Top 12 Best Restaurants in Austin

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson

With savory barbecue, Tex-Mex favorites, farm-fresh fare and James Beard recognized chefs, Austin earns its nickname as the “Live Music Capital of the World” extending to its lively food scene.

RestaurantCuisine or Specialty
Franklin BarbecueBarbecue
UchikoJapanese farmhouse cuisine
Loro Asian SmokehouseAsian smokehouse cuisine
Emmer & RyeSeasonal American fare
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQTex Mex barbecue
Mattie’s at Green PasturesSouthern cuisine
Barley SwineNew American small plates
Jeffrey’sFine dining steak and seafood
LaunderetteMediterranean cafe
Salty SowNew American food
Foreign & DomesticInnovative American cuisine

Beyond classic comfort foods, creative culinary influences from across the globe now flourish in Austin. Whether your cravings tend traditional or contemporary, here are 12 of the best restaurants in Austin to satisfy every palate.

Franklin Barbecue

Name and Location: Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Franklin Barbecue opened its doors in 2009 in a small Austin trailer and rapidly rose to prominence on a wave of acclaim for its exceptionally tender and flavorful smoked meats. Famous for its brisket, ribs, pulled pork and more, Franklin’s helped put Austin on the map as a destination for incredible barbecue and is now so popular that long lines start early for the succulent meat.

What to Expect: Be prepared to wait patiently in line for the chance to sample some truly standout Central Texas barbecue offerings. Their ribs and sausage are also flavor-packed but it’s the melt-in-your-mouth brisket that launches Franklin into the barbecue hall of fame. Enjoy the smoky, peppery meats on trays with classic sides like slaw, beans, potato salad and pickles.

Visitor Information: Franklin is open 11am-2pm Tuesday to Sunday. Arrive by at least 9 am to get in line, bring sun protection and a cooler of drinks. Orders often sell out early so there’s no guarantee you’ll make the cutoff. Cash only, plan $20+ per person. Consider pre-ordering take-out weeks in advance online to guarantee trying their famous meats.

Franklin Barbecue tops lists as the best in Austin if not Texas. Be prepared to queue as early as 6 AM for lunch service because when their smoked brisket and ribs sell out, they close up shop. Their fires slow smoke choice cuts of meat over oak embers layered meticulously to produce exemplary flavors with proprietary rubs and sauces. Go classic with fatty brisket and sausage or try turkey, pulled pork and ribs with sides like potato salad and beans. Pro tip: Pre-order takeout a month in advance to skip the epic line.

Uchiko

Name and Location: Uchiko – Austin, TX

History and Significance: Uchiko transforms traditional Japanese izakaya cuisine into a modern tasting menu that playfully innovates flavors and ingredients while respecting heritage cooking techniques. An intimate counter dining experience from acclaimed Chef Tatsu Aikawa offers omakase menus rich in vibrant and pristine seafood along with Wagyu and pork creations that have garnered Uchiko critical acclaim since opening in 2010.

What to Expect: Be transported by Chef Aikawa’s edible storytelling where every bite balances textures and tastes in exquisite ways you’ve never experienced. Dishes lyrically dance from briny Japanese Hiramasa amberjack sashimi to sesame Wagyu beef with sweet onion and garlic chilli sauce. Prepare to linger and indulge – with two seatings per evening, Uchiko’s omakase experience allows joyous immersion into the Japanese culinary narrative.

Visitor Information: Located in North Austin, the restaurant offers two dinning seatings at 5:30pm and 8:30pm with reservations recommended weeks in advance. Meals average $150 per person excluding drinks like sake or Japanese whiskey. Be prepared for a 2-hour culinary adventure. A la carte dining ends at 10:30pm for walk-ins if seats available at the bar. Valet parking available.

Executive chef and James Beard Award winner Tyson Cole elevates Japanese farmhouse traditions at Uchiko. Daily caught seafood and chef-grown veggies transform into contemporary masterpieces combining Japanese and Texan ingredients and flavors. Their gracious hospitality and sultry interior match the innovative offerings like jar jar duck fried rice with egg and kimchi or Japanese A5 wagyu beef with hot stone pot bamboo rice. Reserve well in advance for an exceptional fine dining experience at one of Austin’s Michelin star caliber establishments.

Loro Asian Smokehouse

Name and Location: Loro Asian Smokehouse & Bar, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Blending South Asian spices and smoke with Texas barbecue techniques, LoroAsian Smokehouse pairs all-star chef mass Tatsu Aikawa and Aaron Franklin into an Austin supergroup offering inventive share plates and giant, succulent meat served family-style. Born out of friendship and collaboration, Loro celebrates distinctive Asian flavors fused onto traditional Texas cooking over open fire pits, mesquite and oak.

What to Expect: Expect smoldering Wagyu beef brisket fire-kissed with black peppercorns or massive beef short ribs with rendang spices that awe in their primal glory and richness. Bountiful shared plates like curry leaf cornbread, smoked eggplant and charred shishito peppers also beg to be passed around the communal tables. It’s a fiery feast evoking the heart of both Texas and Asia in perfect harmony.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins welcome but reservations recommended via OpenTable or phone. Hours: 11am-3pm and 5-10pm daily. Despite its immense popularity since opening in 2018, the large bar and indoor/outdoor seating allows guests to normally get a table within 30 minutes. Pricing averages $25 per entree plate along with meat by the pound running $28+. Address: 2115 S Lamar Blvd.

Iron Chef winner and James Beard nominee Tyson Cole joined forces with Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue to open Loro, an Asian smokehouse restaurant redefining cooking with fire. Located in hip South Lamar, Loro intertwines Southeast Asian spices and cooking techniques with Central Texas smokehouse methods for mouthwatering mash-ups. Sink your teeth into 12-hour smoked brisket spring rolls or whole smoked chicken with Thai dipping sauce. Their epic indoor/outdoor space even includes a full bar and craft beer garden for imbibing those smoky flavors.

Emmer & Rye

Name and Location: Emmer & Rye, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Helmed by Chef Kevin Fink who cut his chops in NYC’s top kitchens, Emmer & Rye opened in 2015 to critical praise for its daring New American tasting menus that honour seasonality and Texas terroir. Dishes emerge as captivating art reflecting the state’s indulge local farms, ranches and food artisans to deliver an ever-evolving food journey rooted in time and place.

What to Expect: Expect to be delighted by inspired 7-10 course tasting menus like pumpkin agnolotti in burnt honey buttermilk to start then tranquil farms egg baked gently under chanterelles and greens from Bastrop, TX. Dishes utilize humble ingredients in imaginative ways – smoked beef tongue with coal roasted eggplant purée startled and amazed with subtle smoky richness. Prepare to have assumptions overturned course after course.

Visitor Information: Located downtown offering dinner-only prix fixe menus from Wednesday-Sunday starting at 5:30pm, costing $85-$125 per person excluding wine pairings. Reservations are highly recommended weeks in advance via OpenTable. Valet services available at the restaurant entrance otherwise street and garage parking nearby. Address: 51 Rainey St, Austin.

At Emmer & Rye, rising star chef Kevin Fink puts a novel spin on seasonal American fare garnering multiple James Beard nominations for Best New Restaurant and Best Chef Southwest. Ever-evolving dishes masterfully balance flavors, textures and colors on the plate. Start withVENISONwith PEARS, JUNIPER and PECORINO before continuing with PASTA RYE with BLACK TRUFFLES and PARMESAN. Their extensive wine list offers organic, biodynamic and sustainably produced varietals curated to pair perfectly with the nightly changing menu.

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

Name and Location: Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Founded in 2013, Valentina’s creatively fuses Tex Mex flavors into Central Texas barbecue for mashups like breakfast tacos stuffed with smoked brisket, Hatch chile queso sauce slathered on tender smoked pork ribs or fajita veggies infused into sides. Their playfully inventive weekly specials also rapidly attracted a die-hard local following plus brisket aficionados from around the state for fresh takes.

What to Expect: Expect delicious Tex Mex spins on Texas barbecue staples from tender peppery brisket tacos doused in tomatillo salsa, to slow-smoked then flash fried chicken wings kicked with Valentina hot sauce glaze. Wash it down with an array of Mexican Coke, Big Red and Lone Stars plus live music. The flavors meld the best of both Texas and Mexico into joyous celebration.

Visitor Information: Open Wednesday to Sunday 11am-10pm for lunch, dinner and weekends. Cash only. Arrive early on weekends for seats otherwise take-out is popular. Kids menu available. Outdoor picnic tables for seating plus walk-up counter to order heaping trays of Tex-Mex seasoned meats by the pound with all the classic fixings. Address: 11500 Manchaca Rd.

Tex Mex infuses Central Texas staples with the bright, fresh flavors found south of the border at Valentina’s. Locals flock here craving standout tacos, vibrant breakfast plates and their fusion-style barbecue meats. Sink your teeth into hearty homemade flour tortillas wrapped around tender brisket barbacoa, pulled pork al pastor or smoky chili con carne. Balance the savory meats with lighter veggie options like roasted cauliflower tacos or zesty bowls topped with eggs for breakfast. Everything bursting with spice and flavor, cool off with an ice cold Big Red soda, Jarritos or Mexican Coke.

Mattie’s at Green Pastures

Name and Location: Mattie’s at Green Pastures, Austin, TX

History and Significance Mattie’s at Green Pastures occupies a historic cottage that initially served as a frontier family home in the late 1800s before becoming one of Austin’s most cherished treasures for elevated Southern comfort cuisine prepared under the direction of renowned Chef David Bull since 2004. Mattie’s captures elegant heirloom cooking techniques, interactions and Texas hospitality at its convivial best.

What to Expect Remarkably personable genuine service sets the stage at Mattie’s for enjoying Chef Bull’s scratch-made regional delights like cast iron fried chicken on jalapeno cornbread, crispy catfish with hush puppies or slow-cooked pot roast over mashed potatoes to warm you heart and belly. Desserts like hummingbird cake capped with pineapple frosting delightfully cap the experience. Prepare to be transported.

Visitor Information Dinner only Tuesday to Saturday starting 5:30pm. Reservations strongly recommended via OpenTable. Jacket preferred for gentlemen. Extensive wine list and creative craft cocktails also shine. Address: 811 W Live Oak St. Valet or paid parking at nearby locations otherwise Uber/Lyft recommended. Prix fixe meals average $65+ per person excluding drinks, tax and gratuity.

Iconic Austin restaurant Green Pastures opened in 1947 drawing decades of politicians, celebrities and all walks of life to their fish camp style eatery. Now operated by Mattie’s, the recipes stick to their southern roots serving up fried chicken, catfish and jambalaya with tableside hospitality in their colonial revival mansion. Peruse memorabilia between courses then finish big with their renowned desserts like Kentucky rum cake, Dozen Layer Chocolate Mountain or Hot Buttered Pecan Bread Pudding flamed tableside.

Barley Swine

Name and Location: Barley Swine, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Helmed by James Beard Award Semifinalist Chef Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swinemarries locally sourced seasonal fare with the heartiness of beer culture in a clever gastropub meets farm-to-table concept that opened to acclaim in 2011. Dishes lavish attention on Texas’ small producers, cheese-makers, ranchers and farmers committed to flavor and sustainability. Come sip and savor the best of the Lone Star State’s fields and pastures creatively transformed.

What to Expect: Expect memorably inventive Southern-inspired small plates like sweet corn hushpuppies, beer-battered seasonal vegetables and succulent pork belly bites paired brilliantly with craft brews or farm-driven cocktails that may utilize local HighWheel mead as the base spirit. It’s Austin’s bounty captured an elevated yet welcoming neighborhood eatery anchoring the community with quality.

Visitor Information: Dinner-only hours from 5-10pm Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations recommended via OpenTable. Eclectic craft beers on draft plus 300+ bottle/can selections. Address: 6555 Burnet Rd Suite 400. Reasonably priced small plates facilitating mix-and-share $25-$65 per person. Extensive selection of reserve bourbons and wine. Valet parking available during peak periods.

Warm lighting, reclaimed wood tables and a laid back ambiance belies intricately plated dishes at this New American small plates eatery. Barley Swine in South Lamar continuously earns acclaim thanks to chef Bryce Gilmore’s ever-changing “snout to tail” inspired menu withdishes like SLOW ROASTED PORK SHOULDER vermicelli noodles, herbs,spice and CRISPY PORK BELLY with charred scallion salad, nuoc chamvinaigrette.. Enhance your culinary journey with their finely curated wine list, local craft beers or speciality cocktails that earned them a James Beard semifinalist nod.

Jeffrey’s

Name and Location: Jeffrey’s Austin, TX

History and Significance: Open since 1975, Jeffrey’s is the Austin fine dining institution that pioneered elevating the local dining scene by celebrating regional foods long before “farm-to-table” became mainstream. Their dedication to developing relationships with nearby producers to procure the highest quality ingredients remains steadfast under third-generation stewardship. Jeffrey’s continues to innovate while staying true to culinary traditions.

What to Expect: Expect skillfully executed seasonal American cuisine presented with graceful Southern hospitality in an elegant upscale environment. Menus shift based on sourced ingredients but often include standouts like Texas quail stuffed with wild mushrooms over wilted greens or pecan crusted trout with squash blossoms – classic preparations punctuated by regional flair. Extensive wine cellar with over 3,000 selections.

Visitor Information: Dinner only from 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations required, jacket recommended for gentlemen. Valet parking on-site otherwise street parking. Head Chef de Cuisine Drew Curren leads the kitchen in upholding impeccable standards that have earned Jeffrey’s accolades as Austin’s premier fine dining venue for over four remarkable decades. Address: 1204 W Lynn St.

An Austin fine dining pioneer since 1975, Jeffrey’s established itself as a special occasion favorite on the Barton Creek banks west of downtown. Request a window seat overlooking oak-studded hills for optimum ambiance and service catering to romantic date nights or celebrations. Menus tend toward steak and seafood with standouts dishes being Chilean SEA BASS WITH MEYER LEMON CAPER SAUCE, PAN-SEARED DIVER SCALLOPS or 16-ounce PRIME AGED RIBEYE carved tableside. Extensive wine list plus dessert souffles baked to order cap off many memorable meals here.

Launderette

Name and Location: Launderette, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Located in an historic building that was once a laundromat, Launderette Austin pays respect to the site’s working-class roots while infusing an urban brasserie spirit of community dining. Opened 2015 under Chef Rene Ortiz, the restaurant sources bounty from Central Texas farms and food artisans for Mediterranean-inspired share plates, pastas, pizzas and more served in a restored industrial chic space centered around a showpiece stone oven.

What to Expect: Expect generous share-style dishes perfect for sampling an array of scrumptious vegetable-focused offerings with Mediterranean soul layered with Texas influences – think blistered shishito peppers with smoked yogurt, roasted heirloom carrots draped in harissa tahini sauce or chewy bucatini pasta awash in savory ragu. Embrace the convivial spirit of coming together over a hearty feast among friends old and new.

Visitor Information: Dinner only Tuesday to Sunday starting at 5pm. No reservations. Street parking otherwise ride share recommended. Dishes range $10-$18 facilitating mix-and-share dining family style. Extensive natty wine selections plus craft cocktails like cucumber gimlets and negronis utilizing Texas spirits. Cash tips appreciated. Address: 2115 Holly St.

Once a derelict laundromat in East Austin, owner Rene Ortiz transformed this 1918 building into a charming Mediterranean cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now called simply Launderette, exposed brick walls showcase works of Texan artists indoors while shaded blue patio lights illuminate diners outside. Sample Ortiz’ Turkish and French heritage with dishes spanning kebabs to ratatouille, hummus to falafel, northwest African tagines to Lebanese kibbeh delicacies. Pair your selections with organic juice or coffee, Lebanese wines or craft cocktails for transportive flavors without even needing your passport.

Salty Sow

Name and Location: Salty Sow, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Salty Sow gastropub first fired up its house-made charcuterie program in 2010 to bring the nearly lost art of artisanal meat curing back to Central Texas in a laid back neighborhood pub environment paired with craft beers and wines on tap. They break down whole cooked beasts while utilizing other bits like trotters for rich from-scratch ramen dishes celebrating whole animal cooking.

What to Expect: Expect bold layers of umami in dishes like the Sloppy Sow bloody mary topped tableside with a slab of salty pastrami brisket burnt ends. Other Texas-sized sharable plates shine too from plump chicken fried quail with sage gravy to the Cowboy kimchi dog crowned with house merguez sausage, kimchi and melted raclette. Don’t miss their epic from-scratch ramen either.

Visitor Information: Open 11am-10pm Monday to Friday; 10am weekends. First come, first served seating. Dishes $10-$15. Extensive beer list emphasizing Texas brewers plus creative house cocktails like the Lexington irish coffee topped with smoky burnt marshmallow bourbon cream. Address: 1917 Manor Rd. Free parking in small lot otherwise street parking or ride share recommended.

The vibrant energy indoors matches the innovative New American food coming from the kitchen at Salty Sow near the UT-Austin campus. Dine beneath playful murals and graffiti decor on an ever-changing menu fusing local, seasonal ingredients into craveable plates great for sharing. Start with BACON BLUE CHEESE POTATO CHIPS then continue delighting tastebuds with SALMON PLANCHA CORN SUCCOTASH or SHORTRIB TACOS WITH SALSA VERDE. Don’t overindulge too quickly though because their desserts like WARM CHOCOLATE BUDINO CAKE or honey-laden BEIGNETS pair perfectly with specialty house cocktails.

Foreign & Domestic

Name and Location: Foreign & Domestic, Austin, TX

History and Significance: Husband-wife team Sarah and Ned Elliott fused fine dining prowess with laid back gastropub hospitality when opening Foreign & Domestic in 2013. Dishes revel in boldly elevating Texas cuisine through regionally sourced ingredients masterfully prepared as elevated comfort food meant to be shared in a welcoming space buzzing with energy and great drinks. Their rising star eventually earned them a James Beard nomination in 2017.

What to Expect: Expect creative farm-to-table fare with Southern charm evidenced in dishes like buttermilk chicken liver mousse topped with Texas peach mostarda or ridiculously tender smoked beef short ribs lacquered with velvety coffee stout barbecue sauce. Every plate aims to comfort and delight simultaneously – and succeeds wildly courtesy of the Elliotts’ knack for culinary alchemy.

Visitor Information: Dinner only Tuesday through Saturday starting at 5pm. Reservations recommended via OpentTable. Shareable plates range $11-$19. Handcrafted cocktails shine too like the namesake Foreign & Domestic mixer mingling rye whiskey with Texas grapefruit and herbs. Address: 306 E 53rd St. Valet parking or ride share recommended; street parking extremely limited.

Molecular gastronomy exhibits itself through artistic presentations playing on texture, temperature and your conceptions of comfort foods at Foreign & Domestic. Set in a landmark North Loop home beside their Farm to Market provisions shop, the intimate experience immerses diners into Chef Ned Elliott’s envelope-pushing culinary style. Menu’s list ingredients by their flavor profiles turning things like WAGYU BEEF, watermelon radish and tom kha (Thai soup) into unexpected executions leaving diners curious, satisfied and sentimental.

Conclusion

Austinites keep weird and wonderfully adventurous appetites catering to all tastes. Barbecue havens churn out salty, smoky brisket by the pound while Tex-Mex barbecue fuses regional specialties south of Texas borders. Globally inspired gastropubs share small plates with bold flavor profiles complemented by the city’s homegrown food and drink producers. Use this curation of Austin’s 12 best restaurants to experience the breadth of its dynamic culinary scene.

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