Austin Dining

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Austin Dining
Once known as a town with a taste only for Tex-Mex, burgers and barbecue, Austin has now become one of the great food cities in America. International cuisine from all parts of the globe now find a home in restaurants and trailers around town, and the independent brewing and distillery scene is robust and varied. The city still has an abiding love for the foods with which it has always been associated, but now there is an abundance of choices for culinary exploration.
By Matthew Odam, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Olena Mykhayl/age fotostock
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    Weekend Brunches
    Austinites definitely live by the "brunch so hard mantra." People love brunch so much that some restaurants, like Holy Roller and Snooze even specialize in all-day brunch menus. Chef Philip Speer had the smart idea of mixing high and low by mashing up a French bistro with a Waffle House at Bonhomie. One of Austin's oldest restaurants, Green Pastures, was rebooted as Mattie's, and brunch is as important as ever, with Milk Punch being the drink of choice. For an Asian spin on brunch, try the dim sum at Old Thousand.
    Photo by Olena Mykhayl/age fotostock
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    Authentic Mexican Eats
    One of the many great things about living in Texas is the delicious influence of the state's neighbor to the south. You can find Mexican food in fine dining establishments, family-run casual restaurants and at food trucks all over the city. Chef Iliana de la Vega celebrates the flavors and styles of Oaxaca at El Naranjo and chef Rene Ortiz of Fresa's puts an upmarket twist on tacos and well-sourced charcoal chicken. Few cities love the breakfast taco as much as Austin, and all journeys to find the best should start at one of the Veracruz All Natural trailers.
    Photo by Vania Lanas
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    Mouthwatering Barbecue
    Austin has long been known as a barbecue town, but the dirty little secret is that the best barbecue was always around Austin, not in it. That has changed. Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue has taken home a James Beard Award, the first pitmaster to ever win one for Best Chef, and he helped start a barbecue boom. Micklethwait Craft Meats in East Austin is a trailer that specializes in a varierty of interesting sausages and fun dishes like Frito pie with brisket, along with all the expected classics, and LeAnn Mueller's La Barbecue has the Mueller Barbecue of Taylor, Texas pedigree. Not all of the barbeuce in Austin plays by traditional rules. Valentina's Tex-Mex blends smoked meat with taco preaprations, and Kemuri Tatsu-Ya mashes up a Japanese izakaya with a smokehouse for a wholly unique experience. The neighborhood Italian restaurant L'Oca d'Oro even featured brisket on its opening menu, and pizza restaurant and trailer Via 313 teamed with Lockhart legends Black's Barbecue for a brisket pizza.
    Photo courtesy of Rebecca Fondren/Lamberts
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    Breweries, Brewpubs, and Local Beer
    Austinites have always loved beer. And with heritage brands like Pearl, Lone Star and Shiner Bock, they always had some fellow Texans to lean on. Now they don't have to look outside of the city limits to find a wealth of independent breweries and brewpubs. The city is home to breweries like Live Oak Brewing and 512 Brewing Company. Outside of town, you can find the popular Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, and on the road to Dripping Springs, there's Jester King Brewery, which specializes in a variety of naturally fermented beers and offers ample outdoor seating in a rustic setting. Brewpubs also dot the town, from Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company in South Austin to the community-owned Black Star Co-Op in North Austin, which serves pub-style food in addition to the craft brews. 

    Photo by age fotostock
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    Experts in Burgers
    Hamburgers are one of Austin's major food groups. The city has a history of great burgers from burger joints like Sandy's, Crown & Anchor Pub and Dan's Hamburgers, but great burgers aren't limited to burger-specific places. Many of Austin's top restaurants serve burgers that nod to the classics of the past, like the American-cheese slathered throwback at Cafe No Se in the Hotel South Congress, the double-stacked burger at French-bistro-meets-American-diner Bonhomie, Launderette's burger that features bacon in the beefy grind, and the upmarket take on a classic at June's All Day.
    Photo by Trace Sheehan
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    Food Trailers: An Austin Staple
    Food trailers serve as a testing ground for chefs and operators and a chance for diners to get a taste of often exciting and imaginative food at prices that are generally lower than those found on restaurant menus. Verzcruz All Natural astounds with their perfectly seasoned, fresh migas tacos. Dee Dee delivers the complex and bright flavors of Northern Thailand. Saigon le Vendeur has perfected the art of the Vietnamese banh mi, and head to the two Via 313 trailers for thick, cheesy slicesof square-cut pizza. 

    Photo by Charissa Fay
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    Asian flavor explosion
    Many of Austin's young culinary entrepreneurs and chefs are expanding the city's culinary horizons, tapping into their personal histories to bring flavors from their homelands or their families to diners. The chefs at Old Thousand take Americanized Chinese for a spin in East Austin. The Kemuri Tatsu-Ya team blends Japanese izakaya tradition with a Texas smokehouse. Otoko is a hip update on a Japanese kaiseki experience. Dee Dee transports you to Northern Thailand, and Saigon le Vendeur's banh mi taste plucked from the street stalls of Vietnam.
    Photo by Matthew Odam
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    Austin Farmers' Markets
    Farm-to-table isn't a marketing slogan. It's an ethos. Many Austin restaurant owners and chefs pride themselves on the close relationships they have with area farmers and ranchers, and source much of their menu regionally. You can find Olamaie chef-owner Michael Fojtasek at area farmers markets selecting produce for his refined Southern cuisine at Olamaie. Emmer & Rye chef-owner Kevin Fink preserves and ferments local produce for dishes at his restaurant that specializes in heritage grains. Dai Due gets everything it cooks from Texas, and even used wild grapes from a nearby alley as the starter for its sourdough bread, and L'Oca d'Oro brings the farm-to-table philosophy to comforting yet sophisticated Italian. Outside of Austin, Apis Restaurant & Apiary sources honey from its own apiary, and wild boar for charcuterie comes from a Texas ranch. 

    Photo by Matthew Odam