The 10 Best Restaurants in Austin (Slideshow)
March 10, 2014
In town for SXSW? Consider these very fine options
10. Olive and June
Located out of the hustle and bustle of SXSW, Olive and June is a great way to wind down an evening. Olive and June truly celebrates the traditions of Southern and Northern Italian cooking. The menu highlights seasonal ingredients and always includes fresh, handmade pastas. Honestly, it is hard to pick any one favorite but we especially like the pappardelle and rigatoni. Also be sure and save room for dessert and an evening coffee. If you can, get a table on the rooftop patio. The weather should be perfect in March.
9. Benji's Cantina
To paraphrase an old saying, while in Texas eat as Texans do. Texans love Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. Benji's Cantina gives you both in a prime location. Located right on 6th Street, Benji's will make you reconsider all you thought you knew about Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Everything is sourced as locally as possible and crafted in-house with style and expertise. Their roof-top bar offers one of the best views of downtown, perfect for doing some people watching while enjoying their tender beef fajitas, tacos al carbón or pretty much anything else on the menu along with a tasty cocktail. While you're at it get the guacamole. It's made so fresh they actually split the avocado right in front of you.
Within the barbecue belt, each region has its own distinctive style. Lambert's celebrates the true Texas tradition for barbecue, using dry rubs and featuring a beef brisket, described as 'meat candy,' as the star. At the same time, they add their own haute twist to things. While you're in town, we highly recommend that y'all stop in for some Texas-style 'cue. Give the brisket and the bacon wrapped Black Angus filet a try. While you're at it, why not toss back a signature cocktail or three as well? Fair warning though, you may not want to leave Austin if you stop in.
7. Bess Bistro
Bess Bistro is well known for having been a pet project of none other than Sandra Bullock but the truth is that this place would not have survived long if it hadn't been for the excellence of the food. Celebrity is great, but to survive in Austin you need to bring it, and Bess Bistro does exactly that. Bess features some truly inspired culinary creations. Bess serves up French fare with just enough Cajun twang to make for a truly remarkable experience. The real stand-outs on their menu are the pappardelle a la piquante and the sautéed mussels. The pappardelle is replete with crawfish, mussels, and shrimp and served in a Creole parmesan sauce. The sautéed mussels are sauteed to absolute perfection with pork lardons and served with a spiced tomato broth with a piece of grilled ciabatta. Celebrity may have helped get Bess a bit of attention, but it's the food that keeps Austin coming back for another helping.
6. The Odd Duck
The Odd Duck started out life as one of the most widely known food trailers thanks to the likes Anthony Bourdain. In addition to that, it was easily one of the two or three most respected trailers around. Well, the trailer closed up shop a couple of years back but Bryce Gilmore resurrected the beloved Odd Duck and all of Austin let out cries of joy and mirth! In this incarnation you'll find many of the same off-the-beaten-path type offerings as the trailer had. If you never had the privilege of sampling the trailer you are in for huge treat. Chef Gilmore and his team manage to create some the best food you'll find anywhere. Period. Much of what is served are small plate offerings, as was the case with the original incarnation of the Duck. For our part we think you should sample the boudin grits with pickled shrimp and fried pig skin as well as the black olive pasta with braised goat. Chef Gilmore sets the bar so high you almost have to feel sorry for all the others. Almost.
5. The Backspace
The brain child of one the most prolific and respected restaurateurs in Austin, The Backspace is owned by celebrated chef Shawn Cirkiel. It is an intimate establishment, seating only 30 but specializing in some of the best and most indulgent pizzas you will find anywhere. So dedicated to the craft is chef Cirkiel, that he actually had a custom-made Forno Cirigliano wood-fired oven shipped in from Naples, Italy. It is located right off of 6th Street which makes it perfect to stop in grab a bite between shows. When you do we suggest you try the masterpiece known as the Bianca Pizze or the lamb and pork meatballs.
A re-imagining of an Austin classic, Jeffrey's was named the eighth best new restaurant in the nation by Bon Appétit in 2013. Jeffrey's is a French American fine dining establishment with a focus on dry-aged prime beef. When you go here, and we have a strong feeling you won't dare miss out on it, we humbly suggest you try the wood roasted Fruits De Mer or any of the Niman Ranch steaks. The word sublime barely begins to describe what you'll find here.
Location, location, location goes the old real estate adage. Mulberry is in one the best wine bars you'll find in Austin and it is in one of the prime places for your SXSW experience. It is located in the middle of downtown, just a few blocks from 6th Street and directly across from the Austin Music Hall. After catching a show or two, why not spoil yourself and sample their Wagyu rib-Eye or seared duck breast and have their expert staff come up with the perfect wine pairing?
2. Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar
A true commitment to excellence is what you get at Perla's. Started in 2009 as an oyster bar and seafood restaurant, Perla's has left an indelible mark on Austin. Perla’s is recognized as one of the premier seafood restaurants in town and always has something worth sampling. For our part, we recommend you try the lobster roll and the crispy gulf snapper. And what better place to enjoy your indulgence than on the prettiest shaded patio in town?
Uchi is the kind of place that you just have to visit when you come to Austin. It is one of the most cherished establishments in town, and why shouldn't it be? Not only is it one of the best places for sushi around, but the Uchi/Uchiko family has produced two highly respected chefs. Chef–owner Tyson Cole has made quite a splash with Uchi, and chef Paul Qui, winner of Top Chef, got his start there as well. Located on South Lamar it is still close to the action while being just far enough out to provide a cozy atmosphere and some fantastically inspired offerings such as the maguro sashimi with goat cheese and pork jowl with Brussels sprouts kimchee, romaine, and preserved lemon crème fraîche.