Best Restaurants in Austin

Austin's 10 Best Restaurants, including some newcomers

It’s no secret that Austin has become quite the culinary hotspot in recent years. In the last decade, the Austin restaurant scene has transformed from cooking up great Tex-Mex to major player in the international culinary scene, with talented chefs all over the Capital City of Texas. Austin was named the 6th best food city in the U.S. by Thrillist in December 2014, while Travel + Leisure singled it out as America's next great food town. Some big names have moved in and opened up successful restaurants, while still maintaining Austin’s unique flavor; as well as local star chefs who have expanded with new hotspots around town. The city has proved to be an excellent canvas for a young chef and some of the most creative culinary names in the country can be found working in unassuming converted bungalows, downtown warehouses and even food trucks. The city is also a haven of healthy living, and food is no exception. With the rise in popularity of urban farming, local foods and farm-to-table eating, many of Austin's restaurants focus on local ingredients and sustainable, organic deliciousness. There is much to be found for vegetarians, gluten-free eating and other dietary needs in these picks as well.



As the first gastropub in Austin, this sophisticated spot is devoted to sustainable cooking in a playful, ever-evolving manner. Vegetarians will be happy as well; Executive Chef Nathan Lemley loves his veggies and delights in creating scrumptious meatless dishes. Diners can also enjoy one of Austin's best happy hours, offering half-price on all cocktails, beer, and bar food until 6:30, Monday-Friday. Be warned, it gets crowded quickly so the best bet is to arrive early. Don't miss the oysters on the half shell, some of the freshest in town. You might also want to check out Cirkiel's newest restaurant, Bullfight, serving modern Spanish classics.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Some of the best gastropub food in Austin by one of its top chefs; great choices for vegetarians; and an awesome happy hour.

Shelley's expert tip: Be sure to order a side of the parkside fries.

Read more about Parkside →

University Area
Goodall's Kitchen

Goodall's Kitchen features classic American bistro fare and handcrafted cocktails that can be enjoyed in the restaurant's relaxed bistro-style atmosphere or on the idyllic veranda overlooking the Hotel Ella front lawn. The renovated dining room blends the timelessness of the historic Goodall Wooten House with a modern Austin sensibility. The upscale bistro food includes items such as deviled eggs with candied bacon, grilled oysters with bread crumbs and chimichurri, and a tavern steak featuring their signature fries made with aleppo butter and roasted bone marrow. This is one place not to skip dessert; the chocolate soufflé tart with sea salt, almonds and olive oil ice cream is a sure bet. A limited menu and weekday happy hour is also available in the vintage Parlor Bar.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This lovely, understated restaurant at Hotel Ella has just experienced a total redesign, including a new menu.

Shelley's expert tip: Don't miss the changing specialty cocktails or delectable desserts.

Read more about Goodall's Kitchen →

Fonda San Miguel

Located in a quiet neighborhood in north-central Austin, Fonda San Miguel offers an interior and food that are nothing short of extraordinary. The decor transports you to an Old World Mexican hacienda, decorated with colonial Mexican antiques, Talavera tiles, and hand-thrown pottery. The beautiful courtyard is alive with flora and splashing water. Authentic interior Mexican cuisine is the draw, and traditional Yucatecan and Veracruzano dishes are deliciously savory but not unnecessarily hot. Happy hours are very popular here, in the large and separate bar space which spills out into the airy courtyard. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday the happy hour offers $1 off Fonda San Miguel's famous margaritas and half off select appetizers. On Tuesday, the all-night happy hour features $4.95 house margaritas and select glasses of wine, and half off select appetizers.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Celebrating 40 years in Austin, this beautiful hacienda-style restaurant serves authentic, upscale food in an incredible ambience with chandeliers, beautiful original artwork and antique fountains.

Shelley's expert tip: From specialties such as chile relleno and carne asado to their very popular margarita menu, a visit here is always special.

Read more about Fonda San Miguel →

Stella San Jac

Stella San Jac, an Austin-American inspired restaurant located on the corner of San Jacinto Boulevard and Fifth Street, serves an eclectic Southern menu inspired by the local community. The 150-seat restaurant features an open kitchen and lounge where local musicians play on a weekly basis for restaurant guests to enjoy in a welcoming and lively atmosphere. Chef Michael Cerrie's Southern-style menu is inspired by his great-grandmother, Nonni, and her family recipes. Some of Cerrie's favorite menu items include Blueberry Sweet Bread French Toast and Gulf Shrimp and Lump Crab Roll. The restaurant's distinct Austin-American cuisine has a menu that features what are sure to be favorites including classics with a twist like Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potato Mash and Green Apple Slaw. Of particular pride is the #16 Biscuits named after the number of batches tested to perfect its recipe.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: One of Austin's newest restaurants is already getting a lot of attention, for its food as well as cocktails and ambience.

Shelley's expert tip: If you love cocktails, check out the unique porthole infused casks, created new each day with a blend of herbs, liquors and other ingredients and infused overnight. The desserts are special, as well; especially the warm peach with their signature biscuits.

Read more about Stella San Jac →

Buenos Aires Cafe

The mother/daughter team of Chef Reina Morris and Paola Guerrero Smith opened Buenos Aires in 2005 with the goal of bringing a piece of their homeland, Argentina, to Austin. Fueled by popular demand, after moving the first Buenos Aires Café in South Austin to the east side in 2009, the city's first Argentine eatery has opened a second location in Bee Cave in 2010. Spacious and inviting (have original hardwood floors ever looked so good?), the haunt serves up popular Argentine fare, including authentic Buenos Aires empanadas. The flaky pastries come with various fillings, including a don't-miss carne picante, with scallions, raisins, and green olives, and a vegetarian's dream packed with spinach, ricotta, and Parmesan. Don't miss their De La Parilla (from the grill) dishes including organic ribeye, tenderloin, quail and short ribs.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Known for their flaky, perfect empanadas, served with homemade chimichurri sauce, this is a taste of authentic Argentina.

Shelley's expert tip: Entrées can be spotty; steer clear of the bland gnocchi and head straight for the pastel de papas, Argentina's answer to Britain's shepherd's pie. Finish with a scrumptious dessert-cuatro leches cake, panqueques (dessert crepes), or flan de Buenos Aires.

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Located on the very happening East Side, where new restaurants are constantly opening, Launderette was an instant favorite. Chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki have perfected the modern cafe, with a menu of modern Southern comfort food with Mediterranean influences, with everything from burgers to charred octopus. It's located in a building that was an actual old laundromat and gas station; renovated in a playful, retro style. The long, polished bar is the focal point that grounds the airy space. The room is tied together with details like wooden slab tables on cast iron legs, plush leather wall benches, and cool gray chairs that offset aqua floors. There is a nice patio for lounging, waiting for a table with a drink, or outside eating when the weather is nice.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Not only is the East Side a happening place for the restaurant scene in Austin, Launderette happens to have both incredible food and excellent service.

Shelley's expert tip: The brunch here is simply phenomenal; try the Fried Oyster Florentine or the Pork & Grits.

Read more about Launderette →

Arguably the most authentic Italian restaurant in town, Daniela Marcone's restaurant serves bistro comfort-food dishes inspired by her own family recipes growing up in Naples. The entire experience, from the décor and service to every bite of food, is presented as it would be in Italy. Andiamo is decorated simply with an eye towards quaint. It is located in a strip mall but do not let that deter you. Many diners refer to it as romantic but foodies in the know will tell you that the food here is the closest you'll get to 'real' Italian food. Bread is served before your meal and is delicious on its own. If you are a vegetarian or have gluten free dietary needs, Andiamo has a selection of menu items just for you. Andiamo changes up their menu according to the seasons so when you are there be sure to look for featured dishes. For example, in the fall they serve their homemade pumpkin ravioli in a homemade brown butter sage sauce. Seafood, beef, and chicken selections do not disappoint. Lady Bird Johnson was a regular, and daughter Luci Baines Johnson still frequents the restaurant as one of many long-time regulars.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Everything from the bread to desserts is made in-house, and an impressive wine list curated by certified wine sommelier Pier Giorgio Manna.

Shelley's expert tip: Don't let Andiamo's location turn you away. Andiamo receives high praise from Austinites because of its excellent cuisine even though many will tell you it is located in one of the most UN-scenic areas of Austin.

Read more about Andiamo →

South Austin
Odd Duck

Lead chef Bryce Gilmore is at the helm of this well known Austin eatery and has taken the Odd Duck to undreamt of heights. Gilmore is still responsible for creating the daily menu, and is dedicated to serving innovative dishes using 100% local ingredients and supporting local farmers. The Duck bills itself as having "intensely local, seasonal fare" and the menu certainly lives up to the hype. Many of the main courses have unique takes on classic veggies front and center. These dishes include charred broccoli with scrambled egg and sorrel and carrots roasted in hay, but if you're of the more carnivorous persuasion there's goat rolled in pasta with mole sauce, grilled quail, and a myriad of other meats to choose from. If you're in Texas and looking for something a little different, but prepared to an NYC professional standard, look no further than the Odd Duck.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: After humble beginnings in a food truck, the bricks-and-mortar restaurant of brothers Bryce and Dylan Gilmore quickly became one of Austin's darlings.

Shelley's expert tip: There are communal tables for those not looking for reservations and who just want to hang out. But take note that you're not going to have a say in who you sit next to.

Read more about Odd Duck →


Meet Shelley Seale

Shelley Seale is a freelance journalist and author in Austin who has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian and Texas Monthly, among others. She loves yoga, indie movies,...  More About Shelley