Austin-based writer and artist Austin Kleon caught my attention when he mentioned me in a reply on Twitter. One of his Twitter followers (let’s call them friends) is visiting Austin and expressed an interest in sampling our barbecue and Mexican food. As for fine dining, she already had reservations for Uchi, which I would recommend to any first-time visitor (there and/or Barley Swine).
So, let’s turn our attention toward barbecue and Mexican food, the two things for which the city is probably now best known. Since this was originally written for an out-of-towner, most of choices are centrally located.
For barbecue, the brisket at Franklin Barbecue has few equals, but the line can take a huge bite out of your day, and if your time is limited, you may want to go with other options. In that case I’d recommend going to La Barbecue for brisket, and the cayenne and tumeric sting of spicy hot-guts sausage made with beef liver, beef heart, ground brisket and fatty brisket trimmings. Also of note: the best pulled pork in town.
If you want a taste of the hot-and-fast (relatively) treatment of brisket, go attack the peppery bark surrounding John Mueller’s brisket and beef rib at J. Mueller Meat Co. on East Sixth Street. As an added bonus: you get to experience a truly colorful Texas character with a lineage in Central Texas barbecue that goes back to his grandfather, the legendary Louie Mueller of Taylor.
For more sausage, head to the Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer for a rotating selection of encased meats that one day may feature pork-and-beef kielbasa seasoned with garlic, mustard and mace and a fierce pork jalapeno sausage the next. (Also: Make sure you try dessert.) If it’s fowl you’re after, go get the bronzed barbecue chicken from Brown’s BBQ on South Lamar. And, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ can take care of both cuisines at once. Their chopped smoked brisket taco, served on a bubbled tortilla that balances fluff and crunch, comes dressed with a serrano-tinged red salsa and a smooth dollop of guacamole. Best of both worlds. If you want to get out of the elements, grab a nice cocktail, some excellent brisket and catch a glimpse of the University of Texas, hit Freedmen’s.
Mexican food (and Tex-Mex), we could talk for hours here.
Al pastor tacos from the tiny El Primo trailer on South First Street … no frills, no ambiance, lots of friendliness and flavor.
Cochinita pibil and an avocado margarita at Curra’s Grill in South.
Shrimp fajitas and a great salsa bar at Polvo’s.
Chicken mole and guacamole at El Borrego de Oro on South Congress Avenue.
Interior classics like chile poblano relleno de picadillo Oaxaqueno from Mexican chef Iliana de la Vega at the handsome El Naranjo in the Rainey Street district.
Tuna toastadas, ceviche and arabicos tacos at La Condesa.
The best migas taco in town from Veracruz All-Natural trailer on East Cesar Chavez Street.
Pescado empapelado at La Catedral de Marisco on East Cesar Chavez Street.
Quesadilla with huitlacoche and huarache Maria at Licha’s Cantina.
Brunch at the legendary Fonda San Miguel.
Akaushi picadillo and papadulce tacos at Taco Deli.
Puerco en pipian and rajas y hongos at Papalote.
And … I think she mentioned something about drinking alcoholic beverages outdoors.
Craft cocktails and cold beer at Ranch-style restaurant Contigo in East Austin.
Craft cocktails and cold beer at Whisler’s in East Austin (maybe after a bite at Licha’s Cantina).
Wine on the back lawn at the Four Seasons downtown.
Craft cocktails at Half Step on Rainey Street (maybe after a visit to El Naranjo).
Mescal-based cocktail at Licha’s Cantina (maybe before or after or during dinner there).
The outdoor seating area of the elegant Bar Congress for great cocktails and people watching.
A cold drink of your choice on the patio at Perla’s, great for Congress Avenue people watching.
House-brewed beers at ABGB off Oltorf Street.
Craft cocktails at Wonderland in East Austin.
The classic margarita at La Condesa (with those tuna toastadas and ceviche).
All of the beers at Draught House.
Anything on the balcony of the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue.