July 21, 2015

As those who call the city home have known for some time, Austin, Texas, is a food town. From barbecue to Tex Mex, fine dining and cocktails, there’s something to satisfy every palate in the Austin culinary arts scene. But in case anyone needed some more proof that the Southern Texas town is churning out great food, Austin was recently named “America’s Next Great Food Town” by Travel + Leisure magazine.

As reporter Peter Jon Lindberg pointed out in his profile of the city, Austin is the second-fastest growing city in America, second only to Raleigh, North Carolina. Nearly 200 people move to Austin every day, which may account for the recent influx of innovative new chefs and restaurateurs. Paul Qui, the Houston native who moved to Austin before becoming a local hero by winning “Top Chef,” said that while the city was not his first choice for a permanent home, it’s the best decision he’s ever made.

“My plan was to save some money and move to New York,” Qui told Travel + Leisure. “But then I started seeing Austin’s potential, the passion of the people I worked with – and suddenly my mindset switched. Spending my whole career here? I’ve met more chefs and restaurateurs I admire than I would have if I’d moved away.”

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Part of the appeal of Austin that led to being honored by Travel + Leisure is that the city has begun to embrace the state around it and take advantage of the agricultural resources Texas has to offer, as well as long-standing cooking traditions created within the state. While Austin once considered itself separate from the rest of Texas – “in it, but not of it” – food has started to break down the barriers that caused the city to be seen as an isolated case within the state.

According to Bryce Gilmore, chef and owner of two of Austin’s best dining spots, Odd Duck and Barley Swine, the increased interaction between Austin chefs and farmers and ranchers around Texas has created “a vast improvement in the quality of ingredients.”

So which Austin hot spots are making the most of this newfound collaboration and bringing sweet eats to the masses? Travel + Leisure believed the restaurants below stood out above the rest, and we do too:

  • Franklin BBQ.
  • Qui.
  • Uchi.
  • Lenoir.
  • Contigo.
  • Gardner.
  • Otoko.