Cover Tamales and tacos at Tamale House East (Photo: Cleo Von Siebenthal)

How to go beyond barbecue in the Lone Star State

Over the years, Austin has grown out of its love affair with smoky barbecue and cheesy Tex-Mex fare. While the city still offers incredible options in the two categories, folks in Austin really strive to keep things weird, bringing life to a maturing culinary climate where fine dining garners as much attention as the certified classics. It’s consistently ranked one of the fastest growing cities in the country with stylish hotels, quirky shops and cutting edge restaurants sprouting up at unprecedented rates. The eclectic dining scene is growing as quickly as its population with an extremely high food per capita ratio, so skip the decision-making anxiety and turn to this guide for every spot that’s worth your time. And with SXSW—one of the biggest events of the year for Austin—cancelled for 2020, it's important to not forget about the many exceptional restaurants and bars that need your support more than ever.

See also: A Food Lover's Guide To The World

Start the day at... Tamale House East

You wouldn’t be doing Austin justice if you didn’t begin at least one day with breakfast tacos, and locals would agree that Tamale House East is one of the best places to do so. The legendary Tex-Mex eatery is outfitted with a lush garden patio, mosaic-tiled tabletops and a fountain, transporting diners to a dreamy oasis where they can enjoy fully loaded tacos and steaming, stuffed tamales. To avoid making a tough decision, opt for the #5 taco, which covers all of the bases with the combination of fried potato, fluffy egg, bacon and cheese. Top the tacos off with the house special creamy green salsa and cool your mouth down with a cup of horchata cold brew.

1707 E 6th St, Austin, Texas, 78702; (512) 495-9504

For a true local flavour, try… Dai Due

If locally sourced is what you want, locally sourced is what you’ll get at Dai Due, an all-day restaurant and butcher shop that’s all about the finest meats married with the freshest ingredients, all of which come from within a couple of hundred miles radius of the restaurant. It’s a butcher shop and cafe by day, and a self-proclaimed “Supper Club” by night, where a meat-heavy menu is accompanied by nightly specials. Sunday nights are tallow-fried chicken night with all the fixings, and some say they make the best in all of Austin. The 60oz Giant Beef Rib is not to be missed, as well as their juicy glazed pork chop. Even the roast chicken is memorable.

2406 Manor Rd, Austin, Texas, 78722; (512) 524-0688.

For proper BBQ, head to... La Barbecue

While everyone in Austin will be flocking to the famous Franklin’s, skip the four hour wait and head to La Barbecue, which is equally (if not better) than Austin’s golden child BBQ joint. You’ll definitely have to wait at La Barbecue, but the wait is more tolerable thanks to indoor lines (air conditioning!) and seating, 20+ beers on tap, wine and coffee. Owned by the granddaughter of legendary smoked meat legend, Louie Mueller, La Barbecue specialises in Central Texas-style barbecue, which means meats slathered in savory rubs. Brisket, pulled pork, its famous pork and beef ribs and sausage are sold by the pound and can be turned into sandwiches. Pro-tip: skip the line completely by ordering ahead of time.

2027 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 605-9696.

Get comfortable with the locals at... Lenoir

Prepare to be dazzled at Lenoir, a restaurant that many consider to be Austin’s most charming restaurant. There’s a lot to love about it, from its rustic and chic candle-lit interior built mainly with recycled materials to its backyard wine garden that doubles as an enchanted forest you’ll never want to leave. Start your evening in the wine garden, where drinks and nibbles are served, before migrating indoors to the cozy, bohemian dining room where you’ll be seated at either a private or communal table. While an a la carte menu is available, opt for the prix-fix daily menu, which remains one of the best deals in the city at $60 per person for four courses. Be sure to make reservations early, as there are only around thirty seats.

1807 S 1st St, Austin, Texas, 78704; (512) 215-9778.

Grab a drink at… Whisler's

Whisler’s is the complete package. The rustic bar may look like an abandoned building to some, but don’t be mistaken: it stirs, shakes and pours some of the best and most potent cocktails in town. More than 50,000 Whisler’s Old Fashioneds are sold a year, so trust and go for that if you can’t land on something enticing on the rotating seasonal cocktail menu. The atmospheric space strikes a perfect balance with its intimate interior and energetic outdoor patio. On the second level of the building, you’ll find Mezcalería Tobalá, a hidden bar that serves mezcal on Friday and Saturday nights. Wildly popular food truck parks out by the patio and operates seven days a week, serving Asian dishes such as khao man gai, crispy pork wontons and Thai grilled pork meatballs.

1816 E 6th St, Austin, Texas, 78702; (512) 480-0781.

Bring home a taste of Austin from... Lammes Candies

You’d be missing out if you went home without a box or two of Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines from Lammes Candies, a family owned and operated confectionery that has been around since 1885. The cheerful old-school candy shop launched their pralines after seven years of recipe tinkering, and apparently the recipe hasn’t changed since it was developed in 1892. Made from pecans gathered from trees along the Colorado river, the Texas Chewie is Lammes’ number one best seller, with over 2,000 pounds produced daily. The candies can be found at multiple Lammes locations in the city, as well as at souvenir and gift shops. Ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction.

5330 Airport Blvd, Austin, Texas, 78751; (512) 453-2899.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.