How to Eat and Drink Your Way Through Austin, TX
Austin was named one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. this year—and it’s easy to see why. The Texas capital city is known for its great live music, "keeping things weird" (the local motto), and most of all, good bites. To experience the hype for herself, JS editorial assistant Jackie Homan spent a weekend eating and drinking her way through the city.
Planning a trip to ATX? First thing’s first, foodies: let’s talk cuisine. Austin is famous for two types: barbecue and Tex-Mex. For the former, Austinites won’t be pleased if you leave the city without trying the renowned Franklin BBQ, famous for its brisket and pulled pork. Just prepare for crazy crowds and an early sell-out—people start lining up over an hour before the 11 a.m. open time.
As for the latter, you can’t go wrong with Matt’s El Rancho, one of the oldest Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin. Their made-from-scratch corn tortillas and fresh-squeezed lime margaritas have been around since 1952.
Of course, those are just two among hundreds of restaurants worthy of your itinerary. To hit as many Austin food spots as possible, you’ll need to jack up your tour with a little motor power. For that, we recommend the Rocket Electrics Foodie Tour, where you’ll ride around on an electric bike, stopping at some of the best food trucks and eateries in town. As you whip around in Turbo mode (or glide in Cruise mode for the not-as-brave, like me), you can take in the sights while working up an appetite.
A few highlights from my tour: the Kerlin BBQ food truck (can’t recommend their kolaches enough), Tamale House East (try their incredible namesake tamales), and Luke’s Inside Out food truck (I’m still dreaming about chef Luke’s chicken and waffles with brie, bacon, and honey).
To wet your whistle after an afternoon on the bike, swing by Whisler’s, a whimsical cocktail haven on East 6th Street complete with an upstairs mezcal bar. The moody, rustic ambiance and frequent live music make it the perfect date night spot.
For something a little more honky-tonkish, boogie over to The White Horse for whiskey, free dance lessons, live music, and tacos. If you’re looking to turn drinks into an all-night affair, head to Rainey Street, whose strip of neighborhood-like houses are actually bars—many of which feature unique outdoor decks and patios and backyard food trucks.
When you’re thinking about where to rest your head for the night, consider hotel dining (trust us—you’ll need a good breakfast after all those Rainey Street cocktails). The best of the best is at the new Fairmont Austin, home to five incredible restaurants and bars including Revue (where you can—and should—wake up to a bacon and egg pizza or a banana and caramel brioche french toast) and poolside-with-a-view bar Rules & Regs (for happy hour, we recommend the coconut-y Daisy’s Siesta).
By this point, you should be hungry for dinner. There’s no place like Garrison Grill, where chef Jason Purcell excels at everything from citrus-cured fluke crudos to hearty grilled pork chops with fresh corn polenta. (Before digging in, please start with his house-baked sourdough with avocado butter. You’ll thank me later.)
Leave time to venture outside the city limits for a day with a drive through Texas Hill Country. Along the way, you’ll pass more mouthwatering spots like Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, a must for those who loved Franklin’s and Kerlin’s. Need proof that it’s worth the trek? Just ask the 2,000-plus people who dine here on an average Saturday.
Next, wash down all that brisket and pork in nearby Hye with a swig of small-batch bourbon from Garrison Brothers, the first and oldest legal whiskey distillery in Texas. Make sure to sign up for a tour (which includes a tasting!) to learn about the history and production of what you’re sipping. By the time you get back to Austin, about an hour’s drive away, you might just be ready to restart the adventure.
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