Spending Six Months in Austin: Your Food Bucket List
In the past decade, Austin has evolved from a college town with a live music habit into a booming tech city brimming with incredible food, drink, and entertainment. On the plus side, there is no shortage of places to eat while you’re here, from the city’s food trucks to its amazing brick-and-mortar haunts. But that means planning a permanent or even temporary move to the capital of Texas can also be daunting—how can you make sure you’re checking off the most essential food stops while you’re in town?
Whether you’re planning on spending one month or six months or more exploring this city, we’ve crafted this food bucket list to make sure you can check out all of the fantastic Austin restaurants while you’re in town—from the classic tourist stops to the local favorites and everything in between.
Your Austin Food Bucket List, Month One: The Classics
You’ve all heard the hype—now, it’s time to see if the food lives up to it. (Spoiler alert: It does!) These are the spots you can’t miss when you first arrive in Austin:
1. Franklin Barbecue
There’s a reason barbecue enthusiasts travel across the globe to stand in line for hours at James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s celebrated spot on East 11th Street. Well, several reasons, actually—thick and juicy brisket, succulent pulled pork, pork ribs with peppery bark…you get the idea. While you’re not going to want to brave the wait for these tender, melt-in-your-mouth meats on the regular, a visit to Franklin Barbecue is a must for all foodies and meat lovers.
This iconic Austin restaurant in the upscale Clarksville neighborhood is the spot to be for special occasions or treating yourself to some Texas-style fine dining. We’re talking martini carts, caviar service, aged steaks, and souffle served by waiters in white tuxedos. There is a loophole, though: Happy hour at Jeffrey’s lasts for the entire day on Monday, and all bar food and wines by the glass are 25% off.
3. Matt’s El Rancho
This classic, tried-and-true Tex-Mex destination is one of those places that’s touristy for good reason (and that’s why it’s been around since 1952!). The Bob Armstrong dip, a queso creation named after the former land commissioner, is nothing short of legendary. The Mexican martinis are strong, the chile con carne enchiladas are a staple, and the South 1st Street patio is always abuzz with life and laughter. Matt’s El Rancho just feels like Austin is supposed to!
4. Fonda San Miguel
Many people move to Texas without an awareness of the difference between Tex-Mex and interior Mexican cuisine. After visiting Matt’s for classic Tex-Mex, head to Fonda San Miguel, a stunning, Talavera-tiled North Loop restaurant, for a crash course in the type of food you’d find south of the border, including pollo con mole Poblano, pescado Veracruzano, relleno de picadillo, cochinita pibil, and so much more.
Sushi might not be the first thing that comes to mind in the landlocked state of Texas. But chef Tyson Cole really put Austin on the food map in 2003 when he opened Uchi in a city filled primarily with barbecue and tacos. There are now locations in Dallas, Houston, Denver, and Miami, but the original location on South Lamar is a must-experience.
Pro tip: Make a reservation during happy hour and sit at the sushi bar to watch the chefs turn fish into edible art.
6. Veracruz All Natural
Every local has strong opinions about their tacos of choice, but Veracruz All Natural is at the top of everyone’s lists. What started as one eastside trailer quickly erupted into multiple locations across the city (plus a brick-and-mortar in Round Rock).
The East Austin location on Webberville features plenty of seating under the shade of lovely oak trees—the perfect setting to enjoy fresh-squeezed juices and their scrumptious tacos (the migas and La Reyna are essential for breakfast).
Your Austin Food Bucket List, Month Two: The Local Scoop
One month in, and you’ve got plenty of Austin restaurant recommendations under your belt—you’re no newbie anymore! Now that you’ve scratched the surface, you’re ready to get a little deeper into Austin’s seemingly endless food scene. Make sure to hit these local favorites next:
1. la Barbecue
The conversation about barbecue in Austin usually starts with Franklin Barbecue and quickly moves to la Barbecue. In fact, plenty of locals prefer la Barbecue‘s more creative take on the genre over Franklin’s more classic approach.
In addition to the Texas Trinity (brisket, sausage, and pulled pork), you’ll find super moist turkey, massive beef ribs, and snappy sausage made in-house. Can’t decide? Order a sandwich piled high with all the meats, and don’t forget to order spicy dill pickles, melty shells and cheese, and sweet pepper and cucumber kimchi on the side.
The line isn’t typically as long as Franklin’s, and as a bonus, you can place a pre-order (with no minimum) and skip the wait entirely.
2. Granny’s Tacos
This little trailer off East 7th Street has been known to draw some real crowds on the weekends, so arriving early is best to get your hands on their fresh, delicious tacos on handmade tortillas. Try Granny’s Tacos‘ take on picadillo—made with steak, pico de gallo, chunks of potato, and cheese—and the chilaquil with mole, topped with a pickled jalapeño and a sprinkle of queso blanco. And, be sure to do as the locals do and order an uber-bubbly Topo Chico to wash it all down with.
3. Dai Due
For a true taste of Austin, a visit to Dai Due is in order. Everything in this East Austin butcher shop and restaurant is as local as it comes, from the olive oil and cheese to the wine and beer. Chef Jesse Griffiths creates each dish to highlight the proteins he carefully sources from local ranches and waters.
While all the meals served at this Austin restaurant are equally fantastic, the Central Texas Breakfast is essential, featuring eggs, fried potatoes, sourdough toast or a biscuit with butter and housemade jam, and grits with your choice of wild boar boudin, bacon, ham, or antelope breakfast sausage.
4. Odd Duck
Chef Bryce Gilmore is another champion of local farmers and ranchers, and it shows in his growing restaurant empire, which all started with a humble food truck. Odd Duck is now a spacious and successful restaurant on South Lamar known for its creative—and sometimes irreverent—use of bold flavors and textures. We recommend ordering the peach salad with pork rinds, kimchi vinaigrette, and whipped chévre or the chicken-fried snapper head with fresh herbs, grilled lime, and butternut-aji chile purée.
Pizza lovers know to head to Bufalina for perfectly leopard-charred Neapolitan pies and one of the best natural wine lists in town. But don’t stop there—to neglect the perfectly composed salads and veggie dishes in lieu of pie would be a disservice. Be sure to go with a group and order everything, starting with the housemade mozzarella and focaccia.
Pro tip: All pies and bottles of wine are half off during Bufalina’s daily happy hour from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Your Austin Food Bucket List: Month Three: The Culinary Exploration
Now that you’ve graduated to month three in Austin and are a little more familiar with your surroundings, it’s time to further your culinary exploration with these chef-driven gems. While they’re far from under-the-radar, it will take a bit of finesse to snag reservations to some of these.
Masa made from local heirloom corn is the basis of the menu at East Sixth Street’s Suerte, where chef Fermín Nuñez draws inspiration from all over Mexico for his artful dishes made with the best quality ingredients he can source. The suadero tacos, made with confit Wagyu brisket and housemade black magic oil, are a thing of beauty, and the Chocotaco will go above and beyond your childhood memories.
2. Dee Dee
This trailer, located outside of Radio Coffee & Beer, is one of the only places in town to get Northern Thai cuisine. Chef Lakana Trubiana’s menu features just a few dishes at a time, made with farm-fresh ingredients—and believe her when she says it’s spicy! The laab moo and som tam are both Dee Dee standouts, but aren’t for the faint of heart: One of their delicious Thai teas may be necessary to cool the burn.
This downtown restaurant, from the same hospitality group that runs Emmer & Rye, is centered around a 20-foot hearth, where chef Kevin Fink creates flame-kissed creations, from a smoked crab tart to dry-aged Wagyu bavette to the embered aubergine that comes with chocolate cake and smoked cream. The back of Hestia opens up to a lovely view of the city, so book a seat on the patio, if possible.
Since it first opened, this East 12th Street restaurant has been drawing diners aplenty for both its Euro-centric menu and well-curated wine list. The beef tartare is the best in town, accompanied by a housemade carta di musica. Twice a year, the space turns into an Italian-American red sauce joint pop-up in honor of the chef’s grandpa.
Snag a seat at the open kitchen bar to see chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel in action. Birdie’s doesn’t take reservations, so plan on coming early and waiting in line with a glass of wine in hand.
5. Nixta Taqueria
Don’t expect a typical taqueria when visiting here, because Nixta Taqueria is far from typical. The East 12th Street Cafe specializes in made with seasonal ingredients, from roasted cauliflower to duck carnitas to the enchiladas Potosina made in chef and co-owner Edgar Rico’s neck of Mexico.
Don’t miss the saffron- and rosewater-infused Persian rice pudding inspired by co-owner Sara Mardanbigi’s Persian background.
6. Kemuri Tatsu-ya
Believe it or not, there may come a time when you tire of Tex-Mex and traditional barbecue. Kemuri Tatsu-ya is the antidote. It doesn’t get more Austin than this fun, funky eastside izakaya with a Texas twist. Here, you can dine on chili cheese takoyaki, ray fin jerky, corn ribs, brisket hot pockets, and smoked unagi while drinking Japanese whisky cocktails out of a samurai vessel.
The walls are decked with vintage signs from both Japan and Texas, and the soundtrack is almost exclusively hip-hop. We can guarantee you’ve never been anywhere quite like here.
Tips From a Landing Member
“While living in Austin, I ate more tacos than I can count. Seriously. The homemade tortillas, the authentic salsas, and the kind smiles from the hardworking employees kept me coming back for more—and more, and more.”
— Jess Goudreault, “How I Spent Three Months Living in Austin, Texas”
Your Austin Food Bucket List: Month Four: The Local Favorites
Locals always know the best places to go. And, once you’re four months into your Austin stay, you’ll probably be feeling more like one. Be sure to check out these spots, then casually drop recommendations to the newer newbs you meet at the gym or in line at Whole Foods—they need your guidance.
1. La Santa Barbacha
This trailer—located in the backyard of Native, the hip hostel-turned-bar-and-community space on East 4th Street—is turning out some of the most delicious tacos in town! The specialty here is barbacoa, and it does appear in most of their creations. La Santa Barbacha also makes its own sopes and tortillas in-house, even using spinach for a green base and beets for a bright-red one.
While you really can’t go wrong with anything you order, try the Benito, piled with pinto beans, chicharron, barbacoa, queso fresco, and avocado.
2. APT 115
This tiny wine bar, tucked in the bottom of the 7East building, feels like you’re hanging out at the apartment of a friend with a cool vinyl collection, a penchant for tchotchkes, and a worldly knowledge of wine. There are hundreds of labels packed into the intimate space, and APT 115 will open almost anything for you to enjoy by the glass. This ultimate date-night spot is perfect for snacking on meat and cheese boards or going all in on the tasting menu, which changes with the local, seasonal bounty.
3. Salt & Time
What started as a small, eastside butcher shop developed into a bar, restaurant, and specialty grocery store with an adjacent wine shop. Salt & Time is another place to taste the best of Austin’s local produce and ethically, sustainably raised meats for brunch, lunch, and dinner. We recommend trying the muffaletta, the Wagyu roast beef, or the butcher’s burger with beef fat fries.
Don’t miss the market offerings on your way out—we bet you won’t be able to resist the excellent curation of condiments, salts, and spices!
This all-day Japanese restaurant on Airport Boulevard in North Austin is a mainstay for nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls, plus grilled items, bento boxes, and udon and soba noodles. You’ll also find menu items at Kome that you’d don’t see often in Austin, like okonomoyaki and onigiri (rice balls). After a closure that surpassed two years, locals are stoked that this fan favorite is back in action.
5. Fil N’ Viet
You’d have to be a local—or know one—to find your way to Fil ‘n’ Viet, a trailer with a tiny home dining space located in Camp East, a collection of tiny-home businesses on East 12th Street. Upon opening, this husband-and-wife-helmed restaurant earned immediate acclaim for its creative marriage of Filipino and Vietnamese cuisine.
They typically sell out, so we recommend going early or you’ll risk having fewer options. You can’t go wrong here with your order, though—everything is great, from the BBQ skewers and tamarind chicken wings to the savory coconut pancakes and protein-topped bowls.
Your Austin Food Bucket List, Month Five: The Free for All
They might not be the newest or fanciest spots on this list, but you’ll find yourself at these culinary staples frequently while in Austin— at least if you’re doing it right!
1. Easy Tiger
This Austin-born beer garden and bakery has now grown to three locations across the city (plus a pretzel bar in the Domain), making it easier than ever to get your hands on their incredible bread, which is used by restaurants all over town. Easy Tiger also sells delicious sandwiches and housemade sausages. Even if you don’t save room for dessert, be sure to get a few of their expertly crafted pastries to go.
2. Better Half Coffee & Cocktails
It’s always a good time to go to Better Half! As the name indicates, this all-day coffee shop on West Fifth Street starts with breakfast and coffee and ends with craft cocktails and burgers (okay, there are also some salads in there, and even those are delicious).
Better Half Coffee & Cocktails is a great spot to gather with friends for drinks and snacks you’ll salivate over, like pastrami queso and cauliflower tots. The same owners opened Holdout Brewing next door, and the two share a yard.
3. Home Slice
Long before Austin had delicious Neapolitan or Detroit-style pizza, Home Slice was turning out New York-style pies good enough to satisfy all the East Coast transplants (and even a fantastic New Haven-style clam pie!). Their meatball and Italian subs are also not to be missed.
The original South Congress location is iconic and also offers an adjacent slice shop that lets you get your fix faster than at the always-mobbed restaurant. There’s also a Home Slice location on the North Loop that has a more modern feel to it.
4. Eldorado Cafe
When it comes to Tex-Mex, there are some spots around town that are decadent and delicious but are so lard- and cheese-laden that you’ll be incapacitated after your meal. Enter North Austin’s Eldorado Cafe, a restaurant that proves that Tex-Mex can be fresh, hearty, and colorful, too!
There’s a lengthy list of enchiladas to choose from, plus various small plates, bowls, and combinations starring carnitas, guisada, green chile pork, and more.
fThis food trailer squirreled away in the back of the Vortex Theater on Manor Road has gained a cult following over the years for its handmade pastas, family recipe meatballs, farm-fresh salads, and house desserts. Opt for the Dinner for Two for a no-brainer date night solution, and everything comes packed and ready to picnic.
After years in this location as a trailer, Patrizi’s recently opened its first brick-and-mortar out in Cuernavaca, but the original really exudes Austin vibes. Order ahead of time and skip the line!
Landing Member Pick: Patrizi’s!
“Our experience at Patrizi’s really encapsulated what Austin is—fun, delicious, friendly, and, of course, a little bit weird! It was such an easy, cool vibe of a place, and the food is amazing.”
— Landing member Roxanna Kroll
Your Austin Food Bucket List, Month Six: The Repeats
Have you checked everything off your bucket list? To be honest, that might not even be possible in this constantly growing food city, but we can always try, right? You may even want to visit some other projects by some of Austin’s favorite chefs and restaurateurs for the ultimate dining experience, including the following:
1. Ramen Tatsu-ya
You absolutely cannot leave town without going to Ramen Tatsu-ya, especially if you loved Kemuri Tatsu-ya (one of the chef duo’s many projects). Starting as a tiny ramen shop in a strip mall up north, this homegrown sensation is now five locations strong (including one in Houston).
They specialize in tonkatsu, a rich and slow-cooked pork bone broth base, but you can also opt for a lighter chicken shoyu broth or a vegan almond-based broth. Each bowl comes composed with a perfect balance of ingredients, but there’s also a menu of fun add-ons like the must-try brown butter corn, aged Parmesan, and flash-fried Brussels sprouts.
You should’ve covered Franklin Barbecue and Uchi in your first month—now it’s time to visit Loro, the brainchild of Aaron Franklin and Uchi’s Tyson Cole. This Asian-inspired smokehouse pairs Franklin’s meat-smoking expertise with Cole’s culinary artistry and the results are delightful.
Because everything complements each other so well, it’s best to go with a group and order family-style. We recommend ordering the crunchy sweet corn fritters with sriracha aioli, cabbage salad with cashew-ginger vinaigrette, Malaysian chicken bo ssam, and the smoked Duroc pork ribs with cauliflower pickles.
3. Sour Duck Market
You inevitably loved Odd Duck, so be sure to check out Sour Duck Market, chef Bryce Gilmore’s newest culinary endeavor. In contrast to his tasting menu format at Barley Swine, Sour Duck Market is intended to be the most accessible and affordable of the group’s three restaurants.
Order housemade pastries and stacked sandwiches at the counter inside, then relax on the spacious patio with one of their draft cocktails. During happy hour on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m., the entire menu is 20% off.
This sister restaurant to Uchi, located on Burnet in Rosedale, is another must-visit. While you’ll find the same level of sushi art at Uchiko, this much more spacious location continues to push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine with an even more expanded menu, plus a full bar and specialty cocktails.
There is some cross-over of classic tastings—like the yokai berry (salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian pear and yuzu), hama chili (yellowtail, ponzu, Thai chile, orange), and the Wagyu beef hot tock—but there are plenty of unique and always-changing innovations here, too.
5. TLV and Henbit
If you were a fan of Hestia’s refined live fire creations, you should visit the Emmer & Rye hospitality group’s casual concepts, both found within Fareground, the city’s downtown food hall. TLV features Israeli street food such as hummus bowls and pita wraps made fresh with a rainbow of fermentables.
The nearby Henbit is a farm-focused counter service concept serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. It’s hard to say which is better—the must-order breakfast sandwich or the burger—each presented on housemade bread from locally milled grains.
Thinking about moving to Austin?
No matter how long you stay in Austin, it’s never going to feel like enough time to explore the city’s dynamic culinary scene! The good news is that Landing offers fully furnished apartments in Austin with flexible leases that make it easy to stay in town for as little or as long as you’d like. Learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you today!