We are foodies. Which means that we can conjure up memories of a food experience from 10 years ago with absolute clarity. In general, we like simply prepared food as local as possible. For people moving to Austin or current residents, there are always new gems to be found in Austin’s food scene. The most exhaustive list can be found at www.urbanspoon.com. Explore for yourself, though, and don’t always take their word for it. Our favorites list is almost embarrassingly long and is in no particular order. Most are in central Austin because that is where we are located. We like how Austin eats and this is our official “unofficial” Austin restaurant guide.
La Condesa (www.lacondesa.com) - Charlie Pitkin's Favorite!
This award-winning modern Mexican restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for 'Best New Restaurant'. La Condesa is helmed by noted Executive Chef Rene Ortiz and Food & Wine Magazine 'Best New Pastry Chef' Laura Sawicki and features the largest selection of tequila in Austin and a craft bar program overseen by Cocktail World Cup champion Nate Wales. La Condesa is located in the vibrant 2nd Street District of downtown Austin, across the street from the W Hotel Austin and the world-famous Austin City Limits.
I like it more each time I come back (maybe because they keep changing up the menu!). It is creative Mediterranean food served slow and fresh. See Happy Hour page for how happy you will be!
Austin Quality Seafood (www.qualityseafoodmarket.com) - Tom Sunstrom's Favorite!
If you want to be reminded of a San Fransisco oyster bar, this is the place for you. They run daily specials. Our favorite is the Tuesday night $2 fish tacos. I also buy my fish here to cook for the family.
Our favorite sushi spot probably because we never run into traffic getting there. We love the tuna sashimi served in a cocktail glass marinated in a citrus flavor. Sophisticated atmosphere but we are never afraid to bring the kids while they feast on white rice (still haven’t found a sushi restaurant with a kids menu and we are all the better for it). The seared bass appetizer steals the show and the 3 bites are worth every dollar.
El Chile (www.elchilecafe.com)
A staple in our family. Mexican food that is closer to Mexican than Tex-Mex. We love the shrimp nachos, enchiladas enfrijoladas, and fish tacos (in case you haven’t noticed, seafood is our food of choice). Our kids eat the roasted salsa like it is soup. Actually, by the time you feast on the salsa and chips, there is hardly reason to order food. My lunch favorite is the tangy salad.
Eastside Café (www.eastsidecafeaustin.com)
Fresh from the garden eating. Literally. They have a large garden on site. Corn muffins greet you, great wine selection, blue plate specials, and their famous East Side Café Salad with goat cheese and raspberry dressing is a must. It is housed in an old home and fills up with French Place neighbors nightly.
Fresh, simple food in south Austin. We love the Old World wine list, the olives that greet you upon arrival, and we have been pleasured some of the tastiest risottos on record.
Pacific Star (www.pacificstarfood.com) - Leah Schimbergs Favorite!
Fresh gulf oysters, shrimp, plus other Gulf seafood with local Tex-Mex flair! This is a place you can sit back and relax over some deliciously simple and fresh food and the prices are amazingly low.
Wink (www.winkrestaurant.com) - Joe Honegger's Favorite!
A special occasion restaurant only because of the prices. My guiltiest pleasure in Austin is their seared foi gras. Don’t miss their chic wine bar next door whose bartender will happily choose a selection for you.
Hill Country Dining at Barton Creek Country Club (visit website)
We were truly surprised that country club food could taste this good. The elegant restaurant overlooks the golf course. Food is seasonal, but I love the lobster bisque poured tableside.
As neighborhood Italian as they come. We love the pizza margarita and the fresh fish.
Vegetarian but you wouldn’t even notice. Best soups in town. And the chips and fresh salsa while you wait taste garden fresh.
34th Street Café (www.34thstreetcafe.com)
Known for lunch and catering, we have been pleasantly surprised by their dinners. We usually order the special. My lunch staple is the Chinese chopped salad with shrimp.
Blue Star Cafeteria (www.bluestarcafeteria.com)
We really just come here for happy hour because my favorite part of the menu is the appetizers and they are half off during happy hour. Gourmet grilled cheese and crispy artichoke hearts are my Friday evening pleasure.
Fonda San Miguel (www.fondasanmiguel.com) - Johnny Henion's Favorite!
When you really miss interior Mexico, come here. The fresh margaritas are the best in town. The sopa de elote will have your dreaming of mariachis. They are famous for their Sunday Mexican brunches. Just another thing to add to our list of things to do still in Austin!
Our Saturday morning tradition. Huevos ranchers and huevos mexicanos. We bring in our own coffee and walk out spending about $6.
Z'Tejas (www.ztejas.com) - Johnny Henion's Favorite!
In 1989, the first Z’Tejas was born in an old Victorian house on Austin’s historic 6th Street. The menu, largely influenced by the South, signifies the bold robust flavors of Arizona, California, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.
In 1991, Z’Tejas opened their second location in Scottsdale, Arizona. One of many Austin success stories and their margaritas, happy hour deals, ambience and entire menu is fantastic!!
For the sake of the kids! And their low fat yogurt shakes! And their curly fries. I don’t come here when trying to loose baby weight (which means I don’t’ come here much). Kids eat free on Wednesdays.
Paggi House (www.paggihouse.com)
In our opinion, the best meal in Austin. Go on Monday for the prix fix 3 course dinner with wine pairings for $50.
Obviously we aren’t the only ones who love their hand cut fries and burgers. They now have 3 Austin locations. I love their veggie burgers that are made on site. Support Austin business. Eat locally cut fries.
El Chilito (www.elchilito.com)
I have lived in Mexico so paying more than $2 for your basic Mexican street food feels wrong. But where else can you get a frozen sangria and a taco al pastor from the same spot? Let me know if you find a place. In the mean time, find me on the east side.
Midori Sushi (www.midorisushiaustin.com) - Jax Finkel's Favorite!
A North Austin favorite for sushi lovers looking for fresh and varied sushi at a reasonable price! It has been known for its Japanese seafood since 1999. It serves a variety of Sushi, Sashimi, and mouth-watering Sushi rolls. Excellent lunch spot!
South Congress Café (www.southcongresscafe.com)
Have you ever dreamt of carrot cake French toast topped with a pecan maple syrup cream cheese? Neither had I until I saw Giada on the Food Network one day taking one of her seductive bites into just that. Luckily, she was in Austin at South Congress Café. A Saturday brunch spot not for the faint of heart.
Uchi (www.uchiaustin.com) - Matthew Layman & Blake Outlaw's Favorite!
I can’t include a list of our favorite restaurants without including Uchi simply because it is Austin’s most famous spot filled with famous people. It is the best of the best. But the best comes with a price tag. We one time ordered one piece of a rare fish flown in from Japan that morning for $18. We go when we just can’t resist it any longer.
Most bbq spots don’t have healthy side options. Here, you can order a brocolli salad or a side salad. Insider info: the one at the Hancock center gives you 10% off your meal when you show them a church program on Sunday.
Lee’s Meat Market
Serious meat and food made with love. Need a quick and delicious lunch? Check. Need a pop in the microwave dinner tonight? Check. Need a cut to order meat? Check. Need catering for an event? Check. Their is nothing Lee has not thought about and there is definitely nothing that is not delicious (try their rebaked potatoes and casseroles).
Crown & Anchor Pub (www.crownandanchorpub.com) - Kevin Hutchison's Favorite!
Since opening in 1987, Crown and Anchor Pub has been a favorite neighborhood spot of the Hyde Park/University Area. We are open every day of the week, 365 days a year, from 11am to 2am highlighted by a Happy Hour from 2-7pm on all draft beer. Our diverse selection includes over 30 taps and 100 bottles/cans, as well as a great range of ciders and wine. If you are in the mood for food, our award winning menu features our legendary burgers, cheese fries, nachos and much more. Unique and classic Austin pub food!
Vivo’s (www.vivo-austin.com) - Leah Schimberg's Favorite!
Must love margaritas. And tequila. When you order a pitcher, everyone gets a glass with a shot at the bottom, so be warned! The nachos with sprouts take away some of the guilt factor. And go home with a rose (if you are a lady, that is).