Friday, February 26, 2016

The Best Restaurants in South Austin

Click here to go to the AFBA's official City Guide page!

Updated for 2016! "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 MY FAVORITES here by type of cuisine (warning: there's a lot of info here). Here are my picks for best restaurants in South Austin, focusing on 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. Happy eating!

Finer Dining (Let's be real, nothing in South Austin requires a tie, but pants without holes in them would be nice.)

Lenoir, 1807 South First Street
Prix fixe at $45 for 3 courses; seasonal menu, enchanting dining room and expanded backyard space.

Olivia, 2043 South Lamar Boulevard
Dinners are more French-inspired, brunch Texas-inspired, both good.

Uchi, 801 South Lamar Boulevard
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. And make a reservation!
Uchi assortment
Vespaio, 1610 South Congress Avenue
It all reminds you of your Italian grandmother's cooking -- pasta, pancetta, parmesan, pizza... mmmm.

VOX Table, 1100 South Lamar Boulevard at Lamar Union
I've only been for brunch but it was delicious and full of carbs! Previous post here. 
VOX Table chicken and biscuit
VOX Table chicken and biscuit
Mexican (My personal preference is interior Mexican, as opposed to Tex-Mex, but there is some crossover; see my 2016 guide to the Best Mexican Food in Austin)

Alcomar, 1816 South First Street
A beautifully remodeled space specializing in Latin seafood; brunch, happy hour specials.
Alcomar's snapper ceviche
Alcomar's snapper ceviche
Borrego de Oro, 3900 South Congress Avenue
No frills, just good food. Yes, that nondescript place on South Congress right before Ben White. Try it! BL+D

Curra's, 614 East Oltorf Street
Al pastor, mole, cochinita pibil, avocado margarita...also BL+D

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
Habanero, 501 West Oltorf Street
This little place is mostly open for breakfast and lunch; dinner on Fri/Sat only.

La Mexicana Bakery, 1924 South First Street
Cheap breakfast tacos and a ridiculous amount of sweets, aka pan dulce.

Papalote, 2803 South Lamar Boulevard
Street food and 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 South Lamar Boulevard
Their parking can be challenging, but I have always loved their mole, and how many places do you know that serve huitlacoche? Nice patio too.  My blog post here.
Sazon tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor at Sazon
Billie Jean's Burger Pub, 6501 South Congress Avenue
Just north of William Cannon, these sriracha loaded fries were the bomb! Blog post here
Billie Jean's Burger Pub sriracha fries
Sriracha fries with goat cheese at Billie Jean's
Hill's Cafe, 4700 South Congress Avenue
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 South Congress Avenue (and other locations around town)
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. Tip: you can order food from the bar.
Hopdoddy Greek burger
Hopdoddy's Greek (lamb) burger
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 South Lamar Boulevard
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 Boulevard
Finally! Sichuan food that's not in far north Austin! Sizzling Sichuan lamb, mapo tofu, egg foo young, and dan dan noodles are among the specialties; see my review here. I've also recently heard their sesame chicken is great.
Sichuan River -- sizzling sichuan lamb
Sizzling Sichuan lamb...if you're a lamb lover, this is a must-try!
Sap's, 4514 Westgate Boulevard
While I don't love their noodle dishes, their tom kha soup is other-worldly. My Thai friend also compliments their leaf-wrapped savories dish or mieng kum, which you don't often see on typical Thai menus.
Sap's Thai mieng kum
Mieng kum, #S-A9 on the specials menu
Sway, 1417 South First Street
Australian-influenced Thai, can be very loud inside. Son in law and jungle curry both delish. 

Thai Fresh, 909 West Mary Street
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; love their pad se ew; my review here.
Thai Taste
Thai Taste's Pad Se Ew
Michi Ramen, 3005 South Lamar Boulevard 
Open for carryout only, choices include light, regular or stout broths.
Michi Ramen
Michi Ramen carry out
Ramen Tatsu-ya,
1234 South Lamar Boulevard
If you're feeling hungry, get the #1 original tonkotsu (pork) broth -- it's super rich and filling. I was surprised at how much I like the chicken ramen though, tons of flavor and not as filling as the pork.
Ramen Tatsu-ya South Lamar
Lunch at Ramen Tatsu-ya with the chicken broth ramen
Uchi, 801 South Lamar Boulevard
Again, the gold standard for food and service. Exquisite sushi but plenty of other dishes for those who aren't into raw fish (see Finer Dining, above).

Dong Nai,  4211 South Lamar Boulevard
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 (they've since renumbered the menu, but I still call it 7D)
Elizabeth Street Cafe, 1501 South First Street upscale French-inspired Vietnamese; hormone/antibiotic free meats; decent banh mi, bun, and pho, but the real stars are their range of French pastries.
Elizabeth Street Cafe ham and cheese croissant
Elizabeth Street Cafe ham and cheese croissant
Lulu B's, 3632 South Congress Avenue
Service can be slow, but their bbq pork banh mi is one of my favorites in town.
Lulu B's
Chinese sausage summer roll at Lulu B's
Asiana, 801 E. William Cannon: You wouldn't guess by their name that it's an Indian restaurant, and while their interior decor makes no sense to me (I think it's just been left up since the previous tenants), many people consider Asiana the best Indian food in town.
Asiana Indian
The Manchurian cauliflower in the back was especially amazing at Asiana!
Bombay Bistro, 4200 South Lamar Boulevard
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.

Tarka,  5207 Brodie Lane (other locations too)
Modern Indian cuisine in Sunset Valley, with both traditional dishes like samosas, biryani, and korma as well as twists like "naanini" sandwiches.
Tarka Indian
Tarka's chicken korma
Whip In, 1950 IH-35 (northbound frontage road)
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 multiple locations
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 South Lamar Boulevard
Full-service bakery (four words: Anthony's Chocolate Mousse Cake) and house-made gelato.

Crepe Crazy, 3103 South Lamar Boulevard  
This newcomer just north of the Broken Spoke has both sweet and savory crepes; my post here. 
Crepe Crazy prosciutto and fig jam crepe
The prosciutto and apricot jam crepe.
Dolce Neve,
1713 South First Street
A crazy-good Italian gelateria run by Italians! They've embraced South Austin culture, and "do it" in front of everyone. Lots of traditional (chocolate, salted caramel) and unique flavors (roasted pistachio, lemon creme)  Blog post here.

Lick, 2032 South Lamar Boulevard 
Great quality ingredients, more subtle but interesting flavors like goat cheese with thyme.

La Patisserie, 602 West Annie Street
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. A second shop on Burnet Road coming soon.

Sugar Mama's, 1905 South First Street
Not just cupcakes, but cakes, pies, muffins, bars... sugar heaven! 
Sugar Mama's Bakeshop
Can't go wrong with a Sugar Mama's carrot cake cupcake!

Pizza (lots of places like aRoma and Enoteca have good pizza too)
Garducci's, 730 West Stassney Lane
Buried in a strip center at Manchaca and Stassney, they create some fine pizza; my full report here.
Garducci's Pizza

Homeslice,1415 South Congress Avenue
New York style pizza; I appreciate the fact they close for a week and take the whole staff to NYC for pizza research and they have a walk up window for slices and to-go orders.

Via 313, 6705 Hwy 290 West (same strip center as Chen Z's above) 
This is their first brick and mortar location, with two trailers in town and another storefront (31st and Guadalupe) on the way. Detroit style pizza, with it's toasty + cheesy edges will make a thick-crust believer out of you. And if you're into artichokes, get the goat cheese stuffed ones on the appetizer menu!
Via 313 pizza
Even this cheese bread at VIA 313 was incredible.
Cafe No Se, 1603 South Congress Avenue at the South Congress Hotel
Serving B, L, D and save room for dessert! Previous post here. 
Cafe No Se Basque Cake
The Basque cake with speculoos cream and sour cream ice cream.
Jack Allen's Kitchen, 7721 Hwy 71 
Texas food -- upscale cross of Southern and Mexican

Odd Duck, 1201 South Lamar Boulevard
Local seasonal food, amazing breads; I haven't tried their burger, but people swear by it blog post here.

Porter Ale House, 3715 South 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 South Congress Avenue by the Austin Motel
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
South Congress Cafe, 1600 South Congress Avenue
I recently dined here, and had a very lovely salad for lunch. 
South Congress Cafe fried goat cheese prosciutto salad
Fried goat cheese and prosciutto salad
Vinaigrette, 2201 College Avenue
Just opened in mid-February, this New Mexico transplant is salad-centric. See my report.
Vinaigrette South Austin
Ginger turmeric tonic
Winebelly, 519 West Oltorf Street
This hidden gem has a nice wine list, and some of the silkiest, smoothest pate I've had. Past blog post here.

aRoma, 3403 South Lamar Boulevard
Open for lunch and dinner, pizzas, pastas and a decent happy hour.
Barlata, 1500 South Lamar Boulevard
Spanish, tapas, don't miss the Crema Catalana for dessert. Nice happy hour pricing in the bar area.
Enoteca, 1610 South Congress Avenue
This bistro has been my go-to Italian for years, as their carbonara is one of my favorite comfort foods. (The less-formal sibling to Vespaio; they share a kitchen.)
Enoteca carbonara
The spaghetti carbonara done with linguine
Juliet, 1500 Barton Springs Road
Amazing outdoor patio, delicious agnolotti pasta; my post here
Agnolotti at Juliet
Goat cheese agnolotti at Juliet

Other Ethnic 
Habana, 2728 South Congress Avenue
The outdoor cabanas, along with mojitos, pollo salteado, and maduros make for a perfect Cuban meal.

Phoenica Bakery, 2912 South Lamar Boulevard
This Mediterranean staple is both a grocery and take-out deli; the simple cheese bread with garlic sauce makes me swoon. And baklava.

VertsKebap, 1500 South Lamar Boulevard (multiple locations)
This fast-casual Mediterranean food chain was born here in Austin. Lots of options, starting including wraps, kebaps or salad.
VertsKebap gyro
There's gyro meat somewhere under there!
Bars with decent food
Austin Beer Garden Brewing (ABGB), 1305 West Oltorf Street
They brew all their own beer onsite and make a mean pizza.

Black Sheep Lodge, 2108 South Lamar Boulevard
Mini corn dogs? Yes! Great spot to watch the game.

Doc's Motorworks, 1123 South Congress Avenue
Their patio is great for people-watching.

Red's Porch, 3508 South Lamar Boulevard
Quite good food, a Tex-Mex/Cajun combo, and the upper level has greenbelt views.
Bouldin Creek Cafe, 1900 South First Street
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 South First Street
Hidden gem with great sandwiches.
Mr. Natural, 2414 South Lamar Boulevard 
One of two locations, all vegetarian with lots of vegan options.

Soup Peddler, 501 West Mary Street and 2801 South Lamar Boulevard
Fresh soups and juices/smoothies; love the Flotsam and Jetsam (green juice with a lot of ginger!).

Vinaigrette, 2201 College Avenue
Just opened in mid-February (see above); not exclusively vegetarian but salad based with soup and sandwiches too.
Vinaigrette asian chopped salad
Asian chopped salad with duck confit

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 Road
They're doing nice things with meat, plus they brew their own beer. 
Uncle Billy's BBQ
Pork belly tacos

Wine Bars
Henri's, 2026 South Lamar Boulevard
Wine, cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches -- yes! I hear from Homemade Austin they have a fabulous burger.

Patika Wine and Coffee, 2159 South Lamar Boulevard
Coffee, wine, and pastries.
Patika Coffee
Have wine or coffee at Patika
Winebelly, 519 W. Oltorf Street
Again (see Gastro Pub), nice wines and tapas.  

Old Standbys
Central Market Westgate Cafe, 4477 South Lamar
Soup, salad, pizza, nightly specials, and live music Thursday - Sunday.

Magnolia Cafe, 1920 South Congress Avenue (and on Lake Austin Blvd.)
Open 24/7 for breakfast, soup, desserts, you name it.

Kerbey Lane Cafe, 3003 South Lamar (also 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 and favorite Mexican food in Austin!


  1. Have you tried Little Thai - the trailer on S 1st by El Mercado / Texas School for the Deaf ? So good!

    1. Hi! My trailer post is forthcoming! I've been there once but it was ages ago. What do you like there?