Initially, this list started out as a top twenty, and as challenging as it was to pare it down to just nine restaurants, it seemed to prove a point that the East Side is surely Austin’s most packed pocket of incredible food – its expansion a playground for chefs of all backgrounds. Comprehensively, this guide gives you a little bit of everything: the classics to the unconventional, the stand-out dishes to the cannot-misses. You’re bound to find the perfect taco, slice, beef rib, or something tasty undiscovered along the way.
Austin is a BBQ mecca, and those who count the city as home are well aware. And the spot that reigns supreme on the East Side? Micklethwait Craft Meats. You really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu (that frequently sells out), with all meats being cooked in an indirect-heat pit, giving their meat their signature oaky flavor. Ball out on their brisket, beef ribs, and jalapeno cheese grits, but stay for their signature housemade “craft” sausage – some of the favorites are their Tex-Czech and Beirwurst.
For some food trucks, less can mean more, and for this Rosewood gem, their one signature taco, tacos de discada, slams it out of the park. Exploding onto the Austin taco scene in 2018, childhood friends and co-owners Chef Xose Velasco, Sean Donahue, and Anthony Pratto serve up these mini tacos, humbly out of their white trailer, along with fresh, house-roasted elote. The signature marinated beef, pork, and savory vegetables are cooked in seven flavorful layers in their self-deemed “cowboy wok,” which was traditionally a plow disc from a tractor.
Say it with me: KOROKKAAAYYY. Feels pretty good, right? Tastes even better. This Japanese croquette with panko, potato, chashu, and house katsu sauce is just one of the many spectacular sides that Austin’s mainstay ramen shop has to offer. Of course, the ramen is spectacular too. As an exclusively dine-in establishment since opening in 2012, it took a global pandemic for them to unleash the to-go menu, and Austinites have been ever-grateful since.
The perfect addition to a Sunday morning neighborhood stroll, this Cherrywood window has a biscuit sando for everyone in your life. Hot, sweet, holiday-themed, cheesy…you get the point. Don’t sleep on finding your perfect biscuit fit. At the moment, they are exclusively taking orders online, and these handheld beauties are well worth it.
Relatively new to the Austin cocktail scene, this psychedelic Texas saloon is a must-visit for the mezcal-obsessed. They offer delightful cocktails and unique mezcal flights, like the La Venenosa Sierra Raicilla, which the bartender recalled: “smelled like a tootsie roll.” They also have cocktails to-go, like their boozy frozen hot cocoa or Cassiopeia – a spicy mezcal-based cocktail with beet juice from JuiceLand and a daring rim mix of cricket salt and dried grapefruit.
With vibrant colors popping up in each dish, this brick-and-mortar taqueria from co-owners chef Edgar Rico and Sara Mardanbigi feels like home right as you walk through the front door (the yellow disco ball definitely helps). The menu features signature purple tortillas, which are made from corn that is nixtamalized in-house, plus other fresh, local ingredients used in all tacos deriving from the owner’s Mexican and Iranian family recipes. The menu mainstay favorites are the tuna tostada and the duck carnitas taco. Recently, due to the pandemic, they’ve used lemons to make lemonade by collaborating with well-respected chefs and establishments across Austin, like Sam’s BBQ, Olamaie, Discada, and even Squee Club, to create a childhood treat, the Choco Taco.
Calling all vegan ice cream lovers: Thai Fresh’s long-awaited sister scoop shop is finally all moved into their Holly outpost and is waiting just for you. In addition to their entirely gluten-free bakery, this coconut-based ice cream menu is a creative showcase of a rotating list of 40+ unique flavors like golden milk, Japanese red bean, and black sticky rice horchata. It might just have you wishing for those 100-degree summer days.
Since Austin is the capital of queso, East Seventh’s late-night Indian restaurant decided to take matters into their own hands and bless us with their Tikka Con Queso. We won’t judge you if you order it as the meal itself. But to get a real sense of their Tex Mex Indian fusion, pair it with their cilantro naan, saag enchiladas, and a cardamom margarita.
Hot take here: Sour Duck arguably has one of Austin’s best burgers (it’s a heated topic). Maybe it’s the pickled relish, or maybe it’s from that one time they topped it with an actual duck egg. As the brainchild of Odd Duck and Barley Swine’s Bryce Gilmore, this all-day MLK patio expertly ties in locally sourced ingredients to provide seasonal dishes you can trust to hit the spot. If you’re not prone to the sourdough trend of quarantine, let them take care of you with their classic loaves or non-traditional ones like their turmeric black pepper loaf. If your sweet tooth is calling, their pastries are also beyond. Go for the flaky croissant or sinfully sticky Kouign-Amann.