Austin, Texas is a city full of cool murals and some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had in my life. It may not be the prettiest city or the best place to capture facades and doortraits, but the food WILL. NOT. DISAPPOINT. J(orge) and I visited Austin for the first time last week and tried 14 different delicious and cheap places in 2.5 days (mostly food trucks). There are other fun things to see if you have time to explore the city further. I’ll share more about that below.
Before we visit a new city, we both spend time doing research on where to eat, and we make a list of the standouts. I’ve learned my lesson to be prepared with a list because I’ve wasted too much time in new cities trying to figure out where to go at the last minute. Lists work! Write lists! We both love to eat and try new places, so it really sucks when we’re disappointed with a meal. Let me tell you, years into our travels we started preparing beforehand and now we’re rarely disappointed.
I search Pinterest for blogs and jot down places that I’ve seen mentioned and reviewed well. We also look at Yelp (4 stars and above only) and occasionally Tripadvisor (if the city doesn’t have Yelp).
I also check out bigger travel websites to see what they’ve written about the city, like Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Buzzfeed Travel, Thrillist, etc. J also likes watching any Anthony Bourdain shows to see his recommendations.
We never make it to every place on our list, and sometimes we end up at places we never listed, but it’s nice to have something to go off of. Good thing I made this post to save you the trouble! Save this list of best cheap eats for your next trip to Austin.
BBQ & OTHER DINNERS
La Barbecue– We were initially disappointed that Franklin’s Barbecue had a minor fire and was going to be closed during our visit to Austin. So we decided to check out La Barbecue. There’s a line but it’s worth it! It was some of the best BBQ we’ve ever had. Definitely up there with our beloved Smoque in Chicago. They were out of ribs by the time we made it to the front, but the brisket and pulled pork were fantastic! It seems like the most popular BBQ places in Texas run out of everything by 2 pm, so you’re basically forced to have BBQ for breakfast.
Mellizoz Tacos– This truck is parked right next to Gourdough’s so head over there for dessert! We only bought one taco each because how else will we try as much as possible? I got the Slow Rider and J got the Padre and both were delicious choices! Sorry I don’t have more photos of the food, but I honestly suck at food photography and I always want to eat right away.
Torchy’s Tacos– Okay, okay this place is totally not authentic Mexican food, and they do have a ton of locations now (which I usually don’t like to recommend), but the taco I chose was damn good and I can’t take that away from them. We visited the food truck location. I chose The Democrat which was stuffed with barbacoa and cotija cheese. My taco was better than J’s so we’re just going to leave it at that.
Abo Youssef– Delicious Mediterranean food out of a food truck next to a gas station. Haha!! These are things I wouldn’t trust in Chicago, but somehow I felt totally comfortable about this in Austin. We shared the mixed plate and definitely recommend it.
Smoke Shack (San Antonio)- Yes, it’s not Austin, but it’s close enough that you can squeeze it in on the same trip! We went to San Antonio for a quick day trip and had to try their BBQ. The food truck is right off the highway at a gas station. Again, the food was AMAZING. Texas sure knows their BBQ.
ALL THE SWEETS
Big Boss– When I was a little girl my mom used to buy buñuelos from the grocery store and they were my favorite! They’re like deep-fried fritters with cinnamon and sugar. Big Boss is a new food truck, and J realized they served buñuelos made from scratch! WHATTT!! I had to get them! They were only $2 and they were so so good. Go to Big Boss, get some buñuelos.
Gourdough’s– I don’t even know how to begin to explain the amazingness that is a Gourdough’s doughnut. All the hype they get is for a good reason. When you read the menu you may think, “that is way too much stuff on a doughnut!” When you actually get your order you may think, “definitely way too much stuff on a doughnut!” Bite into it, you will never see doughnuts the same way again. We tried Sara’s Joy and Funky Monkey (pictured below), and I wish we could’ve worked our way down the menu. We’ll be back Gourdough’s!
Capital City Bakery– This little bakery is within walking distance of La Barbecue. Everything is vegan. I got a cupcake that tasted like a blueberry pancake and it was the most incredible vegan cupcake I’ve ever had. You cannot tell it’s vegan. J loved it too!!
Lick Honest Ice Creams– A line out the door for this popular ice cream shop! We both really liked it. The horchata flavor was our favorite.
None of these places had coconut milk (boooo) so these reviews are all based on J’s experiences.
Houndstooth Coffee– An amazing cortado near the downtown area.
Flat Track Coffee– It was already late in the day so he ordered an horchata with a shot of espresso and loved it!
Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors– This was J’s favorite of all! Figure 8 started when two baristas (one who actually worked at Houndstooth) decided to open up their own cafe, and a star was born.
Texas Coffee Traders– This is a cool little place if your favorite souvenir to take home is coffee. It’s a roastery and they have beans from all over the world. You can taste different brews and learn about the beans before choosing some goodies to bring back.
Theory Coffee (San Antonio)- This coffee shop is a food truck parked right behind Smoke Shack. It has amazing reviews so J wanted to try it and he really liked it, so much so that we bought a bag to bring home because we didn’t already have enough coffee.
Also check out Graffiti Park
Like I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t much for me to capture in Austin besides murals and food, but a cool spot I recommend is Hope Gallery aka Graffiti Park. It’s a unique thing to see and it’s fun to read the stuff people have written on the walls. You can even grab a spray can and add your own art.
And day trip to San Antonio
San Antonio is only about an hour drive from Austin. I’ve been wanting to see their Riverwalk so we made our way over. The walk is beautiful and a lot bigger than I expected. After a while though I couldn’t handle the heat. It was around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was getting so flustered. I took a few more photos and we headed back to Austin.
Do you have any great places to add because we already know we’ll be going back to Austin? Let me know in the comments!
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