What to Eat in Austin
Austin is defined by an inventive, fusion-inspired food scene that goes way beyond the city’s breakfast taco obsession and its longstanding love of all things barbecue. As the influx of thousands of international transplants and adventurous foodies continues, the culinary scene is thriving and changing on an almost daily basis. Here’s what you need to know in order to eat like an Austin local.
Greasy Tex-Mex and Texas-sized portions of Mexican food aren’t for everybody, but the indulgence of breakfast tacos is a daily sacrament for Austinites. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the massive signatures at Juan in a Million and the hidden gems of El Primo, to the inventive creations of Torchy’s Tacos. It doesn’t matter what time of day or how fancy the establishment; odds are breakfast tacos are available on the menu.
Austin was an early pioneer in the food truck movement and visitors can still find almost anything—from donuts to sushi—at a humble trailer. Some food trucks find permanent homes at hip local bars—East Side King food trucks is always parked at Hole in the Wall and Cheer Up Charlie’s. Others, such as The Mighty Cone and Hey Cupcake!, congregate together at open-aired food courts, like the popular Barton Springs Picnic lot.
Barbecue is a hallowed Texas institution, but it’s currently having a big revival in Austin, with everyone from cowboys to bearded hipsters waiting in long lines for a succulent slab of fatty brisket. Presentation now runs the gamut, so it's become the type of food that’s perfect for a casual lunch (think picnic-style at the La Barbecue trailer), or a fancy night out (Lambert’s on Second Street).
Austin is no Los Angeles and its penchant for fried and barbecued fare is a testament to its culinary grit. But the city is known for being extremely fit and a host of health-conscious options, from Daily Juice and Skinny Limits (two popular juice and smoothie purveyors), to all-vegetarian eateries like Bouldin Creek Café, are definite hotspots.
A bevy of new and diverse destinations, from new American to Asian fusion, have arrived on the scene within the past few years, but their binding similarity is their commitment to locally sourced cuisine. Some hip locales can sway into an almost Portlandia-realm of locavore status, with some chefs personally foraging their own ingredients from the surrounding Hill Country. But the perceived trendiness shouldn’t put visitors off. The culinary community’s dedication to local farms and food purveyors is a very serious, enduring commitment, from food trucks to fine dining.