10 Dishes Every Real Austinite Must Eat

Required noshing for all local food lovers
January 22, 2018
by Veronica Meewes

According to the city demographer, 159 people move to Austin each day. And since no one wants to be the new kid in town for too long, all these Californians newcomers are eager to dive in and call themselves locals as soon as possible. The best way to become legit? Nosh your way around town, using this list as a guide. Trying all 10 dishes won't guarantee you Austinite status, but it's a (delicious) start.

Frito pie at Lamberts Downtown Barbeque
Anyone who grew up in Texas is familiar with the delightful culinary invention known as Frito pie (which is not actually a pie, but a pile of chili and accoutrements atop Fritos — sometimes even served right out of the bag). But for a real high-class version, try the breakfast Frito pie served at Lamberts for brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays. The salty corn chips arrive toasted and topped with chopped beef, queso, chevre, pico de gallo, cilantro and a poached egg. Try the pie (sans egg) for $5 while enjoying $5 margaritas and listening to free live music on Saturday nights between 10 and 11 PM. It doesn't get much more Austin than that.

401 W. 2nd St.; 512-494-1500

Photo credit: Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches

Kolache at Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches
You can't call yourself an Austinite until you've had a proper kolache, which is a donutlike Czech pastry filled with everything from fruit to sausage. (The savory versions are technically called "koblasniky" but still primarily known as kolache here in Austin.) Some of the best in town can be found at Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches, where traditional flavors come with a twist — like brisket, Swiss and pickles or peanut butter and jelly. We bet you can't eat just one!

3220 Manor Rd.; 512-401-3025

Credit: Robert Lerma

Barbecue at La Barbecue
While braving the five-hour line at Franklin is indeed a rite of passage all Austinites must experience, follow the locals to La Barbecue to get your hands on some of the city's best 'cue with just a fraction of the wait (we're talking one-and-a-half to two hours maximum — and much less if you're lucky). And though the brisket and the beef rib are both essential menu items here, you can also choose from a variety of over-the-top 'cue sandwiches, like El Sancho Loco, a potato bun stacked with brisket, pulled pork, sausage and pickled red onions.

2027 E. Cesar Chavez St.; 512-605-9696

Credit: Torchy's Tacos

Green chile queso at Torchy's Tacos
​So you're from the Midwest and you think you've had queso? Do yourself a favor and get to Torchy's immediately for a bowl of this melty goodness topped with chunks of avocado, spicy diablo sauce, queso fresco and cilantro. It speaks for itself and teaches a very important lesson in Texas 101: Not all melted cheese is created equal.

Multiple locations

Credit: Veracruz All Natural

Migas taco at Veracruz All Natural
Newcomers be advised: There are some very strong taco opinions around these parts. However, most people can agree that Veracruz makes some of the best, especially when it comes to breakfast tacos. Don't even consider claiming Austinite status until you've had the cheesy migas, topped with avocado and accompanied by the freshest salsa.

Multiple locations

Credit: Veronica Meewes

​Churros at Churro Co.
In Austin, you'll find plenty of food ideas borrowed from our neighbors to the south but given a Texas twist... and the churros at Churro Co. are the perfect example of that. The South 1st Street food trailer has perfectly engineered its churro to be crunchy on the outside and soft inside, so it's a delight even on its own (or with a side of cajeta). But because everything's bigger in Texas, you can also order creations like the Campfire (above), which comes topped with Mexican chocolate sauce, graham crackers, whipped cream and torched marshmallows.

1906 S. 1st St.; 512-905-5267

Credit: Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Burger and fries at Hopdoddy Burger Bar
​While there are plenty of great old-school places to grab a burger in Austin, Hopdoddy quickly rose to Shake Shack status when it opened in 2010. Now with multiple locations, you won't necessarily need to line up to get one of its juicy, grass-fed burgers and fresh-cut fries. But it'll sure taste just as good when you wrap your hands around it and take a bite.

Multiple locations

Credit: Lobo Sucio Creative

Tonkotsu original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya 
There's fantastic ramen to be enjoyed in New York, LA, DC, San Francisco and beyond, but local fans of rich tonkotsu broth will be hard-pressed to find a better rendition than the one at Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Head to the tiny flagship shop in a strip mall or the larger location on South Lamar, and come with an appetite.

Multiple locations

Credit: Kenny Braun Photography

Chicken-fried steak at Jack Allen's Kitchen
Sure, there are plenty of places to find a chicken-fried steak in Austin, and you should most definitely experience it at old-school joints like Hill's Cafe and The Frisco. But when it comes to quality, you can't beat Jack Allen's Kitchen, which promises "chicken fried anything." Beyond chicken-fried New York strip, you can also opt for chicken breast, pork — and it's the only spot in town to order a battered and gravy-slathered chicken-fried beef rib.

Multiple locations

Credit: Chi'Lantro

Kimchi fries at Chi'Lantro
​These flavor-packed cheesy kimchi fries, drizzled with Sriracha and magic sauce, became another new Austin classic when Chi'Lantro opened its very first truck in 2009. Now a Downtown bar crawl isn't complete without an order — and we dare you to make it through the next South by Southwest without eating them at least once.

Multiple locations

east austin
south austin
north austin
breakfast tacos
frito pie