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A bright green salad and steak with potatoes from Barley Swine.
Dishes from Barley Swine
Barley Swine/Facebook

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Austin, Fall 2017

A guide to the city's defining restaurants spanning all cuisines, neighborhoods, and price ranges

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Dishes from Barley Swine
| Barley Swine/Facebook

Now it’s time for the quarterly update of the Eater 38, the answer to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant...?" This highly-elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and budgets, and collectively satisfies all of everyone’s restaurant needs, from taco trucks to fine dining spots. Reminder: restaurants must be open for at least six months to qualify for the list.

The fall update welcomes the following to the Eater 38: South Austin spicy Chinese restaurant Sichuan River and Jewish bagel and sandwich spot Biderman’s Deli. Leaving the map this season are meat-loving shop Noble Sandwich Co., North Austin's Szechuan House, and downtown mainstay Second Bar + Kitchen. Pay respects to the running list of retirees over at the Eater 38 archive.

Upset over a missing favorite? Chime in on the list in the comments below. For other city essentials, check out the heatmap (a collection of Austin's hot new restaurants) barbecue, tacos, iconic dishes (with a meaty edition), brunches, and cocktail bars, as well as Eater’s official Austin guide.

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Note: While the list is numbered, there is no particular order or ranking. Restaurants are listed geographically, from north to south, east to west.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Apis Restaurant & Apiary

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Chefs Taylor Hall and Adam Brick turned Spicewood into a fine dining destination with casual leanings with their New American restaurant, where the thoughtful dishes incorporate seasonal ingredients, including, of course, honey from the on-site hives. Take advantage of prix fixe menus or indulge in the lengthy signature tasting menu spanning 15 courses. the Pop into the casual pizzeria next-door, Pizzeria Sorellina, too.

Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Din Ho Chinese BBQ

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For the finest Beijing duck, roast pork, and marinated meats, Din Ho’s Chinese barbecue is the answer in far north Austin in an easy-going setting with reasonable prices. Elsewhere on the menu, dive into other dishes like sea cucumbers with duck web and deep fried intestines.

Ramen Tatsu-ya

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Patrons line up for both locations of the ramen shop — the far north’s tiny strip mall spot and the larger South Lamar restaurant — before opening hours, on hot or cold days, for good reason. The staff is friendly, the space is buzzing, and the ramen is phenomenal. Along with the killer broths, don’t forgo the katsu sliders, hush piggies, and satisfying desserts.

Spencer Selvidge/EATX

Biderman's Deli

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Biderman’s Deli brings much-needed sandwiches and bagels to the Northwest Hill. The Jewish delicatessen serves up classic bagels loaded with cream cheese, lox, whitefish, and more. Then there are the classic sandwiches, from the standout Reuben to the pastrami/corned beef/chopped liver combination during daytime and early evening hours.

Barley Swine

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Bryce Gilmore delivers exactly what one expects from the Texas-focused chef: some of the most pleasurable dining experiences in Austin. While his original restaurant relocated from its old home to Brentwood, Barley Swine still maintains its Texas-forever vibe with more elaborate New American experimental dishes with Texas cores on its higher end menu, such as shiitake pasta and barbecue butternut squash. The larger space affords two different types of service, with the tasting and a la carte menus.

Robert J. Lerma/EATX


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Sarah McIntosh's charming and well-executed cafe and grocery showcases what neighborhood dining should look like, with a New Orleans/French touch, in Rosedale. From the in-house cured meats to the grits reminiscent of risotto, Epicerie's attention to detail elevates every item on its menu. The table service spot is great for a leisurely brunch or casual date night.

Take and Kayo Asazu turned their popular but now-defunct sushi trailer Sushi A-Go-Go into a full-blown restaurant, offering their take on home-style Japanese fare in the Hyde Park spot. Lunch is served teishoku-style (fixed menu with a dish, rice, and sides), and later on, there are shared plates for dinner. Most rolls run under $10.


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Contigo's minimalist beer garden is the perfect setting for its ranch-inspired menu, which heavily features housemade charcuterie and other meaty delights. It's the perfect example of Austin in restaurant form found right in MLK.

Contigo Contigo/Official

Mi Madre's Restaurant

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Cherrywood’s Manor Road has become a culinary destination, and the classics found in the area are definitely worth exploring. Few restaurants do neighborhood Tex-Mex with more warmth than Mi Madre's. Indulge in the massive spread of migas or some killer enchiladas (which’ll also cure that hangover).

Mi Madre's/Official

Dai Due

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So regionally-minded that even the beer and wine are exclusively from Texas, Cherrywood's Dai Due is equally satisfying for a light breakfast or a major blow-out meat fest at dinner. The brick and mortar incarnation is everything Austin hoped for from what used to be a hyper-local farmers' market stand and supper club. The Texas-forever menu includes everything from heavier dishes like giant ribeyes, fried chicken, and wild boar confit, to lighter fare, like empanadas.

Nadia Chaudhury/EATX

Jeffrey's and Josephine House

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Restaurateur Larry McGuire' and chef/partner Tom Moorman's ambitious twinned Clarksville restaurants feature the refined dining room of Jeffrey’s and effortlessly stylish sister spot Josephine House. From the former on West Lynn Street, diners can expect to either spend half a paycheck or opt for an affordable meal of pork chops and souffles at the elegant bar (See also: Monday's all-night happy hour). At the latter on 1601 Waterston Avenue, feel chic with bright brunch-inspired dishes (avocado toast, huevos rancheros) and rejuvenating drinks. The valets will park a '99 Corolla with as much panache as a Mercedes, so why not risk getting a little fancy?

Jeffrey’s Jeffrey's/Official


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Refined, welcoming, and inventive, Olamaie is back to form. Chef Michael Fojtasek may draw influences from across the American South, but he’s also remarkably committed to local sourcing, especially from Austin's urban farms. Remember to order the off-menu biscuits, which pair well with Hoppin' John. Don’t overlook the refreshing cocktail program from Erin Ashford. The finer dining setting works well for group dinners, dates, and special occasions.

Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Wink pioneered high-end local sourcing in Austin, and the hidden-away strip mall restaurant in Clarksville remains essential. The knowledgeable and loyal staff provides some of Austin's best service. Order a la carte from the bar menu or opt for either of the two tasting courses, where the chefs will offer up their very best dishes in a dark, cozy setting.

Franklin Barbecue

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Now back in business after a fire, Aaron Franklin’s smokey meats have risen from humble trailer origins to become one of the country’s most talked-about barbecue destinations. Yes, you will wait in line. Yes, it will be worth it when it reopens. Weekend waits can stretch up to five to six hours these days, so consider ditching work for a weekday brisket fix instead. If brisket happens to run out, try the ribs and turkey.

Franklin Barbecue Raymond Thompson/EATX

Micklethwait Craft Meats

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Pitmaster Tom Micklethwait is diligent about making everything himself, which means his Central East Austin trailer rounds out the holy trinity of Austin’s smoked meats spots. Besides brisket, there are creative sausages. And, hey, it's Michelle Obama-approved.

Robert Strickland/E

Easy Tiger

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This bake shop and beer garden nails the winning Austin formula: in-house bread and pastries, craft beer, outdoor games (hello, ping pong), and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere in the most improbable of places: Dirty Sixth. Make use of the massive outdoor area with giant pretzels and sausages in hand. It's so popular that it is quickly expanding throughout Austin. There is an outpost within Whole Foods' 365 Market in Cedar Park, plus new locations forthcoming in the Linc and the city's first food hall, Fareground.

Raymond Thompson/EATX

Buenos Aires Cafe, Este

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It’s all about Argentina at the fun and casual East Side restaurant, where meat is the centerpiece, from grilled steaks, short ribs, chicken, to other South American specialities, like its take on Shepherd's pie. Be sure to order some empanadas.

Salt & Time

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The butcher shop with a focus on responsibly-raised meats also offers a mean brunch and lots of meaty sandwiches. The dinner service is one of Austin's terrific deals for high-quality charcuterie and steak on the outskirts of Holly.

East Side King Thai Kun

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East Side King’s Thai Kun trailer, from Paul Qui, Thai Changthong, and Motoyasu Utsunomiya, dishes out Thai-inspired dishes ranging from mild (still hot) to spicy (way hotter) from both its trailer and brick and mortar. Order the beef panang curry with a paired cocktail from the trailer’s home at Whisler’s. Then head up to the Domain Northside for a wider array of offerings, including family-style dishes.

Tamale House East

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Embrace the spirit of Austin institution Tamale House with the colorful East Side restaurant, which is run by the fourth generation of the Vasquez family. The migas are plentiful, tamales galore, the patio is lush, and yes, there are cocktails and beer.

Tamale House East Robert J. Lerma/EATX

El Naranjo

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El Naranjo delivers the best taste of Oaxaca in Austin, thanks to chef Iliana de la Vega, who helms from the region. The Rainey Street restaurant focuses on upscale Mexican fare, with moles, chile rellenos, and other interior dishes.


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Bufalina's perfectly executed Neapolitan pizzeria has won the hearts and minds of diners around town right on East Cesar Chavez. Wine nerds will dig the unique and affordable bottles on offer as well. Check out the expanded second location out on Burnet too.

Veracruz All Natural

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Excellent tacos are served from these trucks, served on handmade tortillas with fresh salsas. It’s not a real order without the migas and don't forget to try the aguas frescas. In addition to the original location, there are late night tacos at Radio Coffee & Beer down in south Austin, and the brick and mortar in Round Rock. Get excited: there's another physical restaurant in North Burnet now.

Veracruz All Natural/Official

La Barbecue

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The city boasts an embarrassment of world-class smokey meats, and La Barbecue gives Franklin a run for its money from its new brick and mortar home on East Cesar Chavez, within the Quickie Pickie. Predictably, the lines are running longer and longer — up to two hours on the weekends — but on weekdays, it's still possible to have a casual lunch of world-class barbecue. Go for the brisket and sausages.

La Barbecue/Official

Via 313

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Detroit-style pizza in an Texas-only craft beer bar? Hell yes. The brothers Hunt make some of the best pies in town. Craft Pride's lovely patio is the right place to enjoy them, because nothing is better than pizza and beer enjoyed outside. For other Via experiences, pair the pies with frozen Iron Whips at its second location at Violet Crown Social Club, or head to the Oak Hill or north campus restaurants.

For those looking to spend half a paycheck, this new school sushi institution on South Lamar is the restaurant. Trust the server and don't skimp on the more traditional sushi. The sake social hour (read: happy hour) is one of Austin's fine dining's greatest deals too.

Emmer & Rye

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From the grain-obsessed mind of executive chef and owner Kevin Fink comes Emmer & Rye, serving all-things local on a higher-end level, right on the edge of Rainey Street’s bar-packed district. Order from the menu, and grab whatever catches your fancy from the roaming dim sum-style carts filled with special dishes. Make sure to get the handmade pastas and knock-out desserts from pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph.

Nicolai McCrary/EATX

Odd Duck

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Then there’s Bryce Gilmore’s other, more casual-leaning restaurant, Odd Duck. Visitors can find magnificent large format dishes and the on-point brunch, which all work very well for groups, in the homey setting.

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Kemuri Tatsu-ya

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Texas meets Japan with the Lone Star-influenced izakaya from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team in Holly. The focus is on small plates and bites. There are fun dishes like a take on Frito pie made with octopus and hot pockets with brisket. Then there are expected fare with yakitori, sashimi, smoked meats including barbecue eel and fish collars, and, of course, ramen. Explore the funky choices of the exotic and rarities menu.

Kemuri Robert J. Lerma/EATX


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From the superstar team of chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki is Launderette, the stylish Mediterranean-influenced neighborhood cafe in Holly with a focus on all-day dining. This means more upscale takes on on the usuals, like toasts topped with crab, grilled prawns, and burgers served on challah. Don’t miss out on the birthday cake ice cream sandwich at the end, or even beginning.

Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Justine's Brasserie

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Justine's menu of classic French fare with an East Side twists makes for a neighborhood classic. Late night parties, secret musical performances, and art shows lend to the buzzy, magical atmosphere of the convivial space. Plus, the reasonably-priced wine list means this tucked-away gem is perfect for a long, lingering meal, which’ll have to include the steak frites.

Raymond Thompson/EATX

This tiny South Austin restaurant features global dishes from Texas-sourced ingredients, served on a three-course menu affordably priced at $45 (think fried quail, peach ceviche, grilled halloumi). Make reservations early — there are only about thirty seats available. The wine garden also features an a la carte trailer for a more casual evening on South Lamar.

Ryann Ford

Bouldin Creek Café

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Beloved by denizens of the 78704 and beyond, Bouldin Creek offers a diverse menu of vegetarian fare, locally roasted coffee, and a taste of old school Austin during the daytime and evenings. The vegetable sandwiches are legitimately delicious.

Bouldin Creek Café Bouldin Creek Café/Official

Papalote Taco House

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A South Austin favorite, Papalote can cure anyone’s pastor cravings or lighten up lunch with its lauded cauliflower taco. The breakfast tacos are no joke either, and true masa fans should check out the tlacoyos and huaraches. There's a second Papalote in North Austin, too.