Originally, we created this list for people visiting for SXSW and while things have changed dramatically around the world, we want to share this to support our local businesses and favorite Austin establishments.
Austin cuisine has many facets. Queso, tacos, margaritas, barbecue, pizza, vegan cuisine, great coffee shops, and late night eats are just a few of the high points.
Veracruz – With five locations in Austin, Veracruz continues to top the charts of every “Best Tacos” list in Austin. While they are known for their migas breakfast tacos, they still offer six perfectly crafted lunch style tacos as well. This food truck located at Radio Coffee in South Austin would be the perfect way to start a long day of exploring our amazing city. Current pop-up at The Line Hotel.
Tacodeli – We remember when Taco deli was a little hole in the wall in South Austin but now, by popular demand, it has expanded to 10 locations across Texas. With 12 breakfast tacos, 26 lunch style tacos, plus salads and daily specials; this option is a definite favorite of the 365 team. Also a great option for Vegetarians and Vegans with things like cauliflower chorizo and multiple veggie taco options. For breakfast tacos, we highly recommend adding potato to any taco – they are green chile MASHED potatoes and they will change your life.
Gueros Taco Bar – In the heart of South Congress, Gueros has been a mexican food staple for years with over 14 different tacos to choose from. With a salsa bar, approachable mexican food at reasonable prices, and great margaritas; this is a great pit stop along the way.
Nixta – This place is ~vibes~. The newest spot on the list, Nixta has a small but interesting menu with things like the beet tartare tostada, a sweet potato taco that carnivore’s drool over, and seasonal tacos like the cauliflower or carrot taco. Great spot for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. On East 12th street, this would be a quick walk to any east side spots.
One Taco – We are excited to see the little food truck at Little Woodrow’s bar on West 6th expand to a second downtown location in the Frost Tower. Their tacos are super inventive including a pancake taco, and the Gringa and Yucateco that were featured on “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives“. They also have 2 veggie taco options and amazing mexican street corn!
Mellizoz – This spot just opened their second location at the old Takoba location called Cruzteca on East 7th street, in addition to their long time trailer on South 1st. Since 2008, Mellizoz has been serving up new and improved versions of classic tacos with things like the fried avocado taco and our favorite the BAT “Big Azz Taco”with egg, potato, bean, bacon and cheddar on two tortillas. They also have tortas, queso bacon fries, a migas plate and mexican street corn.
Pro Tip: Walk over to Seventh Flag coffee across the street for a matcha latte after.
Ciscos & Juan in a Million – No Austin Taco list can be complete without these two long time staples. Cisco’s on E. 6th street is a breakfast spot that can’t be beat. While known for their tacos, they also have amazing breakfast biscuits. Juan in a Million on E. Cesar Chavez opened in 1980, and boasts their famous Don Juan Grande Taco, a secret combination of potato, egg, bacon and cheese in a tortilla. This 9 lb. plate of food, if finished, will win you a free meal, t-shirt and your photo on the wall of fame. These are an absolute must try breakfast spot on your visit!
Texas is known for its queso, and anyone that moves away from Texas misses it dearly. There are a ton of places to get awesome queso in Austin, including from the list of Taco and Margarita spots in this list! Below are a few more favorites.
Matt’s El Rancho – Austin tex-mex staple. On South Lamar, get the famous “Bob Armstrong” queso, a classic yellow cheese queso with ground beef and guac, the asadero tacos (with grilled jalapenos) and wash it all down with a skinny frozen marg. Fun Fact: Matt’s sells over 400 “Bob’s” a week!
Lichas – Sit on the patio, and get the Choriqueso or Champiqueso. It is melted Queso Asadero in a skillet served with tortillas. We also highly recommend checking out their $5 HH including an awesome paloma. For more Eastside HH spots, check out our guide.
Maudies – With seven locations in the Austin area, Maudie’s is a favorite among many. Two locations near central Austin make it a perfect location for visitors – one on South Lamar, and one off of Lake Austin Blvd. just a mile west of Downtown. Get the Diablo Sol Food which is queso with ground beef, pico and guac!
Taquero Mucho – A new instagram-worthy spot in Downtown near West 6th Street. This place has one of our favorite types of queso – queso fundito, served in a hot skillet with tortillas. PSA: This place is ALL PINK and will definitely be a prime spot for a photo-op.
Check out our post on Best Margaritas in Austin here.
Curras – This place is known for being the original home of the Avocado Margarita. The menu includes more interior mexican food vs. the traditional Austin Tex-Mex with some favorites being the Cochinita Pibil and the Mole enchiladas. Situated on Oltorf, this is a short ride from all that South Congress has to offer.
Polvos – Our favorite, with two central locations – one in Downtown at the bottom of the 360 condos, and one on South 1st about 1 mile south of Downtown. Get a pitcher of their frozen margs and you will surely be leaving with a buzz!
For more of our favorites in this area, check out our post on Happy Hour in South Austin/the 78704.
Grizzeldas – Go early on Tuesdays and get the $5 Grizz Mizz (Pink Margarita), and try some of their other cool drinks like the Queen Bey, Bad Girl Ri Ri, and the Ride or Die. Grizzelda’s is on East 7th, and very walkable from any events on the East Side.
ATX Cocina – Right in the heart of Downtown on Cesar Chavez. This place is a bit more upscale and has six craft margarita cocktails, in addition to several other liquor cocktail options. They use a lot of local tequilas like Driftwood TX’s Desert Door Sotol in their Sweet Desert Rose cocktail with Blanco Tequila and their house-made strawberry-habanero syrup; or Avion ATX Reposado in their Rita Real cocktail; or one of our favorites – the Conejo Borracho with Deep Eddy Vodka, Domaine de Canton Ginger, Carrot and Lemon.
El Alma – The best patio! Situated right on Barton Springs road, their rooftop patio overlooks the Austin skyline and boasts a wide variety of margaritas. We love the spicy margaritas and the frozen Avocadorita. With two spicy margs on the menu, there is something for everyone – the Don Quixote Martini with serrano-cilantro infused silver tequila, tequila-marinated pineapple purée, agave nectar and an el chile rim; and the La Llorona with ghost pepper tequila, prickly pear purée, and a guajillo sugar/salt rim. Enjoy this spot during the day, soaking up the sun.
Joann’s – A part of the well-known McGuire Moorman Hospitality group, this is a newish spot situated right in the heart of South Congress. Connected to the Austin motel, this spot has a farm to table approach to Mexican cuisine and has a drink menu of very clean cocktails, punch bowls and fresh juices. It is towards the north end of South Congress and just a hop skip and a jump over the bridge into Downtown. A perfect place for brunch or afternoon drinks before a full day of exploring.
Valentinas – This tex-mex BBQ trailer is consistently ranked among top BBQ and taco lists in Austin. You have to try the Real Deal Holyfield which is a huge slice of brisket on two homemade tortillas with fried egg, potatoes, refried beans and bacon. This is a spot for visitors that are already staying in South Austin or are big enough foodies to make the drive for the famous food. It is located way south off of Slaughter and Manchaca.
Franklin – When people talk about Austin BBQ, typically Franklin’s is one of the first places that comes to mind. Consistently ranked at the tops of “Best BBQ” lists, this place is worth the wait. We highly recommend showing up to this East 11th walk up window, early in the morning (8 am-ish, they open at 11), standing in line (bring a cooler of beer if you’d like!), and when placing your order – get enough to take some to go. This place is only open until they sell out and they sell out quickly and frequently.
Micklethwait – As a part of the coveted list of Texas Monthly’s Top 10 BBQ, this East Austin trailer isn’t one to forget. Tom Micklethwait actually came from a baking background, working at local Italian restaurant Vespaio, and started this trailer in 2012. His focus is all on quality meats and made from scratch sides. This places also ships anywhere in the US!
Terry Black’s – The owner, Terry, was raised in the beloved Austin BBQ suburb of Lockhart, TX and now has two locations in both Austin and Dallas. The Austin location is located right on Barton Springs Road making it easily accessible when visiting our great city. You’ve got to come here for the beef ribs – they are MASSIVE and have the perfect amount of juice and smoke. It is what they are known for!
Leroy & Lewis – What we love about L&L is their use of alternative cuts of meat, inventive side dishes and fun desserts. This isn’t your typical BBQ spot – with things like smoked beef cheeks, barbacoa, akaushi brisket and even vegetarian options like cauliflower burnt ends, kale caesar slaw and smoked eggplant parm – it makes it a favorite little trailer in South Central Austin.
Our list of pizza places could be a mile long here – for more info on our fav pizza spots, read here.
Home Slice – This spot is a local favorite of many. Nestled right in the heart of South Congress, this brick & mortar and walk-up-window combo, has withstood many SoCo shutterings standing strong since 2005. Serving up NY Style pizzas by the whole pie or the slice, they consistently exceed on all aspects. There is typically a wait but, check out their wine garden in the back and enjoy the aroma to prepare yourself for a very full belly when you walk out of this place. We love the Margherita pizza, the White Pie and even the very popular White Clam pizza that has stayed on the menu for years.
*Also have a second location on North Burnet!
Via 313 – This Detroit style deep dish pizza came out swinging when it hit the Austin scene. With now 5 locations since just 2011, this trailer consistently knocks it out of the park. When I think deep dish, I think of more of a meat pie and very saucy. This is deep dish but very crispy cheesy edges and inventive toppings that can still be eating by hand. Two of the trailers are housed at the back of bars on West 6th (Bufords) and Rainey (Craft Pride), making it very easy to try this place out on your trip to Austin.
Hopdoddy – Check out their $5 HH here! This now national burger chain originated right in the heart of our funky Austin town, on South Congress. There are typically lines out the door, and rightfully so with these drool-worthy burgers. Large juicy patties locally sourced, perfectly toasted sweet buns, only the best cheeses, inventive toppings and sauces and six different types of fries – it is definitely a place to check out. We love the El Diablo with Habeneros & Serranos, the Magic Shroom with Mushrooms & Goat Cheese, the Truffle Fries, Hot Honey & Sage Sweet Potato Fries, Nutella Chocolate Pretzel Shake and their perfectly tart frozen margaritas. The list goes on and on!
*Now proudly serving Impossible Burgers.
Jacoby’s Burger Window – This family owned farm-turned-restaurant, recently launched their burger window and we are THRILLED. Jacoby’s sources all of their meat and produce from their very own farm making this the ultimate Austin burger. Nestled right on East Cesar Chavez, this is great for brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hour – you name it, we love Jacoby’s.
Casino El Camino – This grungy dive bar in the middle of Dirty 6th street may seem like you’re in the wrong place at first – but once you take a bite into their greasy, juicy burger, you will be so glad you did. With walls decked with gothic decor, heavy metal music playing, tatted up cooks sweating while flipping endless amounts of burgers on their flat top – it is an experience. Try the jalapeno cheddar bun, add the beer-braised pork belly, and an order of the verde chile fries and get ready to be amazed.
Kemuri – Run by the same restaurant group that owns Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin, this is an Izakaya style dining experience with both asian influences with a Texas BBQ flair. Right on East 2nd street and easily walkable.
Wu Chow – Try their Dim Sum brunch on Sundays, everything is $4-7 and it is $2 mimosas. Also has a great HH – sit at the round table near the bar, and get the soup dumplings, dry fried green beans (trust us), chicken taro eggrolls, sichuan deep-dried dhicken. It is on West 5th street and extremely walkable to anything in Downtown.
For more of our favorite spots in Downtown Austin, check out our post on Downtown HH’s.
Maiko – Every day, all night HH from 3-10 PM, everything on the menu is $3-10, and is right in the heart of downtown Austin. Get the Sake Mac & Cheese, Avocado Kani Salad, tons of sake bombs, and the green dragon roll with a side of ponzu!
Old Thousand – Join them for “Happy Time” and have a mini dim sum with hip hop music playing and inventive cocktails flowing. Get the Rangoons, Chili Wontons, and Mala Fried Chicken. We also love their daily dumplings that are seasonal and always changing.
Walk over to King Bee on 12th after for a Frozen Bee’s Knees—gin, lemon, honey, plus pizza.
Counter Culture – A 100% Vegan Restaurant on East Cesar Chavez. With daily vegan pizzas, a juicy Beet Burger, a plethora of vegan desserts, and a pick-your-own Kombucha fridge – this is a favorite spot for local Austin residents, vegan or not.
Bouldin Creek Cafe – Perfect for a light breakfast to start the day with their daily omelettes that can be maid with tofu, the vegan jalapeno sausage and cheese kolache; or to keep things healthy during lunch or dinner with things like Power Bowls, Vegan Tamales, Veggie Fajitas and more. We love sitting on this cute patio and enjoying the ever-changing menu, and their large coffee and tea selection. Sitting right off of South 1st street, it is a perfect spot for a quick bite throughout your day.
Curcuma – This East Cesar Chavez trailer is always keeping things interesting with their ayurvedic menu, with a focus on turmeric as a healing tool. Originally located on South 1st, this spot has their well known Golden Broth – a house-made bone broth with golden milk like spices. We love their vast drink menu that includes a 4 Golden Milk beverages, 4 Superfood Coffee Drinks and 4 Matcha beverages. Definitely check out the shakes, juice elixirs, wellness shots and Superfood treats. Also shipping nationally!
Casa de Luz – The OG of Austin Vegan Restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. This macriobiotic restaurant and wellness event space has an daily changing menu and can be found on their website. Their $15 three course menu usually starts with a soup, salad and the main plate typically consists of legumes, grains, greens, and typically a kimchi/pickled veg element with all-you-can-drink tea. This oasis is tucked away behind Barton Springs Road and feels like you’re walking into a little garden.
Vegan Nom – Vegan + Tacos = The Ultimate Austin Meal. Over on East Cesar Chavez, this little trailer is serving up Vegan Tacos, Nachos and Burritos in ways that will not have you missing any meat. The menu includes things like vegan korean bbq tacos; cashew queso; vegan pastor & pineapple; jalapeno mac & cheese and more. This is a must try!
Nickel City – From the same owners of Juniper and Via 313, this spot is divey but with twist. Serving up drinks like the famous “Nickel City” aka a Frozen Irish Coffee topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch sprinkles, Aperol Spritz on tap, a vast local Austin beer list, craft cocktails, and the Del Ray Coney Dog & Burger trailer out back – this East 11th Neighborhood Retro-Bar is a perfect stop during your night.
Gibson St. Bar – For those avoiding the downtown scene, or wanting something a bit more low key tucked away on South Lamar in the coveted 78704 neighborhood. Gibson is the perfect local’s bar and is good for anyone wanting that experience. Boasting a large menu of beer, liquor, craft cocktails, a great patio and well-known fat sandwich trailer Luke’s Inside Out – this is one of our favorite spots.
Barbarella – F*ck Me Fridays, TuezGayz, Jimmy Eat Wednesday – these are all a must do dance party for any Austin visitor. Barbs is a multi-dance floor club that is sweaty, dark, and the best-playlist-you’ve-ever-heard. Located on Red River in between 6th and 7th street, it’s always a great stop to end the night (or start it)!
For our favorite pizza delivery options, read here.
La Mexicana Bakery – This 24 hour Mexican restaurant is a hidden gem of central Austin, located on South 1st right next to another favorite, Polvos. Serving tacos into the wee hours of the morning isn’t their only specialty, they also have over 50 Mexican pastries at any given time and the quality can be proven by their 22 years in business. This isn’t going to be a fancy place and at times after hours there can be a slight language barrier upon ordering but, if we are getting tacos after 2 AM, we are getting them here.
24 Diner – This Downtown Diner is located right at 6th and Lamar making it the perfect pit stop on the way home from a night of drinking. With things like the Chicken and Waffles, the French Toast and Biscuits & Gravy – it makes it the ideal choice to soak up a bunch of booze after a night out.
Kerbey Lane – An Austin Staple with more than eight locations in the Austin area. Some Kerbey locations have changed from 24/7 to shorter hours however, the South Lamar and UT Campus locations are still pulling all-nighters. Seasonal pancakes are always a great idea, the Kerbey queso is a menu staple and ordering the famous Eggs Francisco will get you a benedict covered in the signature queso.
Magnolia Cafe – Magnolia and Kerbey sometimes get put in the same bucket but they both have their quirks that we love so much. The famous Mag Mud queso is their fully loaded queso with black beans, guac, and pico. Our favorites include the Three Alarm Taco, Eggs Zapatino (Benedict smothered in queso) & the LOVE Migas are also a favorite – your traditional migas with their spicy LOVE butter with serranos and garlic. Find them on South Congress!
Whataburger – If you don’t live in the South, Whataburger is definitely a food chain to be visited. Not your typical burger food chain, this 24/7 spot serves up their Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits (HBCB), taquitos (mini breakfast burritos), burgers & patty melts, breakfast sandwiches and more. An easy drive through right at South 1st and Barton Springs Road.
Mockingbird – Well known restaurant group, McGuire Moorman Hospitality “MMH”, just opened their 13th Austin establishment, Mockingbird. Posted up in the new Austin Proper Hotel, this place is serving up Mediterranean fare including coffee, fresh pastries and greek frozen yogurt, all in a counter-service restaurant featuring breakfast and lunch. They also offer a grab and go window, easy for anyone needing a quick bite on their way to and from daily happenings. Open from 7 AM – 2:30 PM daily.
Alta’s Cafe – In Downtown at the Waller Creek Boathouse, overlooking Lady Bird Lake and just 1 block south of the Convention Center. No parking available so this is definitely a spot for anyone already in Downtown to stop into for a pick me up. They also have a full menu!
Halcyon – Right in the heart of the warehouse district, this hot spot is open from 7 AM – 2 AM. From coffee spot in the morning, to bar at night having a reverse happy hour from midnight to 2 AM, this is definitely a versatile spot. Breakfast includes a full menu, rockstar bagels, Vietnamese coffee, espresso milkshakes and more; lunch includes sandwiches and salads; and later in the evening you can enjoy one of six coffee cocktails, and eight craft cocktails, but most importantly, their famous s’mores served on an open flame.
Jo’s Coffee – Two central locations include the staple Jo’s on South Congress complete with the “I Love You So Much” wall that is a must-have photo op for any Austin visitor. We love the “Iced Turbo” which has espresso AND coffee, and pretty much every flavoring they offer. Fair warning, it is SWEET and it is STRONG. For those not willing to brave the caffeine high, they now offer the Belgium Bomber, which is part iced turbo, part coffee, so a tad less sweet and a tad less jittery.
The SoCo location also has a large patio where live music plays every Sunday. The Downtown location is right on 2nd street and easily accessible to all downtown has to offer. Both locations serve breakfast tacos and baked goods, and the Downtown location also offers a larger menu of sandwiches, salads and larger breakfast plates.
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