As Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) continues to grow, so do its food and drink offerings. But what makes this airport stand out is the fact that there are few national chains, and no celebrity chef restaurants or predictable options. Every single one of these eateries is Austin born and raised, so even if you are just in transit, you can still get a true taste of our exciting dining scene.
Courtesy of Parkside
Chef Shawn Cirkiel comes from many generations of Austinites, as evident in the many family photographs that adorn the AUS outpost of his successful Downtown restaurant. At this mini version of his Texas bistro, you can have avocado toast or a classic egg breakfast plate, slurp down some oysters or ceviche, or try the famous cheeseburger. Cocktails, local beer and a nice wine selection are available.
One of the first proper restaurants to open an airport location, Second is known for its thin crust pizzas and the Congress burger, but the menu is varied and ranges from small bites like veal meatballs with marinara to blistered shishitos and the awesome buffalo fried pickles. Early risers will find good breakfast options and a very tasty Bloody Mary.
One of Austin’s most iconic barbecue brands, the Salt Lick has been serving smoked meats for decades at the original location in Driftwood, and while you won’t get the rustic countryside atmosphere here, you can still get some killer meat plates, chopped brisket sandwiches and breakfast tacos. A standout is the wine bar, which offers vino from Salt Lick Cellars and other nearby wineries like Duchman and Fall Creek, available by the glass or bottle.
Courtesy of Haymaker
This outpost of the popular east side sports pub serves some of the same comfort foods - big and burly open-faced sandwiches on Texas toast, burgers, and the poutine that put the neighborhood spot on the map. It opens at 5 am with breakfast offerings, and just like the original, it boasts a full bar with 12 craft beers on tap including local favorites.
The airport location of the all-day diner on Lamar Boulevard inspired by the classic diners of the ’50s does not serve 24 hours, but you can enjoy traditional egg plates starting at 7 am, with chef-inspired comfort food for lunch and dinner. Expect burgers, sandwiches, and their famous fried chicken and waffles, plus coffee, local brews, and a full bar.
Sure, you can have a slice of pizza at the Austin airport, but it won’t be from a chain. Local favorite East Side Pies purveys their wonderfully crunchy, thin-crust pizzas topped with a variety of eclectic sauces and classic ingredients. You can pick from the menu or use the build-your-own system, grab a small pie to go and be the envy of the neighbors on rows nearby.
After closing the original Downtown location, this upscale travel agency slash coffee and wine bar opened a small outpost at AUS, offering organic coffees, small-batch boutique wines, artisan chocolates and cheeses, gourmet sandwiches and veggie wraps, and delicious desserts. Departure Lounge is a good option to sit in the comfy chairs with a cup of joe, sit at the bar for a cocktail, or grab your lunch and go.
Tacodeli. Credit Kevin Marple
Mexico City native Roberto Espinosa opened this “farm-to-taco” shop in 1999, serving fare that fuses Mexican flavors with Austin’s friendly vibe. Tacodeli collaborates with over 20 local farmers, ranchers and fishermen across Texas, including Certified Humane®, pasture-raised eggs from Vital Farms for their breakfast tacos. Although the menu at AUS offers only a fraction of the menu of regular shops, the choices are solid, and you can still get the fiery Salsa Doña to spice up your tacos.
What started as a food truck serving Asian and Southern-inspired tacos and sliders is now an food emporium, with multiple trucks, catering services and one Austin’s favorite restaurant bars. Although the menu is limited at the Peached Tortilla airport location, you can still enjoy fun, adventurous signature dishes like Chinese barbecue chicken tacos, Korean steak served atop jasmine rice with arugula, avocado, tomatillo salsa, cotija, pickled red onions, and fried shallots.
When the beloved retro burger joint closed its doors after 80 years in business, Austinites lamented the loss of yet another iconic restaurant. Thankfully, a small version opened at AUS with the same old school diner feel, down to the checkerboard floors. Menu includes their famed burgers alongside tacos and chicken fried steaks, plus old-fashioned milkshakes and root beer floats.
Contributed by Claudia Alarcón
Mexican by birth, Austinite by choice, Claudia has been immersed in the city’s food and beverage scene since her arrival in 1984. After years of working in restaurants she started writing about them in 2000, and has seen the growth transformation of the dining scene from the beginning. In her sparse spare time, she watches futbol, tends her garden, and is an active dog rescue advocate. She lives in South Austin with her fur babies, Benji and Eddie.