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A dish from Chuy’s
A dish from Chuy’s
Chuy’s/Facebook

Austin’s Top Tourist Trap Restaurants That Are Actually Worth a Visit

So much Tex-Mex and barbecue

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A dish from Chuy’s
| Chuy’s/Facebook

It can be difficult for Austinites to show friends, family, and visitors around the city without falling prey to tourist traps, those places that locals try to avoid at all costs. Is there good food downtown after watching the bats fly out of the South Congress bridge? (Yes.) Is Franklin Barbecue really worth the wait? (A resounding yes.) This guide highlights Austin’s tourist-friendly restaurants that are actually great, from old-school joints to James Beard award-winning restaurants to places with worthy lines.

Barbecue is a top request of out-of-towners, and Franklin Barbecue and Salt Lick certainly provide experiences. Tex-Mex is an essential pit stop for visitors, and Matt’s El Rancho and Chuy’s are long-standing Austin institutions for a reason. For some of Austin’s famous breakfast tacos, try Juan in a Million or Torchy’s. The city has its finer-dining spots as well, where Uchi, The Driskill Bar, and Odd Duck work for a fancy night out. Finally, after all that indulgence — Texas is not exactly known for its light fare — the flagship Whole Foods Market is truly a sight to behold.

For more comprehensive looks into essential Austin dining, scope out Eater’s city guide and Eater 38 map.

Is there a crucial tourist trap restaurant missing below? Let Eater know through the tipline, comments, or over on the forum.

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Ramen Tatsu-ya

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Rain or shine, summer heat or those rare below-freezing days, people still line up for Ramen Tatsu-ya’s stellar bowls of noodle soup, which happens to be some of the best in the country. All three locations (second one on South Lamar, and the latest on East 6th) are often packed until closing.

Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya
Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya
Ramen Tatsu-ya/Facebook

Magnolia Cafe

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This 24/7 classically Austin diner is famous for giant pancakes (try the gingerbread) and Mag Mud, an epic four-layer queso dip. Expect wait times for the cheap eats during weekend brunch and at 4 a.m. after a long night of drinking. There’s a second location on South Congress too.

Magnolia’s pancakes
Magnolia’s pancakes
Hoang Thanh N./Yelp

Whole Foods Market

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Tourists may question a grocery store visit while on vacation, but the massive size and multiple dining options of the flagship Whole Foods Market make it a food paradise. The supermarket was founded by John Mackey in 1980, though Amazon owns the company now. Plus, after all of that Tex-Mex and barbecue, the ample salad bar will seem like a good idea.

Whole Foods Market on North Lamar in Austin
Whole Foods Market on North Lamar in Austin
Andre H./Yelp

Franklin Barbecue

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Everyone thinks Franklin Barbecue can’t possibly be worth the multi-hour wait. Then they taste the brisket and they understand. While, yes, the waits for the lunch-time barbecue can span several hours (some people start waiting around 5 a.m.), it’s still a fun experience. Aaron Franklin, who became the first pitmaster to win a James Beard award in 2015, started the venture as a small trailer but quickly grew to national fame.

Barbecue tray from Franklin Barbecue
Barbecue tray from Franklin Barbecue
Franklin Barbecue [Official]

The Driskill Bar

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The historic hotel where president Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird had their first date still sets the standard for grandeur in the city. The bar offers impeccable service, speciality Texas-themed drinks, and excellent people-watching.

A cocktail from the Driskill
A cocktail from the Driskill
Driskill/Facebook

Casino El Camino

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If you must do Dirty Sixth, Casino el Camino is the place to get a giant burger to soak up all the alcohol. The dark, labyrinth restaurant also has a great spicy bloody mary.

A burger from Casino el Camino
A burger from Casino el Camino
Eric B./Yelp

Though the Tex-Mex restaurant has now spread to 19 states and six locations in Austin, the original opened on Barton Springs Road in 1982. The prime location next to Zilker Park, addictive creamy jalapeño dip, fresh ingredients, and strong margaritas make Chuy’s a first stop for visitors and returning natives alike, so watch for crowds during dinnertime.

An array of plates, one with tortillas and vegetables, another with a pile of beans and a cheese-covered item.
Chuy’s Tex-Mex dishes
Chuy’s/Facebook

Fareground

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Housing six of Austin’s best restaurants conveniently in one place, Fareground is a one-stop-shop for those staying downtown. Pro tip: order drinks and food from every restaurant the newly finished bar, Ellis.

Fareground
Fareground
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden

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This spacious outdoor sausage restaurant and beer garden (with over 200 taps) is definitely a place where locals mix with tourists. Thanks to an expansion in 2018, Banger’s now serves whole-hog barbecue and has 5,000 square feet of patio space.

Banger’s sausages
Banger’s sausages
Banger’s Sausage House/Facebook

Whataburger

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While the West Coast is all about In-N-Out Burger and the East Coast is fond of Shake Shake, both are decisively inferior to the fast food burger chain of Texas: Whataburger. Leaving Austin without trying a honey butter chicken biscuit is just plain wrong.

Whataburger’s burger
Whataburger’s burger
Whataburger/Facebook

Craft Pride & Via 313

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This purveyor of all-Texas beer is a must-visit while exploring entertainment district Rainey Street, featuring pints from local all-stars like 4th Tap Brewing, Austin Beerworks, Celis Brewery, and many others. The bar is also home to Detroit-style pizza through Via 313’s trailer, The super-cheesy square pies, like the Cadillac with prosciutto and balsamic, are freshly made, so the wait that can be over an hour on weekends. Luckily, all that beer will keep you company. Via has other locations in Oak Hill, North Campus, and West 6th Street.

Beer and pizza from Craft Pride and Via 313
Beer and pizza from Craft Pride and Via 313
Via 313 /Facebook

Much of Austin’s top culinary talent has worked under Uchi chef/owner Tyson Cole at some point of their careers. The James Beard Award winner produces an innovative menu of sushi and Japanese dishes like hama chili (cool yellowtail with ponzu and thai chili) and beautifully plated desserts. Those looking to spend less at the restaurant should line up at 5 p.m. for the solid sake social hour, which runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every day. Otherwise, reservations are recommended. Check out sibling spot Uchiko too.

Masaba from Uchi
Masaba from Uchi
Uchi/Facebook

Juan in a Million

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Those people waiting at Juan’s line will likely be cranky (though it does move fast), as the restaurant is home to the hangover cure of many. The Don Juan is a massive potato, egg, bacon, and cheese concoction served on a warm tortilla. Some say that the filling could make two or three tacos, but these people don’t understand that everything’s bigger in Texas.

Juan in a Million’s Don Juan
Juan in a Million’s Don Juan
Juan in a Million/Facebook

Odd Duck

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Lauded native-Austin chef Bryce Gilmore’s restaurant Odd Duck pays careful attention to sourcing (the names of the farm are proudly listed on the website and menus). The result is oft-changing innovative plates like a pretzel with pig face carnitas or flavorful fish heads. Sunday brunch isn’t to be missed. Reservations are recommended, or hole up at the bar (that happy hour is good too). Gilmore also has his finer dining restaurant Barley Swine and the everything spot Sour Duck Market.

Odd Duck’s chile and cheese tamale
Odd Duck’s chile and cheese tamale
Richard Casteel/Odd Duck/Facebook

Jo's Coffee

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The home of iconic “I love you so much” sign (sprayed by musician Amy Cook for then-girlfriend Liz Lambert, majority owner of Jo’s), Jo’s on South Congress also provides numerous options for a caffeine buzz (the iced Turbo is a good summer antidote), breakfast tacos, and other snacks. It’s run by the same group behind nearby stylish hotels Austin Motel and Hotel San Jose. There is a downtown location too, with an expanded menu (and frosé).

Jo’s Coffee’s frozen Turbo
Jo’s Coffee’s frozen Turbo
Jo’s Coffee/Facebook

Home Slice Pizza

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South Congress’s slice joint maintains a steady crowd eager for New York-style pizza and subs. Avoid the line, which particularly picks up late at night, by grabbing pizza or subs to-go from More Home Slice (which is also open very late), or wait for a seat inside the restaurant proper for the full menu. There’s a North Loop location too.

Home Slice’s pizza
Home Slice’s pizza
Julia Keim

Torchy's Tacos

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With tortillas stuffed to the brim, that deep-fried avocado taco, and ample opportunity to add queso (just ask for it “trashy”), Austin-born chain Torchy’s has earned its place as an icon. Torchy’s started as a trailer on South Congress, but the growing taco empire now boasts 13 locations in Austin and several outside of Texas.

Tacos from Torchy’s
Tacos from Torchy’s
Linli F./Yelp

Matt's El Rancho

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Sixty-six years of Tex-Mex can’t be wrong. The self-dubbed famous restaurant is certainly popular, especially for its fajitas, chile relleno, and margaritas. Matt’s is also the birthplace of the iconic Bob Armstrong dip, created for and named after the former Texas Land Commissioner, who was a longtime customer (RIP).

A pair of hands holding onto a bowl of yellow cheese dip with dollops of ground meat and guacamole on top of a placemat that notes information about Matt’s El Rancho
Bob Armstrong dip
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Broken Spoke

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A piece of old Austin that opened in 1964 miraculously still stands in the midst of South Lamar developments. This honky-tonk bar offers a fun night of Texas-style dancing and easy drinking. Too shy to two-step? Grab a can of Lone Star and people-watch from the bar.

Broken Spoke
Broken Spoke
Dave H./Yelp

Salt Lick BBQ

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Don’t think barbecue lines can be avoided by driving to the Driftwood barbecue spot — even with its expansive space, wait times at the Salt Lick can go north of an hour. That said, it’s truly a smoke-filled experience worth having, especially if there are burnt ends. For those feeling fancy, the land is also home to a vineyard and resulting wine bar, Salt Lick Cellars. Otherwise, take a photo of the famous pit and grab a spot from the array of indoor and outdoor seating.

Salt Lick’s pit
Salt Lick’s pit
Salt Lick/Facebook

Ramen Tatsu-ya

Rain or shine, summer heat or those rare below-freezing days, people still line up for Ramen Tatsu-ya’s stellar bowls of noodle soup, which happens to be some of the best in the country. All three locations (second one on South Lamar, and the latest on East 6th) are often packed until closing.

Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya
Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya
Ramen Tatsu-ya/Facebook

Magnolia Cafe

This 24/7 classically Austin diner is famous for giant pancakes (try the gingerbread) and Mag Mud, an epic four-layer queso dip. Expect wait times for the cheap eats during weekend brunch and at 4 a.m. after a long night of drinking. There’s a second location on South Congress too.

Magnolia’s pancakes
Magnolia’s pancakes
Hoang Thanh N./Yelp

Whole Foods Market

Tourists may question a grocery store visit while on vacation, but the massive size and multiple dining options of the flagship Whole Foods Market make it a food paradise. The supermarket was founded by John Mackey in 1980, though Amazon owns the company now. Plus, after all of that Tex-Mex and barbecue, the ample salad bar will seem like a good idea.

Whole Foods Market on North Lamar in Austin
Whole Foods Market on North Lamar in Austin
Andre H./Yelp

Franklin Barbecue

Everyone thinks Franklin Barbecue can’t possibly be worth the multi-hour wait. Then they taste the brisket and they understand. While, yes, the waits for the lunch-time barbecue can span several hours (some people start waiting around 5 a.m.), it’s still a fun experience. Aaron Franklin, who became the first pitmaster to win a James Beard award in 2015, started the venture as a small trailer but quickly grew to national fame.

Barbecue tray from Franklin Barbecue
Barbecue tray from Franklin Barbecue
Franklin Barbecue [Official]

The Driskill Bar

The historic hotel where president Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird had their first date still sets the standard for grandeur in the city. The bar offers impeccable service, speciality Texas-themed drinks, and excellent people-watching.

A cocktail from the Driskill
A cocktail from the Driskill
Driskill/Facebook

Casino El Camino

If you must do Dirty Sixth, Casino el Camino is the place to get a giant burger to soak up all the alcohol. The dark, labyrinth restaurant also has a great spicy bloody mary.

A burger from Casino el Camino
A burger from Casino el Camino
Eric B./Yelp

Chuy's

Though the Tex-Mex restaurant has now spread to 19 states and six locations in Austin, the original opened on Barton Springs Road in 1982. The prime location next to Zilker Park, addictive creamy jalapeño dip, fresh ingredients, and strong margaritas make Chuy’s a first stop for visitors and returning natives alike, so watch for crowds during dinnertime.

An array of plates, one with tortillas and vegetables, another with a pile of beans and a cheese-covered item.
Chuy’s Tex-Mex dishes
Chuy’s/Facebook

Fareground

Housing six of Austin’s best restaurants conveniently in one place, Fareground is a one-stop-shop for those staying downtown. Pro tip: order drinks and food from every restaurant the newly finished bar, Ellis.

Fareground
Fareground
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden

This spacious outdoor sausage restaurant and beer garden (with over 200 taps) is definitely a place where locals mix with tourists. Thanks to an expansion in 2018, Banger’s now serves whole-hog barbecue and has 5,000 square feet of patio space.

Banger’s sausages
Banger’s sausages
Banger’s Sausage House/Facebook

Whataburger

While the West Coast is all about In-N-Out Burger and the East Coast is fond of Shake Shake, both are decisively inferior to the fast food burger chain of Texas: Whataburger. Leaving Austin without trying a honey butter chicken biscuit is just plain wrong.

Whataburger’s burger
Whataburger’s burger
Whataburger/Facebook

Craft Pride & Via 313

This purveyor of all-Texas beer is a must-visit while exploring entertainment district Rainey Street, featuring pints from local all-stars like 4th Tap Brewing, Austin Beerworks, Celis Brewery, and many others. The bar is also home to Detroit-style pizza through Via 313’s trailer, The super-cheesy square pies, like the Cadillac with prosciutto and balsamic, are freshly made, so the wait that can be over an hour on weekends. Luckily, all that beer will keep you company. Via has other locations in Oak Hill, North Campus, and West 6th Street.

Beer and pizza from Craft Pride and Via 313
Beer and pizza from Craft Pride and Via 313
Via 313 /Facebook

Uchi

Much of Austin’s top culinary talent has worked under Uchi chef/owner Tyson Cole at some point of their careers. The James Beard Award winner produces an innovative menu of sushi and Japanese dishes like hama chili (cool yellowtail with ponzu and thai chili) and beautifully plated desserts. Those looking to spend less at the restaurant should line up at 5 p.m. for the solid sake social hour, which runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every day. Otherwise, reservations are recommended. Check out sibling spot Uchiko too.

Masaba from Uchi
Masaba from Uchi
Uchi/Facebook

Juan in a Million

Those people waiting at Juan’s line will likely be cranky (though it does move fast), as the restaurant is home to the hangover cure of many. The Don Juan is a massive potato, egg, bacon, and cheese concoction served on a warm tortilla. Some say that the filling could make two or three tacos, but these people don’t understand that everything’s bigger in Texas.

Juan in a Million’s Don Juan
Juan in a Million’s Don Juan
Juan in a Million/Facebook

Odd Duck

Lauded native-Austin chef Bryce Gilmore’s restaurant Odd Duck pays careful attention to sourcing (the names of the farm are proudly listed on the website and menus). The result is oft-changing innovative plates like a pretzel with pig face carnitas or flavorful fish heads. Sunday brunch isn’t to be missed. Reservations are recommended, or hole up at the bar (that happy hour is good too). Gilmore also has his finer dining restaurant Barley Swine and the everything spot Sour Duck Market.