While you can find stellar breakfast tacos and barbecue in every part of Austin, a few places have created versions that take the form to a higher level. And if you want to branch out beyond the types of foods Austin is known for, you can also find excellent pizza, seafood, fried chicken and vegetarian fare. Here are a few of the must-have dishes around town.
The Otto taco is a decadent combination of refried black beans, bacon, avocado and Monterrey Jack cheese. Many regular customers add a scrambled egg to the Otto, but it’s chock full of pleasing tastes and textures either way. Order the habanero sauce on the side if you like an extra-spicy kick.
You know your food is good when people travel from all over the country for the privilege of waiting in line just to taste it. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin uses only salt and pepper to season the brisket, but he approaches the slow-smoking process as his own personal art form. He pays attention to details such as the dryness of the wood, the character of the smoke itself, the crust/char on the exterior, and of course, the amount of time in the smoker. Bring a chair, show up early and be prepared to wait at least two hours to taste his masterwork.
What started as a novelty item at the Austin City Limits Music Festival has become a year-round favorite. Served in a large cone-shaped cup, the Mighty Cone consists of crunchy chicken, mango-jalapeno slaw and ancho sauce wrapped in a jumbo flour tortilla. The crunchy breading was originally developed at Hudson’s on the Bend for a trout dish, but it hit the big-time when the chefs tried it on chicken as part of a portable, festival-friendly creation.
The menu description sounds like an awful mistake: pork marinated in orange juice, milk and Coca-Cola and then fried! But it’s far from a mistake—it’s one of the most delicious dishes imaginable. You can’t taste any of those ingredients individually, but they blend together to create a complex flavor that defies description. This odd culinary concoction has been around for decades in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Take a leap of faith and give it a try. Enjoy Curra’s signature avocado margarita while you’re there.
Made with three types of cheese, serrano peppers, eggs, tomatoes and corn tortilla strips, the migas plate at Trudy’s is a hot mess of deliciousness. It’s spicy, it’s cheesy, and comforting enough to help you get through the worst of hangovers, breakups or non-specific bad moods. Combine the egg mixture, a few roasted red potatoes and refried beans in a flour tortilla, and watch your anxieties melt away. If you’re in a deep funk, you may want to throw in one of Trudy’s signature Bloody Marys.
A traditional Mayan dish, cochinita pibil is pulled pork marinated in a mildly spicy achiote sauce and cooked in banana leaves. The meat is tender and savory with just a hint of sweetness. It’s served with pickled peppers, black beans and fried plantains.
Featuring one type of pepperoni on top and another buried under the cheese, the Detroiter never fails to delight first-timers. Via 313’s version of Detroit-style pizza is rectangular, with a thick, chewy crust, and a hearty marinara sauce that’s served on top of the cheese layer.
While it may look like a simple piece of salmon on a skewer, you’ll be sold once you take a bite of the King Salmon Yakitori. Unbelievable tender and subtly spiced, the salmon will win over even those who generally don’t like seafood. Every dish is also a visual delight, served with cleverly carved vegetables, flowers and colorful pickled vegetables.
Flying in the face of several healthy-eating trends, Lucy’s Fried Chicken has grown wildly popular just a few years after launching in Austin. The four-piece basket features Lucy’s extra-crunchy chicken, fresh pickles and jalapenos. A side of thick mashed potatoes is also highly recommended.
For vegetarians in search of comfort food, look no further than the Massaman Curry Bowl at Bouldin Creek Cafe. Featuring a thick, mildly spicy sauce, the large bowl is packed with sesame tofu, mushrooms, diced sweet potatoes, carrots and red onions. Bouldin Creek is also one of the best overall vegetarian restaurants in Austin, so there are plenty of other vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options too.
The migas taco, with pico de gallo and avocado, was rated as one of the Top Five Tacos in America by the Food Network. The overstuffed taco also includes eggs, crunchy tortilla strips, cilantro, tomato, onion, and Monterey Jack cheese. Get the version with poblano peppers for an extra hint of smoky spiciness. La Reyna is a slightly healthier but equally tasty taco, with egg whites, spinach, jack cheese, carrots and mushrooms. The avocado salsa adds a spicy, creamy touch to any of the tacos.
The Margherita pizza is topped with Roma tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. The crust is somewhat thick but still crispy. You can buy whole pizzas or jumbo slices that are big enough for a hearty meal. At times, you may have to wait up to an hour at this buzzing South Congress joint, but the pizza is worth it. Besides, the people watching is always interesting on SoCo.
At first glance, Josie’s Enchiladas look like a plate full of chile con queso with a couple of enchiladas plopped down in the middle of it. And that’s basically what it is, with the addition of chili and onions. Scoop up the voluminous cheese and chili and make a taco out of it for an extra dose of decadence. The unsung hero of the dish is the corn tortilla that forms the outer portion of the enchilada. It’s bathed in some sort of magic sauce that gives a subtly tangy flavor that balances out the spiciness of the surrounding cheese moat.