As more and more people move to Austin from all over the world, Austin’s food scene continues to transform. Recently named the 8th best foodie city for your wallet, Austin is quickly becoming a go to food destination. New chefs continue to infiltrate the food scene and I would only expect Austin’s foodie scene to expand. Even though Austin cuisine is becoming as diverse as the non-Texan residents moving here everyday, there are a few foods that are uniquely Austin.
Italians have their sugo. Southerners have their sausage gravy. In Austin, we love our queso (pronounced k-so). Queso is a creamy melted cheese sauce that can be used to cover practically anything. It is normally served as a side dish escorted with a hefty mound of tortilla chips, but could be drizzled over a taco or sandwich. Restaurants all over town brag about their queso being the best in Austin. White cheese versus yellow cheese! Jalapenos versus Hatch! Tomatoes or Tomato-less! Each restaurant has their own special batch. Here are some of our favorites.
Bob Armstrong Dip at Matt’s El Rancho
The Bob Armstrong used to be an off menu item only known to locals. The reputation spread and now it’s a staple on the menu. The Bob Armstrong has a little bit of everything. This one uses the yellow American cheese, tomatoes, green chilies, onions, avocado and ground beef. It is one of the best you’ll find in Austin.
Queso Blanco at Benji’s Cantina
This is the white stuff. Not as entailed as the Bob Armstrong but just as flavorful. A simple blend of Oaxaca, Jack, and Chihuahua cheese with roasted green chiles is all you need. This one is a little creamy, has a little kick and a offers a whole lot of flavor.
If you’ve spent any time in Austin, you’ve definitely heard about the breakfast tacos. If there was one food that symbolizes Austin, breakfast tacos would be it. So much so, they even sell them in the airport. I wouldn’t suggest this to be the first place to try them, but hey, it’s still a breakfast taco. The simple description of a breakfast taco is any combination of breakfast items enveloped between a corn or flour tortilla. Still confused? Here’s a couple of the best places to experience this classic Austin breakfast.
Tacodeli is our favorite place for breakfast tacos. All the tacos are made to order with the freshest, locally-sourced and organic ingredients. The must tries are….The Otto (refried black beans, bacon, avocado and Monterey Jack Cheese), The Jess Special (scrambled eggs, jack cheese and avocados) and the Frontera Fundido (grilled sirloin, glazed jack cheese with sauteed poblanos and onions. Although Tacodeli has a lunch menu that stands on it’s own, the breakfast tacos are what keeps us coming back.
Coming in at a close second, Papalote is our other favorite when it comes to breakfast tacos. These tacos are a little more authentic, as well as a little better bang for your buck. At Papalote’s they make it simple…you get your eggs and then you pick your meat and cheese. Papalote’s has fantastic flour tortillas and their house made salsas really make these tacos pop.
There is no way you can be in Texas and not have barbecue on the list. You never have to travel too far to find a good rib or brisket in Austin. Texas does barbecue like no place else in the U.S. It’s more about the beef than the pork and more about the rub than the sauce. Whatever it is, barbecue is king in Texas and Austin is at it’s heart.
As most top-notch barbecue joints do in Austin, they open for lunch (11 a.m.) and close when they run out. Lines start early and sometimes you have to prepare yourself for a long wait. Although they do have some decent sides, La Barbecue is all about the meat. The melt in your mouth brisket is life changing and the gigantic beef ribs are fall of the bone fantastic.
Browns Bar-B-Que is a small food trailer on South Lamar right outside the corner bar. Quickly growing in reputation, this place is definitely a must try with for any barbecue connoisseur. Brown’s is probably the best all around barbecue joint in Austin. From the meats to the sides, Browns Bar-B-Que does it all at a high level.
Moving to Texas, Tex-Mex has never been our favorite. Growing up with more traditional Mexican food, Tex-Mex just didn’t do it for us. However, when Tex-Mex is done right, it can be quite good. If you think you’ve never had Tex-Mex, you probably have, as most Mexican restaurants in the U.S. serve what is considered Tex-Mex. The main differences between traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex is made up of just a few key ingredients. If you’ve had Mexican food with beef, shredded yellow cheese, flour tortillas, black beans and cumin, you’ve had Tex-Mex.
Not just one of our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants, but one of our favorite restaurants in Austin. Curra’s Grill has been a staple in the Travis Heights neighborhood for over 20 years. One taste and you’ll see why. Some of our favorites are the carnitas tacos and the cochinita pibil. Oh…don’t forget about the avocado margaritas. Worth the trip alone.
Fonda San Miguel
Want a little more upscale? Fonda San Miguel is your place. Beautiful as it is delicious, this is the perfect place for date night or a family gathering. They have an extensive drink menu and the perfect outdoor setting for happy hour. The food is described as interior Mexico with Tex- Mex twist. A few of the our favorites are the chicken thighs in mole, fried fish with ancho Aioli and their Nopalito Salad.
From restaurants to food trucks to grocery stores, if the food has a classification, it has a home in Austin. What do I mean by this? Any food or restaurant that advertises being “organic”, “farm fresh”, “farm to table”, “local”, “vegan”, “vegetarian”, “gluten free”, “dairy free”, “egg free”, “soy free” and or “raw”, Austinites love it. If you can get it all in one, you’ve hit the motherload. People will claw and scrape their way to get to it. Austin is very good at accommodating the wants and needs of the population. If you have a food allergy, a lot of restaurants are happy to oblige. Some will even provide an alternative menu to you.
Conscious Cravings is a popular Austin food truck located off of South First. They specialize in wraps, salads and smoothies geared towards the vegetarian/vegan crowd. Their mission is to provide homemade, healthy food, packed with flavor and at an affordable price. Some of their most popular items are the spicy chickpea wrap, the quinoa salad and the mango peach smoothie.
Casa de Luz
Casa de Luz is more than just a restaurant, it’s dubbed as an experiential, educational community center. Serving more than 200 people a day, Casa de Luz’ goal is to build community through their food. Guests all sit together at large tables prompting socialization amongst new friends. The ever-changing menu is served cafeteria style with a focus on organic, vegan and gluten-free.
Try One of The 5 Foods that are Uniquely Austin Next Time You’re Here
The personality of a city is directly reflected in their cuisine. As you can see with most of the foods on this list, they’re similar to Austin – diverse, social and packed with flavor. As an Austinite, we all love our city and especially the things that make it unique. Even though we are happy to open our doors to the world, we are and very proud of the foods that make us uniquely Austin. When you’re visiting Austin, make sure you try something new.
Considering Relocating to Austin?
Though we didn’t relocate to Austin strictly because of the food, it is something we have really grown to like. Our food scene is completely different than other big cities, but it is unique and that’s part of the charm. There are a lot of other reasons we relocated to Austin and we’d be happy to share more about that if you are considering a move to Austin as well. We’ve helped many families move to Austin and have a 100% success rate with helping our clients find the absolute best part of town for them. Check out our Guide to Relocating to Austin for more info. Then, call us at (512) 827-8323, email us at info@11OaksRealty.com or fill out our Relocation Survey to get started.