We are back in Austin for Moontower this year, and excited to get back to our old favorite places and try some new ones. For god sakes people, if you’re in town visiting, GO LOCAL. That’s what Austin is all about. Obviously can eat red meat, you can go healthy with acai bowls, quinoa and fruit, or you can go traditional tex mex and still eat well enough that you’ll start trying to figure out if you can find a job in town and relocate.
As usual, our DISCLAIMER FOR TEXAS FOODIES! This is not the definitive list of the best food in Austin. We chose where to eat based on easy to access without missing shows, and quick trips to nearby neighborhoods where you can soak up a bunch of Austin in a small amount of time.
And if you haven’t purchased a badge yet, stop wasting time. Go to austintheater.org to get your passes, starting as low as $99 or buy single tickets to individual shows! And please go check out our list of the 11 shows you absolutely can’t miss while you’re at Moontower!
Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken: It’s not local, but let’s be honest. It’s close, fast, cheap and delicious. The Austin outpost of Memphis’ famous fried chicken phenom is so good . Just the basics, order the plate and get ready to eat. Big love to Mike Lawrence for giving us the word on Gus’ in 2015 when he told us it was the mark of a good food town- the cheapest place is also the best!” Open till 9 daily.
Turf N’ Surf Po Boy and Lacava Street Bar: Just outside of the area where the venues are, worth the journey over for excellent fish po boys.
Moonshine Bar and Grill. You don’t really have time for this but if you’re in town for an extra day- hit up this downtown institution, Moonshine bar and Grill. It’s a little easier to get in for lunch for great modern update on southern comfort cooking. This goes with out saying but the apps are the stars here. Skip the entree and double down on the previews.
Annies Cafe & Bar. A solid brunch alternative to those hotel restaurants. Make sure you have time to wait, Annie’s is pretty popular for farm to table local comfort foods.
Voodoo Donuts. it’s not local but makes our list because its open 24/7, and you will end up here sooner or later. Want something local, head to Gordough’s just a few blocks away.
P Terrys. One of Austin’s many local burger chains that we include only because we know you’re going to have at least one evening where you have about 15 minutes to scarf something down between two shows you don’t want to miss. It’s a burger you can eat on the run- think Shake Shack- good quality, decent fries and a shake. Plus they’re open late.
Casino El Camino. speaking of getting food late, this dive bar is known to have great hamburgers and Chile Verde Fries. Right on Sixth and Red River. Tip came from @Uprise49 on Twitter and elsewhere.They claim to have a great jukebox. We’ll be checking this one out.
Forthright Cafe. This is your healthy breakfast option to start your day with some energy. Avocado toast, fresh eggs, and french press coffee in a clean if somewhat corporate environment (outside seating is the way to go here), just steps from the infamous bat bridge. Healthy and good.
Blenders and Bowls. This is your even healthier breakfast option. You don’t eat meat, its too hot for tacos and you just went for a quick run to burn off last night’s drinking. You need to grab a quinoa bowl or an acai bowl at Blenders and Bowls on 4th street. They’re amazing. If you’ve never tried a bowl and want something that doesn’t feel so weighty in the Austin heat, this is a good place to start. The rest of you can ignore this and look for fattier alternatives.
Walton’s Fancy and Staple. When you travel for a festival there are two kinds of places you look for. The memorable, best restaurant in Austin experience, where you have local food that you can’t get back home. And then there’s the, I just want something good, quickly, without having to wait. I just need lunch. This place is the latter, and could literally become your staple. About four blocks west of Congress, its an order at the counter, and grab a table kind of place where the food is fresh and good. Sandwiches, salads, soups, and perfect for a quick breakfast. Great avocado toast, french toast, pastry and amazing sweets.
Holy Roller Diner. They call it the punk rock diner, but punk rock in the way that’s a little bit too pretty. It’s really just solid comfort food all day, which is welcome when you need a quick nearby bite. It’s small and crowded so we recommend Holy Roller only for off-hours.
Fareground. Downtown Austin Has a Food Hall. If food halls feel like they are the newest sensation ruining America like strip malls and actual malls, we get it. It’s an improvement on the food court but its still a food court and there’s something overly sanitized about the whole concept. However, when you are short on time, and have saved up enough cash to tolerate overpriced offers, a Food Hall can be convenient. 11 Congress Street.
Tip of the Week: Thanks to Matt Bearden who shared that the best deal in town takes place at famous Austin restaurant Parkside during happy hour and eat like you own the joint.
Guero’s: Skip the inside experience and head straight out to the outdoor taco bar, with live music, all the tequila you’ll ever need. Two words- fish tacos. Recommended to us originally by of Goddamn Comedy Jammer Johnny Skourtis.
Torchy’s Tacos: It’s a local chain, but you will have no complaints. It’s just tacos. Really good tacos. If you’re local it will not impress you but if you’re from out of town, its a part of the Austin experience and a nice take on googie architecture.
Amy’s Ice Cream: Another local chain with phenomenal handmade ice cream. If Tito’s is on the menu, that’s your pick. But you can’t go wrong with anything here.
Counter Cafe: The better diner for comfort breakfast and lunch, two locations, but be careful, they close early. Like afternoon early.
Banger’s: Rainey Street’s own beer garden brags all kinds of wurst, sausages, amazing sides and a massive beer list. Beware of anything that might have ghost peppers lurking, they are not fucking around at Banger’s. Outdoor seating, music, great pick.
Emmer and Rye: For those looking for something special, something “chef-y” and a spectacular brunch, Emmer and Rye is truly a WTF experience. This is a world class restaurant right on Rainey. Changing menus here, but its all amazing. Accompany with a walk down Rainey street, and top it all off with a walk down to the river.
Magnolia Cafe: Sort of a cross between a diner and a Dennys vibe, we picked this place because it seemed like it could easily accommodate our group, and there weren’t lines. But Magnolia surprised us- the breakfast tacos are delicious, as is everything else on their menu that we tried. And they could accommodate our group. 🙂
Cisco’s Austin: The secret is out. Everyone is heading to Ciscos for breakfast. This will be our first time there, so the only information I can give is pure hearsay, but trustworthy hearsay. Serving up great food since 1950, this year the restaurant received a historic designation. Tim Dillon says the migas are amazing. 1511 East 6th Street
Snooze AM: Overall its the best breakfast we’ve had so far. Forget the cutesy almost corporate vibe that may give you doubts- the food is so good. Tacos are great but the breakfast sandwich on pretzel role will make you want to use the word sublime, and you must get at least one pancake- go for the pineapple upside down pancake if you can’t make up your mind. Short cab ride from downtown.
Josephine House. Located in nearby Clarkesville, Josephine house has a pretty sweet breakfast and lunch menu. This is a place for when you’re still fresh faced and feel like eating things like avocado toast and a healthy spin on the donut. The egg sandwich is killer and there’s lots of fancy drinks both with and without alcohol. But this isn’t a greasy post-hangover breakfast. First day material. It’s tiny with just about 10 tables but if the weather’s nice there’s a full patio with lots of seating.
24 Diner: Every visitor to Moontower needs to know about 24 Diner, because you’ll forget to eat, and suddenly realize you’re starving at 1am. 24 Diner is your answer. Better than your average diner, with all the basics covered.
Matts El Rancho: Sent to us from Vic Henley, Matt’s El Rancho is known for authentic Tex Mex since 1952. Famous for the Bob Armstrong Queso dip (with meat, guacamole, sour cream) homemade tortillas, traditional tex-mex standards, and strong margaritas.
You really only have time to hit up one meatery unless you’re a hardcore so we haven’t visited them all, but these are the joints recommended by some of our comedy friends.
Franklins Barbecue: This is the most famous BBQ in Austin with the longest lines and most people in the area will tell you that you can get just as good BBQ elsewhere. Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that its excellent. If you go, you’ll be there for somewhere in the area of SIX HOURS waiting in line. People begin lining up at 5:45am. They open at 11. If you get there by 7am, you’ll probably be eating pretty close to that 11am open time, but that’s still four hours. It’s a fun day if the weather’s good and you’ll meet all kinds of interesting people, and they sell beer in the line. But a few ways to avoid the wait- call ahead and get take out, and bring it back to your hotel, or show up around 3pm and take a chance that they won’t run out.
Blacks BBQ: With a location in Lockhart and one in Austin too, planning to add this to the list for next year, as everyone’s telling us, this is the place.
Salt Lick BBQ: The only Austin BBQ joint with an outpost at the airport. While that alone might not impress you, everyone agrees its amazing. You’ll have to head a bit further out of town for Salt Lick but it may be worth it. Try the brisket breakfast tacos ,and get lots of napkins.
Opie’s BBQ: In 2015 we asked Kurt Metzger where to go to eat in Austin. “I had some great dry aged steak,” he said, “and of course Opie’s BBQ”
Iron Works BBQ: Jermaine Fowler said Iron Works is the place to BBQ.
Max’s Wine Dive: Monroe Martin pointed out that he has more expensive tastes than Jermaine, choosing Max’s Wine Dive.
Or just skip all of these altogether, because there’s plenty of good BBQ to go around. Randy Liedtke said John Mueller’s is the place to bo. Locals swear by Micklethwait, and Freedmen’s, or check out La Barbecue. Want no line and still some kind of Brisket and beef ribs experience? Try Terry Black’s on Barton Springs.
Up for a day trip? Nick Solares told us we should head to Lockhart Texas for BBQ. It’s 30 minutes away and will save you an eight hour wait on line, so all things considered, worth the extra time. You’ll have time to get there, and back and take a nap. Blacks BBQ, Smittys Market and Kreuz Market.
Last Resort: You can always hit up Salt Lick BBQ at the airport on your way home. They open early for breakfast tacos so you can annoy the person next to you on the plane with greasy dripping tacos loaded with eggs and brisket or sausage. I know I know its blasphemy, but if you live outside the BBQ belt, it still tastes better than anything you’ll find back home.
We didn’t have time for any of these spots, but they came highly recommended from a very trustworthy source, so if you’re looking to step out, and step up, check out Eden East, for breakfast or dinner, Dai Due for wild game, in a farm to table environment, Eberly with drinks at their Cedar Tavern, Barley Swine, Mattie’s, Jack Allan’s Kitchen on US Highway 71, Ramen Tatsu-ya , and Swift’s Attic to get a little funky. Parkside is beloved, as is their side space, the more casual Backspace where you can get pizza and wine. Also check out Odd Duck, and for a uniquely Austin experience, Contigo has Ranch to Table dining.
If you like it old school, with good food and great live music, you want to check out Texas Chili Parlor, and Austin Standard. Other places to go hear live music– Saxon Pub, the Elephant Room, and the Continental Club. Looking to Tex-Mex it? Maudie’s, Gloria’s (interior), or Uncle Julio’s, especially if you are dealing with a hangover. Matts El Rancho will also hit the spot. East Side King, a food truck recommended by absolutely everybody for Thai Fusion, and Veracruz Tacos, and La Reyna should be on your list too. Want Tacos? You gotta get breakfast tacos at Veracruz, real die-hards can hunt down a little orange trailer called Tacos Guererro where a Mexican grandma named Yolanda makes very cheap tacos in the parking lot of an insurance company on the east side.
Check everything before you go to make sure it hasn’t closed down- we haven’t fact checked everything since last year and sadly, progress moves quickly.