Good Eats in The Live Music Capital of the World
ustin, Texas is a big city in a small city’s body. Somehow it’s maintained a bohemian, rootsy vibe found in cities much smaller and for years now, its been having an “it” moment that won’t stop anytime soon. And why would it? It is, after all, The Live Music Capital of the World, having more live music venues per capita than any other city in the U.S. It even puts Nashville to shame. With a social calendar that is stacked year-round with big-ticket festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits Music Festival, the beat of the music in Austin never stops. Local Austin Foodies seem to radiate in the soundtrack of their city which harmonizes perfectly with the lush nature, fresh air and great food. And when it comes to food in Austin, don’t think it’s all about BBQ and brisket. Austin does food like it does everything else; in its own special way.
Go for the music, stay for the food. Here are 5 Austin Foodie Hotspots Not to Miss.
Elizabeth St. Cafe
I personally don’t know if a more Instagram-worthy restaurant exists. Elizabeth St. Cafe is both a Vietnamese noodle and Bahn Mi cafe, as well as a French boulangerie. It’s located on First Street in South Austin in a colorful, mid-century modern cottage, that bustles from sunup to sundown. The staff uniforms and mix-and-match dishware and furniture are bright, retro-chic and almost more eye-catching than the bakery display filled with real Parisian style croissants and eclairs. They specialize in Banh Mi, quite possibly the only sandwich on the planet that hits all umami notes; French bread that’s crunchy, but not too crunchy, filled with sweet and spicy meat or pate, topped with acidic, pickled veggies, and a squirt of creamy aioli. And if you’ve never fancied soup for breakfast, their Breakfast Pho may change your mind. Crazy good bone broth + braised brisket, flank, and short rib topped with a fried egg. It’s so tasty!
Elizabeth Street Café
Noodles * Bánh Mì * Boulangerie
1501 S. First Street
Austin, Texas 78704
Torchy’s Tacos, an Austin institution
Torchy’s is practically an Austin institution. With 13 locations in Austin alone, and many others peppered throughout Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, Torchy’s aims to serve “damn good tacos” to as many people as possible. It’s Tex-Mex, made Austin-style with flavor fusions as creative as their names. The Alabama Shake, for instance, has cornmeal-crusted catfish, poblano slaw, cotija cheese, peppadew peppers, cilantro and a lime wedge. Each month, Torchy’s features a special taco of the month that is only available that month. In January, it was The Washingtonian; featuring smoked pulled pork with grilled onions & freshly grated jack cheese, pickles, sour cream and fresh avocado with chipotle BBQ sauce. “Queso” is big in Austin and is made from, you guessed it, lots and lots of cheese. It’s like a Texas rancher’s fondue, and Torchy’s Hillbilly Queso should not be missed.
The heart of the Red Ash is the custom-made wood-burning grill that infuses Chef John Carver’s Northern and Southern Italian cuisine with a certain authenticity that only live fire can produce. Dining here is a splurge that you won’t regret, so go big. I suggest ordering as many items as possible and sharing them all family-style so that you can sample as many dishes as your stomach can handle. Tickle your palate with the Charred Tuna Crudo, then freshen it up with the Calabrian salad. Go ahead, indulge in a cheese course, then follow it up Wood Roasted Beef Bone Marrow & Wild Mushroom Risotto. Be sure to squeegee the plate with freshly baked Hot & Crispy Country Italian Bread, maybe take a break, sip some wine, then get back into the experience with house-made Spaghettini Alle Vongole. It would be sacrilegious not to order dessert to end a meal like this. The Hot Cream Filled Donuts should do just fine, especially washed down with a sip of Grappa and a big smile of absolute contentment.
Red Ash Italia
303 COLORADO STREET
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78701
Bouldin Creek Cafe
Bouldin Creek Cafe is a vegetarian cafe for even non-vegetarians. The food is reasonably priced, wholesome and makes you feel terrific about the choices you make to fuel your body. They make everything from scratch, even the vegetarian bacon, and you can taste the care they put into their dishes. Take the Soul Food Plate for instance. Smoky-maple sautéed collards, red & black organic beans, tomatoes, & house-made vegan cornbread is hearty and so satisfying that you won’t even miss the ham hock. More than just a cafe, it’s a community gathering spot that features local art, and Austin hipster sightseeing at it’s finest.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
1900 South 1st st. Austin, TX 78704
Gourdough’s Big. Fat. Doughnuts
Austin owns the food truck scene, but Gourdough’s serves its donuts out of an Airstream. Krispy Kreme has nothing on these beauties. You can even have your donut with fried chicken and maple syrup. It’s called the Mother Clucker, and it’s second only to the Fat Elvis made with grilled bananas, bacon, and peanut butter. Hopefully, you danced your heart out at the Mohawk the night before to earn one of these from your calorie bank, but if you didn’t, no worries. Just wash it down with a Topo-Chico and tell all your friends that the best donut you ever ate was served out of an Airstream in Austin, Texas — a big, little city where the music is world-class, and the food can hold a tune with even the best of them.
1503 S 1st St., Austin, TX 78704