Based on talking to locals, researching articles in Southern Living, The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, United Hemispheres Magazine, Eater Austin, The Daily Meal and the Travel Channel, and eating some great meals, I found our top Austin restaurants and am so happy to share the list with you.
Uchiko: Opened in 2010, it is by far one of the best restaurants in Austin. I met friends for one of the most enjoyable sushi dinners I have ever had. It was packed with people in a contemporary atmosphere. The service was really exceptional and the food so creative. The hot entrees for sharing, the rolls and the individual nigiri were perfect. The tobacco ice cream with a touch of scotch was a great touch to end the evening. The executive chef/owner is Tyson Cole. It is at 4200 N. Lamar, just north of downtown. You might try their sister restaurant, Uchi, if you have time. Cole was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef 2005 and received a James Beard Nomination for Best Chef Southwest 2011.
South Congress Cafe: Located at 1600 S. Congress, South Congress Cafe is the perfect place for daily brunch or dinner. I liked the creative menu, the staff and the contemporary interior. I equally enjoyed a spinach salad, with scallops and a warm maple/bacon balsamic vinaigrette.
Hillside Farmacy: Just east of 1-35 at 1209 E. 11th St., is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. I really liked the atmosphere and design which features a large bar and old pharmacy shelves featuring many local products from Austin and the nearby area.
Clark’s Oyster Bar: At 1200 W. 6th St., this restaurant is a fairly new restaurant that opened October 2012. It has a great menu and an equally great design. Opened by chefs Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman, Clark’s is a West Austin neighborhood spot for fresh oysters, simply prepared seafood, sustainable selections of caviar, house baked bread, hamburgers, brunch and a carefully curated beverage program. It is part of the restaurant group that includes Elizabeth Street, Lamberts Barbecue and Perla.
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue: Having seen the restaurant featured on the Travel Channel, I had to have my last lunch there at 401 W. 2nd Street. It was very crowded with a lively crowd and had a great interior. I enjoyed sampling three barbecued meats: pulled pork, chicken and brisket. The brisket was my favorite with an espresso and brown sugar rub. I also enjoyed my two sides of collard greens and a tasty carrot/jicama slaw. I would definitely go back and encourage you to try it. They feature music upstairs several nights a week.
Elizabeth Street Cafe: A local’s hangout located South of downtown at 1501 South First Street, this is a café and restaurant offering Vietnamese/French fusion. I had breakfast there and really enjoyed the food. They have wonderful French pastries (the almond croissant was incredible), omelettes and other breakfast items. My omelette with roast pork, mushrooms and a jicama/mango/cilantro slaw was really outstanding. The atmosphere/décor was attractive and casual.
La Condesa: A must in Austin! I chose La Condesa after seeing it on several top lists of the best restaurants in the city. It features contemporary Mexican cuisine in a very fun, well-designed and colorful space. I loved my chicken tacos, horchatta, and shrimp, mango and arugula salad. It is downtown at 4oo W. 2nd St.
Jo’s Coffee: At 1300 S. Congress, this Jo’s is one of a two store chain offering good coffee and food items. The South Congress location has outdoor seating and is a great spot to people watch.
Cenote Coffee Café: On East Cesar Chavez, west of the Heywood Hotel, is this attractive coffee house and bar.
Odd Duck: A popular restaurant where chefs Mark Buley and Sam Hellman-Mass were semi-finalists in the Rising Star category by the James Beard Foundation in 2015. They also have Barley Swine where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have had recently. Odd Duck opened in 2013 on the site of their original food trailer and supports local farms and ingredients. 1201 S. Lamar.
Barley Swine: Owned by the same team as Odd Duck, they recently moved north from S. Lamar Blvd. As mentioned above, I enjoyed a really wonderful meal. I opted not to do the 12 course tasting menu but did order from the ala carte menu. My choices of the grilled strawberries with snap peas and chevre; the grilled carrots, with peanut yogurt, herbs and avocado; the amberjack with peas and leeks plus the sweet potato pie with pecan, cider and marshmallow were really outstanding and beautifully prepared. 6555 Burnet Rd.
Launderette, 2115 Holly St.: I loved the atmosphere, design and food at this hot East Austin restaurant. I enjoyed brunch on Saturday with an asparagus benedict with asparagus, serrano ham, house made English muffins topped off with a truffle hollandaise. The fried oysters Florentine also looked very good with poached eggs, spinach and mustard hollandaise. I loved my carrot parsnip cake made with goat cheese, parsnip, carrot-asian fruit gelee and honey rosemary ice cream and a taste of their root beer ice cream. They have been nominated for a James Beard Award in 2016 for Best New Restaurant.
Geraldine’s/Hotel Van Zandt: Located in the new Kimpton Hotel is Geraldine’s. This rooftop restaurant, overlooking the pool, is a great spot to eat. I enjoyed a great Sunday brunch with friends which included a very good menu and live music. As parking can be tight in the neighborhood, they do offer valet parking with free validation if you eat at the restaurant.
Another good dining option on Rainey St. is Emmer & Rye featuring the best in local ingredients. Chef Kevin Fink was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2016. 51 Rainey St.
Dai Due: This popular restaurant, at 2406 Manor Rd., has received very good reviews and press. It was listed by Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the top 10 new restaurants in 2015. The restaurant began as a farmer’s market stand and then as a pop-up dinner series. It’s now in a new permanent space with both indoor and outdoor dining, an open kitchen and butcher shop in the front. Emphasizing local ingredients, you can order from the ala carte menu or go for the “supper club” multi-course menu.
In a recent article in the WSJ, chef Paul Qui recommends Justine’s as a great restaurant and Salt & Time. Others in the article recommend Franklin BBQ and Max’s Wine Dive.