If you’re a local, you know them from their signature dish alone. If you’re visiting, you need to eat at at least one of these or were you even in Austin? Here’s 10 essential, iconic restaurants in Austin, Texas.
Austin is one of the most dynamic cities in the US; not only it is the capital of Texas, it is also a leading hub for music, technology, politics, and of course, FOOD. If you also want to see my ULTIMATE guide of Austin restaurants split up by category, see this post.
New restaurants are popping up every day, but I wanted to go back to Austin’s roots. In a city with so many great restaurants of all cuisines, it was incredibly hard to pick just 10 of the most iconic. When it came to really narrowing which restaurants are at the top of Austin’s classic eateries, it came down to not just cuisine, but also the feelings and experiences associated with the restaurants.
So, let’s get into it, in no particular order, 10 classic Austin restaurants:
- Kerbey Lane Café
You know them for their pancakes and the breakfast wait. But, it’s 100% worth it. Kerbey Lane is one of the best known breakfast spots in Austin, even though 5 of their 8 locations are open 24/7. It has a warm diner feel and the food is consistently good. Some of the best options are the classic Kerbey Lane queso (try it vegan) and the migas. And of course the pancakes…which if you’re getting, you must add a cinnamon swirl.
- Uchi ($$$)
Delicate sushi tastings and inspiring Asian dishes tucked in the neighborhood of South Lamar. Uchi is an upscale restaurant that is on the more expensive side, but is truly exquisite and exclusive. There are limited reservations and a surprisingly decent happy hour! If you don’t feel like spending as much, you can try Uchi’s cheaper offspring: Uchiko.
- Texas French Bread ($$)
This little brunch bistro consistently hits the spot with its comfortable atmosphere and amazing smells. At the far end of West Campus, it is a great option for students and families alike. When ordering at the counter, the incredible scents of the kitchen and bakery behind you will have your mouth watering. Plus, TFB offers great homemade goodies to gift or take for the road, like warm bread, fresh baked cookies, and granola 😉
- Jeffrey’s ($$$$)
It was hard to choose between Jeffrey’s and any of its sister restaurants (i.e. Perlas, Clark’s, Josephine House, etc.) as Austin’s token fancy dinner, but this Clarksville gem truly takes the cake as THE longtime upscale Austin place. It is everything American fine-dining should be. Sit and enjoy the dry-aged prime beef or sip a cocktail at the bar. If you want to give it a try without breaking the bank, stop by on a Monday for happy hour allll night.
- Cisco’s ($)
Tex Mex is popular in Central Texas, but if you’re seeking authentic Mexican food, Cisco’s small, family joint is your answer. And I grew up in El Paso, Texas, so….trust. This restaurant sits on tradition and always stays true to itself. It’s location on east 6th takes you back to its roots and makes you feel its story. Some of the best dishes include the migas and the enchiladas.
- Bouldin Creek Café ($)
This one’s for the Vegetarians out there! And it’s no secret Austin has many of them. But don’t worry, even the biggest carnivores will equally love this funky place. It’s located on South 1st, a pretty real hippie area of Austin. It offers a meat-less twist on breakfast classics and has amazing coffee and tea latte options.
- Hula Hut ($)
Located right where the sun sets on Lake Austin, Hula Hut offers a tropical dining scene right on the water. In fact, boats can pull right up. The beachy decor is a little cheesy, but it’s a fun, easy, and enjoyable place to visit. Families can enjoy the view, complimentary chips and salsa, and the strong margs for those of age. PS, if it’s your birthday, they’ll gift you cinnamon sugar dessert nachos…
- Elizabeth Street Cafe ($$)
Magical things happen at this French Vietnamese boulangerie. From red fish snapper, to spring rolls, to macaroons, Elizabeth’s offers aesthetic and flavor packed dishes. No reservations and a laid back vibe add a certain welcoming feel to the experience. It’s a neighborhood goodie and if there’s a wait, it’s worth it. You can enjoy dinner here or an interesting take on brunch- featuring sweet and savory dishes, and delicious Vietnamese coffees.
- Vespaio ($$$)
A romantic, neighborhood Italian joint with an easy atmosphere and soul-warming dishes. The indoor is cozy and intimate, while the patio is more relaxed. Also located on South Congress, this restaurant offers a little hideaway from the people-watching and window-shopping. Looking for something more casual? Pop into Enoteca Vespaio right next door for an easier deli, takeout and dessert options.
- Homeslice ($)
Arguably the best piece of pizza in Austin, maybe in all of Texas. Dine-in space is limited, but if you really want to act like a local, get it to-go from their takeaway location next door and enjoy on the SOCO sidewalk or at nearby Zilker Park.The slices are huge and cheesy. They also offer pizza rolls and brownies that are worth your while.
That’s all folks! I hope that if you are native to Austin, you have been to every single one of these restaurants. If you are just visiting, make sure to stop by at least one while you’re here, would ya?
Honorable true-to-Austin mentions that just missed the list for various reasons: Matt’s El Rancho, Juiceland, Magnolia, and P. Terry’s.
For my ULTIMATE guide of Austin restaurants split up by category, see this post.
Be sure to check out my other city guides here!