Austin may be on the tip of everyone's tongue after the Top Chef: Texas win heard round the country from Paul Qui, executive chef at Uchiko, or because of the buzz generated by our very own James Beard award nominee and former Iron Chef America competitor, chef David Bull, whose recently launched Warehouse District venture Congress has already been granted five star acclaim from three pronged fork hoisting culinary critics. The truth is that our city's fare has been steadily gaining national platform popularity for the past few decades thanks to celeb start-ups like Sandra Bullock's Bess Bistro, visits from renowned food personalities and the wagging tongues of travelers reporting back to their hometowns.
Our menus are still memorable thanks to celebrated staples like breakfast tacos from east side favorite Juan in a Million or Torchy's Tacos, as well as Tex-Mex treats paired with top shelf pitchers of margaritas at off the beaten path places like the patio of Polvos on South 1st Street. Then there are the water-front locales for the boat riding flip-flop set, like family-favorite Hula Hut on Lake Austin or the Lake Travis situated, "sunset capital of Texas", the Oasis. And lest we forget our bib-required BBQ at laid-back locales like the newest lick your fingers favorite Franklin Barbecue, the likes of where the owners are greeted daily with throngs of ravenous brisket addicts, lining up fifty deep for a fix before the owners put the "Sorry, Sold Out! Come Back Soon" sign on the door.
But as of late, the creative chefs and ambitious restaurateurs within our city limits have upped the appetite ante with inventive cuisine to appeal to cross-genre cravings, resulting in fusion-inspired feasts all across town. Pull up a chair at Elizabeth Street Cafe, opened by Larry McGuire of Lamberts bbq fame, to experience French-Vietnamese plates, get courageous with delicacies like grilled sweetbreads at Barley Swine, or follow the sounds of deer antler beer spouts being tapped at al fresco dining detour Contigo, where ox tongue slider starters set you off on a taste journey you've never traveled.
But always conscious of our reputation for southern hospitality, for every experimental offering comes a tried and true palate pleaser, like the pecan wood smoked primed angus rib-eye from fine-dining destination Hudson's on the Bend, a romantic Hill Country hideaway to wine and dine. For an in-town option, consider a finely-crafted dinner and drink combo at downtown hotspot and another James Beard award nominee, La Condesa, and the adjacent bar, Malverde, both perfect spots to people watch while sipping from a tempting libation list stacked with over 100 varieties of 100% blue agave tequila.
But the brick and mortar businesses are only half the fun; no Austin visit is complete without a park-and-eat experience at any of our many personality-plus food truck and trailer venues. From gourmet donuts the size of your torso at Gourdoughs to savory spatula sensations from Flip Happy Crepes, our city's ongoing conversation now has a culinary accent that is so much more flavored than a predictable Texas twang.