10 Chain Dishes We Secretly Love in Austin
As Austin continues to grow exponentially, we're seeing out-of-state food businesses pop up all over town, from regional chains like Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken to the highly anticipated VooDoo Donuts that opened on Sixth Street this past year. One thing that remains unchanged is our city's undying support of local businesses, from fast casual to fine dining. But even the most die-hard, grassroots diners indulge in a chain meal every now and then. Here are 10 of our favorites, both local and national.
Honey butter chicken biscuit (Photo courtesy of Whataburger)
Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit from Whataburger
In Texas, Whataburger is more of a religion than a fast-food restaurant. Ask any born-and-raised Texan what their favorite menu item is and you'll likely be met with a more detailed analysis than you needed. One must-try is the honey butter chicken biscuit served for breakfast: impossibly crispy chicken tenders doused in a silky honey butter atop a biscuit that puts Popeye's to shame. You might be so hooked, you'll want a custom pair of Whataburger Nikes.
Beef and Lamb Kebap from VertsKebap
Since VertsKebap started in Austin in 2011, they've quickly grown to 29 locations and are planning on opening in Boston, New York and DC this summer. Stop in for one of their kebaps to see why the healthy, fast-casual restaurant saw such immediate success. Our favorite is the beef and lamb on crunchy, chewy kebap bread, stuffed with a melange of fresh veggies (cabbage, carrot slaw, bell peppers, cilantro, tomatoes) and drizzled with tzatziki and spicy sauce.
Beef and lamb kebap with fries (Photo courtesy of VertsKebap)
Double cheeseburger and fries from P. Terry's
Long before we had Hopdoddy, In-n-Out Burger and Shake Shack, there was P. Terry's. Ever since the first location opened on Barton Springs and Lamar in 2005, the burger stand has been drawing in the masses, like a retro turquoise and red beacon, for its juicy all-natural Black Angus burgers and fresh-cut fries. Order the double cheeseburger combo; it's pretty much a rite of passage to living in Austin. Add one of their thick milkshakes and now you're L-I-V-I-N.
Shack-cago dog from Shake Shack
One bite of the Shack-cago Dog and you will understand how Shake Shack's humble start as a hot dog cart launched it into the worldwide phenomenon it is now. The all-natural, all-beef frank is sliced open and griddled on the flat-top before it is "dragged through the garden," as they say, with all the classic toppings of a Chicago dog (onion, tomato, relish, mustard, pickles, celery salt), then served on a Martin's potato roll.
Shake Shack Shack-cago dog and fries (Photo by Evan Sung)
Tortilla soup from Chuy's
Since the first Chuy's opened in Austin in 1982, the 1950s-themed Tex-Mex chain has grown to over 50 locations across the U.S., primarily in the Southern states. While diners go crazy for their queso and quesadillas, we can't get enough of the hearty tortilla soup, filled with juicy shredded chicken, chile peppers, corn, tomatoes and avocado suspended in golden chicken broth and topped with a sprinkle of cilantro and crunchy tortilla strips.
Queso from Torchy's Tacos
In Austin, there are plenty of taquerias from which to choose, including some delicious family-owned roadside trailers and hole-in-the-wall shops. But nobody has the massive (sometimes burrito-size!), flavor-packed tacos you'll find at Torchy's, nor the positively addictive queso. One experience with this dreamy melted cheese will have you hooked for life. Not only is the cheese blend super creamy and smooth, but it's filled with green chiles, then topped with a scoop of guacamole, a sprinkle of queso fresco and a drizzle of "diablo" hot sauce.
Tortilla soup (Photo courtesy of Chuy's Tex-Mex)
Strawberries Romanoff from La Madeleine
The craveable favorite from this Dallas-based French chain isn't the croque monsieur or the beef bourguignon, but rather the simple strawberries Romanoff, a bowl of fresh berries topped with a sweet brandy sour cream sauce and cinnamon.
Hash browns from Waffle House
When Sean Brock took Anthony Bourdain to Waffle House for the first time this fall on Parts Unknown, he was just enforcing what the rest of us in the South have known for years: there is nothing quite like the restaurant's hash browns, especially when the finely grated potatoes are "smothered" (with onions), "covered" (with cheese), and "capped" (with mushrooms).
BLT and hash browns (Photo courtesy of Waffle House)
Blizzard from Dairy Queen
A Texas road trip simply wouldn't be complete without a stop at Dairy Queen for a creamy blizzard, chock full of toppings of your choice, like cookie dough, brownies, peanut butter cups, pecan clusters and more. And no matter how many you add, the creamy soft-serve still manages to hold its shape, as exhibited by the cashiers, who flip it over demonstratively each time.
Lobster Lover's Dream from Red Lobster
We didn't need Beyonce's endorsement to know Red Lobster is delicious (though the shout-out in her new song did increase Super Bowl sales by 33%!). The addictive Cheddar Bay biscuits are best enjoyed all year round, but Lobster Fest comes but once a year — and happens to be going on right now. Pay a visit to indulge in over-the-top dishes like the Lobster Lover's Dream pictured below: rock lobster tail and sweet split Maine lobster tail, roasted and served with lobster-and-shrimp linguini Alfredo.
Lobster Lover's Dream (Photo courtesy of Red Lobster)