Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Best of South Austin Restaurants 2015

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"Where should we eat in South Austin?" The age-old question! Well, I've tried to think of every possible decent meal/dish I've had, and list them here for you by type of cuisine (warning: there's a lot of info here). Here are my picks for best restaurants in South Austin, focusing the area from Town Lake to William Cannon, and IH-35 to Mopac. For restaurant picks south of William Cannon, please see Homemade Austin's post, and for vegetarian in South Austin, see Aneelee's post. Happy eating!

Finer Dining (Let's be real, nothing in South Austin requires a tie, but pants without holes in them would be nice.)
-- Barley Swine, 2024 S. Lamar: Now prix fixe and mostly reservations-based; small seasonal plates.
-- Flour and Vine, 300 S. Lamar: Some of the best chicken marsala; next to Zach Scott Theater.
-- Lenoir, 1807 S. First: Also prix fixe at $40 for 3 courses; seasonal menu, enchanting dining room.
-- Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar: Dinners are more French-inspired, brunch Texas-inspired.
-- Uchi, 801 S. Lamar: Japanese, the epitome of customer service and creative food that's not just sushi. Tip: go for social hour when they have half-price apps.
Uchi assortment
-- Vespaio, 1610 S. Congress: It all reminds you of your Italian grandmother's cooking -- pasta, pancetta, parmesan...mmmm.

Mexican (My personal preference is interior Mexican, as opposed to Tex Mex, but there is some crossover.)
-- Borrego de Oro, 3900 S. Congress: No frills, just good food. Yes, that nondescript place on S. Congress right before Ben White. Try it. BLD.
-- Curra's, 614 E. Oltorf St: Al pastor, mole, cochinita pibil, avocado margarita... 
-- El Alma, 1025 Barton Springs Road: One of the few places that uses duck (rellenos and enmoladas); great rooftop patio.
El Alma
El Alma's sangria
 -- El Chile, 1816 S. First: A beautifully remodeled space, brunch, happy hour specials.
(On its way to becoming Alcomar, a Latin seafood place, by the same owners/chef, also the same owners as El Alma.)
-- Habanero, 501 W. Oltorf: This little place is mostly open for breakfast and lunch; dinner on Fri/Sat only.
-- La Mexicana Bakery, 1924 S. First: Cheap breakfast tacos and a ridiculous amount of sweets (pan dulce).
-- Papalote, 2803 S. Lamar: Street food inspired, just plain good (sister restaurant to Azul Tequila, which I hear is good, I just haven't been there in years); for the vegetarians, they're known for their cauliflower taco.
-- Sazon, 1816 S. Lamar: Haven't been in a while because their parking is more challenging, but have always loved their mole, and how many place do you know that serve huitlacoche?

-- Hill's Cafe, 4700 S. Congress: This has been one of my favorite burgers for years, largely because of the sweet kolache bun they serve it on (other bun options available); meatloaf, catfish and chicken fried steak -- something for everyone.
-- Hopdoddy, 1400 S. Congress: Fabulous, creative burgers, partial to the lamb myself; truffle fries and thick milkshakes (honestly, two average adults could split a burger, fries and milkshake); be prepared to stand in line, but they won't take your order until there is a table available.
Hopdoddy's Greek (lamb) burger
-- Phil's Ice House, 2901 S. Lamar: Good burgers and a great playscape for the kids. Conveniently run by the Amy's Ice Cream folks, so you can get your dessert there and eat it too.

Chinese + Korean
-- Chen Z Noodles, 6705 W Hwy 290: This is not your typical Chinese restaurant; they specialize in hand-cut noodles, which can be a bit doughy, but I love them. Their pan-fried dumplings, green onion pancakes, and lamb skewers are top notch; previous post here.
Chen Z
Green onion pancake from Chen Z's
-- Chi'lantro, 1509 S. Lamar: Korea meets Mexico with this food truck that's just made the leap to a brick and mortar establishment; try the kim chi french fries and k-pop chicken wings.
-- Sichuan River, 4534 Westgate Blvd: Finally! Sichuan food that's not in far north Austin! Sizzling Sichuan lamb, mapo tofu, egg foo young, and dan dan noodles are amongst the specialties; see my review here

-- Sap's, 4514 Westgate Blvd.: While I don't love their noodle dishes, their tom kha soup is other-worldly.
-- Sway, 1417 S. First: Australian-influenced Thai, can be very loud inside. Son in law and jungle curry both delish.
 -- Thai Fresh, 909 W. Mary St.: Some of the best pad thai I've had, but they can be inconsistent.
-- Thai Taste,  7010 W Hwy 71: Bit of a hidden spot by the HEB in Oak Hill; great noodles; my review here.
Thai Taste
Thai Taste's Pad Se Ew
-- Ramen Tatsu-ya, 1234 S. Lamar: South Lamar location just opened in January 2015! If you're feeling hungry, get the #1 original tonkotsu broth -- it's rich! Chicken broth offered at lunch only (I was pleasantly surprised how much flavor it has), vegan available for at Sunday dinner. 
Ramen Tatsu-ya South Lamar
Lunch at Ramen Tatsu-ya with the chicken broth ramen
 -- Uchi, 801 S. Lamar: Again, the gold standard for food and service. Exquisite sushi but plenty of other dishes for those who aren't into raw fish (see also Finer Dining, above).

-- Dong Nai,  4211 S. Lamar: I love having this casual place so close to me, and the #7D bun (vermicelli) bowl with char-grilled pork and a crispy egg roll will forever have my heart. 
Dong Nai
Love this pork! The #7D at Dong Nai
-- Elizabeth Street Cafe, 1501 S. First: upscale French-inspired Vietnamese; hormone/antibiotic free meats; decent banh mi, bun, and pho, but the real stars are their range of French pastries.
-- Lulu B's, 3632 S. Congress: Just transitioned in February from a trailer to an actual restaurant; their bbq pork banh mi is the stuff of dreams.
Lulu B's
Chinese sausage summer roll at Lulu B's

-- Bombay Bistro, 4200 S. Lamar: Always a good sign when Indians are at an Indian lunch buffet; delicious curried mussels on the a la carte menu and I hear occasionally on the buffet.
-- Tarka5207 Brodie Lane: Modern Indian in Sunset Valley (and other locations around town too), with both traditional dishes like samosas, biryani, and korma as well as twists like "naanini" sandwiches.
Tarka's chicken korma
-- Whip In, 1950 IH-35: Is it a liquor store, bar or restaurant? Yes. Indian twists on bar food as well as some more traditional dhaba bowls. Open late too. 

-- Amy's Ice Cream: The best ice cream in town with bold flavors and fun mix-ins! Several locations, including a small outlet at the Phil's Ice House.
-- Central Market Westgate, 4477 S. Lamar: Full-service bakery (four words: Anthony's Chocolate Mousse Cake) and house-made gelato.
-- Dolce Neve, 1713 S. First: An Italian gelateria run by Italians! They've embraced South Austin culture, and "do it" in front of everyone. Oh, and the gelato is crazy good! Blog post here.
-- Lick, 2032 S. Lamar: Great quality ingredients, more subtle but interesting flavors. 
-- La Patisserie, 602 W. Annie: French pastries? Yes, please. {And the toasted almond macaron flavor was suggested by yours truly!} The morning bun is a favorite, especially slightly warmed in the toaster oven so the sugar caramelizes.
-- Sugar Mama's, 1905 S. First: Not just cupcakes, but cakes, pies, muffins, bars... sugar heaven! 
Sugar Mama's Bakeshop
Can't go wrong with a carrot cake cupcake!

Pizza (lots of places like aRoma, Enoteca, and St. Philip have good pizza too)
-- Homeslice,1415 S. Congress: New York style pizza; I appreciate the fact they close for a week and take the whole staff to NYC for pizza research.
-- Southside Flying Pizza, 2206 S. Congress and 1224 S. Lamar: good portions and family-friendly
-- Via 313, Coming soon in Oak Hill! Detroit style -- uber-thick crust! 

Gastro Pub/Eclectic
-- Jack Allen's Kitchen, 7721 Hwy 71: Texas food: upscale cross of Southern and Mexican
-- Odd Duck, 1201 S. Lamar: local seasonal food, amazing breads; blog post here.
-- Porter Ale House, 3715 S. First Street: Excellent happy hour with equally excellent desserts; my post here.
Porter Ale House
S'mores in a mason jar from Porter
-- Snack Bar, 1224 S. Congress: in the heart of South Congress, a great mix of food with a lovely wine program -- something for everyone.

Snack Bar
Grilled mahi with mango salsa from Snack Bar
 -- St. Philip, 4715 S. Lamar: After opening this fall, they seem to be settling into the groove with their comfort food menu and fresh pastries.
-- Winebelly, 519 W. Oltorf: I've only been a couple of times, but have really enjoyed this wine bar; silky smooth pate, amongst the best I've had. 

Italian and Other Ethnic
-- aRoma, 3403 S. Lamar: open for lunch and dinner, pizzas, pastas and a decent happy hour
-- Barlata, 1500 S. Lamar: Spanish, tapas, don't miss the Crema Catalana for dessert. 
-- Enoteca, 1610 S. Congress: This bistro has been my go-to Italian for years, as their carbonara is amongst my favorite comfort foods. (The less-formal sibling to Vespaio.)
-- Habana, 2728 S. Congress: The outdoor cabanas, along with mojitos and the pollo salteado, make for a perfect Cuban meal.
-- Phoenica Bakery, 2912 S. Lamar: This Mediterranean staple is both a grocery and take-out deli; the simple cheese bread with garlic sauce makes me swoon.

Bars with decent food
-- Austin Beer Garden Brewing (ABGB), 1305 W. Oltorf: They brew all their own beer onsite and make a mean pizza.
-- Black Sheep Lodge, 2108 S. Lamar: Mini corn dogs? Yes!
-- Doc's Motorworks, 1123 S. Congress: Great for people-watching on South Congress
-- Red's Porch, 3508 S. Lamar: Quite good food, a Tex-Mex/Cajun combo
-- Bouldin Creek Cafe, 1900 S. First: Vegetarian spot, great patio, huge omelets, and my favorite veggie burger around.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
One of the many omelet options at Bouldin Creek Cafe
-- Casa de Luz, 1701 Toomey Road: Macrobiotic (which is not for everyone!), charming locale.
-- G's Dynomite, 2312 S. First: Hidden gem with great sandwiches.
-- Mr. Natural, 2414 S. Lamar: One of two locations, all vegetarian with lots of vegan options.
-- Soup Peddler, 501 W. Mary and 2801 S. Lamar: Fresh soups and juices/smoothies; love the Flotsam and Jetsam (green juice with a lot of ginger!).

-- Rudy's, 2451 S. Capital of Texas Hwy: A bit outside the geographical boundaries I am trying to stick with for this post, but Rudy's is definitely worth a mention, even if they are a chain. 
-- Terry Black's, 1003 Barton Springs: I didn't love it, but didn't hate it either. See my post
Terry Black's BBQ
Terry Black's menu board
 -- Uncle Billy's, 1530 Barton Springs: It's admittedly been a while since I've had their 'cue, but I was there for an event in the fall, and the appetizers they served were delish! Plus they brew their own beer.
Wine Bars
-- Henri's, 2026 S. Lamar: Wine, cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches -- yes!
-- Patika Wine and Coffee, 2159 S. Lamar: Just opened this fall, this former trailer is doing both coffees and wines, and they have a killer pastry chef.
Have wine or coffee at Patika
 -- Winebelly, 519 W. Oltorf: Again (see Gastro Pub), nice wines and tapas.  

Old Standbys
-- Central Market Westgate Cafe, 4477 S. Lamar: Soup, salad, pizza, nightly specials, and live music Thursday - Sunday.
-- Magnolia Cafe, 1920 S. Congress: Open 24/7 for breakfast, soup, desserts, you name it.
-- Kerbey Lane Cafe, 3003 S. Lamar (multiple locations): Also open 24/7, not just for stoners or college students.

What are your favorite South Austin meals? Please share and leave a comment below! Also, see my guide to South Austin food trailers!