Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant closing; land sold to Houston-based company

One of Austin’s longest-running fine dining restaurants will see its 32-year run come to a close in the coming months. Carmelo Mauro will shutter his namesake Italian restaurant in downtown on Father’s Day, June 18. Mauro sold the property at 504 E. Fifth St. in March, according to county records, and cites rising property tax prices for the closure.

Mauro said he believes the new owners, listed as AHC-Seazen ODH LLC, intend to build a high-rise condominium on the plot of land at Fifth and Red River streets. According to state records, AHC-Seazen is connected to Houston-based firm Allen Harrison Company, which develops multi-family apartment buildings. The Statesman has left a message with a representative for the buyer.

Mauro first opened Carmelo’s in Houston in 1981 after arriving from his native Sicily in 1978, and opened the Austin location in 1985. The restaurant is located in the 145-year-old building that once the housed Old Depot Hotel, recorded on the National Register as a Texas Landmark.

The painted courtyard of Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant on Fifth Street in Austin.

Mauro said he never intended to sell the land, which he purchased in 1992, but that property tax increases in recent years made staying impossible. According to the Travis County Appraisal District’s website, the property was appraised around $3 million in 2014 and rose to just over $5 million last year. Mauro said his restaurant would have to do $8 million-$10 million in sales annually, a number he says is unfathomable, in order to remain profitable.

“We are not here to become wealthy but because we love what we do,” Mauro said. “But at one point if you work just for the tax man then it is not fun anymore.”

Carmelo’s parking lot had helped Mauro generate extra revenue in recent years. The space played a major role during South by Southwest for 2012 to 2014, with Doritos building a massive stage on the lot. But an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in 2014 to regulate public safety during SXSW kept Carmelo’s from being able to obtain a permit to host such shows in its parking lost, according to Mauro. Mauro said the change cost his business hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he would have used to defray the rising tax cost.

Mauro thinks local government is making financial concerns the primary factor in Austin’s growth, a move that puts the city’s unique culture at risk.

“They are on a mission and their mission is to get as much money from the business community. The tragedy is there is no cap on businesses, so they can increase as much as they please,” Mauro said. “They forgot who made this corner. Now they are looking for the top bananas with a lot of funds.”

Carmelo’s was once one of the hottest spots in Austin, home to special-occasion family dinners and a regular dining destinations for some of the city’s power players. When Anne Richards was elected governor in 1990, the Statesman’s Lee Kelly wrote that lunches at La Zona Rosa and dinners at Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant were “in.”

Mauro, who served as president of the Texas Restaurant Association from 2007-2008, was recognized in 2001 by the National Restaurant Association as the group’s Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year, and he regularly participated in charity and community events, including last year’s “Austin Loves Amatrice” benefit following the devastation earthquake in Italy.

“The beauty of Austin through the years is we were able to get involved with a lot of charitable organizations and helped raise substantial amounts. So we were part of the community, and we will always be a part of the community,” Mauro said.

Mauro gave three months notice to his staff, in hopes they’d have time to find new jobs. Some of the employees at Carmelo’s are children of some of the restaurant’s original employees, according to the owner. 

The closure in Austin will not affect the original Houston location in that city’s energy corridor.

“Houston is more sensitive when they increase,” Mauro said. “Five or 10 percent.”

Carmelo will spend time in his restaurant in the weeks leading up to the closure, hoping to get a chance to say goodbye to many of his longtime customers and employees.

He closes the Austin chapter of his restaurant life with mixed feelings.

“It’s a shock to each one of us. So even though I cashed in, there is no celebration,” Mauro said. “The heart tells you one thing but the brain says it’s time.”

Austin360 Dining Guide: Top 25 restaurants in Austin

Top Italian restaurants in Austin: Juniper | Bufalina | L’Oca d’Oro | Enoteca

South Texas favorite Taco Palenque coming to Austin

The sabor of South Texas will soon be rolling up to Austin. Beloved Laredo-based Taco Palenque, which has locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley and north to Houston, San Antonio and New Braunfels, plans to open a food truck in Austin this summer.

Owner Juan Francisco Ochoa (Don Pancho) opened the first Taco Palenque in Laredo in 1987, several years after selling the American rights to El Pollo Loco, which he also founded. The fast-casual restaurant specializes in grilled beef and chicken plates and tacos, and is well known for its massive pirata, a taco slathered with refried beans and draped with juicy grilled fajita meat and melted cheddar cheese.

Taco Palenque.

The restaurants make their own excellent corn and flour tortillas, the latter soft, chewy and spotted with marks from the grill, and feature fresh salsa bars, with several salsa offerings, grilled jalapenos, pickled and raw onions, cilantro, pico de gallo and more. A visit to Taco Palenque will make you totally rethink the idea of fast-casual Mexican food.

Ochoa and his team told me last week in Laredo that the truck will  feature several of the restaurant’s most popular items on a smaller menu than that found in their 20+ locations throughout Texas. They are not sure where the truck will be located and say there is a strong possibility the truck could lead to multiple Austin brick-and-mortar locations of the massively popular family-owned chain of restaurants, which expanded to New Braunfels four years ago.


Austin restaurants: Where to eat Easter brunch in Austin

Blue Dahlia Bistro. 1115 E 11th St. 512-542-9542, The French-inspired bistro is sweetening its brunch offering of crepes, waffles and croissants by giving away an Easter basket with chocolate prizes by Maggie Louise Confections to guests who buy an entree. Kids under five eat free.

Brix and Ale. 1101 Woodlawn Ave. Georgetown. 737-444-2700, The Sheraton Georgetown’s restaurant hosts brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with omelets and a buffet of hot and cold items including roasted salmon, quiche, shrimp cocktail and much more. Cost is $50 per person inclusive of tax, gratuity and a glass of sparkling wine or a mimosa. Cost is $25 for children six to 12 and free for children under 5.

Cannon + Belle. 500 E. Fourth St. 512-493-4900, The revamped restaurant at the downtown Hilton will serve a brunch spread from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.that includes omelet and oyster bars, a charcuterie table, prime rib carving station and more. Cost is $42, $16 for children seven to 14, and free for those six and under.

The Carillon. 1900 University Ave. 512-404-3655, The fine dining restaurant on the University of Texas campus hosts brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The meal includes an omelet bar, ricotta cheese pancakes with strawberry fig syrup, cold seafood, Blue Point oysters, an assortment of sushi, a carving station and more. Price is $68 for adults. A special kids’ buffet will feature macaroni and cheese, pecan-crusted chicken tenders, and more for $30.

RELATED: Easter events around Austin

Chez Zee. 5406 Balcones Drive. 512-454-2666, The longtime Northwest Hills stape will serve a brunch that includes scallops two ways, smoked lamb chops, prime rib and more savory items, along with owner Sharon Watkins’ banana cream pie that she personally created for Jimmy Kimmel. And, for an interesting touch, a professional magician, non-scary clowns and more.

Dai Due. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-0688, The bakery’s Easter menu includes challah, French bread, honey whole wheat loaves and rolls, buttermilk grits pie, lime pie with a cornmeal crust, pecan frangipane and candied orange pie, Mexican wedding cookies, and more. The butcher is advance selling a rabbit stuffed with a mix of cream, sweetbreads, bacon, mushrooms, brandy, thyme and breadcumbs ($24/lb.), a rack of lamb ($32/lb.), achiote-rubbed lamb shoulder ($19/lb.) and more.

Deviled eggs at Second Bar + Kitchen at Domain Northside.

Driskill Grill. 604 BrazosSt. 512-391-7162, Austin’s grand dame will serve its lavish spread under the direction of new executive chef Christian Apetz for the first time. The three-course menu starts with pastries and includes foie gras torchon, confit rabbit benedict, chorizo and smoked cheddar pancakes, and more. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $110, and an additional $12 for the mimosa bar.

Duchman Family Winery. 13308 RM 150 W. Driftwood. 512-858-1470, The Hill Country winery will serve brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The three-course meal costs $40 ($12 for kids 10 and under) and includes a spinach and arugula frittata and grilled quail.

Eden East. 755 Springdale Road. 512-428-6500, The al fresco dining at Springdale Farms will serve a brunch with complimentary mimosas from 11 3 p.m. with smoked red fish, whole roasted pig, angel food cake and more. Cost is $90; $25 for kids 6-12; and kids five and under eat free.

Freedmen’s. 2402 San Gabriel St. 512-220-0953, The campus-area barbecue restaurant is serving a special barbecue lamb gyro sandwich for $10.

Goodall’s Kitchen. 1900 Rio Grande St. 512-495-1800, The restaurant at the Hotel Ella will serve brunch buffet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu includes an herb-crusted prime rib, deviled eggs, and ricotta hotcakes. The price is $68 and $25 per child 12 and under. There will also be a visit from the Easter Bunny and a petting zoo by Tiny Tails to You from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Greenhouse Craft Food. 1400 E. Old Settlers Blvd. 512-366-5567, Easter brunch at this Round Rock favorite includes roast beef mushroom demi and horseradish cream, ham with blackberry mustard sauce, fried chicken and biscuit, and more. Cost is $17.99 and $6.50 for kids 12 and under.

Hyatt Lost Pines. 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd. 512-308-4860, The restaurant at the Hyatt resort in Bastrop will serve brunch from 10 2 p.m. Selections will include an omelet station,fresh seafood, a carving station, local cheese selections, chocolate fountain, and more. Cost is $62 and $28 for children ages six to 12. Children under six eat free.

Jeffrey’s. 1204 W Lynn St. 512-477-5584, Austin’s finest steakhouse gets decadent with a menu that includes pastries, truffled deviled eggs; terrine of foie gras; caviar service; a seafood tower; porchetta, prime rib, and more for $100. Cost is $50 for kids and free for kids seven and under.

Josephine House. 1601 Waterston Ave. 512-477-5584, Jeffrey’s polished kid sister will serve a three-course brunch for $55,with a menu that includes lemon ricotta pancakes, English pea and avocado crab toast, Belgian waffle with chicken sausage and more.

Lamberts. 401 W. Second St. 512-494-1500, The upmarket barbecue spot will run an Easter brunch buffet for $50. The spread includes prime rib from the carving block, brisket, pork ribs, and made-to-order items like French toast and breakfast Frito pie.

Lonesome Dove. 419 Colorado St. 512-271-2474, Tim Love’s wild-game play on a steakhouse hosts brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $35, with selections like foie gras-huckleberry biscuit with rabbit-rattlesnake gravy, fettine Benedict with jalapeño hollandaise, lemon brioche French toast with raspberry-chipotle syrup and more.

Olamaie. 1610 San Antonio St. 512-474-2796, The $50 Easter brunch ($25 for kids) at this refined Southern restaurant will include dishes like pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits.

Olive & June. 3411 Glenview Ave. 512-467-9898, The special Easter menu runs from 11 a.m. through dinner and includes Italian easter bread stuffed with sausage and cheese topped with a soft boiled egg; grilled asparagus, hard boiled egg, and anchovy hollandaise;cavateli with sage pesto and summer squash; and grilled lamb leg. Cost is $39 per person and kids 12 or under eat free for dinner.

Pizzeria Sorellina. 23526 Texas 71. 737-222-6061, In addition to its regular menu of pizzas, charcuterie and sides, the pizzeria at Apis will serve a large-format wood-roasted lamb shoulder for four to six people available for pre-order. Call 512-436-8918 to place an order, $26 per person.

Revelry Kitchen + Bar. 1410 E. Sixth St. 512-322-5223, The brunch buffet at this East Austin restaurant runs from 11 3 p.m. features a carving station, chicken and waffles and more. Cost is $35 per person.

Salt & Time. 1912 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1383, The a la carte Easter brunch menu at this East Austin restaurant, butcher store and salumeria will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature a braised lamb empanada, steak and eggs, migas, pancakes, smoked pork chop and more.

Salt Traders Coastal Cooking. 2850 N Interstate Hwy 35. Round Rock. 512-351-9724, Jack Gilmore’s seafood restaurant in Round Rock will serve crab cake Benedict, smoked salmon scramble and more, in addition to their weekend shrimp boil and $1 Gulf oyster specials.

Second Bar + Kitchen at Domain Northside. 3121 Palm Way #101. 737-300-4800, The all-you-can-eat Easter brunch buffet at the North Austin location of chef David Bull’s bistro will be served from 3 p.m. and include passed small bites, made-to-order individual plates and bowls. Cost is $38 per and $19 for children Kids four and under eat free.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse. 300 Colorado St. 512-4956504, The downtown steakhouse will host a three-course brunch for $39. Menu items include eggs Benedict, prime rib and Bananas Foster pudding.

TNT/Tacos and Tequila. 507 Pressler St. Suite 400. 512-436-8226, The West End Mexican restaurant’s Easter brunch costs $22 and includes omelet stations, Belgian waffles with fresh fruit, eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros, a taco bar, carving station with brisket and ham, and more. Cost is $7 for children six-11, and children under five eat free.

Taverna Italian Kitchen. 258 W Second St. 512-477-1001; 3120 Palm Way. Suite 160. 512-356-9384, The two locations of the Italian restaurant will serve an a la carte Easter menu that includes Italian wedding soup, parmesan-crusted lamb chops, shrimp and lobster lasagna and more.

Trace. 200 Lavaca St. 512-542-3660, The restaurant at the W Hotel Austin will serve a three-course brunch for $58 that includes options such as Gulf shrimp bisque, cold-smoked prime rib, and berry fruit tart.

Vox Table. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-375-4869, The modern restaurant in the Lamar Union will serve a three-course prix fixe brunch menu for $35 and $1 mimosas until 4 p.m.

Celebrate International Women’s Day at these Austin restaurants operated by women

Women (and allies) around the world will join tomorrow to acknowledge International Women’s Day, a day meant to raise awareness in hopes of cultivating a “more inclusive and gender-equal world.”

The organizers of the Women’s March are encouraging people to acknowledge the day by taking a day off of paid or unpaid labor; wearing red in solidarity of A Day Without A Woman; and not shopping, “except for small, women- and minority-owned businesses.”

Woinee Mariam’s cooking and personality warm both of her locations of Taste of Ethiopia.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, below is a list of restaurants owned and/or operated primarily by women in Austin. Of course, ownership and management teams are complicated, and the list doesn’t cover a host of husband-and-wife teams (Asti and Cantine, Baguette et Chocolate, Fabi & Rosi, Franklin Barbecue, Gourmands, Justine’s, Kome, Pieous, Poke Poke, Sawyer & Co. and Vince Young Steakhouse), family-owned restaurants (Tamale House East) and the many trailers (Tacos Guerrero, La Flor) run by women, but it is a good-faith effort. If we’re missing some, please email me at

68 Degrees. 2401 Lake Austin Blvd. 512-766-6868, The Mediterranean sister to restaurant to La Traviata, here you’ll find Italian staples like homemade ravioli and bistro entrees like crispy duck and grilled trout. (Owners Marion and Joan Gillcrist)

El Alma. 1025 Barton Springs Road. 512-609-8923, Order a plate of sweet, gooey and savory Gringas (quesadillas of cheese, árbol salsa and al pastor with pineapple) and a skinny margarita on the rooftop patio and thank me later. (Chef-partner Alma Alcocer)

Amy Simmons of Amy’s Ice Creams. (Credit: Georges Schemagin)

Andiamo Ristorante. 2521 Rutland Drive. 512-719-3377, Authentic Italian in North Austin with a family-owned vibe will set you at ease. So will the homemade ravioli. (Owner Daniela Marcone)

Amy’s Ice Creams. Multiple locations. One of Austin’s leading entrepreneurs changed the way Austinites thought about ice cream and fast-casual service with a quirk and a smile. (Owner Amy Simmons)

Baby Greens. 1508 W. Anderson Lane. 512-770-6255, Salads and, for a couple of bucks less, wraps with familiar flavor profiles at this North Austin reboot of an old South Austin favorite. Bonus convenience points for drive-thru ordering. (Owner Sharon Mays)

Bouldin Creek Cafe on S. First St. in Austin. (Ashley Landis FOR AMERICAN STATESMAN)

Bouldin Creek Cafe. 1900 S. First St. 512-416-1601, One of Austin’s true temples to vegetarian and vegan fare. Even the most avid meat-eater will be impressed with dishes like portobello fajitas or the zucchini migas. Bonus points for best veggie burger in town. (Owner Leslie Martin)

Brentwood Social House. 1601 W. Koenig Lane. 512-362-8656, Coffee, tea, pies, quiches and more at this charming cafe and bakery in Brentwood. (Owners Suzanne Daniels and Sarah Olano)

Buenos Aires Cafe. 1201 E. Sixth St. 512-382-1189; 13500 Galleria Circle. 512-441-9000, This Argentine café serves excellent empandas (for meat-lovers and vegetarians) and make a fantastic chimichurri to go with their steaks (and steak sandwiches). (Chef-owner Reina Morris)

Capital City Bakery. 2211 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-666-7437, Individualized cakes, cookie sandwiches, brownies, cheesecake… and somehow it’s all vegan. (Chef-owner Kristen Davenport)

Casa Maria. 4327 S. First St. 512-444-8861, Fatima Robles has been serving Austinites Northern Mexican cuisine for 20 years in South Austin. There are also now locations in San Marcos and Kyle. (Owner Fatima Robles)

Chez Zee. 5406 Balcones Drive. 512-454-2666, Texas, Italy and France all play friendly at this West Austin bistro staple with a brunch featuring the popular and decadent creme brulee French toast. (Owner Sharon Watkins)

Counter Cafe. 626 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-708-8800; 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-351-9961, You can almost reach over the counter and into the galley kitchen to flip your own crab cake that comes with poached eggs and curried peanut and lemon aioli dipping sauces. (Owner Debbie Davis)

Counter Culture. 2337 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1540, The gluten- and soy-free version of mac and cheese at this restaurant will make you a believer in vegan cuisine, as will a Reuben made with tempeh. Pizzas are made with organic cornmeal crusts and can be ordered gluten-free as well. (Owner Sue Davis)

Crema Bakery. 9001 Brodie Lane B3. 512-282-1300, Breakfast croissants in the morning, sandwiches on freshly baked bread and desserts all day at this bakery. (Chef-owner Jessica Forkner)

Eastside Café. 2113 Manor Road. 512-476-5858, Comforting dishes that take a light approach, relying on seasonal vegetables at this quaint house in East Austin. (Owner Elaine Martin)

Eden East. 755 Springdale Road. 512-428-6500, Hard to get more farm-to-table than Sonya Cote’s bucolic al fresco restaurant at Springdale Farm. (Chef-owner Sonya Cote)

Chef/Owner Sarah McIntosh at Épicerie.

El Meson. 2038 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-442-4441, What started as a small taqueria near the airport expanded to this restaurant that carries on the original’s tradition of made-from-scratch interior classics. (Chef-owner Marisela Godinez)

Epicerie. 2307 Hancock Drive. 512-371-6840, This French-Louisiana bistro delivers well-constructed sandwiches like an open-faced cured salmon with cream cheese and egg on toasted rye, as well as heartier dishes like boudin. (Chef-owner Sarah McIntosh)

Fresa’s. 915 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-428-5077; 1703 S. First St. 512-992-2946; Walk up or drive-thru at the original on Lamar Boulevard for healthy salad bowls, some of the best queso in town and complex tacos like the El Sancho, with chicken pastor, pineapple pico, jicama and tomatillo salsa. The South First location, which opened last year, includes larger format options like chimichurri grilled steak and aji shrimp, as well as a playscape for kids. (Owners Margaret Vera and executive pastry chef Laura Sawicki, partners with executive chef Rene Ortiz)

Garbos. 14735 Bratton Lane. 512-350-9814, The restaurant in Wells Branch expands its food truck menu to include fish spreads, grilled fish, a solid burger and more, in addition to the excellent lobster rolls. (Chef-owner Heidi Garbo)

Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, Pâtisserie and café in the morning, solid deli in the daytime and an evening menu full of bistro classics and oysters, this well-designed space has a little bit of something for everybody, including outdoor cafe tables. (Owners Jade Matthews, Mickie Spencer and chef-partner Sony Cote)

Home Slice Pizza. 1415 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-7437, A commitment to unflappable service, quality execution and ebullient spirit have as much to do with the pizzeria’s success as the toasty crunch of a large New York-style pie with rosy pepperonis and snappy green peppers (Owners Terri Hannifin and Jen Strickland, and Jen’s husband, Joseph)

Juice Society. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-596-2947, This bright, airy shop sells cold-pressed, organic juice and granola. (Owner Danielle Sobel)

Julio’s. 4230 Duval St. 512-452-1040, Breakfast tacos, roasted chicken, enchilladas and more throughout the day at this Hyde Park staple since 1983. (Owner Estella Lucero)

La Barbecue. 1906 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-605-9696, Some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. Start with the brisket and hot guts sausage and go from there. (Owners LeAnn Mueller and Alison Clem)

Launderette. 2115 Holly St. 512-382-1599, This globe-trotting restaurant feels like a dinner party run by a whimsical chef who has a lot of ideas and no need for conformity or sitting still. (Owners Margaret Vera and executive pastry chef Laura Sawicki, partners with executive chef Rene Ortiz)

Lenoir owner Jessica Maher and her son, Hollis, in 2013. (Andrew Chan AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Lenoir. 1807 S. First St. 512-215-9778, This romantic bungalow restaurant uses local ingredients to replicate flavors of hot climates (Africa, Spain, Southeast Asia) from around the world, and the shabby chic design adds to the transportive feeling. (Owner Jessica Maher)

Lima Criolla. 6406 N. Interstate 35 frontage road, #1550. 512-323-5404,  Lomo saltado Limeño, aji de gallina Limeño and many other traditional Peruvian dishes at this restaurant that graduated from a nearby mall food court to a stand-alone restaurant at The Linc. (Chef-owner Susan Osorio)

Matt’s El Rancho. 2613 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-462-9333, Matt Martinez and his wife, Janie, opened their first restaurant in downtown in 1952.  Home to sizzling fajitas and famed Bob Armstrong Dip, the restaurant is now owned and operated by Matt and Janie’s daughters, Gloria, Cecilia, and Cathy along with daughter-in-law Estella Martinez.

El Naranjo. 85 Rainey St. 512-474-2776, Chef Iliana de la Vega explores the wonders of mole with the deep chocolate and toasted notes of mole negro, with its more than two dozen ingredients, and will likely introduce you to something new, maybe a light, herbal green mole. (Chef-owner Iliana de la Vega)

Nubian Queen Lola’s. 1815 Rosewood Ave. 512-474-5652. Soul food and service with a smile and a mission of service at this East Austin favorite. (Owner Lola Stephens-Bell)

Las Palomas. 3201 Bee Cave Road #122. 512-327-9889, I like to order the house special (a relleno stuffed with ground beef and pork, raisins, almonds and pecans) served in a zippy tomato sauce at this reliable Westlake restaurant. (Owner MariCarmen Corona Dale)

La Patisserie. 602 W. Annie St. 512-912-0033; 7301 Burnet Road Suite 102, 512-770-6442, No matter how you pronounce the word, the dozen or so macarons at this shop are amazing. (Owner and head baker Soraiya Nagree)

Parlor & Yard. 601 W. Sixth St. 512-524-0466, Slow-cooked meats  like lamb and short rib make up the small menu at Carnal, serving out of this bar on West Sixth Street. (Owner Bridget Dunlap)

Picnik. 1700 S.Lamar Blvd. 512-293-6118; 4801 Burnet Road. 737-226-0644, picnikaustin.conm. There’s now a Central Austin restaurant to go along with the South Austin trailer that launched this paleo-friendly business that serves bone broth, butter coffee, pasta dishes made with vegetables and more. (Owner Naomi Seifter)

Quality Seafood. 5621 Airport Blvd. 512-452-3820, The attached market at this longtime favorite means proximity to Gulf shrimp and ruby red and rainbow trout for the grill. (Owner Carol Huntsberger)

Sala & Betty. 5201 Airport Blvd. 512-645- 0214, Former Aquarelle chef Teresa Wilson flexes her French muscles with steak frites and pan-roasted redfish, while dipping into the South with buttermilk fried chicken and more. (Chef-owner Teresa Wilson)

Sichuan River. 4534 West Gate Blvd. 512-892-6699, Slurp away at a hot, oily bowl of spicy fish and you’ll feel warmed from the inside out. (Owner Cindy Zhao)

Spun Ice Cream. 1912 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1768, spunicecream.comLiquid nitrogen ice cream with quality ingredients from sister team. (Owners Christina and Ashley Cheng)

Titaya Timrerk, owner of Titaya’s. (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The Steeping Room. 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 112, 512-977-8337; 4400 N. Lamar Blvd. Suite 102, 512-467-2663; Healthy bowls, salads and a play on the BLT using tempeh give vegetarians and healthy eaters plenty of options at these two cafes. (Owner Amy March)

Sugar Mama‘s Bakeshop. 1905 S. First St. 512-448-3727; 2406 Manor Road. 512-220-7296, A host of daily specials and a small batch of regulars make this one of the best cupcake spots in town. The Banana Puddin’ (banana buttermilk cake filled with banana pastry cream and topped with fresh whipped cream and a miniature vanilla wafer) is one of the best birthday treats I ever received. (Baker-owner Olivia O’Neal)

Sweet Ritual. 4631 Airport Blvd. #125. 512-666-8346, Want to be a believer in vegan ice cream in all of its many forms? Head here. (Owners Valerie Ward and Amelia Raley)

Taste of Ethiopia. 1100 Grand Avenue Parkway, Pflugerville. 512-251-4053; 3801 S. Congress Ave. Suite 107. 512-814-3141; Grab a handful of springy injera bread and scoop your doro wat or vegetarian platter with your hands at the two locations of this Ethiopian restaurant. (Chef owner Woinee Mariam)

Thai Fresh. 909 Mary St. 512-494-6436, Lemongrass soup, chicken with panang curry, steak salad and vegan desserts are just a few of the attractions at this neighborhood spot. (Chef-owner Jam Sanitchat)

Titayas. 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-458-1792, Jungle curry brims with the heat of dried chilies and the floral breeze of lemongrass, and the fried catfish of pad cha and its crisp peppers will leave you grabbing for the water. (Chef-owner Titaya Timrerk)

La Traviata. 314 Congress Ave. 512-479-8131, There’s a classic feel to this Italian restaurant that makes one of the best bolognese in town as well as homemade ravioli. (Chef-owner Marion Gillcrist)

Unit D Pizzeria. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-1922, Dai Due’s neighbor serves blistered pies full of crunch and chew with great toppings like Sweety Drop peppers, guanciale and bourbon-smoked pepper, and a few salads, like my favorite kale salad in town. (Owner Shalou Barth)

Veracruz All-Natural. Multiple locations. This growing empire serves the best migas taco in town (and more). Try the quesadillas. And the tortas. Try it all. You may want to call in advance. They make good food, not fast food, as their sign reads. (Owners Maritza and Reyna Vazquez)

Kristen Heaney, seen here with her dog, Venkman (named after Bill Murray’s character in ‘Ghostbusters’), owner of Yard Bar. (Contributed by Anita Chumnanvech/Daisy Girl Studio)

Vinaigrette. 2201 College Ave. 512-852-8791, One of the keys to the balanced salads at this airy and inviting restaurant: well-dressed greens, so every bite carries a flavorful sheen. Try the Kale Caesar. Bonus points for cocktails made with juice from fresh produce. (Owner Erin Wade)

Weather Up. 1808 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-0464, Thoughtful small plates like mussels in coconut curry to accompany some of the best cocktails in town. (Owner Kathryn Weatherup and chef Kristine Kittrell)

Yard Bar. 6700 Burnet Road. 512-900-3773, A place for pups and peeps, the bar serves a wide selection of beers, wine and original cocktails and the food menu includes sandwiches, salads and snack plates. (Owner Kristen Heaney)

Updated March 8, 2018.


Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck Festival releases chef lineup; tickets on sale

The inaugural Hot Luck Festival co-founded by Aaron Franklin announced a large roster of impressive talent from Texas and across the country today, as tickets went on sale at for the celebration of food and live music that will take place in venues across Austin May 18-21.

Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin (left), Mohawk co-owner James Moody (right) and Feast’s Mike Thelin (not pictured) are teaming up to bring the Hot Luck Festival to Austin. (Credit: Matthew Odam)

James Beard award-winner Franklin and partners will welcome famous chefs who cover a wide swath of culinary and physical ground, from Thai (Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok) to Korean (Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles), Mexican (Alex Stupak of Empellón in New York City), barbecue (Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May’s BBQ in NYC) and more.

Roy Choi, seen here at the 2014 SXSW world premiere of “Chef,” is one of the out-of-town talents coming to Austin for the Hot Luck Festival. (Thao Nguyen FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

In addition to out-of-towners, a large group of local talent, headlined by Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Tatsu Aikawa (Ramen Tatsu-ya and Kemuri Tatsu-ya), Todd Duplechan (Lenoir) and Tyson Cole (Uchi), will also participate in the festival, along with other Texas talent like fellow Beard-winner Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, John Tesar of Knife in Dallas and Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio.

The festival kicks off in earnest on Friday night when more than 10 chefs, including Franklin, David Bull (Second Bar + Kitchen), Fiore Tedesco (L’Oca d’Oro) and others, come together for an evening event called The Hi Lo, which will showcase the chefs’ preparing the dishes that originally inspired their cooking, from slow-cooked ribs to cast-iron chicken.

Saturday night’s main attraction, Al Fuego, will give the chefs a chance to show off their live-fire cooking skills with a range of cuisines from a group that will include Ricker, Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), Matthew Rudofker (Momofuku in NYC), Nong Poonsukwattana (Nong’s Khao Man Gai in Portland), Sara McIntosh (Epicerie) and about two dozen other chefs.

Uchi executive chef and founder Tyson Cole is one of three James Beard Award winners from Texas (Shepherd, Franklin) participating in the Hot Luck Festival.

While the two featured night events take place at Fair Market (Friday) and Wild Onion Ranch (Saturday), an assortment of other venues will also host food programming and live music, with Franklin Barbecue, Fair Market, Barracuda, Mohawk, White Horse and Alamo Drafthouse among the names that will appear on the schedule. The live music portion of the programming will be announced in April.

Tickets are being sold individually for the Friday ($145) and Saturday evening events ($155), and there is a “Whole Enchilada” ticket package for $550 includes early access to the featured events, admission to all food and music programming, special parties and more. As the additional a la carte food events and concerts are announced, those tickets will also go on sale individually, starting at $20. A portion of the proceeds from Hot Luck will benefit the SAFE Alliance, a merger of Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace.

“We are super excited to have the opportunity to launch a new festival with our Austin family and our extended family,” said James Beard Award-winner and Hot Luck partner Aaron Franklin. “Hot Luck will celebrate the food we love, the music we love, and the city we love.”

The chef lineup, featuring an eclectic collection of local, regional, and national world-class culinary talent, is as follows:


Adam Perry Lang, APL Restaurant (New York); Adam Sappington, The Country Cat (Portland); Alex Stupak, Empellón (New York); Andy Ricker, Pok Pok (Portland); Roy Choi, Kogi BBQ Truck (Los Angeles); Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene’s (Portland); Joshua Pinsky, Momofuku (New York); Matthew Rudofker, Momofuku (New York); and Nong Poonsukwattana, Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Portland)


Chris Shepherd, Underbelly (Houston); Jason Dady, Jason Dady Restaurants (San Antonio); John Tesar, Knife at The Highland Dallas (Dallas); Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); and Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio)


Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue; Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo; Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck; Callie Speer, Bombshell; Chad Dolezal, The Hightower; David Bull, Second Bar + Kitchen; David Norman, Easy Tiger; Fiore Tedesco, L’Oca d’Oro; Jason Stude, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill; Jesse Griffiths, Dai Due; Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye; Laura Sawicki, Launderette; Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie; Michael Paley, Central Standard; Miguel Vidal, Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ; Philip Speer, Bonhomie; Rene Ortiz, Launderette; Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie Café & Grocery; Tatsu Aikawa, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya; Todd Duplechan, Lenoir; Tyson Cole, Hai Hospitality; and Yoshi Okai, Otoko.


Where to eat during SXSW: tacos, barbecue and much more

The hurricane that is South by Southwest will soon engulf the city. But just because there are thousands of bands, films, talks, brand activations and parties battling for gigs of your brain space doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take some time out to enjoy the Austin restaurant scene.

Micklethwait Craft Meats amps up its Frito pie with a slice of brisket. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

This dining guide focuses on restaurants located within a mile or two of the hub of the action, broken down into some of Austin’s favorite food groups: tacos, barbecue, Mexican food, burgers and more.

Where’s the party at? Check out our guide to the best unofficial parties at SXSW 2017

This list is light on trailers, because their hours and locations can vary during SXSW, and I did my best to avoid restaurants that might be utilized as SXSW venues. And some restaurants just didn’t fit neatly into any category. Of course, if you’re not attending SXSW, you will still find this guide serves your needs when looking for just about any kind of restaurant in or around downtown Austin, including areas just east of Interstate 35 and just south of the river.

My critic’s picks are designated with asterisks. For my my Top 25 restaurants in Austin and 75 more of my favorites, check out the Austin360 Dining Guide at

The brisket keeps folks lined up at Franklin Barbecue. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Brown’s Bar-B-Que. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-517-8520, This South Lamar trailer smokes some of the best chicken and pork ribs in town.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. 217 Congress Ave. 512-474-4227, Now you don’t have to drive to Llano to get this renowned barbecue. Available at lunch and dinner.

*Franklin Barbecue. 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187, Maybe you’ve heard of this place. What makes it so popular? World-class brisket, awesome ribs, a ceaselessly joyful chef and a line culture unlike any place in Texas.

Iron Works BBQ. 100 Red River St. 512-478-4855, Queue up for some sausage, chicken and a view of Waller Creek.

*Kerlin BBQ. 1700 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-412-5588, The brisket at this East Austin trailer is so good it inspired the owners to open a trailer that serves kolaches filled with the tender beef.

*La Barbecue. 1906 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-605-9696, Some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. Start with the brisket and hot guts sausage and go from there.

*Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. 401 W. Second St. 512-494-1500, The fanciest barbecue spot in town, Lamberts smokes traditional meats such as pork shoulder and beef brisket and serves grilled dishes like scallops and cold-smoked quail.

*Micklethwait Craft Meats. 1309 Rosewood Ave. 512-791-5961, Tom Micklethwait’s East Austin trailer specializes in inventive and flavorful sausage and makes very good desserts like buttermilk pie. The chef got the Internet’s attention last year when he re-created the dining scene from ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” album art. And ate it.

Terry Black’s Barbecue. 1003 Barton Springs Road. 512-394-5899, Grandsons of one of the scions of Lockhart barbecue are bringing an old-school approach at lunch and dinner just south of the river.

The pancakes at Josephine House are infused with a mellow citrus cool from ricotta and lemon. (Contributed by Molly Winters)


Annie’s Cafe & Bar. 319 Congress Ave. 512-472-1884, Omelets and French toast in the morning at this cafe with sidewalk seating and a view of Congress Avenue.

*Counter Cafe. 626 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-708-8800, You can almost reach over the counter and into the galley kitchen to flip your own crab cake that comes with poached eggs and curried peanut and lemon aioli dipping sauces.

*Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311, Stop in for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, scrambles, bagels and granola.

*Elizabeth Street Café. 1501 S. First St. 512-291-2881, This posh little Vietnamese spot from the team behind Perla’s is a great little under-the-radar breakfast option for its coffee, pastries and dishes like a wood ear mushroom and roasted pork omelet. Grab a macron to go.

Forthright Cafe. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-433-6155, Waffle breakfast sandwiches in the morning and American classics like a turkey BLT at lunch make for an approachable and familiar menu at this cafe with an outdoor patio near Lady Bird Lake.

Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, This pâtisserie and café serves an egg sandwich, bangers and eggs, and more until 1 p.m.

*Jo’s. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003; 1300 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-3800; Good coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries at locations downtown and south of the river.

*Josephine House. 1601 Waterston Ave. 512-477-5584, Fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes and smooth avocado toast are two of the highlights on the breakfast menu at this dainty charmer.

Juan in a Million. 2300 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-472-3872, Juan in a Million has been putting out Tex-Mex classics such as huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos for more than 30 years. Expect a line.

*Paperboy. 1203 E. 11th St. The breakfast sandwiches are beautiful representations of the form, with fluffy brioche buns and perfect sunny-side-up eggs

The cheeseburger from Luke’s Inside Out trailer next to the Gibson on South Lamar.


*Casino El Camino. 517 E. Sixth St. 512-469-9330, All red and black, this cavernous Sixth Street classic has a devilish attitude and serves up fat, aggressive burgers.

Hopdoddy. 1400 S. Congress Ave. 512-243-7505, Quality ingredients and thoughtful flavor profiles make for long lines on South Congress.

Hut’s Hamburgers. 807 W. Sixth St. 512-472-0693, This nostalgia-packed restaurant not only serves up burgers made with Texas-raised beef but also make burgers with buffalo and longhorn meat.

Jackalope. 404 E. Sixth St. 512-472-3663, The stars of the show here are the fat burgers. Try the honey jalapeno bacon burger or the Chupacabra (goat barbacoa).

*Luke’s Inside Out. 1109 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-589-8883, The juicy cheeseburger awash in special sauce and layered with crispy bacon is the kind you’d hope to find at a backyard party run by your groovy Old Austin friend.

*P. Terry’s. 515 Congress Ave. #130. 512-473-8722; 404 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-473-2217; Patrick Terry’s patty empire runs on humanely raised and antibiotic-free Angus beef and chicken. For the record, my order is a double with bacon, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, onions and jalapenos.

Sandy’s. 603 Barton Springs Road. 512-478-6322. Thin, classic burgers and small, crunchy fries at this drive-thru and walk-up spot with the frozen custard sign. Great deals on burger meals Thursday and Saturday.

Shady Grove. 1624 Barton Springs Road. 512-474-9991, The restaurant located amid the grove of pecan trees keeps the crowds coming in with a menu that includes green chili hamburgers.

*The Townsend. 718 Congress Ave. 512-887-8778, One of the best cocktail bars in town also does sophisticated takes on bar classics, like the red miso mayo on a burger dripping with American cheese.

This tlacoyo covered in grilled cactus salad, avocado salsa, queso fresco and crema fresca is one of Licha’s takes on the popular Mexican street food dish. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Alcomar. 1816 S. First St. 512-401-3161, Coastal Mexican flavors in South Austin, including dishes like ahi tuna ceviche with ají amarillo, ginger, corn nuts, spicy pickled onions and sweet potatoes.

*El Alma. 1025 Barton Springs Road. 512-609-8923, Dishes like an ancho relleno stuffed with the earthy iron of mushrooms or spinach and duck enchiladas in a rich mole indicate that longtime Austin star chef Alma Alcocer isn’t playing to staid Tex-Mex palates.

*El Naranjo. 85 Rainey St. 512-474-2776, Chef Iliana de le Vega explores the wonders of mole with the deep chocolate and toasted notes of mole negro, with its more than two dozen ingredients, and will likely introduce you to something new, maybe a light, herbal green mole.

*La Condesa. 400 W. Second St. 512-499-0300, This beautiful restaurant feels plucked from the leafy streets of cosmopolitan Mexico City and serves excellent tacos (try the alambres), vibrant tuna tostadas, the best margarita in town and more.

*Licha’s Cantina. 1306 E. Sixth St. 512-480-5960, Get a taste of Mexican street food like huaraches with huitlacoche at this rustic bungalow with expansive outdoor seating and great cocktails.

Manuel’s. 310 Congress Ave. 512-472-7555, This sophisticated Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown has delivered bright, citrusy ceviche, chile rellenos and more since 1984.

Takoba. 1411 E. Seventh St. 512-628-4466, Great happy hour deals and well-executed favorites such as torta de carnitas and pozole rojo make this restaurant with multiple outdoor seating areas a popular East Austin destination.

The striped bass with zucchini and sweet corn is an example of the comforting and well executed food at Chicon. (Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Chicon. 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-354-1480, The owners closed their fine dining spot Gardner, mussed its hair and opened this brawnier restaurant serving striped bass, roasted chicken and other dishes that better vibe with the desires of Austin diners. Get a cocktail.

Grizzelda’s. 105 Tillery St. 512-366-5908, The restaurant from the Jacoby’s owners serves a mix of interior and coastal Mexican food as well as Tex-Mex, with a menu that includes snapper ceviche, tuna tostadas with crispy shallots, puerco pibil tacos, and beef dishes sourced from the Jacoby family ranch.

*June’s. 1722 S. Congress Ave. 512-416-1722, From the checkerboard floor to the jukebox, steak frites and fried chicken sandwich, the McGuire Moorman team has nailed this French-bistro-meets-American-diner concept. Also: great wine.

*Kemuri Tatsu-ya. 2713 E. Second St. 512-893-5561, The owners of Austin’s best ramen shop blend Texas smokehouse and Japanese izakaya at this buzzy new spot.

*Kuneho. 1600 E. Sixth St. 512-436-9626, Chef Paul Qui has opened the restaurant many probably expected him to open five years ago, with globally inspired small bites the stars of the free-wheeling menu.

*Old Thousand. 1000 E. 11th St. 737-222-6637, This East Austin restaurant takes a modern approach to traditional Chinese, with dishes like jellyfish salad, honey prawns with pecans, mapo dofu, dan dan noodles with mushroom puree, brisket fried rice, and a hot pot with pork belly and Chinese sausage.

*Red Ash. 303 Colorado St. 512-379-2906, The collection of pasta dishes puts an Italian spin on the urbane steakhouse concept.

Nduja Pizza at Bufalina (Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Backspace. 507 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-474-9899, Neapolitan pies at Parkside’s sister restaurant that also delivers charcuterie and a nice roster of antipasti.

*Bufalina Pizza. 1519 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-2523, The best Neapolitan pizza in the city and a great Italian wine list at this little East Austin restaurant.

*East Side Pies. 1401 Rosewood Ave. 512-524-0933, Cracker crust farm-to-pizza from a tiny walk-up with a little patio for dining. Get the Girther (avocado, blue cheese and roasted onions) and add bacon.

*Enoteca Vespaio. 1610 S. Congress Ave. 512-441-7672, Vespaio’s cute little sister, Enoteca makes very good pizza (try the prosciutto, fontina cheese and truffled egg pie) and offers patio seating just off South Congress Avenue.

Frank & Angie’s. 508 West Ave. 512-472-3534, Thin pies and Americanized pasta classics with a side of nostalgia.

*Hoboken Pie. 718 Red River St. 512-477-4256, New Jersey-inspired pies with large, gooey slices at this small counter-service spot that also offers delivery.

Home Slice Pizza. 1415 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-7437, A commitment to unflappable service, quality execution and ebullient spirit have as much to do with the pizzeria’s success as the toasty crunch of a large New York-style pie with rosy pepperonis and snappy green peppers.

Il Forte. 800 Brazos St. 512-212-9797, Wood-fired panini and about a dozen pizzas share menu space with pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara and both beef and vegetarian lasagna.

Italic. 123 W. Sixth St. 512-660-5390, With the backing of their sibling bakery Easy Tiger, you know to expect solid pizza crust and sandwich bread at this Italian restaurant.

Numero 28. 452 W. Second St. 512-494-5510, This Italian restaurant in the Second Street District serves about 20 different white and red-sauce pizzas, in addition to porchetta, pasta and more.

The Onion. 408 Brazos St. 512-476-6466, This longtime downtown favorite has made its name serving hot slices to late-night revelers, but as they say on their website, you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy their pizza.

*Second Bar + Kitchen. 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2750, Upmarket New American that serves great pizzas with puffed, trawny crusts. My order: kids’ cheese pizza, add veal meatballs.

Via 313. Multiple locations. Get to either the trailer in East Austin or the one on Rainey Street for big, thick squares of Detroit-style pizza. Some of the best in town.

The banh mi at Saigon le Vendeur.


*1886 Cafe & Bakery. 604 Brazos St. 512-391-7066, Classic breakfast dishes, sandwiches made on housebaked bread and Texas comfort food make up the menu for this charming cafe in the Driskill that serves all day.

Athenian Bar & Grill. 600 Congress Ave. 512-474-7775, OK, so the roasted chicken wrap and gyro aren’t officially sandwiches, but they still make the cut.

Blue Dahlia Bistro. 1115 E. 11th St. 512-542-9542, The tartines give an open-face look to a variety of sandwiches at this French-inspired cafe.

Easy Tiger. 709 E. Sixth St. 512-614-4972, The bread baked in-house is the difference maker at this beer garden and bakehouse on the edge of the Sixth Street madness.

*Frank. 407 Colorado St. 512-494- 6916, Fancy dogs like the Jackalope (made with smoked antelope, rabbit and pork sausage, and topped with cranberry compote) and an abiding love of whiskey make for indulgent fun at this spot in the Warehouse District.

Gourmands Neighborhood Pub. 2316 Webberville Road. 512-610-2031, The website says it all for these sandwich enthusiasts, who serve more than a dozen original sandwiches out of a cavernous pub that was once home to a Tejano club.

Irene’s. 506 West Ave. 512-298-0853, Tamed classic sandwiches like roast turkey and jazzed up creations like buffalo pork at this restaurant-bar that serves plenty of booze and runs late.

*Kebabalicious. 1311 E. Seventh St. 512-394-6562, This small restaurant spawned from a group of successful trailers serving savory beef/lamb, falafel and chicken kebabs. Not exactly sandwiches, but you get the point.

Quickie Pickie. 1208 E. 11th St. 512-479-0136, Breakfast tacos in the morning and well-made sandwiches and salads all day at this upmarket bodega in East Austin.

Saigon le Vendeur. 2404 E. Seventh St. 512-351-6916, Some of the best banh mi in town come from this food truck in East Austin.

*Salt & Time. 1912 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1383, This butcher shop sells sandwiches with fresh, quality meat cured or carved in house and turns out magnificent charcuterie plates.

Slake Cafe. 120 E. Seventh St. 512-476-0060, This deli serves classic sandwiches made with house-roasted meats.

*Turf N Surf Po’Boy. 407 Lavaca St. 512-276-2763, Walk up to the window or eat inside the Lavaca Street Bar via this kitchen that serves po-boys made with fresh grilled fish and monsters like a tangy fried buffalo chicken sandwich.

*Walton’s Fancy & Staple. 609 W. Sixth St. 512-542-3380, Some of the best sandwiches downtown — like my favorite, the turkey sweet, with white cheddar, bacon, onion-and-apple chutney and maple aioli.

Capital Taco uses brisket from neighbor Brown’s Bar-B-Que to make one of its best tacos. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Capital Taco. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-457-9992, When a trailer menu is this big, you wonder whether it can really deliver. Yep. Start with the brisket and avocado, turkey mole, and migas.

El Chilito. 1623 E. Seventh St. 512-334-9660, Soups, salads and more than a dozen tacos (vegetarians: try the rajas con hongos) at this East Austin taco stand. Breakfast tacos served all day.

*Fresa’s. 915 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-428-5077, Walk up or drive-thru for healthy salad bowls, some of the best queso in town and complex tacos like the El Sancho, with chicken pastor, pineapple pico, jicama and tomatillo salsa.

Joe’s Bakery. 2305 E. Seventh St. 512-472-0017, This family-owned restaurant has been drawing crowds for more than 50 years with their perfect crispy beef taco, enchiladas and menudo.

La Mexicana. 1924 S. First St. 512-443-6369, Barbacoa tacos on fluffy homemade tortillas and Mexican pastries make for a great late-night one-two punch at this all-night spot.

*El Primo. 2100 S. First St. Tiny taco stand serves solid al pastor tacos, and the gentleman behind the grill couldn’t be sweeter.

*Mellizoz Tacos. 1503 S. First St. 512-916-4996, This taco trucks serves a great taco take on steak and eggs, an old-school crunchy beef taco and more.

*Pueblo Viejo. 910 E. Sixth St. and 1700 E. Sixth St. 512-373-6557, The two locations of this truck have different hours, but both feature the best selection of salsas of any taco truck around. Get the Guaca Taco with steak, with a side of orange habanero salsa and black habanero salsa; vegetarians go for the Mi Madre.

*Taco More. 2015 E. Riverside Drive. 512-821-1561. Not much in terms of ambiance, but this place serves great tacos and a restorative cabrito consommé.

*Tamale House East. 1707 E. Sixth St. 512-495-9504, The grandchildren of the original Tamale House founders carry on the family tradition with wet migas and famous breakfast tacos.

*Veracruz All-Natural. 1704 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-981-1760, This growing empire serves the best migas taco in town (and more). Try the quesadillas. And the tortas. Try it all. You may want to call in advance. They make good food, not fast food, as their sign reads.

JuiceLand’s features an array of tasty vegan options. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Bouldin Creek Cafe. 1900 S. First St. 512-416-1601, Home to the best veggie burger in town (add the barbecue sauce), Austin’s temple to vegetarian and vegan fare impresses with dishes like portobello fajitas and zucchini migas.

Counter Culture. 2337 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1540, Try the Philly cheesesteak with seitan or the jackfruit barbecue sandwich at this vegan restaurant in East Austin that also serves many gluten-free dishes.

*JuiceLand. 120 E. Fourth St. 737-300-2120; 1625 Barton Springs Road. 512-480-9501; Find grab-and-go vegan dishes packed with impressive flavors, from Mexican and Thai-inspired wraps to falafel and an assortment of snack packs.

Koriente. 621 E. Seventh St. 512-275-0852, You’ll find clean, calorie-conscious pan-Asian dishes at this small space on the edge on the Red River District.

*Leaf. 115 W. Sixth St. 512-474-5323, Choose from one of a variety of Leaf’s salad options, or make your own with a variety of ingredients, many of which are locally sourced.

Lamb tartare at Emmer & Rye. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


*Cafe No Se. 1603 S. Congress Ave. 512-942-2061, Toast with soft-boiled egg, feathered avocado, bright greens and aleppo-spiced carrots tastes like something you’d find in a cafe in Santa Monica, while a burger layered with American cheese will hit you right in your nostalgia centers.

Central Standard. 1603 S. Congress Ave. 512-942-0823, The excellent craft cocktails and stunning raw bar give a taste of Manhattan at the luxe South Congress Hotel’s fine dining restaurant.

*Chez Nous. 510 Neches St. 512-473-2413, Some French class and an Old World vibe amid the boozy grumble and stumble of Sixth Street. Try the duck confit if it’s on the menu, and the housemade charcuterie.

*Clark’s. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, An exceptional oyster program, crispy seared fish, and silky clam chowder studded with bacon are some of the stars at this vibrant jewel box of a restaurant.

*Counter 357. 315 Congress Ave. 512-291-3327, Expect elegance, intimacy and a ringside seat for the open kitchen at one of Austin’s best restaurants. The three-, five- and seven-course prix fixe menus have featured dishes like a zucchini tartlet, smoked and seared duck, Asian-inspired crudos and a chocolate tart with roasted apples and coconut-herb sorbet.

*Driskill Grill. 604 Brazos St. 512-439-1234, One of Austin’s grand dames of fine dining, Start with wild boar chops and an iceberg salad before digging into a rack of lamb or dry-aged steak.

*Emmer & Rye. 51 Rainey St. 512-366-5530, Executive chef Kevin Fink and his team obsess over preservation technique and heritage grains at this innovative and welcome addition to Rainey Street. One of Austin’s 10 best.

Fixe. 500 W. Fifth St. 512-888-9133, It may look slick, but Fixe has a Southern comfort heart, from deviled eggs to lobster and crawfish pot pie. Try the spicy honey-glazed fried chicken.

*Hightower. 1209 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1448, This friendly, low-key place comes at you with strong flavor profiles, like a rice bowl with roasted pork jowl, pickled onion, housemade sriracha and a sunny egg yolk, and crispy Brussels sprouts with peanut butter and golden raisins.

*Jeffrey’s. 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584, Sit in the hefty bar seats or in the soft Baltic blue lounge sofas and feel like a power player as you sip a martini and eat lobster and caviar blinis or seared foie gras at this posh steakhouse.

*Juniper. 2400 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-220-9421, A restaurant of class and and sophistication not often seen in Austin, Juniper delivers North Italian dishes and small plates with precision and style.

*Justine’s. 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900, Justine’s is where the beautiful and the brazen (and the rest of us) go to hide (and be seen) and play while drinking strong cocktails and dining on French bistro fare.

*La Traviata. 314 Congress Ave. 512-479-8131, There’s a classic feel to this Italian restaurant that makes one of the best bolognese in town as well as homemade ravioli.

*Launderette. 2115 Holly St. 512-382-1599, Chef Rene Ortiz’s globe-trotting restaurant feels like a dinner party run by a whimsical chef who has a lot of ideas and no need for conformity or sitting still.

*Lenoir. 1807 S. First St. 512-215-9778, Chef Todd Duplechan’s bohemian chic bungalow serves “hot weather food,” meaning you can expect dishes sourced locally that have similar flavor profiles to the cuisine of Mexico, Northern Africa, India, Southeast Asia and more.

*Lonesome Dove. 419 Colorado St. 512-271-2474, Chef Tim Love adds thoughtful flourishes to steakhouse fare, with options like fettines made with wild game or farro congee with kale pesto, pork cheek and cured egg, a modern cowboy dish with an Asian twist.

Odd Duck. 1201 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-433-6521, Chef Bryce Gilmore’s restaurant pulls from local farms and ranches to create a playful and well executed menu that dazzles with creations like fried quail with egg salad splashed with soy caramel, and pecan jerk-glazed pork belly with a cheddar rice cake. One of Austin’s top five restaurants.

*Otoko. 1603 S. Congress Ave. 512-920-6405, Dining doesn’t get more exclusive or much more fun in Austin than this modern kaiseki and sushi bar from the minds of chefs Paul Qui and Yoshi Okai.

*Parkside. 301 E. Sixth St. 512-474-9898, Texas bistro (charred pork chop and steak colored with salsa verde) meets East Coast raw bar (crudo and oysters) at this downtown spot with walls colored with the patina of time.

*Perla’s. 1400 S. Congress Ave. 512-291-7300, Austin’s beachside seafood restaurant without the beach. Go for the oysters, the molten king crab and Parmesan grits, the meaty halibut with crispy skin and a seat on the deck.

*Sway. 1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999, This warm restaurant, all dark wood and nest-like light fixtures suspended over communal tables, helped introduce many Austinites to the idea of Southeast Asian food (Thai, specifically) served in modern and sophisticated settings.

Swift’s Attic. 315 Congress Ave. 512-482-8842, Fusion cuisine features Asian influences for dishes like Brussels sprouts with nuoc cham and mushrooms with white pepper soy and bok choy. Also one of the best burgers downtown.

*Uchi. 801 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4808, You know you have created a modern-day institution when people can recite dishes from your menu by heart. Regulars will tell you without pause that the Macha Cure’s smoked yellowtail comes with a wave of yucca chips, that Thai chilies and orange supremes do a spicy and sweet dance across the Hama Chili; and that a Peanut Butter Semifreddo with Apple-Miso Sorbet is an upscale homage to an after-school snack.

*Vespaio. 1610 S. Congress Ave. 512-441-6100, You can drink Barolo, dine on a towering plate of lasagna and feel like a Made Man in this upscale Italian restaurant.

Vox Table. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-375-4869, This contemporary restaurant in the Alamo Drafthouse complex on South Lamar Boulevard serves imaginative small plates with global influence.

*Wink. 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-482-8868, A farm-to-table trailblazer, this restaurant has found a way to straddle the line between neighborhood favorite and special-occasion option based on the strength of friendly service and a menu that is sure to always feature scallops, foie gras and wild game.