Meg's Guide to Eating Austin Before the Boom

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2 sections and 19 activities Icon location Austin, TX, USA
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Austin has exploded and continues to do so. Living there at the beginning of that boom, the food provided the stable base on which all other culture rested. With more and more out there to experience, don't forget to experience these stalwart places on which the food culture now stands.


These are the go to spots of the 2000s.


Icon location Polvos, 2004 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704, USA

The place for authentic tex mex, great margaritas and breakfast. They have delicious agua fresca, homemade salsa bar, handmade tortillas, and the best picadillo taco in town.

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Curra's Grill

Icon location Curra's Grill, 614 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704, USA

Slightly out of downtown in the "78704", they have yummy salsas and a strange and wonderful avocado margarita with the best vegetarian refried black beans in the city. The tacos are great, the porch is authentic regional tex mex.

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El Chile

Icon location El Chile Cafe y Cantina, 1809 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722, United States

This is a cool little Tex-Mex joint on the East Side. Everything is good. Corn tortillas are good. If you go for brunch, they have Chilaquiles, which is a must try Mexican breakfast. That and/or migas. Chilaquiles are homemade corn tortilla strips fried, then topped with homemade salsa and mexican cheese. Served with beans and eggs. So great. Migas are spicy eggs (with various kinds of chiles) scrambled with corn tortillas, cheese, onion, sometimes tomatoes, and you eat it in a four tortilla topped with salsa. You can get migas at most Tex-mex joints that serve breakfast.

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Maria's Taco Express

Icon location Taco Xpress, 2529 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704, USA

ery, very funky little taco place in South Austin (but super close to the city). One of the first taco places I ate at when we lived in Austin the first time. Been around forever. Has a huge statue of a woman with her arms up to make the top of the “X” in express. Very strange and cool. Great simple homemade pico de gallo. Excellent breakfast tacos (and cheap) anytime of day. Personally, I don’t like how they do migas, but some people prefer their style. I think they are a bit dry. Everything else is excellent. I think they still do a crazy drag queen bingo there that could be fun to see. The key word is funky.

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Taco Deli

Icon location Tacodeli, 1500 Spyglass Dr, Austin, TX 78746, USA

Amazing tacos. So so good. Crazy creamy hot pepper sauce that is so addictive. I have heard that it is just oil, garlic, and blended hot peppers (no dairy) but it is crazy good and hot. They only problem is that taco deli is not downtown, so you’d have to make an effort to get there. The one on Spyglass Dr. is the closest. I think it was the original. Their mojo fish tacos, akaushi picadillo tacos, and fundido chicken tacos are crazy good.

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Icon location Chuy's, 1728 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704, USA

They have many locations but the one on Barton Springs is closest to town. This is a chain but is also good and funky. Has an Elvis flair and is always jam packed cause the food is good and consistent. Probably my favorite salsa ever. I crave it and wish I could replicate it. More of a lunch or dinner place. Homemade warm and thin chips to go with the salsa. Great enchiladas and specials and something called the Elvis Presley Memorial Special that may involve fried chicken. Cool and kooky t-shirts, too.

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Icon location Jo's Coffee, 242 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701, USA

Excellent coffee and breakfast tacos. That’s all I need to say. Right across from the W hotel. Good shopping on that block and across the street from there. An awesome Design Within Reach store in the same 1 block building. Paul and I lived upstairs from Jos for a few years in the AMLI lofts that are above. The lady that started this place also owns the amazing Hotel San Jose. Lots of celebs stay there. It is a funky luxury motel if you can wrap your head around that. It would be cool for you guys to go there to check it out and just have a drink by the pool. I know you are staying at the Driscoll this time, but maybe stake it out for next time. Liz Lambert is the owner and you can get her cool story. They made a documentary about her. She bought this place when it was a slum motel with people that lived there and paid week to week when they could. Instead of displacing them, she found homes for all of the residents there before redoing the motel to make it what it is today. Very cool Austin story.

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Joe's Mexican Bakery

Icon location Joe's, 2305 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702, USA

More authentic Mexican food. Breakfast all day. Yummy Mexican baked goods. On the East Side of town. The two Mexican nurses I used to work with at Texas Orthopaedics told me about this place and said it was really authentic Mexican breakfast. Very very good. Kind of a dive. Possibly with bars over the windows, but not an unsafe place to go. Don’t let that scare you away.

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La Mexicana

Icon location La Mexicana Bakery, 1924 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704, USA

Yummy coffee and pastries. Very authentic. I am pretty sure they do breakfast tacos too. No habla Englais.

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Icon location Moonshine Grill, 303 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701, USA

Walkable from anywhere downtown. Great brunch and Bloody Mary. Gets very crowded though.

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The Salt Lick

Icon location Pecan Grove, Farm to Market Rd 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619, USA

This is an all afternoon experience. It is probably a 20 minute drive out of town (but a neat one). It gives you a good idea of what life is like out of downtown. Here is the address: 18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619. Their sauce is my favorite. A little bit sweeter than traditional Texas sauce. Has some mustard in it, too. Meat is delicious.

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Worst BBQ in Texas

Icon location Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q, 11570 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78759, USA

You can’t go wrong with Rudys. Their brisket is phenomenal. Sauce is traditional and good. Meet is served by the pound and they have no plates. just squares of waxed white paper. They give you half loaves of white bread and the pickles and onions are serve yourself. Most are connected to gas stations. It is a great place. Good to sit out family style on the picnic tables outside.

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Icon location Stubb's Bar-B-Q, 801 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701, USA

More of a cool outdoor live music venue. We saw Clap your Hands and Say Yeah, Wilco, Everclear, and some other bands there that I can’t remember right now. Point is, it is a cool outdoor music venue. Small, too and walkable from your hotel. Also have an awesome thing called Gospel Brunch, where a live gospel choir sings while you eat BBQ and drink from their cool make your own bloody mary bar. Or go at night and listen to music and you can eat dinner there first. Food is good, too.

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Icon location Lamberts, 401 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701, USA

Walkable. Great fresh and local. Some BBQ and some wood fired stuff. Creative. Possibility of live music upstairs. Great atmosphere.

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Icon location Ring Side at Sullivans, 300 Colorado St, Austin, TX 78701, USA

downtown near 4th street. Delicious. Best steak I’ve ever had. Expensive, but worth it. Wedge salad rocks. A real Texas-style steak joint with white tablecloths, great martinis, excellent service, and you can wear jeans and cowboy boots to eat there. 300 Colorado Street

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Places to shop when you are between eating sessions.

Design Within Reach

Icon location Design Within Reach, 11800 Domain Blvd #170, Austin, TX 78758, USA

While you're eating drinking coffee, indulging on tacos, and sipping Mexican Martinis, why not have a look at some of the world's best furniture.

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South Congress

Icon location Austin, TX, USA

Funky cool shops featuring clothing, toys, furniture, and jewelry. Including Allen’s Boots and Black Mail, this is one of the two "Keep Austin Weird" shopping districts.

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High End Shopping

Icon location The Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Austin, TX 78758, USA

Luxury outdoor shopping mall up north with Neiman Marcus, Diesel, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Burberry, etc.

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South Lamar Shops

Icon location S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX, USA

There's a bunch of shops all around South Lamar near the Whole Foods headquarters. From By George to Amy's Ice cream, this is one of the two "Keep Austin Weird" shopping districts.

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