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The katsu at Sugar Pine
The katsu at Sugar Pine
Sugar Pine/Facebook

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Austin, Fall 2019

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

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The katsu at Sugar Pine
| Photo by Sugar Pine/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.

Every quarter, Eater Austin will add pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have become newly eligible (open for at least six months), or have stepped up their game to keep the list fresh. The fall update adds El Alma, Cafe Nena’i, and Sugar Pine to the lineup, and says farewell to Texas French Bread, Holy Roller, and El Naranjo (ahead of its impending closure on Rainey Street in November, though the very recently opened South Lamar location is still there). Pay respects to the running list of retirees over at the Eater 38 archive.

For other city essentials, check out the heatmap (a collection of Austin's hot new restaurants) as well as Eater’s official Austin guide. Then there’s the official Texas 38 over on Eater.

For all the latest Austin dining intel, subscribe to Eater Austin's newsletter.

Upset over a missing favorite? Want to share your own personal Eater 38? Drop it in the comments below or through the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Sugar Pine

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8578 Research Blvd
Austin, TX 78758
(512) 520-9046
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The counter-service menu over at the casual and cute Japanese cafe in Wooten is divvied up into three sections. First, there’s the sturdy and perfectly seasoned onigiri with fillings like spicy tuna, ume shiso, or avocado. For something more filling, the second section features an array of bento boxes served helpfully in a cafeteria-style tray. Those mains range from katsu pork to chicken karaage to grilled salmon. Finally, there are the sweets, like the house-made ice creams with Japanese ingredients such asblack sesame, taro root, or miso caramel (go all out with the matcha cone) and baked goods.

The pork katsu at Sugar Pine
The pork katsu at Sugar Pine
Sugar Pine/Facebook

2. The Peached Tortilla

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5520 Burnet Rd #100
Austin, TX 78756
(512) 330-4439
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It’s a tried-and-true Austin story: the Southern-Asian food truck became so popular, owner Eric Silverstein was able to open a slightly more upscale brick-and-mortar version in Allandale, dishing out an expanded menu full of comfort food items pulling from his background. There’s the Mom’s toast slathered in chopped shrimp, ground pork and gochujang chili sauce; the comforting Hainan chicken; plus an array of tacos, salads, and bowls of curries and rice.

A brunch dish from Peached Tortilla
A brunch dish from Peached Tortilla
Peached Tortilla/Facebook

3. Fonda San Miguel

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2330 W N Loop Blvd
Austin, TX 78756
(512) 459-4121
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The high-end restaurant in Allandale is a classic for a reason: Fonda San Miguel is credited with really focusing on interior Mexican food into Austin, like cochinita pibil and rellenos. It’s an added bonus that the beautiful space is decked out by Mexican artwork. Plus there’s a stellar Sunday buffet brunch.

The cochinita pibil at Fonda San Miguel
The cochinita pibil at Fonda San Miguel
Fonda San Miguel/Facebook

4. Quality Seafood Market

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5621 Airport Blvd
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 452-3820
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The longtime Hyde Park marketplace up in Hyde Park makes use of its fresh seafood supply for its counter-service restaurant. The menu boasts fresh oysters (both raw and grilled), grilled or blackened fish, and po’ boys. The blackboard highlight catches of the day for one-off specials.

Oysters from Quality Seafood
Oysters from Quality Seafood
Quality Seafood/Facebook

5. Foreign & Domestic

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306 E 53rd St
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 459-1010
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Co-owners Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley revitalized the North Loop restaurant with their fresh energy and ideas. Foreign & Domestic’s New American menu remains familiar, but spruced up, with comforting dishes like mushroom risotto and beef tongue pastrami hash. Adventurous eaters should partake in the offal tasting menu. The neighborhood restaurant works well for casual meals as well as special occasions.

A dish from Foreign & Domestic
A dish from Foreign & Domestic
Foreign & Domestic/Facebook

6. Xian Sushi and Noodle

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C370, 1801 E 51st St
Austin, TX 78723
(512) 469-7878
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It’s all about hand-pulled noodles at the casual, table-service Chinese restaurant in Mueller. Chef and owner Ting Li and his team make the noodles right on the spot, with variations like vermicelli, pappardelle, and triangle-shaped, and various soups. The red-braised beef noodles with bok choy and potatoes are a big hit for a reason.

The red-braised beef noodles from Xian
The red-braised beef noodles from Xian
Xian Sushi and Noodle/Facebook

7. Hopfields

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3110 Guadalupe St suite #400
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 537-0467
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The French-leaning casual gastropub pays equal attention to its food as it does its beers in the Heritage neighborhood. Of the former, there are nicoise salads with plump yellowfin tuna and juicy burgers topped with creamy camembert cheese. The latter features a lengthy draft list, with local breweries and otherwise. 

Hopfields’s nicoise salad
Hopfields’s nicoise salad
Hopfields [Official]

8. L'Oca d'Oro

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1900 Simond Ave
Austin, TX 78723
(737) 212-1876
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Mueller Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro champions the rights and well-being of restaurant workers within its own restaurant, as well as throughout the industry. The restaurant pays fair wages (hospitality fees are included in all bills to help make this easier) and dubbed itself a sanctuary restaurant as a safe space for everyone. The food reflects the same care, with excellent house-made pastas, hearty dry-aged meats, and sweet gelato.

A pasta dish from L’Oca d’Oro
A pasta dish from L’Oca d’Oro
L’Oca d’Oro/Facebook

9. Contigo

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2027 Anchor Ln
Austin, TX 78723
(512) 614-2260
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Contigo is on the Texas 38 for good reason: the minimalist beer garden is the perfect setting for its menu, heavily featuring charcuterie and other meaty dishes. It's the perfect example of Austin in restaurant form found right in the MLK neighborhood.

The rabbit and dumplings at Contigo
The rabbit and dumplings at Contigo
Contigo/Facebook

10. Dai Due

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2406 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722
(512) 524-0688
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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 the former farmers market stand/supper club from chef Jesse Griffiths. The Texas-forever menu includes everything from heavier dishes like giant rib-eyes, fried chicken, and wild boar confit, to lighter fare, like empanadas.

Dai Due’s mixed grill
Dai Due’s mixed grill
Dai Due/Facebook

11. Hoover's Cooking

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2002 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722
(512) 479-5006
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Hoover Alexander has been bringing a good ol’ mix of Southern soul fare to Cherrywood for the past 20 years with the casual table-service Hoover’s Cooking. Favorites include the chicken fried steak (a Southern classic) and the fried chicken.

Chicken fried steak at Hoover’s
Chicken fried steak at Hoover’s
Hoover’s/Facebook

12. Patrizi's

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2307 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722
(512) 522-4834
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The fun Cherrywood Italian food truck whips up some of the freshest pasta in Austin from owners Nic and Matt Patrizi. There are house and classic pasta like cacio e pepe, pomodoro, and the Great Leopold (made with basil and arugula pesto served with pumpkin seeds and crushed red chilis). The red sauce with meatballs isn’t to be missed.

Patrizi’s fettucine all’amatriciana
Patrizi’s fettucine all’amatriciana
Patrizi’s/Facebook

13. Jeffrey's

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1204 W Lynn St
Austin, TX 78703
(512) 477-5584
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Restaurateur Larry McGuire and chef/partner Tom Moorman brought new life into the refined dining room of classic restaurant Jeffrey’s in 2011. Diners can expect to either spend half a paycheck or opt for an affordable meal of pork chops and souffles at the elegant bar (Monday brings an all-night happy hour). The valets will park a '99 Corolla with as much panache as a Mercedes, so why not risk getting a little fancy?

A dish from Jeffrey’s
A dish from Jeffrey’s
Jeffrey’s [Official]

14. Olamaie

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1610 San Antonio St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 474-2796
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The elegant downtown restaurant from James Beard Award finalist Michael Fojtasek celebrates all things Southern, from Hoppin’ John with peas and Carolina Gold rice to infamous off-menu buttery biscuits to the excellent service to delectable pastries from chef Jules Stoddart. The cozy space also has a sunny porch — the perfect place to sample snacks like boiled peanuts and selections from the well-crafted cocktail menu from Erin Ashford.

Field peas, red-eye gravy, and country ham from Olamaie
Field peas, red-eye gravy, and country ham from Olamaie
Olamaie/Facebook

15. Better Half Coffee & Cocktails

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406 Walsh St
Austin, TX 78703
(512) 645-0786
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Eater Austin’s restaurant of the year brings all-day, counter-service vibes to West 5th Street. Better Half’s casual menu is full of laidback dishes with refined but not pretentious takes, like, say the breakfast sandwiches with hash brown patties, cauliflower tater tots, or the steak and eggs with kimchi butter. It’s all found in a space that feels appropriately Austin (large patio, killer coffee and beer lineups). It makes sense, since it’s from the experts behind favorite East Austin beer and coffee spot Brew & Brew.

Food and coffee at Better Half
Food and coffee at Better Half
Courtney Pierce/EATX

16. Franklin Barbecue

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900 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 653-1187
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Aaron Franklin’s smoky meats have risen from humble trailer origins to become one of the country’s most talked-about barbecue destinations (so much so it’s on both the Eater National 38 and Texas 38). Yes, you will wait in line. Yes, it will be worth it. 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
Franklin Barbecue
Franklin Barbecue [Official]

17. Buenos Aires Cafe, Este

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1201 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 382-1189
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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 and empanadas. Make liberal use of the chimichurri.

Parrillada at Buenos Aires Café
Parrillada at Buenos Aires Café
Buenos Aires Café/Facebook

18. Suerte

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1800 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 953-0092
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The East Austin upscale Mexican restaurant under chef Fermín Núñez is obsessed with masa. On deck daily are freshly made tortillas used in all sorts of ways, from luscious tlacoyos, crispy tostadas, to the mega-popular suadero tacos with just-rightly-juicy confit brisket.

Tacos at Suerte
Tacos at Suerte
Suerte/Facebook

19. Tamale House East

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1707 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 495-9504
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The spirit of Austin institution Tamale House lives on with the colorful east side Texas 38 restaurant, which is run by the fourth generation of the Vasquez family. The migas are plentiful, tamales are abundant, the patio is lush, and yes, there are cocktails and beer.

20. Saigon Le Vendeur

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2404 E 7th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 351-6916
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Banh mi is a simple sandwich, layered with with pickled vegetables and meats like grilled pork or pate, and Saigon Le Vendeur does the Vietnamese speciality right from its East Austin food truck.

21. El Alma

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1025 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 609-8923
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The Bouldin Creek restaurant focuses on stellar interior Mexican cuisine from executive chef Alma Alcocer and the El Chile Group. The easygoing atmosphere and the beautiful rooftop deck (luckily hidden from the street) makes it just the place to relax with fine margaritas, melty queso, wholly satisfying rellenos, and meaty entrees.

Queso at El Alma
Queso at El Alma
El Alma/Facebook

22. Bufalina

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1519 E Cesar Chavez St #200
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 524-2523
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Bufalina's skillfully executed Neapolitan pizzeria clearly impressed diners around town right on East Cesar Chavez, so much so that there are often waits at the casual, table-service restaurant for pies like the classic margherita and specials like the anchovy and olives ones. Wine nerds will dig the special and affordable bottles on offer as well.

23. Veracruz All Natural

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1704 E Cesar Chavez St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 981-1760
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Texas 38 food truck Veracruz All Natural serves excellent tacos, helmed by sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, served on handmade tortillas with fresh salsas. It’s not a real order without the migas and an agua fresca.

Taco at Veracruz All Natural
Breakfast taco from Veracruz All Natural
Veracruz All Natural [Official]

24. Via 313

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61 Rainey St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 609-9405
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Detroit-style pizza in a 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, especially when it’s the Omnivore with both meat and vegetable toppings or the sweeter Cadillac made with fig preserves.

Via 313’s pizza
Via 313’s pizza
Via 313/Facebook

25. Uchi

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801 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 916-4808
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For those looking to spend half a paycheck, this new-school sushi institution on South Lamar is the restaurant. Trust the server. The sake social hour (read: happy hour) is one of Austin's fine dining's greatest deals too. The traditional sushi is worth exploring, as is the popular hama chili with yellowtail sashimi.

Sushi from Uchi
Sushi from Uchi
Logan Crable/Uchi

26. Emmer & Rye

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SkyHouse, 51 Rainey St #110
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 366-5530
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From the grain-obsessed mind of executive chef and owner Kevin Fink comes Texas 38 restaurant Emmer & Rye, serving all-things local with high-end dressings, right on the edge of Rainey Street’s bar-packed district. The restaurant offers its menu as well as roaming dim sum-style carts filled with special dishes. Of note are the pastas and knock-out desserts from pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph.

Emmer & Rye’s cacio e pepe
Emmer & Rye’s cacio e pepe
Emmer & Rye/Facebook

27. La Barbecue

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2027 E Cesar Chavez St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 605-9696
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The city boasts an embarrassment of world-class smoky meats, and La Barbecue gives Franklin a run for its money from its new East Austin indoor home on within the Quickie Pickie. Predictably, the lines run long longer — up to two to three hours on the weekends — but on weekdays, it’s still possible to have a casual lunch of world-class barbecue, and hey, there’s air conditioning at least (if you’re lucky enough to snag a spot inside). Go for the brisket and sausages. After all, the barbecue joint is from LeAnn Mueller of the legendary Texas barbecue family.

Barbecue from La Barbecue
Barbecue from La Barbecue
LeAnn Mueller

28. Odd Duck

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1201 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 433-6521
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Bryce Gilmore delivers exactly what one expects from the Austin chef with Odd Duck: one of the most pleasurable dining experiences in the city. The casual-leaning essential Lone Star restaurant exudes a Texas-forever vibe with New American dishes (pretzels with a squash queso), magnificent large-format dishes (chicken fried fish heads) and on-point brunch (buttermilk pancakes with hatch breakfast sausages and figs), which all work very well for groups — but get those reservations — in the homey setting.

Dishes from Odd Duck
Dishes from Odd Duck
Odd Duck/Facebook

29. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

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2713 E 2nd St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 893-5561
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Texas meets Japan with the Lone Star-influenced izakaya from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team in Holly. The Texas 38 restaurant’s focus is on small plates. The lively restaurant is full of fun dishes, like a take on Frito pie made with octopus, hot pockets with brisket, and brisket paired with uni. Then there is the expected like yakitori and smoked meats such as barbecue eel and fish collars, and, of course, ramen. The exotic and rarities menu features, well, just that, with items like marinated jellyfish and monkfish liver.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya
Kemuri/Facebook

30. Justine's Brasserie

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4710 E 5th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 385-2900
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Justine's menu of classic French food 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 right for a long, lingering meal, which’ll have to include the steak frites.

Justine’s
Justine’s
Justine’s/Facebook

31. Bombay Dhaba

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1207 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
(737) 247-4323
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Some of Austin’s best curries can be found at the Bouldin Indian food truck, where options include spiceful kormas, spinach, and vindaloo, served alongside rice. Portions are plentiful, as are the rotis (the jalapeno cheese one isn’t to be missed).

32. Launderette

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2115 Holly St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 382-1599
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From the superstar chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki is Launderette, the stylish all-day neighborhood cafe in Holly. The Mediterranean-influenced menu means more upscale takes on on the usuals, like toasts topped with crab, grilled prawns, and burgers served on challah. Since pastry wizard Sawicki is involved, the birthday cake ice cream sandwich and other desserts are worth ordering.

Launderette’s duck confit cassoulet
Launderette’s duck confit cassoulet
Launderette/Facebook

33. Lenoir

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1807 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 215-9778
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This tiny South Austin restaurant features dishes made with Texas-sourced ingredients (think grilled quail, heirloom tomatoes, berry tarts). Lenoir has majorly changed the way it works: the prix fixe menu is gone and in its place is a new a la carte menu, as well as a $60/person four-course tasting menu. Reservations are recommended since there are only about thirty seats available. The wine garden also features serves most of the restaurant dishes for a more casual evening along South First.

Roasted kingfish with summer squash and peanut tom kha
Roasted kingfish with summer squash and peanut tom kha
Lenoir/Facebook

34. Dee Dee

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4204 Manchaca Rd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 394-7844
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Chef Lakana Trubiana cooks up a small but mighty Thai menu at Dee Dee’s food truck now in a new home in South Austin at Radio Coffee. The flavorful Isaan-style dishes (rooted in the northern region of Thailand) range from the comforting om gai to the very spicy laab moo. When in season, the mango sticky rice is worth it.

35. Sichuan River

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4534 West Gate Blvd
Austin, TX 78745
(512) 892-6699
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Austin’s best bet for Sichuan food can be found in the no-frills South Austin restaurant off West Gate. Bypass the Chinese-American dishes for good, spicy dishes like the mapo tofu, spicy jumping fish, and excellent spicy stir-fried chicken.

36. Cafe Nena'i

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1700 Montopolis Dr
Austin, TX 78741
(512) 840-9066
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The tiny homey bakery and cafe in Montopolis shelters excellent Latin American baked goods and bites from mother-and-daughter team Elena Sanguinetti and Gladys Benitez. Stock up on empanadas and sweets like alfajores and guava- or dulce de leche-filled doughnuts, while partaking in meaty sandwiches and caffeinating with espresso shots.

Cafe Nena’i’s sweets and empanadas
Cafe Nena’i’s sweets and empanadas
Cafe Nena’i/Facebook

37. Evangeline Cafe

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8106 Brodie Ln
Austin, TX 78745
(512) 282-2586
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Some of Austin’s best Cajun fare can be found at Evangeline Cafe. It’s a bonafide feast with chicken fried gator, hearty seafood gumbo, and plenty of catfish and crawfish dishes in the festive, laidback space.

Food from Evangeline Cafe
Food from Evangeline Cafe
Evangeline Cafe/Facebook

38. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

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11500 Manchaca Rd
Austin, TX 78745
(512) 221-4248
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Pitmaster Miguel Vidal melds the best of what Austin has to offer — smoked meats and tacos — down in far South Austin. There is a new brick-and-mortar to look forward to, but until then, head to the trailer for barbecue, tacos, and sandwiches, along with changing specials like burgers, pastrami, and more. Mornings are dedicated to excellent breakfast tacos, especially the Real Deal Holyfield.

Breakfast tacos from Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Nick Solares/E

1. Sugar Pine

8578 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758
The pork katsu at Sugar Pine
The pork katsu at Sugar Pine
Sugar Pine/Facebook

The counter-service menu over at the casual and cute Japanese cafe in Wooten is divvied up into three sections. First, there’s the sturdy and perfectly seasoned onigiri with fillings like spicy tuna, ume shiso, or avocado. For something more filling, the second section features an array of bento boxes served helpfully in a cafeteria-style tray. Those mains range from katsu pork to chicken karaage to grilled salmon. Finally, there are the sweets, like the house-made ice creams with Japanese ingredients such asblack sesame, taro root, or miso caramel (go all out with the matcha cone) and baked goods.

8578 Research Blvd
Austin, TX 78758

2. The Peached Tortilla

5520 Burnet Rd #100, Austin, TX 78756
A brunch dish from Peached Tortilla
A brunch dish from Peached Tortilla
Peached Tortilla/Facebook

It’s a tried-and-true Austin story: the Southern-Asian food truck became so popular, owner Eric Silverstein was able to open a slightly more upscale brick-and-mortar version in Allandale, dishing out an expanded menu full of comfort food items pulling from his background. There’s the Mom’s toast slathered in chopped shrimp, ground pork and gochujang chili sauce; the comforting Hainan chicken; plus an array of tacos, salads, and bowls of curries and rice.

5520 Burnet Rd #100
Austin, TX 78756

3. Fonda San Miguel

2330 W N Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756
The cochinita pibil at Fonda San Miguel
The cochinita pibil at Fonda San Miguel
Fonda San Miguel/Facebook

The high-end restaurant in Allandale is a classic for a reason: Fonda San Miguel is credited with really focusing on interior Mexican food into Austin, like cochinita pibil and rellenos. It’s an added bonus that the beautiful space is decked out by Mexican artwork. Plus there’s a stellar Sunday buffet brunch.

2330 W N Loop Blvd
Austin, TX 78756

4. Quality Seafood Market

5621 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751
Oysters from Quality Seafood
Oysters from Quality Seafood
Quality Seafood/Facebook

The longtime Hyde Park marketplace up in Hyde Park makes use of its fresh seafood supply for its counter-service restaurant. The menu boasts fresh oysters (both raw and grilled), grilled or blackened fish, and po’ boys. The blackboard highlight catches of the day for one-off specials.

5621 Airport Blvd
Austin, TX 78751

5. Foreign & Domestic

306 E 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751