Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Austin Greats.
Ask an Austin resident what they love about their city, and they’ll probably mention the laid-back vibe, friendly people, music, and warm weather. And pretty soon they’ll shift the focus to food. Whether arguing over who slings the best breakfast tacos in the city, where to go for the most delicious barbecue, or which food truck is the greatest of them all, Austinites are seriously invested in their culinary scene.
That’s because Austin’s got it all: old-guard institutions that have been around forever, cutting-edge chef-driven fine dining, some of the country’s most beloved Tex Mex, biscuits that win James Beard Awards, a family-run ranch-to-table restaurant that sources from the home ranch, and more.
It’s undeniable that the Texan capital’s gastronomy is cause for celebration. So honor it by visiting the city’s greatest restaurants in a city teeming with them. These are the restaurants that make Austin dining great.
Uchi (South Austin)
In a stylish refurbished home (“uchi” is Japanese for “house”), founding chef and partner Tyson Cole slings the freshest sushi in the city. Raw fish options include extensive a la carte pieces and an omakase offering, and traditional Japanese dishes such as wagyu beef carpaccio round out the menu. An Austin treasure since 2003, Uchi made such an important contribution to the national food scene that the James Beard Foundation named Cole, who trained in Tokyo, Best Chef: Southwest in 2011. For sushi lovers in north Austin, Cole’s second restaurant in the city, Uchiko, is just as delightful as his first.
Dining at the restaurant: In addition to dinner service, daily happy hour offers snacks and $4 sake beneath the soft lighting of Japanese lanterns.
Takeout: Uchi is open for takeout and delivery.
L’Oca d’Oro (Mueller)
This beloved Italian spot is known not only for its comforting plates, such as rigatoni with taleggio cream and garlic sausage and beet and short rib risotto, and charmingly hip vibe (co-owner and chef Fiore Tedesco came to L’Oca by way of the ultimate hipster Italian spot, Roberta’s in Brooklyn), but also for its social conscience—it continues to ensure that servers earn a living wage, and did so pre-Covid and all the way through the pandemic. To guarantee employees access to healthcare, every check includes a 20 percent hospitality charge.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining and patio seating are both available, so diners can enjoy wood-roasted mushroom lasagna and a glass of Sangiovese al fresco.
Takeout: L’Oca d’Oro offers subscription bags, including a pasta club and wine share, delivered to your home every month.
Emmer & Rye (South Austin/Rainey)
This beloved fine-dining spot boasts bright natural light and an open kitchen and centers on an ever-changing American menu of fresh seasonal ingredients. Impeccable service and partner Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s famous desserts have been landing Emmer & Rye on best-of lists since it opened in 2015. Owner Kevin Fink, previously of famed restaurants Noma and The French Laundry, dazzles with dishes such as blue crab on napa cabbage and einkorn gnocchetti with white wine butter and smoked yolk. In 2020, the James Beard Foundation nominated Fink as a finalist for a brand-new category: Best Chef in Texas.
Dining at the restaurant: Emmer & Rye is open for dine-in service.
Takeout: Emmer & Rye does not offer takeout.
Justine’s Brasserie (East Austin)
Since 2009, this sexy, artsy French comfort-food restaurant, which makes frequent appearances on Austin’s Eater 38 list, has been known for its raucous late-night fun—think disco balls, escargot, famous French onion soup, and live DJs. It’s one of those rare restaurant experiences that truly transports its diners with an ambience like a movie set or a fever dream. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Zooey Deschanel have been known to pop in. And everyone stays for dessert, because the crème brulee is just that good.
Dining at the restaurant: Justine’s is open for indoor dining. Outdoor patio dining in private cabanas is available by reservation.
Takeout: Curbside pickup is available and just right for an order of steak frites.
When it opened in 2014, this Southern restaurant immediately won the hearts of diners and critics alike. Food & Wine magazine named chef Michael Fojtasek a Best New Chef in 2015, the Austin American-Statesman named Olamaie best restaurant of the year three times, and the accolades haven’t stopped: Fojtasek was a James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef: Southeast two times, and for Best Chef: Texas in 2020. The magic happens inside a refurbished 90-year-old white house with black shutters, where the décor is elegant and classic and the modern Southern cuisine is top of the line, from the hush puppies and wagyu beef tartare to the pecan pie with vanilla ice cream.
Dining at the restaurant: The dining room is open seven days a week.
Takeout: Along with Olamaie’s main menu, which is available for takeout, check out its biscuits to-go: Little Ola’s Biscuits offers a limited Southern menu centered on Olamaie’s famous biscuit sandwiches, layered with fried chicken and country ham and cheese.
Perla’s (South Austin)
Everyone’s favorite patio in Austin sits smack in the middle of action—it’s a perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood and watch the pedestrians strolling down South Congress. Oak trees wrapped in string lights stretch over wooden tables and brightly colored umbrellas, underneath which diners slurp oysters and sip cocktails, splitting dishes such as oak-grilled Texas gulf redfish or an order of salt & jalapeño pepper-fried calamari. Part of the McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group, which owns 14 restaurants in the city, Perla’s opened in 2009 and is perpetually bustling.
Dining at the restaurant: Stop by for weekday happy hour between 3pm and 5pm, when each oyster costs 50 cents less than usual and drinks are $2 off. The patio is the coveted spot, but indoor dining is open and offers a giant fish tank.
Takeout: Diners can order online through Perla’s website.
Red Ash (Downtown)
Named for the “red ash” released from the fire of a wood-burning grill, this Italian steakhouse—a 2018 OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award winner—has been dazzling Downtown food lovers since Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso (founders of old-school Austin favorite Eddie V’s) opened its doors in 2016. Executive chef John Carver whips up recipes from the northern and southern regions of Italy, such as wood-roasted beef bone marrow with wild mushroom risotto, hand-made small potato gnocchi “gratinata,” and bruschetta with wood-roasted dry-aged steak trimmings. The year Red Ash opened, Zagat named it one of the hottest restaurants in Austin, and five years later, its sleek modern interiors—industrial décor with a graffiti wall—beautiful plates, and unique flavors maintain its elite status.
Dining at the restaurant: Reservations allow diners to choose between table, high-top, or bar seating.
Takeout: Through Red Ash’s website, diners can order from an a la carte menu, available for pickup daily between 5:30pm and 9:30pm (disposable utensils must be requested at pickup).
Wu Chow (Downtown)
Wu Chow has become one of the city’s most popular restaurants by combining Chinese food with farm-to-table cooking. The buzzy vibe, tiki cocktails, and Shanghai soup dumplings quickly drew a fanbase to Stuart Thomajan’s and C.K. Chin’s second Austin restaurant (they also own Swift’s Attic), and spawned spin-off counter, Little Wu, at Fareground food hall. The menu mixes and matches dishes from all eight Chinese cooking styles, offering up everything from Hunan beef to Sichuan tofu, and is packed with delicious vegan and gluten-free options, including vegan hot and sour soup that tastes like the real thing.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners who reserve a table anytime between 11am and 3pm on a Sunday can enjoy Wu Chow’s famous dim sum service. Both indoor and patio seating are available.
Takeout: Diners can choose between pickup and delivery.
Dai Due (East Austin)
Since chef Jesse Griffiths and business partner Tamara Mayfield opened Dai Due in 2006, the restaurant has been instrumental in turning the Texas gastronomy stereotype on its head. Forget white butcher paper tablecloths and nothing-but-barbecue: Dai Due’s menu comprises creative dishes using only Texan ingredients—even locally sourced olive oil—serves just Texas wine and beer, and has single-handedly elevated the concept of Texas cooking to haute cuisine. Griffiths and executive chef Janie Ramirez pickle, brine, and preserve, use their scraps, employ organic practices, and prioritize farm-to-table freshness. The menu changes frequently but could include pork posole verde, a killer wagyu double cheeseburger, and grilled wild boar steak.
Dining at the restaurant: Dai Due is open for indoor dining. Diners can reserve a table on the patio, partially enclosed by a beautiful, arching trellis covered in lush greenery.
Takeout: Online ordering for pickup is available by phone or through the restaurant’s website.
Biscuit lovers flock to this Austin favorite for classic Southern comfort fare—shrimp and grits, fried chicken sandwiches, lobster and crawfish pot pie, and Texas red fish. In 2014, chef James Robert, who grew up cooking with his mother and grandmother in Louisiana, opened this spot in hopes of creating a cozy “Sunday supper” setting for his favorite home-cooked dishes. Fixe is homey, but it’s also luxe, with a beautiful open kitchen and choice ingredients. Simple deviled eggs, for example, come garnished with smoked trout roe and grated ham. But back to the biscuits: This is the recipe that puts Fixe on the map. They are a marvel: flaky, buttery, and served with local honey.
Dining at the restaurant: Fixe is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: Diners can order through the restaurant’s website for pickup or call the restaurant to schedule a delivery.
Bar Peached (Clarksville)
In 2010, litigator Eric Silverstein ditched his law career and opened a food truck. The Peached Tortilla was such a hit that a decade later, Tokyo-born Silverstein is now a cookbook author who owns two trucks, a catering company, and three brick-and-mortar restaurants in Austin. At his most recent, Bar Peached, a bright yellow bar meets Asian-inspired snacks, including pork buns, chile crab toast, and pesto udon. The white house, with playful contemporary art on the walls, opens onto a charming patio and a century-old tree. It’s an ideal vibe for sipping a margarita de Peached (habanero-and Thai basil-infused tequila with orange liqueur and lime) or sharing a “bingsu”—Korean shaved ice topped with anything from black sesame paste to matcha powder.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can reserve indoor or patio seating.
Takeout: Bar Peached offers pickup and delivery.
Jacoby’s Restaurant & Mercantile (East Austin)
The Jacoby family brings down-home Texas recipes straight from its ranch in Melvin, northwest of Austin, to its restaurant along the Colorado River banks. The menu offers a mix of tried-and-true Southern specialties—Texas “caviar,” chicken-fried steak, shrimp and grits—with modern plates, such as pork belly risotto and vegan cauliflower “steak.” Barn wood sourced from Melvin, dark leather, antique chandeliers, and exposed brick lend the space a rustic elegance. Beyond its all-around excellence, what sets Jacoby’s apart is its genuineness—these aren’t hipsters playing cowboy; this is a family of real Texas ranchers from a long line of Texas ranchers.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine indoors or in the beautiful garden.
Takeout: Jacoby’s offers delivery and pickup options, including happy hour three evenings a week with $5 appetizers and $10 burgers.
Intero (East Austin)
Go for the fresh, waste-nothing recipes and stay for the artisanal chocolate. Austinite husband-wife team chef Ian Thurwachter and chocolatier/pastry chef Krystal Craig opened Intero’s doors in 2018, blending the sweet and savory flavors of Italy with local, seasonal ingredients, instantly taking a place among the best restaurants in Austin (Texas Monthly named it among the best restaurants in the state). The wood-fired oven pizzas boast innovative toppings such as braised beef osso bucco, and diners delight in the clean complexity of the hand-crafted cocktails. The restaurant’s extensive amari collection and seasonal cocktails—like one with aged rum, two types of amaro, and lemon peel—pairs beautifully with the chocolate truffles.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine in or on the semi-covered patio.
Takeout: Intero offers pickup.
The name evokes the Greek goddess of the hearth, an apt mascot for a restaurant centered on a 20-foot hearth and fire-based cooking techniques. When it opened in 2019, Hestia became an instant classic, and Food & Wine named executive chef and partner Tavel Bristol-Joseph among the ten best new chefs in America. The ever-changing menu offers luxurious entrees such as 60-day dry-aged wagyu tenderloin, small plates (king crab in kelp butter, oak-charred cabbage), and playful desserts, including a dressed up take on s’mores with chocolate caramel mousse, oat biscuit, toasted meringue, and grapefruit. Expert plating, an open kitchen, and diner booths strike just the right balance of stylish and cozy.
Dining at the restaurant: Hestia is open for dinner every day except Monday.
Takeout: Hestia does not offer takeout.
1417 Restaurant & Bar (Bouldin Creek)
1417, which replaced the original location of Aussie-Thai spot Sway, was the hottest French-inspired restaurant and bar to open out South in 2021. The sophisticated spot, dressed in wood and black accents, is steered by executive chef James Flowers. His a la carte menu at 1417 features fused fare such as blue cheese beignets, duck confit crepes—the paper-thin pancakes were singled out as one of Austin’s best new dishes in 2021—and steak frites. Sweets are available from breakfast till dinner time, consisting of freshly baked goods such as croissants and sourdough French toast, goat cheese creme brulee, and orange yogurt pound cake. As for drinks, you’ll find a full bar inside with cocktails, wines and beers.
Dining at the restaurant: Reserve a table indoors or out on the heated, tree-shaded patio. On weekends there’s a raw bar and brunch available.
Takeout: Call the restaurant directly for pick up.
Chef Shawn Cirkiel, who was raised on a farm, made farm-to-table dining in Austin a thing before it was officially in fashion. Since 2008, this dapper gastropub has been packed with happy hour revelers, oysters-and-bubbles lovers (on Wednesdays, Parkside sell both half off), and diners craving an epic bacon cheeseburger—among the 101 best in America, according to The Daily Meal. As Cirkiel’s Parkside Projects Restaurant and Hospitality Group’s flagship restaurant, Parkside stands out on bustling Sixth Street as a hip space with exposed-brick walls, steel posts, Edison drop lights, and local ingredients that are famously fresh.
Dining at the restaurant: Reservations are recommended.
Takeout: Pickup and delivery are available.
Matt’s El Rancho (South Austin)
In a city full of Tex Mex, one dish at this Austin landmark, which opened in 1952, sets it on a pedestal: Matt’s El Rancho is the go-to for anyone with a queso craving. The renowned queso, or “Bob Armstrong dip,” named for a local politician and environmental activist, comes topped with taco meat and guacamole. It’s practically a whole meal, and with a basket of tortilla chips, it’s sized for sharing, either outside on the patio or in the no-frills dining room where bright Mexican art adorns the walls. The menu offers up all the Tex Mex classics—fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas—and the margaritas are a must. The lore surrounding Matt’s El Rancho traces back to the founder Matt Martinez’s childhood, when he sold tamales from a cart outside the Capitol.
Dining at the restaurant: Both indoor and patio seating are open for lunch and dinner.
Takeout: Pickup and delivery are available through the restaurant’s website.
Soto (South Lamar)
The elegant Japanese restaurant occupies a sleek mahogany space in the new South Lamar development, lined with some of the city’s newest food and entertainment selections. Executive sushi chef Andy Chen, who trained in Kyoto, Japan as a teenager before working under the legendary Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, brings a wealth of experience to Austin via real-deal nigiri, sashimi, makimono, and a variety of Japanese appetizers. The best way to sample it all is through the omakase option—Chen will guide you through a carefully curated selection of cuts, featuring fish flown in directly from Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine in for lunch or dinner. There’s also a full-service bar with Japanese beers, shochu, Japanese whisky, and Asian-inspired cocktails.
Takeout: A dedicated takeout menu is available on the website.
The acclaimed Thai restaurant was named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit back in 2013, and it continues to impress Austin’s growing appetite for Southeast Asian cuisine. Chef Charles Schlienger’s stylish establishment is best known for the “son in law”—crispy farm egg, braised pork shoulder, thick soy, and a fish sauce spiked with Thai chiles—as well as a vibrant selection of curries ranging from the jungle, with black angus brisket, to the piquant red duck curry, spiked with green peppercorns. Whatever route you take, be sure to conclude with the Thai tea affogato, the greatest way you’ll ever taste condensed milk.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant has indoor dining, a courtyard, and a gorgeous rooftop bar with skyline views of downtown.
Takeout: Online ordering is available via the restaurant’s website.
Devil May Care (Downtown)
This atmospheric Mediterranean spot on Sixth Street, helmed by local firm Nova Hospitality, dishes up meze and raw platters, lamb ribs with tzatziki, falafel, Greek wine, and espresso martinis in a speakeasy-style space. From an unassuming entrance, diners descend a staircase to find a dining room complete with antique furniture, Persian throw rugs, and neon lights. It’s rare for a restaurant to provide not just a meal but also an experience, and since it opened in 2019, Devil May Care nails the take-me-away game, transporting diners into a lounge-like underworld.
Dining at the restaurant: Devil May Care makes for a fun night out, and the dining room is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Sunday brunch is an experience, too, complete with live DJs.
Takeout: Call or order online for a takeout meal (wine is available for takeout as well).
Jeffrey’s Restaurant (Clarksville)
Jeffrey’s restaurant and bar has delivered fine dining with the warmth of a neighborhood joint since it opened in 1975. Its three cozy dining rooms, perched in the quiet borough of Clarksville, just west of downtown Austin, exude plenty of charm. Jeffrey’s specializes in dry-aged prime beef and French American classics, such as gulf snapper and lump crab en papillote and dover sole with browned butter and capers. First-timers should make a beeline for the steaks—they are aged and cut by Lone Star Meats, a family-owned establishment in Austin, then grilled and roasted over a local live oak and finished with a 1,200-degree broil. For those who want to up the ante, there is caviar service.
Dining at the restaurant: The dining room is open daily, and there are happy hour deals throughout the week.
Takeout: Call the restaurant directly for a takeout order.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.