When you visit Austin there are a few things you need to check off your food bucket list. But what to eat in Austin when it’s the self-proclaimed food truck capital of the world? A trip to Amy’s is a must, you’re probably going to eat a lot of tacos and you’ll quickly need to form an opinion about the best BBQ in town (there’s A LOT.) I can’t be the only one who’s holiday itinerary involves a hit list of places to eat right? The weeks leading up to anywhere new involve deep diving into local food blogs, loading my phone up with Instagram screen grabs and pouring over menus all in the pure and noble pursuit of filling my belly.
24 hours a day, 8 days a week, Magnolia’s is a god damn local institution. On the surface is basic cafe food – all the breakfast foods, burgers, sandwiches and tacos. But it’s also basics done really REALLY well. Look, the pancakes are obscenely large (everything’s bigger in Texas), the tacos extremely spicey and the filter coffee readily flowing. They can readily cater to vegan and gluten-free diets (why yes, the gluten-free french toast did sound amazing) and have a dessert menu comprised almost entirely of pies that I kept threatening to back and try.
The beginning and end of Lala’s Little Nugget is that it’s a Christmas themed bar. It’s either a concept you are either way in to (me) or is your idea of hell given Earthly form. It is a divey, trashy cocktail bar where subtlety was left by the reindeers at the front door. It’s kitschy and glorious with a killer jukebox and a pool table and of course, since it’s Austin, BBQ. It’s definitely one of those that needs to be seen to be believed.
Come for the chicken, stay for the pie – Gus’s is all but legendary at this point (world famous even.) Grab a plate choosing from white or dark meat, (or both), breast or thigh (or both) – all of their chicken is cooked in peanut oil and comes in the most tremendous crispy, spicy batter. If you can fit it in it’s definitely worth getting in about their homemade pie selection which is essentially baked condensed milk. Totally tooth wincingly sweet but incredibly worth it.
A trip to Voodoo Doughnuts while in Austin is mandatory. If you like your baked goods with an “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality, a diverse range of vegan options and in every shape from voodoo dolls to dicks, well, Voodoo Doughnut has you covered. Don’t expect the heavens to part and choirs of angels to sing – the doughnuts are good, but not religious awakening good (that honour belongs to Brammibal in Berlin) but if you have a sweet tooth and are looking for some Instagram fodder look no further.
Hot sauce sits firmly at the bottom of the food pyramid in Austin (seriously, ask someone for hot sauce in a restaurant and you’ll be asked for your prefered brand) and if you’re going to do tex-mex and if you’re going to do a chain, well it’s got to be Torchy’s. The green chilli queso will all but change your life and their wide range of tacos with varying spice levels will have something to suit even the fussiest of palettes. I’d always recommend the trailer park and make sure to get it trashy.
This vegan cafe became our go-to brunch spot in Austin (more than one visit over the course of the week practically makes it your local right?) All irreverent pop culture references, a well-curated menu and a steady supply of good coffee made this a firm favourite. The tofu scramble was pure witchcraft in a tortilla wrap, the portions generous and the hot sauce selection extensive.
Soup dumplings rule everything around me and quite frankly if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my days, dumpings rank quite close to the top. While the Wu Chow dumplings were delicious I will say the service was slow and inattentive and it was expensive for what it was. It scratched a necessary itch for me and I’m sure if I was back over I’d go back.
Live music and BBQ is the name of the game at Stubb’s BBQ. With a build your own plate attitude (want brisket or ribs.) Again, it’s good, not life changing but it’s one more for the atmosphere than the meat (and if you’re wanting to skip out on setting up for hours waiting at other popular BBQ joints.)
If I could bring a pizza home and introduce it to my parents it would be Home Slice. No joke. Home Slice pizza is beautiful, cheesy poetry. The crust is that perfect satisfying crunch without being dry, the toppings flavoursome without being fussy – yes, Home Slice was my pizza soul mate. I think of it often.
Speaking of snack soul mates, anything I say about Tasty Spoon is going to sound like unfiltered hyperbole but really guys, it is, in fact, THAT GOOD. I went for a coconut gelato and a grapefruit sorbet and be still my beating heart, as far as ice cream goes, I’ve yet to meet it’s equal. The coconut had that perfect summer taste (think the lingering smell of freshly applied sunscreen) while the grapefruit had this cutting bittersweetness without being too tart. The funfetti cone was but a brucey bonus.
In 35 degree plus heat, ice cream consumption is pretty much up there with your liquid intake and Amy’s is fantastic. Sure you can get a scoop, but they have a cold slab, a bunch of toppings and when mooshed together, well art happens dear reader. Art. Happens. Strawberry cheesecake with cookie dough was the hero I didn’t know I needed but here we are. Expect there to be a queue but it’s always going to be worth the wait.
A stone throws from our Airbnb, Elizabeth Street Cafe was the delightful amalgamation of Viatmaniese cafe and french bakehouse. Their summer rolls were delightful and fresh, and in truth, Elizabeth Street was my main source of veg that hadn’t been fried during my time there. Well priced, a killer brunch menu and gluten-free options aplenty, Elizabeth Street Cafe is a sure-fire people pleaser.
Part bar, part multi-events space, Spider House hosts everything from bands to djs to live comedy. They also make the single best bloody mary I’ve ever had in my life. Packed with heat and pickles (making the drink practically a meal in itself) their bloody mary was perfect for kicking back in their courtyard while live bands played. Overlooking the space included boutiques, food carts and tattoo parlours and while there, $20 for a heaped-up plate of crayfish seemed definitely like a thing. Lots of neon, strings of Christmas lights and dog-friendly, when writing up your hit list make sure this one is near the top.