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In Austin, you’ll find a particular kind of Texas pride: Musicians sport Texas tattoos, sorority girls wear state-shaped charm necklaces and just about everyone eats breakfast tacos. Austin has long been called a blue oasis in the desert of a red state, but recently it has developed another identity: a national food destination.

With the Austin Food & Wine Festival, a resident Top Chef winner and more gourmet restaurants, bars and coffee shops breaking ground every day, this compact town is now the place to eat and be seen. Here’s where to go, shop and kick back Texas-style.


At this chic Japanese farmhouse–decorated hot spot, Executive Chef Tyson Cole dishes up playful fusion food like Jar Jar Duck, which Food & Wine rated as one of the top 10 restaurant dishes of 2011 (think duck four ways, with candied kumquat and rosemary smoke, served in a jar with a tongue-in-cheek Star Wars reference). 4200 N. Lamar Blvd., (512) 916-4808,

Barley Swine
Like all good Austin restaurant stories, Barley Swine’s started in a food trailer. Executive Chef Bryce Gilmore’s sustainably minded Odd Duck Farm to Trailer captivated the city, and his tiny brick-and-mortar location steps it up several notches. The seasonal small plate menu offers everything from scallops with fried Brussels sprouts and grapefruit to beef tongue with beets and grilled greens. 2024 S. Lamar Blvd., (512) 394-8150,

Veracruz All Natural
Austin’s official food is the breakfast taco, and there’s no place better than Tacos Veracruz. Rachael Ray rated this unassuming, family-run food trailer’s migas taco as one of the best in the South. With a thick, homemade flour tortilla and fresh scrambled eggs, Jack cheese and avocado salsa–marinated tortilla strips, this monster will keep you full until lunch, when you can try Veracruz’s tacos al pastor. 1704 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., (512) 981-1760

Shabu Hot Pot + Noodle Bar
It’s hard to argue with handmade noodles and dumplings. Try the tender Mongolian lamb, with hints of ginger and green onion, served over slurp-worthy spinach noodles. As the town’s only hot pot restaurant, Shabu’s spicy broth and abundant ingredients (watercress, snapper, winter melon) bring a friendly Chinese tradition to north-central Austin. 2700 Anderson Ln., (512) 336-8888

Parkside’s casual-posh interior is a welcome respite from “Dirty Sixth Street.” Here you’ll find a spectacular raw bar (plenty of oysters; bass draped over avocado with a light lime-chili sauce) as well as impeccable bar-food-inspired apps and entrees (pork chop with broccolini). 301 E. 6th St., (512) 474-9898,

Franklin Barbecue
Franklin Barbecue needs no introduction. In 2011 Bon Appetit named Aaron Franklin’s brisket, ribs and fixins the “best barbecue in America.” And judging by the lines of Austinites and tourists snaking around the art deco–decorated building and a long list of other accolades, America agrees. He told us all about it at the 2011 Austin Food and Wine Festival. Be sure to get there around 9 a.m. to wait in line for lunch. No joke. 900 E. 11th St., (512) 653-1187,

Lick Ice Creams
A city that swelters nine months out of the year needs frozen treats. But not just any old frozen treats. Lick boasts local ingredients in unusual flavors like goat cheese and honey, roasted beet and mint, and cilantro lime. Their vegan options, like chocolate-peanut-butter-coconut swirl, will leave you scraping the bottom of your cup too. 2032 S. Lamar Blvd., (512) 363-5622,

East Side King
Uchiko’s Paul Qui and friends do Asian fusion bar food right. You’ll be lusting after the fried chicken karaage and freshly herbed Brussels sprout salad from the Liberty bar trailer location long after the last bite. It’s the best way to bask in the authentic Austin dive bar experience. Liberty, 1618 E. 6th, (512) 422-5884;

Lucy’s Fried Chicken
The deep-fried deviled eggs at Lucy’s, Executive Chef James Holmes’ “chicken shack,” almost outshine the fried chicken. And that’s a tall order — almost as tall as the buckets of chicken are deep at this fun neighborhood restaurant and live music joint. But nothing’s better than wood-fired oysters and a slice of s’mores pie near midnight. 2218 College Ave., (512) 297-2423,


Black Star Co-Op
The first beer co-op in the country, Black Star Co-Op’s brewpub is the place to drink. The co-op’s 3,000-plus members host tastings to decide on the menu, which is divided into rational beers (more standard, like the hoppy Vulcan), irrational beers (experimental, like the golden ale Rover, with wildflower honey) and infinite beers (barrel aged scotch and so forth). The hand-cut French fries are damn good too. 7020 Easy Wind Dr., (512) 452-2337,

East Side Showroom
This vintage-chic spot feels more like a speakeasy than a destination on East Sixth: A velvet curtain welcomes you inside, where you can sit at the bar or take a table for dinner while you watch silent movies. Dapper mixologists whirl classic cocktails like the Bee’s Knees. Hint: Ask one of the suspendered barkeeps to make you a signature drink with your favorite ingredients. 1100 E. 6th St., (512) 467-4280,

Venture upstairs from trendy Mexican restaurant La Condesa into an even more chic space for a solid margarita and a beautiful view of downtown. Or stay inside and gaze upward at the lush hanging gardens in place of chandeliers, then dance all night to some of Austin’s most ubiquitous and fun DJs. 400-B W. 2nd St.,

The Little Longhorn Saloon
Come by at night for a Lone Star and two-step to Redd Volkaert or Dale Watson. Or saddle up on Sunday afternoon for chicken-shit bingo, which is exactly what it sounds like: a live chicken, a pool table divided into numbered squares, and some low-stakes betting. 5434 Burnet Rd., (512) 458-1813,

Midnight Cowboy Modeling
The infamous “Midnight Cowboy Modeling: Oriental Massage” sign on Sixth Street now points to a different kind of, um, happy ending to your night. You would never know that this posh reservations-only cocktail bar used to be a brothel, with its black-leather interior, cell-phone ban and swanky cocktails made tableside. 313 E. 6th St., (512) 843-2715,

You’ll find more than 40 beers on tap at Hopfield’s, a neighborhood French-inspired gastropub, as well as some fun cocktails and a small wine list. The knowledgeable bartenders will set you up with a brew that suits your mood as you chill at one of the community-style tables or the understated wooden benches, which were rescued from old churches. 3110 Guadalupe St., (512) 537-0467,

Rio Rita
Rio Rita is every in-the-know local’s go-to spot. Looking for a strawberry-infused vodka cocktail? How about a killer Bloody Mary, with pickled okra and peppers and a long stalk of celery? More in the mood for a shot of espresso? With its comfy vintage couches and built-in fish tank, this funky cantina’s got your back. 1308 E. 6th St., (512) 524-0384,

Hotel San Jose
After spending the afternoon shopping on trendy South Congress, take a break at the Hotel San Jose’s lovely outdoor bar (if you’re lucky, you’re already staying here). A plush oasis surrounds simple tables and as the sun sets, glowing candles give more than a romantic hint to the atmosphere. The cheese plate complements the wine list perfectly. 1316 S. Congress Ave., (512) 444-7322,


Caffé Medici
The baristas at Caffé Medici know their beans. One of these aficionados, Lorenzo Perkins, who now works at local roaster Cuvée Coffee, made it to the finals of the U.S. Barista Competition in 2011. And the current staff at all four of Medici’s locations are pretty serious too, with their clean Espresso Medici blend served at a perfect temperature and with just enough sass. 1101 West Lynn, (512) 524-5049,; 2222B Guadalupe, (512) 474-5730; 200 Congress Ave., #2B, (512) 827-2770; 1100 South Lamar Blvd., (512) 445-7212

Spider House
Spider House is the epitome of Austin. The slow-paced coffeehouse and bar occupies an old house just north of campus, with a wrap-around porch and an uneven patio filled with rickety wire tables, random statues (we like the angel peeing into an old bathtub), and twinkling white Christmas lights tangled in the trees. 2906 Fruth St., (512) 480-9562,

Once Over Coffee Bar
Look carefully on South First for this unassuming exterior, because inside are some of the best baristas in the city. They will chat with you about Deadfingers, their house blend of beans from local Cuvée Coffee, after they serve you a sip of seltzer water to prepare your palate for a shot of espresso. The tree-shaded backyard is the perfect place to read all afternoon. 2009 S. 1st St., (512) 326-9575,

The Steeping Room
This specialty tea shop is truly worth the drive north to the Domain. Drop in for one of three daily iced teas, or choose from the long list of loose-leaf teas from their tome of a menu. Fuel up for shopping on the gluten-free lunch items, as well as decadent (gluten-filled) baked goods. 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, (512) 977-8337,


Con’ Olio Olive Oils & Vinegars
The first thing co-owner Tabatha Conarko will tell you is that most grocery store–bought olive oil is rancid. Then she’ll invite you to try one of their worldly selections, like the buttery, mushroom-infused oil. After that you can move to the huge batch of tasty balsamic vinegars from Acetum in Modeno, Italy, like the red apple or honey ginger. 215 Lavaca St., 512-495-1559,

Austin Farmers Market
Who would have thought the hottest event in Austin (literally and figuratively) happens on Saturday morning? The downtown Austin Farmers’ Market hosts plenty of bona fide farmers, but you will also find treats from food artisans like local charcuterie Dai Due, Buddha’s Brew kombucha, the Texas Sake Company, Kakawa Chocolates and the Mediterranean Chef. 422 W. Guadalupe St., (512) 236-0074,

Henri’s Cheese
Modeled after European neighborhood wine and cheese shops, Henri’s offers a cozy place to nibble on local cheeses like the Deep Ellum Blue or the raw-milk Granbury Gold and sip on a glass or two of wine, as well dig into a rotating charcuterie menu. Drop by for lunch to sample a sandwich or salad. 2026 S. Lamar Blvd., (512) 442-3373,

Whip In
Only the locals will tell you about the Whip In, an Indian restaurant, drinking hole and gourmet grocery. Relax on the patio or in one of the cozy booths with overhanging carpets before you decide on which bottle of wine will go best with local treats from the freezer section like Bola Pizza, Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches or Austin Slow Burn salsa. 1950 S. I-35, (512) 442-5337,

Boggy Creek Farm
Started in 1992, Boggy Creek Farm is practically an institution. There’s something refreshing about wandering just east of downtown on Saturday morning to pick out organic tomatoes, summer squash, Asian pears and everything else Carol Ann and Larry grow. Plus you’ll find Pure Luck cheese and Wateroak Farms’ goat-milk ice cream. 3414 Lyons Rd., (512) 926-4650,

Whole Foods
Sure, every city has a Whole Foods. But they don’t have this Whole Foods. The national HQ store is truly mind-blowing, with a mammoth prepared foods section and even a chocolate fountain: It’s hard to believe the massive chain started with owner John Mackey living in the back of his first store. Be prepared to spend more than a few minutes parking. 525 N. Lamar Blvd., (512) 542-2200,


Thai Fresh
Thai Fresh is synonymous with sustainable, high-quality Thai cooking with a hippie twist. Co-owner Jam Sanitchat stays true to form with her almost weekly classes, where she will teach you how to make coconut soup, red curry, pad thai and sticky rice with mango. A nice addition? She will also teach you how to grow the ingredients you’ll need, like a kaffir lime plant and galangal root. 909 West Mary St., #B, (512) 494-6436,

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
It’s enough of a treat to sample the wide assortment of cheeses at this tiny neighborhood shop, but if you’re lucky, you’ll attend one of John and Kendall’s classes. Learn about different types of cheese and learn how to pair the smelly stuff with wine and even spirits, depending on the syllabus. Be forewarned that the classes were recently on hiatus, since the Antonellis were tending to their toddler, so call ahead. 4200 Duval St., (512) 531-9610,

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts
What better place to learn about vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free food than from the Natural Epicurean? Public classes include vegan summer barbecuing, vegan raw desserts and how to cook straight from your CSA box. The academy is associated with local studio Yoga Yoga, a great place to stretch before you fill up on macrobiotic knowledge. 1700 South Lamar Blvd., (512) 476-2276

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