A mini guide to the Austin Food Scene.
Over Thanksgiving, we visited Austin with Abe’s family. We rented a gorgeous house and mostly ate breakfast at home, one big meal out a day, and leftovers as snacks. This was actually my fourth time in Austin. I came for SXSW with my movie Surrogate Valentine, and spoke twice at UT Austin. This was probably my favorite visit, because I wasn’t working and got to focus on eating! Before arriving, I made a huge list of Austin food destinations.
Sadly, we didn’t even get through a quarter of the places. Nevertheless, here are some of the restaurants, cafes, food trucks, etc. that we did get to visit – plus a couple memorable favorites from previous trips.
As meat-centric as this vacation was, Abe had no problem eating vegetarian. I also did not stray too much from my normal plant-heavy diet. Pretty much every single place offers salads and veggie side dishes.
- Book People – This charming book store has a cafe with shockingly good coffee and loose-leaf tea in the back.
- Kerbey Lane – I’ll admit I was not wowed by this beloved Austin institution, but every single local recommends it.
- The Salt Lick BBQ (at the Austin Airport) – The original restaurant in Driftwood is an hour outside of Austin. We did not make it, but we did have some of their breakfast tacos from a cart before hopping back on the flight to Los Angeles. FYI there is a separate counter where they sell platters of meat.
- Seventh Flag Coffee – This cafe (in a cute house) reminds me of our cafes in LA, complete with fancy toast on the menu.
- Sweetish Hill Bakery – There are lots of cookies/cakes in the display cases – plus free samples of gingerbread! I order a bowl of soup, which comes with freshly baked bread.
- Veracruz All Natural – This food truck (more like a food bus) can have a long line. We waited 20 minutes for a quesadilla and some migas tacos, but they were totally worth it. Plus the guacamole and chips (pictured above) come out quicker, and they are pretty much the best things ever – thick, simple, and delicious.
- Whole Foods – The flagship store really isn’t that different from other Whole Foods. We stock up on lots of groceries – and melons for me. The people at the checkout are super friendly, but maybe a little too chatty. They forget to bag the peanut butter and granola that I pay for!
- Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – I get hungry during a screening of “Loving” and order a very large and really delicious Greek Salad. You just write down your order during the movie, and a server brings it to you. They even noted my “light on the dressing” request!
- Galaxy Cafe – There’s a retro vibe at this order-at-the-counter spot, but the food is pretty modern. Really great sweet potato fries and a comforting bowl of soup the size of my head.
- Nau’s Enfield Drug – They have a soda fountain in the back of this old-school pharmacy (pictured above) with burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream.
- Top Notch – Not only do you have the fun of eating from a car hop, this is one of the locations from Dazed and Confused! They have really good fried okra, too.
- South Congress Cafe – Almost every single trip I eat at this restaurant. Every single time it’s solid, but a little more expensive/fancier than other places.
- Fleming’s Steak House – Ordinarily we wouldn’t eat at a national chain restaurant on vacation, but I have a gift card. We wind up going for Thanksgiving since it’s easy to make reservations, and are all pleasantly surprised at how good everything is – from the steaks to the sides and the dessert (pictured above).
- Hoover’s Cooking – We love this place so much, it just screams family, community, and acceptance. Plus the menu is ginormous. This will forever be known as the place where I try Chicken Fried Steak for the first time – and yes, it is glorious.
- Hut’s Hamburgers – Don’t let the outside fool you. Inside you are getting some top-quality grassfed beef burgers. They also have a solid vegan version!
- Maudie’s Tex Mex – This is a local chain specializing in Tex Mex favorites like queso and enchiladas. My favorite part is the never-ending bowl of chips and salsa that they plop down the second you sit down.
- Mother’s Cafe and Garden – Even with all the vegetarian places in Los Angeles, we don’t have a place like Mother’s in Austin. It just feels warm and cozy, like you’re home.
- Stiles Switch BBQ – You know a place is going to be good when you walk up to order and they just start giving you samples. Brisket. Beef Ribs. Sausage. I know it sounds crazy to walk into a BBQ place and order turkey, but trust me – it’s incredible. They are just about the nicest folks ever there – inviting us back to the pit for a little tour, which you can see in the video below!
Video: Stiles Switch BBQ in Austin, TX