Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin is gaining a reputation as a serious foodie destination. Whether you’re in town for SXSW, Formula 1 or taking a well-earned vacation, come prepared to eat, to eat well and to eat a lot. Barbecue and taco stands are never in short supply in Austin. Fine dining, sweet brunch spots and vegan options are also well represented. Whatever you’re craving, Austin can and will deliver.
When you’re in Austin, you need to check out the live music scene, and the best place to start is The White Horse, which serves the best in honky-tonk and tacos. If you’re keen to experience an authentic Texan dance hall and pick up a two-step lesson, then head to the Broken Spoke. It’s where Garth Brooks played secret concerts, and other luminaries have been known to drop in and thrill the crowd.
Rainey Street Historic District is just one block from Fairmont Austin. The bungalow-style houses have transformed into hip restaurants and must-see nightlife. There’s the delightful Little Brother, which is easily missed if you don’t know it’s there. Arrive early if you want a seat, as this tiny, all-day café and bar has just four bar stools. Bummer Burrito is just outside, a highly recommended burrito trailer. Burritos and cocktails are perfection! In a town where tacos are king, good burritos are no easy find in Austin.
Farm-to-table restaurant Emmer and Rye is a favorite on Rainey Street. Arrive ready to feast from a menu that changes daily and the incredible array of small plates on the dim-sum carts. Ask for a seat at the kitchen bar to learn something watching the chefs at work.
You can’t visit Austin and not taste barbecue; that just wouldn’t be right. Some might say barbecue is the state food, and certain folks name-check the ranch where the beef was raised. So, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Lockheart, just a 40-minute drive from Fairmont Austin, is the barbecue capital of Texas according to the state legislature. Head to Lockheart on a Sunday and stop in at Kreuz Market for brisket and live music. In northwest Austin, InterStellar BBQ was named the second-best barbecue joint in all of Texas, but if you prefer to stay within walking distance of Fairmont Austin, then Brown’s BBQ, a chilled-out trailer just across the river, serves the perfect barbecued chicken. Don’t miss out on Franklin Barbecue, where you may stand in line for longer than you sit and eat, but we promise it’s worth it. In fact, the line is part of the experience. Arrive early, though, and be ready to make new friends in line.
You’ll be falling over tacos in Austin: from authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex to exotic fusion, you really could eat tacos all day long. Locals favor the award-winning, sister-owned Veracruz All Natural. Be sure to sample their homemade corn tortillas for the real experience. If you’re craving pastor on Saturday (let’s face it, who isn’t?), then Cuantos Tacos is the local tip you need.
If breakfast tacos aren’t your style (gasp!), head to one of the incredible patio brunch options Austin has to offer. We particularly love Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, because here you can really relax and take your time with a delicious outdoor brunch. Right next door is Hold Out Brewing, which is recommended by the Better Half team as a great brunch spot. For fans of craft beer and brunch, it’s a must.
For a city where the local small business community advocates to Keep Austin Weird, it’s no surprise that there’s no shortage of vegan and vegetarian options. Start at Counter Culture, a female-owned, slow-food, ethical restaurant focused on comfort food you’ll never forget. Cheer Up Charlies is a popular queer bar with a vegan food truck in the garden, regular live music, craft beers and kombucha.
For something sweet and full of attitude, Zucchini Kill Bakery is a feminist, punk rock, vegan, gluten and soy-free bakery. Be warned: donuts are sold on weekends only.
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all Austin has to offer hungry visitors. Foodies will want to return to visit Old Thousand, a hipster Chinese restaurant; the French classic Justine’s Brasserie for late night dining; the incredible Japanese food at Uchi and its newer off-shoot Uchiko; Cosmic Coffee. Wherever you choose to dine, make sure you visit the downtown gem, Garrison, inside Fairmont Austin. Led by Executive Chef Jakub Czyszczon, it’s a AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurant, Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner and the only Forbes Four-Star restaurant in Austin.
Provecho, bon appetit and eat well!
Cassie Pearse is a Mexico based writer and editor with a focus on travel, food and the environment. She writes regular columns for local and international travel and environmental publications. She is working on her third family focused guide to Mexico.