectic menu, try the Galaxy Cafe, now an Austin tradition for over 40 years. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they offer a lunch menu with six different kinds of wraps, eight different kinds of specialty sandwiches and eight different kinds of salads. In true Austin tradition, all meat served at this restaurant is organically raised and free of hormones and antibiotics .

Another stellar lunch place is Noble Pig Sandwiches, which serves up truly epic sandwiches, including the one that bears the restaurant's name. The "Noble Pig" sandwich is a zesty blend of spicy ham, pulled pork, provolone and bacon. This is a place that really will give you a "knuckle sandwich" - roast beef, horseradish and cheddar cheese. Stay for dessert. According to the Austin Chronicle, this place has the best chocolate pudding in town.

There's one more Austin original worthy of note - FoodHeads, a distinctive deli that's open for breakfast and lunch only Monday-Thursday. They do offer dinner during the weekend, but what this place is best known for is their sandwiches. You can order up a specialty sandwich, like the apple pork sandwich, a tasty blend of pork tenderloin, smoked gouda cheese, spinach and apple-tomato pico. Or you can build your own favorite combination sandwich from the deli.

Sushi | Source

Delectable Dinners in Austin

Most of the places listed before now are also open for dinner - The Noble Pig, in particular, occasionally hosts a six-course gourmet evening meal for $75 a plate. However, evening might be a good time to explore the finest cuisine in the city.

Both Zagat and the Austin Chronicle agree - the best Asian food in the city comes from the two sister restaurants, Uchi and Uchiko. There's usually a long wait to get into both of these restaurants, so reservations are advised. Sit at the sushi bar and watch the chefs make culinary magic with intensely creative kinds of sushi not seen elsewhere. Newcomers should be sure to try the Chef's tasting - a great way to sample a variety of different delicacies. The service is among the best in Austin.

For a truly unique dining experience, try the "small plate" offerings at Barley Swine. This restaurant specializes in serving small servings of intensely innovative gourmet food. Three or four of these "small plate" are probably enough for a full meal. One example: a blend of bay scallops, cauliflower, masa, chipotle and raisins. You might also try a combination of cauliflower panna cotta, white chocolate, pine nuts and coffee. They seat their customers picnic-style, so here's your chance to turn a stranger into a new friend as you explore this unusual menu together. The menu changes periodically to favor foods that are in season.

If you are in Texas, you might just want to have some barbeque, and according to Bon Appetit, Franklin's cooks up the best barbeque in the state. That's really saying something. The brisket in particular is simply legendary, and you can buy it by the pound to take home with you. How good is this the food here? Aaron Franklin, the founder and owner of this place, serves as a judge on the reality TV cooking show, BBQ Pitmasters. This guy REALLY knows his barbeque.

And let's not forget a sentimental favorite - Matt's Famous El Rancho. It really is famous. Everybody in Austin knows about it, and have probably eaten there at least once. The sign says it's the best Mexican food in the world, and that might just be true. Matt's has all the Tex-Mex staples you might expect to see in a good Mexican restaurant, but there are a couple of dishes in particular that stand out as being Matt's own: the Bob Armstrong Dip, the Shrimp Avocado Pico, and a standout entree - the smoked duck enchiladas.


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, recappers delight,

      Loved this helpful-hub. I voted up and away because you deserved it. Very well-written and researched. How ironic. I was planning on taking a vacation in Texas very soon, and I love steak restaurants.

      Thanks a lot.

      Read your fan mail and keep up the great work.

      Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I've lived here 20 years and they only places on this list I have been to are the Magnolia Cafe, Mothers and Kerby Lane. I adore the gingerbread pancakes at Kerby Lane.

      I will most definitely have to check out the other places. They sound fabulous.