10 Restaurants in Austin Every Culinary Arts Student Should Check Out

Discover the top ten restaurants in Austin, Texas that every culinary arts student should check out. From innovative fusion dishes to traditional Tex-Mex.

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March 5, 2024 11 min read

Austin, Texas has long been a mecca for foodies and culinary professionals thanks to the wide diversity of best-in-class cuisine the city offers. Each year, as new restaurants open and existing ones reinvent themselves, the gastronomy at play throughout Austin feels electrifying. Many in the culinary industry look toward this city to unpack all the latest innovations in the field.

There are so many great options to choose from throughout Austin’s city limits that it’s easy to get decision paralysis. In no particular order, you’ll find ten restaurants in this article that should definitely be on your list if you’re an aspiring culinarian, tourist or local.

1. Interstellar BBQ

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Austin, then you know that there are about as many barbecue restaurants as there are bats flying at night. To stand out from the rest in ATX, the best barbecue joints have drilled down and found their lanes.

Interstellar BBQ opened in 2019 in North Austin and quickly established itself as a go-to destination for barbecue in the city. Owner John Bates is a skilled pitmaster in his own right, but he’s attributed Interstellar’s success to a few simple principles: use the best wood, quality over quantity, and one batch at a time.

The menu at Interstellar BBQ is a mixture of tried and true classics like smoked brisket, pork ribs, and sausages, but all done with an extra level of flare to set them apart. Unique flavors and marinades like a peach tea glaze, gouda mac & cheese, and a sausage that riffs on jalapeno poppers are a few examples of the delectable bites Bates and his team are cooking up.

Counter service ordering gets you up close, and personal to the action, where culinary students can catch a glimpse of some established professionals at work. Interstellar’s restaurant space also accommodates both indoor and outdoor seating making it a perfect stop no matter the weather.

An art installation in Austin, TX consisting of large, colorful lower-cast letters A, T, and X.

Austin has long been home to artistic individuals, including top culinary artists.

2. Bufalina Due

If you’re looking to experience some Italian flavors while in the Lone Star state, there are plenty of options to choose from, but one gets recommended more often than the rest: Bufalina Due.

The original Bufalina opened way back in 2013 and offered amazing Neapolitan pizza at affordable prices. After some initial success, in 2016, a second location called Bufalina Due opened in East Austin and expanded upon offering outstanding wood-fired pizza.

All of Bufalina Due’s pizzas are created with fresh aromatics, locally sourced vegetables, and flavorful seasoned meats like Italian sausage, prosciutto and more. That commitment to fresh ingredients can really show culinary students what a difference it can make in flavor. The pizza’s are more than their ingredients though, Bufalina Due has gone the extra mile and invested in Stefano Ferarra wood fire ovens straight from Italy.

This restaurant consistently puts out top-of-the-line pizzas at affordable prices. In addition to their pizzas, however, are eclectic wines that, with the help of their expert sommelier, can be paired to elevate your eating experience.

3. Josephine House

There’s a wide assortment of fine-dining establishments peppered through the Austin area, making it hard to nail down where you should land. Josephine’s House is one restaurant in the city that has grown a steady following over the years and offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, making it a perfect option no matter what time of day you’re considering checking them out.

Josephine’s House is the sister restaurant to one of Austin’s top fine-dining establishments, Jeffery’s. Unlike Jefferey’s, which has been around since 1975 and carved out its place through cooking outstanding French cuisine. Josephine’s House is an experimental culinary experience that spreads its wings into various ethnic backgrounds, foods, and traditions.

The Clarksville cottage offers a charming and inviting establishment, perfect for those seeking a cozy and intimate dining or lounging experience. With its small marble bar, guests can enjoy a delightful coffee in the morning or a refreshing cocktail in the evening, all while appreciating the elegant ambiance.

Josephine House’s menu has a variety of different cuisines spanning Creole, Cajun, Italian, American traditional, and more, meaning just about any guest will have something to dig into.

4. Guero’s Taco Bar

In 1995, Cathy and Rob Lippincott seized the opportunity to expand their modest taqueria on East Oltorf by acquiring the building that would become Guero’s Taco Bar. They envisioned creating a welcoming gathering hole for Austin locals and visitors, offering authentic Mexican flavors with an inviting ambiance.

What sets Guero’s apart from some other taqueria’s in the area is the maximalist approach they’ve taken to their food offerings. Unlike many other establishments that offer a handful of fillings for their tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and other dishes, Guero’s offers 12 choices.

All of these tasty fillings are placed within handmade corn tortillas and they even have a robust salsa bar for you to load up your food with a variety of spicy toppings. Taco’s Guero’s lives up to its aspirations of being a gathering spot for people in the area thanks to offering live music Wednesday-Saturday. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hand-shaken margarita, some great Tex-Mex-inspired food, and great company no matter the day.

5. Kemuri Tatsu-ya

Japan is pretty far away from most folks’ minds when they think about Texas, but that hasn’t stopped many chefs from experimenting with Japanese cuisine in Bat City. In fact, Japanese cuisine has had something of a moment in Austin in the last decade, especially from the folks behind Kemuri Tatsu-ya.

This restaurant blends Japanese flavors and dishes with Texas’s tried and true essentials: smoke, wood, and barbecue. Before opening Kemuri, the team worked on their restaurant Ramen Tatsu-ya, which was considered the best noodle spot in the city by many. Kemuri is a dining experience you can’t get outside of Texas because it marries the two places’ cuisines so faithfully.

The restaurant itself takes a play on a rustic wooden constructed cabin feeling complete with taxidermy on the walls. But when you look closer, you’ll notice that alongside taxidermied animals is a wide array of Japanese products and creations.

Once you get over how stylish the menu design is you’ll take in just how unique their food offerings are. From a decadent chili cheese takoyaki to smoked brisket Tsuukemen ramen bowls, you’re guaranteed to not find an experience like this anywhere else.

A long exposure image of the Paramount and State theaters in Austin.

Austin’s nightlife and its restaurant scene go hand-in-hand.

6. The Peacock Mediterranean Grill

If you’re dreaming of the Mediterranean’s beautiful coast and citrusy flavors while in Austin, there is a phenomenal Mediterranean option within the gorgeous luxury property of the Proper Hotel in Austin: The Peacock Mediterranean Grill.

The Peacock offers smoky roasted meats, fluffy couscous, fresh fish, pungent feta dishes, and much more. If you’re visiting the Austin area, Proper Hotel may be on your list, and The Peacock also offers in-room dining services if you want to stay in or order food late.

While Austin has many great food options to choose from, Peacock has truly cornered the elevated Mediterranean food scene by offering fresh, regional vegetables, oak fired meats like their grilled tenderloin, and amazing desserts like their sticky toffee and date pudding.

7. Odd Duck

One of the older establishments on this list is Odd Duck, a beloved local food truck that started in 2009 and grew into a full-fledged restaurant in 2013. You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of Austin’s best restaurants and not find Odd Duck somewhere on it.

Odd Duck embodied the local adage of “keep Austin weird” by offering a playful menu of different bites that all utilized locally sourced ingredients from Austin-based farmers. Odd Duck is a go-to destination for truly experiencing Austin because of their approach to creating food that is in conversation with the local environment and moment.

Instead of forcing a menu to work for them regardless of outside influences in the area, the Odd Duck team is incredibly flexible and changes the menu frequently as new products are sourced and old ones are hard to come by. Odd Duck’s inventive menu, featuring dishes like sunchoke eclairs and trotter with attached leg, reflects a playful culinary approach that controls costs while delighting diners.

The interior of the restaurant sports a large bar for those looking to get a quick drink on a date night or before an event.

8. Franklin Barbecue

Another restaurant that came up from humble beginnings around the same time as Odd Duck is Franklin Barbecue. Nestled within Austin’s esteemed barbecue landscape, Franklin has transcended its modest trailer roots to emerge as a must-visit destination for meat lovers nationwide.

Lines at this barbecue joint are serious business; you’ll need to coordinate your day around acquiring their brisket. That said, it’s well worth your time if you’re in the area, arrive early, hungry, and equipped with a seat or distraction to get you through the long wait time.

Should the signature oak-smoked brisket—so tender it practically melts—be unavailable, rest assured that the ribs, turkey, and sausages are equally enticing alternatives. For added convenience, secure your order online and choose between the cozy indoor setting or the refreshing outdoor dining.

A large grill cooking various cuts of meat and linked sausages.

BBQ is as important in Austin as it is throughout the state of Texas.

9. Hestia

Hestia is a fine-dining restaurant that has set Austin ablaze by offering a live fire experience that lives up to its namesake (Hestia is the Greek goddess of the hearth). Located in Downtown Austin, Hestia came to be in late 2019 and marked the fifth restaurant by James Beard award finalist Chef Kevin Fink.

While Hestia is a bit more expensive than some of the other offers on this list, if you’d like to splurge while in Austin, it might be for you. Despite its towering, glassy exterior and views of Shoal Creek, Hestia offers a surprisingly cozy and inviting atmosphere inside.

Dishes are cooked over an open flame and don’t disappoint. Whether it’s the tender halibut paired with charred corn, the flavorful lion’s mane mushroom infused with blackened koji, the succulent Berkshire pork chop, or the luxurious Wagyu beef accompanied by tallow.

10. Lutie’s

It will be hard to find a more beautiful restaurant in Austin than Lutie’s. Mesmerizing checkered tiling is plastered across the ceiling and floor; there are lush dangling plants hung throughout the space, and the classic bar is complemented with green velvet chairs. Lutie’s provides a classy experience with reasonable prices.

The menu celebrates Texas Heritage cuisine, with everything crafted in-house. Enjoy garden-fresh hand-made rolls and estate-baked bread alongside flavorful dishes like New Orleans-inspired royal red shrimp with daikon and Texas beef complemented by marrow and sweet potato.

Save room for dessert, featuring indulgent treats like River Whey blue cheese paired with smoked pecans and preserved figs, as well as a delectable beeswax creme caramel.

Explore Austin’s Diverse Food Scene

As you can see from this list, Austin, Texas is a major hub for gastronomy in the United States. It makes sense that ATX is an ideal location for one of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts campuses and why it has become a beacon for people interested in culinary arts.

Austin is an amazing city for those who are looking to start a career in the culinary industry thanks to the wide variety of restaurants, businesses, local growers, and more who are doing innovative things with food. You may have the opportunity to meet many unique chefs and culinary professionals throughout the city and potentially make lifelong friends and connections for years to come, including through an industry externship all Escoffier students get to complete before graduating!

Explore Austin through its unique takes on food and you’ll be sure to find a variety of new dishes, people, and experiences you can’t get anywhere else.


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