Sorry, New York – my heart now belongs to the heart of Texas. In an attempt to visit all 50 states over the course of our lives, we booked a trip to Austin with the sole intentions of eating and drinking our way throughout the city – my ideal kind of trip. Upon touchdown, I found that we were SO not in New York City anymore. Outdoor spaces! Spacious bars! Rooftops with no crowds! Non-astronomically priced drinks! Nice people! Automatically smitten, we eagerly set forth to conquer Austin cuisine.
At about 100 degrees every day, the heat gave us so many excuses to duck into every single bar and restaurant we came across. All those praises about Texas barbecue and tacos, I’d heard them sung over and over before, and turns out it’s all true. Here’s everywhere we went, which also happens to be everywhere we loved.
As soon as we got off the plane (let’s be honest, as soon as we booked our tickets) we had barbecue on the brain. Ironworks was our very first Austin food stop, and surprisingly our only barbecue stop – we were too dazzled by the tacos, more on that later. Not wanting to brave the lines at Franklin, this spot had no line on a Thursday afternoon for some reason and satisfied our meaty hopes and dreams – a platter of meat (we chose brisket) ran at just $12 bucks, and included a choice of two sides plus pickles and onions. We also got a brisket sandwich – both disappeared quickly.
Any bar on Rainey Street
If you’re looking to get away from the craziness of Dirty 6th, and looking for something a lot more authentically Austin, this is your street. Busy but still seemingly relaxed (especially if you go earlier in the evening), all have spacious outdoor areas and each spot offers something unique. Our favorites were Lustre Pearl, Container Bar, Javelina (get the GCP Cheese Fries topped with pork and queso and try to snag a spot on the shuffleboard table), and Lucille (lawn games in the patio!), but I’m sure if you hit up any (or all) of them you’ll have a good time.
Lots of bars here technically don’t serve food, but have food trucks located just outside of them, which leads me to…
Via 313 Pizza
You’re probably thinking what I thought – pizza in Austin? Hear me out. I guess it’s technically Detroit-style pizza (square and thick) but the experience is very Austin – located in a food truck in the back patio of Craft Pride, you can pair your pizza with a local beer and enjoy live music outside. If you’re gluten-free, you’re in luck – this is one of the best GF crusts, I’ve ever had, if not the actual best. Go with the Detroiter (pepperoni under AND over the cheese) or the Herbivore if you’re trying to get your veggies in. I’m still upset we didn’t take a pizza for the flight home.
A bakery upstairs, a bar downstairs, and a back patio with a ping pong table? Yes please. They don’t make places like this in New York – a super casual spot with an extensive beer list, room for you and all your friends, and freshly baked bread whenever you need it.
I never understood how tacos could be better in one place over another – after all, it’s just a shell stuffed with ingredients, right? Wrong. Completely wrong. Granny’s is a little white East Austin food truck that houses what are literally the best tacos I have ever had in my life. If we had only eaten here for the entirety of the trip, I would have been just fine. The tortillas are handmade, and those corn tortillas have made all other corn tortillas that I have ever consumed look completely inferior. Six tacos between two people got us completely stuffed – we tried a variety that were all egg and cheese, plus chorizo, potato, bacon, and even a cactus taco. Wash it all down with a Topo Chico and you’re set.
It’s a chain, but a good one. Menu items aren’t as traditional as some other spots, but they are quirky – we had a Democrat Taco with shredded beef barbacoa, and a Crossroads with beef brisket, combining the taco and BBQ scene into one little taco. There’s a bit of a fast food vibe, but the food is on point, and there’s even a bar.
Wright Bros Brew & Brew
Solid coffee shop using a multitude of roasters with a focus on Flat Track Coffee, brewed right in Austin. Really good cold brew, and super cute spot that I would 100% work from if I lived in the area, the WiFi is free! They offer some food, but if you’re looking to pair your coffee with a meal, head around the corner to…
Tiny, nondescript looking place in a warehouse-y type building housing amazing breakfast tacos. A few patio tables are outside. No frills spot with great flavor and very filling tacos.
Another East Austin bar, this one is slightly divey, with a photobooth, jukebox, and yet another spacious outdoor back patio that has tiki vibes. In typical Austin fashion, there’s a Creole food truck in the back which serves the famed Jambalaya Baton, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Totally chill East Austin lounge with fun cocktails, a good beer selection and at least one super friendly bartender. This is the type of bar I could go to over and over again just to hang. Apparently there’s a rooftop, which we’d normally be all in for if the temperature wasn’t in the triple digits.
Licha’s first caught my eye when heading over to Granny’s, particularly the adorable, brightly decorated, and shaded outdoor space. A Yelp search for the best breakfast near us pushed us inside, where we had a hefty brunch and $5 palomas in a homey, relaxed setting. If I lived here, this is where I’d become a regular. We got the Licha’s Torta and Quesadillas – everything looked so good, it was genuinely hard to settle on a dish. Would recommend to a friend and come back with them too.
Zilker Brewing Company
On our last day, we ventured further into East Austin in search of breweries and found Zilker. This spot was a gold mine if you’re into hoppy, hazy beer – we wanted to try them all. If you actually do want to do that, they do mini pours between $2.50 to $3 each, for ease of navigating the selection. The place has a beer garden style vibe, with picnic tables, benches, and a rotating foo truck outside, plus you can bring in any of your own food too.
Have you been to Austin? Did I miss a spot? Am I going to have to go back? Let me know where I should go next time!