After spending 4 years living in San Francisco and completing my bachelor degree in International Business and Marking, I had the crazy and brilliant idea, to use my OPT (Optional Practical Training), a 12-month work authorization available for international students, to move and find work in Austin, Texas. Whenever I mention I lived in Texas, people wonder why (a lot), considering all the misconceptions and stereotypes around this area. However, in my case, it exceeded any expectations. I found a home away from home, and it helped me grow personally and professionally.
After living in San Francisco, a very expensive and competitive tech city, Austin felt like a breath of fresh air. I was able to experience the college life I never knew I wanted to experience. Additionally, the restaurant and in food scene there is stellar, accesible, and still diverse. There is such a strong outdoor and live music culture, anywhere you go, you will be delighted by the ambience, the warm weather, and people.
This year was the first time I found myself splurging and enjoying restaurants... this girl finally had the budget, and so she started creating all the good content you can see now!
Lets start with the basics, Austin has a strong Happy Hour culture. Restaurants go far and beyond during those afterwork hours, so, my number do your research on their HH menus. These are the places you need to wander through for the lookout of amazing eats and drinks:
✨ Downtown, that could also connect to the Market and Financial District, was the area I used to work in. I remember scooting from my home in South Lamar, to the Fareground, a ground area and food hall located in one of the most central and recognizable buildings in the area. If you are ever there, you need to head over to TLV, an Israeli street-food experience by Chef Berty Richter. They offer their traditional and diverse Manot (traditional plates and dips) with house-made pita bread. As well as scrumptious to pita sandwiches, kofta, falafels, and prepared pickled or fresh vegetables.
✨ Across the street from the Fareground, you will find the best rooftop experience with views of Town Lake in P6. This restaurant bar offers some of the most beautiful views of the lake, so plan on going for Happy Hour and see the sunset.
✨ ATX Cocina, my personal favorite Mexican restaurant in the city. You must get their Queso Fundido, a staple from the city of Austin! This one comes topped with venado picadillo, rajas and smoked tomato. If you go during Happy Hour, some menu drinks and eats have a discount. Get their Spicy Margarita, their Tacos of the day, and their version of a Caesar Salad.
✨ For quick lunch break, and the best burger in the area, head to Second Kitchen. Get their truffle fries and the burger with smoked bacon. The bacon is more like thick cuts of pork belly.
✨ For a special and maybe intimate dinner date, head to Red Ash, an authentic and wood-fired Craft Italian restaurant. If you sit at the bar, you will see the craftsmen play with the wood fire oven, they are super nice and will offer great suggestions. When I went, I had to go with their Wood Roasted Vine Tomatoes & Burrata salad.
✨ If you are in Austin, you need to indulge in traditional Texan BBQ. Although there are strong opinions on the best ones in Austin, and I didn't have the time to try all of them, I didn't need to because I couldn't stay away from Terry Black BBQ. Their pork ribs and juicy brisket are incomparable, as well as their variety in sides like the mac-n-cheese, cream corn, and cole slaw. Although the place get packed really quick, the space is quite big, and the service efficient and warm.
✨ One of the most exquisite experiences I had was in the locally acclaimed Odd Duck. Their food and service is shaped by the culture of Austin, using the best and local products and a craftsmen's cooking approach. Basically, magicians serving you magic. I used to live in the apartment complex next door to them, making it a daily struggle to stay away from their dreamy burger and diverse cocktail menu.
✨ If you are a fan of Ramen, and just crave to know more about soul food from Japan, like myself, you need to head to Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Their OG and Sho-Yu Tonkotsu Ramen were two constant temptations I had right across my apartment. Their rich and creamy pork bone marrow broth along with flavor bombs created bowls made out of heaven.
✨ If you are looking for fusion, casual and family-style dining, head to Loro, Austin's Asian smokehouse and bar. This unique fusion comes from the masterminds behind Franklin Barbecue and Uchi, featuring the merge between smoked/grilled meats and Japanese/South Asian cuisine.
Down the street of SoCo the options for entertainment are endless, from the vibrant restaurants with patios or pools, the cute coffee shops, loud bars, shops, and the mandatory "i love you so much" mural. This area is great for weekend slow mornings, where it could start with a nice coffee and end with brunch, lunch or happy hour.
✨ Although a bit overrated, Torchy's Tacos are a must if its your first time in Austin. Get the Queso, obviously, the Trailer Park Taco (and Make it Trashy), and their Crossroad Tacos!
✨ Here you will find Hopdoddy, an original Austin burger bar that has slowly conquered the whole country. My go to is their Double Bacon Jam Burger with Parmesan Truffle Fries and their "Skinny Dip", a frozen Margarita with an upside down Coronita. *Chef's Kiss*
✨ June is a good month, almost the perfect month. It is the beginning of summer with still hints of spring. Imagine a place where you could do anything in a day, a place that feels like June's All Day. Their patio atmosphere is great to enjoy a good cup of coffee, pastries, brunch, drinks, little, and bigger plates, and sweets.
✨ If you want a bit of me, head to Plaza Colombia, a vibrant and artistic coffee shop offering weekly live music events and traditional food, Colombian Mojitos, and Margaritas with Lulo juice (my favorite juice in the world).
✨ Last but definitely not least, my ultimate comfort cuisine, a Taste of Ethiopia. If you have never ventured into trying Ethiopian food, this is your moment. From their sour flatbread called injera, to their rich and flavorful stews made from vegetables and meats. Usually they offer plates with a variety of stews, but get your hands on the, Doro Wot, their national dish that consists on a chicken stew cooked for hours. Until the meat just falls of the bone (I am salivating just thinking about it).
Although Rainey Street and Eastern Austin deserve their own highlights, they are very close to each other, and it is worth wander around and exploring at your own discretion.
Rainey, the hidden corner of Downtown Austin, is now an area filled with live music venues in what used to have ruined and forgotten bungalows. Now these bungalows have become the hottest bars, restaurants, and coffee shops of the city. My favorites for amazing eats and drinks are:
✨ For the Happiest of Hours (from 3 to 6 pm) head to Anthem, a Tex-Asian Pub, offering Frozen Blood Orange Margs, and Mandarin Sangrias for $9, along with their crispy Brisket Rangoons (can't help myself from saying Brisket Rangooooooooooons). But, don't stop yourself there, check their whole menu, it wont disappoint.
✨ If you are craving bubbly, thin, slightly charred and crispy Neapolitan pizza, you need to head to 40 North. It is fun because their menu is constantly changing according to whats in season, and what they can get their hands on from the local markets. I went for brunch this day, and so their pizza came with chopped breakfast sausage, roasted potatoes, and a fried egg. Also, if you know me well, you know my weakness with burgers. Once I saw the had Smash burger in their menu, I had to get it. No regrets.
✨ During this year I was obsessed with Middle Easter and Mediterranean cuisine, as it it so fresh, healthy, colorful and tasty. Sometimes, after long hours in the office and no time to cook, I found myself craving a delicious nourish bowl. CAVA was my go to, as it was closer, but in order to support small and local businesses I decided to try MezzeMe, and oh man! What a discovery. The rainbow options are endless and delicious, but don't forget choosing their house-made Kofte Meatballs with a scoop of their Turkish shakshuka, spicy tabouli, black olives, cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta & cucumber salad.
✨ For amazing Happy Hour and a taste of Chef David Chang's Asian fusion touch, head to Bar Peached. Finger licking option of modern Asian comfort food with a Southern twist, what could get better than that? A must, their Margarita de Peach, a habanero & thai basil infused tequila with orange liqueur and lime, their Banh Mi Taco, th Spicy Pork Fries.
✨ If you are craving a good burger and a nice tiki environment, head to Pool Burger. They offer nice events with live music, making it the perfect plan on a summer evening.
Home of the Hispanic neighborhood in Austin, East Cesar Chavez is a neighborhood merging the modern and historic side of the city. The walkable streets are packed with local and family-owned establishments worth discovering. This was the spot I would hit whenever I was craving traditional Mexican, Tex-Mex, or any Latin food, because the traditional flavors are there.
✨ For the most vibrant and exciting brunch of your life, head to Gabrielas's. Their Tex-Mex menu is perfect to overcome any hangover, or spicy cravings. We had to get their Choriqueso and their Cervezas Preparadas that come with Shrimp Aguachile, peanuts and chamoy.
✨ If you are craving a good sandwich, head to Buenos Aires Cafe for their award-winning Lomito Sandwich. This signature master piece is the tastiest, and thickest grilled certified Angus Beef tenderloin garnished with their house-made chimichurri. You had no idea you needed this until you take the first bite.
✨ If you are a beer person, like me, you need to head to Zilker, an urban brewery and taproom. They love to collaborate to bring new and seasonal ingredients when playing with the brewing techniques. Get the flight beer to taste a but of their unique selection.
Craving Austin? Let me know in the comments which place you would definitely visit if ever there!