More Than Just Tex-Mex — Good Eats in Austin, Texas
People travel miles and hours just to sample a hearty breakfast taco in Austin, Texas. A city known — among other things — for its excellent Tex Mex food, Austin is most definitely a Central Texas foodie destination.
Of course, food-loving visitors should remember that the scope of Austin’s eats expands far beyond the realm of Tex Mex. The city is brimming with juicy, saucy Texas BBQ, exciting local vegan and vegetarian options and delicious Japanese food, just to mention a few. Austin is a foodie haven, replete with a thriving and innovative street food scene, the flagship location of Whole Foods (a store that somehow still maintains an incredibly neighborhoody feel despite its size) and it’s own Edible Communities publication, Edible Austin.
There’s even a smattering of good spots for kosher and kosher-style dining. Austin’s Jewish population may not be huge, but it is certainly is large and diverse. According to the Jewish Community Association of Austin’s “Guide to Jewish Austin,” the community has more-than tripled in the last twenty years, and now more than ever boasts a thriving Jewish institutional life and kosher eating options, not to mention a vibrant Jewish cultural scene.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Austin when my band played the annual SXSW music festival and most of what I did (when I wasn’t performing!) was to re-explore the city’s ever-evolving culinary offerings.
Best Kosher Meal: By all accounts, Austin’s main Kosher act: the kosher deli at the Far West H-E-B supermarket. The café (adjacent to the H-E-B supermarket) boasts not only a full-service Kosher deli but also a hearty selection of kosher wines, groceries and baked goods. Travelers looking for lunchtime sustenance should try the whitefish here, and snackers should not miss the knish selection. The Central Texas Indian food chain Madras Pavilion has a much-lauded kosher certified Austin location.
Best Unexpected Vegetarian Treat: Vegetarians have a pleasant problem before them in Austin, Texas: Too Many Good Options. For vegetarian diner fare, a couple of local favorites include Mother’s, where you can’t miss the vegan banana walnut pancakes, or Kerbey Lane Café (because a good strong cuppa coffee to accompany your vegan sandwich never hurts). For unanticipated vegetarian snacking joy, stop by Hot Dog King. While the renowned Texan hot dog stand might not be the first stop for vegetarian travelers, their veggie sausages are more-than-worthy competition to their meat dogs. They’re huge, abundantly flavorful and perfectly grilled. And the King has an unbeatable toppings bar paradise: jalapenos, onions, banana peppers, sauerkraut, relish, and various mustards. No scrawny inferiority complex to this vegetarian option, and a perfect sightseeing-sustenance option for the Veggie in your crew.
Best Foodie Destination: Though they’re actually more diffused than just a single destination, Austin’s food trucks are a must for serious diners and snackers alike. The food truck scene is comprised of vendors in many parts of the city (for starters, try South Congress, East 6th and South Lamar) who sell crepes, tacos, cupcakes, donuts, coffee, empanadas, hot dogs, and all manner of fancy fusion snack at most hours of the day or night. Try South Lamar’s Odd Duck Farm to Trailer for fresh springy beet and kale salad cut with salty feta and wash it down with a ‘dirty berry’ donut (fudge icing with grilled strawberries), served hot and topped with a scoop of ice cream if you like from neighboring trailer Gourdough’s.
Best Alcoholic Beverage: Unorthodox though it sounds, Curra’s Avocado Margarita is something of a celebrated beverage among Austin’s margarita-lovers. While you’re eating your chips and salsa (over a dozen local varieties) or guacamole (a heaping helping of creamy goodness meets crunchy bite), sample this wonder drink. It’s served in a large frosty glass, pistachio green and glittering with salt crystals. The buttery and subtly sweet flavor is cut perfectly by salt and it’s a drinkable delicacy you’ll most definitely want to write home about.
Best Breakfast Tacos: According to one local food blog, declaring your taco allegiance is critical to one’s title as an Austin foodie. Specifically, breakfast tacos – a staple of local cuisine – are a huge part of what makes both locals and residents tick, be it morn or midnight. If you’re in downtown Austin, you might want to grab one (or ten) from local favorite Joe’s Bakery. “Serving the best of Austin since 1962.” Whether you’re craving a heaping plate of migas or a nourishing and kicky egg and potato breakfast taco, you simply cannot go wrong at a place. Of course, one could take weeks eating through Austin’s breakfast taco options, and there is no shortage of taco-lovers excited to make recommendations for doing just that.
Best Suburban Dessert: Even if you’re staying in the heart of the city, this place is well worth the trip. Round Rock Donuts was high on our list of places to go for both a breather and a snack. Somewhat north of downtown, it’s famed for it’s Texas-sized donut – a huge shareable confection that comes either glazed or chocolate-frosted. If you’re not feeling quite that ambitious, their lovely selection of old fashioned cake donuts – chocolate, plain, blueberry and applesauce – are a stellar coffee pairing.