Austin’s been discovered. We’re not a sleepy college town full of musicians, hippies, and self-proclaimed weirdos anymore. Now, the vibrant capital of Texas tops just about every “best of” list that comes out, welcomes a reported 150 new residents every day, and makes waves in industries from music and tech to filmmaking and food. Speaking of food, forget any notions you have about Austin’s culinary scene being solely Tex-Mex, barbecue, and breakfast tacos. While all those things are still here (and better than ever), our rapidly evolving food scene is brimming with energy, creativity, and new concepts.
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There’s a lot to see–and taste–in Austin. Nevermind pouring over maps and endless guides to get where you’re going–we’ve plucked the top neighborhoods for you. Step (actually drive, you must drive here as there’s no Uber or Lyft) right to the heart of these definitive places for an authentic bite out of our beloved city.
Austinites crave authenticity. Over the past decade, a new wave of independent, locally owned coffee roasteries, eateries, brew pubs, and juiceries have opened their doors to meet the demand for artisanal experiences. And with so much to choose from, we’ve shortlisted a few spots that represent the quality and diversity of our craft-forward culture.
Hailed as one of America’s best coffee bars by Food & Wine magazine, Houndstooth Coffee raised the bar for Austin’s boutique coffee scene. The shop is approachable enough to keep its local fan-base stoked, and edgy enough to gain mentions in the major leagues of accolades. Don’t miss the palate-melding flavors at Sa-Ten, where Nori toast and lattes make an extraordinary couple. The industrial-zen setting is worth the trip alone. Finally, My Name is Joe Coffee doubles as a standalone spot for a cuppa, and as a means to support recovering addicts in the service industry. Often, the darker side of the culinary world is kept in the shadows. But Joe Coffee owner Chef Philip Speer is making a bold statement with his charitable coffee trailer.
Sweet toothed folks, right this way. Spun crafts made-to-order ice-cream using liquid nitrogen for an experience so dreamily creamy, it’s hard to settle for the frost-bitten stuff ever again. The invention of two sisters hailing from Austin, Chef Christina Cheng whips up flavors like Texas pecan brittle and pickled jalapeño glace with premium, local cream and unique ingredients. Next up, try Lick Honest Ice Creams, an outrageously popular and hip creamery made from the good stuff, only. We’re partial to the goat cheese, thyme and honey blend.
It can be a little confounding how a brewery can serve hundreds of beers. But when it comes to the beer lovers among us, we really can’t complain. A must-try destination brewery, Jester King Brewery serves literally the best stuff around. And for some mainstay sips, stop by Austin Beerworks. The Peacemaker Anytime Ale was the first brew on the menu. For posterity alone, it’s worth a try. In true Austin fashion, Whip In Convenience Store & Pub serves Indian food and a host of local beers on tap for the most eclectic dining experience you can imagine. The name alone says it all.
Hailed as one of America’s best coffee bars by Food & Wine magazine, Houndstooth Coffee raised the bar for Austin’s boutique coffee scene.
Every Sunday, Dorsey Barger, owner of HausBar Farms, sends out an e-letter to the chefs she works with in Austin telling them what fruits and vegetables are ripe for harvest. “Orders come in all night long—sometimes they text me at 4 in the morning—and then I wake up and harvest everything,” she says. “They get their orders that afternoon, when I deliver them myself.”
And there’s a requirement to be on Barger’s list: “I don’t work with a chef unless they come to the farm and have a garden tasting with me,” she says. “We walk row to row to row, and I say, ‘Here, put this in your mouth,’ as I hand them things to try.”
HausBar Farms is just one of dozens of commercial urban farms within city limits in Austin providing fresh produce to chefs and the general public. (In Austin, these farms must meet certain requirements, including being between one and five acres.) HausBar, which occupies two acres, is also home to donkeys, chickens, rabbits, and the beloved Gustavo the Goose.
Austin was ahead of the curve with urban farming: Boggy Creek Farm, located just about ½ a mile from HausBar in East Austin, was one of the first urban farms in the country when it opened in 1992. Nearly 25 years later, the farm, which contains a farmhouse that is one of the two oldest homes in Austin, grows a Texas-sized list of produce, including kale, eggplant, and bok choy in the winter and tomatoes, okra, and pears in the summer.
Barger, a former chef herself, started farming full-time in 2011, after selling her stake of Eastside Cafe, Austin’s original farm-to-table restaurant. Her past experience helps her know what chefs are looking for: “I have a good idea of how a mind of a chef works, what is usable for them, and what will ‘wow’ the diner,” she says.
"I have a good idea of how a mind of a chef works, what is usable for them, and what will ‘wow’ the diner."
Named one of America’s “Six Most Romantic Small Towns” by CNN Travel, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque small town than Fredericksburg, Texas. Just a 90-minute drive from downtown Austin and home to about 11,000 residents, the town is known for its German heritage (and beer and sausage), ripe peaches in the summer, and prime antique shopping all year long. Strolling Main Street is the must-do activity here, so take your time popping in and out of museums, art galleries, and local stores that sell everything from jewelry and clothing to food products and kitschy knick-knacks.
When you’re ready to eat, there are plenty of options to choose from. Right on Main Street, Auslander and Der Lindenbaum serve authentic German cuisine (think: schnitzel, strudel, and kraut), cold brews, and live music. While Otto’s German Bistro puts a modern spin on German fare with farm-to-table dishes like duck schnitzel and a Wurst Platte of sausage made in house. Local staples include the Peach Tree Tea Room, featuring top-notch soups, sandwiches, and quiches, and The Cabernet Grill, which serves excellent Hill Country fare and has an exclusively Texas wine list.
Speaking of Texas wine, on the way to Fredericksburg—or back—make a pit stop at one or more of the 15 award-winning wineries along Highway 290 (aka Wine Road 290). The second most-visited wine region in the United States, behind only Napa Valley, California, these wineries feature tastings that are cheap (fees range from $5 to $15) and delicious. No matter which winery you stop at, you’ll enjoy the hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and Tempranillos, Viogniers, and more that will be poured for you.
...On the way to Fredericksburg—or back—make a pit stop at one or more of the 15 award-winning wineries along Highway 290; the second most-visited wine region in the United States, behind only Napa Valley, California.