Yep, another one of those crazy lists. This one, of my ten favorite restaurants in Austin, was a real toughie. The one clear choice was Texas French Bread (pictured above), our absolute number-one favorite dinner spot. After that, however, things got a little murky.
A few disclaimers: Austin is a pretty good eaters’ town, but I tried to restrict myself (for the most part) to restaurants that feature local and seasonal ingredients, which narrowed the field somewhat. Virtually all of the places I’ve listed are in central or north Austin, because that’s where we live and spend most of our time. Heather’s list might look somewhat different than mine, though I trust there’d be a healthy amount of overlap. I’ve included only one barbecue place, which may strike some Austinites as sacrilegious. And there are a number of other places I’ve tried and enjoyed immensely, but haven’t managed to return to often enough for them to make my top ten just yet.
But enough stalling; here’s a first attempt at a top ten, in alphabetical order.
Café Pacha, 4618 Burnet Road: a great spot to feel that inimitable Austin groove, with fair trade coffee, smoothies, empanadas, sandwiches, omelets, etc., most of which are organic, and a vaguely South American vibe.
Changos Taqueria, 3023 Guadalupe: wonderful tacos (and enormous burritos), made to order with fresh ingredients. We’re partial to the aguas frescas, too, especially the horchata.
Eastside Café, 2113 Manor Road: a longtime Austin favorite, with a beautiful organic garden perfect for strolling before or after dinner.
Fino Restaurant Patio and Bar, 2905 San Gabriel: a pan-Mediterranean place with a great bar, and the sister of Emmett Fox’s Asti Trattoria in Hyde Park. We really go for the small plates and tapas.
Julio’s Café, 4230 Duval: a funky little Hyde Park neighborhood favorite serving wonderful Mexican food. The chicken enchilada plate with green tomatillo sauce is one of my very favorite dishes in Austin.
Ruby’s BBQ, 512 West 29th Street: genuine pit-smoked barbecue (the all-natural brisket is my favorite), terrific sides, excellent tacos and Cajun dishes, and signed memorabilia from a variety of blues, R&B, and rock and roll legends who played at the now-relocated Antone’s when it used to be next door.
Salvation Pizza, 624 West 34th Street: great thin-crust pizza. The #5 (white pie with chicken, prosciutto, dried sage, and fresh garlic) is our family’s favorite.
Somnio’s Café, 1807 South First Street: the dining room feels like your grandma’s house, with mismatched furniture and an informal feel, but grandma never cooked like this: fresh, locally sourced, organic, even some vegan options. BYOB.
Texas French Bread, 2900 Rio Grande: fresh, locally sourced bistro food; reasonable prices; casual ambience; BYOB—what’s not to like? If you live in or near Austin and haven’t had dinner there yet, you need to do so as soon as possible.
Vino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe: this wine bar-cum-restaurant is not the place to come for a quiet, intimate dinner, but we love everything about it—the food, the incredible wine selection, the wonderful and helpful staff—except the decibel level.
So there you have it. Now we’d love to hear about some of your local favorites, in Austin or elsewhere!
What we’re reading
Heather: Robert McAfee Brown (ed.), The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected Essays and Addresses
Martin: Ellen Lupton, Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students